A Comet Grazing the Sun

Fascinating news from NASA’s efforts to understand and track the dynamics of our sun. On December 15, 2011, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this footage of Come Lovejoy approaching the sun. An hour later, it watched as Lovejoy came around the far side of the sun and began its long trip back to the outer reaches of the solar system.

Other NASA spacecraft, such as SOHO and STEREO, also saw Lovejoy’s close encounter. Lovejoy marked one of the few times that orbiting telescopes have been able to watch a so-called “sun grazing” comet survive its trip around the sun. Most are not so lucky. Besides being interesting to watch, the images and data collected by NASA’s solar observing fleet can also help scientists learn more about the sun itself. One of the biggest features that comets help reveal is the sun’s magnetic field.

Since magnetic fields are invisible, we can only observe them indirectly, like using iron filings over a bar magnet. On the sun, astronomers can look at where hot plasma in the sun’s atmosphere is trapped by fields to see their complicated loop structure. But farther away from the sun, where the plasma is less dense, this approach Continue reading A Comet Grazing the Sun

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The Mysterious Shape of a Dead Star

From Hubblecast, consider NGC 5189, the remnants of a dead sun-like star in our galaxy. This planetary nebula has a chaotic shape, like a ribbon in space. How it got that way is a long running mystery that the Hubble Space Telescope recently unraveled.

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Earth Morphing Before Our Eyes

The world is changing before our eyes. See Earth in transition, as viewed from space, with images courtesy of the Landsat mission and NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. Feel free to cry over what’s lost as well as what’s gained. These images provide a powerful snapshot of a planet that’s rapidly being shaped by both natural and human events. Haunting music by DigitalR3public.

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From Space: The Fastest Growing U.S. Cities

Data in this video comes from Global Insight’s report to the United States Conference of Mayors and The Council on Metro Economies and the New American City. According to the report, economic growth in US metropolitan areas in the coming decades will test their infrastructures. Employment and population are two major drivers for congestion-related costs.

Over the next decade, the 15 metros with the largest increases in employment will be adding at least a quarter of a million jobs each. The strain on current transportation infrastructure cannot be understated as 12 of these 15 metros already rank among the 15 highest in congestion per commuter.

In addition to employment growth, which will put further strain on rush hour commutes, general population gains will also contribute to congestion. Population growth will be highest in the South, including Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Miami – four of the top five largest population gainers through 2020.

Over the longer-term, the picture is not any better. Total metro area population will grow by 32% from 2012-2042 and will be especially fast in some of the nation’s largest metros. Population will advance by over 50% in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Tampa, Denver, San Antonio, and by over 80% in Phoenix, Continue reading From Space: The Fastest Growing U.S. Cities

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The Quantum Guide – Pulsars

Unknown to the general populace, young men and women from around the globe are being raised in a secret, underground facility. Using a library of alien knowledge that was uncovered early in the 21st century—code name: The Quantum Guide—these future astronauts prepare for the day when they will set out to colonize the galaxy. They must learn to decode the myriad of enigmas that exist in the great beyond if there is to be any hope of the human race becoming an interstellar power.

Jarl Quarkson is one such student. His first lesson starts now.

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Venus: Death of a Planet

Watch this updated full res 1080p version of our classic show. Why did Earth thrive and our sister planet, Venus, died? From the fires of a sun’s birth… twin planets emerged. Then their paths diverged. Nature draped one world in the greens and blues of life. While enveloping the other in acid clouds… high heat… and volcanic flows. Why did Venus take such a disastrous turn?

For as long as we have gazed upon the stars, they have offered few signs… that somewhere out there… are worlds as rich and diverse as our own. Recently, though, astronomers have found ways to see into the bright lights of nearby stars.

They’ve been discovering planets at a rapid clip… using observatories like NASA’s Kepler space telescope… A French observatory known as Corot … .And an array of ground-based instruments. The count is approaching 500… and rising. These alien worlds run the gamut… from great gas giants many times the size of our Jupiter… to rocky, charred remnants that burned when their parent star exploded.

Some have wild elliptical orbits… swinging far out into space… then diving into scorching stellar winds. Still others orbit so close to their parent stars that their Continue reading Venus: Death of a Planet

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Doctor Plasma Explains the Universe (Parody)

This is a parody of some over-the-top narrators we know. However, it touches on the subject of more straightforward 25-minute show we’re editing on plasma rockets and the future of spaceflight. In case you’re interested, here’s the introductory section of the script:

The ancients saw them as messages from the Gods… mysterious supernatural winds blowing from the realm of spirits. Modern science linked these polar light shows, auroras, to fierce, and lethal outbursts from the sun as they slammed into Earth’s atmosphere.

Today, researchers from a whole new generation believe they may one day tap into this cosmic energy source… to fuel humanity’s expansion into space. Can this mysterious and explosive form of matter provide the fuel to finally vault us out beyond our home planet?

Since the dawn of rocketry, we’ve relied on the same basic technology to get us off the ground. Fill a cylinder with volatile chemicals… then ignite them in a controlled explosion.

The force of the blast is what pushes the rocket up. Nowadays, chemical rockets are the only vehicles with enough thrust to overcome Earth’s gravity and carry a payload into orbit. But they are not very efficient. The heavier the payload, the more fuel you need Continue reading Doctor Plasma Explains the Universe (Parody)

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Night of Meteors

From EsoCast. Look closely and see a meteor shower captured in this series of timelapse shots. On 14–16 December 2012, the Geminid meteor shower made a spectacular appearance over ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. As the meteors showered down over the site, photographer Gianluca Lombardi spent over 40 hours recording it.

The Geminids is a shower of shooting stars appearing to emanate from within the constellation of Gemini (The Twins). This shower occurs when the Earth cuts through the orbit of an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon, which happens once each year, in December. Particles in the trail of dust along the orbit of Phaethon burn up in our atmosphere, creating the brilliant, fast-moving points of light characteristic of meteor showers.

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The Quantum Guide – Search for the Higgs Particle

Deep underground, the training of the Earth’s new generation of space colonists continues. Jarl Quarkson has mastered his study of some of the workings of space; of pulsars, gamma rays, and the Earth’s capabilities to capture data using FERMI. But while he is comfortable with that knowledge, his instructor, Cerin Higami, has approached him with a new assignment—one that will reshape Jarl’s view of the very fabric of the cosmos.

To understand where we want to go, Jarl must first understand where we came from, starting with the quest to understand the beginnings of the universe.

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Space is exciting