Grab a seat for the Celestial Lights show!


Painstakingly assembled from over 150,000 digital photos taken over the course of eight months, this stunning time-lapse video of aurora-filled Arctic skies is the latest creation by photo/video artist Ole C. Salomonsen. Take a moment, turn up the sound, sit back and enjoy the show!

This is Ole’s second video project. The footage was shot on location in parts of Norway, Finland and Sweden from September 2011 to April 2012, and shows the glorious effects that the Sun’s increasing activity has had on our planet’s upper atmosphere.

Ole writes on his Vimeo page:

The video is a merge of two parts; the first part contains some more wild and aggressive auroras, as well as a few Milky Way sequences, hence either auroras are moving fast because they are or they are fast due to motion of the Milky Way / stars. Still, some of the straight-up shots are very close to real-time speed — although auroras mostly are slower, she can also be FAST!

The second part has some more slow and majestic auroras, where I have focused more on composition and foreground. The music should give you a clear indication of where you are.

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The music was provided by Norwegian composer Kai-Anders Ryan.

Ole’s “hectic” aurora season is coming to a close now that the Sun is rising above the horizon in the Arctic Circle, and he figured that it was a good time to release the video. It will also be available on 4K Digital Cinema on request.

“Hope you like the video, and that you by watching it are able to understand my fascination and awe for this beautiful celestial phenomenon,” says Ole.

You can follow Ole’s work on Facebook at facebook.com/arcticlightphoto, and check out his website here.

Video © Ole C. Salomonsen. Music by Kai-Anders Ryan.

Is This a Video of a Huge Fireball Over Texas?

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On April 2, 2012, at around 11:50 am CDT, dozens of people in and around San Antonio, Texas witnessed a bright object streaking across the daytime sky. Most likely a fireball — a particularly large, bright meteor — the object was visible across a very large area. It even made the local WOAI4 NBC news, which sent reporters out to interview eye-witnesses, contacted a NASA meteor expert, and ultimately featured a video of the amazingly bright fireball as it blazed through the sky. Very dramatic.

Except… the video isn’t of a fireball at all.

For the record, there was a meteor spotted over San Antonio on April 2… it was reported on the Lunar Meteorite Hunters site as well as in local papers. The eyewitnesses in the WOAI video were indeed describing what they saw, as well as they could. But the “footage” that was revealed later in the video wasn’t of a meteor; rather, it was something much more terrestrial.

It appears to be an airplane contrail, illuminated by sunlight.

Unfortunately this didn’t stop the segment from airing on TV, or from being picked up by syndicated news over a week later to appear on several online news sites.

(Watch the video here.)

At first glance the video does appear to show something fiery descending from the sky, leaving a long, bright trail in its wake. But that’s exactly how contrails can look when lit up by low-angle sunlight. It’s not necessarily a common sight to most people, but it’s common enough that those who have seen it would recognize that the video was, for lack of a better term, inaccurate. And inaccuracies can all-too-easily spread into a fire of misinformation — especially when concerning “things from the sky”.

Sunlit contrail in Germany masquerading as a fiery meteor (Mick West)

Experienced pilot Mick West describes the phenomenon on his blog ContrailScience.com:

“This is a remarkably common news story: It’s just after sunset, someone looks towards the west and they see the short contrail of a jet plane illuminated by the sun. It looks red, like fire.  They zoom in with their video camera. They don’t know what it is, thinking it’s a fireball, a meteor, or some kind of UFO, so they alert the local media. The local media published it, and occasionally the story grows.”

(Read Mick’s post “Short Sunlit Contrails Look Like UFOs”)

Even though the April 2 fireball wasn’t seen at sunset or sunrise, the video footage wasn’t from the actual event. This means not only is it not of a meteor it’s not even from the right time of day. One has to wonder where in fact it was actually shot from, and by whom.

I don’t know if  the contrail footage was sent in to the news channel intentionally, or if it was just an error due to lack of research. Regardless, it’s a good example of why facts and sources need to be checked!

Luckily there are those who know a contrail from a meteor, and thanks to the miracle of modern social networking such information discrepancies can be rectified in short order.

Hat-tip to Daniel Fischer at Cosmos4U.

Go On a Grand Tour of the Moon


To honor the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s amazing 1,000 days in science-filled orbit, the LRO team at Goddard Space Flight Center has created a wonderful video tour of the lunar surface like you’ve never seen it before!

