An amazing cube, like real Space: full of stars!

One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen made its very first appearance this evening in San Diego. Mitchell Walker, who plays didgeridoo in Balboa Park and Seaport Village, has completed an epic project that began as a dream almost 40 years ago. He has officially completed The Great Stellarium Project!

Mitchell’s 30-inch Plexiglas cube which contains a three-dimensional star map–his amazing Stellarium–made its debut in Balboa Park near the Fleet Science Center. The Stellarium was admired by curious passersby, and by astronomy lovers who’d gathered for the monthly stargazing “Stars In The Park” event of the San Diego Astronomy Association.

Mitchell has an irrepressible smile and a great sense of humor. One of his biggest passions is science fiction–Star Trek in particular. For much of his life he’s had a strong fascination with astronomy.

Years ago, Mitchell’s dream to recreate a part of our galaxy was inspired by the star map that figures in the film The UFO Incident. His idea was to design a transparent cube that holds an accurate portrayal of the stars nearest to our sun. His first attempt to invent such a marvel resulted in a cube that was 15 inches square. He still uses that smaller cube as a night light.

The impressive 30-inch Stellarium that debuted today displays our “stellar neighborhood” within 50 light years of Sol, the sun. Our tiny corner of the galaxy took Mitchell a little over a year to build. The 166 stars are obviously not to scale, but the distances between them and their relative positions around Sol are accurate. Each tiny star, attached to a filament that is almost invisible, shines with fluorescent paint in the color that matches its spectral classification. In darkness, under the cube’s black light, the effect is extraordinary.

After the sun set this evening, I sat on a nearby park bench and watched as people stopped to peer into the dreamlike Stellarium. Some pressed a button at the cube’s base to listen to Mitchell’s recorded audio narration.

Clouds unfortunately concealed the night sky. For a magical moment or two, members of the San Diego Astronomy Association abandoned their nearby telescopes and joined their friend Mitchell Walker, to gaze into a wondrous cube full of stars.

Please visit Mitchell’s web page that describes his Stellarium here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A beating heart, and neighboring stars.

I’ve written another short story. It’s titled A Heart That Would Not End.

This new story was inspired by my friend Mitchell the didgeridoo player.

Mitchell’s smile can be seen all around San Diego. Perhaps you’ve seen him playing one of his didgeridoos at Seaport Village or Balboa Park, or entertaining visitors inside the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park.

Not only does his music surge like the beating heart of the cosmos, but Mitchell has a deep interest in astronomy and our particular corner of the galaxy. He has created a unique Stellarium: a large three dimensional transparent cube filled with shining stars that represents our sun’s neighborhood. He has shown me photographs.

One day I hope to look into the Stellarium with my own eyes.

To read my new story, click here.

A (strange) Method for Reaching Extreme Altitudes!

Art that creates an infinite reflection and contemplates the scale and structure of space and time. The two-way mirror is titled Down the Rabbit Hole (CMS Detector) by artist Adam Belt.
Art that creates an infinite reflection and contemplates the scale and structure of space and time. The two-way mirror is titled Down the Rabbit Hole (CMS Detector) by artist Adam Belt.

Do you enjoy unusual art?

There’s a cool exhibition now showing at the San Diego Central Library’s ninth floor Art Gallery called A Method for Reaching Extreme Altitudes. On display is the work of eight local artists: Adam Belt, Matthew Bradley, Sheena Rae Dowling, Andrew McGranahan, Arzu Ozkal, Cheryl Sorg, Jones von Jonestein, and Melissa Walter.

Some of the artwork is quite cosmic and trippy, while other pieces take a curious look at science fiction and our popular culture’s obsession with space travel, UFOs and extraterrestrial visitation.

If the exhibition’s name seems familiar, that’s because A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes was the title of a 1919 monograph by Robert H. Goddard, the founding father of modern rocketry.

After examining this artwork one might wonder: Exactly how did Goddard come up with plans to build a rocket? Was he actually a visitor from outer space? Is it possible? Maybe?

The fun exhibition will continue through September 16, 2018!

