Posts Tagged ‘NASA


NASA Image

Nough said.


space launch — a video to bring tears to your eyes

First, watch the video (you can skip the first minute and thirty seconds), keeping in mind that this is actual footage of a space launch. The Nova blog called this “NASA’s accidental video art.”

The film below is a space shuttle launch from the perspective of a solid rocket booster, one of the giant white rockets attached to the belly of the shuttle during its ascent. Thanks to a tiny camera and contact microphone attached its frame, you can ride along with it as it sends the shuttle into orbit, then free falls back to earth.

At first I had no words. This is incredible. I just watched this video, with sound — I think the sound is important. It emphasizes the utter contrast from one event to the next…

Rarely does my mind get truly blown anymore. But, my goodness. The thought kept coming back to me — this is real footage! Not some fictional movie of alien contact or human heroism. But an actual camera attached to a rocket that went into the yawning nothingness of space, then came back to land softly in the ocean.

Thank you ever so much to Tommy G for bringing this to my attention.


NASA Image. Stunningly beautiful and damn cool.

'Island Universe' in the Coma Cluster

A long-exposure Hubble Space Telescope image shows a majestic face-on spiral galaxy located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, which lies 320 million light- years away in the northern constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxy, known as NGC 4911, contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its center. These are silhouetted against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. Hubble has also captured the outer spiral arms of NGC 4911, along with thousands of other galaxies of varying sizes. The high resolution of Hubble’s cameras, paired with considerably long exposures, made it possible to observe these faint details.

This natural-color Hubble image, which combines data obtained in 2006, 2007, and 2009 from the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys, required 28 hours of exposure time.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


From my windowless office: Perseid Metor Shower this week!

"Reflection nebula NGC 1333, located in constellation Perseus -- the radiant for the annual Perseid meteor shower." (Credit: NASA/Spitzer)

My fellow windowless-office sharer, Sam Z., just informed me that this very week is the peak of the Perseid meteor shower! Not like I’ll see it in DC, but where there’s a vehicle, there’s a way.

So, I dare you, grab some sort of transporting device and get your butt outside the city in the middle of the night (or very early morning) on Wednesday or Thursday.

More on the Perseid meteor shower here.

The best time to watch for meteors will be from the late-night hours of Wednesday, Aug, 11 on through the predawn hours of Aug. 13 – two full nights and early mornings. Patient skywatchers with good conditions could see up to 60 shooting stars an hour or more.

Also, check out this site for other 2010 meteor showers and viewing tips (also has a pretty good and brief answer to the question “what is a meteor shower?”).

For a cool little “NASA chat” about the Perseid meteor shower this year, click on the NASA image to the right.

Side note to show you how cool I am: late last year, my friends Erin and Jeff, and I went way outside the city at 2am on a Monday night to lay in the middle of a cornfield and watch the Leonids meteor shower. Remains one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. (Did you know that if a meteor is big enough you can actually hear it? It’s amazing!)


Goodness, gracious. Great ball of fire.

Update: In this Wikipedia article, there is a great chronicle of the recent solar events.

This incredible NASA image came juuuust too late for my prior post about the current uptick of solar activity. Dag-namit.

On August 1, 2010, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. This image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory of the news-making solar event on August 1 shows the C3-class solar flare (white area on upper left), a solar tsunami (wave-like structure, upper right), multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more.

This multi-wavelength extreme ultraviolet snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sun’s northern hemisphere in mid-eruption. Different colors in the image represent different gas temperatures. Earth’s magnetic field is still reverberating from the solar flare impact on August 3, 2010, which sparked aurorae as far south as Wisconsin and Iowa in the United States. Analysts believe a second solar flare is following behind the first flare and could re-energize the fading geomagnetic storm and spark a new round of Northern Lights.

Image credit: NASA/SDO/AIA


“Explain this to me.” Solar shenanigans edition.

Today I got an email from ma girl Amanda* asking about the “Sun burp” over Norway. Well, cool. This is actually something I know something about.

