Hurricane Florence in 3D, as seen by NASA's MISR onboard the Terra satellite

Get your red-blue 3D glasses out. NASA today shares a stunning stereo anaglyph 3-D image of Hurricane Florence, captured from the MISR instrument flying on-board the Terra satellite, which carries nine cameras that observe Earth at different angles. Read the rest

Case of the missing moon rocks

After the Apollo 11 moon landing nearly 50 years ago, the White House gifted tiny samples of moon rocks to all the 50 states and 135 countries. They were encased in acrylic and mounted on a wooden plaque. In 2002, Joseph Gutheinz, then a NASA investigator, realized that nearly all of them had vanished. Thanks to his persistence since then, there are only two missing lunar souvenirs of the 50 distributed in the US. From the AP:

NASA did not track their whereabouts after giving them to the Nixon administration for distribution, said chief historian Bill Barry, but added the space agency would be happy to see them located.

Gutheinz began his career as an investigator for NASA, where he found illicit sellers asking millions for rocks on the black market. Authentic moon rocks are considered national treasures and cannot legally be sold in the U.S., he said.

Many of the Apollo 11 rocks have turned up in unexpected places: with ex-governors in West Virginia and Colorado, in a military-artifact storage building in Minnesota and with a former crab boat captain from TV’s “Deadliest Catch” in Alaska.

In New York, officials who oversee the state museum have no record of that state’s Apollo 11 rock. In Delaware, the sample was stolen from its state museum on Sept. 22, 1977. Police were contacted, but it was never found.

"Moon rock hunter closes in on tracking down missing stones" (AP, thanks Bob Pescovitz!) Read the rest

Saturn has northern lights, too

Earth shares a cool phenomenon with Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn: all have observable auroras. NASA created a lovely animation of Saturn's, as well as some cool still images. Read the rest

Happy anniversary, Voyager 1 and the Voyager Golden Record!

On this day in 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. (It followed the launch of Voyager 2 a few weeks earlier.)

Attached to each of these probes is a beautiful golden record containing a message for any extraterrestrial intelligence that might encounter it. This enchanting artifact, officially called the Voyager Interstellar Record, may be the last vestige of our civilization after we are gone forever.

Curated by a committee led by Carl Sagan, the Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Natural sounds—birds, a train, a baby’s cry, a kiss—are collaged into a lovely audio poem called "Sounds of Earth." There are spoken greetings in dozens of human languages—and one whale language—and more than 100 images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released the Voyager Record to the public on vinyl for the first time as a lavish box set. Our project's resonance with the public, and the Grammy that we were honored to receive for it, are really a testament to the majesty of the original record and the entire Voyager mission. As the original Golden Record's producer, Timothy Ferris, wrote in the liner notes for our box set, the Voyagers are on a journey not just through space but also through time. Read the rest

NASA legend Katherine Johnson turns 100 years old this week

So much of what we know about spaceflight, the moon and beyond can be attributed to mathematician Katherine Johnson. During the United States' race to the stars against the Soviet Union, Johnson served as one of NASA's "Human Computers," noodling out complicated math problems with nothing more than the brawn of her brains, a bit of chalk and an immeasurable amount of will.

From Space.com:

Johnson's most famous work, spotlighted in [the movie] "Hidden Figures," was for John Glenn's orbital mission in 1962. The mission required a complicated worldwide communications network. The mission's orbital calculations, which controlled the trajectory of the capsule for the mission, were programmed by a computer, but Glenn asked engineers to "get the girl" — referring to Katherine Johnson — to validate the calculations. She ran the same calculations by hand that the computer had run, and Glenn said, according to Johnson, "If she says they're good, then I'm ready to go."

As if being responsible for the math that put a man into orbit wasn't stress enough, Johnson also had to contend with the racist malarkey and misogyny that came part in parcel with being a black woman during the late 20th century (and the early 21st century, honestly.) As a white man, I'm in no position to say whether things are better today for women of any ethnic background than they were back then. But I want to believe that her guts and determination to do her job so well that Glenn entrusted her with his life helped pave a path for others to get a running start at beating workplace inequality and racism into the ground. Read the rest

NASA's gorgeous music video for Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune"

The scientist/artists in NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio created this magnificent video to accompany a recent performance by the National Symphony Orchestra Pops of Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune." From NASA:

The visuals were composed like a nature documentary, with clean cuts and a mostly stationary virtual camera. The viewer follows the Sun throughout a lunar day, seeing sunrises and then sunsets over prominent features on the Moon. The sprawling ray system surrounding Copernicus crater, for example, is revealed beneath receding shadows at sunrise and later slips back into darkness as night encroaches...

The visualization uses a digital 3D model of the Moon built from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter global elevation maps and image mosaics. The lighting is derived from actual Sun angles during lunar days in 2018.

Read the rest

Photos from space of the northern California fires

Astronaut Alexander Gerst captured the above photo of Northern California's Carr and Ferguson fires five days ago. Below is the blanket of smoke from the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest fire in California's history, as imaged by the Aqua satellite. Horrifying and tragic no matter how you see it.

From NASA:

Details of the actual fire as well as the ground are obscured in NASA's Aqua satellite image due to the heavy smoke coming off the Mendocino Complex fires as well as several other extremely large fires across California.

