Another quiz!

People have been wondering if the resolution of Hubble is good enough to spot Armstrong’s footprints on the moon. Well, it’s definitively not. Hubble has a mirror size of “only” 8 feet, due to the limited space on board the space shuttle that lifted it into orbit. When viewing the moon, one pixel in a Hubble image covers roughly the size of a football field on the moon. Now, if the pixel was to cover just the size of a footprint…

How large would the Hubble mirror need to be to see Armstrong's footprint on the moon?

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Bit of help. If you in addition to the actual footprint also wanted to see the threadmarks of Armstrong’s sole, the mirror size would have to be 9 MILES wide…

Large Binocular Telescope lights up

Earlier this year, the LBT at the University of Arizona finally opened its second eye. One 8.4 meter honeycomb-manufactured glass mirror has been in operation since 2005 but only this year the second identical mirror was put into production.

Large Binocular Telescope

Together, they have the light gathering capabilities of a single 11.8 meter mirror, but the effective resolution is a whopping 22.8 meter telescope. This is almost ten times the Hubble telescope, although that has the advantage of being outside the atmosphere, it is now considered the world’s most powerful telescope. This week, the first photos (“First Light”) of the binocular telescope was released to the public. They show great pictures of a “nearby” galaxy called  NGC 2770, a mere 102 million lightyears from the milky way.

For more information and better pictures see their website at http://www.lbto.org/.

Your very first astronomy book

You’re facinated by telescopes, the night sky and astronomy in general, but you do not know where to start. Or you want to find the perfect gift for your grandson. Depending on age, here are a few suggestions for what to get. For children, this one by Robert Burnham is one of the better. It’s colourful, packed with pictures and the writing is excellent. Almost guaranteed to hook any kid from the age of nine and up.

The Reader’s Digest Children’s Atlas of the Universe

There is a companion book in the same series that covers the world we live in as well, equally recommended.

Another brilliant book for the beginning astronomer is Nightwatch, now in its fourth incarnation and as popular as ever. Check out the Amazon reviews while you’re there.

NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

If you’re looking for additional recommendations, then hit Skymaps.com, they generally keep a good, up-to-date list of relevant literature. As you can see there, they have sections for beginners, kids books, telescope specific books etc.

Microsoft WorldWide Telescope finally launching!

What do you get when you combine imagery from a large portion of the best telescopes on the ground and in space with tremendous amount of raw computing power and a significant amount of ingenuity? The Microsoft WorldWide Telescope, that is what. It basically merges all the said images into a seamless application that lets you play around in the night sky. Think of it as Google Earth or Google Maps, only looking up, not down. It is too early to tell how this will impact astronomy and education, but hopefully it will be something that increases the interest among children and grown ups alike. For a brief presentation held by Roy Gould and Curtis Wong at TED (the Technology, Entertainment, Design conference), go to the TED site. Note that the default video there is in low YouTubeish resolution. If you have the bandwidth, I urge you to instead download the high resolution version.

Microsoft WorldWide Telescope

The actual application will be available “free of charge to the astronomy and education communities”, whatever that means for you and me. Hopefully it’s equally free of charge for interested bystanders. Expected sometime this spring at Microsoft WorldWide Telescope.