Category: contest

Caption contest RIGHT NOW

By Phil Plait | July 3, 2012 1:29 pm

[Update #2: OK, no good deed goes unpunished. A bunch of comments got held up by my spam filter, and I see that actually, O’B was the first person to get this right. Since this was my mistake, he wins as well and I have notified him. I apologize for this folks. I don’t know why so many comments got held up, but software does sometime take all the fun out of things. I’ll note that I was willing to take "The Thinker’s Rodan" OR "Rodan’s The Thinker" since they both make the same joke. I figured whichever was first was OK, but it had to be phrased just that way.]

[Update: We have a winner! jaranath was the one to figure it out. My explanation is right below his comment, too.]

The first person to leave a comment with the exact caption I’m thinking of for this picture wins a signed copy of my book Death from the Skies! in Chinese. No, I’m not kidding.

Just leave a comment with a valid email address and your caption below. I’ll contact the winner and arrange shipping the book.

I’m also not kidding about it being exact. Results are final and totally up to me. Quibblers will get stomped.


In which I become… SPACE JUDGE

By Phil Plait | June 25, 2012 12:24 pm

Oh, I do love good news. A few days ago I wrote about a small group of aerospace experts who put up a Kickstarter project to launch a small satellite. The news? It’s fully funded! That means this satellite will get built and launched into space.

Be aware that, as with most Kickstarter projects, reaching their goal doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t pitch in. More money pledged even after the goal is achieved means more and cooler stuff the project people can do with it!

And in this case, kicking in some cash gives you a chance to quite literally be a part of this mission: Discover Magazine is holding a contest where you can enter to get your experiment performed on this wee satellite. The details can be found here. Here’s the basic stuff:

(1) Fund the ArduSat project, for however much or little as you desire. You’ll receive a personal code that identifies you as a donor.

(2) Read the contest guidelines here to learn about how you should design and submit your idea.

(3) Enter with this entry form, making sure to include your personal code.

(4) Wait for winners to be announced on July 20th, after judging by Discover blogger Phil Plait, Discover Editor-in-Chief Corey Powell, and an expert panel of judges.

(5) Rejoice!

Note #4 there: I’m a judge! I’m pleased and honored to be asked to participate in this, and I’m very excited to see what folks come up with. I think this is an excellent project for a high school class or similar groups, and given it only costs a dollar minimum it’s well worth the effort.

Very important: the contest ends on July 6, 2012! So get moving. And maybe get your very own idea off the ground, and literally into space.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, contest, Cool stuff, Space

Kickstart your way to an experiment on a satellite!

By Phil Plait | June 15, 2012 11:30 am

This is very cool: Discover Magazine is contributing to a project to help the public create and run an experiment that will actually get launched into space aboard a small cubesat satellite!

This is a real thing. A small group of aerospace experts is running a KickStarter campaign to fund this satellite. By contributing to the KickStarter you can do anything from simply supporting them to actually being able to build and run your own experiment on the satellite once it’s up. Here’s a video explaining the basics:

[You may need to refresh this page to get the video to load.]

As I write this they’ve already had over $3000 pledged to their goal of $35k, and it’s only been up a few hours. Pretty nice. [UPDATE: The project reached its goal on June 21, after only a few days! Wow. However, you can and should still fund it; if you do you can enter Discover Magazine’s contest.]

Discover Magazine’s involvement with this has been to issue the Discover Space Challenge: you can submit your own idea for an experiment, game, or application to run on the ArduSat. The most innovative one will win free Team Development Kit worth $1500, and it will fly with the ArduSat into space! Details are on the KickStarter page.

The satellite itself is very small: just 10 cm (4 inches) on a side, and weighs only about a kilogram. But it will pack as many as 25 sensors on board, including three detectors, a spectrometer, a magnetometer, and even a Geiger counter. Plus, of course, the experiment from whomever wins the Space Challenge.

The project as a whole is being run by NanoSatisfi, which is a company working on democratizing space access by allowing people to put experiments up there for cheap. Other partners in this endeavor are SciStarter (to promote it in the community), Science Cheerleader (run by my pal Darlene Cavalier), MySpectral (developing a sensor for the ArduSat), and DIYSandbox (working on the electronics).

There’s a lot more info in the FAQ at the bottom of the KickStarter page. I’ll admit I’m fairly amazed by all this. We live in a time when nearly anyone can design and fly an experiment in space. Incredible!

So think about what sort of experiment you’d like to see on a satellite… and submit it. You could actually and for real get it into space.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, contest, Cool stuff, Space

Help find Hubble's Hidden Treasures

By Phil Plait | May 15, 2012 9:00 am

I worked with Hubble Space Telescope data for about ten years, and one of the most amazing things about that was seeing the images fresh off the mirror. Knowing that no human on Earth had ever seen that particular object that sharply was a thrill.

