February 2013

Ahhh Welcome Back February.  Welcome back cold days, colder nights, fear of snow storms and black ice. At least we only have 28 days of you until we can start dreaming of Spring again.  Welcome back The Walking Dead, I have missed you more than you know. Brazilian Carnival will make its yearly appearance from Feb. 8th to 12th followed by the amazing Mardi Gras.  For you sports fan, two words…SUPER BOWL.  All the lovers who follow us, enjoy Valentines Day and for our religious friends, remember it’s time for Lent.  February birthed the likes of Babe Ruth, Charles Dickens, Good Ole Abe Lincoln, GALILEO and yours truly.  Mercury will peek out from the glare of the Sun this month with its best viewing day on the 16th.   On the 15th, asteroid 2012DA14 will wiz by Earth it an uneasy distance of only 21,200 miles away.  And my all time favorite thing in the whole world returns to awe and amaze me this month, SATURN.  Dear February, I wish you weren’t so cold but I’ll take it since you seem to pack a punch this year.

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Astronaut Bellini

50 Reminders of Just How Small We Truly Are

2012 was a great year for Astronomy.  Not only did we get the chance to view one of the rarest celestial events, The Transit of Venus but that hot guy Felix Baumgartner jumped from the stratosphere (talk about a nerve racking three hours for me).  And of course my favorite little rover Curiosity landed safely on the surface of Mars due to the amazing people at JPL(and more importantly that other hot guy Bobak Ferdowsi).  Thanks Space for being kind of awesome in 2012.  Enjoy!

Bellini

Planet Earth

I spend so much time in astronomy peering through tiny lenses to look far away planets, distant galaxies and scanning the night sky for what star I would visit if I could.  My head is always in the clouds, itching to see Jupiter and dreaming of living of Mars.  I often forget about Earth and how incredibly stunning it is.  I’m to quick to answer that Saturn is our Solar System’s prize possession when in reality it’s the ground we stand on.  Sometimes you have to take one big step away (<–Video!) to see all the beauty that surrounds you.

Bellini

The Day I Meet The Astronaut

I’m sure this will come as a shock to our fellow readers but I have a slight affection for Space.  The amount of time I spend thinking about Space borders on the slightly obsessive and about 50% of Space.com’s internet traffic comes from this girl right here.  There’s always something new to see, always something shocking to read and always something that gets my imagination running wild and wishing for the impossible to become possible. It reminds me of childhood when the world was laid out before us, anything was possible and as long as we worked hard enough we could all be doctors, lawyers, princesses and astronauts.  It’s the last great childhood hope that has stayed with me, going to the great unknown of Space.  Like people put singers and actors on a pedestal, I hold the great minds of our Space industry on one.  They are living embodiments of genius and childhood dreams come true.  They are proof that maybe the human race may make despite our ever-increasing odds.

Like normal, I was fumbling around on NASA’s website (probably stalking Mar’s Curiosity) when I came across something called a NASA Social.  In an effort to connect with the public, NASA provides get-togethers aimed towards its social media followers.  NASA doesn’t hold out on its followers either.  In nerd world, they offer pretty amazing opportunities for few lucky people, like the ability to watch Curiosity blast off from Earth.  Despite our blog, despite the fact that I now have two Facebook pages and a Twitter FMT page, I’m not a social media wizard nor was I very active until FMT came along.  Even though the odds were against me, I figured the next DC Area social I would apply and I didn’t have to wait very long.  What little prize was NASA offering it’s eager followers…MEETING ASTRONAUT JOE ACABA!  This is like dangling Georgetown Cupcakes or Justin Timberlake in Poinsettia’s face. On September 17th, Joe Acaba returned from the International Space Station after spending 4 months staring down on Earth from Space.  Somehow, I actually won a spot.  One spot out of about 75.  I can not do my experience justice.  On Dec 4th at NASA headquarters, I got to hear what it is like float around in micro gravity (you are very nimble), eat (watch your food or it will float away), sleep ( zip yourself in), play and work in Space.  These memories will stay with me forever.  Joe ( yes, I now call him Joe) use to teach middle school in Florida and when he spoke to the children of the group, you got a hint of what an amazing and inspirational teacher he must have been.  Strip away the astonishment of all he has accomplished, he has remained a truly humble and appreciative man.

Thank you NASA for continuing to inspire the young and the young at heart. Thank you for giving us a group of men and women who are fearless, the best of the best and sending them into Space so people like me have a chance to live out our dreams.  Thank you Joe Acaba for being more than I had hoped you would be and for showing me that anything is possible.

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Bellini

Saturn the Beautiful

First things first, I love that my fellow French My Toast contributors allow me a whole day to write about my dearly beloved Space.  They probably allow it to avoid receiving a million gchats, texts messages and the occasional house cornering but none the less I give credit where credit is due and they have been good sports about my ramblings.  Occasionally, I’m asked if I’ve seen anything with my telescope which results in me unleashing on the poor sap a long and complicated list of things they’ve probably never even heard of.  Once I begin to see their eyes glaze over, I know I’ve lost them and my last ditch effort is to ring(pun intended) them back with the one object that left me speechless the first time I saw it, the magnificent Saturn.  What can I really say about Saturn that won’t leave me sounding like an in love school girl who doodles Saturn’s name a million times on my trapper keeper?  Probably nothing.  For the stake of my dignity and your sanity, I’ll let the old adage”a picture is worth a thousand words” do the talking for me.  So without further ado, here is my favorite image of the planet delivered to us from the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.  If you like what you see, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/ .

 

And because can’t I let you guys off that easy, here is a little bit about Cassini-Huygens:

NASA launched in 1997 the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft to study Saturn and its many, many natural satellites.  The images it has been beaming back to us since in arrived in 2004(Space is a tad on the huge side) have been nothing short of stunning and revolutionary to our concept of Saturn and the Gas Giants.  It was granted two extensions one in 2008 and the other in 2010 and will continue its study of the planet until 2017 when it will take a control fall into Saturn’s atmosphere.

Bellini

Curiosity’s Got Something Big?

Nothing has held my attention quite like this little SUV sized guy.  I stalk him.  Every day.  Sometimes multiple times a day and I’m completely shameless about it.  Every move Curiosity makes, I know about.  Every update NASA blesses me with, I know about.  I was giddy when he confirmed what I already knew, water once flowed on Mars.  I was CRUSHED when Curiosity’s SAM (think mini chemistry lab looking for organic compounds) first air samples showed no methane (90-95% of Earth’s methane comes from an organic source).  I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster with Curiosity and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My hobby or more like my free time obsession is anything space related.  Maybe it’s the realization of just how small we truly are or the prospect that there is something or someone else out there.  But whatever it is, I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker.  So when NPR released an article earlier this week stating NASA had processed samples from SAM and discovered something “for the history books” can you imagine my ridiculous reaction.  I was happy, I started squealing and I may or may not cried a little (feel free to judge me).  In typical NASA fashion and well any scientific fashion, we have to wait to hear the results for a few more weeks.  I’m sure NASA will over analyze,test , review and then re-analyze whatever it is they have found.  And that’s ok…I’m patient NASA, every good stalker is.   –Bellini