The Helix Nebula


helixnebulaThis infrared image taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope looks a bit like Sauron’s eye. It’s the Helix Nebula, a cosmic site often photographed by amateur astronomers because of its vivid colors and eerie resemblance to a giant eye. It’s about 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius and belongs to a class of objects called planetary nebulae.

Planetary nebulae are the remains of stars that were once like our Sun. When these stars die, they puff out their outer gaseous layers which are heated by the hot core of the dead star. The remnant becomes a white dwarf and shines with infrared and visible light. Our Sun probably will expand into a planetary nebula in around five billion years.

Spitzer‘s infrared view of the Helix nebula shows the outer gaseous layers is in blues and greens. The red color in the middle of the eye is the final layers of gas blown out when the star died. Blue shows infrared light of 3.6 to 4.5 µm wavelengths, green shows infrared light of 5.8 to 8 µm, and red shows infrared light of 24 µm.

The brighter red circle in the very center is the glow of the dust circling the white dwarf. This dust is thought to have been kicked up by comets that survived the death of the original star. Before the star died, its comets and possibly planets would have orbited the star in an orderly fashion. But when the star blew off its outer layers, it’s inner planets would have been swallowed up in its expanding shell, but the icy bodies and outer planets would have been stirred up and into tossed into each other, creating a cosmic dust storm. The Helix nebula is one of only a few dead-star systems in which evidence for cometary survivors has been found.

Image Credit: NASA

Team Kimberlin Post of the Day


The Dread Deadbeat Pro-Se Kimberlin must not have a very creative imagination because he keeps trying to recycle the same debunked stories. The tall tale that was the subject of the TKPOTD from four years ago today kept reappearing. It was featured prominently in TDPK’s filings in the Hoge v. Kimberlin, et al. lawsuit.

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It’s hard to choose from among so many, but this may be my favorite of the whoppers that The Dread Pro-Se Kimberlin has included in his pleadings filed in the Kimberlin v. The Universe, et al. RICO Madness. The “reporter” he mentions is Bill Schmalfeldt.ECF 49-3The Gentle Reader who has been following the Cabin Boy’s™ antics for the past year or so may wonder if TDPK hasn’t ascribed obsessive and bizarre conduct to the wrong person. It’s the “reporter” who is subject to a peace order, not me. It’s the “reporter” who violated the order over 400 time in less than a month.

For the record—I was not forced to participate in mediation with the Cabin Boy™, but as a result of the mediation, I agreed to ask the State’s Attorney’s Office to drop the charges in exchange for Schmalfeldt’s agreeing to abide by the peace order and drop his appeal of the extension. He has reneged. I didn’t.

Why, I wonder, did TDPK feel threatened by my efforts to see the peace order enforced? Hmmmm. That might be an interesting question for a deposition, if the RICO Madness goes that far.

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It doesn’t matter how Team Kimberlin has tired to spin that story—in TPDK’s court filings, in the Cabin Boy’s™ LOLsuits, in Breitbart Unmasked Bunny Billy Boy Brett Unread, or in Karoli Kun’s smear piece in Crooks & Liars—the lie has failed to gain any traction. Indeed, their inept telling and retelling of it has fueled a great deal of pointage, laughery, and mockification.

And the mockery continues.

Yours Truly, Johnny Atsign


Johnny called in from [redacted], but the line quality wasn’t good enough to record an episode. Until he gets back from the third world, we’ll probably be recycling vintage episodes like this one from a couple of years ago.

Johnny Atsign Logo 2ANNOUNCER: From Westminster, it’s time for—

SOUND: Skype rings once. Telephone receiver picked up.

JOHNNY: Johnny Atsign.

BRADSHAW: (Telephone Filter) Atsign, it’s Bradshaw

JOHNNY: Hello, Lieutenant. To what do I owe the pleasure?

BRADSHAW: (Telephone Filter) I’ve got a job for you, or rather, a referral if you want it.

JOHNNY: Are you sure you called the right number?

BRADSHAW: (Telephone Filter) I hate to admit it, but, yeah, this one’s right down your alley.

JOHNNY: OK. Tell me more.

MUSIC: Theme up and under.

ANNOUNCER: The Lickspittle Broadcasting System presents W. J. J. Hoge in the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed Twitter account, America’s fabulous free-lance Internet investigator …

JOHNNY: Yours Truly, Johnny Atsign!

MUSIC: Theme up to music out. Continue reading

The Heart of the Galaxy


This image resembles red ink filtering through water or a crackling stream of electricity, but it is actually a view of our cosmic home. It’s the central plane of the Milky Way as seen by ESA’s Planck satellite and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) operated at an altitude of around 5100m in the Chilean Andes by the European Southern Observatory. While APEX is best at viewing small patches of sky in great detail, Planck data is ideal for studying areas of sky at the largest scales. The two data sets complement each other and offer a unique perspective on the sky.

The bright pockets scattered along the galactic plane this view are compact sources of submillimetre radiation: very cold, clumpy, dusty regions that may are being studied for information on multiple questions ranging from how individual stars form to how the entire Universe is structured. From right to left, notable sources include NGC 6334 (the rightmost bright patch), NGC 6357 (just to the left of NGC 6334), the galactic core itself (the central, most extended, and brightest patch in this image), M8 (the bright lane branching from the plane to the bottom left), and M20 (visible to the upper left of M8).

Image Credit: ESA / ESO