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  NICER probes evolving black hole structuresJan 31, 2019 9:03 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:If you're into black hole stuff, there's a pretty cool new-ish article by NASA about observations of an evolving black hole's environment by their NICER (Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR : P) X-ray reading instrument on the International Space Station. Observing a 10-solar-mass black hole about 10,000 light years away and reading the time differences between X-rays coming directly from the super-hot corona above the black hole's poles, and those reflecting off the toroidal accretion "disk" circling it, they were able to see that "the corona contracted vertically from roughly 100 to 10 miles."
The short video there is worth watching too—if like me you were ignorant of what a black hole's "corona" is, for instance, or how torus-like accretion disks may be—because it does a good job of illustrating how the hole's structures—event horizon, corona, accretion disk—line up.
  A* fan wiki updated--track your clones!Jan 30, 2019 8:26 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:T209 of the fan-made Supermassive Black Hole A* Wikia let me know he's updated the entry they have there on Selenis to track these latest changes to the state of her recent clones. It does help to have a list sometimes!
  Scanner died; pages are photos for a week : PJan 29, 2019 11:37 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Well, the Christmas miracle got it this far, but after a few hiccups in the past week or so my trusty el cheapo yet large-format Mustek scanner of the past eight years has finally refused to scan a full page, and I was unable to convince it otherwise, even after cracking it open. : P
So I've ordered their latest model to replace it, but until that gets here—due next week—all I've got for digitizing these new A* pages is my little digital camera, so until I can replace them with scans, the new page images will have slightly irregular lighting and perspective. : P
(One thing I did learn from opening the scanner up is that the power cable socket, which was the source of the problem, is indeed mounted directly on the scanner's circuit board, with no other support or bracing, so most likely eight years of the cord's weight and occasional tugs or whatnot just pulled its connection to the board a little loose to the point where it can't quite provide an uninterrupted solid power flow. The product photos of the new scanner look suspiciously like the old scanner, only black instead of beige, so I won't be too surprised if the power port on the new model is similarly precariously constructed—but at least this time I'll know to rig up the cable so it isn't hanging loosely down, so hopefully this next scanner can last at least...10 years? : D Anyway on the plus side the old scanner's condition it picked up some years back of weirdly low-res left and right border regions will be banished, as will the one black spot it would always scan in the mid-upper-left of the page, that I would always have to Photoshop out. : P I suppose all this is a bit suspect re: their product quality, BUT, while not pocket change, they are like 1/10th of the quadruple-digit prices (how much $$ do they think comic artists have? : o) of large-format scanners from the big name companies, and the scans the old scanner produced were reliably sharp and color-accurate.)
  Nothing to see here : PJan 29, 2019 10:53 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:This page took so long to draw I just uploaded it and went straight to bed. =P Hopefully today's will go a little more efficiently. :o
  There may be something up those sleevesJan 25, 2019 11:11 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Sketch for a reader supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign : ) :
Thanks everyone for your support, it makes a massive difference! '-'
  Getting a sharper view of Sgr A*Jan 25, 2019 1:22 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:A reader tipped me off to the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* at the center of our galaxy making the news again! Astronomers are working on imaging the black hole's event horizon—a tricky task considering that it's 26,000 light years away and surrounded by thousands of light years of gas and dust. But they're getting closer, and in the bottom half of the graphic at the top of this article you can see what they're now able to pick up from the black hole: a fairly condensed emission of radio waves in a slightly elliptical blob overlapping the hole's location.
They were able to get this sharper view thanks to adding the powerful ALMA radio telescope array in Chile to the hemisphere-spanning radio telescope network working on piercing those many light years of gas and dust to see A*. They'll need to increase their resolving power even further to achieve that, but when they do, well, that'll be somethin'.
  Ink and stuff!Jan 23, 2019 9:38 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Here's an ink sketch I got to send to a reader for supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign:
Thanks to everyone helping make this comic possible through Patreon! I couldn't make the comic without you! Even $1 a month makes a big difference, and at even higher support levels I can send you rewards every month, like e-books and sketches. : )
  Episode 35 e-book availableJan 22, 2019 10:02 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Episode 35 is now available for purchase in e-book form from the episodes & e-books page. Those lovely folks supporting my Patreon campaign at the $3/month level and up will get a download link for it emailed to them at the beginning of next month. : )
  All about episode 36!Jan 19, 2019 1:10 AM PST | url
Added 2 new A* pages:Whee episode 36! You won't have to wait long for a follow-up to the fall-out of last episode (is this really the first time since episode 21 we've had a whole new Selenis clone? : o Golly that last one lasted a long time!) because that's what this episode is all about! We'll be launching a Selenis in a somewhat radical new direction, but before that we'll catch up with an old, very brief acquaintance or two, and get back to that classic theme of...explosions!
