Archive

Archive for August, 2010

Dr. Garvin's Solar System Picture Show

Garvin_title_608
Hey kids — got a science report due on the solar system? Do I have a video for you: a guided tour of the inner rocky planets by Goddard’s James Garvin.

Chief Scientist of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Jim Garvin, takes us on a journey of Earth, the moon, and our neighboring planets. Why does space matter? Why is exploring the inner solar system so crucial? Where will humans venture to next? In this video lecture, Dr. Garvin answers these questions and discusses NASA’s past, present, and future of discovery on our nearest neighbors in the solar system.

Click the image above to see the entire 55-minute presentation on Blip TV. This version, compressed to play in a continues clip, is a little grainy. That short-changes you a bit on the fantastic computer simulations and images packed into Garvin’s talk. You have the option of watching the presentation in six higher-resolution YouTube clips (below). Or you could download the high-res files from Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio site.

Garvin covers Mercury, Venus, the moon, asteroids, Earth (a wee bit), and then Mars (quite a bit). He covers the detailed history of what we’ve done and what we still want to do. Garvin scores big points with his enormous energy and enthusiasm, deep knowledge of the subject (he’s a planetary scientist), and a humorous touch.

Check it out if you want an update from the bleeding edge of NASA planetary science from a true insider. It’s watchable and packed with interesting science/tech tidbits.

If you have a fast Internet connection, set the video segments below to play back at 720p for the maximum High Def data blast.


http://www.youtube.com/v/ePffS0N_HZk?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/-dQ2YYrE8yI?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/hXE2rEodGEA?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/0VsbXLVr2P0?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/znx77MdPTxg?fs=1&hl=en_US


http://www.youtube.com/v/mHbFFv1Pq5c?fs=1&hl=en_US

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Blogolicious image of the day: a hole in the sun

August 30, 2010 4 comments

SDO_coronal_hole_608
Here’s the latest Picture of the Week from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, courtesy of Goddard’s solar media specialist Steele Hill.

The image depicts a large-scale feature called a coronal hole. It was created from observations in the extreme ultraviolet that SDO captured August 23-25. The “hole” is an area that colder, darker, and less dense than surrounding parts of the sun’s corona, or outer atmosphere. Here, the contours of the sun’s magnetic field allow hot star stuff — the solar wind — to stream out at high speed.

Thanks to Steele’s diligent work, these Picture of the Week features — there is also one for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) — stream out to hundreds of science and nature centers all over the country.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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That Was The Week That Was, August 22-27, 2010. . . A Digest of Goddard People, Science, & Media, PLUS Historical Tidbits and Our Best Stuff in the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

SUNDAY AUGUST 22: Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles and other classics, was born this day 100 years ago in Waukegan, Illinois.

The rockets came like drums, beating in the night. The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke. And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with nails so they resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them into their swift hands as they hammered up frame cottages and scuttled over roofs with shingles to blot out the eerie stars, and fit green shades to pull against the night.


MONDAY AUGUST 23: The MODIS Image of the Day shows a plankton bloom off Greenland.

Planet pulverizers: A research team including Goddard’s Marc Kuchner finds evidence of planet-destroying collisions in another star system!

Dog days of summer: On What On Earth, bloggers Patrick Lynch and Adam Voiland of NASA’s Earth Science News Team discuss the warm and erratic summer weather.

Better luck next time: On this day in 1961, Ranger 1 launched. When the experimental satellite separated from its Agena booster stage it went into a low Earth orbit and began tumbling. The satellite re-entered Earth’s atmosphere a week later, on August 30, 1961

Awesomely: Featured in Blueshift’s Weekly Awesomeness Round Up: solar sail, sunspots, special shuttle launch, space colonies, and other highlights in space science and astronomy.


satellite image of hurricane katrina

TUESDAY AUGUST 24: Goddard marks the 5-year anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe:  The Scientific Visualization Studio provides a satellite-eye view of the tempest. See a Katrina Flickr gallery by Public Affairs photo maven Rebecca Roth. Meanwhile, gogblog asks Goddard researcher Siegfried Schubert how supercomputers are improving hurricane forecasting. And Discovery News blogger Michael Reilly comments on the Goddard satellite visualization about Katrina.

