Ezekiel’s Wheel Over Norway?

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“This morning in arctic Norway, onlookers were stunned when a gigantic luminous spiral formed in the northern sky. “We are used to seeing lots of auroras here in Norway, but this was different,” says Nick Banbury of Harstad who witnessed the phenomenon on his way to work “between 7:50 and 8:00 a.m. local time.” Onlooker Jan Petter Jorgensen took this photo:

The first reaction of many readers when they see this picture is Photoshop! Surely this must be a fake. But no, many independent observers witnessed and phtotographed the apparition. It is real.

Banbury continues: “It consisted initially of a green beam of light similar in color to the aurora with a mysterious rotating spiral at one end. This spiral then got bigger and bigger until it turned into a huge halo in the sky with the green beam extending down to Earth. According to press reports, this could be seen all over northern Norway and must therefore have been very high up in the atmosphere to be seen hundreds of km apart.”

UPDATE: Circumstantial evidence is mounting that the phenomenon was caused by a malfunctioning rocket, possibly an ICBM launched from a Russian submarine. A Navtex no-fly alert was issued for the White Sea on Dec. 9th, and photographers appear to have recorded the initial boost phase of a launch below the spiral (see inset). A rocket motor spinning out of control could indeed explain the spiral pattern, so this explanation seems plausible, although it has not yet been confirmed.” (SpaceWeather.com via julia)


The Smell of Space

STS-116 Shuttle Mission Imagery S116-E-05983 (...

Strong, metallic and unique, NASA astronauts say: “There is one smell up here that is really unique though and that is the smell, we just call it ‘the smell of space’.

“I haven’t had a chance to do a spacewalk yet … but when the other guys did and they came back in, … there’s this really, really strong metallic smell.” (Sydney Morning Herald)


Who Owns the Moon?

The Galactic Government vs. the UN: “…[A] Nevada entrepreneur says he owns the moon and that he's interim president of the first known galactic government.

Dennis Hope, head of the Lunar Embassy Corporation, has sold real estate on the moon and other planets to about 3.7 million people so far.

(Also see “NASA Aims to Open Moon for Business.”)

As his customer base grew, he said, buyers wanted assurances that their property rights would be protected.

So Hope started his own government in 2004, which has a ratified constitution, a congress, a unit of currency—even a patent office.” (National Geographic)


Apollo 11: 5 Little-Known Facts About the Moon Landing

“Millions may have experienced the Apollo 11 moon landing on TV—and now, 40 years later, online. But a few facts aren't exactly common knowledge, including…” (National Geographic )

The interesting one, from my perspective, is that because well-known atheist Madelyn Murray O’Hair was in the midst of suing the government at the time over the issue of public officials praying, Buzz Aldrin celebrated communion before departing the moon’s surface but kept it a secret.


Boom From Universe’s Early Days

It was snap, crackle and pop in the early days of the universe. You would not want to live there. Astronomers said Tuesday that they had smashed the long-distance record in astronomy when they recorded an explosion, probably a massive early star, that lived and died 13 billion years ago, only about 600 million years after the Big Bang. The explosion was detected on April 23 as a burst of gamma-rays by NASA’s Swift satellite, which has been patrolling the skies for these powerful explosions for the last five years.” (New York Times )


Sunset at the North Pole

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...with moon at its closest point to the earth

Update: Hoax. This is a digital creation, not a photo, says Snopes.

(I was troubled by how big that moon was, I can now say in 20/20 hindsight. But it is lovely, nonetheless.)


What a Ride!

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“A bat that was clinging to space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank during the countdown to launch the STS-119 mission remained with the spacecraft as it cleared the tower, analysts at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center concluded.

Based on images and video, a wildlife expert who provides support to the center said the small creature was a free tail bat that likely had a broken left wing and some problem with its right shoulder or wrist. The animal likely perished quickly during Discovery’s climb into orbit.” via NASA.


Teens capture images of space with £56 camera and balloon

Close up of a hydrogen filled balloon at Cambr...

Proving that you don’t need Google’s billions or the BBC weather centre’s resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.

Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 20 miles above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year.

Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta­ Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.” via Telegraph UK [thanks, abby].


Cosmic Coincidence

“On Tuesday morning, Feb. 24th, Saturn and Comet Lulin will converge in the constellation Leo only 2o apart. At the same time, Comet Lulin will be making its closest approach to Earth (38 million miles), while four of Saturn’s moons transit the disk of the ringed planet. Oh, and the Moon will be New, providing dark skies for anyone who wishes to see the show…

.Set your alarm for 1 am. That’s the best time to see Comet Lulin riding high in the southern sky pleasingly close to golden Saturn: sky map. To the unaided eye, Lulin looks like a faint patch of gas. Point your telescope at that patch and you will see a lovely green comet.” via SpaceWeather.com.


The places that gravity forgot

“Vast regions of space, millions of kilometres across, in which celestial forces conspire to cancel out gravity and so trap anything that falls into them. They sit in the Earth’s orbit, one marching ahead of our planet, the other trailing along behind. Astronomers call them Lagrangian points, or L4 and L5 for short. The best way to think of them, though, is as celestial flypaper.

In the 4.5 billion years since the formation of the solar system, everything from dust clouds to asteroids and hidden planets may have accumulated there. Some have even speculated that alien spacecraft are watching us from the Lagrangian points, looking for signs of intelligence.” via New Scientist.


First liquid water spotted on Mars?

An artist's rendition of the Phoenix Mars prob...

