The First Starship

This is a poem written by Stuart Atkinson to commemorate and celebrate the Sept 12, 2013 announcement that Voyager 1 had entered interstellar space.

http://astropoetry.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/the-first-starship/

The music you hear is “Long Road Ahead” by the awesome Kevin MacLeod. If you need music to go with your video or podcast, look at Kevin’s site http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/

He has a ‘search by feel’ feature which really helps me out when I’m looking for a certain kind of mood-setting music for my videos.

—–

The First Starship

I needed no nacelles to push me onwards;
No dilithium crystals crackled in my heart.
Yet I have left Sol so far behind me she is
Just a star now, a golden spark in a salt grain sea,
And I can feel her gentle breath on my cheek
No more.

In my ears now the whalesong of the universe
Drowns out the sounds of distant, troubled Earth.
Oh, the blissful peace!
Out here all I can hear
Is the fabled music of the spheres.
Each trembling tone rolling under me,
Every mellow note washing over me
Was sung somewhere Out There.
Melodies ripped from ravenous black holes’ throats,
Screamed from the broken hearts of dying stars
Swirl around me, multi-wavelength whispers
In the dark and endless night.

My head is full of memories…
Skimming Titan’s marmalade-haze atmosphere;
My first sight of Jove’s great bloodshot eye,
Staring back at me, into me, as I flew by;
Earth as Pale Blue Dot, a Sagan sequin
Dancing in a sunbeam…

Ahead now — the solar system’s Barrier Reef.
Terra will whip around Sol 300 times before
I reach the Oort’s icy inner harbour wall
And tens of thousands of times more before
I finally leave port, sailing on in serene silence
For forty millennia more before I venture anywhere
Near another star…

And in ten million years, when Earth’s proud citadels
And cities have crumbled and whatever evolves
In their dust to take Mankind’s place
Stares out into space with curious, alien eyes,
I will still be flying through the stars.
Your legacy. Proof that once you dared to dream
Noble, Camelot dreams
And reached out, through me, to explore eternity.

(c) Stuart Atkinson Sept 13th 2013

Scale Model of the Solar System

At Fremont Peak Observatory this Saturday, I will be doing an activity for the kids that involves a large scale model of the solar system.  We’re not going to do the entire solar system, just some of the inner planets.

I really wanted to make the scale model of the Solar System as outlined in “Worlds of the Solar System” activity on the NASA Night Sky Network, but the materials for it turned out to be much more difficult to obtain than I anticipated.

You can in fact order ‘Dylite’ (a.k.a. ‘Smoothfoam’) balls in various sizes… if you are willing to order multiple units.  I don’t want twelve of the  1 & 3/8 inch balls, I want two!  The local crafting store has a very limited selection of these.  I could get the 4-inch ball but not the 3 & 7/8 inch one.  Plus, they’re expensive!

So, a different solution needed to be found.

Being pressed for time, and unable to find the materials, I resorted to rendering the model in 2D instead of 3D.   In the PDF file is a handout page with correctly scaled pictures of the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune).  Dwarf planets need not apply, apparently, but they are too small to be made in this 2D model anyway.

In order to accomplish my project, I printed two copies of the handout page in color.  I then used a glue stick to glue the back of the planets (before I cut them out) and pasted each sheet onto cardstock (a file-folder would work here too).  After letting them dry for a while, I then used scissors and a craft knife to cut out the pictures.

At this point, I had two pictures of each planet.  I quickly learned in the next step that the smallest planets (Mercury and Mars) are too small to do this next step.  The larger planets worked fine, and the larger rocky planets (Earth and Venus) could go either way .

The next step is to glue the two pictures of each planet together around bamboo Shish Kabob skewers (which I stole from the drawer in our kitchen).  For this step I recommend using ordinary white glue.  It wouldn’t work on regular weight paper, but on the cardstock it softened it up enough to mold the cardstock around the skewers.  This works great for the gas giant planets.

When I got down to Venus and Earth, however, it was much more difficult because of the small sizes of the circles.  When I got down to Mars, it was impossible.  I resorted to using a single cut-out, and placing a drop of glue on the back, then laying the tapered tip of the skewer into the glue.   I repeated this for Mercury.

In retrospect, this would work well for Venus and Earth as well.  If you wanted to, there is really no reason why the planets have to be double-sided, it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

I used the label page printed on plain paper, and glued the labels around the skewers using a glue stick.

I’m actually fairly proud of the result.

What we lose if Fremont Peak Observatory closes:

In a blog post back in May the Frog Mom in California posted about visiting Fremont Peak State Park,  and visiting the observatory:

When we admired Saturn through the telescope, I was dumbfounded. I had never really seen Saturn before I guess. It was so perfectly round and so black-and-white bright that it looked, as my friend Sue put it, “like a sticker on the lens.” A postcard perfect Saturn.

All I can say is get back up here on one of the next two weekends (August 22 or August 29) because after Labor Day the observatory may not be there anymore.