Tag Archives: astronomy

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse Time Lapse

When was the last time the lunar eclipse and winter solstice coincided? The U.S. Naval Observatory says 1638; Starhawk, a prominent Wiccan, puts it at 1544. Needless to say, these coinciding events are a rarity. So, in case you missed it, we have a nice time lapse video shot by William Castleman in Gainesville, Florida. Castelman also produced this fine gem: The Milky Way Over Texas.

via @6oz and Open Culture


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The Aurora Australis


The southern counterpart to the northern lights – as seen from above by astronauts on the International Space Station.

Charged particles from the Sun stream along the Earth’s magnetic field, guided to the north and south poles, where they crash into our atmosphere and generate light. The color of the light depends on the molecule or atom hit; in this case, the green glow is due to oxygen.

Although the particles generating the light tend to be 80 – 160 km up (50 – 100 miles), the space station is even higher. This view is also well off to the side; the astronaut who took the picture was looking at the limb of the Earth, several thousand miles away. All in all the color, perspective, and the amazing glowing stream combine to make this a lovely and decidedly unearthly photograph from space.

Image credit: NASA/Expedition 23

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Alan Friedman’s Solar Portrait


from The Top 14 Astronomy Pictures of 2010 | Discover

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Sun and Moon


Sun and Moon

On Oct. 7, 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, observed its first lunar transit when the new moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the sun. With SDO watching the sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, the dark moon created a partial eclipse of the sun.

Image Credit: NASA

Thanks, Aija!

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Plunging into a cosmic watercolour

Starting with a wide view of the central part of our Milky Way galaxy we zoom in on the tiny constellation of Corona Australis (the Southern Crown), located beside the larger constellation of Sagittarius and towards the centre of our own galaxy. Zooming in more closely this faint constellation, visible only from dark sites, reveals many interesting features including a spectacular dust cloud about 8 light-years across. The bluish fuzzy spot is a beautiful reflection nebula in the star-forming region around the star R Coronae Australis, captured in great detail by the Wide Field Imager (WFI), on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.

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The Milky Way’s Halo – A Relic of Smaller Ancient Galaxies?


“We still have a lot to understand.”

Masashi Chiba of Japan’s Tohoku University.

If gazing up at the Milky Way can make you feel dizzy, it could be because the outer galaxy has been discovered to be a mix of two distinct components rotating in opposite directions. The Milky Way’s main disk, home to our sun, rotates at an average speed of 500,000 mph. Surrounding the disk is what’s now called the inner halo, which orbits in the same direction at about 50,000 mph. The thinly populated region, outer halo, spins in the opposite direction at roughly 100,000 mph.


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Astronaut’s Eye View: Time Lapse Videos from Space

A NASA astronaut on the Space Shuttle Endeavor brought space back down to Earth. Astronaut Don Pettit took over 85 time-lapsed videos of Earth from his stint on the International Space Station to highlight features of the changing planet.

“There is phenomenology that happens on a timescale that you can’t see in real time,” he said. “It occurred to me that making time-lapse movies on the space station would bring out things that you normally don’t observe.”

Pettit also wanted to capture what it feels like to be in space. “You feel like you’re on a frontier,” he says. “I like to define a frontier as a place where your intuition does not apply. It’s a place where the answers are not in the back of the book. As a result, a frontier is a place that’s rich in discovery.”

Space has been called a frontier before, of course — “But it’s not the final frontier.” Frontiers can be anywhere, he says, from under the lens of a microscope to the bottom of the ocean. Space “will only be the final frontier when human beings stop looking at our world and wondering what’s going on.”

Here are some of our favorite time-lapsed videos of Earth from space.

Above: Out of all his footage, Pettit says this video, encompassing a sunset, a moonrise and the northern lights, is one of his favorites. The camera took one image every 15 seconds, so this 38-second video captures about 9 and a half minutes of real time. Because the space station and its crew orbit Earth once every 90 minutes, they see 16 sunrises and sunsets every day.

Video: NASA/Don Pettit

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Pettit flew on space shuttle mission STS-126, a 16-day trip to the International Space Station that launched in November 2008. Among other things, Pettit and his co-crew members brought up an advanced life support system that converts urine into drinkable water.

Pettit got tips from scientists on the ground for when aurorae, the brilliant lights that dance on the Earth’s upper atmosphere in response to solar winds and magnetic storms, would be visible from space, so he knew which nights to set up his camera.

