Mountains Soar Above the Appalachians in this Dramatic NASA Photo

Except these are mountains made of water, not rock! Taken from an altitude of 65,000 feet, the image above shows enormous storm cells swirling high over the mountains of western North Carolina on May 23, 2014. It was captured from one of NASA’s high-altitide ER-2 aircraft during a field research flight as part of the Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment (IPHEx) campaign.

The photo was NASA’s Image of the Day for June 19, 2014.

Visualization of the GPM Core Observatory satellite (NASA/Britt Griswold)
Visualization of the GPM Core Observatory satellite (NASA/Britt Griswold)

For six weeks the IPHEx campaign team from NASA, NOAA, and Duke University set up ground stations and flew ER-2 missions over the southeastern U.S., collecting data on weather and rainfall that will be used to supplement and calibrate data gathered by the GPM Core Observatory launched in February.

By the time its role in IPHEx was completed on June 16, the Lockheed ER-2 aircraft had flown more than 95 hours during 18 flights over North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. Its high-altitude capabilities allow researchers to safely fly above storm systems, taking measurements like a satellite would.

Learn more about the ER-2 flights here, and read more about the IPHEx campaign on Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering site here.

Source: NASA

NASA's ER-2 at the Armstrong Flight Research Center's Building 703 in Palmdale, CA (NASA / Tom Tschida)
NASA’s ER-2 at the Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Building 703 in Palmdale, CA (NASA/Tom Tschida)

Armstrong’s Ohio Accent May Have Masked His Missing “A”

“That’s one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind.” And with those famous words astronaut Neil A. Armstrong awed the entire world on July 21, 1969, becoming the first human to set a booted foot upon a world other than our own. But the historic statement itself has caused no small bit of confusion and controversy over the years, from whether Armstrong came up with it on the spot (he didn’t) to what he actually said… small step for “man?” Where’s the “a?”

Although some have said that the article was left out or cut off (and admittedly it sure sounds that way to me) it turns out it’s probably been there the whole time, hidden behind Neil’s native Ohio accent.

According to a team of speech scientists and psychologists from Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing and The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, it is entirely possible that Armstrong said what he had always claimed — though evidence indicates that most people are likely to hear “for man” instead of “for a man” on the Apollo 11 broadcast recordings.

By studying how speakers from Armstrong’s native central Ohio pronounce “for” and “for a,” the team’s results suggest that his “a” was acoustically blended into his “for.”

“Prior acoustic analyses of Neil Armstrong’s recording have established well that if the word ‘a’ was spoken, it was very short and was fully blended acoustically with the preceding word,” says Laura Dilley of Michigan State University. “If Armstrong actually did say ‘a,'” she continues, “it sounded something like ‘frrr(uh).'”

His blending of the two words, compounded with the poor sound quality of the television transmission, has made it difficult to corroborate his claim that the “a” is there.

“If Armstrong actually did say ‘a,’ it sounded something like ‘frrr(uh).'”

– Laura Dilley, Michigan State University

Dilley and her colleagues used a collection of recordings of conversational speech from 40 people raised in Columbus, Ohio, near Armstrong’s native town of Wapakoneta. Within this body of recordings, they found 191 cases of “for a.” They matched each of these to an instance of “for” as said by the same speaker and compared the relative duration. They also examined the duration of Armstrong’s “for (a”) from the lunar transmission.

The researchers found a large overlap between the relative duration of the “r” sound in “for” and “for a” using the Ohio speech data. The duration of the “frrr(uh)” in Armstrong’s recording was 0.127 seconds, which falls into the middle of this overlap. In other words, the researchers conclude, the lunar landing quote is highly compatible with either possible interpretation though it is probably slightly more likely to be perceived as “for” regardless of what Armstrong actually said.

Read more: Neil Armstrong Didn’t Lie About First Words on the Moon

Dilley says there may have been a “perfect storm of conditions” for the word “a” to have been spoken… but not heard.

“We’ve bolstered Neil Armstrong’s side of the story,” she says. “We feel we’ve partially vindicated him. But we’ll most likely never know for sure exactly what he said based on the acoustic information.”

(Personally, I feel that if the first man to walk on the Moon said he said “a,” then he said “a.”)

The team will present its work at the 21st International Congress on Acoustics June 2–7 in Montreal.

