The Galactic Core Gazette
"Back By Popular Dement": Debris From Earlier Issues...
Mars Threatens Earth
Astronomers at the U.S. Naval Observatory have announced that the planet Mars may be posing a cataclysmic threat to our planet. Observations made over the last few months have shown the apparent size of the Red Planet to be increasing rapidly. "It is obvious that Mars is heading towards Earth at a rapid pace", says a U.S.N.O. spokesperson who asked to remain anonymous. "At this rate, it seems likely that the planet will collide with ours in just a few month's time. We are uncertain what may have caused the huge shift in Mars' orbit needed to make this occur, and have no idea of how to stop it."
Some of the staff at the G.C. Gazette has always been sure that our Doom would come from the Red Planet, and so are not too surprised; the threat was assumed to be Martians with their flying saucers and Death Rays, though, and not an attack by the whole planet itself!
Amateur Builds Unusual Observatory
Amateur astronomer Don Kettles of Evansville, Indiana has created a backyard observatory unlike any other we know of. Like many folks who get bitten by the astronomy bug, Kettles has often had the urge to try something new. Over the eighteen years of his involvement as an amateur astronomer, he has owned various sorts of telescopes, and tried out numerous observing programs and projects. "Lunar, planetary, solar, deep sky, you name it" he tells the GC Gazette. "Astrophotography, video work, even trying to pick up signals from the Sun on our satellite TV dish." But his latest creation is his biggest and most unusual undertaking: a backyard neutrino observatory!
Taking inspiration from the design of some professional neutrino observatories, Kettles drained his in-ground backyard pool, installed some photocells, and refilled the pool with mineral oil. "I lined the retractable pool cover with lead sheets to cut down on cosmic rays and other surface interference, since my setup isn't way underground like the pro observatories. I picked up the photocells and some of the circuitry as government surplus, so I got some good deals. The tanker of oil cost a bit, but I figure it will last a long time."
Kettles hopes to have his observatory up and running and gathering data early this summer. When asked what his wife thinks of the project, he reports that "At first she was a little upset when I filled the pool with the oil. But actually, we've found that swimming in it is a really unique experience. And it sure keeps your hair shiny and your skin moist!"
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Study Shows Low Income For Club Officers
The results of a study conducted by the Employment Trends Analysis Institute at Brigham Young University reveals some surprising findings related to the management of amateur astronomy clubs in the United States. Project leader Professor William Cole says that as part of a general study of employment in astronomy and cosmology, the salaries and benefits of those who run amateur astronomical societies were analyzed. "Considering the fairly small number of professional astronomers employed by universities and in research, the management of these societies represents a notable percentage of astronomy-related employment in the U.S."
Cole and his associates were startled to find that none of the officers of the over 70 clubs he studied were paid anything at all. "We were misled at first by our interviews of the non-officer members of some of these societies," he reports to G.C. Gazette. "Many of them had the impression that the officers of their groups were paid employees, working full time to provide services for the members. But in interviewing the officers themselves, we found them to be just volunteers, donating their time to keep the organizations functioning. Statistically, they were otherwise the same as the rest of the membership, as far as families, jobs, and involvement in other interests. We are at a loss as to explain why they work so hard for so little recognition."
DHS Eyes Suspicious 'Hobby'
An internal memo leaked to the G.C. Gazette from the Department of Homeland Security shows the agency studying the hobby of amateur astronomy with a suspicious eye. Noting a penchant for "quiet, somewhat secretive nocturnal activity" amongst amateur astronomers, and the use of "highly advanced technical equipment, some of which appears strikingly similar to sophisticated military hardware", the memo suggests an increased scrutiny of amateur astronomers by the government. While stopping short of recommending that the persuit be outlawed entirely, that possibility is hinted at in a statement which notes that "Even if the activity which these individuals are undertaking is not directly aimed at undermining national security, one cannot help but assume that these people are spying on their neighbors."
Separated at birth?
Psychologist Identifies Astronomers' Addiciton
Boston University psychology professor Margaret Weitz, who has devoted over twenty years to the study of addiciton, has come to a startling conclusion based on her studies of amateur astronomers. In a paper published last month in The Journal Of Obsession and Addiction, Weitz describes what she has termed Astro-Equipment Purchase Compulsion (AEPC).
"The sufferers of AEPC are characterized by the uncontrolable urge to buy amateur astronomy equipment", says Prof. Weitz. "They always have to have something new, no matter what they already own. They use the excuse that they are increasing their ability to observe, but in reality, may hardly use their purchases before those are set aside and replaced with something even newer." In her paper, Weitz cites case examples where the victims of AEPC bore many of the traits of sufferers of chemical addictions. "We had test subjects who, when shown ads from Sky & Telescope magazine, exhibited physical responses such as increased heart rate and perspiration, flushed skin and drooling. These same subjects, when secretly observed by infra-red camera at star parties, would be seen ignoring their own telescopes and staring longingly through models they did not yet own."
