Aurora Borealis from SPACE #HiDef #ISS #beauty

The current election climate in the U.S. has gotten me all annoyed and depressed. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to take a step back and appreciate the beauty in our planet. THANK YOU International Space Station for capturing this Ultra-High Definition time lapse of an Aurora Borealis from space. More details here. Enjoy!

Fairy Circles have been found in Australia! #cool #weirdscience

This is just cool! Smithsonian Mag does a good job summarizing:

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The highly regular spacing of fairy circles in Australia becomes visible in dense vegetation. The grasses in the foreground of the image are patchy as they are rebounding from fire. (Brad Howe, Heliwest Group)

Mysterious Fairy Circles Have Been Found in Western Australia
Once thought to exist only in Namibia, circles spotted 6,200 miles away are helping sort out how these odd features form

smithsonian.com
March 14, 2016
In certain spots, the Namibian plain looks like a scene from a Dr. Seuss book—large, regularly spaced circles dot an otherwise grassy landscape, the red dirt glaring like a beacon against the pale tufts of grass. Guesses about how these bizarre formations came to be range from the practical to the fanciful: underground gas, termites, radiation, dragons and giants.

Whimsically dubbed fairy circles, the strange shapes had only been spotted in Namibia—until now. This week scientists report their appearance roughly 6,200 miles away in the desolate outback of Western Australia. The discovery is already helping scientists tease through the mystery behind these natural patterns.

Scientists from many fields have previously tackled the perplexing question using mathematics, biology, ecology and entomology. Recently the debate has homed in on two theories: Either termites killed rings of plants by munching on their roots, or the grass self-organized to best take advantage of resources in the harsh desert landscape.

The discovery of fairy circles in Australia, described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, now has the team leaning strongly towards the answer of self-organization.

“Water is limited, and because water is limited it cannot sustain a continuous vegetation coverage,” explains lead author Stephan Getzin at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Germany. So “we have gaps and other patterns like labyrinths and stripes or even spots.”

Continue reading

#Spacewalk ends early for British Astronaut Tim Peak

As the first astronaut from the European Space Agency (representing Britain), Tim Peak’s spacewalk had to end early due to a leak in his helmet. From the Guardian:

Britain’s first European Space Agency astronaut began his maiden spacewalk shortly before 1pm on Friday as the orbiting station soared 250 miles above Australia. By the time he returned inside, he had circled the planet at least three times and witnessed six stunning sunsets or sunrises.

Emerging from the Quest airlock into the darkness of Earth’s shadow, Peake joined Nasa’s Tim Kopra for more than four hours of challenging work. Under the direction of ground staff in Houston, the astronauts overcame snagged tethers, a brief carbon dioxide scare, and a torn glove before the day was done.

But there was one glitch the astronauts could not solve on the fly. A water leak into Kopra’s helmet forced Nasa controllers to abort the spacewalk two hours early. The men were ordered inside, having completed their main task, but leaving others undone. The incident echoed a more serious situation in July 2013 when European astronaut Luca Parmitano had a sudden rush of water leak into his helmet.

Luckily, the astronauts made it safely back to the ISS, and Astronaut Tim Peake is in good spirits:

The moment was hardly lost on him. As Tim Peake clambered out of theInternational Space Station he nodded to the union flag emblazoned on his shoulder. To wear the patch was, he said, “a huge privilege, and a proud moment”.

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A shot of Tim Peake outside the International Space Station with the Earth in the background, taken from Tim Kopra’s helmet camera. Photograph: NASA

 

Watch the Chilean volcano send shockwaves through the atmosphere #VolcanOMG

When Chile’s Calbuco volcano blew its lid on Wednesday afternoon, the eruption sent shockwaves rippling through the Earth’s upper atmosphere, like a rock thrown into a pond.  More info on Mashable. Nature is COOL and terrifying!

Tomorrow is Earth Day! Celebrate by sharing #NoPlaceLikeHome pictures with @NASA

[tweet https://twitter.com/NASA/status/590534712256499712]

There are (so far) 1,800 known planets beyond our solar system, but among all of them, there’s no place like Earth. This Earth Day, April 22, NASA is asking you to share pictures and video of your favorite places on Earth using social media – and tag them #NoPlaceLikeHome.

More info here at NASA.gov.

Anti-Science Quotable – Congressional Republicans declare Earth Science as “Not a hard science” #WTF #WhatPlanetAreYouLivingOn? #science

Summarized nicely on Science Insider, Senator Ted Cruz, new chair of the science and space panel in the Senate Commerce Committee (how he was qualified to take on this position, to this day, completely baffles me) has claimed that earth sciences do not qualify as “hard science”.  Other congressional Republicans seem to agree, including the new chair of an important science spending panel in the House of Representatives, Representative John Culberson (R–TX). Culberson has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the earth sciences don’t meet his definition of “the pure sciences.”

