Category Archives: News

Ghost Lights from Earth Orbit

A “Ghost Light” is an unexplained luminescent phenomena. That’s how aliens might see Earth if they arrived with no awareness of its civilizations, atmosphere and climate, and magnetic field. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are all too familiar with the city lights, the thunderstorms, and the aurorae that turn Earth into a planet of soft glows and flickering beams. This video has been made up of timelapse sequences captured aboard the ISS. Enjoy in 1080p!

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Tour of the Moon

A beautiful 1080p tour of our moon. It’s so clear and beautiful you’ll want to go there yourself. This virtual tour is based on data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Enjoy this “new” Moon and its noteworthy destinations.

Ancient peoples looked at the moon and saw in its patterns of shadow and light the figures of deities or animals.

The Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei, trained his telescope on our celestial companion and saw mountains and valleys much like those on Earth.

Scientists today, operating a fleet of spacecraft, are seeing evidence of past events that shaped the lunar landscape, and traces of water and minerals that may one day support a human presence.

Here’s the Mare Orientale, an impact crater nearly 4 billion years old. The color, coded for elevation, highlights a bulls-eye pattern of concentric rings.

Now, let’s go down under to the South Pole.

The pole sits within the wide rim of the famed Shackleton Crater. Direct sunlight never reaches the crater floor.

The Lunar Prospector spacecraft detected higher than normal amounts of hydrogen within the crater, which may indicate the presence of water ice.

From here, we travel to the far side of the moon. The South Pole-Aitken Basin is one Continue reading Tour of the Moon

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EARTH Masterpieces of Stone and Ice

Revel in Earth as Art. Make sure you watch in glorious 1080p. Landsat missions were launched for scientific purposes, but they make up one of the most awe-inspiring collections of beautiful images of our home planet.

For the last few centuries, artists have been exploring Earth’s untamed and awe-inspiring vistas, often as an antidote to life in the modern world. They evoked the grandeur of the Hudson River, the peace of Scandinavian fiords, or the omnipotent power of the ocean. This romantic ideal today has gained a new vantage point, from space, and a new set of brushes for capturing the beauty of our planet.

Landsat images feature colors tuned to record geological or even human forces at work. More than that, though, this great gallery of Earth explores its timeless beauty, its uncertain path forward.

So take this tour of Earth’s great landforms as seen from space. We travel to Africa and the Sahara and Namib deserts, to Argentina and Bolivia, the American heartland, and the great Canadian land and ice forms. Then it’s on to Greenland, Iceland, Russia, India, China, and finally the continent down under.

We wrap our journey in a small corner of the vast Great Sandy Desert. The satellite Continue reading EARTH Masterpieces of Stone and Ice

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Birth of the Moon

Scientists have been reconstructing the history of the moon by scouring its surface, mapping its mountains and craters, and probing its interior. What are they learning about our own planet’s beginnings?

Decades ago, we sent astronauts to the moon as a symbol of confidence in the face of the great cold war struggle. Landing on the moon was a giant leap for mankind. But it’s what the astronauts picked up from the lunar surface that may turn out to be Apollo’s greatest legacy.

When the astronauts of Apollo stepped out of their landing craft, they entered a world draped in fine sticky dust, strewn with rocks, and pocked with craters. They walked and rambled about, picking up rocks that they packed for the return flight.

Back in earth-bound labs, scientists went to work probing the rocks for clues to one of the most vexing questions in all of science. Where did the moon come from? The answer promised to shed light on an even grander question. Where did Earth come from? And how did it evolve into the planet we know today?

The nature of the moon began to come into focus four centuries ago. Galileo Galilei had heard Continue reading Birth of the Moon

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Birth of the Moon – PREVIEW

Coming soon to “Cosmic Journeys.” Earth, over its 4.5 billion year history, has been pummeled by asteroids, eroded by wind and rain, covered over with flowing lava, wrinkled and gouged by shifts in its crust.

Most traces of its distant past have long since been destroyed. But there is a place where clues to the early history of our planet are still largely intact.

The moon…

Scientists have been reconstructing its history by scouring its surface, mapping its mountains and craters, and probing its interior regions.

What are they learning about our own planet’s beginnings, by going back in time, to the mysterious “Birth of the Moon.”

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Mars Opportunity Discoveries at Eight Years

The Mars rover Opportunity was supposed to last three months. It’s now going on Nine Years. It’s proved so durable that in 2011 it was essentially sent on a whole new mission.

Opportunity reached a multi-year driving destination, Endeavour Crater, in August 2011. At Endeavour’s rim, it has gained access to geological deposits from an earlier period of Martian history than anything it examined during its first seven years. It also has begun an investigation of the planet’s deep interior that takes advantage of staying in one place for the Martian winter.

Opportunity landed in Eagle Crater on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time and EST (Jan. 24, PST), three weeks after its rover twin, Spirit, landed halfway around the planet. In backyard-size Eagle Crater, Opportunity found evidence of an ancient wet environment. The mission met all its goals within the originally planned span of three months. During most of the next four years, it explored successively larger and deeper craters, adding evidence about wet and dry periods from the same era as the Eagle Crater deposits.

In mid-2008, researchers drove Opportunity out of Victoria Crater, half a mile (800 meters) in diameter, and set course for Endeavour Crater, 14 miles (22 Continue reading Mars Opportunity Discoveries at Eight Years

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The Spectacle of Star Death

Take a breathtaking journey into the future, five billion years from now, to see the ultimate fate of the Solar System. This gem from HubbleCast showcases stunning Hubble imagery of the death throes of Sun-like stars. The wreckage of these dying stars form the building blocks of new generations of stars.

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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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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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Hubble’s Greatest Snaps

Here’s Hubble’s best year by year from HubbleCast:

1990: Saturn
Among the first images to be sent back from Hubble after its launch in April 1990, this image of Saturn is good by the standards of ground-based telescopes.

1991: Orion Nebula
Although not perfectly sharp, this early image of the Orion Nebula nevertheless shows the rich colours and structures of this bright star-forming region.

1992: Herbig-Haro 2
Throughout the region of the Orion Nebula are numerous streamers of gas that come from newborn stars, known to astronomers as Herbig-Haro Objects.

1993: Messier 100
In late 1993, Hubble’s teething problems were resolved in the first servicing mission. Before-and-after images of the core of spiral galaxy Messier 100 show how this dramatically improved the telescope’s image quality.

1994: Shoemaker-Levy 9 hits Jupiter
Soon after the astronauts repaired Hubble during the first servicing mission, comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter.

1995: Eagle Nebula
Hubble’s image of the ‘pillars of creation’ in the Eagle Nebula is one of its most famous. These huge, dusty structures enshroud pockets of ongoing star formation.

1996: NGC 6826
This image from 1996 shows a planetary nebula, which represents the other extremity of a star’s life from the Eagle Nebula. Planetary nebulae form when Sun-like stars puff out their outer layers Continue reading Hubble’s Greatest Snaps

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