Weitz concludes that AEPC is a serious condition, which the medical community needs to develop treatment for. "Some who suffer from AEPC feed their addiction by selling yesterday's purchases to pay for today's. Others face massive debt, or resort to criminal activity to feed their desires. This addiction may begin with the purchase of a Telrad, or Plossl eyepiece, but those lower cost purchases eventually lose their potency; the addict moves on to bigger and bigger telescopes to meet their cravings. Fortunes have been lost, marriages destroyed, and lives ruined."
Amateur Discovers Stability of the Universe
Amateur astronomer Paula Johnson of Glendale Heights, California recently announced her discovery of the relative stability of the structure of our Universe. An enthusiastic stargazer in her teens and early twenties, Johnson found less time for the hobby as other activities and responsibilities entered her life. "I started a career, got married, began a family. Astronomy at first took a backseat, then kind of got shelved altogether", she reports.
But Johnson's children are now in college or out on their own, and she has found herself with some more time to spare. "A couple of months ago, I got my telescope out of storage and took it out observing. All the enjoyment I used to get from stargazing came back to me. It was so pleasant to find that the Universe had been waiting for me over the years that I had been too busy to get out and enjoy it!"
Science Network Adds Reality Programming
In an effort to boost its ratings, The Science Channel has annouced its intention to climb on the reality-program bandwagon with its own entries into the popular genre. On the series titled "Temptation Mountain", four attractive couples will be marooned on a mountain in Arizona for a week. The catch? One member of each couple will be an avid amateur astronomer. The challenge? To be the last couple to stay together, without the astronomer sneeking away during the night to observe through the 40" telescope which is also housed on the mountain top. In "Survivor: Science Lab", twelve researchers from different fields of science will be locked in a large college science lab building. Divided into two teams or "tribes", they will face a number of challenges, including raising their own food in the biology lab or creating it in the chem lab, creating boobytraps to snare the members of the other team, and grading large stacks of term papers. Contestants will be eliminated one by one as the batteries die in their calculators.
Mars Secret Revealed
Since controversy still swirls around the now famous "Face on Mars" photograph, we here at G.C. Gazette assigned our resident graphics expert Ed with the task of seeing whether he could extract any more information from the raw Mars Global Surveyor photos of the area. After extensive work in sharpening the image using sophisticated software (something he got on a disk of photos processed at K-Mart), and over twelve hours of processing time by his 386, Ed was amazed by the result which emerged, as was the rest of the staff here. We submit it to you, the reader, for you to draw your own conclusions.
Startling result of new Mars photo analysis.
Fox Special to Blow Lid on Massive Coverup
A television special being prepared for the Fox network will, according to network sources, "shatter widely a widely held belief which has been foisted on unsuspecting peoples for hundreds of years." The two-hour program, entitled "The Globe: Ball or Baloney?", will feature some people who insist that they know what they are talking about, who will provide amazing, uncontested evidence that the Earth is indeed flat (as many of us have suspected all along.) They will also explain that the whole round-Earth thing is just a story concoted by some shadowy governmental conspirators for some equally foggy nefarious purposes (something we also suspected). The program will be narrated by an as-yet-unnamed actor who previously appeared in some science fiction television series or movie.
Also coming this season on Fox:
"Commies or Conspiracy: Did the USSR Really Exist?"
and from the producers of "Alien Autopsy":
"Programming Director's Lobotomy", which reveals the truth about how the Fox network chooses what it airs.
'Massive Stockpile' of Telescopes Forming?
Amateur astronomer Tina Forrest of Bisbee, Arizona has a theory which might be of interest to telescope manufacturers and other amateurs: The country is heading toward being saturated with astronomy equipment!
"I knew from experience that amateur telescopes are rarely ever thrown away. Usually if someone gets tired of observing, or gets a new 'scope, they put their old equipment into storage, sell it, or give it away" Forrest tells G.C. Gazette. "Then I started thinking about the surge in interest amateur astronomy has had over the past decade or so, and how many new telescopes are being sold. I wondered how long it would be before there was 'a telescope in every garage' so to speak."
Forrest set about to research telescope sales and calculate the rate of telescope stockpiling. "It is kind of like figuring out how many thousands of tons of old National Geographics there are storage in people's houses in the world", she says. "My estimates show that there is already an amazingly large number of telescopes packed away in closets, garages and attics in this country, and at the rate production and sales are going, there will be one for nearly every person within twenty years. Unfortunately, almost all will be gathering dust, unused, forgotten."
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Dew Meets Its Match
Roger Abbot, CEO of DewShoo Industries, has announced a new product geared towards the amateur stargazer. "In many areas, one of the most annoying problems the amateur astronomer faces is that of dew forming on observing equipment and accessories in the night" says Abbot. "Lenses and mirrors fog up, charts and books get soggy, and the whole observing experience gets spoiled. Our new product, the DewShoo 2010, can totally eliminate this nuisance. The observer and all his or her equipment can stay comfortably dry through the entire night."
The DewShoo apparatus consists of a box-like unit which somewhat resembles a microwave oven with its door removed. The unit is mounted on a tripod, and placed so it faces the area where the stargazer and telescope will be operating. When the unit is powered up, either by plugging in to an AC outlet, or powered by an optional inverter and storage battery set, it creates a field in front of it where dew formation is hindered.
