I just got back from the University of Calgary’s fantastic Rothney Astrophysical Observatory. Since there is a new moon in Calgary, we have had late night open houses yesterday, today, and one tomorrow from 10PM until 2AM. Since I am exhausted, let me show you the awesome picture of the beautiful tendrils of cool dust in the Eagle Nebula we were able to capture using the 16″ Clark-Milone Telescope:
I’ve been thinking of writing an astronomical toolkit for Arduino, to help users build their own go-to telescope mounts, satellite trackers, heliostats, and other cool amateur astronomy equipment. As anyone who has ever worked with astronomical coordinate systems know, since astronomers treat the sky as a 2 dimensional spherical surface, most calculations involving positions on this surface involve a good deal of trigonometry. While the Arduino library includes built-in functions for sine and cosine, it lacked the inverse trigonometric functions arcsine and arccosine. These are necessary if you ever need to convert a length ratio into an angle. It is impossible to convert between different sky coordinate systems (like Horizontal and Equatorial, the two most common) without access to these functions. In today’s post, I’ll show you how I wrote my own arcsin() and arccos() functions using Taylor polynomials.
I feel like yesterday’s depressing (but popular!) post painted a bit gloomier picture of the future of astronomy and space science than the reality warrants. Today, I thought I might cheer you up with an inside view of one of the neatest pieces of scientific instrumentation under construction today: a fantastic radio telescope called the Australian Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Pathfinder (ASKAP).
This morning, I watched with tears in my eyes as the last flight of the space shuttle pierced the clouds above Cape Canaveral. After the joy of watching four human beings rise above the atmosphere carried by little more than a few thousand tonnes of metal, plastic, and ceramic safely and in less time than it takes me to drive to work, I started to look back upon a week that has been, if I may put it bluntly, disastrous for NASA, and for the American space effort.