The Carbon Crisis in 90 Seconds: Goddard Earth scientist Peter Griffith explains the difference between a banana and a lump of coal

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

still image of banana and lump of coal from peter griffith video
In the run up to last week’s “Best of Goddard” film festival, I came to know Peter Griffith. It turned out we both had made science-related videos in 2011, but missed the deadline to submit them to the Best of Goddard screening. (Mine was a Hubble music video.) Better luck next year! You can see “Best of” videos here, here, here, and here.

Griffith’s day job is managing the NASA Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems research office. But he’s also been active in an interagency program called Earth to Sky, helping to teach national park public education “interpreters” about carbon and climate change so they can incorporate that knowledge into their talks and tours.

Thus was born the video below, which explains the difference between a banana and a lump of coal with respect to Earth’s climate. I won’t get into the details here; the film speaks for itself. It’s a clever and highly effective way to explain a scientific concept that could have easily become deadly dull in the wrong hands.





Griffith made The Carbon Crisis in 90 seconds in collaboration with Eric Mortensen, a graduate student at the Maryland Institute College of Art who was a 2011 summer intern at Goddard. It was one of the 10 videos selected for the American Geophysical Union “S Factor” Science Video Workshop, held in San Francisco on December 6th, 2011. See some of the videos here.

Three Hollywood filmmakers critiqued Griffith’s video and, he says, they liked it. It was one of three that got the nod from one of the filmmaker’s pre-teenage daughter. “I was kind of expecting a little bit harsher treatment,” Griffith says.

The animated version of the film is a more artistically evolved version of what Griffith calls his “talking head version,” with him on camera, well, talking a lot. That segment was originally produced for use on National Park Service Web Rangers site for kids aged 8-12 to earn merit badges by learning some Earth science.

Griffith has plans to obtain a summer intern in 2012 to make another film about carbon and climate (concept as-yet-undetermined). Geeked On Goddard has only one bit of advice: Stick with the banana.


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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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Comet Lovejoy waggles its tail on the way around the sun

December 16, 2011 2 comments

Lovejoy_entry

Steele Hill of the Solar Dynamics Observatory media team just released a video showing Comet Lovejoy beginning its closest approach (perihelion) with the sun last night. Here is Steele’s video and description:



Comet Lovejoy skimmed across the Sun’s edge about 140,000 km above the surface late Dec. 15, 2011, furiously vaporizing as it approaches the stellar surface. The video clip from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory covers about 30 minutes. It is the brightest sungrazing comet that SOHO and SDO have ever seen, with a nucleus about twice as wide as a football field. The comet’s tail waggled at interacted with the Sun’s atmosphere. It unexpectedly survived the pass and cruised out from behind the Sun roughly hours later. Comets are ancient balls of dust and ice.

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Video of Comet Lovejoy looping around the sun intact

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Defying expectations, sungrazing Comet Lovejoy looped around the sun after its closest pass and made it out alive. I emailed Karl Battams at the Sungrazing Comets website this morning for an update on Lovejoy. “It’s still ridiculously bright, if somewhat tailless!” he wrote. “It will be back in several hundred years.”

Even more amazing, perhaps, is that I was able to boot up a small program developed at Goddard Space Flight Center and create this video over morning coffee. (The clip was looped using Final Cut Pro Studio, BTW.)

I used JHelioviewer, a NASA/European Space Agency collaboration, but you can also use the Web-based app, Helioviewer.org. The Helioviewer Project team at Goddard consists of solar scientist Jack Ireland and computer programmer Keith Hughitt, both based in the Heliophysics Science Division. Summer interns have also contributed at various times.

I think Jack, Keith, and all the other members of the team deserve enormous credit for putting this amazing tool in the hands of the public to explore the sun and sungrazing comets. I shudder to think how difficult it would have been, and how time-consuming, to obtain videos like this before the Helioviewer Project. Because of these people, we can bring you minute-by-minute updates, and we can all enjoy the drama of a live astronomical event unfolding literally on our laptop screens.



[Video updated 10:30 am (EST) Dec. 16, 2011]


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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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Categories: Comets

Lovejoy survived!

December 15, 2011 2 comments

This just in from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory website: Comet Lovejoy survived its close pass of the sun and has reemerged on the other side of the star. Here is a short clip of the fortunate comet’s re-apparition:

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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Categories: Comets

Best of Goddard Video 2011: Promoting NASA's Work

December 15, 2011 1 comment

nippy_200
On Friday this week, NASA/Goddard filmmakers, writers, and animators will screen what they consider their best work of 2011. It’s called the Best of Goddard Film Festival, and it’s held every year about this time for Goddard employees. (For employees, the festival will run from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm in the Goett Auditorium, Building 3.)

Even if you are “outside the Center” and can’t be here with us, you can still watch and enjoy the entries to the festival that are available on YouTube on the NASA Explorer channel. They’ll run in groups this week on the blog.

Previous posts featured NASA scientific discoveries from 2011, Space Technology, and our beautiful universe.

Today, let’s look at videos created to promote the work that NASA does. It’s a variety of things, including contests and a video for kids about the NPP satellite.

OPTIMUS PRIME and NASA Team Up To Raise Awareness of NASA Technology

  • Animators: Walt Feimer (HTSI) (Lead), Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Video Editor: Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Narrators: Peter Cullen Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Producers: Chris Smith (HTSI) Walt Feimer (HTSI)
  • Videographer: Chris Smith (HTSI)




Earth Day 2011 “Home Frontier” Video Contest Trailer

  1. Video Editor: Matthew R. Radcliff (UMBC)
  2. Producer: Matthew R. Radcliff (UMBC)
  3. Writer: Patrick Lynch (Wyle Information Systems)



NPPy: Big Planet, Little Bear

  • Animators: Walt Feimer (HTSI) (Lead), Michael Lentz (UMBC), Ryan Zuber (UMBC)
  • Video Editor: Rich Melnick (HTSI)
  • Narrators: Katie Lewis (USRA), Marci Delaney (UMBC/GSFC)
  • Producers: Walt Feimer (HTSI), Rich Melnick (HTSI), Silvia Stoyanova (USRA)
  • Writers: Ryan Fitzgibbons (USRA), Chris Smith (HTSI)



NPP: Why another Earth observing satellite?
Producer: Silvia Stoyanova


See Goddard in 3D!

  • Producers: Victoria Weeks (HTSI), Michael Starobin (HTSI)
  • Scientist: David Adamec (NASA/GSFC)
  • Videographers: Victoria Weeks (HTSI), Michael Starobin (HTSI)
  • Writers: Michael Starobin (HTSI), Victoria Weeks (HTSI)




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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Details on the expected demise of Comet Lovejoy tonight

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I just got off the phone with Karl Battams, a member of the science teams of the SOHO and STEREO sun-observing satellites, based at the Naval Research Laboratory and author of the Sungrazing Comets website. We talked about what to expect as Comet Lovejoy reaches its closest approach to the sun (perihelion) tonight at about 7:30 pm (EST).

First of all, make sure to watch the live coverage on the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) website of the comet’s arrival at the sun. The trailer is below.





Battams says that Lovejoy’s closest approach will be hidden from SDO but (they hope) not from STEREO. “We have an observing program in place,” says Battams.

Lovejoy is a sun-grazing (not sun-colliding) comet. That simply means that it makes a very close pass as it goes around the sun. . It’s often close enough to destroy a comet.

But what will Lovejoy’s fate be? It’s hard to say exactly. “My line is that it is unlikely to survive in any appreciable form,” Battams says. “It’s intentionally vague.”

Some remnant of the comet — estimated to have a central core, or nucleus, of up to 200 meters in diameter — may survive the searing close call with our home star. We may or may not be able to see it on the other side of the sun. Battams predicts we should see a faint remnant of the comets tail for several hours after it reaches the sun.

Whoa! Lovejoy goes down! It’s gettin’ hot in here. . . . .


lovejoy goes down

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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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Lovejoy gets a big head and grows an extra tail: up to the minute details on the death of a comet

December 15, 2011 5 comments

lovejoy_iontail


3:52 pm (EST) Thursday

I just got off the phone with Jack Ireland and Alex Young, solar scientists who work at Goddard and are following Comet Lovejoy’s demise closely. Look what’s happening to the comet!

First, see how bulbous and weird the head of the comet is? That’s because the incredible brightness of the comet’s head is overwhelming the detectors on the SOHO satellite. The photons are “bleeding” out to form that cross-like pattern.

It gets interestinger and interestinger: Two distinct tails have formed. “The thick white tail is primarily dust breaking away from the comet nucleus,” Ireland explained in an email. “It’s the Sun’s radiation and solar wind that knocks the material off the comet nucleus.”

But to the left of the dust tail, do you see that faint wispy second stream? That is a tail of charged particles (ions) being deflected to the side by the magnetic field carried by the solar wind.

The coolest thing is that this is all happening right now.

Word is that the comet will pass behind the sun at around 7 pm tonight (EST). It may or may not come out the other side in its orbit. It depends how massive the comet is and how long it survives the pounding of the solar wind.

lovejoy-bighead

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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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Categories: Comets Tags: , , ,

Comet Lovejoy plunges into the sun!

December 15, 2011 1 comment

3:52 pm (EST) Thursday

I just got off the phone with Jack Ireland and Alex Young, solar scientists who work at Goddard and are following Comet Lovejoy’s demise closely. Look what’s happening to the comet!

First, see how bulbous and weird the head of the comet is? That’s because the incredible brightness of the comet’s head is overwhelming the detectors on the SOHO satellite. The photos are “bleeding” out to form that cross-like pattern.

It gets interestinger and interestinger: Two distinct tails have formed. It gets interestinger and interestinger: Two distinct tails have formed.

“The thick white tail is primarily dust breaking away from the comet nucleus,” Ireland explained in an email. “It’s the Sun’s radiation and solar wind that knocks the material off the comet nucleus.”

But to the left of the dust tail, do you see that faint wispy second stream? That is a tail of charged particles (ions) being deflected to the side by the magnetic field carried by the solar wind.

The coolest thing is that this is all happening right now.

Word is that the comet will pass behind the sun at around 7 pm tonight (EST). It may or may not come out the other side in its orbit. It depends how massive the comet is and how long it survives the pounding of the solar wind.


lovejoy_iontail


Set the controls for the heart of the Sun, Lovejoy!



As tweeted minutes ago earlier by Phil Plait on Bad Astronomy, Comet Lovejoy has begun it’s searing plunge into the sun. Here’s a still image from the video Phil tweeted out:


lovejoyplunge_600.jpg


And here is the image of the comet from NASA’s The Sun Today site:


lovejoy_suntoday_600


Go to Helioviewer.org to find out all the details about Lovejoy and how you can observe it!


While you’re at it, check out the VIDEO on Helioviewer.org of Lovejoy in mid-plunge.


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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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Categories: Comets Tags: , ,

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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Best of Goddard Video 2011: Beautiful Universe

December 14, 2011 3 comments

multiple wavelenth sun imageOn Friday this week, NASA/Goddard filmmakers, writers, and animators will screen what they consider their best work of 2011. It’s called the Best of Goddard Film Festival, and it’s held every year about this time for Goddard employees. (For employees, the festival will run from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm in the Goett Auditorium, Building 3.)

Even if you are “outside the Center” and can’t be here with us, you can still watch and enjoy the entries to the festival that are available on YouTube on the NASA Explorer channel. They’ll run in groups this week on the blog.

Previous posts featured NASA scientific discoveries from 2011 and Space Technology. Today, let’s look at videos featuring scientific phenomenon in our beautiful universe.

SDO: Year One

  • Video Editor:Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Producer:Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Scientist:Barbara Thompson (NASA/GSFC)
  • Writer:Barbara Thompson (NASA/GSFC)



Massive Solar Eruption Close-up
Animator:Tom Bridgman (GST)
Video Editor:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Producer:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)



Lunar Eclipse Essentials

  • Animators:Chris Smith (HTSI) Ernie Wright (USRA)
  • Video Editor:Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Narrator:Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Producer:Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Scientist:Richard Vondrak (NASA/GSFC)
  • Writer:Chris Smith (HTSI)

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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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