M57 – Ring Nebula

ring_nebula1Image taken with Slooh Canary 4 Remote Telescope using a 14″ SCT and STT-8300M Camera.

RGB Fits files downloaded assembled with IRIS software and finished in Photoshop Elements 15.

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Are You An Anthropocentrist?

Laura Grace Weldon

animal intelligence, anthropocentrism, Paradise, by Gillis d’Hondecoeter circa 1575

When I was growing up we were taught humans were at the top of every chart, far superior to all other living beings. Our textbooks, illustrated with stereotypical images of “cave men,” proved the assertion with a long list of what our species could do that others could not. The list was so smug that I was a bit embarrassed on behalf of my fellow homo sapiens. A skeptic even then, I thought the list was somewhat prejudicial. Worse, it didn’t acknowledge what feels obvious to young children, that we are all things and all things are us.

I don’t for a moment dismiss our many human accomplishments—among them language, science, the arts, and shared rules meant to advance mutual compassion. I simply mean to point out that we’re not better, we’re different.

Besides, what I was taught as a kid doesn’t really hold up. Here are…

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Complex Organics on Mars

Leak in Mars Rover Curiosity’s Wet Chemistry Test Finds Organics 

curiosity-sam-sample-leak-organics

Credit: ASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS 

This image from NASA’s Curiosity rover shows the first sample of powdered rock extracted by the rover’s drill from the Yellowknife study site. Curiosity used its Mastcam on Sol 193 (Feb. 20, 2013) of its mission to capture this photo.  An unexpected leak of a chemical designed to tag complex organic molecules in samples collected by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity appears to have serendipitously done its job,

Curiosity’s onboard laboratory includes seven so-called “wet ” experiments designed to preserve and identify suspect carbon-containing components in samples drilled out from rocks.

None of the foil-capped metal cups has been punctured yet, but vapors of the fluid, known as N-methyl-N-tert-butyldimethylsilyl-trifluoroacetamide, or MTBSTFA, leaked into the gas-sniffing analysis instrument early in the mission.

Curiosity landed in a 96-mile wide impact basin known as Gale Crater in August 2012 to determine if the planet most like Earth in the solar system has or ever had the chemistry and environments to support microbial life. Scientists quickly fulfilled the primary goal of the mission, discovering sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon in powder Curiosity drilled out of an ancient mudstone in an area known as Yellowknife Bay.  That paved the way for a more ambitious hunt for complex organic , an effort complicated by the MTBSTFA leak. “This caused us a lot of headache in the beginning, frankly, because it has a lot of carbon in it and other fragments that can break apart,” Curiosity scientist Danny Glavin, with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said on Tuesday at the Lunar and Planetary Science conference in Houston, Texas. “We’ve turned this sort of bad thing into a good thing because we’ve learned how to work around this leak. We’ve actually used this vapor from this leak to carry out derivitization,” he said, referring to the to tag organics. Samples drilled out from Yellowknife Bay were stored inside the Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM instrument, as the rover made its way over the next two years to Mount Sharp, a three-mile high mound of sediments rising from the floor of Gale Crater. “These samples were just reacting with this MTBSTFA vapor, reacting with all that good organic stuff. That turned out to be a good thing,” Glavin said.

In addition to analyzing the doggy-bagged sample that had been reacting with the MTBSTFA vapors for two years, scientists also were able to compare the results with residue from a sample that had been heated twice, effectively killing off any volatiles, but which also had been exposed to the vapors for two years. Initial results show indigenous Mars complex organics in the fresh sample, though more work is needed to definitely peg the compounds.  “It’s probably going to be years of work trying to disentangle this story,” said Glavin. “This is really exciting stuff. We’ve got a mudstone on Mars in a habitable environment. There was a lake there at one point. We’ve got organic molecules, possibly some interesting ones, of astrobiological interest. Bottom line, this sample has an even more diverse set of organic compounds than we previously thought. “Million dollar question? Is this or not. I wish I had an answer I can’t tell you. We’ve got basically a few compounds that we’re dealing with here. You probably need a lot more before you can start discriminating between biological and non-biological origin,” Glavin added.

This article was provided by Discovery News. MeasureMeasure

From SETI Institute: “Kepler 186f: Is It Inhabited?”

The search for life goes on but will it me intelligent?

sciencesprings

SETI Institute

April 21, 2014
SETI Seth Shostak
by Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer

It’s so far away that even if you booked a trip on the speediest of our rockets, you’d have 100 million years to polish your Sudoku skills en route to Kepler 186f.

That’s probably not going to happen. But what has happened is that a team of astronomers, after carefully combing data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, has finally nailed a world that might be similar to our own.

But is it inhabited?

Lately Kepler 186f has been in the news as much as Vladimir Putin, although the former is more appealing. For the first time we’ve uncovered a planet that — unlike Venus, Mars or the other Roman deities of our solar system — could bear a passing resemblance to Earth. It’s nearly the same size as our planetary home and has temperatures that would permit liquid oceans to…

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Seeking God

This is a really great article, just read and learn…

From the Inside Out

 

Seeking after God.  It’s a concept we come across frequently in scripture.  But God is Spirit; he’s invisible to us.  How do we seek after someone we can’t see?

Perhaps we can answer that question by considering the ways we seek a person, who can be seen.

Example #1:

When my husband, Steve, and I are separated in a crowd, it’s quite amazing how quickly I can spot him.  Beyond height, hair, and eye color, I know the breadth of his shoulders, the way the hair grows on the back of his head, the shape of his ears.  In fact, it’s such nuances as these that draw my attention, even more than the descriptors listed on his driver’s license.

Perhaps our first step in seeking God is to get to know what he looks like, although not his physical Being, since he’s chosen not to reveal himself that way.  But…

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Who is a good Samaritan today?

