These pages chronicle the work and ruminations of Carolyn Collins Petersen, also known as TheSpacewriter.
I am CEO of Loch Ness Productions. I am also a producer for Astrocast.TV, an online magazine about astronomy and space science.
For the past few years, I've also been a voice actor, appearing in a variety of productions. You can see and hear samples of my work by clicking on the "Voice-Overs, Videos and 'Casts tab.
My blog, TheSpacewriter's Ramblings, is about astronomy, space science, and other sciences.
Ideas and opinions expressed here do not represent those of my employer or of any other organization to which I am affiliated. They're mine.
Visit my main site at: TheSpacewriter.com.
**I encourage comments and discussion; please keep it polite and respectful. I do moderate them to weed out spam, but I also refuse to post any messages that contain harassing, demeaning, rude, or profane language. I run a respectable establishment here.
Contact me for writing and voice-over projects at: cc(dot)petersen(at)gmail(dot)com
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September 23, 2011 at 6:30 am | 1 Comment
Check out Our Lunar Neighbor
So, what DOES the Moon mean to you? That’s the question a group of folks interested in lunar exploration are asking as they prepare for International Observe the Moon Night, which is October 8th. The idea is to get folks interested in the Moon, either by observing it or by learning more about the science that astronomers are doing to learn about the Moon. Preferably both! The organizing team consists of scientists, educators, and Moon enthusiasts from all walks of life, the business community, and governments around the world.
So, what’s it take to get involved? Have a moon-gazing event. It can be as simple as gathering in your neighborhood, a gazing session at your planetarium or science center or through your astronomy club. There are already some cool events planned, like moongazing at the Casper Planetarium in Casper, Wyoming, and observing at the South African Astronomical Observatory. You can peruse the current list of activities here.
To get folks in interested in some of the science done on the Moon past, present and future, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific has posted a special episode of their podcast series, Astronomy Behind the Headlines, called “Science From the Moon.” It’s an interview with Dr. Jack Burns of the University of Colorado’s Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR)—written, conducted and produced by yours truly for ASP (with music from Geodesium)! The podcast was made possible by NASA’s Lunar Science Institute. So, listen in on a great conversation about lunar science, and then get out there and enjoy the Moon!
September 19, 2011 at 6:00 am | Leave a Comment
Yarrr!!!!! We be Starrrrrgazin’!
Ahoy, mateys, ’tis September 19th, and that means one thing—’tis Talk Like a Pirate Day! As usual, I participate in the piratey goings-on by putting a distinctly starrrrrrrry cast on my blog entry, since astronomy is what I talk about (usually), and ’tis all about sailin’ the starrrrrrry deeps o’ space!
Now, I don’t approve of the nasty side ‘o piratin’ — you know what I mean, the ugly folks who take to the seas and really hurt people, or those folks who steal other people’s hard work (piratin’ music, etc.) … that’s not what TLAPD is all about (which ye’ll learn, if ye go to the Piratey Link above). As they say on the TLAPD page, “ So when we urge you to TALK like a pirate, we don’t mean you should ACT like a pirate. The Pirate Guys are solidly against pillaging, plundering and slaughtering like pirates.”
So, the idea here for TLAPD and the starry side o’ things is to think about what pirates and starrrrrrs have in common.
Aye, ye chumbuckets, they DO have things in common. Fer one thing, no pirate would be complete without a sextant. That’s an instrument the piratey ship’s navigator would use to help the captain and his/her crew find their way around the ocean blue by usin’ celestial objects’ (like starrrrs and planets) positions. (Ye can learn more about sextants here.) For another thing, there’s a space pirate’s treasure chest full of celestial sights up there in the starry deeps that just beg for piratey exploration, like the Lagoon Nebula. Pirates and lagoons go together like walkin’ and plankin’. And, when yer out starrrrrgazin’ on Talk Like a Starry Pirate day (well, night, actually), ye should look smartly! Ye WILL see the planet Jupiterrrrrr, and ye may also see a meteor or the Moon, risin’ up over the yardarm. If ye stay up all night into the wee hours of the mornin’, ye’ll see Marrrrrs risin’ in the east.
So, swing yer eyeballs and telescopes and binoculars around smartly, me lads and lasses, and check out the starrrrrs tonight! Celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day (and night) with the starrrrrs!
September 15, 2011 at 14:29 pm | Leave a Comment
and the Planet that Orbits Them
It’s all over the news today—the Kepler Mission has found a planet called Kepler-16b that has two suns its sky. It is, in essence, orbiting two stars. And, of course, the Star Wars comparisons to Tatooine are ricocheting around the blog-o-sphere and news media sites faster than you can say “Kessel Run.”
It’s completely appropriate to think back to that place in a galaxy far far away that has captivated so many fans of the Star Wars universe. I remember being completely awed by the view of the two suns setting in that alien sky, and yet it felt organic and real to me. Maybe that’s a tribute to the artists at LucasFilm and the care they took to make it seem real. But, as one of those artists—John Knoll, visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic—said about the story released today, “Working in film, we often are tasked with creating something never before seen. However, more often than not, scientific discoveries prove to be more spectacular than anything we dare imagine. There is no doubt these discoveries influence and inspire storytellers. Their very existence serves as cause to dream bigger and open our minds to new possibilities beyond what we think we ‘know.’”
That’s what’s so cool about today’s planetary discovery announcement. It takes us to alien worlds that we now KNOW exist. This exploration has moved from science fiction to science fact. That world is there and those stars are there, and NASA-funded scientists and missions help us look at them. In fact, exoplanet discovery is a world-wide science industry. Earlier this week, scientists at the European Southern Observatory announced that they’d found more than 50 new exoplanets, using a specialized instrument attached to the La Silla Observatory in Chile. Among their finding are 16 super-Earths, worlds that are more massive than Earth but much less massive than the gas giant planets. At least one of those planets exists on the edge of its system’s habitable zone, which is the distance from its star where an Earth-like planet could have liquid water on its surface.
Now, Kepler16-b isn’t the hot, desert world of Tatooine. It’s not a super-Earth. It’s actually about the size of Saturn, made of of half rock and half gas, and is cold. Really cold. The stars it orbits are smaller than our Sun. One of them is only about 20 percent the size of our warm, yellow star. This means they’re dwarf stars. Kepler-16b takes 229 days to orbit its suns, and it is just far enough away that liquid water would not exist on its surface. So, there’s likely not life there. (If you want more details on the discovery and the orbital information, check out the Kepler announcement here.)
But, let’s say there were intelligent life forms on that planet. They would be different from us simply because the evolution of life on any planet is going to depend on the materials and elements available in that particular star-and-planet-system’s birth cloud. And, that raises a lot of very interesting conjectures about what life would evolve to be like on a planet with two suns, where the temps are low and the magnetic field environments would be different from ours. Imagine two “solar wind” streams. Imagine trying to tell time! Early civilizations wouldn’t be able to use simple sundials. What would they use? How would they live? What would they look like? And what would the weather be like on such a world? These may be questions that science fiction writers can and will answer in stories about this place. Perhaps they already have. Time to go read some more SF and learn about the cosmos!
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Copyright 2013, Carolyn Collins Petersen
Image of Horsehead Nebula: T.A.Rector (NOAO/AURA/NSF) and Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA/NASA)
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