Starry night in the Netherlands, video

This video says about itself:

Dutch Beauty – A time-lapse Short Film – by Rick Kloekke

6 January 2015

This short film is filled with time-lapses taken in The Netherlands! Take a good look at the Milky Way/starry sequences. Due to the great amount of light pollution, there are just a few places in The Netherlands where you can see the Milky Way with naked eyes!

Doctor Who TV series, militarism and anti-militarism

This video, inspired by the science fiction series Doctor Who, says about itself:

THE TIMELORDS / KLF – Doctorin’ The Tardis

1988 Music Video Featuring Ford Timelord (1968 Ford Galaxy) and “Daleks”.

By Bryan Dyne and Christine Schofelt in Britain:

Doctor Who turns toward militarism

9 January 2015

Christmas 2014 marked the end of the eighth season of the rebooted British science fiction television series Doctor Who (the program first went on the air in 1963). It was also the end of the first season for veteran actor Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, In the Loop) in the role of “The Doctor,” the twelfth incarnation of the time-traveling humanoid alien.

The most recent season brought the military almost immediately into the foreground. Given the state of the world, this was perhaps not entirely surprising, or even inappropriate. But what is the program’s attitude?

Much of the focus is on Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), a war veteran turned math teacher and boyfriend of The Doctor’s companion Clara (Jenna Coleman). Questioned as to whether he killed anyone in the war, Danny demurs, troubled by what he has seen and done. He disabuses his students of the idea that war is anything to be glorified or celebrated.

The issue of what it takes to be a “good man” dominates this season. The Doctor repeatedly queries Clara about this, trying to reconcile his role in the Time War, on the one hand, and his attempts to be a “healer” and “wise man,” on the other. Danny asks himself the same question indirectly, and tries to respond positively that he is a decent person. One started viewing the season with a certain optimism.

Given this motif, it is worth tracing the course of The Doctor’s relationship with and attitude toward militarism and war. In earlier episodes of the renewed show, there is an open hostility towards soldiers, guns and war. An arms factory is destroyed and replaced with a banana grove because “bananas are good” (in “The Doctor Dances,” 2005). Mechanical Cybermen are not defeated with force but by restoring their emotions, incapacitating them (in “The Age of Steel,” 2006). Intergalactic police are introduced as “interplanetary thugs” (in “Smith and Jones,” 2007). The shooting of The Doctor’s daughter is used as a lesson to demonstrate that killing, even in vengeance, should never be an option (in “The Doctor’s Daughter, 2008).

In one especially moving sequence, The Doctor is faced with the dilemma of saving Earth through committing genocide against the enemy. He hesitates and is tauntingly asked by the Emperor Dalek, “What are you, coward or killer?” He struggles, obviously torn by the question of just how far one should go, no matter how murderous the enemy. Ultimately he answers, “Coward, any day,” and refuses to take part in the destruction (“The Parting of Ways,” 2005).

Ongoing antagonists have been various Earth-based military forces, including Torchwood and UNIT, both vast and well-funded armed state agencies. By and large, they are portrayed as ruthless organizations The Doctor and his companions are obliged to resist.

And yet there have been some cracks. In one episode (“Doomsday,” 2006), the leader of Torchwood is “upgraded” (forcibly transferred into a metal body), but then saves The Doctor and his companions, declaring she “did her duty, for queen and country.” Is this retrograde sentiment the only one that might withstand mechanical brainwashing?

Despite such exceptions, the first four seasons of the show advocated a refreshing rejection of violence in general, instead using the abilities, equipment and even the life of The Doctor to save people.

In the fifth rebooted season Steven Moffat took over as head writer and show runner after the previous head, Russell T. Davies, stepped down. In considering the Moffat era as a whole, one is forced to reflect on the other works he has overseen, particularly Sherlock. In that show, whatever its strengths (including the participation of Benedict Cumberbatch), the main character is constantly glorified as a “high-functioning sociopath” who goes out of his way to assist British imperialism.

Moffat’s Doctor Who episodes reinforce this turn. Far more than previously, they are turned inward. While this inwardness is something the lead character deals with, especially given that he is “the last” of the Time Lords, it has reached an unhealthy level. No longer do the seasons culminate in some great potential catastrophe for humanity that must be opposed and defeated, but rather in some personal problem for The Doctor. One used to feel something beyond a vague voyeurism when watching the season endings of Doctor Who—there was a sense of shared struggle, shared destiny and ultimately hope. …

The Doctor’s relationship with UNIT, a military organization carried over from the show’s earlier days, comes to a head here. Kidnapped and forced into the position of President of the World by members of the organization, The Doctor is then given an army by his current foe, who declares they are more alike than not.

The Doctor then turns to Danny, who, as the Torchwood director in an earlier season, has been rendered into a Cyberman. His transformation is not yet complete, and The Doctor gives him control of the army, with which he is to embark on a suicide mission. Danny’s rousing pre-mission speech and his declaration that “This is not the order of an officer. This is the promise of a soldier!” are meant to rally the audience behind the idea of sending in the troops.

