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Ho-Ho-Hubble for the Holidays: See the Most Stunning Stuff Here

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

hubble snow angel image


It’s that time of the year: time for releases of holiday-themed Hubble images. Sparkly lights, ornaments, wreaths, and — today — a stunning snow angel. You may have already seen it, and if you haven’t — you will.

But this is just the latest in a series of releases. Without further delay, here is a menu of magnificence from the Hubble imaging artists. And don’t forget to browse the offering of FREE holiday cards from Hubblesite.


hubble ornament image

A delicate sphere of gas, photographed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, floats serenely in the depths of space. The pristine shell, or bubble, is the result of gas that is being shocked by the expanding blast wave from a supernova. Called SNR 0509-67.5 (or SNR 0509 for short), the bubble is the visible remnant of a powerful stellar explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small galaxy about 160,000 light-years from Earth. Ripples in the shell’s surface may be caused by either subtle variations in the density of the ambient interstellar gas, or possibly driven from the interior by pieces of the ejecta. The bubble-shaped shroud of gas is 23 light-years across and is expanding at more than 11 million miles per hour (5,000 kilometers per second).



hubble wreath image

In the new Hubble image of the galaxy M74 we can also see a smattering of bright pink regions decorating the spiral arms. These are huge, relatively short-lived, clouds of hydrogen gas which glow due to the strong radiation from hot, young stars embedded within them; glowing pink regions of ionized hydrogen (hydrogen that has lost its electrons). These regions of star formation show an excess of light at ultraviolet wavelengths and astronomers call them HII regions.



The Big Picture Blog recently relocated from the Boston Globe to the Atlantic magazine. But it still releases a Hubble “advent calendar.” Brace yourself for some of the most stunning astronomical images you will see this year. Click the sparkly image below to go to the 2011 Big Picture Blog Advent Calendar.


hubble sparkly lights image
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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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Check out the Viz — a new way to explore the planet and beyond

photo of ipad with nasa viz app displayed

In the past year or so, I was involved in a project here at Goddard to create a new iPad app and it’s finally out. It’s called the NASA Visualization Explorer.

I know, I know — what do they mean by “visualization”? Pardon the jargon. It’s the local industry around here.

“Visualization” is sorta what it sounds like. It’s the process of making something visual. In this case, the thing being visualized is data from NASA’s fleet of scientific satellites.

The crack team of scientist-artists at NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio crank this stuff out, and some of it is truly amazing work. But it doesn’t necessarily reach the public. The new iPad app will help to spread the good news: “We got viz!”

If you have an iPad, check this thing out and let us know what you think.


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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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Hubble Space Telescope: one in a million

July 6, 2011 1 comment

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured its one-millionth scientific observation. To commemorate, here is more than 200 of the most spectacular Hubble images, set to music from the Planets album by the New York City band One Ring Zero. Many thanks to One Ring Zero co-leader Michael Hearst for extending permission to use the song Pluto in this video. And thanks to NASA fan Alex Grzybowski of Glenelg Country School for right-clicking more than 200 Hubble images off Hubblesite for this project.


Download the video (.m4v, 28 Mb)

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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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A peek at the behind-the-scenes movie magic that created 'Using colors to search for alien Earths'

November 3, 2010 1 comment

Astronomer Carolyn Crow, also the center of the solar system.

Carolyn Crow, UCLA graduate student and center of the solar system.

Someday, when we have space telescopes that can narrow in on the exceedingly weak light from incredibly distant planets around other stars, what will we do with those precious photons?

If you want to know, read the latest web feature and watch the video from NASA Goddard. I wrote the feature, “Using planet colors to search for alien Earths.”

I also had a chance to sit in on the studio work that produced the video featuring Carolyn Crow, a young scientist who led the research on planet colors. (She is currently a graduate student at UCLA.) As commonplace as green-screen technology is today, it’s movie magic that never fails to impress — especially when used as cleverly as it is in this video.

Producer/director Scott Wiessinger created a colorful digital landscape in which Crow strolled among the planets of our solar system in a modern version of Gulliver’s Travels. NASA/Goddard astrophysics writer Frank Reddy provided a concise and clear script.

Here is a behind-the-scenes peek at the movie magic.


looking stage left

Carolyn Crow stands ready to gesture at imaginary planets on Goddard TV’s green screen stage. To eliminate shadows and get the best results from the green screen process, the stage is brightly lit.



carolyn crow being filmed in front of a green screen

carolyn_after
Carolyn after being inserted into a digital landscape with starry background and planet Earth.


And here is the final result:


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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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Hidden Heroes: 80 percent of the time, Jim Foster thinks about snow. But the rest of the time is consumed by his joy and his jailor — the earth science picture of the day

July 22, 2010 13 comments
got moon?

got moon?

Jim Foster is a senior scientist at NASA Goddard who studies snow 80 percent of his work time. “I’m in the Hydrological Science Branch, and my research deals with snow hydrology, also related to snow and climate,” he explains. “I’m involved in projects trying to better derive how much water is stored in snowpacks — seasonal snow not glaciers.”

Less well known is what he does with the remaining 20 percent of his time: EPOD: the earth science picture of the day website.

After many months of following the EPOD site and re-posting its images on blogs and Facebook pages, I finally noticed that the guy running the show is right here at Goddard, over in Building 33 around the corner from me. So I called him.

Foster explained that 10 years ago, he was asked to manage a new website featuring images related to earth science. This became EPOD.

EPOD rocks

EPOD rocks

EPOD echoes APOD — the Astronomy Picture of the Day. To say that APOD is wildly popular is an understatement. It was founded in 1995 by Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell. Jerry is a scientist here at Goddard.

In 2000, Foster and the rest of the (small) EPOD team launched the site and put out a call for images. It took a while for things to pick up. But now there is no shortage.

“They come from everywhere,” he says. “We’ve received contributions from each continent. Sometimes it’s scientists, but most of the time just people have an interest in science, or folks that don’t have an interest in science but have a camera.”

lightning_epod_152

lightning strikes

Each EPOD entry includes a caption, links, time and date when the photo was taken, and latitude and longitude coordinates. Often Jim has to research the details before posting.

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) hosts the website on its server. (USRA is a private, nonprofit consortium of 105 universities offering advanced degrees in space- and aeronautics-related disciplines.) At USRA, Stacy Bowles handles the technical aspects of the site and runs the relatively new EPOD Facebook page.  And a former newspaper marketing specialist in Seattle, Stu Witmer, contributes to EPOD as an unpaid volunteer. He provides grammar checks, proofreading, and other valuable support. “Stacy and Stu help things run smoothly,” Foster says.

ISS transit_epod_152

sun crosser

Since last fall, NASA’s Earth Observatory has provided funds to cover 20 percent of Foster’s salary to work on EPOD. But there’s more to it than that. There is the more intangible element of commitment.

Day after day for most of the past decade, the ravenous mouth of EPOD had to be fed with a new image and associated information and web links. And through rain, hail, sleet or snow, Foster has delivered. Before going on vacation or traveling for work, he had to build up a queue of EPODs. No exceptions.

cloud_epod_202

cloudy weather

In this sense, EPOD has been Foster’s joy and his jailor. And I think it makes him one of the unsung heroes of science on the web. You know, the people who just do what they do, day after day, usually for only the satisfaction of doing it, often with minimal or no financial support at all — or in some cases, just the reward of feeding an obsession.

There are many such people on the web. But countless earth enthusiasts all over the planet can thank one man for sustaining EPOD for a decade: Jim Foster at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Got any cool earth science images? Send them to Foster. The contact form is on the EPOD website.
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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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