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A* Episode 17 
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The newest, highest-detail infrared survey of the galactic core:

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image by ESO/VVV Consortium, acknowledgement Ignacio Toledo, Martin Kornmesser (source)

^ Our galaxy's central supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*, is in there somewhere!

That view is the highest zoom available of the gold spot you see in the top center of the full survey area seen below (compared with a visible light view of the same region, beneath it):

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image by ESO/VVV Consortium/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org), acknowledgement Ignacio Toledo, Martin Kornmesser (source)

The survey covered the entire galactic bulge (that's the bulbous center area of our galaxy), combining a mosaic of 1929 hours of observing time with the ESO's "4.1-metre Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA)" telescope into a "nine-gigapixel" image; the detail of the core comes from the highest zoom level available in their Flash-based zoomable version; it and the site as a whole is running pretty darn slow right now, so I had to sit there waiting for a few minutes for it to resolve...hopefully it'll be a little more responsive by the time you read this, because there's a lot of stuff to pan around and see.

The ESO claims that the survey "contains more than ten times more stars than any previous study and it is the first time that this has been done for the entire bulge"; of the compiled 9-gigapixel mosaic, they say
Quote:
The image used in this work covers about 315 square degrees of the sky (a bit less than 1% of the entire sky) and observations were carried out using three different infrared filters. The catalogue lists the positions of the stars along with their measured brightnesses through the different filters. It contains about 173 million objects, of which about 84 million have been confirmed as stars. The other objects were either too faint or blended with their neighbours or affected by other artefacts, so that accurate measurements were not possible. Others were extended objects such as distant galaxies.

They say they've already used the survey "to compile the largest catalogue of the central concentration of stars in the Milky Way ever created." I wonder if they've got Nena's sun in there yet. :)

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It's nearing the end of the month, which in this case means I have one art show wrapping up, and another one about to kick off. If there was an A* page whose original art was marked "held" that you were waiting on, check it now, because it the show it was in is ending and it might be available! The new show--also in Seattle--will have a hair theme, whee! The plan is to get it hung on Monday, so I'll probably have more to say then~~!


Thu Oct 25, 2012 6:21 am
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A friend of mine pointed me over to this new NASA article with some analysis of the big white storm on Saturn that started in 2010. Such storms only happen every 30 years or so on Saturn, and this is the first one we've been able to observe up close, thanks to the Cassini probe orbiting the gas giant. The storm, which covered a range of latitude on Saturn as tall as North America and grew to wrap around the entire planet, dissipated in 2011; you can see the still large remnants as a bright swirly red and yellow cloud band in the upper part of this false-color Cassini photo from that year:

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image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute (source)

Crunching Cassini's readings of the storm shows that it was up to 150 degrees warmer than normal for Saturn's stratosphere; it also contained vast amounts of ethylene gas, which normally isn't seen on Saturn--its origin is a mystery.

The NASA article has some more info and a partially goofy movie about the storm, and this A* article from last November has a time-lapse photo sequence showing the storm's year-and-a-half lifespan.

~~~~~~~~

The Guardian just posted a pretty cool Voyager 1 and 2 photo gallery, with some great photos from the creation, launch, and early solar system exploration of those two space probes--now pushing the known boundaries of our solar system--from their youthful days back in the 70's and 80's. I got the link from this tumblr post.

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I ran across a blog article thing about a NASA proposal to use solar electric propulsion to explore the inner solar system; solar electric propulsion, or "SEC," works by "generating electric power from solar arrays which is used to give a positive electric charge to atoms inside a chamber which are thrust out by magnets." This would allow spacecraft to have a long active lifespan; the trick is to find a way to generate the sufficient power from solar panels.

~~~~~~~~

Tried staying loose with today's page--thought I got a little too uptight with parts of Val yesterday. :P


Fri Oct 26, 2012 5:14 am
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This isn't about drawing or space but darn it it's my blog and I can do what I want! :D I came across this tumblr post with photos of a leopard seal off Antarctica trying to give a penguin (it was penguin feasting season for the seals) to National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen as he was taking photos. Wild stuff! Nicklen says:
Quote:
One seal brought a penguin over to me. I didn't touch it; I just sat there and photographed. The penguin took off, and the seal grabbed it, brought it back to me, and put it on my camera dome again.

Eventually the seal got upset and started blowing bubbles at me. It was the most fascinating interaction I've ever had.

And look at the size of that seal! Just dwarfs the photographer. Here is a photo of I think a smallerish one

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image by B. navez (source)

but in fact leopard seals get up to twelve feet long!

There's a larger seal species in Antarctica, though: the southern elephant seal back in 1913 was measured at 22.5 feet long! But here is a cute baby southern elephant seal picture because everyone likes those:

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image by Serge Ouachée (source)

D-aww!


Sat Oct 27, 2012 8:22 am
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I spent all afternoon playing with fishing wire in a hair salon today--that's right, my dad and I were hanging a new A* art show! This one is at the Dandelion Salon in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood--they're on 45th, one block east of Stone Way--so we went with a hair theme for the pieces we selected. If you go there between now and the end of the year, you'll get to be up-close and personal with original A* art while you get your hair cut or your face facialed or whatever. Here are some views of some of the artwork hangin':

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You could probably even ask them to do you like one of Selenis' 'dos!


Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:06 am
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The first stab I took at this page:

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But it wasn't quite exciting me enough so into the bin it went! Actually that's not quite true--it goes into my spare paper stack, so I can use the back to sketch on. :P


Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:41 am
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How about a spooOoky space news roundup for Halloween? WoooOooo:

- The largest dark area on the Moon, the "Ocean of Storms," may be the scar from a massive asteroid impact maybe as much as 4 billion years ago that left a magma sea a thousand miles wide and hundreds of miles deep.