This year’s model: Here’s how to build a life-size mock-up of the James Webb Space Telescope.


photo of launch of spitzer space telescopeWEDNESDAY AUGUST 25: Satellite imagery featured today: dust storms in Afghanistan and Pakistan and how satellites can help archeologists preserve hidden cultural treasures.

Koji says: Take a tour of the international observatory on the island of La Palma with NASA Blueshift blogger Koji Mukai.

Hail to the chief. . . of the Goddard Astrochemistry Laboratory, Jason Dworkin, in a new video profile.

Go Spitzer! On this day in 2003, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) launched into orbit. One of the quartet of NASA Great Observatories, SIRTF was renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope and continues to push the frontiers of space-based astronomy.


robonaut_202THURSDAY AUGUST 26: Earth Observatory spotlights satellite view of fires raging in South America.

FRIDAY AUGUST 27: On this day in 1962, Mariner 2 left for Venus, to become the first spaceship from Earth to visit another planet.

Space rocks: NASA and U2 released a commemorative video highlighting a year’s worth of collaboration in space and on the Irish rock band’s 360 Degree tour.

I, Robonaut! NASA’s humanoid astronaut buddy is being prepared for its history making launch to the International Space Station on STS-133.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Katrina +5: Where is hurricane science now and where is it going? At Goddard, researchers are betting on supercomputing to give us an edge over nature's deadliest storms

August 24, 2010 10 comments
Click to view video of GEOS-5 computer model simulation of the 2005 hurricane season.

Click to view computer simulation of August 2005, during a record-breaking hurricane season.


Scientists at Goddard’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO) hope that supercomputer simulations of the global weather machine will eventually pay off with forecasts helpful in planning for hurricanes.

Since the notorious 2005 hurricane season that included Hurricane Katrina, “there have been tremendous advances in high-resolution modeling of storms,” according to GMAO scientist Siegfried Schubert.

Schubert says that researchers have reached new heights in detailed weather and climate simulation using Goddard’s Discover supercomputer. The star of the show is the Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5 (GEOS-5).

GEOS-5 combines theoretical simulation of Earth’s coupled ocean-atmosphere system and real data from Goddard’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites. Clouds form and billow; storms evolve from moisture and heat; hurricanes scud across ocean basins.

In a recent record for lifelike computer simulation of Earth’s storm factory, GEOS-5 reproduced details as small as 14 kilometers (about 9 miles). That’s a smaller footprint than many thunderstorms.

The model was able to simulate important structures of hurricanes, such as the sharply defined inner “eye wall” and clusters of convective clouds that are part of the storm’s plumbing system.

GMAO researcher William Putman re-ran the 2005 tropical storm seasons using GEOS-5, an exercise known as “hindcasting.” The sea surface temperature drove, or “forced,” the process, just as in real life.

The GEOS-5 model roughly reproduced the actual number of tropical storms in 2005. That year, the Atlantic basin spawned 28 tropical storms, 15 hurricanes, and 7 “major” hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).

What does this mean for you and me?

With continuing advances in both the power of supercomputers and more accurate models, the heirs to GEOS-5 should be able to produce decent seasonal forecasts. This means predicting how many storms will form, how many could be major storms.

Further on, models that account for large-scale patterns of circulation in the ocean and atmosphere could even help forecast the number of landfalling storms.

With such a forecasts, regions would at least have the option of preparing more effectively.



Check out the special feature on Katrina on the NASA website.

Watch, “Katrina Retrospective: 5 years After the Storm” below for a fascinating exploration of Hurricane Katrina from the perspective of NASA’s fleet of satellites:


_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Featured space art: the planet pulverizers of RS Canum Venaticorums, as imagined by visual effects artist Tim Pyle

“. . . now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Or if Death isn’t handy, exoplanet scientists have discovered the next best thing: planetary collisions.

A team of scientists — including Goddard’s own Marc Kuchner — have used data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to discover what may be pulverized planets around another star. That’s right — debris from planets that collided and were possibly destroyed in the process. If you want to read all about the science, go to today’s excellent press release by our friends at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Me, I’d like to talk about the pretty pictures. “Pictures” literally, wonderful pieces of space art by visual effects artist Tim Pyle. If you have seen any significant amount of Spitzer related stories and other news emanating from JPL, you probably have seen Pyle’s work. I give you his two latest portraits below.

If you’ve seen “Jimmy Neutron,” you’ve seen Pyle’s animation. (Jimmy Neutron was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.) He also worked on “Starship Troopers: the Series,” as well as “Children of Dune.”

