Unlike the more narrow scope of the UK undergrad educational model, as a liberal arts student at a large American university, despite the fact that I majored in political science (yeah, it seems weird now to me too), I had to take two years of a foreign language (French), macroeconomics (loathed it), a cultural diversity course (African-American literature in society, which I also loathed), English lit courses, some other things I can't really remember, and two years of a 'hard' science. Because I did lots of chemistry in high school I opted for organic and biochemistry instead of classes like Geology 101, i.e. Rocks for Jocks or Astronomy 101, which annoyingly doesn't have a catchily insulting slogan, but is also known to be an easy A for idiots.
Though I was more than happy with the science courses I did take - I mean you don't get to pulverise beef heart and whiz it in a centrifuge to purify the protein in geology - when a friend introduced me to NASA's astronomy picture of the day site, I felt a little cheated. I mean yeah, we got to make acetylsalicylic acid in one of our first organic chemistry labs (I was so excited that I convinced the lab tutor to let me smuggle the test tube full of aspirin home), but we never got to look at anything as splendid as the gorgeous spiral galaxy NGC 3521.
A new picture is posted on the site every day, but I like to let it pile up for a few days, sometimes a few weeks and then binge on a load all at once. Not only are most of the images astonishingly beautiful, but they make me feel so excited, so alive, so completely in awe of how incredible our universe is. I don't know about you, but a regular dose of that kind of amazement makes me feel far more jazzy than the caffeine from my morning coffee.
These are my favourite images from 2010.
A Sun Halo beyond Stockholm, Credit & Copyright: Peter Rosén
NGC 7293 The Helix Nebula, Image Credit & Copyright: Ed Henry (Hay Creek Observatory)
Eclipsing the Sun, Image Credit & Copyright: Thierry Legault
Sunrise, Moonrise, Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Pölzl