This is a Scale Model of the Solar System Like You’ve Never Seen Before

We’ve all seen illustrations of the Solar System. They’re in our school textbooks, on posters, on websites, on t-shirts… in some cases they’re used to represent the word “science” itself (and for good reason.) But, for the most part, they’re all wrong. At least where scale is concerned.

Sure, you can show the Sun and planets in relative size to each other accurately. But then the actual distances between them will probably be way off.* And OK, you can outline the planets’ concentric orbits around the Sun to scale pretty easily. But then there’s no convenient way to make sure that the planets themselves would actually be visible. In order to achieve both, you have to leave the realm of convenience behind entirely and make a physical model that, were you to start with an Earth the size of a marble, would stretch for several miles (and that’s not even taking Pluto into consideration.)

This is exactly what filmmaker Wylie Overstreet and four of his friends did in 2014, spending a day and a half on a dry lake bed in Nevada where they measured out and set up a scale model of the Sun and planets (not including Pluto, don’t tell Alan Stern) including their respective circular orbits. They then shot time-lapse images of their illuminated cars driving around the orbits. The resulting video is educational, mesmerizing, beautiful, and overall a wonderful demonstration of the staggering scale of space in the Solar System.

Watch the video below:

Or watch full-screen on Vimeo here.

For some reason whenever I think about the sheer amount of space there actually is in space, it gets me a like choked up. These guys get an “A+” for effort, execution, and entertainment!

Credit: Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh

*There have been a few web pages that have been able to show the scale sizes and distances of the planets (and there are even some driving-distance ones too) but often they oversimplify by lining the planets up in a row — which doesn’t happen all that often and doesn’t portray the orbital circumferences either. This all just happens to be a favorite contemplating point of mine.

Take a Flight Over a Massive Aurora

Or perhaps I should say “eine grosse Aurora!” ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst made this time-lapse of a “massive aurora” as seen from the Space Station on August 24. The entire video is beautiful, showing not just a view of the ghostly green aurora but also plenty of stars, airglow, the graceful rotation of the ISS’ solar arrays, and finally the blooming light of dawn – one of sixteen the crew of the Station get to witness every day.

Then again, I’m now wondering: what is the mass of an aurora? Hmm…

Source: ESA on Facebook

Astrophoto Heaven: Video Time-Lapse Shows Spectacular Sky Above Desert National Park

Channelling all U2 fans: this stunning timelapse above Joshua Tree National Park is a walking tourism brochure for astrophotographers. The pictures were taken in September and November 2012 (the latter during the Leonid meteor shower) and just put up on Vimeo a few days ago.

Can you spot any famous astronomical objects? Read below to see some of what was featured in these video clips.

“Due to the lateness in the year I was there, the Milky Way was setting into the light dome of Palm Springs and greater Los Angeles. Consequently, I only got one decent Milky Way sequence in the nights I shot,” wrote videographer Mark ‘Indy’ Kochte on Vimeo.

“At the time I was not traveling with a dolly rail set up, so was limited in the camera movements to using an Astrotrac astrophotography guiding system. However, the Astrotrac would only pan for about 90 minutes before reaching the end of it’s workable motion. Hence why there are a number of  ‘still’, tripod-only sequences.”

Kochte’s page on the project also gives a guide to the astronomical objects and phenomena you will see, including Venus, Jupiter and the zodiacal light — which is caused by sunlight reflecting off dust particles in space (from comets and asteroids).

Watch the Northern Lights Dance and Shimmer in “Silent Storms”

Aurorae were once believed to be warring clans of spirit soldiers, the skyward ghosts of virgin women, or the glow of fires burning inside celestial caves. Today we know they’re caused by ions in the atmosphere getting zapped by charged solar particles caught up in Earth’s magnetic field. But the knowledge of what creates aurorae doesn’t make their shimmering dance any less beautiful for those lucky enough to see them. I’ve personally never witnessed an aurora, but photographer Ole Salomonsen has — and he’s created yet another gorgeous time-lapse of the northern lights over his native Scandinavia to share their beauty with the world.

Continue reading “Watch the Northern Lights Dance and Shimmer in “Silent Storms””

Watch Gaia Go From Lab to Launch in Two Minutes

In the early pre-dawn hours on December 19, 2013, with a rumble and a roar, a Soyuz rocket blazed through the clouds above the jungle-lined coast of French Guiana, ferrying ESA’s long-awaited Gaia spacecraft into orbit and beginning its mission to map the stars of the Milky Way. The fascinating time-lapse video above from ESA shows the Gaia spacecraft inside the clean room unfurling like a flower during its sunshield deployment test, the transfer of the Soyuz from the assembly building to the pad, and then its ultimate fiery liftoff.

That’s a lot going on in two minutes! But once nestled safely in its L2 orbit 1.5 million kilometers out, Gaia will have over five years to complete its work… read more here.

Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, M. Pedoussaut, 2013. Source: ESA

Time-Lapse: Earth

If you couldn’t tell, we love time-lapse videos… whether they’re made of photos looking up at the sky from Earth or looking down at Earth from the sky! This latest assembly by photographer Bruce W. Berry takes us on a tour around the planet from orbit, created from images taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station and expertly de-noised, stabilized and smoothed to 24 frames per second. The result is — like several others before — simply stunning, a wonderful reminder of our place in space and the beauty of our living world.

See more of Bruce’s time-lapse projects here.

Music: “Manhatta” composed & performed by The Cinematic Orchestra.

Original images courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

A Slice of Daybreak

[/caption]

Here’s a gorgeous view from the International Space Station, taken by the Expedition 30 crew on Feb. 4, 2012 as the station passed into orbital dawn. The greens and reds of the aurora borealis shimmer above Earth’s limb beyond the Station’s solar panels as city lights shine beneath a layer of clouds.

As the ISS travels around the planet at 17,500 mph (28,163 km/h) it moves in and out of daylight, in effect experiencing dawn 16 times every day.

From that vantage point, 240 miles (386 km) above the Earth, the lights of the aurora — both northern and southern — appear below, rather than above.

See this and more images from the Space Station’s nightly flights here.

Also, here’s a time-lapse video made from photos taken by the Expedition 30 crew a few days earlier. Enjoy!

(Video courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.)