Bad Astronomy Scoops Time “25 Best Blogs 2009” Award

Bad Astronomy - One of Time's top 25 blogs of 2009
Bad Astronomy - One of Time's top 25 blogs of 2009

It is always fantastic to hear blog has been recognised by the mainstream media, but when a site from the space blogosphere is recognized by as one of 25 best blogs of 2009, that’s a big deal. Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy is officially up there with other blog monsters such as the Huffington Post, BoingBoing and Mashable (although few would argue against Bad Astronomy being the biggest space/astronomy/sceptical blogs out there).

So here is Phil, stepping up to the podium to accept his award:

They seemed to like the idea of a skeptical blog, which is probably what I like most about what they wrote. It’s very gratifying indeed to know that people out there appreciate a reality-based opinion. One of my overarching goals is to avoid dogma and bias and use only factual evidence on which to base my opinions. I know some people will disagree with this, but in general I think that’s because they don’t like the conclusions I reach. But I have found over the years that the hardest thing to accept as a skeptic is that the Universe doesn’t care what you think is true, it only cares about what is true.

There’s a big difference, sometimes.

–Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy (Feb. 17th, 2009)

Congratulations Phil! Your blend of healthy scepticism, astronomy, science and humour continues to inspire and motivate the rest of the science blogging world, this award recognizes Bad Astronomy as being one of the few “standard candles” cutting through the noise that is the Internet.

Visualizing the Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 Collision (Update: Video Added)

Less than a day after news of the unprecedented in-orbit collision between the active Iridium communications and defunct Russian satellites, the software company AGI has already carried out an analysis of the event. A detailed animation has been released depicting the velocity, angle of impact and statistical distribution of debris. Although the CGI is missing (I would have liked to have seen at least an explosion, shockwave and shards of twisted smoking metal. Come on guys, have a little fun!), it is a great visual aid for us to get a grip of what happened up there. To be honest I’m still blown away that this happened at all. There might be a lot of junk up there, but the statistical likelihood of this happening is still low.

You can also download the full-resolution AGI animation of the incident at their website…

Here are some visualizations of the impact in full 3D glory. All images courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (

A special thanks to Stefanie Claypoole at AGI for notifying me about this material.

It’s Not One-Way Traffic: Satellites Collide at 790 km

© David Clark
© David Clark

On Tuesday, at approximately 5pm GMT, two satellites made history. They became the first artificial satellites ever to collide accidentally in low-Earth orbit. The event happened between a defunct Russian satellite (Cosmos 2251, launched in 1993) and an active commercial Iridium communications satellite (Iridium 33, launched in 1997), destroying the pair. Now there’s a mess up there, pieces of debris threatening other satellites, possibly even the International Space Station
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Mount Asama Erupts, Ash Rains Down on Tokyo

Mount Asama erupts early in the morning of February 2nd. (AP)
Mount Asama erupted early in the morning of February 2nd. (AP)

Only a few hours after the Japanese authorities issued an alert for the imminent eruption of Mount Asama, the volcano erupted at 1:51 am local time (Feb. 2nd), spewing thick smoke nearly 2 km high. Ash is falling on parts of Tokyo, 140 km away and chunks of rock have been ejected 1 km away from the volcano. There are no reports of damage or injury so far to local infrastructure or in the nation’s capital.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency has maintained the Level 3 warning (5 being the worst), preventing people from approaching the erupting Mount Asama, urging local residents to take caution. Should the warning level be raised to 4, residents will be advised to prepare for evacuation, and a Level 5 will enact an evacuation.

So far, the eruption appears to be limited, but Japan will be keeping a close eye on the situation for some time to come. Watch this space

For more, check out Mount Asama Eruption Imminent, Japan on High Alert

Source: AP via @LouisS

Mount Asama Eruption Imminent, Japan on High Alert (Update)

In 2004, smoke rises from Mount Asama in Tsumagoi, 140 km northwest of Tokyo (Reuters)
In 2004, smoke rises from Mount Asama in Tsumagoi, 140 km northwest of Tokyo (Reuters)

There will be growing tension in central Japan tonight. Mount Asama, an active complex volcano, is stirring and Japan’s Meteorological Agency has put the region on high alert. Geophysicists predict the volcano could explode within the next 48 hours, possibly powerful enough to blast rocks from its peak, causing damage up to four kilometres away.

Mount Asama is infamous for the 1783 eruption that devastated the region straddling the Gunma and Nagano prefectures, killing 1,500 people. Since then, Asama has remained active, with a significant eruption in 1972. However, 2004 did see the volcano explode, ejecting volcanic material up to 200 km away, but very little damage was caused.

Building seismic activity in the area suggested an imminent eruption, prompting the authorities to raise the threat level to a 3 out of 5. A Level 3 alert means that there could be significant damage caused to nearby non-residential areas and a no-go zone has been imposed. This is the first time the Meteorological Agency has used the volcanic warning levels since they were adopted in December 2007…
Continue reading “Mount Asama Eruption Imminent, Japan on High Alert (Update)”