masqthephlsphr: (glob)
First off, congrats to all my flisters who either won NaNo or did NaNo this month. Hard work is what counts, not 50,000 words.

Second: spent a day down in Tuscon over the Thanksgiving weekend visiting a couple telescope stores (and avoiding all the other kind of stores, blech). The Sculptor and I bought our one and only Christmas gift to each other, a brand new telescope. This is one for seeing planets and nebulae and star clusters, not your neighbor's naughty habits. It has a computer attachment to help you find specific objects, but you have to move it, aim it, and focus it yourself.

Third: Wee! December. Star Wars and The Expanse.


Accountability check in 11/30/15:

When I got to chapter 15 this week, I felt a bit adrift in the story (middles. pffft), so I decided to revisit my outline in order to get an idea where the next few chapters would take me, and ended up revisiting the entire outline.

That seems to be a thing you need to do to from time to time in writing a novel: step away from the trees to look at the forest and make sure the forest blue print still makes sense, given how much the details of the story have evolved since you first outlined the thing.

I often get hung up on planning out the over-all plot too way too much for a pantser, and it ends up being overthinking, because the best-laid plans that cost me hours and days end up getting derailed by the nitty-gritty word by word. So I didn't let myself linger on that before diving back into chapter 15.

Okay, so December goals are in order.

Working title: The Girl From Venus
Planned # of chapters: 27
Planned date of first draft completion: Jan 31st, 2016
Current chapter: 16
Finish last week's goal? Yes
This week's goal: Get at least part way into chapter 17
This month's goal: Get at least party way into Chapter 21
masqthephlsphr: (astronomy)
The solar system is a much more interesting, complicated place if we throw out the classical "Solar System has 9 planets" model we learned in grade school. And Pluto is just as special.

 photo 20150714_pluto-nh-ehealth1_zpsudf2x5i3.png

Read more... )

OMG

Jun. 26th, 2015 05:37 pm
masqthephlsphr: (astronomy)
So apparently today was a big news day. Something about the Supremes and a Potus that sings.

Meanwhile, I'm all, OMG, the Principal Investigator of New Horizons liked my Tweet!

 photo sterntweet2_zpsbjkn6yuo.jpg


In other news, this. <3 <3 <3





masqthephlsphr: (glob)
So D and I had a good time in Northern Arizona last weekend. Drove up Sunday afternoon and spent Sunday evening and most of Monday lazing around our hotel. Monday afternoon, we went over to Lowell Observatory. They actually have a lot of things to do during daylight hours. Solar observation (which we didn't do), hiking trails that show you the relative distances of the planets, solar systems, and galaxies, and the busts of famous astronomers and mathematicians.

They also have a display of the history of humankind's interactions with Pluto. Lowell Observatory is where Pluto was discovered, and they let you fondle the no-longer used Pluto telescope, still berthed in the tiny stone observatory where Lowell did his observations.

Tuesday, we drove up to the Grand Canyon. We had three hours to kill until they'd let us into our hotel room, so we had lunch, then went to see the IMAX show that I missed five years ago. Not sure that was worth whacking my back out on those uncomfortable theater seats.

After we checked into our hotel room and dragged all our stuff indoors, we headed up to the canyon rim. We had about four hours until sunset, so we tooled around the rim and made friends with a hungry mamma squirrel.

The Grand Canyon star party is awesome: several dozen amateur astronomers who love nothing better than telling you the brand, size, and capabilities of their telescopes. D and I want to pool our $$ and buy our own telescope for Christmas, so this was a good place to do research. Among the things we saw through the telescopes: the stripes on Jupiter and three of its moons, Saturn's rings and three of its moons, a crescent Venus, half a dozen galaxies, such as Needle Galaxy and the Sombrero galaxy, the International Space Station (OMG geek out!), the Cigar Nebula, Butterfly Nebula, and Ring Nebula, M15, M4, and M5.

Sitting in a car for all that travel was not fun for my back, but I survived it with lots of memory foam.

June

Jun. 1st, 2015 03:16 pm
masqthephlsphr: (gc)
Ugh, it's like the weather gods glanced at the calendar and decided today was the day to turn the temperature up to "furnace." After eight years of this, yes, I am used to it, but it's become my daily habit to take a walk at work to exercise my gimp knee and give my back a break from all the sitting. My walk has been pushed back earlier and earlier in the day. Soon, it may not be possible at all, except before dawn, before aforementioned knee and back actually need it.

