Friday, May 23, 2008

Live Events Sunday

Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo (roll off at 8:00 AM EDT, no matter what, rain or shine) live on SPEED TV.

Indy 500 in (well, adjacent to) Indianapolis (start engines scheduled for 1:03 pm EDT, weather permitting) live on ABC TV.

NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte (race start around 6pm? EDT ... they are not nearly as punctual as F1, and also are are afraid of rain) live on FOX

and last, but not least

Phoenix Mars Lander on the surface near the north pole of Mars (about 7:53 pm EDT "earth receive time") live on NASA TV starting about 6 PM EDT (available on the web), with first images possible circa 10 pm EDT that would be shown at a press conference scheduled for midnight EDT.

One of these could very well be a unique event in the history of mankind.

OK, it could be Danica Patrick winning the Indy 500, but we can hope that it will be a confirmation of the presence of frozen water on the arctic plain near the north pole of Mars. (Some info is on the NASA web site, and I am expecting astroprof and others to provide lots of info as it becomes available.)

Why "earth receive time"? It takes over 15 minutes for a radio signal to travel (at the speed of light) from Mars to the Earth. Since events like entry into the atmosphere and landing will be logged when the radio signals reach Earth, it only makes sense to use the time when we know it happened rather that the "Mars Standard Time" when it actually happened.

This distinction is one of the important results of the 'Theory' of Special Relativity as regards the seemingly simple question of when two things happen "at the same time". See the physics FAQ for lots of good stuff.

PS -
For something that happened a long time ago, but is just now being watched in real time, check out the article about observations of a Type 1b supernova that I picked out of Chad's daily list-o-links. (It is so nice to have someone else pick through a massive RSS feed and select a few tasty morsels that might be worth looking at.

[Personal highlight of that article: a reminder that astronomers still use the tiny, deprecated, cgs "erg" rather than the bigger, SI standard, "joule" for energies on a galactic scale. Instead of 1051 erg, why not 1044 J or, better yet, 1020 YJ. After all, there were a lotta Yotta joules in that explosion!]

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