Sunday, 15 May 2022

orbital mechanics

Enunciated for the first time the following year after some concerted fact-checking and re-taking measurements since the outcome seemed to elegant to be true, Johannes Kepler discovered the last of his three laws of planetary motion on this day in 1618, capturing the relationship between the distance of a astronomical body from its host star and the time it takes to complete a trip around it: that is, the value of the cube of the semi-major axis divided by the square of a planet’s orbital period is a constant—for our solar system. The publication was also delayed due to rather laborious attempts to reconcile his formula with the theory of the music of the spheres (see here and also above), thus making this third discovery known as the harmonic law.

Friday, 13 May 2022

6x6

sagittarius a*: the Event Horizon Telescope captures images of the Milky Way’s Black Hole—previously  

sluggo: “Music from Nancy”—via Waxy  

click-wheel: with the announcement that the last iteration of the iPod is being discontinued after two decades (see also), enjoy this first commercial advertisement  

anamorphic camouflage illusion: the Phantom Queen optical effect  

รผbersetzer: Google Translate adds languages using Zero-Shot Machine Translation, now facilitating communication among one hundred and thirty-three different languages  

white dwarf: astronomers witness a nova in real time

Monday, 9 May 2022

orbital resonance

Though the Octave of Easter refers to a specific eight-day celebration in connect to the Paschaltide, our

word week itself (via the German Woche) derives from the same root as octave and that one out-of-cycle unit of time—that is, seemingly the sequence repeated for countless generations not determined by the motion of the Heavens or our perception of them but nonetheless in most Western and Eastern traditions named for the astronomical objects visible to the unaided eye. The ordering does not accord with the classical model of the Cosmos—the “Chaldean order” that describes the apparent overtaking and retrograde motion relative to the Earth—nor hierarchy of the pantheon, however, but rather the seven strings of the Mesopotamian lyre with which the celestial spheres were thought to harmonise: (4) Sunday ☉, (1) Monday ☽, (5) Tuesday ♂ (Mardi in French), (2) Wednesday ☿ (Mercoledรฌ), (6) Thursday ♃ (Donnerstag), (3) Friday ♀ (Venres) and (7) Saturday ♄. Vexed somewhat by the onerous and complicated Roman subdivision of the days and the planetary officer appointed to each hours, the order of the weekdays seemingly recapitulates musical theory and progression through the major scale. More at the links above and in this video adaptation below from Sara de Rose.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

himmelsscheibe




Coming home from Saxony we took a detour and finally got the chance to check out the Arche Nebra—a museum and planetarium near the archeological site where the prehistoric skydisc was discovered. The actual artefact is usually kept in Halle and was presently on loan to the British museum as part of an ancient astronomy exhibit that couples it with the megalithic timepieces like Stonehenge and the nearby counterpart, the Goseck circle, a solar observatory from neolithic times—but there were plenty of detailed replicas on hand to study and gain an appreciation in situ of this rather overwhelming tool. From the perspective of the promontory where it was discovered (Fundort), the golden bands ringing the edge form an arc precisely corresponding with the Sun’s pendular journey between the peak of the Brocken and the peak of the Kyffhรคuser in the Harz rising and setting at the spring and autumn equinoxes and indicating by the appearance of the New Moon and its proximity to the Pleiades (see above) when to plant and whether the year will be a common year or will need an intercalary month inserted to keep the stars aligned with the cycle of the seasons, this earliest known representation of the Cosmos features no gods or heroes, only the calendar of the night sky. In the area, we also stopped at the village of Zingst on the Unstrut river to inspect this manor house by the road that looked like it had seen time conscripted as a factory with the addition of an industrial smoke-stack and the vista of the largest medieval castle complex—similar in scale and composition to the Wartburg—in middle Germany, Burg Querfurt, something to see another day.

Friday, 6 May 2022

7x7

⚠️: a pictogramatical survey of caution wet floor signs—via Pasa Bon!  

load-bearing bifurcation: engineers incorporate sturdy, often-discarded tree forks in construction  

thameside tv: clips from London’s first pirate station—see also  

no tofu: the Noto typeface (previously) a suite of emoji  

unit patch: the more inscrutable badges of the US Space Force—see previously  

pocket mac: the process of designing a fake vintage product 

: Unicode Consortium’s growing list of astronomical glyphs, magical charms

Sunday, 1 May 2022

7x7

chairportrait: thirty iconic designer styles of seating depicted minimally by Federico Babina  

der pate technos: a celebration of the career and legacy of Klaus Schulze (RIP)  

recursive: vending machine gachapon—see previously  

the wretched, bloody and usurping boar: architecture and monumental authoritarianism in places like the Battersea Power Station—via Things Magazine with more on the property 

reverspective: the illusory paintings of Patrick Hughes   

eye-chart: JWST is now fully-focussed and calibrated and primed for new discoveries (previously)  

lookbook: a collection of sculptural furnishings that match their residence

Friday, 29 April 2022

otherworldly

Perfectly embodying the above phrase, the Martian helicopter Ingenuity on a recent survey flight found and documented the wreckage of the landing gear, parachute and buffering shell of the rover Perseverance.  Click to enlarge plus more at the link above.  The photographs and telemetry will inform future missions on how to best protect payloads and optimise equipment.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

