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Tag: Space

Solar Cycle And Dancing Lights- Aurora 2013

As described in my earlier posts, our local star Sun, undergoes a natural cycle of roughly 11 years and  it’s peak activity it is manifested by increase in number of solar spots, coronal mass ejections (CME), enormous magnetic waves.  CMEs when they travel to earth are then directed by earth’s magnetic fields towards earths poles which leads to display of beautiful Aurora or dancing lights. Auroras are result of the interaction between ions and electrons from the solar wind with Earth’s magnetic field and upper atmosphere. During Coronal Mass Ejections from the sun, high energetic ions are bombarded towards the earth. These ions migrate towards poles due to Earth’s magnetic fields, that’s why this phenomenon is seen mostly at Northern and Southern poles of the earth. These high energetic ions interact with Oxygen and Nitrogen of the upper atmosphere and excite them to higher energy levels. When the atoms fallback to ground state it emits light typical to particular atom. Oxygen emits at a wavelength of 558 nm (green) and at 630 nm (red ). Emission at 558 nm is more prominent and that’s how Aurora gets it’s greenish color. A slight tinge of red color can also be seen at times.  Auroras in other colors have also been seen such as blue and purple but green ones are most prominent. Here is a beautiful timelapse video captured by Christian Mülhauser in Norway during Feb 2013.

2013 is supposed to be solar maxima but unfortunately, our Sun has been low in activity and has defied many predictions, probably the weakest in more than a century. Solar activity is also measured by the number of solar spots observed and this time maximum solar spots observed has been 67 (observed in Feb 2011) and since then it has been low and it appears that it will slowing down now onwards. As compared to this cycle, more than ~150 sun spots (2003) were observed in last solar cycle.

A lull in solar activity means reduced Aurora display on earth which is sad. Although last week there was a short burst of activity which resulted on some Aurora display and was captured by Astro Photographer Göran Strand in Sweden on Oct 2nd, 2013. Enjoy the videos by  Göran Strand and Christian Mülhauser and hopefully solar activity picks up!

Soruces:  http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/predict.shtml

http://www.astrofotografen.se/

https://vimeo.com/62534688

Leave a Comment October 8, 2013

Movie Gravity Reminded Me Of These Awesome ISS Pictures Taken From Earth

Movie “Gravity” released past week is one of the best space movie as far as I can remember aided by  superlative 3D special effects. If you havn’t watched the movie yet, it is highly recommended that you should visit your nearby 3D Theatre and enjoy the thrill of being in space via movie Gravity. I am not going to write a review of the movie in this post, but I just wanted to post few pictures of International Space Station (ISS) which has been featured in this movie. It is difficult to imagine that one can view ISS and shuttle from the ground with naked eye, but it is possible to see ISS as well as shuttle and in fact any satellite if timed appropriately.

 What you see above is the image of sun and the speckle you see are the images of solar transit of ISS and shuttle Atlantis after undocking from ISS and returning back to earth. This stunning image has been taken by photographer Thierry Legault during Sep 2006 in France. If we zoom in, we can see the ISS very clearly.

There is another image of ISS taken by Thierry Legault during 2009 where ISS image can be seen more clearly. These images are awesome considering that the distance between the observer and the object was about 550 km.

And ofcourse, as you saw in the movie, ISS is not the only space station, there is Chinese space station named Tiangong-1 which means “Heavenly Palace” in Chinese and was launched in 2011. Tiangong-1 is at the same orbital height as ISS. Thierry Legault imaged Tiangong just like ISS and can be seen below. Hopefully you enjoyed these pictures, thanks to Thierry Legault’s awesome photography!

Image credit: Thierry Legault | http://legault.perso.sfr.fr

Leave a Comment October 8, 2013

First LIBS Spectra From Mars!

Publishing a post after long long time, busy times! But couldn’t resist posting first LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) Spectra from Mars! It is interesting to see Hydrogen lines at 656 nm (possibly from ice on Mars or water condensation from Mars atmosphere). Carbon line adjacent to it is doubtful and needs further analysis. I can try to write more details about it later when I get time. If anyone is interested how LIBS plasma looks in Mars environment as compared to earth, you can see it here.

