Yay! A nerdy astronomy post!

As I am writing this, Venus is currently transiting the sun! Unfortunately, us folks on the west coast are part of the 25% of the Earth’s surface that won’t be able to see the transit. That doesn’t stop geeks like me though! Using a program I love called Celestia, I can create what the current situation is right at this very moment as I write! Here is a screen shot from Celestia. The black dot on the face of the sun in the lower left is Venus:

Venus Transit

Cassini also goes into orbit around Saturn at the beginning of next month. That is going to be another exciting mission that will return tons of amazing data. This is shaping up to be an awesome year in astronomy. Especially on the heals of losing the Galileo spacecraft back in December.

I went home this weekend, which is nice to be able to do. Got to hang out with my parents, see the animals, do laundry for free as well as grocery shopping. Just a nice time to relax. Even got a chance to hang out with Dan as well. I’ll probably be heading back into Redlands almost every weekend while I am down here. Not too bad, since it’s only an hour and a half drive.

UCLA is a nice campus! Their geology building is by far the nicest that I have ever been in. Lots of well lit displays, even interactive stuff, like what we tried to setup at CSUSB (on a limited scale) last year. I have keys to the geology building, keys to my office (which I share with a grad student), a UCLA ID-Card and my own UCLA email address! I’m set to go here! 🙂 We’ll have to see if I get accepted here for grad school, that is still a ways off yet though.

Last night and today, I’ve been designing a database to sort through about 35,000 earthquakes (M2.0 and greater) that have happened since 1990. Since I don’t want to sort through these quakes by hand to find the data I need, I decided to put my geek skills to use and make a computer do it for me! The database is almost complete, and I can sort earthquakes by size, location, depth and even date they occurred. The second part I need to implement is a system to determine what stations were able to record the earthquake, as well as a system that lets me choose one station and show all earthquakes it recorded from a certain area. It is some pretty complex stuff, but I’ll probably have that done within the next few days, then I can start actually LOOKING at earthquakes. I’ll probably post the database online. It’s a version based on what is available at www.data.scec.org, but you’ll be able to do slightly more complex stuff with this version.

On Friday, the Cal State San Berdo geology club is having an end of the year banquet. I’m going to be able to attend. I’m excited to see a lot of these folks again, many for possibly the last time since they are graduating! 🙁 What a great group of people though.

The last thing I wanted to write about was an awesome website called Wikipedia. It dubs itself as an “open content” encyclopedia, which basically means that it is fully user editable. See a subject that needs modification or has some incorrect material? You can add to it, or even create new articles! This openness leaves it prone to some vandalism, but they have thousands of users who are constantly tooling around. Overall, it is a great community website. I’ve been getting quite involved in it recently… you can check out my contributions on my user contributions page. I’ve added some rudimentary articles on the Santa Ana River, Salt Domes and Mt. San Gorgonio. Maybe in the future people will go back and add more content to them. Wikipedia already boasts more entries than the Encyclopedia Britannica! (However, average word counts per article are different. Britannica has roughly 600 words per article while Wikipedia only has 350). Definitely check it out and try looking up some articles, I think you’ll be pretty impressed overall!