Adding my own #GRAIL #NASATweetup poster mock-up to the mix

Everyone seems to be playing in Photoshop today (probably yesterday by the time I post this 😛 ), so I had to, too. I’m working on a poster in an 18×24″ size; whether my fellow space tweeps want to use it for the big poster or not, I’ll likely print a couple copies of the end result in about 9×12″ as a surface for signatures in case we get the opportunity. A couple rather than one, in case I could persuade people to sign one for me, one for my baby niece. Gotta start making a respectable nerd of her early, right? (Is 9×12″ big enough? Maybe 12×16″?)

Here’s where I’m at. I’ll probably play a bit more before I’m done, but I’d love suggestions (but please don’t be hurt if I choose not to follow them, because I take or leave advice at will).

Edited shortly after posting: I kept playing a little bit–modified the font style to smooth the edges and changed the GRAIL font to a slight variant with cut-out lines. Not sure which I prefer but here’s no. 2:

Here, I shifted the moon and twins a bit because they seemed a bit clumped in the middle and the moon wasn’t centered right.


Wherein I go to the Sunshine State only qua nerd

That’s right, qua. Like it.

NASA has, for at least a couple of years now, run events called tweetups for their followers on Twitter. A group of tweeps descends upon one of the NASA space centers for the event, which can last two days and is focused on a launch scheduled at that space center. They bring in speakers (Bill Nye was at the last one!), tour the facilities, and watch the launch. And of course, the tweeps get to meet each other in person and hang out for good times. 🙂 I first learned about these tweetups at some point in the last few months (probably after the GRE, since I was a wee bit oblivious to everything else while I prepped for that).

On September 8, if all goes well, NASA will launch the twin GRAIL craft to the moon from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This launch has an associated tweetup, for which over 800 people registered–only 150 can come, picked randomly. Now, my luck has a history of being quite bad, but somehow, somehow, my name was one of those pulled. So I’m going to Florida to see a rocket launch at KSC!

I have never been to Florida before; I’ve never been to a NASA facility; I didn’t even know about NASA tweetups a few months ago. Now I have plane tickets, lodging, and rides all or nearly all sorted out; I’ll be staying in a beach house with five other tweeps who all seem like a cool bunch; and my Twitter and Facebook streams have more or less exploded in a flurry of space-nerd fervor. Chouette, non?

What I can’t decide is whether to let myself use the tweetup as an excuse to get a Canon G series camera at long (loooonng) last. I’ve been eyeing those cameras since the G9 came out but could never justify spending that kind of money–especially when I was in college, working (essentially) with a fixed budget. But now…

Now the Canon G13 is likely to come out in another month or two, if not sooner. They’ve kept a tight lid on the release date, so as far as I know it could be released on Monday or in October. I would really like to wait for that camera. But my current (old) little point & shoot won’t cut it, and I’m loath to ask to use (or in fact to use) my brother’s Rebel.

Ah, dilemmas. 😛

I guess I’ll have to post more about GRAIL itself later. Meanwhile, this seems somewhat apropos. Also it’s stuck in my head (may it become stuck in yours):

Updates on SaveJWST gear and my newfound luck

First things first: I am thrilled by the amount of interest there’s been in the SaveJWST gear that I have published for sale at Les Étoiles. As you may know from my earlier posts, the James Webb Space Telescope–successor to the incredibly successful Hubble–is in danger of being scrapped by Congress; I am very much against this; and I am donating my earnings from JWST gear to the American Astronomical Society.

To my knowledge, I am not only the only shopkeeper donating proceeds–I am the only one on Zazzle selling SaveJWST gear. My shop is small; it has a fairly steady trickle of visitors, but no torrent. So I expected to receive perhaps a few dollars from these items: a token donation for AAS, offering more a symbol of sentiment than actual support. So I am thrilled to say that, barring cancellations, Les Étoiles has earned over $30 so far from JWST gear and there are dozens of stickers, bumper stickers, magnets, and keychains out there helping to make the Webb a more visible topic.

Since my last post, I have added a lot more, with the help of the folks at SaveJWST on Facebook. They lent me the use of their logo, so I have shiny new bumper stickers, magnets, … even mini bookmarks available. Here’s a sampling:

You can find the rest at the gallery.

Now, in the title I also alluded to some unexpected luck. This post has gotten long already, so I’ll just say that I am one of 150 Twitter-followers of NASA who will be converging on Kennedy Space Center in early September to hang out, make good times, and watch the launch of the twin GRAIL satellites to the moon. I am not accustomed to winning things. 🙂

Show your support for JWST & Les Étoiles will donate proceeds to AAS

I was busy over the weekend, making … well, propaganda, essentially. 😉 I’ve made a bunch of materials in my Zazzle store, Les Étoiles, that you can use to show your support of the James Webb Space Telescope and to help spread the word. There are stickers, bumper stickers, keychains, buttons, magnets, and mini bookmarks (1×3″ cards). Everything I receive from sales of JWST items I will donate to the American Astronomical Society for their efforts to advance public policy.

