Thanks to a well-timed tip from landscape blogger Alex Trevi of Pruned, Venue made a detour on our exit out of Flagstaff, Arizona, to visit the old black cinder fields of an extinct volcano—where, incredibly, NASA and its Apollo astronauts once practiced their, at the time, forthcoming landing on the moon.
Read more. [Image: Venue]
Astronauts can, certainly, tear up — they’re human, after all. But in zero gravity, the tears themselves can’t flow downward in the way they do on Earth. The moisture generated has nowhere to go. Tears, Feustel put it, “don’t fall off of your eye … they kind of stay there.” NASA spacewalk officer Allison Bollinger, who oversaw Feustel’s EVA, confirmed this assessment. “They actually kind of conglomerate around your eyeball,” she said.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
[Images: Kevin Gill]
From the Big Bang to the dawn of the 21st century, this video from Now This News reflects on the roller coaster ride of existence. The montage sequence is more impressionistic than fact-driven, juxtaposing powerful images of humanity at our best and our worst. The narrator ends on a positive note, however, saying, “we hold on to hope, because that’s what we do best. Happy new year!”
Last week an asteroid known as 4179 Toutatis passed by Earth at a relatively close distance, as far as these things go. As it tumbled in space, getting as near as 4.3 million miles or 18 times the distance from us to the moon, NASA’s 230-foot-wide Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California, captured radar data that showed the giant rock’s spin. NASA scientists then collected that data into a short film, which we present to you as Tumbling Asteroid GIFs, for your enjoyment and/or terror.
This object, known as Messier 54, could be just another globular cluster, but this dense and faint group of stars was in fact the first globular cluster found that lies outside our own galaxy. Discovered by the famous astronomer Charles Messier in 1778, Messier 54 belongs to a satellite of the Milky Way called the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy. Messier had no idea of the significance of his discovery at the time, and it wasn’t until over two centuries later, in 1994, that astronomers found Messier 54 to be part of the miniature galaxy and not our own. Current estimates indicate that the Sagittarius dwarf, and hence the cluster, is situated almost 90,000 light-years away — more than three times as far from the center of our galaxy than the Solar System. Ironically, even though this globular cluster is now understood to lie outside the Milky Way, it will actually become part of it in the future. The strong gravitational pull of our galaxy is slowly engulfing the Sagittarius dwarf, which will eventually merge with the Milky Way creating one much larger galaxy.
[Image: ESA, Hubble and NASA]
Time once more for one of my favorite holiday traditions: the 2012 Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar. Every day until Tuesday, December 25, this page will present one new image of our universe from NASA’s Hubble telescope. Be sure to bookmark this calendar and come back every day until the 25th, or follow on Twitter (@in_focus), Google+, Facebook, or Tumblr for daily updates. I hope you enjoy these amazing and awe-inspiring images and the efforts of the science teams who have brought them to Earth. I also must say how fortunate I feel to have been able to share photo stories with you all year, and I wish a Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and peace on Earth to all. (Also, choosing the “1280px” viewing option below, if you can support it, will be a good option.)
Multimedia artist Jeff Frost’s Flawed Symmetry of Prediction isn’t your average time-lapse study of the Milky Way. Frost paints massive geometric shapes on walls so that they function as optical illusions, blurring the line between 2D and 3D when captured on video.The experimental piece unfolds to reveal a haunting, post-apocalyptic world where flickering wildfires and industrial plants illuminate desert vistas. Frost’s sci-fi vibe is inspired in part by actual science — one painting draws on a NASA diagram of evidence for the Big Bang and the soundtrack uses clips recorded by Voyager 1. Be sure to watch it full screen in HD to appreciate the crisp visual detail.
What you see about is the center of our galaxy, as seen by the powerful Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) instrument in northern Chile—but it’s just a thumbnail of the largest catalog of stars ever made. The original image, navigable and zoomable here, covers 108,500 by 81,500 pixels (just under nine billion pixels or nine gigapixels). If you were to print it out at normal book-level resolution, it would be something like 30 feet wide and 23 feet tall.
Read more. [Image: ESO]