The scene in which The Doctor salutes a returned UNIT soldier—something he had refused to do in previous years—is a capitulation. For generations, he had not saluted because the military had nothing to offer but destruction. The Doctor’s rejection of aggressive methods and his frequent refusal to cooperate as long as guns were being pointed, his outrage at the needless deaths of even the most bumptious of aliens who had attacked Earth, all this appeared to be a thing of the past as he stood at attention to pay tribute to the Brigadier.

Moffat’s aim seems to be to gratuitously knock this hero down, as if to say, peace is all well and good in theory, but when push comes to shove, strike first and shoot. Something about the belligerent mood of the affluent middle class in Britain, the US and elsewhere makes itself felt here.

Talking about science fiction: this music video is inspired by Star Trek. It is called The Firm – Star Trekkin’.

‘Most Earth-like planet ever discovered’

This video is about the newly discovered planet Kepler 438b.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Most Earth-like planet ever discovered could be a cosy home for alien life

Kepler 438b is likely to be a rocky world in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone of its parent star where the temperature is just right for liquid water to flow

Ian Sample, science editor

Tuesday 6 January 2015 18.15 GMT

An alien world that orbits a distant star in the constellation of Lyra may be the most Earth-like planet ever found outside the solar system.

The planet, named Kepler 438b, is slightly larger than Earth and circles an orange dwarf star that bathes it in 40% more heat than our home planet receives from the sun.

The small size of Kepler 438b makes it likely to be a rocky world, while its proximity to its star puts it in the “Goldilocks” or habitable zone where the temperature is just right for liquid water to flow.

A rocky surface and flowing water are two of the most important factors scientists look for when assessing a planet’s chances of being hospitable to life.

Kepler 438b, which is 470 light years away, completes an orbit around its star every 35 days, making a year on the planet pass 10 times as fast as on Earth. Small planets are more likely to be rocky than huge ones, and at only 12% larger than our home planet, the odds of Kepler 438b being rocky are about 70%, researchers said.

Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the discovery at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle on Tuesday, along with seven other planets that also lie in the habitable zones of their stars. The haul doubles the number of small planets – those less than twice the size of Earth – believed to be orbiting in their parent stars’ habitable zones.

All were spotted with Nasa’s Kepler space telescope which detects planets as they move across the faces of their stars, causing the light picked up by the telescope to dim periodically by a minuscule amount.

One of the other planets, Kepler 442b, lies in the same constellation 1,100 light years away. It is about a third larger than Earth, receives about two thirds as much starlight, and has a 60% chance of being rocky, according to a report to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Guillermo Torres, lead author on the study, said the size and amount of light falling on the planets made them the most Earth-like planets yet found beyond our solar system. Before their discovery, the exoplanets most similar to our own were Kepler 186f, which is 10% larger than Earth and receives a third as much light, and Kepler 62f, which is 40% larger and gets about 41% as much light.

The scientists do not know if the planets have atmospheres, but if they are cloaked in insulating layers of gas, the mean temperatures of Kepler 438b and 442b are expected to be about 60 and zero degrees Celsius respectively.

The Harvard-Smithsonian team used a computer program called Blender to confirm that the planets originally spotted by the Kepler space telescope were real. False sightings can happen when pairs of stars that lie behind the one being studied eclipse each other, causing the background light to dim slightly. In some cases, this can be mistaken for a planet moving in front of its star.

“The pair of stars can be way behind the target star, but if they are in the same line of sight, the result is a very tiny dimming that can look like a planet,” said Torres.

The Blender program gives a statistical probability that the planet is real and not an effect of background stars eclipsing one another. Of 12 suspected planets Torres and his colleagues assessed with the program, 11 came out at more than 99.7% likely to be real.

David Kipping, a co-author on the study, said that Kepler 438b and 442b were “as close to Earth analogues as we’re going to find in the Kepler data”.

Astronomers are keenly waiting on the next generation of telescopes, including Hubble’s replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the European Extremely Large Telescope, which is being built in the Atacama desert in Chile, to help them examine the atmospheres of distant planets for signs of life.

In the meantime, scientists plan to look for other, indirect signs, that a planet may be well-suited for life. Kipping is searching through the Kepler data for hints that some planets have moons, which can improve their odds of being habitable. Our own moon stabilises Earth’s tilt, making the temperatures far less erratic than they would be otherwise. Alien planets that share a solar system with a gas giant like Jupiter are also interesting, because the vast size of the planet acts as a shield against devastating asteroid and comet impacts.

Old dwarf galaxy, new discovery

This video says about itself:

Dwarf Galaxy discovered 7 Million Light Years Away!

25 December 2014

Dwarf Galaxy discovered 7 Million Light Years Away!

A team of Russian and American scientists has discovered a previously-unknown dwarf galaxy located about 7 million light years away from our own, using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in August.

