Astronomy is Painless

A little earlier today I was having a wander around RedBubble and I happened upon this t-shirt design. It caught my eye for two reasons: the first was the design, which I thought was rather striking, the second reason was the title.

Wondering what "astronomy is painless" actually meant, I decided to have a proper look and found myself totally bemused by the description given for the idea behind the t-shirt. It seems the general idea of the designer is that we're making a right old mess of this planet (debatable, I know, but let's take that as a given...) and, because of that, we should stop "looking up". Apparently we should stop investigating the universe.



What's the reason?

Well, apparently:

The nearest star (apart from the sun) is about 4.2 light years away, which would take about 90,000 years to get to in Voyager 2. So we’re not getting there anytime soon.
Assuming that year figure is correct (it doesn't really matter), and ignoring the idea of someone travelling "in" Voyager 2, what the hell does that have to do with anything? Really?

Should we only ever observe things we can touch? Should we only ever try and learn more about things we can walk up to and kick? Is turning a blind eye to things that are personally out of reach really a good message to send?

The designer goes on to say:
At present we appear to be destroying this planet, and aware of it, so really that’s a lot like suicide. Priorities people.
Well, you know, he's probably got a point, apart from the "priorities" part. Astronomy and the related sciences are probably one of the few things that can really help people understand and appreciate just how hostile a place the universe is and how unique our little safe zone is. But, because we appear to be messing up in some ways, we should turn our backs on what we can learn and we should suggest that astronomy, of all things, is in opposition to treating our planet in a sensible and sane way?

Sorry, doesn't make any sense to me.

But it's still quite a neat t-shirt.

Edit to add the following a day later:

Well, it seems we're supposed to take it "metaphorically" and that we can take anything from it that we want (dur!). It seems that, having seen the metaphor and having seen that it doesn't seem to quite work, for me, and having tried to engage in debate — something the creator appears to want to spring from their work — it appears that the individual behind that t-shirt is perturbed by the idea of debate and has gone out of their way to acknowledge this by updating the description and changing the title to specifically name me.

That'll teach me for thinking that someone who wants to promote debate wants.... debate.


Bad Astronomical Advertising

The Bad Astronomer has a fun, if terribly self-promoting1, idea.

Given that I live about ½ hour's drive from Woolsthorpe Manor and I own a copy of his book... Hmmm.

1: Not that that's a bad thing.


Quiet Sun

I've just been catching up on my observing logs and I've just noticed how long it is since I last saw a sunspot.

So far this month I've not seen a single thing on the Sun. Neither did I see anything during the whole of October. Almost all of September was quiet too with the last time I saw a sunspot being September 1st.

You can see from my graphs that this is quite a prolonged quiet spell.

From what I've read solar minimum now seems to be predicted for March next year. Now, okay, I know these things can be ±6 months or so, but it has got me wondering if I'm in for a very quiet winter when it comes to solar observing.

In other news: I managed to get another look at comet Holmes last night.


You could fill a book... Part III

My short session observing comet Holmes a couple of evenings ago was also another little milestone for me. I finally filled my third log book.

This third book has taken quite a long time to fill. I filled the second one just over a year ago and it took less than a year from me filling the first one.

The main reason for this is that observing has been quite slow this year. While I've done a fair bit of solar observing, evening/night observing sessions have been few and far between. When I got out to observe comet Holmes back on Monday that was the first non-solar session since May!

The reasons are many and varied, but most revolve around weather, some illness and, now and again, a lack of motivation. Something "special" in the sky is always a good motivator and the summer months were totally devoid of anything to observe that was "special" (yes, Jupiter was about, but was so low that you generally couldn't see it from my garden).

Thankfully Holmes has given me that taste again, got me back into that habit.

It was good to have a 'scope out again last night and I think I've finally got that bug back again.

More Comet Holmes

Last night I finally had the chance to get the Antares 905 out and have a quick session observing Comet Holmes.

Much as I expected it was more impressive in the 'scope than it was in the binocular. It was interesting to see how different it looked at different magnifications and how subtle details in the structure of the coma seemed more obvious at one magnification than at another.

The view I had was generally very reminiscent of Tim's photographs of it from a couple or so days back (which remind me a lot of the binocular view I've had), or Joe's amazing sketch of it. However, unlike Joe's sketch, I couldn't see any hint of a tail whatsoever. I do notice that there was a significant different in brightness of the outer ring of the coma on one side when compared to the other and that does seem to correspond with where Joe has drawn the tail he was seeing.

I've not written up my notes yet, I should be doing that in the next day or so.

If you own a binocular, or even a modest telescope, and you've not had them out to look at the comet yet, do so while you've still got the chance. It's a very easy object to find and it's a very rewarding view.