The up part of the summer is Pluto, Ceres, and Light Sail, among other things. I am on vacation (yay!) in a couple weeks, and D and I plan to drive up to Flagstaff to visit Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was originally discovered, then perhaps venture up to the Grand Canyon where the yearly amateur telescope festival will be going on at the rim. Haven't been to either place (Flagstaff or the GC) since I was up there for our burnin' Buffy ATPo weekend--when? 2010? Eesh.

This is all assuming my back can put up with hours of car travel. Dry run trip to Prescott this weekend to deliver my nephew to summer camp.

Also, there will be writing this summer. I have about three short story WIPs in process, and it's indoor weather from here on out.

Here's some stories I wrote recently:

The Beast
The Book of Barry
masqthephlsphr: (glob)
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

 photo water-on-mars-thumb-640x432-24442_zpskjoazjvh.jpg

Space!

Dec. 8th, 2014 09:55 am
masqthephlsphr: (glob)
I am terribly behind in my space geeking. Life has thrown me a couple of curveballs, and there's been a lot of cool space stuff to fall behind on geeking about.

(1) Lunar Mission One: A kickstarter campaign by a private British group, Lunar Missions Ltd, to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon and drill deep into the rock for a scientific analysis of the the geological composition of the Moon.

http://lunarmissionone.com/

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lunarmissionone/lunar-mission-one-a-new-lunar-mission-for-everyone

(2) Hayabusa 2 launched on December 3rd. It is a Japanese asteroid sample return mission targeted at asteroid 1999 JU3. It is due to arrive in July of 2018 and return to Earth in 2020.

http://global.jaxa.jp/
http://b612.jspec.jaxa.jp/hayabusa2/e/index_e.html

(3) Orion! NASA's new reusable spacecraft intended for future manned space missions (part of NASA's plans to return to the Moon, and their Asteroid Retrieval Mission) had its first unmanned test flight on December 5th. It did two orbits around the Earth, then returned safely.

http://www.nasa.gov/orion/

(4) New Horizons, NASA/JPL's mission to Pluto, woke up from a two-year hibernation in preparation for its arrival at Pluto this coming July. It will stay "awake" from here on out, and hopefully get some awesome pictures of the Pluto system before its fly-by. Then it is off to explore another Kuiper Belt Object.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons/on-plutos-doorstep-new-horizons-spacecraft-awakens-for-encounter/

Fryday

Nov. 14th, 2014 09:05 am
masqthephlsphr: (shane)
I don't have to post today, since my thirty days was up yesterday, but I am so glad it's Friday. Loooong week. We had a national user's conference at work, and I had to commute to Phoenix for the first three days, then I had an early AM blood appointment yesterday, so I have gotten little writing on the novel done this week. Some of that has to do with I am SO THROUGH with my La-Z-Boy recliner, where I do my writing (and reading, and TV watching, and everything else). Currently shopping for a more ergonomic replacement.

Today is my 7th anniversary of working at this place.

OTOH, check out my original fiction short story.

Also distracted by a robot landing on a comet (a bunch of times).
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
Philae has successfully landed on comet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but its landing harpoons didn't fire. Presumably, its ice screws did, though. The comet is between 3-4 km wide, so it has little surface gravity, and the the lander could detach if it tries to do anything that pushes itself towards the comet too hard (think of how you bounce in the opposite direction when you push hard against something).

If it detaches, there's no way for the orbiter to bring it back. This was a one-way trip. But it should already have interesting data.

ETA: Apparently, Philae landed and started sending back information on the surface it encountered, then "bounced" and relanded.

ETA ETA: then bounced and relanded AGAIN.

ETA ETA ETA: then it landed on its side against a "rock" face. It isn't anchored, but its down, and otherwise functioning as expected.
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
It's taken ten years to get there, but early Wednesday, November 12 Central European time (from about 1 AM to 8 AM, which is about 5 PM to midnight Pacific time), the European Space Agency will land a craft on a comet. Their Rosetta spacecraft got to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko three months ago, and has been in a weird jagged "orbit" around it ever since. Now its attached lander, Philae, is being prepped to detach from it.

All the pre-flight stuff is going to happen when I'm busy at a conference next week, and the actual flight and grand finale landing, if it is successful, will happen in the middle of the night. Good luck to the ESA. #cometlanding

Two videos related to this. The first is more cutesy space stuff, but it's also part of a rather brilliantly accessible series of cartoons promoting and explaining their mission.