Source: EurekAlert

New South Pole Marker Honors Planets, Pluto, and Armstrong

The new geographic South Pole marker that stands at 90º S latitude. (Credit: Jeffrey Donenfeld)

Because the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station sits atop a layer of moving ice almost 2 miles thick, the location of the marker for the Earth’s geographic South Pole needs to be relocated regularly. Tradition has this done on New Year’s Day, and so this past January 1 saw the unveiling of the newest South Pole marker: a beautiful brass-and-copper design created by Station machinist Derek Aboltins.

pole-marker-top-closeup-1The top of the marker has seven small discs that represent the planets in the positions they would be in on Jan. 1, 2013, as well as two larger discs representing the setting Sun and Moon. Next to the Moon disc are the engraved words “Accomplishment & Modesty,” a nod to the first man on the Moon.

“This was a reference to honor Neil Armstrong, as he passed away when I was making this section with the moon,” Aboltins said.

And for folks who might think the planet count on the new marker is one too few, a surprise has been tucked away on the reverse side.

“For those of you who still think Pluto should be a planet, you’ll find it included underneath, just to keep everyone happy,” Aboltins said. “Bring back Pluto, I say!”

And so, on the underside of the marker along with the signatures of South Pole Station researchers and workers, is one more disc — just for the distant “demoted” dwarf planet.

pole-marker-underside

Underside of the South Pole marker (Credit: Jeffrey Donenfeld)

“For those of you who still think Pluto should be a planet, you’ll find it included underneath, just to keep everyone happy!”

– Derek Aboltins, designer and machinist

(See high resolution versions of these images here.)

The marker was placed during a ceremony on the ice on Jan. 1, during which time the previous flag marker was removed and put into its new position.

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(Photo credit: Jeffrey Donenfeld)

According to The Antarctic Sun:

“Almost all hands were present for the ceremony, including station manager Bill Coughran, winter site manager Weeks Heist, and National Science Foundation representative Vladimir Papitashvili. The weather was sunny and a warm at just below minus 14 degrees Fahrenheit.”

(Even though it’s mid-summer in Antarctica, “warm” is clearly a relative term!)

Read more about this and other Antarctic news on The Antarctic Sun site, and see more photos from Antarctica by Jeffrey Donenfeld here.

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Named for explorers Roald Amundsen and Robert F. Scott, who attained the South Pole in 1911 and 1912, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station stands at an elevation of 2,835 meters (9,306 feet) on Antarctica’s ice sheet, which is about 2,700 meters (9,000 feet) thick at that location. The station drifts with the ice sheet at about 10 meters (33 feet) each year. Research is conducted at the station in the fields of astronomy, astrophysics, glaciology, geophysics and seismology, ocean and climate systems, biology, and medicine.

Farewell to a Hero: Photos From Armstrong’s Burial at Sea

Armstrong’s burial service aboard the USS Philippine Sea on September 14, 2012 (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Earlier today, Friday, September 14, 2012, Neil A. Armstrong’s burial at sea service was held aboard the USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) in the Atlantic Ocean. Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, died Saturday, August 25. He was 82.

An icon of exploration for all of humanity, he will be missed by millions and remembered forever. Godspeed, sir, and thank you.

See more photos below.

US Navy personnel carry the cremated remains of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong

Members of the US Navy ceremonial guard hold an American flag over Armstrong’s remains

A US Navy firing squad fires three volleys in honor of Neil Armstrong

US Navy Lieutenant Commander Paul Nagy and Carol Armstrong, wife of Neil Armstrong, commit the remains of Neil Armstrong to the sea

US Navy Captain Steve Shinego presents the US flag to Carol Armstrong as Neil’s son, Eric “Rick” Armstrong, looks on.

All photos credit NASA/Bill Ingalls.

See more photos from the service on the Flickr set here.

Neil Alden Armstrong, 1930 – 2012.

The First Photo From The Moon

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” After speaking these historic words at 10:56 EDT on July 20, 1969, marking the moment that humanity first placed a foot on a world other than its own, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong began his work documenting the lunar surface before him.

The image above is the first photo taken by Armstrong after exiting Eagle, the landing module — and the first photograph ever taken by a person standing on the surface of another world.

After this image, Armstrong took several more images of the surrounding landscape before fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. exited the module as well. The third man on the mission, Michael Collins, remained in lunar orbit piloting the command module Columbia.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Armstrong, as were all the Apollo mission astronauts, was trained in the use of a modified Hasselblad 500 EL camera, which took wonderfully detailed images on large-format film. Most of the photos they brought back have been high-quality scanned by Kipp Teague and are available online at the Apollo Image Gallery.

Today is the 43rd anniversary of the first lunar landing. More than just a page in the history books, it marks a shining moment for all of humanity when the combined ingenuity and courage of many, many people succeeded in the daunting task of, in President Kennedy’s words from May 25, 1961, “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

Images: NASA. Scans by Kipp Teague.