NEW VIDEO! As massive magnetic fusion reactors go, the sun is pretty awesome. This week’s video features all the violence and beauty that erupt from that big bright thing at the center of our solar system.
We’ve got sunspots, coronal loops, solar flares, coronal mass ejections! Even an aurora or two!
And thanks to the fine people of NASA and their fancy satellites, this one is dripping with #spaceporn. Watch below:
Scientists may have gotten closer to figuring out the source of Saturn’s polar aurora. Like our own aurorae, Saturn’s arise from charged particles hurled along the disturbed magnetic field lines around the planet, interacting with the gases in the planet’s atmosphere and giving off light via atomic excitation. New research, which you can read more about at io9, may have unlocked just how those magnetic fields are disrupted.
Whereas our own Northern and Southern Lights (aurora borealis and australis, respectively), shine green and red, here Saturn’s pulse brightly in the ultraviolet range.
Bonus: Want to know more about auroras? Then watch this video!
I was just staring at my desktop background (sometimes I tune out accidentally, often for minutes at a time. I try not to do this over my keyboard, on account of the drooling) and realized how much I love it.
My desktop is a whole-sky view of the Milky Way (plus a few galactic neighbors), 800 million pixels encompassing pretty much every star and planet we can see from Earth. It’s a nice reminder of just how much muchness there is out there to check out, lest I ever feel bored. You can check out the full zoomable version here.
Think that’s a lot of stars? Just wait and see what happens when you zoom in on just one percent of our galactic home.
Have a science-y desktop background? I’d love to see it! Share them with a reblog or tag them #sciencedesktops
Here’s my very first attempt at photographing the moon!
All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out. I took this shot last Thursday, March 28, just one day after the full moon. You can see the waning shadow beginning to creep in at the top. I got pretty lucky with the position of the moon, and the terminator (the line between light and dark) fell right across the moon’s Langrenus crater up there around the 12:30 position. Don’t worry, I didn’t know that off the back of my hand, I had to look it up. Langrenus is almost 3 km deep and about 130 km across, and with the sharp angle of the sunlight I was able to catch the back of the crater wall quite well. Of course, that was pure luck, since I was just shooting at a white dot in the sky.
A few photo nerd notes: Considering that I didn’t have a tripod with me (I shot this on top of a fencepost), this is only at 105 mm, and I had to turn the ISO way up, it turned out pretty nice. I need to get a lens that goes to 200 mm or beyond, bad. Inquire if you’d like to donate one :)
This shot from Cassini, of Saturn’s moon Mimas transiting the striped face of the gas giant, is just one of many breathtaking images collected for Michael Benson’s soon-to-be-gracing-space-nerd-coffee-tables-everywhere book, Planetfall: New Solar System Visions.
Time to update my Christmas list!
AstroAnarchy, the stellar art gallery run by astronomer J-P Metsavainio, just keeps sending my jaw straight down to the floor. If you missed his amazing experimental 3D animation previously, here’s what it’s all about:
Space photos are two-dimensional, but space is three-dimensional. How can we capture what it might be like to fly around a nebula, or a star cluster? Using simulations of the nebulas based on scientific data, depth is added to the shapes on your screen. A little flash of artistic flair ties up the loose ends. Check out the full animation gallery here.
The resulting GIFs are huge (like 7 MB), but always worth a look. Here’s the Pelican Nebula in the constellation Cygnus, as imagined in 3D: