Category Archives: Earth

Elusive Red Sprite Seen From the Space Station

NASA photo ISS044-E-45576 showing storms over southern Mexico on Aug. 10, 2015. (NASA/JSC)

NASA photo ISS044-E-45576 showing storms over southern Mexico on Aug. 10, 2015. (NASA/JSC)

Let’s take a look back at our own planet for a moment with this stunning photo captured from the Space Station. This shot, taken on the night of Aug. 10, 2015, shows lightning flashes in thunderstorms over southern Mexico. Along the right edge bright red and purple streamers can be seen extending high into the atmosphere above a particularly powerful flash: a full-on “red sprite” caught on camera!

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Today in 1966: Lunar Orbiter I Launched to Map our Moon

Earth was seen from the Moon for the first time by Lunar Orbiter I on August 23, 1966. (NASA/LPI/USGS)

Earth was seen from the Moon for the first time by Lunar Orbiter I on August 23, 1966. (NASA/LPI/USGS)

A test version of a Lunar Orbiter spacecraft. (Eric Long, National Air & Space Museum)

A test version of the 2-meter-long, 390-kg Lunar Orbiter spacecraft. (Eric Long, National Air & Space Museum)

On August 10, 1966, NASA’s Lunar Orbiter I launched from Cape Canaveral aboard an Atlas-Agena D rocket, the flagship spacecraft of a program designed to map the Moon and investigate intended landing sites for the planned Apollo landings, including helping determine the risks from micrometeorite and radiation exposure. Over the course of the next twelve months and five successful missions the Lunar Orbiter program photographed 99% of the Moon’s surface, both nearside and far, to a resolution as fine as 1 meter – which at the time was ten times better than what could be achieved from Earth.

Lunar Orbiter I was also responsible for sending back our first views of Earth from lunar orbit, one of which can be seen above.

Learn more about Lunar Orbiter here, and see original images from the Lunar Orbiter program here. Also, check out a cool old Apollo-era film about the Lunar Orbiter and Apollo prep missions below:

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NASA Delivers a Brand-New Blue Marble Pic

2015's newest

2015’s newest “blue marble” image, captured from a million miles away via the NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite.

It’s over halfway through 2015 and perhaps it’s high time for an all-new, updated, knock-your-socks-off “blue marble” photo of our beautiful planet Earth. And so earlier this week NASA delivered just that, courtesy of the high-definition EPIC camera (yes, that’s a real acronym) aboard the DSCOVR spacecraft positioned nearly a million miles away toward the Sun. The image above was captured on July 6, 2015, using the camera’s visible-light channels… it’s how Earth would appear to our eyes were we there (with the help of a telephoto lens, that is.)

And it really is a “blue marble” image, of the kind previously only captured by departing (or approaching) planetary exploration spacecraft or from inside Moon-bound Apollo capsules (see below)… you simply can’t get a shot like this from low-Earth orbit!

“This is the first true blue marble photo since 1972.”
– John Grunsfeld, NASA, July 24, 2015

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What Do You Think Of This Planet Earth Flag?

A concept for an

A concept for an “all-Earth” flag proposed by Oskar Pernefeldt

There was a bit of a press frenzy last week surrounding the idea of a global flag that could be used in instances of human exploration off our planet, where international collaboration could be celebrated and memorialized on alien worlds rather than the more old-timey nationalistic space races with various countries’ flags dotting remote landscapes across the Solar System. To this end Oskar Pernefeldt, a design student at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, Sweden, created a proposal for a “Flag for Planet Earth” as a senior project – a flag that could be proudly planted and worn by future astronauts as we expand our presence through space. Various news sites picked up the story, as seen in this article on by Jacob Kastrenakes – and it spread from there as “this is the flag we’ll plant” when we land on Mars, an asteroid, the Moon (again), Europa, etc., etc.

The question is: will it really? And more importantly, would we even want it to be? I, for one, would not.

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Water Water Everywhere

Earth isn't the only planet with water – we just need to know where to look.

Earth isn’t the only planet with water – we just need to know where to look.

Everyone knows that Earth is a “water-world,” with oceans covering 71% of its surface and at least as much contained within our planet’s mantle deep below its crust. But there’s also liquid water to be found elsewhere in the Solar System: on Mars, on the dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto, and also on the icy moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune.

NASA is on the hunt for this water, for the main reason that it’s the key ingredient for the evolution of Earth-type life. Where liquid water exists, if there are organic molecules and energy sources as well then the stage is set for life having evolved independently of Earth. And if we can find that that’s the case somewhere, anywhere else in the Solar System, then that would be a huge – no, make that giant – step toward answering the Big Question: are we alone in the Universe?

Today NASA scientists held a conference about the search for oceans beyond Earth, and how we are currently and plan to find out where and how much is (or even was) out there. An infographic accompanied the press materials released.

“What we’re finding out is that the Solar System really is a soggy place.”

– Dr. Jim Green, NASA’s Planetary Science Director

Check out the full infographic below, along with a video of the conference.

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This Was Rosetta’s View of Earth and the Moon in March 2005

The Moon beyond Earth's limb imaged by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft on March 4, 2005 (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

The Moon beyond Earth’s limb imaged by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft on March 4, 2005 (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

ESA’s comet-chasing Rosetta mission is best known today for its two historic firsts of entering orbit around a comet and sending a lander onto the surface of said comet, in May and November of 2014 respectively. But Rosetta didn’t just go directly from its March 2, 2004 launch to comet 67P; it had to perform several flyby maneuvers beforehand with planets and asteroids on its way out to meet a comet. And now, ESA has shared many of the images acquired during those close passes during its cruise phase in a series of online albums for the public to easily access.

The image above shows the Moon beyond the hazy line of Earth’s atmosphere, acquired on March 4, 2005 during Rosetta’s first gravity-assist flyby of Earth just over a year after its launch. (Rosetta made three such passes by our planet before gathering enough velocity to make it out to 67P!)

See a list of Rosetta’s flybys below and find out how to access the albums.

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