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  Sketches and CepheidsMar 06, 2014 12:49 AM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:More generosity! My brother's belated X-mas present turned out to be a super-bright 27" LED monitor. So big! So bright! 8o And I'll have to move it back I guess because I'm getting cramps craning my neck to look at it all. ; ) But it doesn't have the tiny-viewing-angle problem my old one did that made me have to try to gamma-calibrate each image separately, so now in theory I can be a lot more assured that the colors I'm seeing are the same ones most of you are seeing, which means I can be a bit bolder with them.
Here are some quick loose pen frustration sketches I did late last night before I could sleep; they aren't great but what the heck:
Hey let's cover some science news! My backlog's backlog is already getting backed up in my inbox, yeesh—so these are fairly recent (Feb 6th):
Gaia 'billion-star surveyor' returns test image ( - Europe's newly launched Gaia satellite is gearing up to start studying the motion of a billion stars, particularly those in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. "By repeatedly viewing its targets, it should get to know the brightest stars' coordinates down to an error of just seven micro-arcseconds - an angle equivalent to a euro coin on the Moon being observed from Earth." This will let scientists determine the distances to neighboring Cepheid variable stars using parallax—and because "the strong direct relationship between a Cepheid variable's luminosity and pulsation period" allows scientists to determine their distance just by observing the frequency at which they pulse "between a larger, brighter state and a smaller, denser one," Cepheids are an important measuring stick we can use to know how far away other star clusters are. But currently "we have precision distances - i.e. to 1% accuracy - to only one Cepheid star, which is Polaris (the North Star). So the whole distance scale to the Magellanic clouds depends on very shaky foundations." So Gaia's measurements should help us nail down these distances!
Here's a nifty Hubble photo of the Cepheid variable RS Puppis, about 6500 light years away (give or take 90, they think) (check that link for a really cool animation of its light echoes pulsing through the surrounding nebula!):
image by NASA (source)
Fresh impact crater spied on Mars ( - "The hole is about 30m (100ft) in diameter"; "The explosion that generated this crater tossed out debris as far as 15km (9.3 mi)." "These studies indicate that impacts producing holes at least 3.9m (12.8ft) in diameter occur at a rate exceeding 200 per year across the planet."
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