Everything in space is moving. Galaxies collide and merge, massive clouds of gas migrate, and asteroids, comets, and rogue planets zip around and between it all. And in our own Solar System, the planets follow their ancient orbits.
Now a new data visualization shows us just how much our view from Earth changes in two years, as the orbits of the planets change the distance between us and our neighbours.
If you’re a fan of science fiction, chances are you encountered a few franchises where humanity has spread throughout the known Universe. The ships that allow them to do this, maybe they use a warp drive, maybe they “fold space,” maybe have a faster-than-light (FTL) or “jump” drive. It’s a cool idea, the thought of “going interstellar!” Unfortunately, the immutable laws of physics tell us that this is simply not possible.
However, the physics that govern our Universe do allow for travel that is close to the speed of light, even though getting to that speed would require a tremendous amount of energy. Those same laws, however, also tell us that near-light-speed travel comes with all sorts of challenges. Luckily for all of us, NASA addresses these in a recently-released animed video that covers all the basics of interstellar travel!
As many of you are no doubt aware, our noble publisher, Fraser Cain, occasionally has the opportunity to sit down with some fellow great minds and discussion/debate issues that are relevant to space, exploration, and astronomy today. Most recently, this included an extended debate with noted author, futurists and Youtube sensation John Michael Godier.
The subject of this debate was the unresolved mystery that keeps more than a few astrophysicists awake at night. This is none other than the Fermi Paradox, the question that asks “Where are they?”
In 2014, British entrepreneur Charles Black founded the company Sen (an acronym for Space Exploration Network) with the vision of “democratizing space”. Behind this vision was Black’s desire to create the world’s first 4K video streaming platform that could send video from space to billions of people worldwide. The purpose of this is to educate the public on our ever-changing world and our growing presence in space.
The key to this ambitious goal is the creation of a constellation of small satellites that will provide real-time video from Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The company recently took a major step towards making that happen by using their recently-deployed satellite to gather footage of Earth and space from orbit. This effectively demonstrated the capabilities of their platform and may represent a new step in NewSpace.
Always on the lookout for interesting events in the skies, astrophotographer Thierry Legault has captured an incredible video of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule traveling through space just 20 minutes after it launched from Kennedy Space Center on June 3, 2017.
“You can see the Dragon, the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, and solar panel covers,” Legault told Universe Today via email, “plus a nice surprise I discovered during processing: several fast ejections of material, certainly thrusters firing!”
Legault captured at least 6 ejections of material during the passage over his location in Tours, France. The three brightest are highlighted at the end of this video. He used a Sony Alpha 7S with a 200mm lens.
So, what you’re seeing is the Dragon traveling through the background of stars. Legault hand-tracked the Dragon, so even though it appears as stationary (with a few bumps here and there) and objects are zooming past, the capsule is in fact moving at close to 17,500 mph (28,000 km/h). This was taken a just few minutes after the capsule separated from the Falcon nine upper stage and jettisoned the covers on the solar panels, so all the individual bright ‘dots’ seen here were still near each other, moving together in Earth orbit.
This Dragon is now docked at the International Space Station, as the launch was the CRS-11 (11 of 12 planned Commercial Resupply Services for SpaceX.) This was the first time that a Dragon spacecraft was reused, and it brought supplies and science experiments to the ISS. As SpaceX has now done several times, the first stage booster landed back at KSC. This was also the 100th launch from historic pad 39A. Read more about the launch and mission here.
This isn’t the first time Legault has captured the Dragon in flight; he also shot footage of Dragon on its way to the ISS in April of 2014. Recently, he also was able to take multiple images of the ISS passing in front of the Moon:
Thanks to Thierry for sharing his footage and images with Universe Today. Keep track of his amazing work at his website.
An Eta Aquarid meteor captured on video by astrophotographer Justin Ng shows an amazing explodingred meteor and what is known as a persistent train — what remains of a meteor fireball in the upper atmosphere as winds twist and swirl the expanding debris.
The meteor pierced through the clouds and the vaporized “remains” of the fireball persisted for over 10 minutes, Justin said. It lasts just a few seconds in the time-lapse.
Here’s the video:
Justin took this footage during an astrophotography tour to Mount Bromo in Indonesia, where he saw several Eta Aquarid meteors. The red, explody meteor occurred at around 4:16 am,local time. The Small Magellanic Cloud is also visible just above the horizon on the left.
Eta Aquarid meteor piercing through cloud and left behind a red smoke trail that lasted for over 10mins. Taken in Mt. Bromo 8hrs ago. pic.twitter.com/WtFl9TGRbj
Persistent trains occur when a meteoroid blasts through the air, ionizes gases in our atmosphere. Until recently, these have been difficult to study because they are rather elusive. But lately, with the widespread availability of ultra-fast lenses and highly sensitive cameras, capturing these trains is becoming more common, much to the delight of astrophotography fans!
Mount Bromo, 2,329 meters (7600 ft.) high is an active volcano in East Java, Indonesia.
It sounds like a space nerd’s dream come true: riding in a Tesla with former astronaut Chris Hadfield, doing a science version of Carpool Karaoke. And to top it off, you’re driving through the Solar System.
A new film out called “Miniverse” via CuriosityStream takes you on a ride through a scaled-down version of our Solar System. It’s similar to other scaled solar system models — which make the huge distances in our cosmic neighborhood a little less abstract — like the Voyage Scale Model Solar System in Washington, DC, the Sagan Planet Walk in Ithaca, New York or the Delmar Loop Planet Walk in St. Louis, Missouri.
