Category Archives: Earth
It may not be the first (or even second or third) satellite mission that comes to mind but NASA and JHUAPL’s TIMED mission continues to deliver invaluable data about Earth’s upper atmosphere over 15 years after its launch on Dec. 7, 2001. In fact its extended long-duration stay in orbit has allowed TIMED (Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics) to completely change what we thought we knew about how the uppermost layers of our atmosphere react to incoming storms from the Sun…and how it’s being affected by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from below.
Read more at TIMED Marches On — 15 Years and Counting
Here’s a view of our home planet and its lovely Moon captured from 127 million miles away by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on November 20, 2016. The sunlit part of Earth shows eastern Asia, the Indian Ocean, and Australia with ice-covered Antarctica visible as a bright white spot. The Moon has been brightened in this image, since it would be too dark in relation to a properly-exposed Earth to be readily visible (and I added more dark background to frame them a bit better.) But the positions and sizes of the two worlds are as captured by the HiRISE instrument, which was designed to map the surface of Mars in exquisite detail but occasionally is aimed to take a look back homeward.
Various news outlets today have run with a story about a supposed UFO spotted on live video streamed from the International Space Station, in which a bright object is visible “descending” into Earth’s atmosphere. The video* was shared on YouTube by a self-proclaimed UFO hunter—which basically means someone who stares at ISS feeds on their computers until their eyes melt and any speck of anything seen moving is instantly circled, copied into a slow-mo edited version, and overlaid with ominous music and/or bold text highlights claiming alien visitation and government cover-ups. (Views ensue.)
To help this particular spotting along is the fact that the feed cut out just as the object nears the edge of the atmosphere. Assured proof of a galactic-scale conspiracy by NASA and the NWO, right???
Please. Here’s my two-and-a-half cents:
This week NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced news of an object traveling around the Sun in an orbit that keeps it relatively close to our own planet. The object, a near-Earth asteroid (NEO) less than 300 feet (100 m) across, is designated 2016 HO3 and has in some reports been called a “new” or “mini” moon of Earth…but that’s not entirely true. More accurately 2016 HO3 is what’s known as a quasi-satellite, and is in a temporary (albeit long-lived by human standards) orbit that takes it on a “leapfrog” path around Earth, never getting closer than 38 times the distance to the Moon—about 9.1 million miles.
I love models that demonstrate the incredible size and space of the Solar System, very much so because many illustrations and diagrams fail to portray it accurately (and for very good reason…it’s enormous.) The most recent is shown here, enthusiastically created and narrated by former NASA engineer Mark Rober. This particular demonstration is unique in that it’s the only one (that I’ve seen so far) that includes the newest possible-planet in the Solar System, “Planet Nine,” a Neptune-mass world that may orbit the Sun up to four times farther away than Pluto. Check it out above, and you can find some other cool scale models of the Solar System I’ve encountered previously below.
(And remember kids, space is really, really, really BIG.)