A Giant Spot and Open Data

A Giant Spot

On July 10, 2017, Juno completed its 7th and final close flyby of the gas giant, Jupiter. (In cosmic terms, “close flyby” meant 6,130 miles.) In this final flyby, the Juno spacecraft snapped a close-up shot of the Giant Red Spot, a hurricane-like storm that is as big as Earth and that has been raging for at least 160 years.

juno1NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt

Launched in August 2011, Juno’s job is to closely collect and gather data on Jupiter. NASA states Juno’s explicit goals are to:

  • Determine how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which helps determine which planet formation theory is correct (or if new theories are needed)
  • Look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties
  • Map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields, revealing the planet’s deep structure
  • Explore and study Jupiter’s magnetosphere near the planet’s poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter’s northern and southern lights – providing new insights about how the planet’s enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.

Overall, this mission will give us a better understanding of how Jupiter begin and how it evolved into the planet it is today.

Open Data

US Copyright law states a work “prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties” is not subject to domestic copyright law. Meaning, most of the work created and published by the US government are no copyrighted, and therefore, can be used for any educational and informational purposes.

Take, for example, the picture of Jupiter’s Giant Red Spot seen above. This image was manipulated and composed by a citizen scientist using raw data gathered by NASA, a government agency. It was the right of this citizen scientist to us this information for their own and the community’s informational needs. We, as citizens, have as equal of ownership of the data as the government because we paid for the acquisition and distribution through our tax dollars.

This extends beyond just the data and information collected by NASA. All government departments and agencies are fantastic resources for gathering research sources. These agencies provide raw and analyzed data that can be used for research and educational purposes.

Here are some excellent government resources for your college projects:

The open  access to United States Government data is a right not shared by many other countries. It allows for open discussion and analysis of publicly funded practices and scientific inquiries. Unfortunately, I could not include access to the EPA’s data on climate change as the current administration has removed that information.



March Book Display: Earth and Beyond

The book display for March explores the search for life outside of Earth, as well as the strangeness of life on our planet.

NASA recently discovered seven Earth-like planets, 40 light-years away. While a long distance for us, it is, cosmically, only a hop, skip, and jump away. As our technology improves and our science advances, we continue to discover more and more planets outside our solar system. And with each new discovery, we wonder whether they could be life on those distant worlds and how we can get to those worlds. Closer to home, Curiosity, the Mars rover, is on the search for evidence of alien life on the Red Planet. How would the discovery of life outside Earth change your perspective?

However, we can stay on our blue dot to explore high strangeness and alien worlds. In our oceans is the largest creature to ever exist: the blue whale, a mammal species known for its intelligence, unique language, and development of culture. Cephalopods (squids, octopuses, and cuttlefishes) have unique, identifying personalities.  We cannot forget the oddness of all the creatures: the poisonous, egg-laying mammal, the platypus.

Take some time to read about the odd and wonderful life on our planet. Consider the possibility of alien life and our continued, scientific search for worlds outside our own. And if you desire, read about alien abductions and UFOs.

The Last Unicorn

by William DeBuys

Call QL737.U53 D434 2015

“In 1992, in a remote mountain range, a team of scientists discovered the remains of an unusual animal with beautiful long horns. It turned out to be a living species new to western science — a saola, the first large land mammal discovered in 50 years. Rare then and rarer now, no westerner had glimpsed a live saola before Pulitzer Prize finalist and nature writer William deBuys and conservation biologist William Robichaud set off to search for it in the wilds of central Laos. The team endured a punishing trek, up and down whitewater rivers and through mountainous terrain ribboned with the snare lines of armed poachers. In the tradition of Bruce Chatwin, Colin Thubron, and Peter Matthiessen, THE LAST UNICORN is deBuys’s look deep into one of the world’s most remote places. As in the pursuit of the unicorn, the journey ultimately becomes a quest for the essence of wildness in nature, and an encounter with beauty”

Beyond the Stars: Our Origins and the Search for Life in The Universe

by Paolo Saraceno

Call GQ982 .S2713 2012

“What is the origin of the universe? Are we alone in the Universe? Using clear and plain language, the author explores these two interesting scientific-philosophical themes with a broad range of studies, including astronomy, cosmology, chemistry, biology, geology and planet science.The first part discusses the origins of everything, from the Big Bang to humankind. It follows the long course of evolution — from original matter to the formation of more complex structures, from the furthest galaxies to the nearest stars, from planets to organic molecules, from the first and most elementary forms of life through to the reptiles, the dinosaurs and the advent of man.The second part traces the history of the Earth and evaluates the risks of extinction in the future as predicted by scientists. Is the Earth the only habitable planet in the Universe? This question initiates the discussion on the importance of the Earth’s position in the solar system and the significance of our geologically alive planet.The final part is dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial beings with identifiable life forms. It also describes attempts for searching, from the past to the near future.This remarkable book provides the best answers we have to the epic questions about us and our place in the universe.” Continue reading “March Book Display: Earth and Beyond”

No Man’s Sky: 12 Books for the Space Traveler

The new video game No Man’s Sky allow players to traverse the galaxy and explore algorithmically generated planets teaming with various environments, lifeforms and materials. For the people who are interested in space travel check out any of these 12 books on the topic. If it is not enough to quell your exploration wants, stop by and talk to a librarian who will happily help you find more materials on the topic.