The Good Samaritan

Luke 10.25-37

busy_samaritan

My grandfather used to say – he never knew how ignorant he was until his family grew up and told him. Well, I didn’t realise how ignorant I was until I encounter this story… the story of the Good Samaritan. Since, it has to be said that, in the past I have always taken the term Samaritan for granted. In truth, it meant to me little more than a good friend in time of dire need; I knew also of that wonderful organisation of listeners to people in distress and with thought I would recall the biblical people as long forgotten as the tribes of the Old Testament.

So nothing done, I just had to research the Samaritans and the land of Samaria for this morning. It turns out that their history is a complex one as was their reasons from breaking away from main stream Judaism around the time of the Babylonian exile. Then, about a thousand years later, many converted to Islam in the middle-ages. As a result today there are only 800 followers of the Samaritan religion. Yet despite that small number their modern story connects well with the Good Samaritan of Christ’s parable. For their homeland of Samaria is in the central inland bit of the Holy Land. Nowadays, we would say it is in the occupied West Bank. As a result we can make the Good Samaritan story much more poignant for ourselves – here and now – by thinking of Jesus teaching us of the Palestinian rescuing the beaten up Israeli. Quite an object lesson that would be I am sure you will agree!

Nevertheless, to get the full sense of a current meaning to the Good Samaritan we must leave Israel-Palestine and return home. Since, even here in ‘we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns’ Scotland, we surely cannot deny that there are divisions, there are ‘them’s and us’, and there are indeed ‘oors and theirs’. And so if we were to rewrite the Samaritan’s, Jew’s and inn keeper’s stories we could fill in the blanks with our own dislikes, prejudices and ‘just can’t stands’. Worse still if we were really being honest we could recount the parable for people that leave us outwardly accepting but inwardly uncomfortable of. The people that leave us feeling a tad two-faced as well as a smidgeon prejudiced.

To make my point I turn to a story towards the end of a church-initiated Conference about multi-faith relations.  One

of the speakers asked those attending if they would be willing to pray for someone of another faith, for example if a Muslim

asked for us to pray for their family. A minister in the audience put his hand up and said ‘yes, of course I would be more than happy to do that—I’ll pray for anyone’. Then, the speaker asked the

minister if he would be happy to ask a Muslim to pray for him. An uncomfortable silence followed.

However the sharpest point of the Samaritan story is less to do with reminding us that all humans are our neighbours and more to do something even more challenging. Because the story does not refute the idea that there are saintly people and bad people, courageous people and cowardly people even wise and silly people. Quite the reverse, it affirms that humanity is a spectrum of spectrums. But, it also illustrates that it is daft to try and predict people’s character and behaviour by their labels. Since, we surely would have ticked for the good column the priest and Levite whilst possibly putting the heretical foreigner in another box entirely. In essence, this story makes us more and not less ask the question who is my neighbour and then be startled by the answer.

When we were visiting France many years ago, we meet a lady who had grown up in Glasgow after her father came to Britain during the war. She related to us a story of her Grandparents who had remained behind in occupied France. In this story a most unlikely Good Samaritan featured. Because, she told us that her grandparents had had two German officers and their batman billeted on them. The ‘German brass’ were very harsh on the young soldier and, as a result, the French couple rather took him under their wing. After all, with their son away, they must have recalled he was someone’s son as well.

One night, he came to them alone. He said yesterday I heard you listening to the Free French Radio. This was indeed a very serious offence. Now, the lad went on – I am not going to say anything – but those two certainly would. The radio went into the river that night.

Who then was that young enemy soldier’s neighbour? Who was that French man and woman’s neighbour? Who indeed in this crazy mixed up world is having mercy on us?

Now go and do likewise!

Fly God’s Dream!

God giving us everything we need to dream the dream, dream our dream, dream his dream!K21_glider

And by way of personal illustration, I can prove that last point. Since although I haven’t flown solo in a glider for many years, I recently felt that I must get this capability back. Yet my somewhat sporadic attendance at the gliding club resulted in very slow progress. Well, on Monday, my first flight’s landing left much to be desired. The second mercifully much improved. Nevertheless I remained unsure if my instructor was going to let me go on my own. Imagine my pleasure if slight apprehension when, as we talked of putting the glider into the hanger, he said to me – do you want to nip in and a have few launches on your own.

The proof then – that  I not only had the instructor’s affirmation but also the necessary skills to fulfil the dream – is that I am standing here in once piece. So too with anyone wanting to follow Jesus. Because doubtless you have heard the call to God’s service. You also have been given all that is necessary to soar high and make a safe landing. Moreover, to Christ’s offer you have undoubtedly said a big yes – yes I want too. For otherwise, why are you here reading this?

So now go and dream the dream!

Read if you are in a dark place!

Carlyle Marney was one of the great preachers in the Southern states of America during the time after the Second World War. He was a mentor and role model to many ministers. One of the stories attributed to the rich legacy he left behind took place on a seminary campus where he was invited to be the speaker for a distinguished lectureship. One of the students asked, “Dr. Marney let us hear you say a word or two about the meaning of the resurrection.” It was a fair question and an appropriate one from a future preacher to one who was already a great practitioner of the art of preaching. However the young  students were taken aback by Marney’s response. Dr. Marney replied, “I will not discuss that with people like you.” Continue reading

Poem for times of trouble

I found this on my Facebook page today:

 

We who were once far off,9994-sunrise-at-orvieto-umbria-italy-free-landscape-and-scenic-desktop_531x331
who wandered as if
in a wilderness,
searching for water,
desperate for shade,
now rest in your embrace,
feast on your word,
drink from a well
that will never run dry,
and have found the place
we were searching for,
as Christ has brought us home.