Syfy’s Ascension Jumps The Shark In Its Very First Episode

Meh.  I don’t need another police procedural in a fish bowl. Ugh.

I began to suspect something was extremely fishy within the first couple of minutes.

If it was really early 1960s, then the examining doctor would not be wearing blue latex gloves.

Once we the audience ‘knew’ Ascension was a spaceship, my first thought was the microgravity problem. No spinning section yet people are walking around and using elevators like it’s a skyscraper.

And when a prisoner is locked in a cell it included a very modern shiny stainless steel sink and toilet combo.

The ‘Big Reveal’ arrived in the last minute, and sealed my dislike for this show.

Where are the explorers and scientists?

Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon

Update Mid-Afternoon:  And this show gets negative marks for the role of women in this ‘society.’  I find it extremely hard to believe that a society would be so locked in time (early to mid 60s) and not change little if any in fifty years.  For better or worse, some change would occur.  And there would be considerable wear and tear on the physical media: books, magnetic tape, film, vinyl, etc.  Most spaceship environments are also quite damp, which would have caused mold and mildew issues.  I wonder home many cathode ray tubes had to be provisioned as well as vacuum tubes.

This Date in Science: Earth and Moon as Worlds in Space | EarthSky

Here is the first-ever photo of the Earth and moon in a single frame. Voyager 1 took the photo on September 18, 1977, when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth. Image Number: P-19891 via NASA/JPL

37 years ago today.

Voyager to Earth: “Hello World!” or more likely “Goodbye World!”

Voyager is still sending us postcards from the edge though.

Space Weather with Dr. Patterson

My father and I drove to UMKC Saturday evening to attend the first club meeting of 2013 for the Astronomical Society of Kansas City. We went an hour early to take in Astro 101 (topic: telescope mounts).

Astro 101 (topic: telescope mounts) Jan 2013
Astro 101 (topic: telescope mounts) Jan 2013

After sifting through club business, including some great observing awards and a new observing program for asterisms, our Education director, Jay Manifold, flashed through the observing highlights for the upcoming months.  He paused at the end long enough to introduce our special guest speaker, Dr. Doug Patterson, Professor of Astronomy and Physics at JCCC, and his topic “Space Weather: Understanding the Sun-Earth Connection.”

Dr. Patterson’s first slide, at first glance, did not appear to be related directly to space or weather.  He explained that besides astronomy and physics, his other abiding passion happened to be photographing race cars.  For the past twenty years, despite appearing quite youthful and brimming with energy, he’s been  teaching astronomy and physics at the Johnson County Community College.

Astronomy in academia really only requires a research computer and spreadsheet program.  Incredible amounts of data (terabytes upon terabytes) are freely available for astronomical researchers.

Dr. Patterson joked that he frequently tells his students that “Space is not empty!”

Highlights from his “Space Weather” talk:

  • Super Flare 1859 observed by Carrington (on 9/1/1859 around noon).  The flare took seventeen (17) hours to read Earth.
  • Birkeland and his aurora machine
Kristian Birkeland and his terrella experiment.
Kristian Birkeland and his terrella experiment. The Figure shows the whole arrangement with the new vacuum-box of 320 litres. Floor and ceiling are here made of 12 mm. steel plates, the pillars between are of bronze, and the sheets of plate-glass at the sides are 30 mm. in thickness. The experiment shows the “zodiacal-light ring”. It requires little magnetising of the globe (11.3 cm. in diameter), but a great discharge-current (up to 100 milliamperes).
  • Solar Wind discovery and proof

    • comet tails
    • Super-Sonic Model by Eugene Parker confirmed by Mariner 2 on way to Venus.
    • Voyager 1 is beyond solar wind and actually in interstellar space (first man-made ‘spaceship’ to be truly interstellar).

Dr. Patterson showed a video of the corona and sun from NASA’s solar satellites.  He also displayed an animation of a coronal mass ejection (CME).

Fluctuations in the solar wind compress our magnetic field.  Some of the effects on Earth include:

  • compression and fluctuations
  • electrical conductors embedded in Earth’s mag field
  • radiation & navigation airline flights over arctic
  • interference with GPS (and Google Maps)
  • In Mar 1989, we (the Earth) learned the hard way (Quebec w/o power for three (3) days).

As a result, NASA launched the Advanced Composition Explorer (real time plots available here of solar wind data), which gives us one (1) hour advanced warning.  This satellite is parked in a halo orbit at L1.  Real time space weather data is available at

Van Allen Belts

  • Discovered by Explorer 1, the first satellite we launched into orbit
Exporer 1 press conference
Pickering, Van Allen, and von Braun display a full-scale model of Explorer 1 at a crowded news conference in Washington, DC after confirmation the satellite was in orbit.
  • We just sent our second probe last year, a gap of over fifty years
  • Trapped radiation and particles
  • Why study the belts?
  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) very cluttered
  • GPS already in the belts

The Van Allen Probes (fka Radiation Belt Storm Probes) were launched last year and Dr. Patterson had the privilege of witnessing the launch first hand, despite hurricane Isaac.  Note to self:  Rocket ion trails make great lightning rods.

Dr. Patterson concluded with a Q&A opportunity where several ASKC members asked cogent questions and received animated responses.

Dr. Patterson during the Q&A time after his talk (ASKC Jan 2013)
Dr. Patterson during the Q&A time after his talk (ASKC Jan 2013)

Due to the warmth of the evening (upper 40s or lower 50s), the club opened up the Warko Observatory on the roof of Royall Hall for a brief time.  A haze obscured nearly everything except the full moon and Jupiter.  Dad and I skipped the climb to the roof and headed home to Leavenworth.

Sally Ride: Flying to Space, and Beyond

Sally K. Ride (1951 - 2012)
Sally K. Ride (1951 – 2012) ~ photo courtesy her NASA biography

I heard the news of Dr. Sally Ride’s passing when I got home from work last night. I stared, stunned and saddened, at my tablet’s screen as I read about her 17-month battle against pancreatic cancer.

Her name took me back nearly thirty years, to when she first blipped on my radar.  Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I followed NASA’s shuttle program closely.  I definitely remember her as the first American woman in space, because that same year I graduated from high school and pursued a college degree in one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields of study.  I began in the fall semester of 1983 at Wichita State University as an electrical engineering student, but ultimately transferred my focus to my first love, mathematics, and computer science.

I didn’t completely succeed in transferring my love for mathematics on to my offspring (regardless of gender).  My son had an aptitude for mathematics, but a personality clash early with his high school teacher sabotaged any hope of the local school district fanning the fires of his math passion.  Instead, he became an artist.  My daughter loved chemistry, one of the few courses I struggled with in college.  But her love for music and vocal performance overcame her desire to blow things up in a lab.  Both disciplines required hard work, but she found music much more appealing and satisfying.

Sally Ride had a passion for “motivating girls and young women to pursue careers in science, math and technology.”   She was “an advocate for improved science education,” and wrote “five science books for children: To Space and Back; Voyager; The Third Planet; The Mystery of Mars; and Exploring Our Solar System. She has also initiated and directed education projects designed to fuel middle school students’ fascination with science.” (NASA biography of Sally K. Ride).

My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family during their time of grief.  I will try to honor her memory through outreach programs via my local astronomy club that inspire the next generation of scientific pioneers.

May she soar through the stars in peace.