My old friend Dan Durda is a phenomenal space artist. His digital pieces are incredible. Last year, he put a dozen of them together to create a 2012 space calendar he called "All these Worlds…".
If you’re looking for an early holiday gift, you’re in luck: he’s done it again this year, making a new "All These Worlds 2013". Here’s the cover:
I know, right? More of his artwork is linked in the Related Posts below, and you can go see his prints for sale, too. So go buy one already!
In May I attended SpaceFest IV, a gathering of space enthusiasts, astronauts (who, I suppose, are legit space enthusiasts), astronomers, and more. It’s a lot of fun, and great to see old friends and meet new science geeks. I missed last year’s, unfortunately, but was happy to be able to go this year again.
While I was there I was interviewed about the Mayan apocalypse, Symphony of Science, and building a real Enterprise. It was an eclectic series of questions.
I hope there’ll be another SpaceFest next year! I had a lot of fun, and I bet a lot of you reading this would too.
My friend Dan Durda — astronomer, asteroid researcher, and artist — drew a pretty cool digital painting of what it will look like, sometime hence, when humans explore the rugged landscape of Mars for themselves:
Cool, huh? It’s based on pictures he took in Death Valley, which has a lot of similarities to the Red Planet.
I love Dan’s stuff (more of his work is featured in the links listed in Related Posts, below). He’s put this in his "3D Impact" store where you can get this as a poster, on a coffee mug, or even a laptop cover.
I’ll be seeing Dan this weekend at SpaceFest IV, a fun meeting for space enthusiasts being held in Tucson. There’ll be astronauts, astronomers, and artists there, and I hope a few of you as well!
In 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will zip past Pluto, giving us our first close-up view of this tiny world.
The team behind the space probe have a nice idea to help raise awareness of it: make a new US Post Office stamp commemorating it. My friend Dan Durda, both an accomplished astronomer and artist, created this lovely design of the stamp:
[Click to enhadesenate. Note: the word "Forever" means the stamp is always good for first class postage, and is crossed out here to prevent forgery.]
It shows the spacecraft going by Pluto and its (relatively) freakishly large moon Charon. I like how he didn’t go for photorealism, but instead used an oil paint-like feel for it. The stamp is meant as a followup — I might even say send-up — of a US stamp issued in 1990 about Pluto that has the label "Not Yet Explored".
I like this stamp! I’d love to see it made official, too. Alan Stern, the head guy for the mission, created a petition to help that along. It takes more than just a nice stamp design to get the PO’s notice; it has to have public support as well. I signed the petition, and if you want to, please do.
I’ll note that I expect this to raise the specter of whether Pluto is a planet or not. I have some thoughts on that, and I’ll be posting again soon on that topic.
In September 2011, I was honored to be on the speaker roster for TEDxBoulder, which is a local though independently-run version of the much-lauded TED talks. My talk was about saving the Earth from asteroid impacts, something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about.
The talk is online, and I’ve included it here:
The "We have a space program" line is from science fiction author Larry Niven, so I can’t take credit for it, though I modified it to add the "we can vote" bit. Also, this was the biggest audience I’ve ever spoken to, and it was a great crowd. I was almost last on the roster, but the audience was attentive and clearly enjoying themselves. It was a really fun, energizing, and mind-expanding evening.
The other talks that night are being put online as well. If you ever get a chance to attend a local TEDx conference, you should.
I’ve known Dan Durda since college. We went to Michigan together, studying astronomy. He wound up getting into asteroids and exoplanets, and may yet be part of a team that will save the Earth from an impact.
A few years back, he started dabbling in art, and discovered he was good at it. In fact, I’d say he’s really good at it. His stuff has graced magazine covers and articles, and even this blog (see the Related posts section below).
See what I mean? His stuff is crazy beautiful.
And now you can own it. He’s created his own CafePress store where he’s got some of his work as prints. You can also get a 2012 calendar (yes, it goes all the way through December; Dan and I are both real astronomers) called "All These Worlds…", with some breathtaking artwork.
He also has a gallery of his work online you should check out simply because it’s fantastic. Through Dan I’ve met quite a few space artists, people whose work I have respected for many years. And they all get this look in their eye when they talk about Dan; they’re impressed by him.
OK, enough gushing. Go take a look, and enjoy. I’m pretty sure you will.
– The Beauty of Space
– Motherlode of potential planets found: more than 1200 alien worlds!