NASA is fortunate to be able to draw on such Hollywood-class talent to bring to life the weird and wonderful worlds that exoplanet scientists are discovering.

B_Destroyer_BinaryDisk_650

Circle of Planetary Ashes: This artist’s concept illustrates a tight pair of stars and a surrounding disk of dust — most likely the shattered remains of planetary smashups. Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the scientists found dusty evidence for such collisions around three sets of stellar twins (a class of stars called RS Canum Venaticorum’s or RS CVns for short). The stars, which are similar to our sun in mass and age, orbit very closely around each other. They are separated by just two percent of the Earth-sun distance. As time goes by, the stars get closer and closer, and this causes the gravitational harmony in the systems to go out of whack. Comets and any planets orbiting around the stars could jostle about and collide.

C_Destroyer_CrackedPlanet_650

Before the Smashup: This artist’s concept illustrates an imminent planetary collision around a pair of double stars. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope found evidence that such collisions could be common around a certain type of tight double, or binary, star system, referred to as RS Canum Venaticorums or RS CVns for short. The stars are similar to the sun in age and mass, but they orbit tightly around each other. With time, they are thought to get closer and closer, until their gravitational influences change, throwing the orbits of planetary bodies circling around them out of whack.

Astronomers say that these types of systems could theoretically host habitable planets, or planets that orbit at the right distance from the star pairs to have temperatures that allow liquid water to exist. If so, then these worlds might not be so lucky. They might ultimately be destroyed in collisions like the impending one illustrated here, in which the larger body has begun to crack under the tidal stresses caused by the gravity of the approaching smaller one.

Spitzer’s infrared vision spotted dusty evidence for such collisions around three tight star pairs. In this artist concept’s, dust from ongoing planetary collisions is shown circling the stellar duo in a giant disk.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Blogolicious image of the day: As the STEREO (Behind) spacecraft observed in extreme UV light, the Sun popped off no fewer than six eruptions over just two days. . .

August 23, 2010 4 comments

Here’s a dramatic short video from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) “Pick of the Week” website. The images were actually captured by one of the twin STEREO spacecraft.

click me to watch the video!

click me to watch the video!



Here’s the detailed explanation from the Pick of the Week site:

As the STEREO (Behind) spacecraft observed in extreme UV light, the sun popped off no fewer than six eruptions over just two days (Aug. 14-15, 2010). At one point, three were occurring events at the same time. Most these were eruptive prominences in which cooler clouds of gases above the surface break away from the sun. The most powerful of these events, a coronal mass ejection, began around 6:30 UT on Aug. 15. It was harder to see from this spacecraft’s angle since it blasted out from the whiter active region in the lower center, so it had the sun as its backdrop.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Gogblog's Monday Video Rewind Picture Show: A Tour of Antarctica

http://www.youtube.com/v/Pfzui39WWT0?fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0


Glaciers. . .  snow pack. . . mountains. . . exotic blue ice. . . a continent about the size of the United States and Mexico combined, but with virtually no population. Welcome to Antarctica.

Have you got four and a half minutes? If so, watching this video will be time well spent. Animators at Goddard Space Flight Center created a Ken Burns image flyover on steroids. Slowly you soar over a virtual landscape composed of a thousand individual LandSat satellite images, stitched together seamlessly into the LandSat Image Mosaic of Antarctica, or LIMA.

No need to run on about it. The narrator will fill you in. Relax and observe.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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That Was The Week That Was, August 16-20, 2010. . . A Digest of Goddard People, Science, & Media, PLUS Historical Tidbits and Our Best Stuff in the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

ocean bloom

ocean bloom

MONDAY AUGUST 16: MODIS Image of the Day posts beautific satellite snapshot of microscopic plant life in the oceans blooming off the coast of Newfoundland.

On the edge: The IBEX spacecraft reports from the electrifying edge of Earth’s magnetic bubble.

More awesomeness: NASA Blueshift’s Weekly Awesomeness Roundup revisits a recent Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope discovery, the Perseid meteor shower, and a visit to Goddard by the local Fox TV station.

home sweet home

home sweet home

TUESDAY AUGUST 17: On the Goddard Flickr gallery, the latest GOES-13 satellite full disk view of Earth.

Billions and billions: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Facebook page reports that the LOLA surface mapping instrument has shot more than a billion pulses of laser light at the moon’s surface.

