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All posts for the month June, 2005

I was browsing through the many press releases I get each day and found this one to share. Kitt Peak Observatory in Arizona will be offering a live feed of the Deep Impact on the internet. Read on for details.
June 30, 2005

KITT PEAK VISITOR CENTER TO PROVIDE LIVE IMAGES OF COMET IMPACT
How can you watch the planned first-of-its-kind collision between a comet and a spacecraft from Earth this weekend, even if your night skies do not allow a direct view?
The Visitor Center at Kitt Peak National Observatory plans to offer a live feed of the encounter between NASA’s Deep Impact mission and Comet Tempel 1 starting this Sunday night (local time), running about an hour before the planned 10:52 p.m. PDT impact though about 45 minutes afterward. The feed will consist of still images of the distant comet, and a frequently updated movie assembled from the individual frames. Each frame will consist of a 30-second exposure taken with an electronic CCD imager attached to the 20-inch Ritchey-Chretien telescope in the Kitt Peak Visitor Center observatory.
The comet feed from Kitt Peak will be available on the Internet here.
“Weather and technical gremlins permitting, we intend to post an image about every 45 seconds, and to update the digital movie every few minutes,” said Douglas Isbell, assistant director for public affairs and educational outreach for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, AZ, the parent organization of Kitt Peak National Observatory. “This rate of imagery should match up well with the predicted gradual change in the brightness of the comet’s surrounding cloud of dust and gas.”
The live feed will be generated by synchronized computer teamwork between Kitt Peak Public Outreach Lead Observer Adam Block and NOAO Web Designer Mark Newhouse.
The main Deep Impact spacecraft will witness the effects of the collision between the comet and a copper-laden impactor probe released earlier from the spacecraft from as close as 310 miles, but ground-based telescopes are considerably farther away. “Unfortunately, with the comet being 83 million miles from Earth, its nucleus is essentially a bright single point in the image, so we won’t have the ability to see the fresh crater that Deep Impact is expected to gouge out of the comet.”
As with most major ground-based astronomical observatories, including NOAO’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, all of the major National Science Foundation research telescopes on Kitt Peak are observing comet Tempel 1 for several nights before and after the planned Deep Impact event. By the night of July 8, Kitt Peak National Observatory telescopes will have been used for 43 nights in 2005 in support of scientific analysis of the planned comet impact.
This work is described in a previous NOAO press release.
These research observations will be augmented by a special public program on Kitt Peak for 50 people during the night of the event, which is sold out.
For more information about Deep Impact, visit the mission’s Web sites at: Deep Impact at University of Maryland and NASA’s Deep Impact site.

Speaking of exercisin’ the ol’ B.S. detector, I have a question. Why is it that space missions seem to draw the whack jobs out of the woodwork? There’s a guy suing NASA over the upcoming Deep Impact mission because he claims that he owns it and NASA didn’t ask permission to ram a spacecraft into it. A woman in Russia (an astrologer) claims that the impact will mess up her cosmic emanations or vibes or some such rubbish.

I often wonder just exactly who failed these people? Their teachers? Their parents? The system? That would be a convenient excuse to explain why some people just cannot figure out that science is science and rubbish is rubbish, and that no matter how lovely the rubbish looks, how nice it smells, how delicious it is, it’s still rubbish. A friend of mine calls it Intellectual P*rnography and explains its appeal this way:”you know it’s naughty, you know it really doesn’t reflect real life, yet you read it anyway.”

Still, there ARE always people ascribing ownership of comets, or rewriting the laws of physics to suit their favorite religious belief, or coming up with new laws of physics based on alien invasions. They sincerely believe (or more likely are motivated by the prospects of reaping vast sums of money for idiocy) that what they believe about comets and asteroids and NASA missions is “science” or “scientific thought” when it’s really just ignorance, hucksterism, and chutzpah. Yet, their ideas are all part of the “crossroads of ideas” we live in. They serve as fine examples of illogic and unscientific methods. It’s up to us to learn which ideas merit serious consideration and which ones are best left to idiots who show us how silly they are when they are ignorant.