‘NASA’s Phoenix lander may have captured the first images of liquid water on Mars – droplets that apparently splashed onto the spacecraft’s leg during landing, according to some members of the Phoenix team.

The controversial observation could be explained by the mission’s previous discovery of perchlorate salts in the soil, since the salts can keep water liquid at sub-zero temperatures. Researchers say this antifreeze effect makes it possible for liquid water to be widespread just below the surface of Mars, but point out that even if it is there, it may be too salty to support life as we know it.New Scientist.


Satellite crash poses new political risk

The Day The Space Age Began

“There are about 18,000 identifiable, man-made objects in space, including operational and defunct satellites, spent rocket boosters and debris. Experts said that while the risk of satellite collisions like Tuesday’s was exceptionally small, now one had occurred it made another more likely.

“The problem with collisions like this is that they don’t destroy satellites, they just create smaller ones, like fast moving shotguns, that are potentially much more damaging,” said Diego.

Andrew Brookes, an aerospace analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the area where the collision occurred — called low-Earth orbit — was the most crowded portion of space and also one of the most important for sensitive communications, science and weather satellites.” via Reuters


You are a hologram

Falling into a black hole
falling into a black hole…

‘According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time – the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into “grains”, just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. “It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time,” says Hogan.

If this doesn’t blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab’s Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: “If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram.”

The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.’

via New Scientist.


Options for a Red Giant Future

01 The Solar System PIA10231, mod02

“Considering the possibilities of preserving the Earth during the Sun’s transition into a brighter and much larger object, the authors discuss alternatives like raising the Earth’s orbit to a safer distance or using a parasol to shield the planet from its rays. That might tide us over for a few billion years beyond the point where an unprotected Earth could survive as a habitable place. But the paper only begins here. After the sunshade, the authors go on to discuss their plan to create an artificial sun in the Kuiper Belt, where an Earth slowly moved into an outer orbit by gravitational swing-by techniques can eventually find its new home in a stable orbit around a life-giving source of heat and light. Call it an ArtSun, as they do, and ponder how much science fiction it might inspire.”

via Centauri Dreams.


Magnetic-Shield Cracks Found

Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska — The Aurora Bo...

‘An unexpected, thick layer of solar particles inside Earth’s magnetic field suggests there are huge breaches in our planet’s solar defenses, scientists said.

These breaches indicate that during the next period of high solar activity, due to start in 2012, Earth will experience some of the worst solar storms seen in decades.

Solar winds—charged particles from the sun—help create auroras, the brightly colored lights that sometimes appear above the Earth’s poles.

But the winds also trigger storms that can interfere with satellites’ power sources, endanger spacewalkers, and even knock out power grids on Earth.’

via National Geographic News.


‘Earth’ , Calling Space…

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008 film)

“Twentieth Century Fox’s remake of sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still will be the widest release ever –if you count outer space.

At the same time that the film opens today in theaters, Fox and a privately owned celestial communications network will use equipment at Cape Canaveral, Fla., to begin beaming “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth. The galactic stunt is a first-ever for a Hollywood studio.”

via Variety.


Spectacular Conjunction

“Dec. 1st is the best night of all. The now-15% crescent Moon moves in closer to form an isosceles triangle with Venus and Jupiter as opposing vertices. The three brightest objects in the night sky will be gathered so tightly together, you can hide them all behind your thumb held at arm’s length.

The celestial triangle will be visible from all parts of the world, even from light-polluted cities. People in New York and Hong Kong will see it just as clearly as astronomers watching from remote mountaintops. Only cloudy weather or a midnight sun sorry Antarctica can spoil the show.

Although you can see the triangle with naked eyes–indeed, you can’t miss it—a small telescope will make the evening even more enjoyable. In one quick triangular sweep, you can see the moons and cloud-belts of Jupiter, the gibbous phase of Venus 69% full, and craters and mountains on the Moon. It’s a Grand Tour you won’t soon forget.”

via NASA (thanks, abby)


Hubble Captures Stunning Views of Mammoth Stars I

“In this image released by NASA, a dust ring, seen in red, surrounds the star Fomalhaut. The star resides at the center of the image and is not visible to the human eye in this image. The Hubble telescope discovered the fuzzy image of a new planet, known as Fomalhaut b, which appears as no more than a white speck in the lower right portion of the dust ring that surrounds the star.”

via ABC News


ISS over NYC, 11/21/08 by abby

The International Space Station passes through the New York night sky, 11-21-08.
The International Space Station passes through the New York night sky.
My friend abby said:

“I tried (you only really get one try) to get a picture. Not great, but it’s that faint streak going vertically in the middle… [ISO 50 (that was the mistake), 165 seconds, f/11, 20mm]”


NASA long ago devised mental breakdown plan

But that was for a psychological crisis in space, not back on Earth: “Long before NASA was confronted with an off-duty astronaut’s bizarre behavior and arrest in Florida earlier this month, the agency had developed procedures to deal with a mental breakdown in space.

The guidelines were developed to respond to an attempted suicide or severe anxiety, paranoia or hysteria aboard the international space station. Astronauts are instructed to bind the stricken flier’s wrists and ankles with duct tape, restrain the torso with bungee cords and administer strong tranquilizers.

The procedures have been in effect for at least six years, but the space agency did not develop any protocols for dealing with astronauts who become unstable while on the ground.” (Houston Chronicle)


“Welcome to Human Interactions in Space, a research program dedicated to identifying and characterizing the psychosocial issues that affect the health and well-being of space crewmembers and the mission control personnel that support them. The program goal is to develop countermeasures that will enhance the safety and success of people involved with long-duration space missions.”