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The news these days is filled with polarization, with hate, with fear, with ignorance. But while these feelings are a part of us, and always will be, they neither dominate nor define us. Not if we don’t let them. When we reach, when we explore, when we’re curious – that’s when we’re at our best. We can learn about the world around us, the Universe around us. It doesn’t divide us, or separate us, or create artificial and wholly made-up barriers between us. As we saw on Twitter, at New York Times Square where hundreds of people watched the landing live, and all over the world: science and exploration bind us together. Science makes the world a better place, and it makes us better people.
It’s what we can do, and what we must do.
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Kristin and I were fortunate enough to catch a sensational performance by the National Symphony Orchestra last night at Wolf Trap. Their show was called “The Planets - an HD Odyssey”, which included a stunning visual tour of NASA’s Curiosity rover’s journey to the Red Planet (it arrives the evening of August 5th!), followed by a visit to each planet, each with a complimentary musical theme. Seen here is Curiosity’s simulated descent, dubbed “Seven minutes of terror” by NASA.
There was a 75% chance of thunderstorms and a severe thunderstorm warning in effect last night. Fortunately we were only sprinkled upon and just prior to the show, the clouds broke, allowing the setting Sun behind us to produce the most brilliant double rainbow I have ever seen. The bows sat directly atop the theater for a about 30 minutes. It was marvelous.
Image Credit: NASA/Paul E. Alers
Source: Flickr / nasahqphoto
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LIVE high-res SDO image of the Venus transit (updated every 15 min.)
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Watch now (last chance in your lifetime)
What landscape photos would look like if the Earth had Saturn-like rings. Absolutely beautiful.
(And from space!)
Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked by a reader of TIME magazine, “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?” This is his answer.
When you take something great, like the musings of the mind of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, and combine it with something else great, like stunning images of life and wonder on and off of Earth … you get this.
It’s the sort of video that makes you prop your chin up in your hand, with your head tilted just so (yeah, like that), as you stare at your computer screen mumbling things like “Ahhh“ and “Wooahh” and other unintelligible noises that mean “I approve of this, and it makes me feel good.”
Watch it once, then twice, then with a friend.
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All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike- and yet it is the most precious thing we have.
“On our small planet, at this moment, here we face a critical branch point in history. What we do with our world right now will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization, and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition, greed, or stupidity, we can plunge our world into a darkness deeper than the time between the collapse of classical civilization and the Italian Renaissance. But, we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet, to enhance enormously our understanding of the universe, and to carry us to the stars.”
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The Blue Marble 2012
This image, captured on January 4th by NASA’s “Suomi NPP” Earth-observing satellite, has dethroned the 2010 Blue Marble as the highest resolution image of the planet, viewed as a whole. The (mind blowing) full resolution composite image is comprised of a staggering 8000x8000 pixels; I highly recommend it’s download and thorough exploration.
It was announced yesterday that the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) mission has been renamed Suomi-NPP in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, known as the father of satellite meteorology. The invention of his spin-scan camera made it possible for satellites to capture meteorological data continuously from earth orbit- the resulting images were commonly used in network weather forecasts.
Note this excellent Flickr comment- ”if you’re in this photo, raise your hand”
*exuberantly throws both hands into the air*
Source: Flickr / gsfc
SETI is trying to work via direct public funding. $200K of private donations got it started, but it costs approximately $2.5 million a year to run SETI.
Click through for Phil’s write-up.
As of a few days ago, that goal was reached! I was happy to see that people such as Jodie Foster (who played SETI astronomer Ellie Arroway in the movie “Contact”) and science fiction author Larry Niven were among people who had contributed, as well as Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders.
Must see Ted Talk
Finding Planets Around Other Stars by Lucianne Walkowicz (of NASA’s Kepler):
How do we find planets — even habitable planets — around other stars? By looking for tiny dimming as a planet passes in front of its sun, TED Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz and the Kepler mission have found some 1,200 potential new planetary systems. With new techniques, they may even find ones with the right conditions for life.
Read more about Kepler here
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Louise Walker and J.T. Heineck of the Experimental Aero-Physics Branch at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., are learning how to see shape and detail in blindingly bright plumes of rocket fire. The two researchers were funded by the Space Shuttle Program to document the final shuttle launch, STS-135, with their distinctive images.
HDR composite of the final shuttle launch, Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135). Six cameras (5 visible and 1 thermal) mounted in a cluster filmed the launch, capturing a range of imagery that is impossible with a single camera, or even your own eyes. This is what each image looked like prior to being fused. The first image is thermal.
The final product-
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