CIyzNzyUAAEjqBt.jpg-largeUnsurprisingly, an iPhone 6 turns out to not be the greatest of photography tools for the amateur astronomer; the white dot precisely in the middle of the image is Venus, and if you click on the picture you can just barely make out Jupiter immediately above it.  You can also get an idea of some of the challenges I might face getting a good telescope view of that conjunction from my driveway.

I spent most of last night looking at the moon.  As it turns out, lining up a 10-millimeter-wide eyepiece with a speck in the sky four hundred and fifty million miles away is kind of complicated, and I was never able to get a satisfactory view of the conjunction with my smaller, higher-magnification eyepieces.  I did manage a few minutes of getting both planets in view at the same time with my 2″ eyepiece, which was really cool– it resolved Venus enough that I could see it was only halfway lit, like the moon.  (Would Venus ever look full?  I don’t actually think it will.)  No chance of cloud bands on Jupiter; I’m just not good enough at aiming the telescope yet.

But the moon.  Oh, man, the moon.

Things I learned from finally getting to use my telescope in the driveway last night, in no particular order:

  • I need to go back to contact lenses.
  • I also need an eyepatch.  This is not a joke.  I need both hands free to fiddle with the telescope and the focusing knobs and it’ll just be easier to put a patch on the other eye.
  • I need a camera bag or something to keep track of all these lenses and caps.
  • The moon moves fast, or rather the combination of the moon’s movement and Earth’s rotation makes the moon look like it moves fast.  If you catch the edge of the moon in either of the eyepieces I have you can actually watch it slide out of your field of view.  It’s way worse with the higher-mag eyepiece, obviously.
  • Related: the moon filter is no joke.  The moon was full or close enough to not matter last night, and it was too bright to look at for more than a second or so through my un-filtered eyepiece– bad enough that I actually ordered a 2″ moon filter from Amazon from my driveway while fiddling with it.  The problem is that the moon filter blocks out everything but the moon, so my move had to be to find the moon in the larger eyepiece and then switch to the smaller and move around slowly and carefully and get it back in view.
  • I need to get good at collimating the scope, quickly and efficiently.  I’m either doing something wrong (probably) or the scope falls out of true quickly, because it was misaligned by the end of the night.  It didn’t seem to affect the moon views all that much– that was still really, really cool, but the laser collimator showed it to be way “off” before I put it away at the end of the night.
  • Mosquitoes can all die in a fire.  That said, there were bats out and about last night, which I don’t see very often around here, and that was kind of cool.
  • A cloud passing in front of the moon while you’re looking at the moon through a telescope is really cool, or at least it’s really cool once you realize what’s going on and stop wondering what the hell happened to your focus level.

I’ve got to get better at finding smaller objects quickly in the scope.  Once I’m comfortable being able to catch a planet at night, I’ll start thinking about taking the thing out to Potato Creek sometime out of range of the city lights.  I’ve actually got a pretty good field of view from my driveway, despite the trouble with the trees.  I can’t wait to see what I can spot once I get good with this thing.


18lp8jstacc0xjpgThe new hotness for the boy lately has been Teen Titans Go!, which works for me because as it turns out I enjoy the program quite a lot.  It’s of that genre of cartoon where at the end of every episode the slate is wiped clean for the next episode, so literally anything can happen and the next episode they just pick up and move on.

To wit: there is an episode where one character blows up the moon.  And they do not all immediately die.  In fact, the blowing up of the moon is more or less passed over a few minutes later once the “YOU BLEW UP THE MOON?!?” moment is over.

“Would that really kill us all?” my wife muses.  “The moon’s awfully far away.”

“I think it would,” I say.  And then I start trying to figure out exactly how bad that might be.

Feel free to correct my math or my thinking if I’ve made a mistake.  HOWEVER:

  • The average distance from the Earth to the Moon is approximately 385,000 kilometers.
  • Assuming that the moon, once blown up, exploded evenly in all directions, by the time the debris field reached the earth it would form a sphere.  That sphere would have a surface area of 1.86 x 1012 square kilometers– or 1,860,000,000,000 square kilometers if you don’t like scientific notation.
  • This is a slight oversimplification, but we shall assume that the Earth presents as a flat disc for this scenario.  The Earth’s diameter is roughly 13,000 kilometers, so the disc has an area of 133,000,000 square kilometers.  That represents .00715054% of the total surface area of the sphere that the moon has exploded into.
  • The mass of the moon is 80,994,200,000,000,000,000 tons.  Or so.
  • Excel tells me that that means that the Earth would be hit by (calculating .00715054% of 80,994,200,000,000,000,000) approximately 5,791,523,012,258,060 tons of broken moon.
  • I don’t even know how to say that number.

Most of those numbers came from Google one way or another and were copy-pasted into Excel or figured out with online calculators.  The mass of the moon, in particular, seems to have a fairly wide range of accepted values.  I can imagine a universe where I ended up off by a factor of ten somewhere but something tells me it doesn’t make a difference.  

I’m still trying to figure out if anyone has estimated the mass of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, or if I have an easy way to kludge that (I actually can think of one way) but I suspect the following is true:


The generally accepted diameter of the Chicxulub asteroid is six miles.  This means that, assuming a perfect sphere (which isn’t true, I know), it was composed of 113.1 cubic miles of (assuming, assuming, assuming) iron.  That’s 16,648,088,371,200 cubic feet of iron.

A cubic foot of iron weighs 491.09 pounds.

Multiplying, we get an asteroid that weighs 8,175,709,718,212,610 pounds.  Divide that by 2000, and we get an estimate of 4,087,854,859,106 tons for the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.

The amount of moon hitting Earth would be 141,676% of that amount.

So yeah.  We’re fucked.