- That privately-owned SpaceX "Dragon" capsule that was the first private ship to take cargo to the ISS returned safely with some return cargo: "nearly 2,000 pounds of science experiments and old station equipment" and "nearly 500 frozen samples of blood and urine collected by station astronauts over the past year." With the Space Shuttles shut down, the Dragon capsules are the only vessels capable of delivering to and returning cargo from the space station.

- Over on Mars, the Curiosity rover analyzed its first scoop of Martian soil, using a technique called X-ray diffraction: "While X-ray diffraction has been around for a century, using the technology on Mars required years of work to scale down refrigerator-sized equipment into something that would fit into the space of a shoe box." So far, scientists have found that the sample it scanned "bears a striking resemblance to weathered, volcanic sand in Hawaii." Mars beach party!

- Based on readings taken over the past year+ by the Dawn spacecraft, scientists have concluded that the giant asteroid Vesta gets its dark coloration from carbon left on it by asteroid impacts. "It forces one to [suppose] most objects are contaminated this way, and this is the way the Earth got its water and organic material. It not only has implications for the surface of Vesta, but for most other airless inter-solar system objects."


Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:18 pm
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The Mars Curiosity rover took a mosaic self-portrait; the dark footprint-like marks to the left of it are where it scooped its first samples of the Martian soil for analysis:

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image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems (source)

^ The "Full Size" version you can download from NASA's source page is quite high-definition, letting you see every nuts and bolt on the rover and nearly every grain of sand around it.

~~~~~~~

Astronauts on the International Space Station have taken a spacewalk to find the source of an ammonia link in the station's cooling system. The leak's been known since 2007, but it's so slow that it's very hard to track down, and even if they find a likely spot and "fix" it, it would be weeks before they'd be able to tell whether or not that was actually it.

~~~~~~~

The layout you see in today's page was the second version; first I tried more of a dynamic isometric viewpoint, but with the characters having to be slightly separated and all I was having difficulty capturing the necessary drama--so I scrapped that and went back to an earlier idea of just showing it from the side:

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Then I was dithering about whether or not I should fill in the lower-left corner, behind Val:

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I loaded that photo in Photoshop and filled the area digitally as an experiment to see if I'd like it, and it seemed to be better that way so I went ahead and inked it in.


Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:29 am
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Scientists have found that Saturn's moon Titan glows in the dark:

Image
image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI (source)

Quote:
This set of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn's moon Titan glowing in the dark. Titan was behind Saturn at the time, in eclipse from the sun. The image on the left is a calibrated, but unprocessed image from Cassini's imaging camera. The image on the right was processed to exclude reflected light off Saturn and it is clear that even where Titan did not receive any Saturnshine, it is still emitting light. Some light appears to be emanating from high in the atmosphere (noted by the outer dashed line at about 625 miles or 1,000 kilometers in altitude). But more surprisingly, most of it is diffusing up from lower down in the moon's haze, from about 190 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface.

The higher-altitude glow, a phenomenon called "airglow" in which "charged particles from the magnetic bubble around Saturn strip electrons off of atmospheric molecules at Titan" was expected; but the light coming up from lower down, although so faint it would be invisible to someone in Titan's atmosphere--it's estimated to be about a millionth of a watt--was unexpected and is, so far, unexplained.

One theory is that it comes from lightning; the planet Venus, for instance, glows with what's called Ashen light from lightning--it was first spotted there in 1643! But while lightning is known to occur on Saturn, it's never been seen on Titan, so the possibility exists that this moon's very faint light is due to something else entirely.


Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:03 pm
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I tried using a masking fluid for today's page, to hide the figure and the edges of the doorway while I sprayed white ink stars around them. You brush the stuff on where you want whatever you're going to add *not* to hit the paper, and when you're all done using the stuff you wanted to block, you peel up the now-dried masking fluid, and voila. Here's the page with the dried masking fluid peeled off the top half:

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And here's me pulling the rest off:

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It's latex-based so it's all stretchy like that. After I was all done peeling it off I happened to go to a comic blog web site to look at a pen article I'd just heard mentioned on a podcast I was listening to while working, and heck if that blog's latest article isn't on the very same masking fluid. It doesn't cover one important thing I learned in using it today, though, and that is that it will pull up ink you already have on the page...so one shouldn't really use it like I tried using it; you'll notice that it pulled up some of the ink on on the figure and to the left of the doorway, leaving a sort of faded look in those areas. I thought that was kind of interesting, though, so I didn't try going back over those areas in black ink. I don't think I'd try using the masking fluid again...unless maybe I wanted to get that effect? Or if I was doing a black ink spatter, since then I could just put it down on the un-inked paper and peel it up without removing any ink under it. Although, it did peel up a bit of the paper in that white dust cloudy area next to her feet. Hmph, silly masking fluid.

Oh yeah and it did totally ruin the beat up old Winsor & Newton brush I applied it with--the only Winsor & Newton brush I had, in fact, since I switched to Raphaëls after that first one. Destroyed by Winsor & Newton's own masking fluid, how ironic. Or something. Hm so yeah although I do have some old brushes around that I've saved for destructive activities, I probably *won't* be using the masking fluid again unless I really really really need to for some reason; cut-out transparent sheet masks are less precise but much safer. :P


Tue Nov 06, 2012 2:13 am
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Boy I'm bushed, it's gonna be straight to be for me. Gotta write something here though, hmm... Well, this episode will be wrapping up at the end of this week, and um...hm no I'll wait a bit more until I say anything about the next episode, but it's gonna be a fun one. :)


Wed Nov 07, 2012 2:20 am
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