Today's total of acreage consumed by the River and Range fires is 300,086 and the fires are 47% contained. The Mendocino Complex Fire doubled in size over the last few days and the Ranch and River Fires combined near Clear Lake to form the largest fire in California history. Weather concerns continue with a warm and dry ridge of high pressure continuing over the fire areas today. Fuel moisture recovery continues to be poor overnight. A red flag warning is predicted from Thursday through Saturday. This is the 13th day of this ongoing blaze. Over 4,000 firefighters have been involved in fighting this fire. There are still over 10,000 structures that are in danger. Yosemite National Park has been closed indefinitely due to the fire.

Read the rest

Hear the sounds of the Sun

NASA scientists listen to the low-frequency pulsing hum of the Sun to gain insight into the star's atmosphere over time. The raw data comes from the ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) launched back in 1995. Researchers from Stanford Experimental Physics Lab then process and filter the data and speed it up "a factor 42,000 to bring it into the audible human-hearing range."

From NASA:

“Waves are traveling and bouncing around inside the Sun, and if your eyes were sensitive enough they could actually see this,” said Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland...

Data from SOHO, sonified by the Stanford Experimental Physics Lab, captures the Sun’s natural vibrations and provides scientists with a concrete representation of its dynamic movements.

“We don’t have straightforward ways to look inside the Sun. We don’t have a microscope to zoom inside the Sun,” Young said. “So using a star or the Sun’s vibrations allows us to see inside of it..."

These vibrations allow scientists to study a range of complex motions inside the Sun, from solar flares to coronal mass ejections.

“We can see huge rivers of solar material flowing around. We are finally starting to understand the layers of the Sun and the complexity,” Young said. “That simple sound is giving us a probe inside of a star. I think that’s a pretty cool thing.”

Read the rest

NASA's infrared map of Titan

Composed from 13 years of Cassini probe mission data, NASA's infrared-based map of Titan shows off one of the solar system's most promising worlds. Read the rest

What do they mean by "enhanced color" in space images?

The striking enhanced color image of blue-hued sand dunes on Mars led some readers to ask what that means. Above is a side-by-side image in what scientists call "true color" on the left and enhanced on the right. The color humans would perceive is probably somewhere between the two, depending on conditions. Here's the difference: Read the rest

Mars has blue-hued sand dunes

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped this giant Martian sand dune that has a turquoise blue hue in enhanced color. Read the rest

Hi rez images from NASA's 1967/8 Lunar Orbiters were withheld to hide US spying capabilities

In 1967, the Lunar Orbiter missions sent back exciting -- but grainy and low-rez -- photos of the moon's surface. Read the rest

Life's building blocks discovered on Mars

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has dug up organic molecules, the raw building blocks of life. The robot drilled out the organic carbon samples from 3-billion-year-old sediments in Mars’s Gale Crater that was once filled with water. From the New York Times:

That does not prove that life has ever existed on Mars. The same carbon molecules, broadly classified as organic matter, also exist within meteorites that fall from space. They can also be produced in chemical reactions that do not involve biology.

But the discovery, published on Thursday by the journal Science, is a piece of the Mars puzzle that scientists have long been seeking. In 1976, NASA’s two Viking landers conducted the first experiments searching for organic matter on Mars and appeared to come up empty.

“Now things are starting to make more sense,” said Jennifer L. Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of the Science paper. “We still don’t know the source of them, but they’re there. They’re not missing any more.”

"Life on Mars? Rover’s Latest Discovery Puts It ‘On the Table’" by Kenneth Chang (NYT) Read the rest

The Right Stuff: Adam Savage and astronaut Jim Newman talk with Ariel Waldman

On Tested's Offworld, Boing Boing pals Ariel Waldman and Adam Savage talk with astronaut Jim Newman about the 1983 film The Right Stuff, early NASA missions, and how "astronaut culture" has changed over the years.

Alan Shepard: Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up.

Gordon Cooper: I didn't quite copy that. Say again, please.

Alan Shepard: I said everything's A-OK.

Read the rest

NASA photographer's camera cooked by last week's SpaceX rocket launch

Senior NASA photographer Bill Ingalls apparently set up his Canon EOS 5DS at an unlucky spot near yesterday's SpaceX rocket launch. He placed it outside the pad perimeter yet the launch sparked a small brush fire that cooked the camera. "I had many other cameras much closer to the pad than this and all are safe," Ingalls wrote.

Fortunately, the SD cards didn't melt and he was able to access the final photos taken by the camera before its untimely death. Two of them are below.

Read the rest

New hi-res scans of NASA's 1970s dreams of space colonies

NASA's groovy imagining of space settlements were put in the public domain in 2007, and now space antropologist Michael Oman-Reagan has shared these remarkable hi-res scans created by David Brandt-Erichsen. Read the rest

NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars

Joining the Mars 2020 rover mission to the Red Planet will be a small helicopter. The Mars Helicopter, with a softball-size fuselage, the autonomous chopper will be solar powered and integrate a small heater so it doesn't seize up at night. From NASA:

Once the rover is on the planet’s surface, a suitable location will be found to deploy the helicopter down from the vehicle and place it onto the ground. The rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will relay commands. After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.

“We don’t have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time,” said (Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.) “Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the (rover on the) ground, and then fly the mission on its own.”

“The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers,” said Zurbuchen. “We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.”

Mars 2020 will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.

Read the rest

More posts