Wednesday, February 04, 2015

A Night at the Planetarium

:: mt. hood community college ::

Mount Hood Community College invested in the Microsoft WorldWide Telescope solution some time ago, but last night was my first opportunity to see the new system in action.  The projectors were mounted around the bowl's periphery and had to meet at the seams, a lot like constellations meet, in that carved up sphere that looks seriously gerrymandered.

Remember the twelve houses of the zodiac form a minority of "most famous" constellations thanks to horoscopes and like that.  In fact, the complete sphere needed carving (see Divided Spheres) and the patch quilt projected by Microsoft includes such as Fornax and Sculptor, which we explored in some depth given the focus of tonight's presentation:  other galaxies, including satellites of our own.

We're already feeling Andromeda's love for us as she rushes thirstily towards the Milky Way, only about twenty five disk diameters hence, a short run across a field.  We'll embrace in a coming epoch, in about four billion years according to official projections.  She'll have swallowed up some nearer sisters before then.  Our own Magellanic satellites are likewise spiraling inward.  Universe may be expanding, but the local group is pulling together it seems.

Hoping to beat rush hour traffic, I migrated to Troutdale early in the day.  The check engine light is on again but the air flow meter seems to be working well enough.  For an old Nissan, she's doing great.  I camped out at Edgefield, sipping a single glass of Pinot Noir (theirs) while I tended my fish ladder, eager students making leaps and bounds in their understanding of the Python computer language.  I then relocated to a coffee shop closer to the evening venue, where I continued using WiFi.

Two astronomers joined me at the Thai place.  Bob was excited by shewanella, the new life form discovered in some lake, a bacterium that snarfs electrons through tentacles.  I need to Google that.  Brenda supports all the sciences at MHCC (that's her work), not just the astronomers, but she's an astronomer at heart, having built her own telescope and made stargazing a permanent hobby.  She gave us a tour of the equipment lab adjoining the Planetarium, which doubles as a server room for the WorldWide Telescope solution.

:: brenda wyse and bob mcgown ::