Leave a Comment August 24, 2012

Keck In Motion


I have posted about Very Large Telescope (Chile) in past, this time posting a beautiful video showing Keck observatory in action. Keck observatory is located at the summit of dormant volcano in Hawaii and is used for probing our near and distant universe with great precision (nanometer precision level). The observatory hosts worlds largest optical and infrared telescopes; telescopes are about eight storeys high and weigh more than 300 tons while the diameters of their primary mirror are about 10 m! The telescope uses adaptive optics (AO) which changes it’s shape depending on changes in environmental conditions and thereby eliminates any kind of aberrations or distortions in images resulting from turbulence in earth’s atmosphere. For adaptive optics to work, a bright, nearby reference star is required but since bright stars are limited in the sky, astronomers at Keck have created their own little neighborhood star– by using a laser and exciting sodium atoms in upper atmosphere (90 km above the earth’s surface) resulting in  a bright artificial star which adaptive optics can use as their reference. In this cool video, you can see the Keck observatory in action. In the beginning of video, you see the hexagonal object, that’s the keck 2 telescope. Enjoy the video along with the cool music!

Leave a Comment February 18, 2012

Beautiful Aurora Display

It’s been a while I posted something, consider this a semi-hiatus from blogging. I will try to post something from time to time. I have posted several posts on Auroras. Here is another one with video and pictures taken by astronauts on ISS while passing over Indian Ocean on Sep 17th 2011. They took several  images and compiled a video which shows spectacular Aurora display. This particular Aurora display was a result of Coronal Mass Ejection event which occurred in the Sun on Sep 14th 2011, leading to stirring of the earth’s magnetic field and excitation of nitrogen and oxygen molecules in earth’s atmosphere. Greenish part of the Aurora glow is contributed by emission from excited oxygen molecule while blue or purple glow is from nitrogen molecule. Enjoy the Video. Towards the end of the video you can notice some specks and bright glows on earth’s surface which are infact forest wild fires and agricultural fires in Australia.

Image and video credit: NASA

Leave a Comment October 27, 2011

Picture of The Day: Simultaneous Sunset And Moonset

This incredible image of simultaneous sunset and moonset was taken by astronaut Ron Garan on Jul 31 from the International Space Station. ISS orbits around the earth every 90 minutes so the astronauts aboard ISS get a chance to witness this amazing event about 16 times a day!! Ron also took picture of one of the 16 sunrises, here it is:

Image Credit: NASA

Leave a Comment September 5, 2011

Endeavour Lift-off: Up And Close


Here is a beautiful Endeavour lift-off video compiled by Chase Heavener. He used videos released by NASA which were taken by 4 cameras attached to the twin-rocket boosters of the space shuttle which made it’s last journey to space on May 16th. He put all the videos side by side so that we can take a look at all the action simultaneously. It’s fun to watch when rocket boosters detach at 2:26 and shuttle just flys off into the space. It’s simply beautiful to watch sunlight glistening off the surface of the shuttle in camera 1 (from 2:05-2:25). You can watch all the videos separately here.

Leave a Comment June 15, 2011

Motion And Phases of Moon

While people are enjoying today one of the longest lasting lunar eclipse since 2000 (about 100 minutes long), let’s watch this beautiful video created by folks at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (see below) using data collected by Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). In the video you can see various phases and movement of moon during the course of one year; one month of movement has been compressed into 12 seconds. As we know, we are able to see only one face of the moon from earth (moon and earth are phase-locked– rotation time of moon is same as it’s revolution time around the earth- about 27 days), in the video it is clearly evident that only one side is visible to us. Since we get to see the moon from different angles owing to it’s tilt and elliptical shape of the orbit, in the video it appears to us as if moon is wobbling. In technical terms we call that wobbling as “liberation”. Because of liberation, we are able to see little bit more than half of the moon’s surface, close to 60%. Due to elliptical orbit, moon also appears to rock back and forth from us (perigee- nearest position, apogee- farthest position). You can also observe different phases of moon such as new moon and full moon and their variations in different months. Enjoy the video, I will be uploading some cool videos or pictures from today’s lunar eclipse event later on.


Video/Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

Leave a Comment June 15, 2011

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