Space chronicles : facing the ultimate frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson
TL789.8.U5 T97 2012

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a rare breed of astrophysicist, one who can speak as easily and brilliantly with popular audiences as with professional scientists. This book represents the best of Tyson’s commentary, including a candid new introductory essay on NASA and partisan politics, giving us an eye-opening manifesto on the importance of space exploration for America’s economy, security, and morale. Thanks to Tyson’s fresh voice and trademark humor, his insights are as delightful as they are provocative, on topics that range from the missteps that shaped our recent history of space travel to how aliens, if they existed, might go about finding us.

Beyond : our future in space by Chris Impey
TL793 .I468 2015

A dazzling and propulsive voyage through space and time, Beyond reveals how centuries of space explorers–from the earliest stargazers to today’s cutting-edge researchers–all draw inspiration from an innate human emotion: wanderlust. This urge to explore led us to multiply around the globe, and it can be traced in our DNA.

Combining expert knowledge of astronomy and avant-garde technology, Chris Impey guides us through the heady possibilities for the next century of exploration. In twenty years, a vibrant commercial space industry will be operating. In thirty years, there will be small but viable colonies on the Moon and Mars. In fifty years, mining technology will have advanced enough to harvest resources from asteroids. In a hundred years, a cohort of humans born off-Earth will come of age without ever visiting humanity’s home planet. This is not the stuff of science fiction but rather the logical extension of already available technologies.

Time travel and warp drives : a scientific guide to shortcuts through time and space by Allen Everett and Thomas A. Roman
QC173.59.S65 E94 2012

In Time Travel and Warp Drives , Allen Everett and Thomas A. Roman take readers on a clear, concise tour of our current understanding of the nature of time and space–and whether or not we might be able to bend them to our will. Using no math beyond high school algebra, the authors lay out an approachable explanation of Einstein’s special relativity, then move through the fundamental differences between traveling forward and backward in time and the surprising theoretical connection between going back in time and traveling faster than the speed of light. They survey a variety of possible time machines and warp drives, including wormholes and warp bubbles, and, in a dizzyingly creative chapter, imagine the paradoxes that could plague a world where time travel was possible–killing your own grandfather is only one of them!

Continue reading “No Man’s Sky: 12 Books for the Space Traveler”

Hot Topics: Library Resources on Climate Change

The (political) results are in…climate change does exist!

At least according to the Senate’s overwhelming response to amendment this past Wednesday that “climate change is real and is not a hoax.” Obama even mentioned climate change in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, stating “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations.”  Politicians are starting to agree with what scientists have been saying for years.

While the Senate passed the amendment on the existence of climate change it did not pass a second amendment concerning whether human emissions are the cause.

So where do you stand on this issue? As the 2016 election draws close, we are sure to hear more about climate change and their political stances. Use the books below among other resources at PSC to determine fact from fiction.

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In the Night Sky

Astronomy Manual

Winter is a great time for stargazing, at least when it doesn’t feel like 25 degrees below zero. Why? Well, have you ever looked up at night in winter and the sky seems brighter, the stars easier to see? That’s because it’s colder. Cold air is not as hazy as warm summer air is. To go a bit more scientifically, cold air doesn’t hold as much moisture as warm air does, so we can see more through the dry air. It’s easier to see through a clear piece of saran wrap than through a piece of saran wrap with water drops on it. Read more about the best way to view the sky in winter here.

Before you bundle up, check out one of our books on stargazing or a guide to the night sky. Learn about different types of telescopes, planets, constellations, and other interesting things to look for in the night sky. One of my favorites is Orion, the hunter, which is a great winter constellation to see.

Stargazing Nearest Star The Sun's Heartbeat  The Milky Way
Solar System: Visual Guide Our Sun The Space Book Hubble journey through Space and Time
 Comets  Night Vision  From Here to Infinity  Astronomy for Dummies


Check This Book Out! Mirror Earth : the search for our planet’s twin by Michael Lemonick

Check out the “New Books Display” in the Library for some titles that have recently been added to our collection. Featured this week is Mirror Earth : the search for our planet’s twin” by Michael Lemonick.

Ever wondered if there is another planet in the universe like ours? This is exactly what astronomers and scientists have attempted to find out in the last few decades.  In the book “Mirror Earth : the search for our planet’s twin,” author Michael Lemonick, explores the history behind these exploration attempts, the people who have been and are currently involved, and the possible technology that could contribute to future discoveries. This is a highly recommended book for anyone that enjoys learning about astronomy, space, or would just love to learn about what has been done and what scientists are currently doing to try to find another Earth.

You can find “Mirror Earth : the search for our planet’s twin” and the other titles listed below in our “New Books” display located outside the “Quiet Reading Room.”