G.C. Gazette ran a trial session with a unit provided by DewShoo Industries, and found it to be remarkably effective. While an unprotected telescope set up nearby dewed up within an hour, the 'scope by the DewShoo unit stayed dry. There were some odd side effects, though. Our test team noted that they felt warm and somewhat 'tingly' when standing near the DewShoo, and one team member developed a migraine headache. Occasional arcing was noted across the face to the telescope mirrors and over the metal parts of the telescopes. Some of the equipment in the protected area felt notably warm to the touch, and a bottle of soda on the chart table kept on boiling over.
The G.C. Gazette test crew thinks that there may be some safety concerns with using the DewShoo 2010, especially on a prolonged basis, but that dew can be so darn annoying that maybe it is worth a little risk to be rid of it.
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Famous Movie Prop Relocated
Reader Charles Forney of Calabassas, CA has sent us an item which might be of interest to science fiction fans and movie buffs: He has located the Monolith from the movie '2001 - A Space Odyssey'. Its distinctive profile appeared in the LASCO C3 image of the solar corona from the SOHO spacecraft in an image from 03/05/28, 21:42 hours UT (reproduced below). As Forney notes, "Perhaps its orbit brings it back near Earth on occasion. My wife thinks that it might be a real alien probe thing, but I'm betting its just a movie prop."
DHS Seeks Aid From Astronomers
The G.C. Gazette has learned that the Department of Homeland Security recently enlisted the aid of astronomers from the U.S. Naval Observatory on a matter of a scientific nature. DHS management was getting concerned that the US public is no longer being made sufficiently afraid by the endless Terrorism Alert Status warnings it has been issuing for nineteen months; they have apparently decided that the Alert code system needs to be made more frightening. However, there was uncertainty as to what colors to add to the current 5-color system. Hence the turn to the scientists at the U.S.N.O.
Some astronomers initially considered recommending X-ray and gamma ray levels, for the potentially destructive energy of those wavelengths. Concensus was finally reached to keep in the theme of the lengthening wavelengths which the current system has (excepting the mixup of green and blue). So the new system, which DHS seems prepared to announce, includes two levels even more horrifying than the current Red/Severe top level: Infra-Red/Extreme and Microwave/Give Up.
Terror Spectrum Extended
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IAU Considers Constellation Re-map
In the face of increasing pressure from numerous sources, the International Astronomical Union announced this week that it is forming a committee to consider the restructuring of the standard listing of astronomical constellations. In a press release, the IAU notes that the origins of the 88 officially recognized constellations date to earlier eras, and that it may be time to consider remapping the skies to bring the system more up-to-date.
G.C.Gazette has learned that a number of groups from outside of the astronomy community have been petitioning for change. Leaders of several major religious groups have complained about the depiction of pagan gods in the current system. Women's rights organizations have decried the lack of females currently represented, and how the ones there are tend to be victims or sex objects. Engineering societies have noted the primitive nature of the tools depicted, and have suggested replacing them with items such as computers and nuclear reactors. And equal rights groups have objected to the widely varying sizes of the current 88, suggesting that each constellation be made to have the same area as the next.
The IAU expects to have a report from the committee by this time next year, and will take up the matter for consideration at that time. IAU management also denies widespread rumors that it is seriously considering officially naming many of the re-designed constellations after commercial products in return for fees from product manufacturers.
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Alternative Astrology returns!
Remember to brush after snacks!
Don't take Finding Nemo personally.
Folks tend to love you, but secretly think you're nutty!
Try to avoid sounding off about every last thing.
TORUS (Apr.21-May 21):
Eat too many doughnuts and you'll get a spare tire.
GERMANIUM (May 22-Jun.21):
Sorry, but you're going to diode.
You will be popular, especially of you're Polish.
Try acting more like Lederman, less like the guy from Blade Runner.
Avoid looking down on other people.
Leave your decimals out at night and they'll get dewey.
Try harder next time!
Time to get out that Buns Of Steel video!
Feng Shui for Astronomers!
Eliminate the negative energy roadblocks which have hampered your observing by using these techniques from the mystic East:
REPLACE the metal legs of your telescope tripod with bamboo.
NEVER store your telescope with any openings uncovered, or the energy will run out.
NEVER leave your wallet near your telescope, or the wealth will run out.
ALWAYS observe in the eastern half of the sky before midnight, and the western half after midnight.
OBSERVE only even-numbered NGC objects.
ALWAYS keep a lighted candle in your eyepiece case while you are observing.
NEVER stand on the north side of your telescope while observing, unless your birth year element is Metal.
NEVER observe during thunderstorms unless your birth year element is Fire.
ALWAYS rotate your head so the north pole of any planet you observe appears to be "up".
NEVER carry a red flashlight which is colored red.
AVOID dropping burning incense down into your telescope.
The Galactic Core Gazette does not have time to verify each and every story it runs, so the editor does not recommend basing legal actions, large wagers, or doctoral theses on any content herein. If you are an amateur astronomer, and have anything kindly (or humorous) to say, you can send it along to Editor-At-Fault Drew at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"I saw it on the Internet -- it must be true!"