Image Credit to NASA SOHO

Here’s what’s going on. Solar flares are charged particles shot out of the Sun.  Generally these particles are confined to the Sun itself (although much of the corona of the Sun is mini-ish-solar flares) — you can think of them flowing around the surface of the Sun along its magnetic field lines (I think of the magnetic field lines like rubber bands wrapping and twisting around the Sun — there are problems with this, of course, but it works alright for this purpose). Solar flares, at least little ones, happen quite often, but scientist have found that about every eleven years there is an increase of solar activity (apparently we’ve been in quite a lull for a while, but things might be heatin’ up!).

Although this isn’t well understood, scientists are pretty sure that it has something to do with magnetic fields (due to the correspondence of sunspots and solar flares). There’s one theory that goes like this: the Sun’s magnetic field lines get so twisted and twirled that they reach the peak of what they can handle about every eleven years — then they go ‘snap!’ and, like a when you pull a rubber band and it breaks, the loose ends lash out. And, well, charged particles curl around and flow down magnetic field lines, so if a magnetic field line is extending out of the Sun, then charged particles will flow along and out of the Sun. I’m explaining this in a slow-motion type way, however this happens pretty fast (although, granted, the timescale is minutes or tens of minutes — not, you know, femtoseconds). In fact, this is downright violent:

The amount of energy released is the equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time!

(from NASA’s solar people.) The magnetic field lines quickly right themselves along the Sun.

But what we get from this process is a solar flare (sometimes huge, every now and then directed at us). When charged particles come at us, the Earth, we’re thankfully protected by magnetic field shield of our own (due to the Earth’s rotating metal core). These charged particles hit the Earth’s magnetic field and are filtered along them to the magnetic North pole and South pole. Once there, those particles filter down and interact with the atmosphere to create beautiful aurorae (Borealis for the north and Australis for the south).

The stronger the solar flare, the more the charged particles, the brighter the aurorae and therefore the further towards the equator these aurorae can be seen. It’s being predicted that for the particular solar storm we’re currently experiencing — who knows?! — we may even be able to see then down in DC! (Honestly, if we could see it down here, it wouldn’t be very clear. Although you could try staring really hard. See what happens. I dare you.)

I think this really cool.

Note: a similar physical process is happening within particle accelerators! That’s why they got those superconducting magnets in ’em — to create the magnetic fields that guide the charge particles.

More info and some articles:

(1) NASA’s RHESSI website. The place to go for solar flare information.

(1b) NASA SOHO website. Where you can find some incredibly cool images and videos.

(2) “NASA Scientists Braced for ‘Solar Tsunami’ to Hit Earth.” Telegraph article from 8/2/2010 about our imminent destruction (and the motivation for this post). Also, pretty skies…mmmmsensationalism. Tasty.

(2b) Another Telegraph article from earlier today on the beautiful auroras created by this solar storm.

(3) More about the eleven year solar activity cycle here.

(4) I really like this website from Montana State University about solar magnetic fields, and the like.

*Amanda T. you rock, as always.

"The MythBusters need to tackle whether a black hole from the LHC could REALLY destroy the world."

"The MythBusters need to tackle whether a black hole from the LHC could REALLY destroy the world."


NASA image of the day

This is the most beautiful image I’ve seen in a long time.

The Orion Nebula: "Dreamy, Young Stars"

The Orion Nebula is a ‘happening’ place where stars are born and this colony of hot, young stars is stirring up the cosmic scene in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The young stars dip and peak in brightness; shifting cold and hot spots on the stars’ surfaces cause brightness levels to change. In addition, surrounding disks of lumpy planet-forming material can obstruct starlight. Spitzer is keeping tabs on the young stars, providing data on their changing ways. The hottest stars in the region are the Trapezium cluster.

This image was taken after Spitzer’s liquid coolant ran dry in May 2009, marking the beginning of its “warm” mission.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


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