Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Weird Wednesday - Message From Mars

The Mars Curiosity Rover is due to land on the red planet in just a few days. Very cool, you might think, but not exactly something for Weird Wednesday. But among many other expected scientific discoveries, Curiosity just might get to the bottom of one long forgotten mystery: The Mysterious Mars Messages discovered by Guglielmo Marconi over 90 years ago. And that, of course, is perfect for Weird Wednesday.

A Nobel Prize winner, Marconi was a pioneer in the early development of radio. In the early 1920s, Marconi believed he received signals from another world.
Guglielmo Marconi
Using a special experimental apparatus on his Yacht, the Electra in the Mediterranean, Marconi received radio waves of a much greater wavelength than any produced on Earth at the time. This wasn't without controversy, and many experts believed the so-called signals were caused by natural storms on Mars, or perhaps some other, mundane earthy source.

But what fascinated Marconi about the signals was the fact that they seemed to repeat the Morse code for the letter "V." It seemed highly unlikely to him that a natural source would use Morse code. In fact, Marconi himself had used Morse code for the letter "V" many years previously in one of his first wireless tests. Could the strange signals be sending his own code back to him?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mt. Wilson's 60-Inch Telescope

Like many sci-fi fans, I've always been fascinated by space, astronomy, and telescopes. Last weekend I was lucky enough to spend the night looking through Mt. Wilson's 60-Inch Telescope, located in the Angeles National Forest, north of Pasadena, CA.

Special thanks to the Keith and Alex for making this possible! And thanks to Reggie for starting the ball in motion and helping put it all together. Also a huge thank you to Tom The Telescope Operator and Shelley Bonus, our Session Director. They both were extremely knowledgeable and helpful and had our group laughing and learning all night long. You can also catch Shelley speak at The Planetary Society's Planetfest 2012 in Pasadena. Planetfest is a two-day celebration of the Curiosity rover's landing on Mars.

Some of the amazing objects we looked at are: Mars, Saturn, Neptune, M5 globular cluster (I think it was M5 - whichever it was, it looked really cool,) Cat's Eye Nebula, Ring Nebula, and Blinking Planetary Nebula.) One of the things that really stands out in such a big telescope is the amazing color in the nebulae and the details in the globular clusters.