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

Stargazing Timelapse Plus Apollo 14 Launch Soundtrack Is Pure Magic

It feels like a real stargazing session watching this video. You head out at dusk, waiting for the first few stars to emerge. Then there’s a moment when — if you’re in the right spot — whammo. The Milky Way pops out. The sky turns into a three-dimensional playground.

Combine that feeling with the Apollo 14 launch audio from 1971, and this timelapse is a lot of fun.

Continue reading “Stargazing Timelapse Plus Apollo 14 Launch Soundtrack Is Pure Magic”

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 Rise and Fall of a Towering Inferno on the Sun

Caught on camera by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a prominence blazes hundreds of thousands of miles out from the Sun’s surface (i.e., photosphere) on May 27, 2014. The image above, seen in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, shows a brief snapshot of the event with the column of solar plasma stretching nearly as far as the distance between Earth and the Moon.

Watch a video of the event below:

The video covers a span of about two hours.

Although it might look fiery in these images, a prominence isn’t flame — it’s powered by rising magnetic fields trapping and carrying the Sun’s superheated material up into the corona. And while this may not have been a unique or unusual event — or even particularly long-lived — it’s still an impressive reminder of the immense scale and energy of our home star!

Credit: NASA/SDO

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””

This Was the Best Watched Solar Flare Ever

Are giant dragons flying out of the Sun? No, this is much more awesome than that: it’s an image of an X-class flare that erupted from active region 2017 on March 29, as seen by NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft. It was not only IRIS’s first view of such a powerful flare, but with four other solar observatories in space and on the ground watching at the same time it was the best-observed solar flare ever.

(But it does kind of look like a dragon. Or maybe a phoenix. Ah, pareidolia!)

Check out a video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center below:

In addition to IRIS, the March 29 flare was observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), NASA’s Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), JAXA and NASA’s Hinode spacecraft, and the National Solar Observatory’s Dunn Solar Telescope in New Mexico.

With each telescope equipped with instruments specially designed to observe the Sun in specific wavelengths almost no detail of this particular flare went unnoticed, giving scientists comprehensive data on the complex behavior of a single solar eruption.

Also, for another look at this flare from SDO and a coronal dimming event apparently associated with it, check out Dean Pesnell’s entry on the SDO is GO! blog here.


Imagine What Could Be Done With a “Penny4NASA”

If you’re reading this then you’re probably a big fan of space exploration. And while on one hand you could say that we are now living in a “golden age” of exploration, what with the ongoing missions there are around the Solar System and the new discoveries being made on an almost weekly basis about our Universe, on the other hand it seems like we are getting more and more “grounded” as human explorers, with still years to go before the first footprints are made on Mars, an ever-growing span since we last walked on the Moon, and steadily-shrinking or stagnant budgets that can’t support all the missions that DO exist — and sometimes cancel them altogether.

“We have discovered amazing places. But imagine what’s hiding where we haven’t even looked?”

In order for missions to ever get off the ground, they need to be funded. Right now NASA — still arguably the leader in space exploration among world agencies — receives a little over 0.4 percent of every U.S. tax dollar. Less than half a penny. That’s what NASA explores the Solar System with, what makes our knowledge of the Universe — from the farthest visible reaches right down to our own planet Earth — even possible. What if NASA were to receive a full one percent? A whole penny from every dollar? That’d still be only a quarter of what NASA worked with to put men on the Moon in 1969, but it’d be more than double what it gets now.

A penny for NASA… this is the goal of Penny4NASA.org, an outreach group that strives to increase the funding — if just by a little — of the world’s most accomplished, inspirational, and powerful space exploration administration. (Before… you know, it isn’t.)

The video above was created for Penny4NASA by artist and animator Brad Goodspeed, and reminds us of what NASA has achieved in its 50-year history, of what its goals are (or at least should be) and, unfortunately, why many of them have remained unattained. NASA needs support — our support — or else its candles will stay unlit and our windows and doors to the Universe will slowly but surely close.

