A (mostly) real-time animated map of global ocean currents, from Cameron Beccario. Play with it here.
Also check out this great real-time map of America’s wind patterns.
This is what our planet would look like to visitors from another planet. Alternatively, this is also what the Death Star would have looked like shortly before it blasted Alderaan to pieces.
On October 9, 2013, NASA’s JUNO spacecraft swung by Earth, its home, for the last time, using our gravity as a slingshot to propel it toward its ultimate rendezvous with Jupiter in 2016.
Humming along at nearly four kilometers per second, it turned a special camera toward Earth, and captured the first-ever movie of the moon in orbit around its host planet - us.
Our moon stacks up as 27% smaller than Earth, takes up just 2% of our volume, and is only about 1% as massive, yet that’s still plenty to drag upon our oceans and deliver daily tides. In its elliptical orbit, the moon is, at any moment, an average of 384,000 kilometers from you. Juno, on the other hand, came within 600 kilometers of Earth during its recent visit, less than twice the altitude of the International Space Station.
We are the most creative, the most inventive, the most curious of the multitudes of small creatures that inhabit this planet, and in all the living history that has or ever will take place on this hazy blue marble, none save us have ever or will ever see sights such as these. There’s your significance.
Enjoy this video of the historic fly-by, with some special new music from Vangelis (yes, that Vangelis):
What if all the ice melted?
The ocean holds most of Earth’s water. After that, it’s ice. 5.7 million cubic miles of the stuff.
What if, thanks to natural and man-made climate change, it all melted? What if, by burning enough deep-Earth carbon (dead dinosaurs, prehistoric plants, or as we call it… fossil fuels) we raised Earth’s average temperature to around 80˚ F? What if that new normal caused the ocean’s now-warmer water to expand, rising even further?
Thanks to National Geographic we know: This is is what 216 feet (66 meters) of sea level change looks like.
The World Outside My Window
I have seen my fair share of orbital time-lapses, and this one, by David Peterson, had me frozen still in my seat, gazing at my screen in a state of happy contentment that can only be dutifully accompanied by a smile and maybe a goosebump or three.
What gets me about this one is how deep and textured some of the clouds look. So often, images of Earth from space make it look flat, like the painted blue marble it is so often compared to.
The International Space Station is currently zipping around at 7.7 kilometers per second above Earth, pretty fast considering it’s only 15 years old, and still a year away from getting a driver’s license.
NASA, JPL and the Cassini imaging team debuted a new view of Earth today.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s not Earth, that’s Saturn. Look closer.
Earlier this year, as Cassini happened to pass behind Saturn, eclipsing the sun, its camera was turned toward home. A new silhouette of the ringed planet was captured (you NEED to view it larger here), and just wow, man.
Amid dozens of background stars, four planets and a few million pixels worth of wonder, my favorite part is the hazy outer ring of water vapor, spewed out from the leaky moon Enceladus and its geysers.
Earth appears in the lower right, clear and blue, joined by our moon in this enlarged image:
There’s your new selfie.
Science truly begets beauty.
The solar eclipse of November 3, 2013, as seen from space.
Meteosat 10 captured the moon’s shadow as it traversed the eastern Atlantic and western Africa (hi-res version). You can see two distinct portions of the eclipse shadow. The dark area in the center is the umbra, where the sun is completely obscured by the passing moon. The intermediate shadow is the penumbra, where the sun is only partially eclipsed, a smoky gradient of fading light reaching out from the umbra. See Wikipedia for more umbrology, and check out Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy for more eclipse images.
Juno’s Earth Protrait
NASA’s Juno probe captured this stunning composite portrait of Earth (false-colored here) during its Oct. 9 fly-by, slingshotting past its home planet to gain speed for its journey to Jupiter.
We’re seeing part of South America and a thick blanket of clouds over the south Atlantic. As it passed, NASA made a final check of crucial instruments before watching Juno leave the nest for good. Amateur radio operators even sent Morse code messages to the probe saying “Hi Juno”, and NASA hopes to share that with us soon.
For more on Juno’s mission, check out NASA’s mission page, and this fine graphic from Chris Inton:
Climate Change: There’s No Denying It’s Us
People in politics have this habit of releasing bad, uncomfortable, or otherwise challenging news on Fridays. They do this to either ruin your weekend, or in hopes that you aren’t paying attention.
That is why I didn’t post until today about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment (a long way of saying “The latest big climate report from the UN”) … because you need to really pay attention to this.
This new report is the work of hundreds of climate scientists from dozens of countries, and if you’ve ever tried to, say, order pizza for more than four people, you realize that if anything these alarming findings are on the conservative side, compromised down to just a few boring toppings. The future reality could be much worse.
The take-aways from the IPCC report are pretty simple. The climate is warming in a big way (are there really people who still deny this? I’m not sure), scientists are even more certain that humans are to blame, and it’s getting worse faster than we predicted.
I know what you’re thinking: Joe, I’m on your side, I get it, this is really bad … so what can I do when people get all climate denial-y up in my face?
Well in a world full of well-funded anti-science machinery and loads of people looking the other way because it’s uncomfortable, you have to take on an important job: Be a climate crusader in your world. Be a hero, not a Nero. Next time that one uncle sends you a BS chain email, next time a friend at school says “Yeah, but [insert economics mumbo jumbo they regurgitated from a textbook they don’t understand]”, or the next time you step up to the ballot box to decide if people like James Inhofe get to stay in office …here’s your ammo from the new climate report:
A warming climate is an unequivocal fact. The most highly trained climate scientists in the world say there is at least a 95% chance that we are to blame. Name me one thing, just one other thing (plumbing, car repair, defusing a nuclear weapon) ,that if 95% of experts said they were sure, you’d respond with “Nah, I don’t think so, but thanks anyway Person Who Knows A Lot More About This Than I Do.”
The bad stuff has already started. It’s time to change our ways and adapt to the future we’ve created before it gets any worse. Because like Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC says:
"We have five minutes before midnight."
(Artwork by J. Cayne/DeviantArt)
From more than 40 countries and 30 U.S. states, people around the world shared more than 1,400 images of themselves as part of the Wave at Saturn event organized by NASA’s Cassini mission. That event on July 19, 2013, marked the day the Cassini spacecraft turned back toward Earth to take our picture as part of a larger mosaic of the Saturn system. The images came via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Google+ and email. The mission has assembled this collage from the shared images, using an image of Earth as the base image.
People around the world shared more than 1,400 images of themselves as part of the Wave at Saturn event organized by NASA’s Cassini mission on July 19 — the day the Cassini spacecraft turned back toward Earth to take our picture. The mission has assembled a collage from those images. The collage is online here.
"Thanks to all of you, near and far, old and young, who joined the Cassini mission in marking the first time inhabitants of Earth had advance notice that our picture was being taken from interplanetary distances," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "While Earth is too small in the images Cassini obtained to distinguish any individual human beings, the mission has put together this collage so that we can celebrate all your waving hands, uplifted paws, smiling faces and artwork."
The images came from 40 countries and 30 U.S. states via Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Google+ and email.
From its perch in the Saturn system, Cassini took a picture of Earth as part of a larger set of images it was collecting of the Saturn system. Scientists are busy putting together the color mosaic of the Saturn system, which they expect will take at least several more weeks to complete. The scientists who study Saturn’s rings are poring over visible-light and infrared data obtained during that campaign.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
This collage almost crosses the “too cheesy” line, but not quite.
It is truly awesome to remember that, over a billion kilometers from Earth, there resides something built by humans, something so technologically advanced, so scientifically successful, so inspiring, that we were able to turn it around and take a selfie.
There’s some symbolism in there, and I like it. I think.
Of course, you probably don’t want to hear the part about the astronomically small chance that Cassini’s camera actually registered a photon from your waving hand, right? Because, well, this guy calculated the odds.
Image description: This is an animation of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights), eight days after a record-setting solar flare sent a shower of charged particles towards Earth. From Earth, this glowing ring would appear as a curtain of light shimmering across the night sky.
Image captured by NASA IMAGE satellite courtesy of NASA Space Place.
Can you get GIFs as tattoos? If not, then can someone get on that?
Want to know how auroras work? I made a video about that.
They’re where the sun kisses our magnetic field, two things that keep us alive, meeting each other in the emptiness of space, and giving us our own private light show.
I'm Joe Hanson, Ph.D. biologist and host/writer of PBS Digital Studios' It's Okay To Be Smart.
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