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“Tour of the Moon” takes viewers to several breathtaking locations on the Moon, including Orientale Basin, Shackleton crater, Tycho crater, Aristarchus Plateau, Mare Serenitatis, Compton-Belkovich volcano, Tsiolkovsky crater and more. The fully narrated video is above, and clips from each of the stops on the tour are available in many other formats here.

In addition, another video highlighting the dramatic evolution of the Moon was released today… you can view the full narrated version in 2D and stereoscopic 3D here.

iPad owners can also download the NASA Viz app to see this and other NASA stories, updated twice a week.

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The Most Astounding Fact About The Universe

In a 2008 interview by TIME magazine, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was asked what he thought the “most astounding fact” about the Universe was. Never at a loss for words, the famed scientist gave his equally astounding answer. His response is in the video above, set to images and music by Max Schlickenmeyer.

It’s the best three minutes and thirty-three seconds you’ll spend all day.

Via io9.com and It’s Okay to be Smart.

Pick Up Some Good Librations With This Stunning Moon Video


As the Moon orbits Earth, it rotates at such a rate as to keep the same face aiming our way… but not exactly the same face, as shown in this excellent video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (lovingly annotated by the Bad Astronomer himself, Dr. Phil Plait.)

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The Moon has a slight wobble to its axial rotation, and over the course of a month its orientation shifts slightly — an effect called libration. Think of it like a top or gyroscope spinning on a table; it doesn’t spin perfectly vertically, but rather sways a bit while it spins. Libration is that sway.

In addition to that movement, the Moon also moves closer to and further from the Earth over the course of a year due to its elliptical orbit. This makes it appear to change size slightly.

Except for the Moon’s phases, such effects aren’t immediately obvious from one night to the next. But when assembled into a high-resolution video using images and laser altimetry data maps from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the monthly motions of the Moon become incredibly clear!

This video shows all the views of the Moon for the entire year of 2012.

Thanks to Phil Plait of Discover Magazine’s Bad Astronomy blog for adding the music and descriptions to the GSFC’s amazing video. What a marvelous night for a Moon dance!

See the current Moon phase and the original video on the Goddard Space Flight Center’s “Dial-A-Moon” page here.

Video: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Visualization Studio. Notations by Phil Plait. Music by Kevin MacLeod/incomptech.com.

The Best ISS Video Ever? You Decide.


Is this the best video footage ever of photos taken from the International Space Station? ISS astronaut and Expedition 29 commander Mike Fossum seems to think so.

If anyone would know what a good ISS video is, he would! So watch, and decide for yourself.

Video uploaded by YouTube user bitmeizer. Made from sequences of still photographs taken by Expedition 29 crew members, the time-lapse videos have been digitally smoothed out and a soundtrack added, along with some transition effects.

Original video segments courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. See more at the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

A 3-D Look At Europe’s New Galileo Satellite Navigation System

The European Union and European Space Agency (ESA) will launch the first components next week of the €20 billion Galileo global navigation satellite system. This constellation of satellites will allow users to pinpoint their location anywhere on Earth. It will be a free, fully autonomous and interoperable worldwide satellite navigation system, broadcasting global navigation signals for high-performance services, which ESA says possesses the service integrity guarantees that GPS lacks for commercial and safety-critical services.

The first launch is scheduled for October 20, 2011. This 3-D video provides an overview of the system. Use red/blue 3D glasses to watch in 3D.

Mars Video

Here’s a cool Mars video.

This is a Mars video that shows you how you can use Google Mars to explore the red planet.


This is a video of the Mars Exploration Rover program. It shows an animation of the rovers launching and landing on the surface of Mars.


Here’s a cool animation of the Mars Science Laboratory, renamed to the Curiosity Rover.


And this is an animation of the Phoenix Mars Lander which successfully touched down on the surface of Mars in 2008.

We’ve written many articles about Mars for Universe Today. Here’s an article about why Mars is red, and here’s an article about the gravity on Mars.

If you’d like more info on Mars, check out Hubblesite’s News Releases about Mars, and here’s a link to the NASA Mars Exploration home page.

We’ve also recorded several episodes of Astronomy Cast about Mars. Listen here, Episode 52: Mars.