Let’s start with the Mirriam-Webster definition of “science” (which in my opinion clearly applies to Earth Science) –

: knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation

: a particular area of scientific study (such as biology, physics, or chemistry) : a particular branch of science

: a subject that is formally studied in a college, university, etc.

From Science Insider:

“We’ve seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds going to the earth sciences program at the expense of funding for exploration and space operations, planetary sciences, heliophysics, and astrophysics, which I believe are all rooted in exploration and should be central to NASA’s core mission,” Cruz said at yesterday’s hearing on NASA’s 2016 budget request. “We need to get back to the hard sciences, to manned space exploration, and to the innovation that has been integral to NASA.”

The idea that the geosciences aren’t hard science comes as a shock to Margaret Leinen, president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a former head of the National Science Foundation’s geosciences directorate. “Of course the geosciences are part of the hard sciences,” says Leinen, head of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and vice chancellor for marine sciences at the University of California, San Diego. “They provide us with very fundamental knowledge about the way the planet works, knowledge grounded in the physical sciences.”

Leinen easily ticks off a host of areas, from analyzing the complex mixtures of physical processes and chemical reactions in the atmosphere and the ocean to characterizing earthquakes, in which geoscientists have made important contributions to physics and chemistry. Geosciences can also be computationally intensive, she says, noting that for many years the world’s most powerful computer was Japan’s so-called Earth Simulator. Modeling future earthquakes in California, for example, requires “some of the most challenging computer simulations in the world,” she adds.

She also scoffs at the attempt to decouple the earth sciences from planetary sciences, a discipline Cruz and Culberson strongly favor. “Our entire exploration of Mars is based on analogies with the Earth,” she points out. That’s also true, she says, for the search for extraterrestrial life on water-rich planets and moons, a burning passion for Culberson.

Universities have long recognized that connection, she points out. “Virtually all academic planetary scientists are in earth science departments, because the Earth, after all, is a planet,” she says.

WHY are those MOST unqualified to make decisions on scientific spending calling the shots (as we’ve mentioned before)?  And furthermore, why are they REFUSING time and time again to be educated on the subject matter?  Doesn’t it seem curious that someone with very little background or training in the sciences gets to make decisions on what sciences will get funding? Especially when they can’t even understand the basic definitions of what science is??? There’s a way around this: become educated on a subject either by hiring staff who ARE educated, or by consulting with trained professionals (aka – scientists).  When one ignores the facts and data from the informed constituents, our entire political system makes no sense. Would these politicians hire a dentist to run their campaign?? I would think not.

It is beyond obvious how the Earth Sciences are important and relevant to a VARIETY of other sciences (including space exploration, biology, environmental science, chemistry, etc, etc). While the ignorant claim that Earth Science is not a hard science is absolutely horrifying and backwards, on a larger scale, I get worried about this inevitable catch 22 cycle. Unqualified politicians are making decisions that are detrimental our research and education system, as a result, research becomes stagnated and our society becomes ill-informed. Consequently society elects the more unqualified and uneducated politicians.

Astro Pic of the day: Why some areas on Earth have higher gravity

WOW! This Astro pic of the day is old, but nonetheless very cool.

The Potsdam Gravity Potato  Image Credit: CHAMP, GRACE, GFZ, NASA, DLR

The Potsdam Gravity Potato
Image Credit: CHAMP, GRACE, GFZ, NASA, DLR

Explanation: Why do some places on Earth have higher gravity than others? Sometimes the reason is unknown. To help better understand the Earth’s surface, sensitive measurements by the orbiting satellites GRACE and CHAMP were used to create a map of Earth’s gravitational field. Since a center for studying these data is in Potsdam, Germany, and since the result makes the Earth look somewhat like a potato, the resulting geoid has been referred to as the Potsdam Gravity Potato. High areas on this map, colored red, indicate areas where gravity is slightly stronger than usual, while in blue areas gravity is slightly weaker. Many bumps and valleys on the Potsdam Gravity Potato can be attributed to surface features, such as the North Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the Himalayan Mountains, but others cannot, and so might relate to unusually high or low sub-surface densities. Maps like this also help calibrate changes in the Earth’s surface including variable ocean currents and the melting of glaciers. The above map was made in 2005, but more recent and more sensitive gravity maps of Earth were produced in 2011.

Amazing video from @Space_Station – #sunrise touches #aurora

h9f6d

Another post, another awesome gif from NASA!! This gif (made by CauseScience) shows the aurora borealis in the sky as the sun rises, ending with the two light sources ‘touching’!! The video this gif was made from was taken from the International Space Station – #sunrise touches #aurora. All we need now are angels singing” #AstroButch

[tweet https://twitter.com/NASA_Astronauts/status/563075368945721345]

Update: The gif CauseScience made from the youtube video is not nearly as good as the vine posted by @Space_Station!

[tweet https://twitter.com/Space_Station/status/563069569078927362]