Inside the Art Gallery of the San Diego Central Library, where an exhibition explores A Method for Reaching Extreme Altitudes.
Inside the Art Gallery of the San Diego Central Library, where an exhibition explores A Method for Reaching Extreme Altitudes.
Visitors view artwork that concerns space travel and its effect on modern life, culture and human imagination.
Visitors view artwork that concerns space travel and its effect on modern life, culture and human imagination.
Artist Melissa Walter, science illustrator for NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, explores the threat of orbital debris by casting geometric shadows.
Artist Melissa Walter, science illustrator for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, explores the threat of orbital debris by casting geometric shadows.
This multimedia installation by Jones von Jonestein is titled The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, after a novel by science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein.
This multimedia installation by Jones von Jonestein is titled The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, after a novel by science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein.
The collage-like artwork pokes gentle fun at the notion the moon landing was a hoax, and that governments conspire to suppress evidence of extraterrestrials.
The collage-like artwork pokes gentle fun at the assertion the moon landing was a hoax, and that governments conspire to suppress evidence of extraterrestrials.
Amateurs! A dog on the sound stage! A cameraman's reflection! Wind on the moon!
Amateurs! A dog on the sound stage! A cameraman’s reflection! Wind on the moon!
Space art depicting vast clouds of glowing dust and gas. The One that Got Away, by artist Sheena Rae Dowling.
Space art depicting vast clouds of glowing dust and gas. The One that Got Away, by artist Sheena Rae Dowling.
One of several collages exhibited by artist Andrew McGranahan. His retro-futurism embraces both utopian and dystopian imagery.
One of several collages exhibited by artist Andrew McGranahan. His retro-futurism embraces both utopian and dystopian imagery.
A cool digital print by artist Arzu Ozkal. She explores how humans are guests in a universe of microbes.
A cool digital print by artist Arzu Ozkal. She explores how humans are guests in a living universe of microbes.
A flying saucer above a Lucky supermarket! Artist Matthew Bradley has fun with the popular imagination in the Space Age.
A flying saucer above a Lucky supermarket! Artist Matthew Bradley has fun with popular imagination in the Space Age.
Bright UFOs painted in the night sky above the United States Capitol dome!
Bright UFOs painted in the night sky above the United States Capitol dome!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Kids explore science, engineering at STEM event.

Kids learn about electronics by combining fun pieces from a kit, creating circuits.
Kids learn about electronics by combining fun pieces from a kit, creating circuits.

Today I checked out a truly amazing event! Expo Day capped off the week-long San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering (formerly known as the San Diego Science Festival), and brought out thousands of families and kids, eager to learn about science. STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education, was Expo Day’s principal focus. The seventh annual event nearly burst the seams of downtown’s big Petco Park stadium. There were so many cool exhibits, so much stuff to see, I only managed to experience about half of it! My poor old brain nearly exploded!

Here is a bit of what I saw!

