the blue marble

NASA’s “Blue Marble” image is one of the best-known high-resolution pictures of our planet. It’s even included as one of the default images for Apple’s iPhone. Now NASA has released a brand-new “Blue Marble 2012,” based on image data from the VIIRS instrument aboard Suomi NPP, the most recently launched Earth-observing satellite. They have also recently releases the other side of the blue marble photo…

To learn more concerning NASA program…

the somethingness of our universe

mage cred – Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014.

Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss addresses the edgiest topic of all: how all the somethingness of our universe could have arisen from nothingness without divine intervention. The video prompted Krauss to write his newly published book on the subject, “A Universe From Nothing.” Krauss’ book isn’t the only one to claim that God’s not needed for the creation of the universe. British physicist Stephen Hawking, a good friend of Krauss’, made a similar point in his own most recent book, “The Grand Design.” A key point in the argument is that the positive energy bound up in matter is balanced by negative gravitational-field energy. From the quantum perspective, the total energy of the universe is pretty much zero. Thus, the energy of “nothingness” is conserved, even when somethingness enters the picture. The youtube video has been viewed over a million times and is worth the hour to ponder the grand questions.

Read the full article at MSNBC

The new mars rover mission

Scientists have decided to point NASA’s next Mars rover toward a mountain of layered minerals inside Gale Crater, after a process of picking the right landing spot. One big reason Gale won out is because it’s like Neapolitan ice cream, offering a yummy combination of flavors. Curiosity not only will return a wealth of important science data, but it will serve as a precursor mission for human exploration to the Red Planet. The $2.5 billion mission is due for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on an Atlas 5 rocket, as early as the day after Thanksgiving, with landing on Mars set for August 2012. The rover is designed to be lowered to the Martian surface by a rocket-powered “sky crane” system that’s never been used before for interplanetary probes.

 

Chichen Itza from above

This satellite image from GeoEye highlights the Maya pyramid known as El Castillo, or the Kukulkan Pyramid, the focal point of a monumental plaza at Chichen Itza on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The pyramid was apparently constructed with an eye to the calendar: During the spring and autumnal equinoxes, patterns of sunlight move across the main stairway to make it look as if the body of a serpent (Kukulkan) is creeping downward to join up with a giant serpent’s head carved in stone at the bottom.

Each of the stairways has 91 steps, and when you add the platform at the top, the total comes to 365 steps — the number of days in a year. The Maya, of course, were expert calendar makers. The fact that their “long count” calendar comes to an end in 2012 has led some to fear that the world will end. But even present-day Maya say that’s silly. It’s merely the end of a cycle, just as we’ll be ending a calendrical cycle in just a couple of weeks. We’ll see.

Chichen Itza on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

the sun’s surface

The spikes of superheated gas, called plasma, are small compared to many of the Sun’s prominent features, such as giant loops of magnetic energy that are flung many thousands of miles into the solar atmosphere. The spicules are typically 300 miles (480 km) in diameter and shoot a relatively modest 3,000 miles (4,830 km) above the Sun’s surface. They scream upward at 50,000 mph (22 kps) and then vanish within five minutes, making them hard to study.

Stunning close up of the surface of the sun.

Photo Credit: K. Reardon (Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, INAF) IBIS,DST, NSO)

Virgin Galactic terminal

This is Sir Norman Foster’s Virgin Galactic terminal building in the New Mexico desert: like the futuristic aircraft ready to shuttle tourists to the edge of our atmosphere, it is about to move from technical drawing to reality. Angus Batey reports on the final leg of Sir Richard Branson’s most spaced-out venture yet

Read the full story.

Space Port America in New Mexico

auroral display from space

Southern lights from space. This striking picture of an auroral display was taken from the International Space Station during a geomagnetic storm that was most likely caused by a coronal mass ejection from the sun on May 24. The space station was flying over the Southern Indian Ocean at the time.

Earth's southern auroras from the International Space Station

Another shot of the aurora from space

our neighboring galaxy

NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, highlights the Andromeda Galaxy in one of the first images sent down from orbit. This image, released Feb. 17, combines data from all four of WISE’s infrared detectors. Shades of blue highlight mature stars. The yellow and red areas indicate where dust has been heated by newborn, massive stars.

New detailed images from space show Andromeda Galaxy.

Our sun is active

Fiery arcs rise above an active region on the surface of the sun in this image taken by NASA’s STEREO (Behind) spacecraft on Jan. 27. The arcs are plasma, superheated matter made up of moving charged particles. Just as iron filings arc from one end of a magnet to another, the plasma is sliding in an arc along magnetic field lines.

Image credit NASA released 2010

January 2010 - Storms on the Sun