Not every Hubble observation gets turned into a gorgeous image, though. A lot of them don’t need to be for scientific publications, for one thing, and for another not every observation is of a targeted object for a specific purpose. Because of that, there are probably hundreds and hundreds of amazing objects — galaxies, nebulae, star clusters — buried in the data, waiting to be found.

That’s where you come in: the folks at the European Space Agency’s Hubble HQ are holding a contest they call Hidden Treasures. You can look through the Hubble observation archive for images and tweak them using online tools they provide, or you can really roll up your sleeves and use professional astronomical software to prettify the images. They’ve made a video explaining the Hubble archive, which may help.

The contest has nice prizes (an iPod Touch, an iPad, and other "goodies"), but you have to hurry: it ends May 31. I know, I’m late to the game here, and I apologize. But if this sounds like something you’d like to do, go dive in! I can tell you as someone with (a lot) of first-hand experience here: it’s huge fun. And who knows? You might find something beautiful, something interesting, or even something no one has ever seen before.

Related Posts:

When beauty and science collide
A spiral that can beat you with two arms tied behind its back
Happy 22nd, Hubble!
Desktop Project Part 26: Carina will keelhaul your brain

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, contest, Cool stuff

Cool animation showing asteroid DA 14's near miss next year

By Phil Plait | March 8, 2012 12:41 pm

Asteroid 2012 DA 14 was discovered a few weeks ago: a 40-meter wide rock on an orbit that brings it pretty close to Earth. Next year, on February 16, it will pass about 27,000 km from the center of the Earth (roughly 21,000 km from the surface), which is pretty close, but still a clear miss.

I wrote about this asteroid earlier this week, and the comments have been pouring in. People are asking if it will hit (no), if the Earth’s gravity will change the orbit of DA 14 (yes), have astronomers accounted for that (yes), and will it ever hit us sometime in the future (we don’t know; see below). One commenter, Chris Laurel, created a wonderful photo-realistic animation of the pass of the asteroid using software called Cosmographia, and, well, I think it will answer most people’s questions and fears:

Isn’t that cool? I did some spot checking using the JPL numbers and diagrams, and this looks pretty accurate to me. You can see how it approaches and misses us, and then he backs out a bit to show that the asteroid’s path is warped significantly by Earth’s gravity. So, to be very clear: next year, in February, this rock will miss us.

However, the amount the orbit is changed by Earth depends on precisely how close it comes, and we can’t measure the orbit that accurately just yet, even though we know it well enough to know it will miss. So what we really need are as many telescopes watching this event next year as possible for as long as possible. That will greatly reduce the uncertainty in the asteroid’s position over time, and allow for a good measurement of the orbit. It’s overwhelmingly most likely that the Earth’s gravity will put the asteroid into an orbit where it will miss us again for some time to come, but the only way to be sure is to really nail down its orbit.

I’m sure there will be an organized campaign with observers all over the world to do this. I’ll post more about that when I hear more, probably in the next few months.

Related Posts:

No, asteroid 2012 DA14 will not hit us next year
Asteroid 2011 AG5: a football-stadium-sized rock to watch carefully
My asteroid impact talk is now on TED!
Just to be clear: asteroid YU55 is no danger to Earth
Media FAIL *again* (HuffPo and Apophis edition)
Debunking doomsday

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, contest, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: 2012 DA14, asteroid, impact

George Hrab in concert: 21812!

By Phil Plait | January 10, 2012 1:30 pm

I’ve known the skeptic, musician, and bepated bon vivant podcaster George Hrab for many years now, and it is truly an honor to call him my friend. He’s smart, wise, a natty dresser, and very, very funny. His music is brilliant, which you already know if you’ve heard it.

And hey! Here’s your chance now: Geo’s throwing a concert! He’s calling it "21812, A Gneiss Night Out", and it’ll be on February 18, 2012 (hence the name) and it will be in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

But he’s had concerts before, I hear you thinking. What’s so special about this one?

Well, for one thing, he’s recording it so he can release a complete DVD of the whole thing, which is pretty cool. And for another, he has invited a special guest, someone so amazing and awesome that no one could possibly resist buying tickets! Sadly though that person couldn’t come so he invited me instead.

That’s right! I’ll be there (w00t!) and we’ll be doing his song "Death from the Skies" (based on my book) live on stage. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, perhaps this will help. This song will change your life, or at least make you cringe for fear of it.

This concert will be epic. Seriously legendary. Tickets are on sale now. You should come. I’d love to see lots of BABloggees there!

Image credit: Terry Robinson’s Flickr Photostream

CATEGORIZED UNDER: contest, DeathfromtheSkies!
MORE ABOUT: 21812, George Hrab

As from above, so from below

By Phil Plait | January 10, 2012 7:00 am

NASA’s Earth Observatory site just put up this amazing picture. I have to say, this is one of the cooler pictures from the International Space Station that I’ve seen. Not for it’s beauty or anything like that — though it is starkly lovely — but because of what it shows:

[Click to dicraternate.]

