Friday, February 18, 2005


I was just out waiting at the ATM next door to get cash for the pizza delivery, and as I am wont to do when waiting around at night, I was looking up at the sky. Orion was nicely placed, and there was ruddy Betelgeuse on Orion's shoulder. I was contemplating a book I just finished which featured Betelgeuse going supernova as a plot point. Betelgeuse is the most likely candidate star near us to go supernova in the next while (we think), and if that should happen it could be a Very Bad Thing. Depending upon how much gamma radiation it might produce, our ozone layer could be completely ionized, ending most interesting life on this planet. It's a very pretty star though, one of the few bright enough for our eyes to discern its color.

While pondering this cheery thought, I saw a very bright satellite drifting slowly across the sky. After getting back in the house, I was able to use the incredibly cool Heavens-Above website to quickly identify my little moving blip of light as the Hubble Space Telescope.

The book, by the way, was Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer, and is a very good read if you're interested in things like paleontology, the evolution vs. intelligent design debate, theology, museum politics, and the possible nature of an alien first contact scenario. Sawyer's website is pretty extensive, and contains a lot of interesting nuggets. I'm still exploring it.


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