Catching the Sun

The UMN Institute of the Environment’s Sustainability Education program hosted a showing at the Bell Museum of “Catching the Sun” “a 2015 documentary film on the growth of the solar power industry. Directed by Shalini Kantayya, the film features portraits of diverse personalities and their roles in the transition to solar power” ( While there were other events associated with the showing and even a Q & A with the filmmaker Shalini Kantayya after the film, I was only able to see the film. Its a great film stressing the importance of the growing solar power industry. You can learn more about the film here:


The Supermoon was not looking very super when I saw it around 830pm (see photo) and then later around midnight. Bright, very bright, but just an average size. Not that there is anything wrong with an average moon, but sometimes I think it would be much nicer to have a few moons in orbit. #supermoon2016

Virtual Reality

I tried the new Virtual Reality lab in the library today. It was amazing. I figured it would be like some hokey video game, but it was so lifelike. In one game/simulation or whatever they are called, I was in the mountains and looking over the edge of a cliff and was told to walk off. Even though I knew I was in the library and that there was ground below me, I just could not walk over the cliff. Apparently very few people walk over the cliff. The human sense of self preservation is apparently very strong, even in the VR world. Besides the mountains with the cliff, I was also able to see the rover on Mars, visit an English country church, walk the mountains of Nepal, and visit a few other ones.

SpaceX makes History!

A beautiful nighttime launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 (its been a big couple of days for various Falcon spaceships around the galaxy), as it took off in from Cape Canaveral, Florida, separated into two parts (the cargo was 11 communications satellites destined for low-Earth orbit which flew on to deploy a couple of minutes later), and then returned safely to the launchpad on Earth. Finally a fully reusable vehicle!!! Or in the words of Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait “space history was made. For the first time the first stage of a rocket came back from helping boost a payload to orbit and landed vertically back at the launch site” (

Happy Solstice!




Then there was the hysterically snarky tweets between between competing space company’s CEO’s @elonmusk and @jeffbezos.

(Photos and Tweets: @ORBCOMM_Inc, @SpaceX, @elonmusk, @JeffBezos)

Blood moon!

Tonight is the blood moon aka super moon aka #SuperBloodMoon aka eclipse. It wont happen again until 2033.

Here is a bad photo of a cool eclipse taken with my iPhone 5s. I also saw a bunny outside not watching the eclipse. Its 71 degrees with a light breeze. Winter is coming, so enjoy the weather while we can.

All aboard for Mars!

My boarding pass for Mars!

The boarding pass is for NASA’s InSight lander, scheduled for launch in March, 2016 and it “will listen to the heart of Mars to find the beat of rocky planet formation.” #JourneyToMars

Here are also my Frequent Flyer Miles!


NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has finally reached the planet formerly know as Pluto (now considered a icy dwarf planet). New Horizons left Earth back on January 19, 2006 and finally arrived today!

Here is the blurb from the NASA fact sheet:

New Horizons launched on Jan. 19, 2006; it swung past Jupiter for a gravity boost and scientific studies in February 2007, and is conducting a six-month-long reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its moons that started in early 2015. Pluto closest approach occurs on July 14, 2015. If NASA approves an ex­tended mission, the spacecraft could head farther into the Kuiper Belt to examine one or two of the ancient, icy mini-worlds in that vast region, at least a billion miles beyond Neptune’s orbit. Sending a spacecraft on this long journey will help us answer basic questions about the surface properties, geology, interior makeup and atmospheres on these bodies…

Generally, New Horizons seeks to understand where Pluto and its moons “fit in” with the other objects in the solar system, such as the inner rocky planets (Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury) and the outer gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune). Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, belong to a third category known as “ice dwarfs.” They have solid sur­faces but, unlike the terrestrial planets, a significant portion of their mass is icy material. Using Hubble Space Telescope images, New Hori­zons team members have discovered four previously unknown moons of Pluto: Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos. A close-up look at these worlds from a spacecraft promises to tell an incredible story about the origins and outskirts of our solar system. New Horizons also will explore – for the first time – how ice dwarf planets like Pluto and Kuiper Belt bodies have evolved over time” (

Here is New Horizons and its path (images from NASA




Here is wonderful new photo of Pluto released today (image from NASA












Also traveling with New Horizons are nine objects – such as a stamp and the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh – who discovered Pluto, are in a 2-inch aluminum capsule inscribed with these words: “Interned herein are remains of American Clyde W. Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto and the solar system’s ‘third zone.’ Adelle and Muron’s boy, Patricia’s husband, Annette and Alden’s father, astronomer, teacher, punster, and friend: Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997)” (

Needless to say that then NASA connected to New Horizons (I was watching live online) to say that it was working the Internet, Twitter, and NASA went a bit crazy!

The live signal can be seen here:




And a few Tweets from around the galaxy (Tweets from @NASA, @NASANewHorizons, @SarcasticRover, @POTUS, @WilliamShatner, and @StephenAtHome)



On Friday May 1st (May Day) I was finally able to visit the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Space exhibit with friends Cheryl and Bill. The exhibit “Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience” is very hands on with lots of videos, interactive items, NASA artifacts, and a mockup of the ISS bathroom! The blurb on the exhibit is “What does the future hold for humans and space travel? Space is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that seeks to answer that question and more by exploring the challenges of living and working in space. Unlike traditional space exhibits that focus on the history of space travel, Space looks into current and future exploration and what is possible” ( Then after visiting the exhibit we went to the Omnitheater film “Journey to Space” which was narrated by Patrick Stewart! The film is a “Reflect on how the space shuttle program of the past has shaped our approach to the future’s space hurdles—including the exploration of Mars. Marvel at the extraordinary accomplishments of human space travel over the past fifty years—and dream of the new horizons ahead” ( A very fun exhibit and film, so go if you have the opportunity.

DNA…the plot thickens!

For Christmas 2014 I asked my Mom for a DNA kit from to see where all the crazy relatives came from (you know your an adult when you ask for genetics testing for your Christmas gift!). Family history fascinates me and a while back I even had a genealogist friend do some research. The historical record was interesting as she found a letter that one relative gave up allegiance to the Czar when he immigrated to the USA (it was the 1800s and he was Polish, so no big surprise there) and a possible second family for a different great-great relative. So when the DNA results came back they were very interesting.

Not too surprising was all the Finnish in me (my Dad took great pride in his Finnish ancestors and his beloved saunas), but what was shocking was the 11% from Great Britain. Where did that come from? Although it does explain a bit of my great love of Sherlock Holmes & Doctor Who and my fascination with all things British. But still, nothing in the family historical record or even family legend explains the British and then there was the big question – whose side it was from? Mom or Dads? So Mom decided to give the DNA testing a try and her results just came back. Mom has 16% DNA from Great Britain! Where is this coming from? We expected Croatia and Poland, but where does a great-great British relative come into the picture or tree? What is going on? Plus there was even a little Finnish and Scandinavian (I am Finnish from both sides?) on Mom’s side. I figured that I received the Scandinavian DNA from Dad, but maybe not. Then there is all these little 1% here and there, your basic genetic drift and not important, but still interesting. So the mystery or hunt for the British great-great relatives continues…