Thursday, January 24, 2013

Brian May Is Really Smart

A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud
by Brian Harold May

I have long held an interest in astronomy.  During Jr High I was in a Challenge program and given a block of a semester for independent study on it. I have read Astronomy Magazine (I did get an article published in 1990.) and other books for years.  I loved Cosmos but struggled in science classes. My son was born the day Carl passed on.

I had heard that Brian May had completed his dissertation and read Bang! a few years back.  But, then I found his dissertation online. In order to download I promised not just to read it but to review it. So ...

I would like to say I understood all of it.  Since he was writing to a target audience above my base level of understanding it is not surprising that some of it was difficult for me.  However, the historical element of the paper included areas of focus on changes in tech and not simply the data.  His process summations allowed me to follow his path while much of the graphs and data were very hard to do more than follow the idea as opposed to really much more.

His subject is an area of astronomy I knew little about. I now have a general understanding of it, which is nice. But, as a science lay person I followed his tracing of the changes in technology and how that can affect the science of astronomy to be more easily digested.

I really respect the guys like Brian May and Bruce Dickinson that take their opportunities and run with them. This is awesome.

Here is a definition of his topic from Wikipedia:

Zodiacal light is a faint, roughly triangular, diffuse white glow seen in the night sky that appears to extend up from the vicinity of the Sun along the ecliptic orzodiac.[1] It is best seen just after sunset and before sunrise in spring and autumn when the zodiac is at a steep angle to the horizon. Caused by sunlight scattered by space dust in the zodiacal cloud, it is so faint that either moonlight or light pollution renders it invisible.
The zodiacal light decreases in intensity with distance from the Sun, but on very dark nights it has been observed in a band completely around the ecliptic. In fact, the zodiacal light covers the entire sky, being responsible for major part[2](60%[citation needed]) of the total skylight on a moonless night. There is also a very faint, but still slightly increased, oval glow directly opposite the Sun which is known as the gegenschein.
The dust forms a thick pancake-shaped cloud in the Solar System collectively known as the zodiacal cloud, which occupies the same plane as the ecliptic. The dust particles are between 10 and 300 micrometres in diameter, with most mass around 150 micrometres.[3]