Archive from December 2014
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31. December 2014

For the last blog post of 2013, I did something unusual by posting a collection of Google+ circles and for the end of 2014 I wanted to repeat this and make it a regular feature in the future. This is not as easy as it sounds because most of my circles are utter chaos, but once again I chose some of my most important circles to share at the end of this year to highlight and thank all the amazing people I’ve met there. I originally shared the circles yesterday directly on Google+ and this is just a blog article collecting those posts together, but in addition I also included a few of my Twitter lists here in this year’s post because this medium has also become a great source of information and interaction. But before we go on…


Google+ Circles

Photography Essentials – This first one is my “small” Photography circle of people I mainly found in the beginning over two years ago, although the size of this circle has doubled in the last twelve months. These are people whose posts I don’t want to miss even when I don’t have time to look at all the other circles. Don’t be disappointed if you’re not in there – there are two more much bigger photo circles coming up after this!

Photography One – This is the first part of my “big” hand-picked Photographer circles. Everybody from the Essentials circle is also in here, plus everyone I noticed in other circles, who plussed or commented on my posts or who I learned to know through other people. If you’re not in there, either I haven’t noticed you yet or you don’t fulfil my one requirement: you have to post your own work. There are only original photography content creators in here.

Photography Two – The second part of my “big” Photographers circle. I had to split it to be able to share it because of the 500 user limit. This one has already grown almost up to the limit and there will be a Photography Three circle in the future.

Science, Space & Astronomy – One of the other things I try to get involved in, or at least promote, is everything about these three fields and for this reason I have a hand-picked circle with everything about science, spaceflight and exploration and astronomy around. It’s a relatively low-noise group, but everyone from space journalists and scientists from the CosmoQuest & Universe Today crowd, many astronauts and a lot more people are in here. If you want even more, have a look at Fraser Cain’s Super Science Circle, on which my circle was originally partly based on – but it has taken on a kind of life of its own during the last year.

CosmoQuest, Universe Today & Co – This is a slightly more condensed circle and could be called “Friends of”, because in addition to the scientists and journalists working for CosmoQuest, Universe Today, The Planetary Society and Astronomers Without Borders, it also contains all those people who have or have had some connection to them. Most of those people are in the previous circle, too.

Astrophotographers – There is some overlap with the Science circle, but I chose use a separate circle for astrophotography to see all the beautiful images in one place. Credit where credit is due, though: this circle is also based, but not completely similar, to one with the same name originally shared by Fraser Cain.

Twitter Lists

Science & Astronomy – The first three lists are the Twitter companions to the Google+ lists of the same name, only with more and sometimes different people. This is where the conversation and often breaking science news happens – if a supernova goes off, a meteor comes down or something exciting happens in space exploration and science, this is often where you can hear about it first.

CosmoQuest – A further condensed science circle only with scientists, journalists and other people loosely affiliated with CosmoQuest, Universe Today and related organizations.

Astrophotographers – Even more semi-professional Astrophotographers are active on Twitter and that is where they often post their photos

Astromomers – This is actually a link to a Twitter list from Fraser Cain, who put together a great collection of astronomers who are active there.

Astronauts – There are a lot of future, active and retired astronauts on Twitter and I’ve tried to collect them all in this list, which I’m sure is still incomplete.

Astronauts on the ISS – This list has only the Twitter-using astronauts which are currently on the International Space Station – as of late December 2014, half of the crew is actively tweeting!

Spaceflight – Everybody and everyone related to spaceflight in all its forms, from the various NASA accounts to mission project leaders and the private space companies.

And this is the end of 2014 – let’s see what 2015 will bring! :-)

23. December 2014

I’d like to wish all family, friends, regular readers, commenters and all other visitors Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, A Happy New Year or any other holiday greetings you prefer! Myself, I like Happy Newtonmas because Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, but I’m very democratic in that respect and let everyone celebrate the the holiday you prefer.

Last year I basically skipped the year-end retrospective I usually write at this point because I wasn’t feeling very well, but this year I’m a lot better and I’ll do at least a little roundup. Let’s just say that 2014 was a lot better than 2013 – it has been very busy and while I only got around to do a fraction of what I had originally planned to do with the websites, it’s been a lot of fun and especially the interaction over the social networks has reached a whole new dimension.

The Photography Blog, now renamed at least temporarily to GB Photography to give it a proper name, is actually the only one of the three websites I’m regularly active on at the moment. I usually post several photos per day, mainly because I built up such a huge backlog especially of flower photos that I have still enough to go even if I don’t take another photo for weeks. But that’s not going to happen, because I finally managed to snag a new camera on Ebay in November – I wanted a little upgrade ever since I found out in Spring that the camera I bought the previous year has some lens sharpness issues. Next year is going to be even better with the photography and maybe I’ll finally get around to redesign the photography blog and the galleries. But posting the photos on Google+ has been almost as important, because the feedback there has been absolutely phenomenal and the photography community is amazing to say the least.

