Happy Revolution Around the Sun Card

As a fan of space exploration, you will have to love this birthday card from Chop Shop. An overly technical acknowledgment of someone’s birthday by defining exactly what it is. One additional complete orbital period moving around the sun. Even better, they design is beautifully letterpress printed both front and inside.

Above reveals the inside text — which plays it a little more safe with the messaging.

Check Out Kurzgesagt

Especially if you have kids with an appreciation for science. These guys regularly do great animations that explain complex science — appropriate for all ages. They also promise a series of cool videos about cool moons in our solar system. So far they have only covered our own, next up… Mars’ Deimos and Phobos.

50 Years of Space Exploration Map

This is so nice, but I am furious that I didn’t get to design this. This is Information design at it’s best naturally by National Geographic. You can see 50 years of robotic planetary exploration at a glance. It even includes failed missions represented by darker desaturated lines. As far as I can tell the cream colored lines are US and the red ones are Soviet. Interesting to see how many of those lines go dark around Mars.

Now where does one purchase such a thing? Perhaps this month’s issue of NG? Here is the link to it on their site complete with zoom viewer and them some kind samaritan posted a hires version to flickr.

Earth Ring and the End of Kaguya

The Kaguya moon orbiter has reached the end of its mission and on June 10th the spacecraft executed an uncontrolled impact into the surface of the moon. The impact was captured from ground-based observation (at left) and is the small round flash seen dead-center.

One of the mission’s final masterpeices of hi-def video was capturing an Earth eclipse of the Sun for the first time from the Moon. The image at top shows the details in 8 key frames and the actual video can be seen here on youTube.

Shuttle and the Sun

This image taken by Thierry Legault has been making the rounds lately. That bit of a speck seen on the Sun’s lower-right limb is the shuttle on the way to perform it’s current Hubble repair mission. The spacecraft itself can be seen in much greater detail at left and another image of The Shuttle with The Hubble Space Telescope nearby can also be seen on Thierry’s website here.

A quick google search of Thierry’s name reveals that he has been at this sort of thing before. Seen below is the Shuttle and The International Space Station as seen against The Sun in 2006. These transits happen in less than a second to a ground observer, so capturing this fleeting event is no easy task.

Sharpest Image of The Sun as of 2002

Sharpest Image of The Sun I have to admit this is my first direct lift right from Astronomy Picture of the Day (dating back to November 2002). Some recent images of Solar prominences and arcs are pretty close in quality if not surpass this, but I don’t think I have seen anything comparitively detailed of the actual surface like this. The image was acquired through the ground-based Swedish Solar Telescope located on the Canary Island of La Palma. Despite the ground-based operation, it still was able to make an image of the Sun that surpassed any of those taken by the observatories in orbit at that point in time.

What is seen in the above image is a dark region known as a sunspot which is a planet sized area of unknown origin. Our Sun in Natural LightIt has a much lower temperature than its surrounding areas and emits a tremendous amount of magnetic activity. Of course, any imaging the Sun in normal visible light with no photographic trickery would result in an entirely white image with no details at all. So the funny thing about these “dark spots” (see visible/white light image at left) is that they are actually blindingly bright to a human eye. It is only when we image these areas in comparitive contrast with the surrounding hotter areas do they appear as dark in photographs. These mysterious spots seem to also appear in abundance in 11 year cycles which also eludes any scientific explanation.

Wallpaper: Sol (the sun) Portrait

Wallpaper: SunI don’t mean to go over some details that many of us already know, but just in case you don’t:

1) If you consider the manner in which the planets are named in the solar system, then the sun’s name would be “Sol” which is the root of the word “solar”. 2) The sun is a star which is neither a solid or a gas but is made of something called plasma. 3) The fusion that creates the energy the sun provides takes place in the core and it takes 170 thousand years for it to make its way out and radiating into space. 4) The sun has an eleven year cycle in which all kinds of activity such as sunspots, flares and solar storms peak and can sometimes disrupt things here on Earth. 5) It is estimated that Earth has only 5 billion years left before the sun depletes its resources and turns into a red giant and fries all things on Earth to a cinder. The image was taken from the SOHO solar observatory. This is the first spacecraft to take advantage of what is called a “halo” orbit around the sun. This involves orbiting a spot called the Lagrangian point which is a spot in between the Earth and Sun where the pull on the object is equal on each side. This means that SOHO actually orbits a space occupied by nothing, and follows inside the orbit of Earth. The advantages of this position allows SOHO to observe the sun uninterrupted by not having to pass behind the Earth which has been an issue with every previous mission to observe the sun. IMAGE NOTE: What is shown in the image above is in ultraviolet light. I make an effort to not use images in false-color and favor visible light, but the sun cannot be imaged in this way for any kind of detail (other than sunspots). So, in the case of suns and stars… I make the exception.