The brilliant Stellarium: 100 light-years across!

Do you know the friendly gentleman who plays the didgeridoo in Balboa Park? That’s Mitchell Walker.

He loves astronomy. He’s super creative. He never stops dreaming. That’s how he managed to shrink a volume of space 100 light-years across and fit it inside a plexiglass cube!

Mitchell’s one-of-a-kind, incredible Stellarium shows all of the stars within 50 light-years of the sun, placed in their correct spatial positions. That makes 166 stars in our stellar neighborhood. (Mitchell is now playfully calling his unique cube SITH–Stars in the ‘Hood!)

The colors of his tiny illuminated stars are based on spectral classification: the Morgan-Keenan system. Press a button and you hear a recording made by Mitchell describing his Stellarium.

I first blogged about The Great Stellarium Project over three years ago. You can see a smiling Mitchell and learn more about his brilliant creation here.

Since then modifications have been made to the Stellarium, including a visible ultraviolet light.

Today I heard that more improvements are coming!

During Stars in the Park this evening, Mitchell showed me his detailed plan to have each star light up individually with a touch of a button. That way the position of a particular star can be seen in relation to others and to our sun.

Mitchell starts with a dream. Then he makes it come true.

What are your dreams?

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

It’s easy to explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag. There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

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!

The planet Mars vanishes in San Diego!

The planet Mars vanished from San Diego’s night sky early this evening!

Members of the San Diego Astronomy Association had telescopes trained on the Red Planet near the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park when it disappeared!

But nobody seemed in the least distressed.

That’s because those gazing skyward understood the moon in its orbit around the Earth had begun to pass “over” much more distant Mars, in what is called a lunar occultation of Mars.

Random people walking through Balboa Park came up and were invited to peer through the telescopes. At times the instruments were aimed at the planet Jupiter and its four largest moons that were made plainly visible: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Families and kids looked into space with a sense of wonder. Many then entered the Fleet Science Center to view the monthly planetarium show The Sky Tonight, where we saw the latest jaw-dropping images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

When the presentation ended an hour later, and we all went outside, Mars had returned!

The next image was captured by my small camera a few minutes before the lunar occultation of Mars. I set it on maximum zoom.

You can’t see the moon’s craters, but you can see fuzzy little red Mars!

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

It’s easy to explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag. There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

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!

Stars shine brightly in Balboa Park!

This evening I headed to Balboa Park to watch The Sky Tonight at the Fleet Science Center’s giant domed IMAX theater.

Every first Wednesday of the month, the Fleet’s eye-popping, jaw-dropping The Sky Tonight astronomy presentation coincides with Stars in the Park, a fun, educational outdoor event hosted by the San Diego Astronomy Association.

When I stepped out of the theater, with a sense of renewed wonder at the immensity and beauty of the universe, night had fallen, and I gazed through several telescopes at the distant stars themselves.

But prior to all this, well before the sun set, I saw other stars all around the park…

Two brightly smiling members of the Belegarth Medieval Combat Society’s Realm of Andor. They usually hang out on Sunday afternoons at Balboa Park’s Morley Field.
Indy is a shining Balboa Park star on a fine Wednesday evening.
Look! Another musical star!
Like planets orbiting the sun, kids were running around the Bea Evenson Fountain.
Another star poses and smiles on El Prado!
Options For All, an organization that serves adults with disabilities, welcomes those arriving for a special movie screening in Balboa Park.

A short film titled Climb premiered this evening at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.

According to its description, the film is based on a day in the life of the adaptive team, which consists of four rock climbers with disabilities at the Mesa Rim Climbing Center. Learn more at the Options For All organization’s Facebook page here!

One of the film’s stars smiles by the Climb movie poster. That’s her climbing in the upper left corner of the graphic!
Stars that are light-years distant from Balboa Park would become visible after nightfall. Members of the San Diego Astronomy Association set up a powerful telescope for public observation of the sky after dark!

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!

World’s longest running IMAX film projector!

The world’s longest running IMAX film projector is on display in San Diego’s Balboa Park. That’s because this venerable old projector operated for 48 years at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center!

Tonight I headed over to the Fleet Science Center to watch The Sky Tonight, a once-a-month astronomy presentation on the giant space-like IMAX dome. As I waited in the theater lobby for the show to begin seating, I noticed the historic projector on display to one side, behind an open curtain.

A gentleman briefly explained the projector’s history. The very durable, then state-of-the-art projector was originally installed in 1973. It was the second IMAX projector made. Apparently nobody knows what became of the first!

When I got home, I found this link to a great article concerning the projector, and its replacement last year with a new, improved IMAX Laser digital video projector.

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!

Stars, constellations and one night in a sidewalk.

Walk along the west side of Highway 101 in Solana Beach, a short distance south of Plaza Street, and your curious eyes might see the night sky in the sidewalk. If you aren’t careful, you might plunge downward into bright stars and constellations!

This public artwork celebrates the City of Solana Beach’s incorporation on July 1, 1986. The star map underfoot shows what one would have seen gazing up into the night sky at a minute past midnight on that date.

I had some fun with these photographs, gradually increasing the contrast. Be careful! You might find yourself tumbling through space!

(Curious about that colorful mural in the distance? It’s titled Myths at Play, and you can see closer photos and learn more about it by clicking 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!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Is this what the Wise Men saw?

See that tiny, tiny dot in the night sky directly above the photographer’s knuckles? People are calling it the Christmas Star. Astronomers call it a great conjunction, when the two largest planets in our solar system–Jupiter and Saturn– appear very close together to eyes viewing from Earth.

Today is December 21, 2020, the Winter Solstice. I took this photograph with my little camera from the Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park shortly after dark. That’s downtown San Diego you see on the left.

The last time Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction this closely (and could be seen in most of the Northern Hemisphere) was the year 1226. You’ll have to wait sixty years to see it again. I suppose I won’t be around.

I’ve read and heard conjecture that the biblical Magi were guided to Bethlehem by the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the year of Christ’s birth. Some believers claim the timing would have been about right.

Can you make out that miniscule dot? Is that the same “star” the Wise Men saw?

Another good question might be: Is a light from far away what the wise see?

Jupiter and Saturn will continue their orbits around the sun, as will the Earth, long after you and I and every worldly thing we have done and hold dear has vanished, turned to dust, to be swirled by an unseen finger, transformed into something else.

Great conjunctions will continue hundreds, thousands, millions of years into the future. A billion years from this moment–give or take a century–there will be another Christmas Star.

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!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

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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