In contrast to the photography, the movie and DVD reviewing over on DVDLog has been on a bit of a backburner this year, mostly because there was not so much to write about and I didn’t get around to do as many translations of older reviews as I wanted. But I did get some reviews done including a  television five-parter in the fall about Brian Cox’ new series – and I still have a couple of unreviewed discs lying around which I will get to next year. I have to admit that I really can’t keep the one-review-per-week rhythm up any longer, but I will try do get the site going more next year. I’ve also finished switching over everything into English including a new review index, but there is still a triple digit amount of great material to be properly translated – so this site will never die and I’ve never really thought about shutting it down. Just be patient, once in a while I will have something interesting.

This Blog here has also been subject of a slow transformation – it’s still my go-to outlet for everything that is not related to photography, movies and television, but the focus has been mainly on science and astronomy in 2014 because so much exciting things have happened. I usually leave the science reporting to the real reporters, but some things I just had to write about and I’ve made a kind of series out of the postings about the comings and goings on the International Space Station. I have also been very busy supporting CosmoQuest and there is also the Hangouts Schedule which I’ve kept updated ever since August – this will get a slight makeover and a move to a proper page in the new year. I’m also considering moving the whole site to the spiffy new domain I registered this year and there’s also the small, but important matter of making the theme compatible for mobile devices, but I will come to that when I really have some time.

As usual, I will not go completely offline over the holidays, but instead put DVDLog on a winter hiatus until February and slow down the Photo Blog a little bit to maybe two posts per day plus perhaps some collected galleries. Between Christmas and the new year I’ll maybe share some of my circles over on Google+ again like I did last year and then put them in a blog post – it’s certainly time for an update! But other than that, I’ll take a well deserved break and will not be much online until early next year.

Wishing everyone a nice and relaxing winter holiday – see you in 2015!

Science & Astronomy
3. December 2014

I seem to be writing a lot about spaceflight and space exploration here at the moment, but that’s mainly because there are so many exciting things happening at once right now. Tomorrow there’s going to be another premiere in spaceflight: NASA is going to launch its Orion Spacecraft for the first time in a test flight! So, why is this so exciting if everyone is already flying to space all the time? Mainly because it is the first human-rated spacecraft commissioned directly by NASA since the Space Shuttle and it has quite a history behind it that reaches back more than a decade.

Originally a part of the Constellation program that had been developed under the US Bush administration since 2004 and was subsequently cancelled in 2011 to be replaced by the Space Launch System and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the basic concept actually goes back all the way to the late 1960s. Launched on top of a multi-stage rocket, the spacecraft consists of a command and service module exactly like the Apollo missions, with only the command module returning to earth. The now completed Orion Crew Module is being built by Lockeed-Martin and the subject of Thursday’s test flight, while the actual Orion Service Module is still in development and will be built by ESA and Airbus on the basis of the ATV transporter, launching in 2017 or 2018 on the Exploration Mission 1 on a flight all the way around the Moon.

But first, the Exploration Flight Test 1 has to bring the Orion Spaceship into orbit, two times around the Earth and then land safely again. This is going to happen tomorrow, December 4th, from about 12:00 to 16:30 UTC – Jason Davis from the Planetary Society has compiled a detailed flight timeline derived from the press kit, which will be very handy to coordinate your day if you want to watch the launch on NASA TV or follow what’s happening around the web. Although this is still an early, uncrewed test flight without the complete spacecraft configuration on top of a Delta IV Heavy rocket supplied by United Launch Alliance instead of the still in development SLS, the importance of this first step should not be underestimated – everything has to start somewhere! Speaking of starting, or launching – NASA has replaced the famous countdown clock at the Kennedy Space Center with an updated version just in time for the Orion launch. This was mainly done because it was too hard to find replacement parts for the old clock, which had been in place since Apollo 12 – and the new clock actually looks very nice.

[Update 12/4: First it was a boat in the launch range, then the wind and finally a problem with some valves on the rocket that prevented today’s launch… but it appears that there will be another attempt tomorrow!]

[Update 12/5: Today’s launch was succcessful on the first attempt without any problems! Orion is currently in Earth orbit, but the mission is not over yet with the second boost for the higher orbit still coming. Unfortunately, there were some massive problems with the NASA TV online streams – the UStream channel went offline right before launch and NASA’s own stream only buffered like crazy, so many people weren’t actually able to watch the launch itself live. At the moment everything’s watchable again, though and there’s already a video of the launch on Youtube!]

[Update 12/5, 6pm: Splashdown! After a picture-perfect flight, the Orion spaceship has returned to earth and is currently floating peacefully in the Pacific near the Californian coast waiting for recovery! Videos from the flight will probably be up soon on the NASA Youtube channel. (Actually, the NASAKennedy channel has some videos this time, including the amazing splashdown!)]

Last, but not least, there is a little bit of irony in naming the spacecraft Orion, because 48 years ago, even before the first Apollo flight, the Spaceship Orion launched on German television screens! With a predecessor like that, the “new” Orion will surely be a great success, although most of the press just seem to be interested in the costs and even say the launch is overshadowed by the recent failure of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket and the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – which, as usual, is absolute nonsense and a really irresponsible thing to say.

And in somewhat related news, the next comet investigator Hayabusa 2 has launched earlier today. It’s a cooperation between Japan, Germany and France and will arrive in four years at an asteroid to collect samples and even drop a small lander (which is the German-French contribution) on it, basically Rosetta-Philae style. But that’s all still four years and more in the future – stay tuned, more about this in 2018!