Exhibitor map for Expo Day, main event of the San Diego Festival for Science and Engineering.
Exhibitor map for the huge Expo Day, concluding event of the San Diego Festival for Science and Engineering.
Lots of folks inside Petco Park (baseball stadium of the San Diego Padres) learn about science.
Lots of folks inside Petco Park (baseball stadium of the San Diego Padres) learn about science.
This kid is way more interested in a map to cool science stuff than boring bags of cotton candy!
This kid is way more interested in a map to cool science stuff than boring bags of cotton candy!
A robot was moving mysteriously about, amusing people who were just walking along the concourse.
A robot was moving mysteriously about, amusing people who were just walking along the concourse.
Group demonstrates the structure of some common molecules.
Group demonstrates the structure of some common molecules.
The big annual STEM event focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.
The STEM event focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.
Investigating creatures one might find in a mudflat.
Investigating organisms one might find in a mud flat.
This balloon soon rose on a column of air and floated out of the tube!
This balloon soon rose on a column of air and floated out of the tube!
Young inventors assemble unique creations using all sorts of ordinary materials.
Young inventors assemble unique creations using all sorts of ordinary materials.
Understanding genetic attributes using Boolean logic. Sounds complicated!
Understanding genetic attributes using Boolean logic. Sounds complicated!
Youth would attempt to break a Guinness World Record at Second Hour of Code mass coding event led by a Microsoft professional.
Youth would attempt to break a Guinness World Record at Second Hour of Code mass coding event led by a Microsoft professional.
I've never seen so many hands on experiments in one place!
I’ve never seen so many hands on experiments in one place!
Don't mess with this guy. He's a super cool scientist dude!
Don’t mess with this guy. He’s a super cool scientist dude!
Kids test out non-Newtonian fluids which seem to harden like rubber when struck.
Kids test out non-Newtonian fluids which seem to harden like rubber when struck.
Young explorers are shown how to build their own spectroscope! And to think I was confounded by my Etch A Sketch!
Young scientific explorers are shown how to build their own spectroscope! And to think I was confounded by my Etch A Sketch!
Test your own confused mental cognition and speak these colors really fast for yourself!
Test your own mental cognition and speak these colors really fast for yourself!
Oh, man! Check this weird elephant out! I love optical illusions!
Oh, man! Check this weird elephant out! I love optical illusions!
This fancy aquarium acts as a flume, used to test the motion of fish and their muscular development.
This fancy lab aquarium acts as a flume, used to test the motion of fish and their muscular development.
Pointing out a butterfly in a displayed collection.
Pointing out a butterfly in a carefully classified collection.
Wow! These youngsters are building DNA models! That's way beyond me!
Wow! These youngsters are building DNA models! That’s way beyond me!
Learning how smoking exposes people to all sorts of toxic chemicals.
Learning how smoking exposes people to all sorts of toxic chemicals.
Girl learns about gyroscopes and angular momentum with a spinning bicycle tire.
Girl learns about gyroscopes and angular momentum with a spinning bicycle tire.
Some students built cool models of futuristic cities.
Some students built cool models of futuristic cities.
Awesome robots were all over the place!
Awesome robots were all over the place!
People were jumping about as this robot dashed about scooping stuff up.
People were jumping about as this robot dashed about scooping stuff up.
This robot participates in the Lego League, trying to score points on an unusual course.
This robot participates in the Lego League, trying to score points on an unusual course.
This is a mechanical, computerized Rubik's Cube solver that detects color.
This is a mechanical, computerized Rubik’s Cube solver that detects color.
Looking down into Petco Park's Power Alley, where more STEM exhibits were located.
Looking down into Petco Park’s Power Alley, where more STEM exhibits were located.
Lots of animal life on display included this beautiful long-nosed snake.
Lots of animal life on display included this beautiful long-nosed snake.
Lady demonstrates how bio fuels are refined using filtration.
Lady demonstrates how bio fuels are refined using filtration.
Chrismas lights helped teach about energy conservation.
Christmas lights helped to teach about energy conservation.
Thousands turned out for the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering Expo Day.
Tens of thousands turned out for the big San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering Expo Day.
Many businesses were showing their products, discoveries and technological advances.
Many businesses were showing their products, discoveries and technological advances.
AirZooka vortex generator shoots circular pulse of air at the shimmer wall!
AirZooka vortex generator shoots circular pulse of air at the shimmer wall!
This automated machine helps prepare lab samples in medical facilities.
This automated machine helps prepare lab samples in medical facilities.
Kids left notes on a wall with their bright ideas.
Kids left notes on a wall with their bright ideas.
Planting some tomato seeds, to watch the plant grow at home!
Planting some tomato seeds, to watch them sprout and grow at home!
More kids making complex molecules with marshmallows! I guess they'll be future scientists!
More kids making complex molecules with colored marshmallows! I guess they’ll be future scientists!
Some art was being created to accompany all the science and technology stuff.
Some art was being created to accompany all the science and technology stuff.
This guy uses electromagnetism to launch cans skyward and splatter cucumbers!
This guy uses electromagnetism to launch cans skyward and splatter cucumbers!
Petco's sunny Park at the Park was jammed with families enthused by education.
Petco’s sunny Park at the Park was jammed with families enthused by education.
Demonstating maglev (magnetic levitation) using eddy currents.
Demonstrating maglev (magnetic levitation) using eddy currents.
Young people write down what they like about science!
Young people write down what they like about science!
Young astronomers duplicate the colors of an enhanced surface image of asteroid Vesta.
Young astronomers duplicate the colors of an enhanced surface image of asteroid Vesta.
This NASA inflatable is the actual size of the Curiosity rover now on Mars.
This NASA inflatable is the actual size of the Curiosity rover now on Mars.
Everyone is fascinated by a cool NASA photograph of the surface of Mars.
Everyone is fascinated by a cool NASA photograph of the surface of Mars.
A member of the next generation lays his hands on our planet.
A member of the next generation lays his hands on our planet.

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San Diego’s 2015 Lunar New Year Tết Festival.

One of several friendly guys in a traditional costume worn by ancient warriors.
One of several friendly guys in a traditional costume worn by ancient warriors.

Here are pics of the 2015 Lunar New Year Tết Festival. The annual event is put on by San Diego’s Little Saigon, and is being held this weekend in a large section of the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot. These photos were taken shortly after the gates opened, and workers were applying some final touches in preparation for later crowds. Because I was so early, I missed afternoon attractions like the traditional Lion Dances and firecrackers. But there was plenty of cool stuff to see!

Tết, or Vietnamese New Year, is celebrated at the same time as Chinese New Year. The event marks the arrival of spring based on the Vietnamese variation of the Chinese lunisolar calendar.