Video: NASA/Don Pettit

More videos 



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Art on the Moon

In 2003, Craig Kalpakjian proposed a series of Earthworks-style
drawings that would be executed on the surface of the moon, like the
Nazca Lines or 60’s bad boys Michael Heizer and Dennis Oppenheim’s
desert drawings. He called them Moonworks.

Now I find out there was already an entire Moon Museum, with
drawings by six leading contemporary artists of the day: Andy Warhol,
Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, Forrest “Frosty” Myers, Claes
Oldenburg, and John Chamberlain
. The Moon Museum was supposedly
installed on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 12 mission.

I say supposedly, because NASA has no official record of it;
according to Frosty Myers, the artist who initiated the project, the
Moon Museum was secretly installed on a hatch on a leg of the Intrepid
landing module with the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman
Corporation after attempts to move the project forward through NASA’s
official channels were unsuccessful.

Myers revealed the exhibition’s existence to the New York Times,
which published the story Nov. 22, 1969, two days after the Apollo 12
crew had left the moon–and the Intrepid–and two days before they arrived back on earth.

According to Myers, who was involved with E.A.T. on the Pepsi Pavilion
project at the time, the six drawings were miniaturized and baked onto
an iridium-plated ceramic wafer measuring just 3/4″ x 1/2″ x 1/40″,
with the assistance of engineers at Bell Labs.

According to the Times, the artworks are, clockwise from the top
center: Rauschenberg’s wavy line; Novros’ black square bisected by thin
white lines [in 1969, Novros also created the incredibly rich, minimalist fresco on the second floor of Judd’s 101 Spring St];
a computer-generated drawing by Myers; a geometric mouse by Oldenburg,
“the subject of a sculpture in his current show at the Museum of Modern
Art” [a sculpture which is in MoMA’s permanent collection, btw]; and a
template pattern by Chamberlain, “similar to one he used to produce
paintings done with automobile lacquer.” Warhol’s contribution, which
is obscured by the thumb above, is described as “a calligraphic
squiggle made up of the initials of his signature.”

Actually, it’s a drawing of a penis. Here are some other photos by
Frosty Myers, published, I believe, with a 1985 Omni Magazine article
by the arts writer Phoebe Hoban. That would be the Warhol Penis there
in the upper right.

As the NASA spokesman told the Times when asked about the Museum
infiltration, “I don’t know about it. If we had been asked, it sounds
like something we’d have very much interested in [sic]. If it is true
that they’ve succeeded in doing it by some clandestine means, I hope that the work represents the best in contemporary American art.”
[emphasis added for ironic amusement, though to Myers’ credit, it
turned out to be a pretty good grouping of artists to have involved.]

But is it conceivable that someone could have smuggled dirty
pictures onto a mission to the moon? Actually, yes. Even if Warhol
hadn’t sent that penis to the moon, Apollo 12 would still have achieved
the first known incident of lunar nudity.

The back-up crew for the A12 mission surreptitiously inserted reduced photos of Playboy centerfolds into the flight crew’s fireproof plastic cuff checklists which were only discovered about 2.5 hours into their first moon walk.

via greg.org | hat tip kottke.org | Michael Heizer Earth Art | Dennis Oppenheim Art & Sculpture | Craig Kalpakjian

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Venus at the Edge


Credit: D. Kiselman, et al. (Inst. for Solar Physics), Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Explanation: With Venus in transit at the Sun’s edge on June 8th, astronomers captured this tantalizing close-up view of the bright solar surface and partially silhouetted disk. Enhanced in the sharp picture, a delicate arc of sunlight refracted through the Venusian atmosphere is also visible outlining the planet’s edge against the blackness of space. The arc is part of a luminous ring or atmospheric aureole, first noted and offered as evidence that Venus did posses an atmosphere following observations of the planet’s 1761 transit. The image was recorded using the 1-meter Swedish Solar Telescope located on La Palma in the Canary Islands. For the Institute for Solar Physics, Dan Kiselman, Goran Scharmer, Kai Langhans, and Peter Dettori were at the telescope, while Mats Lofdahl produced the final image. Excellent movies of the transit – including one of the emergence of Venus’ atmospheric aureole – are available from the Dutch Open Telescope, also observing from La Palma.


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