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Hello! Thanks for stopping by! Please follow the link to my fcaebook and twitter pages! I am focusing on writing science news and science fiction, along with art work, instead of blogging. Hope to see you!

Zantippy and Friends

Curiosity Rover Begins Its Science!

The Geological Analysis of Martian Rocks Begins!
by Active Astronomy writer Zantippy Skiphop, Florida, 20 August, 2012

mars 1st pan color low res

Curiosity has blasted her first Martian rock! A small (about 7 cm/3") stone was picked as the first victim/recipient of Curiosity's laser, which is designed to target selected rocks and vaporize a spot into an ionic cloud, so that her onboard spectrometer can then analyze the chemical make-up of the rock. This is the first time a laser and spectrometer instrument of this kind has been used on another planet, so on Martian Sol 14/Earth day August 19, the little rock called N165 made history....[Read more...]

Relive Curiosity's Landing on Mars!

Curiosity Has Safely Landed!
by Active Astronomy writer Zantippy Skiphop, Florida, 6 August 2012

mars happy jpl Brian van der Brug LA Times

The mission control room at JPL was joyful all evening. It was almost a party atmosphere, with the team restraining themselves enough to do their job.

But just after 10:00pm, their smiles started looking more determined and forced, and there were patches of silence. They were waiting for 10:10pm, the time that Curiosity would be entering the atmosphere of Mars. The team knew that when this happened, they would still need to wait 14 minutes for the signal to arrive back on Earth to confirm entry and that while they waited, Curiosity was screeching through the Martian atmosphere to either crash or land... [Read more...]

by Active Astronomy writer Zantippy Skiphop

Here is some music to accompany the various hangouts and tweetchats! Music will also be helpful while we wait for the first images to arrive back to us on Earth, from Curiosity's first look at Mars. I wrote a double haiku for our new Martian:

Robot's First Sight

My shutter opens

And through the whirling red dust

I see my new home.

My makers will come.

For now, this planet is ours

A robot's own land.

Rock Music

Third Rock Radio plays very strong rock music! It is “radio empowered by NASA”.

Third Rock Radio: America's Space Station

mars Third Rock Radio logo

You can also listen to Third Rock Radio on NASA's mobile app! The app also lets you read news and watch things like eclipses and space images!

Classical Music with Space images

Since this is required music for a lot of space geeks, here is

Music from 2001: A Space Odyssey The Dawn of Man: First Step in Evolution

(the Sunrise part of Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss)

Erik Satie, Gymnopedie No. 1 Earth from Space, with the Auroras

Mozart Requiem with Solar Flare sun space energy

Beethoven's 5th Symphony set to amazing space pictures from NASA

Images of the universe, accompanied by Canon in D by Pachelbel

This was my wedding music, and I tell you that because I wonder what the music will be for the first wedding on Mars.

Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata

Ambient Music

Sounds from various parts of the universe, soft music, and some sounds of life and energy from Earth.

Dark Ambient Space Music: Through the Ergosphere: Film Composer Simon Wilkinson

Electromagnetic sounds from the “void” of space

Hubble Space Telescope Images 2010 The Stars Like Dust

Ambient Space Music - Julien H. Mulder Fragments

StarGaze Universal Beauty

(with some light rhythmic music)

Relaxation Music Deep Space by Electric Skyy

Merlin's Magic

Dauphins des Reves: Melodie des Oceans

Dolphin dreams with soft music

See you at the hangouts!