Obviously, that’s a volcano on the right: Emi Koussi, in northern Africa. But look to the left, almost at the edge of the picture. See that faded ring? That’s Aorounga — an impact crater, some 10 – 15 km wide, formed when a chunk of cosmic debris hit the Earth about 300 million years ago! So these are two craters, one formed from processes happening deep below the Earth, and one from events from far above. Yet both can be seen at the same time, from one vantage point: orbiting our planet somewhere above the surface but beneath the rest of the Universe.

Image credit: NASA

Related posts:

A long, thin, volcanic plume from space
UPDATE: more amazing Nabro volcano images
Staring down an active volcano’s throat
Volcano followup: pix, video

CATEGORIZED UNDER: contest, NASA, Pretty pictures

Think comets are cool? Tweet about them!

By Phil Plait | May 31, 2011 11:25 pm

The European Space Agency is sponsoring a contest: if you think comets are cool, tweet about them! The winner gets a trip to Darmstadt, Germany — ESA’s operating HQ — to celebrate 25 years of exploring comets.

There are rules, but they boil down to posting on Twitter about comets, using the "#coolcomet" hashtag, and providing an optional link to a non-text page (YouTube video, picture, etc.) that follows up. You have to be from a member country of ESA or the US to participate.

They are collecting all the tweets using TwapperKeeper, and you can see what others have done. They’re getting lots of entries, so if you want to try, I suggest being clever. Think about different aspects of comets, something unusual, and why they’re so interesting. The posts linked below might help get your unsublimated gases thawed.

Have fun! And if you win, send me a postcard from Darmstadt.

Image credit: Comet McNaught in the daytime from Chris North/Wikipedia

Related posts:

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Comets
Followup: Deep Impact crater on Tempel 1
A comet creates its own snowstorm!
Amazing close ups of comet Hartley 2
Actually, if you’re a comet, it *is* easy being green

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, contest, Cool stuff, Space

Mega Giveaway versus Giant Contest!

By Phil Plait | January 6, 2011 12:00 pm

[UPDATE: We have a megawinner! @kurtjmac had the inning tweet, and the swag is on its way to him now. Thanks to everyone for joining in, and as always, stay tuned for more giveaways like this one. I still have a ton of stuff lying around.]

At the top of this year I had to do two things: replace my Mac laptop, which is so old the operating system is called Sabre Tooth (baddaBING!), which in turn meant rearranging my office as well (to make room for all the joyous new cables). While performing this archaeological dig I unearthed a lot of really cool stuff lying around in boxes and bags, plus a lot of what can only be called random crap, so I figure the sweat of my brow is your good fortune: I’m giving it away.

That’s right! I’m having Yet Another Bad Astronomy Giveaway contest, and this time it’ll be on Twitter. What am I including? This:

[Click to sharktopusenate.]

This is truly an awesome load of geekiness. To wit:

  • A SyFy tote bag from Comic Con last year that says "GIANT BACK PACK" on one side and "MEGA TOTE" on the other. Yes.
  • A copy of George Hrab’s CD "Trebuchet" (it has a track on it narrated by Yours Truly), signed by him and me.
  • A pre-production signed copy of my book Death from the Skies!, because why not?
  • A very cool 2011 desk calendar "The Year in Space", with tons of great pictures; that would normally run you $12 plus shipping. It’s published with cooperation by the wonderful Planetary Society.
  • A copy of (the sadly now-defunct) Geek Monthly magazine that has an article about me, and another about Wil Wheaton — signed by both of us.
  • A copy of Skeptical Inquirer with an article I wrote about star naming schemes.
  • A bunch of stickers, including one signed by SETI astronomer Seth Shostak.
  • Two anaglyph glasses (one red/blue, the other red/green) so you can see stuff posted in glorious 3D.
  • The SkepStick, a flash drive given away at the first TAM London, with cool skeptical documents on it.
  • A bunch of other stuff, including an NOAO four port USB hub, a plushy cosmic microwave background, some buttons, some postcards, a deck of Amazon cards I picked up at a conference, an origami flying pig folded by Aussie skeptic Richard Saunders, and more.

Phew! So, how do you win this megastuff? There are some rules, so avast:

Read More

Space:1999 Blu-Ray giveaway!

By Phil Plait | December 8, 2010 10:22 am

[UPDATE: We have a winner! BABloggee Brendan Leber sent the 150th email, and that was the number chosen at random out of the 481 received. Congrats to Brendan, and thanks to everyone else who tried. And as always, more contests are coming, so stay tuned.]

Space1999blurayI know, I just gave away the Doctor Who Blu-Rays, but c’mon! Who doesn’t want more classic science fiction?

A&E Home Entertainment just came out with the first season of Space:1999 on Blu-Ray, and have agreed to give one away to a reader of my blog! This new box set looks pretty cool, I must say. If you’re a fan of the show then you want this (I am, and I do!). It costs about $100 retail (suggested), but here’s how you can score one for free.

Eagle 1, ready for liftoff:

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: contest, SciFi, TV/Movies
MORE ABOUT: Blu-ray, Space:1999

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