Pulsar discovery: NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) sees the first fast X-ray pulsar to be eclipsed by its companion star.

More about RXTE: On NASA Blueshift, blogger Maggie Masetti takes a close look at two recent discoveries made using data from the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer.

From Russia with science: NASA scientists trek (and blog) from Western Siberia on the Earth Observatory’s Notes From The Field.

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 18: NASA Blueshift ponders whether Hubble Space Telescope should go to a museum.

THURSDAY AUGUST 19: The Dawn spacecraft is now less than a year from arriving at asteroid Vesta. Read all about it on Science@NASA:

Honey, they shrunk the moon: NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter finds evidence of a cooling, contracting lunar crust.


Grab that Miracle-Gro! Decline in global plant growth documented by NASA satellites.

Earth buzz: The What On Earth blog highlights steamy July temps, the lowdown on the shakedown in the Gulf, and our planet in its grayest and gloomiest glory


FRIDAY AUGUST 20: On this day 35 years ago, Viking 1 left for Mars.

What On Earth Is That? NASA Earth blogger Adam Voiland posts another mystery image waiting for you to identify. Looks like dried mud flats to me. . .

Get a GRIP: Visit NASA hurricane scientists inside the DC-8 as it flew into the remnants of Tropical Depression Five over southern Louisiana.

Viking 1 gazes out at the surafce of Mars. . .

Viking 1 gazes out at the surafce of Mars. . .

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Blogolicious image of the day: Earth and its moon as seen from the MESSENGER spacecraft

Some images are so extraordinary you don’t have to say all that much. And you don’t even need color.

So, briefly, here is an image snapped by the MESSENGER spacecraft, now exploring Mercury. The big blob is us, the littler blob is our moon. MESSENGER snapped the image May 6, 2010, from 114 million miles away — greater than Earth’s average distance from the sun.

And that’s all I gotta say about that. Read more about it at OnOrbit.

Earth and its moon

Earth and its moon

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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It's moon day at gogblog: International Observe the Moon Day is coming! ALSO: How to create a gorgeous portrait of the rising moon. PLUS: New NASA images say "Honey I shrunk the moon."

click to make me bigger!

click to make me bigger!

Are you ready for International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN)? In a previous post I told you about this event, which was conceived by NASA lunar scientists and educators, but involvement has since become more widespread and international.

You should get involved, too. The InOMN website has everything you will need to participate. I and other members of the Goddard Astronomy Club will be at Goddard’s  Visitor Center September 18 with telescopes, showing the public a cavalcade of craters.

InOMN will include a lunar photo contest. In this post, you can learn how to create a gorgeous multiple exposure shot of the moon rising, similar to the one at left by Oregon photographer Randy Scholten. He photographed the partial lunar eclipse of June 26 (2010) and it was published on Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD).


The basic ingredients:

  • A camera that you can operate in manual mode.
  • A sturdy camera tripod.
  • Access to Photoshop software and basic Photoshop skills.

Here’s how to make the portrait:

Mount the camera on a tripod. You will need to keep the camera steady for the best results.

Take a background shot of the land, sky, and the moon just starting to rise.

Then shoot additional images of the moon as it rises. Scholten shot the eclipsing moon every 10 minutes with a 500mm telephoto lens. This is why the tripod is important: Even a slight jiggle while shooting in telephoto mode can blur the image.

To make sure you get the best possible shot, “bracket” the exposures a couple of settings above and below the initial one. This will give you more choices to work with in the Photoshop assembly phase.

Scholten used Photoshop to select the 12 best moon images and arrange them in a series onto the initial background image. To do this, you need to understand how to use the Layers function of Photoshop and the Marquee selection tool (elliptical). Fortunately, this is pretty easy to learn, with many clear and free tutorials available on the Web. Good luck!

“Not your grandfather’s moon” And last but not least, today the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team announced images that bear on the moon’s evolution. The new stuff from LRO adds to mounting evidence that the moon has been more dynamic then people thought, and is not at all a “dead” solar system body.

From the press release:

Newly discovered cliffs in the lunar crust indicate the moon shrank globally in the geologically recent past and might still be shrinking today, according to a team analyzing new images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The results provide important clues to the moon’s recent geologic and tectonic evolution.


Here’s a crack in the incredible shrinking moon:

scarp_608

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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