:) Zantippy Skiphop :)

by Active Astronomy writer Zantippy Skiphop 4 August 2012

JPL Gary Friedman LATimes

Photo Credit: Gary Friedman Los Angeles Times

Our Curiosity reporter and astrobiology expert, Zantippy Skiphop, shows us:
- When the Mars Science Laboratory lands in your timezone
- How to watch the excitement unfold
- Social media events to get involved with
- Where to find NASA's first Curiosity images from Mars

We're now in the final countdown from launch in November last year - be part of this exciting event and the science to come from the latest Mars mission!...[Read more]
by Active Astronomy writer Zantippy Skiphop 4 August, 2012


NASA's Unity 3D rover experience is still in its Beta stage, but who can wait when they have a chance to drive a virtual Martian rover? 
I really wanted to experience driving Curiosity, and with Unity, driving the rover on Mars doesn't have to mean accepting a pick-up line by an engineer at Cal-Tech; I could safely virtually drive it on my own computer... and see what may be the first view Curiosity has when she opens her 'eyes'. ...[Read more]

mars curiosity 8 days pre-last-thrust

The spacecraft carrying the Martian rover, Curiosity, heading to Mars. Artist conception, credit: NASA

I have another article up on Active Astronomy! There, I talk about some tech stuff geeks will love, and tell people about the video games NASA has put out to let people share in Curiosity's Martian experience! It is REALLY super cool! Enjoy!

Be part of the mission: NASA Launches Video Games as Curiosity's Landing Nears!
by Active Astronomy writer Zantippy Skiphop

A week from today, Curiosity will have just landed on Mars, and will begin its exploration of its new home on Mars, Gale crater! And because of some immersive experiences planned by NASA, being a part of this mission will be not only for space scientists, or scientists in general, but for everyone. Up till now, the information given of Curiosity's travels has been relatable really only to tech geeks, but that will change at landing...read more.

Mars NASA_curiosity_landing_skycrane cr NASA

The landing of Martian rover, Curiosity, with thrusters slowing its speed, and being lowered by crane. Artist conception, credit: NASA
Hello! I'll be writing Space News articles at Active Astronomy, so please visit there! Meanwhile, I'll still post things here, like interesting photos and links about astronomy! Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it!

My first article for Active Astronomy is on the Mars rover, Curiosity! A whole lot of people have been waiting years for the little guy (car-size :D ) to get to Mars. It started its journey last Fall, and will land on August 5th. 

msl Curiosity credit NASA, AP

Why the Upcoming Curiosity Rover Should Not Only Tell Us About the Early Conditions for Life On Mars, But Also Here on Earth.                                                                                                                        

The rover Curiosity, our latest robotic explorer, is about to land on Mars. It has the mission of acting as our field geologist inside a Martian crater, and has perhaps the larger responsibility of letting Earthlings experience Mars through its eyes... read full article

Help SETI Find Extraterrestrials!

SETI:  Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Be part of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence at SETI Live!

What will it mean to you, personally, if you are alive when humanity finds evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization? What do you think that will mean for all humans? We have all grown up with that concept hard-wired into our brains from epic science fiction tales, but since we only know of ourselves in the universe, that concept can be safely tucked into the story-telling part of our lives, with no real consequences. But think how you will feel if scientists, and not fiction writers, make this concept certain by discovering evidence of intelligent extraterrestrials. The ripple effects on humanity will be profound. The immediate thought in many people's minds, though, will be a wish that they could have been a part of this discovery. We live in a moment in time where we actually have that chance.

Even though we don't know of life anywhere other than on Earth, many scientists think that the chances are almost certain that there is life in other star systems of our galaxy, and in other galaxies. The chances are thought to be pretty good that many life forms in our galaxy could be intelligent enough to build communication devices, whose signals we could possibly detect. Dr. Gerry Harp, an astrophysicist with SETI, thinks it will only take time and effort to find others in our galaxy:

"I have no doubt we will find other life as we explore the cosmos. It's very clear to me that life is an imperative for the universe, so life is going to grow. I believe that, provided the human race survives, we will eventually find life forms of many varieties. And the longer we last, the more life we will find."

Credit: University of Leicester

The Drake Equation is often used to show how this number could be very high. It estimates the percentage of technologically-advanced civilizations that could exist in the Milky Way compared to the number of stars with a "habitable zone".  We are an example of a technologically-advanced civilization, although we are very new at it. We use machines to send out communication signals into our planet's orbit and back again, some signals continuing to travel out into the space beyond Earth. These signals are carried on natural electromagnetic waves, like radio or microwaves. That is what SETI is looking for - radio signals from other planets. The reason SETI needs us is because there is so much radio noise coming from Earth that any signal from an extraterrestrial could get lost in it, and the computers aren't very good at looking past the noise and focusing on a faint signal. That is why we have this incredible opportunity to be involved with finding life beyond our Earth, because at this moment in time, humans are still better than computers at detecting faint, interesting signals through the noise.

