All posts by Zand Space

DYNAMIC EARTH – Trailer for a New Fulldome Planetarium Show

DYNAMIC EARTH is a 24-minute ultra high resolution fulldome production, narrated by the actor Liam Neeson. It’s now playing at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC and full dome theaters around the world.

The show explores the inner workings of Earth’s climate system. With visualizations based on satellite monitoring data and advanced supercomputer simulations, this cutting-edge production follows a trail of energy that flows from the Sun into the interlocking systems that shape our climate: the atmosphere, oceans, and the biosphere. Audiences will ride along on swirling ocean and wind currents, dive into the heart of a monster hurricane, come face-to-face with sharks and gigantic whales, and fly into roiling volcanoes.

Dynamic Earth explores concepts and terms essential to understanding the climate:

· The relationship of Earth and the Sun. The Earth is close enough to the Sun to bask in its warmth, thanks to a series of natural defenses, including its magnetic field.

· Life and the carbon cycle. Earth’s climate control system depends on the ability of living organisms to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it long term.

· Plate tectonics and its role in the carbon cycle. Audiences will learn that CO2 emissions from human activities Continue reading DYNAMIC EARTH – Trailer for a New Fulldome Planetarium Show

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Tale of the Shepherd Planets

Until recently, the search for planets beyond our solar system was a matter of calculating the odds and laying out theories of solar system formation. Circumstantial evidence began to trickle in, a color shift in a stars light as a planet tugged on it, or a dipping in its light as a planet passed in front.

When would our technology allow us to see through the bright light of stars to see these alien worlds directly? Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope began examining a star visible in the southern hemisphere, just 25 light years away.

Called Fomalhaut, it’s much hotter than our sun and 15 times as bright. In fact, it’s one of the brightest stars in our night sky. What makes it so curious is the large ring of gas that surrounds it. The ring is slightly off center from the location of the sun. That suggests there’s a gravitational presence, a planet, that’s distorting its shape. With a coronagraph in place to block the star’s light, Hubble zeroed in on the ring. Right there in the data, it turns out, was a bump, perhaps a planet.

Hubble photographed this planet a second time, two years later when it Continue reading Tale of the Shepherd Planets

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Crashing into the Moon – Preview

A whole new space race has begun. Over the next decade, the United States, Japan, India, China, Russia, and even private companies, are planning to send spacecraft to explore the moon.

They will map the lunar surface, monitor the soil for moon quakes, study the flow of heat from the moon’s core, and prospect for water deep within.

What they are looking for goes beyond science. These missions are looking for resources that may oneday allow humans to settle permanently in space.

The moon race is now heating up, in the wake of discoveries made by a mission known as LCross. What did scientists see in the debris of a rocket, they sent crashing into the moon?

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How a Giant Telescope Works

From ESOcast, explore the state-of-the-art technology behind the Very Large telescope, which has provided astronomers with an unequalled view of the Universe. To obtain the sharpest images of the sky, the VLT has to cope with two major effects that distort the images of celestial objects. The first one is mirror deformations due to their large sizes. This problem is corrected using a computer-controlled support system — active optics — that ensures that the mirrors keep their desired shapes under all circumstances. The second effect is produced by Earth’s atmosphere, which makes stars appear blurry, even with the largest telescopes. Adaptive optics is a real-time correction of the distortions produced by the atmosphere using computer-controlled mirrors that deform hundreds of times per second to counteract the atmospheric effects.

As one demonstration of its power the VLT’s sensitive infrared cameras, helped by adaptive optics, have been able to peer through the massive dust clouds that block our view to Milky Way’s core. The images, taken over many years, have allowed astronomers to actually watch stars orbiting around the monstrous black hole that lies in the center of our galaxy. It was even possible to detect energetic flares from gas clouds falling into Continue reading How a Giant Telescope Works

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The Incredible Journey of Apollo 12

It’s the ultimate buddy movie, with two astronauts hitting the road and landing on the moon.

Earth. November 14, 1969. Three astronauts, with spacesuits, food, water, and a battery of scientific and communications equipment, prepared to fly to the moon. Thousands gathered at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, including President and Mrs. Richard Nixon, to witness the historic launch. It was raining that day, but that was no cause for delay. The ship that would carry them into space was designed to launch in any weather.

But how would it respond to a powerful electrical storm now gathering above the launch pad? That was just the beginning of the incredible journey of Apollo 12.