How can you help? Well for one thing, stay excited about space and science (and get others excited too!) Interest is the key to making sure people don’t lose sight of what’s happening in the field; you might be surprised to hear the misinformation that’s been passed around. (No, NASA isn’t “dead.”) And let your policy-makers know that space exploration and the investment in technology and innovation that goes along with it is important to you — the Planetary Society has a convenient page where you can find links to write to your state representative here. And finally you can support groups like Penny4NASA, made up of enthusiastic young professionals who want to see our nation’s past successes in space exploration continued into their future.

“America is fading right now. Nobody’s dreaming about tomorrow anymore. NASA knows how to dream about tomorrow — if the funding can accommodate it, if the funding can empower it.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson

Want more inspiration? Read this excerpt from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles on TheWeek.com here.

Video credit: Brad Goodspeed/Penny4NASA.org

Echoes of Chelyabinsk: Another Fireball Explodes Over Russia

Why does Russia seem to get so many bright meteors? Well at 6.6 million square miles it’s by far the largest country in the world plus, with dashboard-mounted cameras being so commonplace (partly to help combat insurance fraud) statistically it just makes sense that Russians would end up seeing more meteors, and then be able to share the experience with the rest of the world!

This is exactly what happened early this morning, April 19 (local time), when a bright fireball flashed in the skies over Murmansk, located on the Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia near the border of Finland. Luckily not nearly as large or powerful as the Chelyabinsk meteor event from February 2013, no sound or air blast from this fireball has been reported and nobody was injured. Details on the object aren’t yet known… it could be a meteor (most likely) or it could be re-entering space debris. The video above, some of which was captured by Alexandr Nesterov from his dashcam, shows the object dramatically lighting up the early morning sky.

One Russian astronomer suggests this bolide may have been part of the debris that results in the Lyrid meteor shower, which peaks on April 22-23. (Source: NBC)

Source: RT.com

Bill Nye on Taking Astronomy with Carl Sagan

“This is how we know nature. It is the best idea humans have ever come up with.”
– Bill Nye, Science Guy and CEO of The Planetary Society

In this latest video from NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, science guy Bill Nye talks about the incredible influence that Carl Sagan had on his life, from attending his lectures on astronomy at Cornell University to eventually becoming CEO of The Planetary Society, which was co-founded by Sagan in 1980.

“I took astronomy from Carl Sagan.” Now there’s a statement that’ll get people’s attention. (It got mine, anyway.)

See more videos in NOVA’s Secret Life series here.

Morpheus Flies Higher and Farther Than Ever

NASA’s Project Morpheus nailed it again today with yet another successful free flight of their prototype lander, soaring higher, faster, and farther than ever before! Go Morpheus!

The FF9 test, which occurred at 3:41 p.m. EDT at Kennedy Space Center, saw the 2,300-lb (1000-kg) Morpheus craft rise to a height of 580 feet (177 meters) and travel 837 feet (255 m) downrange at 30 mph (48 km/h). After the 85-second flight the craft set down almost exactly on target — only about a foot (.3 m) off.

During today’s test flight the oxygen-and-methane-propelled Morpheus could have cleared the Washington Monument.

The next step is to integrate the Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology (ALHAT) sensors, which allow the craft to identify dangerous terrain and determine the best route to a safe landing — all by itself. This capability will be invaluable for future landings on unexplored surfaces on the Moon and Mars.

“It’s never been done,” said Dr. Jon Olansen, project manager of the Morpheus Project, in 2012. “We’ve never landed of the moon or Mars with real-time hazard detection and avoidance. Most of the Mars missions use air bags. They go where they go, they roll them and they stop… whatever comes, comes.”

Check out the latest incredible free flight video above, and learn more about Project Morpheus here.

Source: NASA

UPDATE: Here’s the “official” NASA video of FF9, showing some fantastic camera views from the craft itself: