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.
What if the moon was the same distance away as the ISS?
That’s the question asked, and answered, in this new simulation by YouTuber yetipc1. While we think of the International Space Station as being, well, way out there in space, it’s not that far. Only around 400 km up, actually. If the Earth was a basketball, then the ISS would only be about a centimeter off its surface.
On average, our moon resides 384,400 km away from Earth (I say “on average” because its orbit is an ellipse, rather than a circle). For our basketball-Earth, that puts the tennis ball-sized moon at the NBA three-point line. That’s hard to picture, so here’s a video from Veritasium to help. Even at that incredible distance, it sucks on our oceans with its gravity, daily pulling the tides in and out.
Think about that! Even at that incredible distance, the moon can warp the liquid on the surface of Earth! Which brings me to a major problem with this video … in order to see this, we’d all be dead, and Earth would be very messed up indeed.
When two large astronomical bodies get close enough together, the pull of gravity and tidal forces will eventually warp the less massive of the two until it disintegrates. This magical distance is described as the Roche limit (although it’s also dependent on what each body is made of). Mars’ moon Phobos will likely meet this fate within 10 million years, falling apart into a ring system around our neighbor.
In the ISS/moon video, this would have already happened. So it would look more like Ron Miller’s beautifully imagined Earth-ring system. I also recommend his series on what we’d see if we had other planets in place of our moon. In the process of our moon approaching Earth, the tidal forces would tear our crust into an apocalyptic volcanic wasteland. I imagine it would look like squeezing a planet-sized double-stuff Oreo filled with magma. If you weren’t dead, it might even look beautiful, maybe like the end of Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst, which you should watch.
Anyway, visit yetipc1’s YouTube page for a great explanation of why the light in the video looks like it does, which is some pretty nifty science. And maybe leave a comment about how that guy on the left in the beginning by the fence (you’ll see what I mean) would have been dead long ago :)
Oh and finally, finish this astronomically delicious meal with my video: How Big Is The Solar System?
Launching a New Era of Public/Private Spaceflight
The swan is aloft.
The Antares rocket launched safely this morning at approximately 11 AM EST from the NASA Wallops flight facility in Virginia, ferrying the Cygnus resupply vessel to the International Space Station.
This marks a historic launch for the Antares rocket, its first with a full payload. Antares and Cygnus were designed and constructed by a private space company, Orbital Sciences, which joins SpaceX and their Dragon capsule on the list of private firms now servicing the ISS.
Welcome to the new era of public/private spaceflight.
Washing Your Hair on the Space Station
Expedition 36 astronaut Karen Nyberg has a unique challenge in space that Chris Hadfield didn’t have to deal with.
She’s got long hair, and lots of it.
Here she explains how she washes her goldy locks in space. It’s not that different from how you might wash your hair on Earth, only with much less water and no elegant, tropical essence créme conditioner.
Even though they have water recycling systems on the ISS (yes, they drink recycled urine), water is a limited resource on the ISS. That means no “Rinse, Repeat”. As she explains, all those escaped globs of liquid will be sucked up and recycled, too.
The science they do in space is awesome, but the modified routines of daily life might be even cooler.
I would be remiss if I did not include the following image:
I see miles and miles of Texas …
Hey! That’s where I’m from!
ISS astronauts recently captured this night-time view of Texas’ largest cities from orbit. A cloud-covered Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is near the top, ever-expanding Houston to the lower right, San Antonio to the far left, and just to the northeast of that? The greatest city on Earth: Austin, TX!
Something else caught my eye in this photo. See that cluster of lights below San Antonio and Austin on the left side of the image? Those are natural gas wells, as part of the expanding Eagle Ford Shale project. You can almost overlay them on this map of approved wells. It’s like a metroplex of its own, only full of gas instead of people. Fracking remarkable.
I’ve seen a lot of spacey photos in my time. Enough so that I catch myself occasionally making a jaded sigh, saying “Oh neat, another shot of a spacecraft in front of the moon. Been there, done that."
Then I punch myself in the arm and tell myself to shut up because these are pictures of SPACE.
That’s what happened with Maximilian Teodorescu’s shot of the International Space Station against the face of the moon. At first I was minorly impressed, because it’s a very small thing traveling very fast, in front of a larger thing that is even farther away. But people take pictures of the ISS all the time. Big deal.
Then I realized that this one was taken during the day. At that point I lost my schnoodles. I’m betting a few of you will too.
(via Overthinking It)
Fast-Track to Orbit: Expedition 36/37
A Russian Soyuz capsule launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Glorious Kazakhstan this afternoon, carrying U.S. astronaut (and space veteran/mechanical engineer) Karen Nyberg along with cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and Italian astronauta Luca Parmitano to their rendezvous with the ISS. They will spend a mere six hours catching up with the space station before they dock later tonight, a new pedal-to-the-metal path to orbit recently adopted by ISS-bound craft. In addition to lots and lots of science, the crew of six that will be aboard the ISS will take part in the Winter Olympic torch relay later this year.
Godspeed, Expedition 36/37. Here’s to six of you being great of behalf of seven billion of us.
P.S. - Howmanypeopleareinspacerightnow.com is correctly showing “6”, in case you’re wondering.
Col. Chris Hadfield returns to Earth tomorrow after nearly five months in command of the International Space Station. Here are his touching personal reflections on the mission.
His stay on the ISS has captured the imagination and the curiosity of millions of people on Earth, thanks to this wonderfully interconnected world we call social media. Not only do we have the technology to send men to space for months at a time, but they can share that experience so richly with all of us.
I am truly grateful for his hard work, the hard work of people like his son Evan (who managed his dad’s Tumblr and much of his other social media) and the hard work of those who continue to support the mission. He went to space so we could ALL go to space.
Celebrate with the ten best videos from Commander Hadfield’s time aboard the ISS. I know what my favorite was (also in GIF form).