Yes that's some of the stuff that will re-commence coming at you on Tuesday, since I'm taking Monday off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. So back Tuesday! Episode 36! Etc!
  End of episode 35! 36 starts tomorrow! = oJan 17, 2019 10:11 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:And that's the end of episode 35! Episode 36 starts tomorrow : o so eh I gotta get on that. I should be able to get the episode 35 e-book done over the long weekend (Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day).
  Light to...oh heckJan 16, 2019 9:21 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:I've been trying to do the traditional watercolor painting methodology of painting "light to dark"—which means, you start the painting with light colors, and gradually work up to the darker colors, or something. You can get some neat layering and color interaction and stuff, and maybe a more subtle sense of atmosphere and lighting. On the other hand, it takes patience. : P
  What's in an endingJan 15, 2019 10:36 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Two more pages left in this episode. : o Then I'll have to kick off episode 36 on Friday! Oh man!
  Yep yepJan 14, 2019 10:28 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Got a page done, I guess that does it!
  Supermassive Dog Star?Jan 11, 2019 11:03 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Here's an ink (and wash) sketch I got to send to a reader for their support of the comic through my Patreon campaign! : )
Thanks everyone for your support! You make this comic possible! : D
I'm not sure what inspired me to give Selenis a canine companion there, but did you know that Sirius, 8.6 light years from Earth, is also known as the "Dog Star"? The nickname comes from its membership in the constellation Canis Major ("Greater Dog").
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, and its proper name means "glowing" or "scorching" in Greek. You could be forgiven for not noticing Sirius is actually a *binary* star, because its companion, Sirius B, while one of the most massive white dwarf stars known—twice as massive as most, and about the same mass as our Sun, packed into a sphere about the same size as Earth—has only about 5% of our Sun's solar luminosity, while Sirius A, the main star, is 25 times as bright as the Sun! Here they both are (B is below and to the left of A) in a 2003 Hubble image:
image by NASA, ESA, H. Bond (STScI), and M. Barstow (University of Leicester) (source)
(If part of this about Sirius' A and B sounds familiar, you might remember it from a long post I made about our local area of space back in 2011!)
  Google wants to be rid of G+ in AprilJan 10, 2019 10:21 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:In October, Google announced they were going to shut down their Google+ social media platform this coming August, after a security snafu came to light (one got the impression they're just tired of the whole business).
In December, they reported (here's the BBC article) that they'd found another security flaw in G+; now they've moved the shut-down date up to April. : P
  NEWS: BIGGER HEADLINES!Jan 09, 2019 8:57 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:I made the site's fonts a little bigger. : P
I've just about always used Firefox's "Minimum Font Size" setting (set to 16) to make tiny fonts around the internet appear bigger and thus easier to read in my own web browser—so of course I'm used to seeing my own site that way, since I see it most often in that browser on my PC. And for some reason—I think it was while I was flipping around the site on my tablet this morning—it only just now occurred to me that if that's the font size I actually like, I should just make that the site's actual font size, instead of having the site use a smaller font that isn't even comfortable for me to read.
Back in those early days of 2009 or so, I was just absorbing the web site design craze that kind of brought smaller fonts to a lot of sites, I guess to look more high tech and information rich or something, I dunno. They were probably doing it in that newfangled CSS stuff I was and still am determined to resist. ; ) The default HTML font size is "3" so I figured I would be one of the cool kids and make my main font for the site HTML size 2. So cool.
Well my Firefox setting in effect changes it back to 3 on the fly, just for me; that finally seemed silly so now it's 3 for everyone. : o Too big? Too small? Well it's the size I like so it'll probably stay this way I guess. And well maybe it'll help a little on mobiles but I guess probably not, they seem to be able to pick their own font sizes based on what the screen's scaling state is—like, in Chrome on my Android tablet, if I load a comic page up when viewing the site's "large" "1080p" comic size, then rotate the tablet so the screen goes from portrait to landscape, then refresh the page, the font size changes—but only for the blog post, which the mobile browser seems to consider size-amorphous. ; ) Not gonna bother trying to riddle that one out, obviously they just do what they want with your site so what's the point. : P Google told me once my site wasn't "mobile friendly," one reason being small font size. Well thanks, Google. Anyway maybe now it'll be a teensy weensy bit bigger sometimes.