The other video is a short art film the ESA collaborated on that I believe is a promo for a longer, upcoming science fantasy film, "Ambition" about the life-creating chemicals and water of comets:

masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
Yeah, it's cutesie, but it also makes what is far away and highly technical a little more human.


 photo MoreRobotsTalk_zpse4bf2e78.png

Mars rover to Mars satellite


 photo RobotsTalk_zpsb8b75efa.png

Comet lander to Mars rover


 photo PlanetsTalk_zpsbc3509d0.png

(Dwarf-) Planet to planet
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
This morning, I'm really flummoxed that I don't have that telescope Santa keeps promising me for Christmas. I was out ogling the early morning sky, and it was possible to see comet Siding Spring near Mars then, hours before its closest fly-by (2:27 PM EDT, 11:27 PM PDT, 18:27 GMT). That's day time in North America, and yet the real irony belongs to Australia, where the comet was originally discovered last year. The comet closest fly-by won't even be in their sky at all. The Deep Space Network dishes in Europe, the US, and Puerto Rico can watch.

The comet will scrape by Mars at a distance of 82,000 miles. That's a third of the distance between Earth and the Moon. Comet Siding Spring originates from the Oort Cloud, a cloud of comets that surrounds our sun at a distance almost quarter of the way to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri.

There are spacecraft in orbit of the planet Mars from the US, the European Space Agency, and India. They will all be ducked behind the far side of the planet during closest comet approach. But as they swing back around, they might still get a bit of comet dust on them. This has the potential to be very, very bad. A tiny spec of comet junk flying at enormous speed could punch holes right through an orbiting tin can like Earthling's Mars satellites.

Hopefully, though, all they'll catch are some cool photos.

The rovers on the surface of Mars will be safe due to the Martian atmosphere, but alas, the poor little guys will also experience closest fly-by during daylight hours.

Mars and Siding Spring will become visible again in North America after sunset this evening.


http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-best-seat-in-the-house-for-sunday-s-comet-flyby-is-mars1/

http://www.space.com/27403-mars-comet-fly-by-orbiters-to-duck-and-cover-behind-planet-video.html

http://earthsky.org/tonight/comet-siding-springs-near-collision-with-mars-on-october-19

http://mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring/

http://www.livestream.com/eurospaceagency

http://live.slooh.com/stadium/live/comet-siding-spring-swings-by-on-a-close-approach-to-mars

http://www.livecometdata.com/comets/c2013-a1-siding-spring/

http://www.universetoday.com/115430/watch-live-as-comet-siding-spring-flys-by-mars/
masqthephlsphr: (muse)
Been meaning to do this meme for a while.






What I just got done reading: I've been searching for books to fill my "realistic solar system exploration" story kink, and there aren't a lot of them. I read James SA Corey's Expanse series, of course, and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series. Alas, searching book lists for novels featuring specifically what I'm looking for invariably returns noise: interstellar travel or aliens hovering over Earth. So I returned to the classics, and read all of Arthur C. Clarke's Odyssey series.

The first and most well known, 2001 (1968), was written simultaneously in the mid-sixties with the movie script, but actually veers from the script in that the big climactic stuff takes place at Saturn, and its moon, Iapetus. Kubrick, who was collaborating with Clarke, presented a monolith orbiting Jupiter instead.

Interestingly, Clarke ret-conned himself in the sequel, 2010, by relating that the events of nine years earlier took place as they did in the movie. It was the early 80's by the time 2010 came out, and the Voyager probes had shown us how complex the Jovian moon system was, so Clarke wanted to stage the events around Jupiter's moon, Europa, which remains the best chance of life in the solar system beyond Earth even to this day. And also interestingly, the book differs from the film version of 2010 because, although it depicts a still-intact Soviet Union, there is no use of Cold War hostilities as a subplot to push the action forward as there is in the film.

2061 is a great third book in the trilogy, and Clarke ret-cons himself yet again just so he can refer to actual space exploration history he had to invent in earlier books. Only downside to this book is he sets up a necessity for a fourth book, 3001, he didn't need. Frankly, I found the events of 3001 hard to follow. Which might have something to do with the fact that I read it mostly right before bed each night. I think 3001 only existed so Clarke could start a new interstellar series featuring the monolith aliens.

Amusingly, though, more re-con: Soviet Russia gets written right out of Earth's 21st century, as if Clarke had never featured it in his earlier books. He is refreshingly honest about his ret-cons in his numerous late-1990's forwards.


What I'm reading now: Fluency, by Jennifer Foehner Wells. Not sure it's totally what I'm looking for, but it's good so far.


What I'll likely be reading next: K.S. Robinson's 2312 is still on the back burner, as I'm a bit burnt out on Robinson. And I have a gazillion short stories to read for my fiction writing class. So must get on that.






