Science advisor of EEVVVIIILLLL

I was going to make an empassioned plea about how science does really make a lot of stuff better, but then decided that this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip was too funny to try to add any snark to it.

I’m just glad Zach didn’t draw the science advisor to look like me.

Related posts:

A dinosaur dish best served cold
SMBC on thebrain
So, moving on
Zach Weiner, Destroyer of Homophobes


The delicate tendrils of a solar dragon

Alan Friedman is an "amateur" astronomer who takes astonishing images of the Sun. You may remember his picture of our star that was so cool I chose it as one of my Top 14 Pictures of 2010.

He’s still snapping away, and on August 17th took this lovely picture of a prominence erupting from the Sun’s surface:

[Click to enfilamentate.]

Isn’t that gorgeous? A prominence is a towering arc of material lifted off the Sun’s surface by intense magnetic fields. To give you an idea of how strong the magnetic forces are, a prominence can have a mass upwards of a hundred billion tons, and be cranked up thousands of kilometers off the Sun’s surface… despite the crushing gravity of nearly 30 times that of Earth’s!

And some people call the Sun "average". Ha!

Alan takes these images with a pretty nice ‘scope equipped with a filter that blocks all the light from the Sun except for a narrow slice of color preferentially emitted by warm hydrogen. He then inverts the image of the solar disk (but not anything on the limb or outside …


Binary black holes and a potential Earth-like planet

Two stories just came out that I would love to spend time writing up in full, but I’m trying to get a million things done before I leave for Dragon*Con in the morning, so I’ll be brief:

1) Astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered a binary black hole: two ginormous beasts orbiting each other about 500 light years apart in the center of the gorgeous spiral galaxy NGC 3393. Each has a mass of at least one million times that of the Sun. While binary black holes in the centers of galaxies have been spotted before, this is the closest one found: a "mere" 160 million light years away!

2) A newly-discovered planet (PDF) orbiting a star just 36 light years away appears to be at just the right distance to potentially have liquid water on its surface. The planet, HD85512b, orbits a star somewhat smaller and cooler than the Sun, but close enough to it that it actually gets more heat on average than Earth does. The planet is hefty, 3.6 times the mass of the Earth, but the size is not known (you …