– Hungry Hungry Asteroid
– The galaxy may swarm with billions of wandering planets (maybe my favorite drawing by Dan)
[UPDATE, 22:00 Mountain US Time, Aug 17: Well, that was easy! I just checked, and the book has blown through it’s goal! BABloggees rock. Thanks! But this doesn’t mean you still can’t donate if you want to.]
I have a few picture books of astronomy on my shelf, and I always wonder how the publishers are able to print such magnificent quality books and make money. Some of the books are pretty pricey, as you might expect — a hundred pages of glossy full-color pictures ain’t cheap! — so it seems like it would be hard to do this without a major publisher backing you.
Of course, that was before the intertubez. My friend, astronomer and artist Dan Durda, let me know about a gorgeous book called The Beauty of Space. He sent me some promo material, and it truly is a very cool book. It’s about the history of space art, and includes astonishing and spectacular artwork from some of the best people making it (including Dan).
A book like this might be hard to publish on its own, so the editor, Jon Ramer, has made it a Kickstarter project. He’s hoping to raise $2000 by September 15th to defray the costs of printing and distributing the book. If you pledge $35 you get a softcover version, and if you pledge $60 you get the hardcover edition.
If you know about space art, you’ll see familiar names in the book: Mark Garlick, Don Davis, Lynette Cook, Chesley Bonestell… and Al Bean, from Apollo 12, the only artist to walk on the surface of the Moon, who wrote the book’s foreward. And if you’re not familiar with space art, well, you should be. This book is great way to get there.
I post a lot of astronomical images here at BA Central, of course. But art can capture views we can’t get from Earth: standing on the surface of a moon, seeing the Sun through Saturn’s rings; looking back to our home galaxy from 30,000 light years above it; resting on a Martian mesa while a dust storm looms nearby.
These are flights of imagination that inspire me, and I think they will you too.
A new result from astronomers who have spent years peering toward the center of the Milky Way has led to a startling conclusion: there may be billions of Jupiter-sized planets wandering the space between the stars, unbound by the gravity of a parent sun. In fact, there may be nearly twice as many of these free floating planets as there are stars themselves in our galaxy, and they may even outnumber planets orbiting stars!
The study, published in Nature, is the result of the Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) project. Instead of looking for tell-tale blips of light near stars, or the effect of planets on their parent stars, microlensing looks for the effect of the planet on background stars that are far more distant than the planet itself.
It’s a little weird, and is due to gravity warping space. Imagine me sitting on a flat floor, rolling marbles away from me in all directions. If you’re sitting a few meters away, you can only catch the marbles that are aimed at you. But if there’s a dip in the floor between us, some of the marbles I roll that might have otherwise passed you will get their path diverted toward you as they curve around the dip. You get more marbles!*
The same thing with light and gravity. A star emits light in all directions, but we only see the small amount of light headed our way. If a massive object like a planet gets between us and the star, the gravity of that planet can warp space, causing light we otherwise wouldn’t see to bend toward us. We see more light: the star gets brighter! This is called a gravitational lens. If that massive object is a planet moving in space, then we the starlight get brighter as the planet moves between us and the star, and then fainter as the planet moves on. The way the light changes is predicted by Einstein’s equations of relativity, and can be used to find the mass of the planet doing the warping.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about some news media falsely reporting that the asteroid Apophis might hit the Earth in 2036. In that post I used a picture drawn by a friend of mine, Dan Durda, showing an asteroid with a spacecraft near it:
The asteroid is actually a model Dan built based on Eros, a different near-Earth asteroid, and the spacecraft is a possible design of a gravity tug, an idea for a craft that might be able to tow potentially dangerous rocks into safe orbits.
Anyway, BABloggee Kai Baumbach saw something a little different in that picture. He fixed it up and sent it to me: Read More
Regular readers may know me as the beloved online blogger for Discover Magazine, but I also sometimes write longer articles for the print version as well.
Last summer, I wrote a piece on the search for small solar system objects that might, theoretically, circle the Sun inside Mercury’s orbit. Called vulcanoids, they are extremely difficult to observe, which is why it’s still not certain if they exist or not (I wrote a brief post about this back in 2008). Two astronomers (and friends of mine), Dan Durda and Alan Stern, are hot on the trail of the purported possible planetesimals; I talked to them about their chase and the history of the search for these hot little objects.
Until now, the article was only available in the print magazine or to online subscribers, but now my brilliant prose is open to the public. Seriously, this is a pretty cool topic, and one that most people don’t know about. The region between the Sun and Mercury is closer to the Earth than the main asteroid belt, yet we know much less about it. Read the article and find out why.