But this is bigger. In the Miniverse, various points across the continental United States indicate scaled distances between the planets.
Here’s the trailer:
The first leg of the trip takes viewers on a journey from the Sun all the way to Mars. In the scaled down solar system, that’s only the distance from Long Island to the other side of New York City. In the sky, Mars appears over the Freedom Tower in New York, and Jupiter towers above the Lincoln Memorial.
Then later, as distances between planets stretch out, the gas giants and ice giants spread across the mid-section of the US. Even our friend Pluto appears over the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast of California.
Your traveling companions are pretty awesome.
Behind the wheel for the entire adventure is the funny and engaging Chris Hadfield. He’s joined by a distinguished band of interstellar hitchhikers: famed theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, as well as Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and Dr. Laura Danly, Curator of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Along the way, Hadfield poses questions to his guests about the various bodies in our solar system.
“The big takeaway is just how vast the distances are in the solar system,” Danly told Universe Today via email. “Every time we look at a drawing of our solar system it reinforces the wrong image in our minds. In reality, the planets are small and the distances are vast. Anyone who has driven cross-country knows that those miles get very long, day after day. So Miniverse provides a visceral feeling to just how great those distances are.”
If you already have a CuriosityStream account, you can watch the film here. If you don’t, you can take advantage of a 30-day free trial in order to watch Miniverse, and all the other great science offerings available, such as Stephen Hawking’s Universe, Brian Cox’s Wonders of Life, and other topics from astronomy observing tips to info about various missions to theoretical physics. Check it out. If you’re interested in continuing after your free trial, the ad-free streaming service costs $2.99, $5.99 and $11.99 per month for standard definition, high definition, and ultra high definition 4K respectively.
We suggested to the CuriosityStream folks of putting physical markers along this path across the US, which would really make a great cross country road trip. Come along for the ride!
You gotta love Earth’s atmosphere. It basically makes life (as we know it) possible on our planet by providing warmth and air to breathe, as well as protecting us from nasty space things like radiation and smaller asteroids. But for studying space (i.e., astronomy) or coming back to Earth from space, the atmosphere is a pain.
His series, “Stan Draws Spaceships” now has a new video that shows the complexities of how spacecraft return to Earth through our atmosphere, comparing the partially reusable Falcon 9 and fully reusable Skylon. Take a look below. Again, the hand-drawn animations are impeccable and Stan’s explanations are just captivating.
I was trying to think of sufficient accolades for Stan’s work, but I can’t do any better than one commentor on Stan’s YouTube Channel. MarsLettuce said, “The attention to detail here is insane. The air intake being shorn off by drag was especially great. The sequence of her hands making the paper plane was subdued, but it added a lot. The characters were really well done, too. I love the reaction of Stan being hit by the paper airplane. It’s hilarious.”
He describes himself as “completely obsessed with and fascinated by space exploration,” and he wants to share what he’s learned over the years about spaceflight.
Stan would like the opportunity and resources to make more videos, and has started a Patreon page to help in this process. Right now, he creates the videos on his own (he told us he uses the time-honored home-recording technique of draping a blanket over his head) in his home office. It takes him roughly 2.5 months to produce a 5 minute episode.
“I’d like to make a lot more videos,” he writes on Patreon, “explaining things like Hohmman transfers and laser propulsion and the construction techniques of O’Neill cylinders. I want to make long form videos (2-3 minutes) that explain a general idea, and short form videos (30 seconds) that cover a single word, like “ballistics” or “reaction control.”
Northern lights over Iceland filmed by Icelandic photographer Oli Haukur using a drone. Don’t forget to expand the screen.
I knew the era of real-time northern lights video was upon us. I just didn’t think drones would get into the act this soon. What was I thinking? They’re perfect for the job! If watching the aurora ever made you feel like you could fly, well now you can in Oli Haukur’s moving, real-time footage of an amazing aurora display filmed by drone.
Haukur hooked up a Sony a7S II digital camera and ultra-wide Sigma 20mm f/1.4 lens onto his DJI Matrice 600 hexacopter. The light from the gibbous moon illuminates the rugged shoreline and crashing waves of the Reykjanes Peninsula (The Steamy Peninsula) as while green curtains of aurora flicker above.
When the camera ascends over a sea stack, you can see gulls take off below, surprised by the mechanical bird buzzing just above their heads. Breathtaking. You might notice at the same time a flash of light — this is from the lighthouse beacon seen earlier in the video.
To capture his the footage, Haukur used a “fast” lens (one that needs only a small amount of light to make a picture) and an ISO of 25,600. The camera is capable of ISO 400,000, but the lower ISO provided greater resolution and color quality.
Moonlight provided all the light needed to bring out the landscape.
Remember when ISO 1600 or 3200 was as far you dared to go before the image turned to a grainy mush? Last year Canon released a camera that can literally see in the dark with a top ISO over 4,000,000! There’s no question we’ll be seeing more live aurora and drone aurora video in the coming months. Haukur plans additional shoots this winter and early next spring. Living in Iceland, which lies almost directly beneath the permanent auroral oval, you can schedule these sort of things!
Am I allowed one tiny criticism? I want more — a minute and a half is barely enough! Haukur shot plenty but released only a taste to social media to prove it could be done and share the joy. Let’s hope he compiles the rest and makes it available for us to lose our selves in soon.