Celestial movement

I’ve been meaning to write a short piece about something I noticed while watching the recent lunar eclipse, but I wanted to wait until the furor of eclipse pics died down.

Where I live, the eclipse was already under way when the Moon rose. I also have a small mountain between me and the eastern horizon, so there was a pretty big bite missing by the time I saw it. I pointed my little telescope at it, and the family took turns at the eyepiece. Every so often, I would tilt the telescope farther up to compensate for the Moon’s movement across the sky as we rotated beneath it.

Continue reading “Celestial movement”

Ingenuity problems

NASA lost contact with Ingenuity on May 3. The little copter is having problems recharging its batteries due to dust accumulation and the short days of winter. NASA instructed Perseverance to stop all science activities and spend a full day listening. 24 hours later, Ingenuity had built up enough charge to reestablish communications.

Phobos transit

Well, this is cool.

Perseverance captured color video of Phobos as it transits the Sun, and it is wild. Look at lumpy Phobos! Look at the sunspots!

If you watch carefully, you’ll note that the Sun is moving up in the frame even as Phobos moves down. This is true: Phobos has such a short orbital period (7 hours and 39 minutes) that it moves west to east across the sky.

Existential risk

I’ve been reading about existential risk lately. This article is not immediately relevant to Mars or our future there. But it also kinda is.

The Tanis fossil site, in North Dakota, appears to be showing us creatures directly killed by the Chicxulub asteroid impact. The picture of that leg is reminder that “geologic time” includes now, just as it did for these organisms on a day that changed the world, 66 million years ago.

From the article:
“We’ve got so many details with this site that tell us what happened moment by moment, it’s almost like watching it play out in the movies. You look at the rock column, you look at the fossils there, and it brings you back to that day,” says Robert DePalma, the University of Manchester, UK, graduate student who leads the Tanis dig.


The lack of a magnetoshpere on Mars plays a key role in the latest book, Shelter.

The magnetic field around planets like Earth is the result of a geodynamo around the molten core. Because Mars has no magnetosphere, it has long been thought that very little happens in its interior. This study suggests that there is active movement of magma inside Mars after all.

From the article:
“Knowing that the Martian mantle is still active is crucial to our understanding of how Mars evolved as a planet,” says geophysicist Hrvoje Tkalčić of the Australian National University in Australia… “The marsquakes indirectly help us understand whether convection is occurring inside of the planet’s interior, and if this convection is happening, which it looks like it is based off our findings, then there must be another mechanism at play that is preventing a magnetic field from developing on Mars,” Tkalčić says.

Transgenic lettuce

While the theme of food doesn’t come up until book four, I’m always on the lookout for relevant information. Here’s an interesting piece on the genetic modification of leafy greens to provide medication through diet.

From the article:
“A team of researchers at the University of California, Davis, have developed modified transgenic lettuce that produces a bone-stimulating hormone. The lettuce can be easily grown in space and could help strengthen an astronaut’s bones. It may even help reduce the risk of osteoporosis on Earth…”