terça-feira, julho 14, 2015


Today at lunch hour, just as New Horizons was reaching its closest distance to Pluto, I felt Charon's presence in the elevator of the mall. I knew it: they are watching us just as we are watching them.

quarta-feira, julho 08, 2015

More 'newbie' images of Pluto and Charon. Each row spans one rotation period of Pluto
(oldest: bottom left; newest: top right).



quarta-feira, julho 01, 2015

Seeing the invisible

Seeing the invisible seems paradoxal. Yet it can be so simple...
Below, not only we can 'see' the transparent water, but also we can map its depth and find 'invisible' floating sand using the shadows. Or we can estimate the position of the sun relative to the observer (both invisible in the photo), infer the hour of the day, or...
A good model can do wonders, a bad model can lead to disaster.

domingo, junho 28, 2015


My 'newbie' recipe for finding celestial objects. Overlap all Pluto and Charon images (see previous post) so that Pluto is in the center. Use a rough estimate of Pluto's size (from the number of pixels it occupies in each image) to resize the images. Violet/blue indicates older images, red and white the most recent ones. Plot only the pixels with values above a certain threshold (removing the average background noise first). Trails appear. Satellites, background stars, artefacts of the crude processing? How many, 5, 6? Imagine... (Click on the image for more detail.)

Addendum (29/6/2015): the next step would be to get rid of those fluctuations when resizing the images... Without them, I expect (or imagine...) that the orbit of Charon around Pluto would more closely follow the ellipse seen above and fluctuations in the trails would also be greatly reduced, rendering curvilinear trajectories. One can see some scattered points deviating from those lines, with colors matching the gaps in the trails... they probably belong to those trails but were displaced due to errors in the resizing of individual images. If the trails were due to background stars, would they converge to Pluto? Probably not... Note that the image above was created without knowing anything special about the images: everything was mainly image-driven. With more information, finer analysis will probably lead to more precision, detecting smaller objects.

Why do those trails end abruptly, e.g., when reaching the red colors (meaning more recent images)? Well, probably that is due to the object moving outside the individual image, as New Horizons approaches Pluto...

Addendum 2 (30/6/2015): Please do not think that this is a serious analysis of the problem! I do not know many details about the data, and that is crucial to do a proper analysis. Besides, there are many experts in the field that are analysing this using the proper tools and information. My main goal was, besides trying to satisfy my curiosity, to try to help by suggesting an eventually different approach that could spark a good idea in someone else...

Imagining things.

Pluto and Charon. The oldest and newest images are in the bottom-left and top-right corners respectively. Consider this an artefactual, romantic view of these worlds, created using the freely accessible data from the New Horizons mission. Thank you NASA, JHAPL and SwRI, for allowing anyone to explore these new old worlds in almost real time! Images were resized, intensities rescaled and contrast enhanced. Do not take them too seriously - they were processed by an amateur - but go ahead: click on them, zoom in and start imagining all sort of things while you still can.



sexta-feira, junho 12, 2015


Mental note - this is not to be forgotten: Meditation from Thaïs (J. Massenet). 

I listened to this beautiful music tonight, brilliantly played live by a student of the Coimbra Music Conservatory in a magical night where 4 young soloists from this conservatory inspired everyone who was listening. The many long hours of hard work rehearsing the difficult pieces were not in vain: they were rewarding and filled the public with pride, hope and optimism in the future. All is well, sleep tight tonight.

(In a way, this blog is almost the opposite: effortless music, no rules, no need to play or sound well. Unfinished music and unattained pleasures, just for fun. But this is no reason for not acknowledging the deep respect I feel for those who dedicate their lives to playing beautiful music.)

Oh, and pardon my english... I do try...