Monthly Archives: April 2012

What fascinates us?
Size, appetite, or matter
perceptibly gone?


The black hole
at Sagittarius A
gives close stars whiplash.


Let’s just admit it:
spaghettification is
one cruel way to die.


Space-time, light give way,
gravitational lensing
and hint of a ring.

Congratulations, J.A. Grier!  Your 7-7 lines were selected as the winning entry in the “Star Stuff” collaborative haiku contest.  Here it is: the final poem!

Star Stuff
by Christine Rueter and J.A. Grier

The “star stuff”* in me
is in you, too, eddying
with lighter atoms.
Big Bang hydrogen, super
nova iron, fire our blood.

A very big thank you to our 2 judges–Francis Reddy and Tony Berendsen–for their time and efforts!

Francis Reddy is a science writer on contract to the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. He is also the author of Celestial Delights: The Best Astronomical Events through 2020, which was published in 2012 by Springer.

Tony Berendsen is a Star Guide, Poet, and owner of Tahoe Star Tours. He uses Astro-Poetry to help people understand the starry skies, and our place in the Cosmos.


The contest rules (retained for sentimental value):

Renga is a form of collaborative haiku with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable structure. A single writer initiates the poem with the first 5-7-5 stanza and welcomes other writers to provide the 7-7 stanza. For fun, I wanted to initiate an astro-renga in honor of Global Astronomy Month 2012 (GAM2012) and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) and invite anyone who wants to participate to do so.

Anyone can submit the 7-7 lines! For the sake of all renga participants, please include your lines as comments to this post so that others can see what has been submitted. I will “close” the renga to submissions at 5 pm EDT on May 4, 2012. I have two independent judges lined up to pick their favorite from the submissions. The final renga will be published on this blog and the submitter given co-credit with me in the by-line.

If there is enough enthusiasm for this renga process, I’m happy to start another renga and potentially alter the format to allow for a multiple stanza renga.

Look forward to reading your 7-7 lines!

*As Carl Sagan famously said, “we are made of ‘star stuff’.”


I am a frequent visitor of the University of Maryland Observatory. The observatory has an ongoing “yard sale” of old things (textbooks from before quasars were discovered, old lenses, photographic plates for $1 a piece). At a public lecture and viewing night about a year ago, I came across three priceless original Lunar Orbiter posters from the late ’60s for 50 cents a piece. They were on photographic paper and had penciled in altitudes. The Lunar Orbiter probes are especially interesting to me because they were used to identify a smooth landing spot for the Apollo missions.

Lunar Orbiter 2 pictureFor two of the close-up view LO posters, I was able to identify the lat/long on the moon by comparing the slide numbers on the negative frame to the corresponding number in the Lunar Orbiter Photographic Atlas of the Moon. The oblique picture shown here has been a mystery. I’m assuming this is a Lunar Orbiter 2 picture because of the “II” in the negative frame, but I can’t locate the slide number. The numbers in the negative frame don’t match the photographic atlas.

So librarians, amateur astronomers, and sleuths, please help me figure out what part of the moon is pictured here! You can do it by trying to decode the slide numbers in the negative frame.Lunar Orbiter 2 picture

(My other fascinations like who may have owned this poster, whether or not it came from NASA, and whether it was directly used to help identify an Apollo landing site will have to go unanswered.)

The romance of the LO probes circling the moon before man ever walked on it inspired a brief haiku:

Virgin lunar soil
so close beneath the moon probe
a ripe plum unpicked.

. . . a homage to Wallace Stevens’ jar . . .

We placed a probe in outer space,
And bright it was, against the black.
It made the cold, chaotic vacuum
Surround its shell.

The solar wind licked at its bus,
And wrapped around, no longer slowed.
The probe was round with spider legs
And tall and of a single mind.

It took our questions everywhere.
The probe was lean and spare.
It did not yield to pull or push
Like nothing else in outer space.

Planets suspended
on the ecliptic like notes
on a music staff.



Jupiter’s lover,
Io, swings round at his waist
held close yet aloof.

Europa: her shell
alabaster and black grooves
may hide an ocean.



Cold Enceladus
a marble levitating
above icy rings.



Uranus will round
the sun once in my short life
glistening green jewel.



blue bands punctuated by
white tendril storm clouds.