The Plastic Brain

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With an empty can of Guinness, the right type of paper and a pin, you too can take a two month photo of the Sun.

RiAus (the Royal Institute in Australia) were even kind enough to provide me (and many others) with the photographic paper for free. Thanks!

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OK. Wow. I was pretty proud of my sunspot efforts until I saw this. Always good to have something to aim for, I guess.

Via jtotheizzoe:

City of (Sunspot) Lights

Sunspot AR1476 (photographed above over the Eiffel Tower) has been monitored all week, as the Jupiter-sized coronal “active region” has been pointed squarely at Earth, ready to release a wave of magnetic energy in the form of a solar flare or coronal mass ejection. Last night, a CME was detected, racing toward Earth at over 1,000 km/s.

This awesome animation from the Goddard Space Weather Lab demonstrates the forecasted wave and glancing blow we await on Earth (we aren’t in any danger, but satellites may be disrupted):

Above, the sunspot is photographed Thursday evening over the Eiffel Tower by VegaStar Carpentier.


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Trial run for the Transit of Venus in June. Thought I’d better perfect the art of solar visualisation before the big day in front of my students. Turns out it wasn’t that hard – even got some sun spots in focus (the focus on the paper is better than my camera could manage). The SOHO image (orange) is added for reference.

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An impact crater on a speck of dust. Yep.

Via sirmitchell:

Space is nuts. This is moon dust under a microscope. 

The crater near top left, being only a few thousandths of an inch across, was probably made by a meteoroid only a tenth of a thousandth of an inch in diameter. On the Earth, such micrometeoroids would be slowed to negligible speeds by our atmosphere, and simply float to the surface. But the absence of a lunar atmosphere allows them to hit the surface at tens of thousands of miles per hour.

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The processes behind perfecting a pretty image of a galaxy from Hubble.

Remarkably similar to the image processing I used to do – only for me it was looking at the tiniest subcellular organelles with a laser scanning confocal microscope. Just a matter of scale really.

Gives me a sense of oneness with my fellow scientists…


The next time you want to put a poem on your iffy Photoshop job of a galaxy or nebula, remember it took someone hours of editing just like this to make the original. It’s like salting your food at a Michelin restaurant.

So, I dunno, at least make it some T.S. Eliot or something worth all that effort.

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Last night I thought I might check out the Orionid meteor shower. I was a bit late, and a bit early.

Late, because the best views occurred a couple of days ago, and early, because Orion had not yet risen. While waiting, I thought I’d turn my “toy” telescope (D=50mm, F=600mm) to a bright object near by. I had previously used it to check out the Moon, but didn’t think it would be any good with a planet or star. I assumed that the bright blurry dot would simply become a larger bright blurry dot. So I was astonished to not only see a focussed orb, but it had features and moons! I couldn’t believe it, but I was pretty sure it was Jupiter. I did a quick word-art sketch (pictured) and confirmed Jupiter’s position using SolarSystemScope. Finally, this morning I searched Jovian System on Google Image and found the final photo in the series, which looked a bit like my sketch.

So, all confirmed. I saw Jupiter and three of its moons. Amazing. Now, how do I get my hands on a bigger telescope?

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Last week, I set my Year 11 Scientific Studies class the task of analysing the composition of a rock on Mars. Yesterday, they succeeded.

The video is my quick documentation of the processes. A pair of the students have the task of doing a more complete and thorough job, which I will hopefully post here in the future…

I was a great way to end my final school placement. Now I just have a few weeks of my course to finish, then a long break before starting teaching for real in January.