Photo: Cape Royds Adélie Penguin Rookery. (Google Street View)
Today, Google is launching access to a new collection of hi-res imagery from the Antarctic. In this post are some examples of those stunning vistas, shared with Boing Boing courtesy of Google. Alex Starns, Technical Program Manager for the Street View team, writes:
Back in September 2010, we launched the first Street View imagery of the Antarctic, enabling people from more habitable lands to see penguins in Antarctica for the first time. Today we’re bringing you additional panoramic imagery of historic Antarctic locations that you can view from the comfort of your homes. We’ll be posting this special collection to our World Wonders site, where you can learn more about the history of South Pole exploration.
This amazing photo was taken by astronaut Don Pettit on board the International Space Stations—of which you can see a chunk at the top of the frame. It's part of a whole series of absolutely stunning photos that you need to go check out as soon as you have a free 20 minutes to spend staring at your monitor and going, "Woah," to yourself over and over.
Here's what Pettit had to say about the process.
“My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, the ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”
Through the years, Ray Bradbury attended several major space mission events at JPL/Caltech. On Nov. 12, 1971, on the eve of Mariner 9 going into orbit at Mars, Bradbury took part in a symposium at Caltech with Arthur C. Clarke, journalist Walter Sullivan, and scientists Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray. In this excerpt, Bradbury reads his poem, "If Only We Had Taller Been."
The Space Shuttle Enterprise (OV-101) floated to its "retirement home" today, Wednesday June 6, 2012: the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City. The museum's Space Shuttle Pavillion will open on July 19. The arrival of Enterprise was planned for 24 hours earlier, but weather delayed. During its voyage by water, the barge carrying Enterprise moved too close to the Jamaica Bay Bridge and clipped the Shuttle's wing. Ouch. But, you know: sadly, it's not like they're gonna need that wing for space travel now.
Special thanks to photographer C.S. Muncy, who is pretty intrepid himself—we understand these terrific shots cost him quite a sunburn.
South Korean primary school students wearing masks with solar viewers watch Venus passing between the Sun and the Earth at the Gwacheon National Science Museum in Gwacheon, south of Seoul, June 6, 2012. One of the rarest astronomical events occurred on Wednesday when Venus passed directly between the sun and Earth, a transit that won't occur again until 2117. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)
In 1769, Captain James Cook was part of a massive, coordinated effort to document the transit of Venus from multiple spots around the globe. It was all part of calculating the size of the solar system, and you can read about it in Andrea Wulf's new book, Chasing Venus.
I'm in New York City today and Scientific American contributing editor Steven Ashley was kind enough to reminded me that my visit is coinciding with Manhattanhenge—a twice-a-year event when the sun lines up with Manhattan's street grid. This year, there will be a Manhattanhenge on May 29/30 and another on July 11/12.
You'll note that Manhattanhenge does not actually occur on the same day as the solstice—when the Sun is at the highest point in the sky and the length of the day begins to get either longer (winter solstice) or shorter (summer solstice). That's because Manhattan's grid is rotated 30 degrees east off of true north, writes Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Hayden Planetarium website. That's enough to make Manhattanhenge less astronomically accurate than Stonehenge. But it's still awfully nifty and is supposed to look really, really cool.
Tonight's event should start around 8:17 pm (Eastern time, of course). Here's Neil deGrasse Tyson's advice on getting a good view:
For best effect, position yourself as far east in Manhattan as possible. But ensure that when you look west across the avenues you can still see New Jersey. Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, 57th, and several streets adjacent to them. The Empire State building and the Chrysler building render 34th street and 42nd streets especially striking vistas.
Note that any city crossed by a rectangular grid can identify days where the setting Sun aligns with their streets. But a closer look at such cities around the world shows them to be less than ideal for this purpose. Beyond the grid you need a clear view to the horizon, as Manhattan has across the Hudson River to New Jersey. And tall buildings that line the streets create a vertical channel to frame the setting Sun, creating a striking photographic opportunity.
Boing Boing reader Cory Poole is a 33-year-old math and science teacher at University Preparatory School in Redding, CA. He sends in this beautiful video of yesterday's annular solar eclipse, and says:
This is a 60 second time-lapse video made from 700 individual frames through a Coronado Solar Max 60 Double Stacked Hydrogen Alpha Solar Telescope. The pictures were shot in Redding, CA, which was directly in the annular eclipse path. The filter on the telescope allows you to see the chromosphere which is a layer that contains solar prominences. The filter only allows light that is created when hydrogen atoms go from the 2nd excited state to the 1st excited state.
The joint JAXA/NASA Hinode mission captured this image of the January 6, 2011 solar eclipse.
On May 20-21 (this coming Sunday night through this coming Monday morning), sky-watchers in Asia and much of the U.S. will be able to view a “ring of fire” eclipse or a partial eclipse of the Sun, depending on their location. The rest of the world, including our readers along the East Coast of the US, will have to settle for viewing this special celestial event online.
Jewelrydesignsformen.com's Nine Planets ring is made of gold and meteoric iron, set with gemstones representing all the planets of the solar system, including Pluto*. And it's a fidget ring, which is my favorite kind of ring, because holy crap, can I ever fidget.
The meteorite has been etched with nitric acid to reveal the characteristic patterns, or Widmanstatten figures, of iron meteorites, and set with 9 gemstones representing the planets of our Solar System. Mercury is represented by a rust colored Sapphire, Venus a golden Sapphire, Earth an irradiated blue Diamond, Mars a Ruby, Jupiter an Opal, Saturn a Cats Eye Chrysoberyl with an inlaid 24k gold ring, Uranus a green Sapphire, Neptune a blue Sapphire and Pluto a black Diamond. What really makes this ring special is that the band of meteorite spins independent of the gold ring, so when it is on, the planets rotate around the wearer's finger.
Rachel Hobson says: "Who needs to watch a web cam of baby pandas when you can watch Venus live?
Welcome to the Public Observatory channel, where you can see live video of the Sun, moon, or the planets taken through one of our telescopes. The Public Observatory is located at the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
This month, the Observatory is open to visitors from 1-3 p.m. EDT, Wednesday through Saturday, weather permitting. During these hours we will often stream live video through one of our telescopes so that you can see what we're looking at!
A work of fiction doesn't have to be scientifically accurate. It just has to make sense. All it has to do is maintain an internal logic and consistency strong enough that you, the reader, aren't inadvertently thrown out of the world. If you're frequently frustrated by detail accuracy in fiction, that's likely your problem, not fiction's. Chill out. Breath deep. Smell the flowers. Experience some imagination and wonder.
I fully endorse all the sentiments outlined above. And yet. And yet. There are some fictional details that drive me crazy. Like the seasonal shifts in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, where winter and summer last for years—sometimes decades—and nobody knows exactly when the seasons will change. It's not that I feel a burning need to prove to Martin that this can't work. Instead, it makes me ravenously curious. I keep wondering whether, given what we know about astronomy, there's any way that this could actually work somewhere, in a galaxy far, far away.
A couple of weeks ago, io9's George Dvorsky put together a little round-up of five possible scientific explanations that would make Westeros' magical reality make more sense. I chatted about Dvorsky's list with Attila Kovacs, an actual astronomer who has a postdoc position at the California Institute of Technology. They've got differing perspectives on how unpredictable and ridiculously long seasons might work. Thanks to both these sources, I feel like I better understand our universe, and can read Martin more comfortably.