With three astronauts fastened into their seats, the countdown proceeded. Astronaut and Mission Commander Pete Conrad would say later: “The flight was extremely normal, for the first 36 seconds.” The five engines of the Saturn 5’s huge first stage were designed to burn through 5 million pounds of liquid oxygen in just two and a half minutes, and to send the spacecraft up 67 kilometers above the Atlantic Ocean.

When it reached an altitude of 2000 meters, something unexpected happened. Racing through the stormy Continue reading The Incredible Journey of Apollo 12

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Milky Way Versus Andromeda As Seen from Earth

From HubbleCast. Scientists have been using Hubble observations to predict the future of the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way, and how the collision will look from Earth. Projecting the motion of Andromeda’s stars over the next 8 billion years, the astronomers now know the path that galaxy is taking through space. And it’s heading straight for us! Computer simulations based on Hubble observations show how the two galaxies will crash together in around 4 billion years’ time.

The Andromeda Galaxy, some 2.2 million light-years away, is the closest spiral galaxy to our home, the Milky Way. For around a century, astronomers have known it is moving towards us, but whether or not the two galaxies would actually collide, or simply fly past each other, remained unclear. Now, a team of astronomers has used the Hubble Space Telescope to shed light on this question, by looking at the motion stars in the Andromeda Galaxy.

We wanted to figure out how Andromeda was moving through space. So in order to do that we measured the location of the Andromeda stars relative to the background galaxies. In 2002 they were in one place, and in 2010 they were in a slightly different place. And Continue reading Milky Way Versus Andromeda As Seen from Earth

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Ray Bradbury & Friends

Wind the clock back to 1971. On the eve of the Mariner 9 launch, Ray Bradbury took part in a panel discussion at Caltech with Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clark, Bruce Murray, and Walter Sullivan.

These clips were issued by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to commemorate Bradbury’s life. He recently passed away at the age of 91. Forgive the distorted audio… and enjoy his smart and extremely funny comments.

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Blue-Flame Plasma on the Face of the Sun

From NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. This video takes images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and applies additional processing to enhance the structures that are visible. The result is a beautiful, new way of looking at the sun. The original frames are in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet. This wavelength shows plasma in the solar atmosphere, called the corona, that is around 600,000 Kelvin. The loops represent plasma held in place by magnetic fields. They are concentrated in “active regions” where the magnetic fields are the strongest. These active regions usually appear in visible light as sunspots. The events in this video represent 24 hours of activity on September 25, 2011.

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Exo-Planet Hot Flareup

From HubbleCast. An international team of astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system. The scientists conclude the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet’s host star, an event observed by NASA’s Swift satellite.

The exoplanet is HD 189733b, a gas giant similar to Jupiter, but about 14 percent larger and more massive. The planet circles its star at a distance of only 3 million miles, or about 30 times closer than Earth’s distance from the Sun, and completes an orbit every 2.2 days. Its star, named HD 189733A, is about 80 percent the size and mass of our Sun. Astronomers classify the planet as a “hot Jupiter.” Previous Hubble observations show that the planet’s deep atmosphere reaches a temperature of about 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,030 degrees Celsius).

HD 189733b periodically passes across, or transits, its parent star, and these events give astronomers an opportunity to probe its atmosphere and environment. In a previous study, a group led by Lecavelier des Etangs used Hubble to show that hydrogen gas was escaping from the planet’s upper atmosphere. The finding Continue reading Exo-Planet Hot Flareup

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Finding Another Earth Within Reach

From EsoCast. Planet hunters unveil the tricks of the trade for finding planets around nearby stars and scanning them for signs of life.

Are we alone? It’s the biggest question ever. And the answer is almost within reach. With so many galaxies, and each with so many stars, how could the Earth be unique?

In 1995, Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz were the first to discover an exoplanet orbiting a normal star. Since then, planet hunters have found many hundreds of alien worlds. Large and small, hot and cold, and in a wide variety of orbits. Now, we’re on the brink of discovering Earth’s twin sisters. And in the future: a planet with life — the Holy Grail of astrobiologists.

Michel Mayor’s team found hundreds of them from Cerro La Silla, ESO’s first Chilean foothold. Here’s the CORALIE spectrograph, mounted on the Swiss Leonhard Euler Telescope. It measures the tiny wobbles of stars, caused by the gravity of orbiting planets.

ESO’s venerable 3.6-metre telescope is also hunting for exoplanets. The HARPS spectrograph is the most accurate in the world. So far, it has discovered more than 150 planets. Its biggest trophy: a rich system containing at least five and Continue reading Finding Another Earth Within Reach

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