Called KKs3, the newly-uncovered galaxy is part of the famous “Local Group” of roughly 50 known galaxies that contain both the Milky Way and the Andromeda.

[The] dwarf spheroidal has no spiral arms and lacks any gas or dust, and scientists believe that gas and dust may have been stripped by nearby galaxies.

Scientists are questioning how many similar dwarf galaxies have gone unnoticed, because this is the second dwarf spheroidal galaxy to be found in the Local Group: the first (KKR25) was uncovered by the same scientists in 1999.

From Science, Space & Robots:

Very Old Dwarf Galaxy Discovered With Hubble Telescope

A very old dwarf galaxy has been discovered using the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy is named KKs3. It is located over 7 million light years from Earth.

NPR reports that this location puts KKs3 about 2.5 times farther away from Earth than Andromeda, our nearest large galaxy. KKs3 has just 1/10,000 the stellar mass of the Milky Way. Most of the stars in the galaxy (74%) were formed 12 gigayears ago. The dwarf spheroidal (dSPh) galaxy lacks features like the spiral arms found on galaxies like the Milky Way.

The astronomers say the dwarf galaxy is considered isolated because it is 2 megaparsecs (Mpc) from the nearest large galaxy and 1 Mpc from any known dwarf. The astronomers also say KKs3 has exhausted its star-forming fuel.

The team of astronomers was lead by Professor Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia. Another team member, Professor Dimitry Makarov, from the Special Astrophysical Observatory, explained how difficult it is to find small galaxies like KKs3 in a Royal Astronomical Society release.

Makarov says, “Finding objects like Kks3 is painstaking work, even with observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope. But with persistence, we’re slowly building up a map of our local neighbourhood, which turns out to be less empty than we thought. It may be that are a huge number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies out there, something that would have profound consequences for our ideas about the evolution of the cosmos.”

A research paper on the new galaxy can be found here in the journal, Monthly Notices Letters of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Posted on December 28, 2014

Jupiter’s moon Europa update

This December 2013 video is called Jupiter Moon Europa’s Water Plume Spied By Hubble – Artist Impression Video.

From Science Daily:

Signs of Europa plumes remain elusive in search of Cassini data

December 18, 2014

Source: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

A fresh look at data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa’s tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon does not show evidence of plume activity occurring at the time of the flyby. The new research provides a snapshot of Europa’s state of activity at that time, and suggests that if there is plume activity, it is likely intermittent.

Geminid meteor shower this weekend in the USA

This video is called ScienceCasts: Embers from a Rock Comet: The 2014 Geminid Meteor Shower.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Don’t Miss The Geminid Meteor Shower This Weekend!

Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2014 by eNature

The December night sky is busy. We’ll see the Geminid meteor shower as well as the less well known Ursids closer to Christmas.

And later in the month we have the the Winter solstice— the first day of winter.

The Geminid’s Meteors Should Be Easy to See

The nights of the 13th and 14th will be the peak of one of the best meteor showers of the year. Known as the Geminid meteor shower, it gets its name because the meteors appear to be zipping towards an observor from the constellation Gemini.

In the United States, head out after dark (best viewing is usually after 9 PM) and look a little north of due east. As long as you avoid other lights, you should be able to observe this year’s shower with the naked eye. Note that this year the moon will be rising after midnight so, unlike many showers that often are best seen in the VERY early morning, your best bet is to watch BEFORE midnight on the evenings of December 13 and 14—until the light of the moon as it rises makes the meteors harder to see..

Once the moonlight dies down, you may be able to see as many as 100 meteors per hour on the nights of December 13th and 14th. In fact, the International Meteor Organization ( predicts the hourly rate might be 120 meteors an hour at the peak of the shower.

The Ursids are visible December 17th-23rd, peaking the night of the 21-22. This shower is often neglected because it peaks just before Christmas and the rates are lower than the Gemin[i]ds, which peaks the week before the Ursids. Observers will normally see 5-10 Ursids per hour during the late morning hours on the date of maximum activity although there have been occasional outbursts when rates have exceeded 25 per hour.

And Don’t Forget The Start Of Winter

Saturday, December 21st is the Winter Solstice, which marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere (although it started a few weeks back for many folks!). The solstice is actually a very specific event and time. This year it’s at 11:03 PM Universal Time (what most of us used to call Greenwich Mean Time). That’s five hours ahead of US Eastern Standard and eight hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time. Here’s a handy link to calculate the exact time for your location.

At precisely that time, the Earth’s axial tilt is at its most distant from the sun and North America gets the least amount of sunlight it experiences all year. So even though we’re still facing several months of cold weather across the US, we’ll soon see days start to get longer, and eventually warmer, from this point forward.

So are you ready for winter? Is your local wildlife?

Website has a great summary of the Geminds.

Northern lights in Iceland, video

This video from Iceland is called Aurora Borealis, December 7th 2014 over Reykjavik.

See also here.