When we are at SETI Live, we aren't listening to radio sounds. There are so many radio sounds coming from our own planet that we would have trouble hearing any coming from somewhere else in the galaxy. Humans are not very talented at hearing past this Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) and focusing on a faint sound; think about tuning your radio to a station with a lot of frequency interference and trying to hear your music. Instead, the SETI telescopes pick up the signals, and the computers put the radio signals into a visual frame so that we can look at it, instead of listen for it. That is where the talent of the human brain comes in. If you want to join in, go to SETI Live and sign up.

SETI's Allan Telescope Array. Credit: Dr. Seth Shostak

You will be sent signals from a part of the sky called the Kepler star field. This part of the sky is being mapped with the Kepler telescope, which was launched in 2009 and is the main tool of NASA's Kepler Mission. The main objective of the Kepler Mission is to look for Earth-like planets revolving around their stars in a temperature zone which would allow liquid water to exist. Already, the mission has confirmed dozens of planets, some of which are about Earth-sized, and there are a couple thousand more so far waiting to be confirmed. SETI's main focus for radio signals is on areas of the Kepler field with confirmed Earth-size exoplanets, especially any found which would be in their star's habitable zone.

This is an artist conception of the planet known as Kepler-20f. It was the first Earth size planet found by the Kepler Mission, revolving around a Sun-like star. It is very close to its star and it is estimated to have a temperature of about 800F, too hot for liquid water. One problem with estimating the temperatures of these exoplanets is that the nature of the exoplanets' atmospheres, if any, aren't known. Without knowing anything about our atmosphere and using the same techniques, ETs would estimate Earth's global temperature to be below the freezing point of water, while its actual temperature is within the range for liquid water, thanks to our atmosphere. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech.

Look into the night sky between the stars Deneb and Vega, and you will see where the Kepler star field is. A star map will help you find these stars! Credit: Bob King (Astro Bob)

So, go again to the main page at SETI Live. You can see short descriptions of the different stars found in the Kepler field by clicking on Targets in the list over the pretend star field. You'll see squares with black dots in them - those black dots are just circle-drawings of stars. You can see how much bigger some stars are than others. It is thought that a planet with intelligent life will most likely be around a middle-size star, like our Sun, but of course that is not known for sure since we haven't found any extraterrestrials yet!  Click on each square and it will tell you how many planets have been found around that star. While you're there, you can also click on "Discuss" to talk about that star with other people.


On the main SETI Live page, hover your cursor over "Classify" and then click on  Video , which will show you how to mark the signals you will see. You can also hover over "Classify" again, and click on Signals , which will let you see the different kinds of radio signals you will be seeing, and Tutorial, which will help you practice.

A sample signal frame, with many "erratic" signals. Credit: SETI

SETI will show you how to mark signals, like these have been marked. When you are on the Signal page, run your cursor over each picture and it will light up with the marks. You'll want to practice a few times with the tutorial to get the hang of it.

When you feel you are ready, just click on Classify and get to work!

Our Milky Way Galaxy, and where our solar system is. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech and R. Hurt

The Beautiful Lagoon Nebula

I wanted to share this gorgeous video with you. Nothing analytical, no Nerd Moments. Just enjoy.

Zooming in on the Lagoon Nebula

Credit: NASA, ESA, ESO/Digitised Sky Survey 2, S. Brunier and S. Guisard. Music by John Dyson, from his "Darklight" album. Taken with a camera on the Hubble Telescope.

Here are some stills:

Credit: Michael Sherick

Doesn't this look like wavy coral?

Credit: Jerry Lodriguss

Credit: Russell Croman