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Game of Thrones: A Song of Research and Science

Recently, the fantastic website, It’s Okay to Be Smart, put together a YouTube video on “The Science Behind Game of Thrones”. In it they discuss the world created by George R.R. Martian and how it relates to science as we know it on Earth. You can find in the academic theories behind the seasonal changes, Valayrian Steel, how Wildfire works, and who are the historical personas that characters are roughly based on. So, if you have any interest in Game of Thrones or on science, check out the video below and then find out how you can a hold of a copy of any of the 5 Game of Thrones books, either in print, graphic novel form, or eBook.

The Book Series

Side Stories

Total Eclipse of the (Moon)

Photo by Phil Plait

Did you get outside early Tuesday morning to see the eclipse? Have you had the song Total Eclipse of the Heart stuck in your head like I have? Do you wish there was a song called Total Eclipse of the Moon? Well there is! Pretty well done and informative, I think. Unfortunately we didn’t have that clear of a view here in Chicagoland. Luckily the Internet provides us with pictures, videos, news, and more information on the eclipse. The one above is from one of my Twitter friends. I also found an interesting video of the eclipse from the same Twitter friend.

You can find his whole post on the eclipse at Slate.com.

The other thing I was interested in was news about the eclipse. For that, I turned to a Prairie State database called Newspaper Source. The layout is just like Academic Search Complete, so searching it was easy. I searched for eclipse AND 2014 with full text and received 50 results. I tried some other searches as well to vary my results, such as eclipse AND lunar, just eclipse, and searching for eclipse just in the title instead of any field, gave me the most relevant results.

Here are a couple of the results that interested me:

For all you need to know about the moon, ask Mr. Eclipse

Total lunar eclipse will arrive in wee hours Tuesday

If you want to be prepared for the next time we have a lunar eclipse (which is in October of this year, by the way), see another Phil Plait article about viewing an eclipse or check out the book Eclipse! : the what, where, when, why, and how guide to watching solar and lunar eclipses in the library.  Come ask a librarian if you need help finding it!

Photo by Nicole Gugliucci

Think Green! 44 Years of Celebrating Earth Day

April is a time for the resurgence of green… well, when it’s not snowing! In spring we think green grass, green leaves, green energy, well… we try to. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 and a lot has changed. Sure, the hippies are still out in full, colorful glory but we now see hipsters on bikes, little kids with recycling bins, and river rescues. The green movement here in the US has multiplied and changed and while the message is still Inconvenient doing something is not. If you’re feeling a little stuck on what you can do this Earth Day the library is prepared to give you a hand.

If you feel like starting with the beginning of the environmental movement and grooving with your inner hippie, check out Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The book brought the effects of pesticide use to the notice of the broader public and eventually resulted in both the ban of DDT and the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Once you’ve got your patchwork hemp pants and your round sunglasses on check out our display for more information on both the damage humans have done to the Earth and things you can do to help!  You can make a difference no matter how small and there are even more resources to help!

Have you examined your carbon footprint recently? You can check our your environmental impact here or check out the No Impact Project to find out ways to lower your impact. Find out how global warming and sea level rise will affect your area. Only ready to dip in your toes? Find out how to green your morning routine!

Check out earthday.org for more ways to go green and help them reach 2 billion acts of green!


Looking for more ways to get green? Check these out!


NASA meets the United States Navy

One of my favorite things to do is take NASA related trips. That’s right; I like to go places where people who work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are going to be teaching us about all types of activities they take part in. I have seen two space shuttles nose to nose. I have listened to John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, talk about what it was like to go into space. I have seen some of the activities that astronauts take part in at space camp. Most recently I went to a naval base in Norfolk, Virginia where I saw a water recovery test of a model of the Orion capsule that will one day take astronauts into deep space to places such as the moon, Mars, or an asteroid.

Orion with the diving teams in front of a battleship.
Orion with the diving teams in front of a battleship.

It was my first time on a naval base, and it was very interesting.
A K-9 unit, like those in Soldier Dogs by Maria Goodavage, had their dog sniff our bags before we could get too close to the water. Then a person searched each of our bags and we had to go through a metal detector. We heard from Navy chiefs about the work their divers were doing to recover the Orion capsule. We saw huge battleships that could fit helicopters on deck and aircraft carriers that were even longer to fit a runway and airplanes.

Orion in drained well deck
Orion capsule on board after the well deck was drained.

Then we got to tour a battleship. We saw the well deck where they put Orion after they recovered it and drained all the water from the ship.

We saw the bunks where the soldiers sleep, turrets for the machine guns, the captain’s chair, the operating room with X-ray machines, and more.

One of the operating rooms on board.
One of the operating rooms on board.

It was an amazing and inspiring trip, making me prouder and more impressed by the U.S. Navy. If you would like to learn how the Navy helps NASA, Prairie State has an eBook for you – Navy’s needs in space for providing future capabilities.

Continue reading to find out what books and sources you can use to learn more about NASA and the Navy and see more pictures of my trip. Continue reading “NASA meets the United States Navy”