In fact, if you purchase anything at my store and send me a message with your name & what you bought, and tell me you want to help save JWST, I will add any commission I receive from your whole purchase–JWST items or not–to the donation for AAS. There’s a direct contact form available right from my store. And you can customize pretty much everything in the store, so feel quite free to find any image on any item you like and add your own text, since you’re probably much better at slogans and witticisms than I am! 😛

Letter from an unabashed JWST apologist

This took a bit to write, but it is now written and sent to my representative in the House. It’s pretty long, I hope she doesn’t hate me for it. 😉 (Also, I hope that I don’t have to send it to my Senators!) Let me know if I’ve got anything wrong–I tried to be careful about my information, but this is the internet, after all.

Dear Representative                ,

I write to you with the hope of encouraging you to stand in support of one of the most important astronomical projects of this and recent decades, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). As you know, a subcommittee in the House of Representatives recently introduced—and today approved—a draft budget that would reduce NASA’s funding and zero out the JWST entirely.

While it is true that the JWST faces delays and cost overruns, these issues should not lead us to give up on the project. The Webb’s predecessor, Hubble Space Telescope, faced similar problems in its development, costing several times the original projected amount by its launch date in 1990, the launch itself being delayed by some seven years between project-related delays that pushed it to late 1986 and the Challenger disaster that delayed it even further.

But we did not give up on the Hubble, and it has paid us back for our persistence, lending to discoveries that have changed our understanding of the universe and solidified its position as an immense success. Among other things, the Hubble captured the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in excellent detail; gave us evidence that supermassive black holes lie at the centers of many galaxies; recorded the first visible-light image of a planet orbiting another star; refined our calculation of the Hubble constant, thus providing our most precise measurement of the age of the universe; and perhaps most surprisingly, gave us strong evidence that the expansion of the universe, far from slowing down, is accelerating, indicating the existence of dark energy—a force whose nature remains as yet a tantalizing and unanswered question.

Helix Nebula, HST, 2003

And the Hubble’s contributions have not been restricted to the esoteric sphere of astrophysicists. Through mediums such as the Space Telescope Science Institute, many of the most stunning images and discoveries of the Hubble have been released to the general public over the course of the telescope’s operation. These images are captivating, inspiring, iconic. Think of the “Eye of God,” the Helix Nebula, or of the Eagle Nebula’s so-called “Pillars of Creation.” They convey in the most direct way, not just the knowledge, but the beauty there is to be found in science.

Eagle Nebula, HST, 1995

The James Webb Space Telescope stands in line to continue and to expand the work of the Hubble, as Hubble—after more than 20 years—finally nears the end of its life. JWST has been identified as a top priority in both the 2000 and the 2010 decadal survey produced by the National Academy of Sciences. Equipped to observe primarily in infrared light, with a mirror more than two and a half times the size of the Hubble’s, and orbiting much farther from Earth, it will allow us to study objects both farther and fainter than the Hubble can observe, as well as viewing objects whose surrounding clouds of dust obscure them from Hubble’s view. The JWST will give us a clearer view of stars as they form, of the very early universe and the formation of the first galaxies, of planets beyond our solar system (even to the point of determining the chemical composition of their atmospheres), and likely, as with the Hubble’s evidence for dark energy, of phenomena at which we cannot yet even guess. And like the Hubble, it has the potential to inspire a new generation of potential scientists and researchers.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be central to astronomical research in the coming years and possibly decades. True, it is over cost and faces delays, but we can’t expect NASA to predict with great accuracy the full time and funding needed to design and build a piece of equipment the likes of which has never been built before, which is what Hubble was in its day and JWST is in ours. Even now, as noted in the American Astronomical Society’s statement of July 7, the major engineering hurdles have been overcome. The equipment is being built. It was recently announced that the mirrors are ready fully polished. We have come so far, so much progress has already been made, and the potential gains are so great that it would be a terrible waste to give up now.

Please, I implore you: Support science. Support NASA. Support the quest to understand our cosmos. Don’t let this project die before it has had the chance to truly live; please do not defund the James Webb Space Telescope.

I apologize for the length of this letter; and I thank you deeply for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Denver, Colorado

* Note: My sources for this letter are primarily, for information on Hubble’s discoveries and the anticipated projects for JWST, and Wikipedia†, for information on HST’s delays and cost overruns. Plus the mentioned AAS statement.

† I know, shame on me. I did check the cost at launch on, and that disagreed with the Wiki figure, so I did not say that cost at launch was more than five times the projected cost (as Wikipedia indicates). So I’m not all bad for using Wikipedia a little bit, right?