New Jupiter pictures

The Juno spacecraft captured this image when the spacecraft was only 11,747 miles (18,906 kilometers) from the tops of Jupiter’s clouds — that’s roughly as far as the distance between New York City and Perth, Australia. The color-enhanced image, which captures a cloud system in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere, was taken on Oct. 24, 2017 at 10:24 a.m. PDT (1:24 p.m. EDT) when Juno was at a latitude of 57.57 degrees (nearly three-fifths of the way from Jupiter’s equator to its north pole) and performing its ninth close flyby of the gas giant planet.

The spatial scale in this image is 7.75 miles/pixel (12.5 kilometers/pixel).

And more. Or get involved with the JunoCam mission.

2017 Hurricanes and Aerosols Simulation

How can you see the atmosphere? By tracking what is carried on the wind. Tiny aerosol particles such as smoke, dust, and sea salt are transported across the globe, making visible weather patterns and other normally invisible physical processes.

This visualization uses data from NASA satellites, combined with mathematical models in a computer simulation allow scientists to study the physical processes in our atmosphere. By following the sea salt that is evaporated from the ocean, you can see the storms of the 2017 hurricane season.

During the same time, large fires in the Pacific Northwest released smoke into the atmosphere. Large weather patterns can transport these particles long distances: in early September, you can see a line of smoke from Oregon and Washington, down the Great Plains, through the South, and across the Atlantic to England.

Dust from the Sahara is also caught in storms sytems and moved from Africa to the Americas. Unlike the sea salt, however, the dust is removed from the center of the storm. The dust particles are absorbed by cloud droplets and then washed out as it rains.

Advances in computing speed allow scientists to include more details of these physical processes in their simulations of how the aerosols interact with the storm systems.

Read more

Wray, CO Tornado

There’s some amazing footage out there of the May 7, 2016 tornado near Wray, Colorado. I suspect the video does not do it justice, and, without documentation, trying to describe that kind of power to someone would quickly get mystical.

As the North American plains have always been Tornado Alley, I was curious what native stories and legends there might be. This page collects a few sources. From a Kiowa account by Iseeo:

Suddenly, the leader of the party shouted for the men to dismount and prepare for a hard rain. Soon, too, with the approaching cloud, lseeo recalled hearing a -roar that sounded like buffalo in the rutting season. Sloping down from the cloud a sleeve appeared, its center red; from this lightning shot out. The tremendous funnel tore through the timber bordering the Washita. heaving trees into the air.
Some of the young men wanted to run away, but the older, more experienced Kiowas knew what must be done. They called for everyone to try hard and brace themselves. The elders drew their pipes from saddlebags and lit them. They raised their pipes to the storm spirit, entreating it to smoke, and to go around them. The cloud heard their prayers, Iseeo explained, and passed by.

The whole article is fascinating.


Sharpest ever view of the Andromeda Galaxy

In January, NASA released the biggest Hubble Telescope image ever assembled: the image of Andromeda, above. It’s fitting, as Edwin Hubble himself first calculated Andromeda’s distance and established it as a separate galaxy about 100 years ago.

The full-scale version of the image has 1.5 billion pixels and shows over 100 million stars. That’s roughly one star for every ten pixels. The only way to appreciate this mind-boggling fact is to zoom in to the full, zoomable version. Even then, I think it might be impossible to comprehend.

Ray Villard of the Space Telescope Science Institute said, “It’s like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand.”

Rosetta and Philae

On November 12 a spacecraft will land on a comet for the first time. The European Space Agency launched Rosetta over 10 years ago and it has been traveling to rendezvous with the comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko ever since. Philae is the probe that will reach the surface.

In addition to the charming video above (and another very rad video), the ESA put together this interactive site showing the ten-year, gravity-assisted path Rosetta has taken.

Wondering how big the comet is? This big.

Update: Philae made it!


The flying bedstead

Neil Armstrong trained in a lunar lander affectionately called the “flying bedstead” because it resembled a bed frame. On May 6, 1968 he had to bail out before an imminent crash. The original footage is here; above, a digitally stabilized version of the incident.

Illuminated Origins


Charles Darwin had ten children, and with that big of a family it’s no surprise that the house could get busy—even chaotic enough that the kids might start drawing on your important papers. In Darwin’s case, it was his manuscript for On the Origin of Species.

The surviving manuscript at the Cambridge University Library has his children’s illustrations on it. See a few other charming additions here.