8x8

song birds: a printed circuit bluejay and other avian friends  

industrials: a leitmotif of edifying vocabulary—see previously—from Futility Closet  

occultation: Perseverance rover captures Mars’ lumpy moon Phobos partially eclipsing the Sun 

infinite tapestry: a generated side-scrolling landscape—via Web Curios  

days of rage: a gallery of activism posters curated by the USC Library system—see previously—via ibฤซdem  

art bits: an archives of HyperCard stacks (see also)—via Waxy  

ghost in the shell: skeletons in video games  

cheeps and peeps: the rich, melodic syntax of birdsong

Sunday, 17 April 2022

unbound hyperbolic orbit

Via Slashdot and a tranche of documents declassified by the US Space Command (previously) learn that one of Earth’s first encounters with an interstellar interloper happened fully three years prior to ‘Oumuamua with the explosive impact of a meteor strike that disintegrated in the Pacific off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The high speed (about sixty kilometres per second) and usual trajectory of the object place its origins outside of the Solar System. Confirmation was initially stymied due to data partially coming from a then-classified satellite that monitored for ballistic launches, but now confident of the object’s provenance, a mission to the bottom of the ocean is being entertained to search for fragments.

Friday, 1 April 2022

cosmic call

First spotted by Damn Interesting’s Curated Links, Scientific American reports that as the fiftieth anniversary of the Arecibo Message approaches researchers at the FAST radio telescope and affiliates at SETI and METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence because no one wants to answer their phone apparently) have devised a new bit-mapped series of missives to put out to the Cosmos. The sample image illustrates prime numbers and binary and decimal notation and is one of several (whilst debate continues if it is wise to advertise our presence and level of technologic competence) to be bundled along with the components of DNA, particle physics and human physiology, like this iconic message in a bottle.

7x7

health officials warn of “second wave” of immersive van gogh exhibitions: symptoms to be on the look out for include a flattening of the artist’s legacy and an intense desire to watch Emily in Paris  

a book by its cover: the absurdist collages of Paperback Paradise  

match game: flawless digital recreations of classic TV game show sets  

111 west 57th street: super tall, slender residential tower tapering from Steinway Hall is an homage to the piano-maker  

earendel: the Hubble space telescope images the oldest, most distant star  

old dutch master: a series of fifteenth century Flemish style portraits recreated in an airport lavatory—see also—via Things Magazine  

achieve hover status—everyone else will want to hover but can’t: an AI (see previously) comes up with pranks to play on the user

Saturday, 19 March 2022

6x6

letters of marque and reprisal: US congress—which has displayed some rare moments of unity lately with abolishing Day Light Saving time and agreeing on a budget—looks also poised to commission piracy and the seizure of oligarchs’ assets  

unit patches: an assortment of mission badges from the US Space Force—see also here and here  

redacted: Sunshine Week and the least forthcoming US government agencies  

ambassador, the thane of cawdor / dialect so def, it’ll rip up the floor: notes on rap and language  

album amicorum: revisiting the seventh century friend book, das GroรŸe Stammbuch, of diplomat and influencer Philipp Hainhofer  

uncle vanya’s: after mass exodus of Western companies, Russia seems poised to appropriate and nationalise franchises

Friday, 18 March 2022

howdy neighbour

Albeit from a distance of a million kilometres and assuming quite different orbital paths, the team of astronomers directing the Gaia stellar charting mission (see previously) to map the galaxy by plotting the paths of a billion stars was able to greet a fellow spacecraft, the James Webb Space Telescope once it arrived at the second Lagrangian Point, where Gaia has been stationed since 2014. The yellow curves representing Gaia’s periodic path through space is called a Lissajous figure, describing a rather complex, three-dimensional harmonic knot—the kind of shape found on an oscilloscope, whereas the JWST takes a halo orbit.