(Google still won't like it but they'll manage.)
  Sit upJan 08, 2019 8:45 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Here's a sketch I got to send to a reader for supporting the comic through my Patreon campaign : ) :
Thanks everyone for your support! You make this comic possible. Even $1 a month makes a big difference. : )
  Finally you can review tumblr's censorshipJan 07, 2019 9:19 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Months after letting loose an algorithm that started zapping posts it thought were inappropriate—without notifying the person who had posted them, possibly months or even years earlier—tumblr has finally added a "Review flagged posts" page to the user's Account page, where you can see all the posts you've made that tumblr thinks it doesn't like, and appeal them if you think they've been flagged incorrectly. It's kind of funny to see what their algorithm can consider "adult content," I guess. : P
How they did *not* have a review system like that in place when they rolled out their robo-flagging, I have no idea. They would have saved a lot of people—themselves included—a lot of trouble.
Well, better late than never, as they say. Their image recognition could still stand some improvement, though. ; ) Unless they think silhouettes are just too abstract to inflict upon the untutored minds of younger readers! (This calls for more art classes in grade schools! ^_^)
  Rub side of pencil lead on paper for secretJan 04, 2019 11:29 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Here's a sketch I got to send to a reader for their support of the comic through the A* Patreon campaign:
Thanks everyone for your support! Big things are happening in A* this year, should be a fun time. : )
  Oh say it's 2019Jan 04, 2019 12:59 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Trying to get back in the swing of things here at A* after the winter break. Good to be back! ^_^ I hope the holidays weren't too bad and your 2019 is going all right. : )
The beginning of the year always reminds me (plus they email you these reminders, sometimes...) that being the sole proprietor of this here registered A* business, I gotta get my city and state business taxes done. : P And eh I have to—no, GET to!—do *two* city tax forms this year since I changed cities midway through last year. They're due by the end of the month, so er hm well I'll just squeeze them in here somewhere. : o I don't make nearly enough money to hit Seattle's $100,000 minimum gross taxable revenue =p, but they still wanna know my total anyway. Just as well since I'd have to add these figures up for doing my individual income taxes later anyway, so actually those will be *easier* to get through when the time comes since I'll have all the receipts (mostly dominated by art shipping costs and art supplies ; ) already added up and stuff, which is pretty sweet when that time comes—but that doesn't make it any more fun to have to think about doing that part of it right off the bat in January! Oh well I'll feel that sense of accomplishment when I get it done!
  Ultima Thule, & far side of Moon reachedJan 02, 2019 11:10 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:Two space milestones just happened:
NASA's New Horizons probe reached and sent back a photo of the furthest-ever object visited by our efforts, "snowman"-shaped, Washington D.C.-sized object "Ultima Thule" in the Kuiper Belt, 1.5 billion km past Pluto (which the probe was also the first to visit, in 2015). That far out, where it's really really cold and quiet, the object could represent a fairly primordial snapshot of our solar system.
The probe is by now past Ultima Thule; scientists hope to have it visit one more object in the outer reaches of our solar system as the craft continues to race away from the Sun.
Much closer to home, China says their Chang'e-4 probe just made the first-ever landing on the far side of our own Moon; the far side of the Moon (sometimes misleadingly called "dark" side of the Moon, but actually it gets just as much illumination as the side we can see) has been photographed by plenty of spacecraft, but this is the first to land on it—the particularly tricky part has been that direct communication to Earth from there is blocked by the Moon itself, so China managed the landing by routing communications through their Queqiao satellite, which is drifting out around a gravitationally stable point—Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2—beyond the Moon's orbit, opposite the Earth and Sun.
Chang'e-4 is due to explore a crater within the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin, "one of the largest impact craters in the Solar System and the largest, deepest and oldest basin on the Moon"; the impact that created it may have been big enough to reach down to the Moon's mantle, and thus could possibly be strewn with chunks of material thrown up from beneath the Moon's crust. The specific crater it will visit within the larger Basin crater is the Von Kármán crater, named in 1970 after Theodore von Kármán, advisor at Caltech in the '30s and '40s to Qian Xuesen who, after being detained in the US in the early '50s, accused of Communist sympathies, made it back to China and became the "father" of their space program.
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