Things

Sep. 24th, 2014 01:11 pm
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
(1) I am reading stuff. But it's all trashy true crime, so, we'll skip that part.

(2) I had the stomach flu over the weekend and still feel crappy.

(3) Nevertheless, I climbed up on my roof on Sunday and cleaned off all the pine needles so roofers could come and give me a bid on resealing the flat part of my roof. Bid was humongous. *croak*

(4) We are moving to a new building at work on Friday. This will in no way be TOTAL CHAOS (/ sarcasm)

(5) I am taking an online writing class through a local community college. It is a LOT of work. Between that and the constant dental appointments (root canal, crown prep, crown...) I am feeling a bit stretched. Which explains (2).

(6) Mars! NASA MAVEN and ISRO's (India) Mars Orbiter now circling the red planet. September has been a cool month at least in that regard.

(7) Not prepared for new TV season. Just don't know when I'll have the time for any of it. Planning on watching Disney's Frozen as homework this Saturday, though. When did TV start having homework?

(8) Friend visiting in a couple weeks for OctoberFest. I hope it feels like fall by then, 'cause it doesn't right now. September is, traditionally, still summer here, except for the early mornings, which finally begin to cool down. We've been known to have 100+ in early October. I am losing my tolerance for this *&^%.

In conclusion, chocolate.

OMGSpaceYay

Aug. 5th, 2014 01:23 pm
masqthephlsphr: (robotsonmars)
So, dear internets, my summer has been spent (1) working, (2) writing the second draft ye olde novel, and (3) spending lots of time on my new fandom: Anything That Flies Into Space.

I have been a space cadet geek since I was old enough to understand what those Apollo missions on television were, and have been a die-hard Trekkie with an 'ie' since [date redacted], but my actual active following of Cool Space Stuff has been intermittent over the years. I remember staying up late with a gallon of vanilla ice cream watching the Voyager 2 fly-by of Neptune in '89, and being flabbergasted that I was the sole person in the office during one of my summer jobs in the '90's to go outside to glimpse the shadowed reflection of a solar eclipse.

Yet I wasn't paying attention to all the other stuff going on during those decades (forex, my younger brother has a distinct memory of staying up to watch the Viking I spacecraft land on Mars; I don't). Mostly, I sat around grumbling about why we weren't sending people back to the Moon, or Mars. Meanwhile, NASA and other countries' space agencies were sending probes to Mars, Venus, and Jupiter, the Hubble telescope was unfurled on the universe, and astronomers discovered the first planets around other stars.

I can't say what drew me back in to paying attention. I don't have any particular memories of following the space news of the early 00's, either. I think it was a gradual drip-dripping of news via the internet. I am a notorious news-o-phobe. I don't watch the news on television or read it in the newspaper. I avoid news websites. The coverage is invariably Earth-bound and depressing as hell. So if there were exciting discoveries or voyages to be heard about, I wasn't hearing about them.

Enter the era of keyword-driven automated news updates, blog feeds, Tweetdeck lists, Facebook page liking, and Google searches on "what the hell is ****?" And suddenly, I am discovering fifty plus years packed full of space history that would have thrilled me had I known about it. And I'm getting announcements of upcoming events before they happen, so I can watch them occur live on internet TV, or get them shortly afterwards on YouTube.

It's two years today the Curiosity rover landed on Mars. I was glued to the Seven Minutes of Terror that evening. Tomorrow, the European Space Agency will put their Rosetta spacecraft in orbit around a comet. In September, new Mars satellites from the US and India will reach the red planet (MAVEN and MOM). China has a full-on lunar program unfolding. A year from now, New Horizons will fly by effing PLUTO, dude. By the end of 2015, if all goes well, the Google X project will spur one or more clever private citizen teams competing for their $25 million dollar prize to land a rover on the Moon. And other private companies like SpaceX are working diligently to develop reusable rockets that will cut the costs of traveling to and from space*.

There are cool space events happening every day now. As I type, astronauts on the International Space Station are posting breath-taking images and vines from space (@astro_reid, @Astro_Alex). Citizen scientists have returned a disco-era space probe to active scientific duty.

Plus, you know, Europa. Enceladus.

I wasn't paying attention before. Now the universe is my oyster.



* This is not without its own uncertainties. To wit, no private corporation signed the international agreement that the Moon and other space bodies "belong to all mankind" and cannot be summarily claimed and exploited. These issues will arise with increasing frequency as private industry ventures further out into space.

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