People around ticket booths at Lunar New Year Festival in Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.
Ticket booths at Lunar New Year Festival in Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.
People check out colorful displays after entering the annual festival on a sunny weekend.
People check out colorful displays after entering the annual festival on a sunny weekend.
In 2015 the Chinese New Year begins the latest Year of the Goat.
In 2015 the Chinese New Year begins the latest Year of the Goat.
Model of Chua Mot Cot, or the One Pillar Pagoda, symbol of Vietnam's rich culture and history. It was built in the reign of king Ly Thai Tong almost a thousand years ago.
Model of Chua Mot Cot, or the One Pillar Pagoda, symbol of Vietnam’s rich culture and history. It was built in the reign of king Ly Thai Tong almost a thousand years ago.
Model of Bến Thành Market, which was established by French colonial powers in 1859, developed from early 17th century street vendors near Saigon River.
Model of Bến Thành Market, which was established by French colonial powers in 1859, and developed from early 17th century street vendors near Saigon River.
Bridge over pond at Little Saigon's Tết Festival which celebrates Lunar New Year in San Diego.
Bridge over pond at Little Saigon’s Tết Festival.
Models of two thatch-roofed houses elevated on wood columns at Mai Chau provide excellent examples of highland village house construction.
Models of two thatch-roofed houses elevated on wood columns at Mai Chau. These are excellent examples of highland village house construction.
Art on display near entrance includes water buffalo and flowers.
Art on display near entrance includes water buffalo and flowers.
Getting a bamboo cottage house ready for a throng of festival visitors.
Getting a bamboo cottage house ready for a throng of festival visitors.
Decoration near a stage at the Lunar New Year Tết Festival.
Decoration near a stage at the Lunar New Year Tết Festival.
Guys work to get everything ready shortly after the gates open on Saturday.
Guys work to get everything ready shortly after the gates open on Saturday.
One of many interesting booths. This one encourages hosting exchange students.
One of many interesting booths. This one encourages hosting exchange students.
There were delectable edibles of all types in a huge food court area.
There were delectable edibles of all types in a huge food court area.
Young man selling treats pumps up a balloon.
Young man selling treats pumps up a balloon.
Lots of tasty barbeque was getting ready on this big grill.
Lots of tasty barbeque was getting ready on this big grill.
Lady demonstrates Chi Gong stretches on a large stage.
Lady demonstrates Chi Gong stretches on a large stage.
Many colorful tables contained delights of every sort.
Many colorful tables contained delights of every sort.
A big carnival area includes a Ferris wheel.
A big carnival area includes a Ferris wheel.
Just walking along in the morning as the fun event begins.
Just walking along in the morning as the fun event begins.
These guys are doing their best to promote the event on Instagram.
These guys are doing their best to promote the event on Instagram.
Adjusting a flag, one final touch at the 2015 Lunar New Year Festival in San Diego.
Adjusting a flag, one final touch at the 2015 Lunar New Year Festival in San Diego.

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Gaze at infinite stars and beauty in Balboa Park.

San Diego Astronomy Association members set up telescopes in Balboa Park.
San Diego Astronomy Association members set up telescopes in Balboa Park.

Late this evening I took a stroll through Balboa Park. As the nodding, golden sun bid the blue sky farewell, a smattering of telescopes began to sprout under the brightening moon near the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

Today is the first Wednesday of the month. That’s the day members of the San Diego Astronomy Association gaze at stars and the universe’s infinite beauty, and invite casual passersby to gaze up at the wonders. Young and old bend over to peer through eyepieces, and are awed by the craters of the moon, planets that happen to be swinging overhead, colorful nebulae and distant galaxies…

The viewing begins in earnest around eight o’clock, when the sky is good and dark, right after the Reuben H. Fleet’s planetarium shows the monthly “Sky Tonight” program on their big IMAX screen.

Table with astronomy book, eyepieces and other equipment.
Table with astronomy book, eyepieces and other equipment.
One of many amateur telescopes set up the first Wednesday of every month.
One of many amateur telescopes set up the first Wednesday of every month.
Someone checks out a half moon around sunset.
Someone checks out a half moon around sunset.
Lights come on along El Prado and more stargazing enthusiasts arrive.
Lights come on along El Prado and more stargazing enthusiasts arrive.
My little camera barely registers the moon above the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
My little camera barely registers the moon above the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
The nearby fountain takes on a beautiful glow as night descends.
The nearby fountain takes on a beautiful glow as night descends.

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