Monday, 7 March 2022

c/1973 e1

Sighted on this day in 1973 by namesake astronomer Luboลก Kohoutek the approaching comet was hailed by the media as the “Comet of the Century,” and rather unfairly when the Kuiper-belt object that only visits every seventy-five thousand years failed to live up to the hype and expectations became a metonym for a colossal let-down—a sort of Al Capone’s vault for the decade though the discoverer made may other contributions to astronomy in the form of minor planets and nebulae, and even rejected by a doomsday cult when it appeared as barely visible in the night sky. In rapt anticipation and in response to the subsequent underwhelming estimation the comet was the subject of several musicians and artists including a story arc in Peanuts, an R.E.M. ballad, a Burl Ives’ number, a Sun Ra concert and the below Kraftwerk song, Kometenmelodie:

Saturday, 26 February 2022

uncontrolled deorbit

Unhinged and counter to the continued spirit of competition and cooperation that sustained a polarised world—at least until billionaires started sucking all the air of the room with their ambitions, the chief of the Russian space agency (Roscosmos) suggests that a not asymmetrical response to mounting sanctions levied against Russia for invading Ukraine would be to crash the International Space Station with North America, Europe, India or China all being within the path of impact. While Russia modules do help keep the five-hundred tonne structure aloft and help to dodge space debris, the process would note be immediate and orbit would degrade over several years, with time for it to be restored.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

♅ v

Discovered on this day in 1948 by Dutch astronomer Gerard Kuiper (namesake of the circumstellar disc, the Kuiper Belt) at the McDonald Observatory in western Texas, the smallest, innermost icy moon of Uranus was named for Prospero’s daughter Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest following the naming conventions for the other satellites. Orbiting the Sun on its side like its host world, it is prone to extreme and its mantle has one of the most varied and fantastical terrains known with one feature, called Verona Rupes (after the Italian village and setting for a pair of plays and the Latin for cliff), the highest escarpment in the Solar System at twenty kilometers. Due to Miranda’s weak gravity and off-kilter stance, it would take nearly a quarter of an hour to fall from this height to the surface.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

incoming photons

Though instruments are still in the process of cooling down to their optimal operating temperature just above absolute zero and the resultant first blurry image of a star is unresolved and bounced through an array of eighteen telescopes instead of lensed as one, the research team behind the James Webb Space Telescope (previously) were understandably over the Moon to learn that the craft had successfully navigating in position and will be up and running on schedule.  Even though the mirrors are not yet aligned, the resulting multiple-exposure did utilise the full capabilities of the imaging hardware, capturing four-four gigabytes of raw data to form a two billion pixel picture. 

Saturday, 5 February 2022

8x8

eye-in-the-sky: a collection of superlative drone photography 

gravitational lensing: tentatively, astronomers find evidence of the first rogue, marauding black hole over a backdrop of nebular clouds 

wheel of fortune: Wordle but with common quotations and idioms—via Memo of the Air

para||el: a short film about divergent realities by Mรฉnilmonde  

building & loan: more on the economics of gift-cards—see also  

staying toasty: bread hats and loafers, see also  

three little words: what3words (see previously) solves some problems for vehicle guidance and navigation, causes others—via Duck Soup  

to open every kind of lock: burglars’ spells and incantations 

scotus: a former law clerk writes the Wikipedia articles on Biden’s prospective nominees to the US Supreme Court in order to insert doubt and skepticism, via Super Punch  

bird’s eye view: a parrot in New Zealand pilfers a family’s Go-Pro and films some nice scenery

Monday, 31 January 2022

6x6

christian pirates cable access show: a cavalcade of 1980s cult lunacy  

the conroy virtus: a novel proposal to transport the Space Shuttle that never got off the ground

h salt esq: the fish and chip fast food franchise empire that never quite materialised 

look book: a revival of the conversation pit—see previously  

il fait beau dans l’mรฉtro: a 1977 jingle for the Montrรฉal subway  

chock-a-block: an omnibus round-up of 159 British children’s television programmes you may have forgotten about—see previously

1958-0001a

As part of the US participation in the International Geophysical Year, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory launched its first successful satellite, Explorer I following the Soviet Union’s Sputnik I and Sputnik II, into orbit and beginning the Space Race with America’s entry-on this day in 1958. Remaining aloft and functional for some one hundred and eleven days, the payload consisted of various sensors and detectors to measure cosmic radiation and micrometeor impact and was instrumentation array was designed and installed under the direction of astrophysics professor James Van Allen of the University of Iowa. Explorer I discovered the zone of energetic particles enveloping the Earth that forms as a result of solar wind caught and shaped by the planet’s magentosphere and Van Allen’s namesake belts which protect the atmosphere from obliteration by solar flares.