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Click to enlarge. Trust me- you want to do this!

Before the newsy stuff I had to give you that eye-gasm of a photo of our nearest star a.k.a. the Sun, blowing off millions of tons of hot gas into space a couple weeks ago. This image combines two spectrums of light that we can’t see with our eyes, both of which are in the ultraviolet range and show the magnetic activity better. Both were taken with NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO). We should be glad this enormous eruption wasn’t aimed directly at Earth, else we could have had serious satellite and power disruptions.

Now for the headlines:

  • The teams of physicists at the Large Hadron Collider have officially published their findings on the Higgs boson in a legit, peer-reviewed journal- Physics Letters B. This is the same journal in which Peter Higgs first published his revolutionary paper that began the hunt for the boson to begin with. Once a discovery passes this level of scrutiny, it’s DONE. That means we did it! Scientists have been a little hesitant to actually call this discovered particle the Higgs boson, however, since all the properties and attributes of the particle are yet to be nailed down. Over the next few years we’ll start to get a better picture of just what this particle looks and feels like, so to speak, and I’m sure there will be many more questions raised than answered. (Via NewScientist)
  • Star Trek is starting to look a bit more like reality than science fiction thanks to new research being done into anitmatter and fusion propulsion. That’s right- antimatter, as in the stuff they used to run the Enterprise‘s Warp Drive. NASA teamed up with consulting firm the Tauri Group for a presentation that included a prediction that human technology will have advanced to the point that antimatter and fusion propulsion will be possible for spaceships by around 2060. The technology will not, however be capable of faster-than-light travel. According to the 2010 report the presentation was based upon, it would take about 4 months to get a ship to Jupiter with this technology. That’s significantly faster than current technology, but still a very VERY far cry from Warp speed. (Via Space.com)
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From the department of Holy Fucking Shit Nature Is Awesome: Scientists have hooked up squid skin to an iPod and made its pigment cells dance in time to Cypress Hill. They took the electronic waveform of the music and turned it into tiny electric impulses that caused the pigment cells, called chromatophores, to react in time with the music. The result is utterly fascinating:

(Via Kottke.org)

The MSL team at NASA has been as busy as ever testing, calibrating, and tweaking Curiosity’s cameras and instruments. A lot of great things have been accomplished over the last week or so, but two things are most interesting to me. The first recorded song ever to be beamed back from another planet was a song specially composed and recorded by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. The song was called “Reach for the Stars.” While I’m not really a Black Eyed Peas fan, I’m really happy that such a big-name pop culture figure is trying to get kids more involved and interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The other bit of news from Curiosity that really impressed me is this new image from the rover’s 100mm MASTCAM:

Click to enlarge. Seriously, you want to see this full size! Credit: NASA/JPL

This photo, to me, is much more interesting to look at than the other, wider images taken thus far. The reason is that it’s using a 100mm telephoto lens, which makes the scale and depth of the scene more prominent. Also, the photo was taken near sunrise or sunset when the angle of sunlight was low, which makes the jagged rock formations on Mt. Sharp more prominent and dramatic. Notice how there are many flat layers of rock exposed on the side of the mountain? They look just like the layers of bedrock along the sides of canyons and mountains here on Earth! The layers you see on Earth were formed by water, when sediments collected on the floor of oceans and lakes and eventually hardened into rock over millions of years. Therefore, scientists are pretty sure the rock layers seen in this photo on Mars were formed the same way, at the bottom of bodies of water on the surface millions of years ago. The big question we still have to answer is, what caused the water to disappear? Also, was there any life in or around that water millions of years ago? I can’t think of anything more exciting than answering those questions about Mars’ past.

Scientific eye candy

July 24, 2012

Two pieces of eye candy for your viewing pleasure today:

Over the past 40 years the US Geological Survey and NASA have teamed up on the LANDSAT mission, a series of imaging satellites that have taken some breathtaking photos of our planet. They recently posted a series of images and got the public to vote on the top 5. Those 5 can be seen in the video below, and the full gallery can be seen on the USGS website.

Secondly, I came across this set of amazing weather photos by photographer Camille Seaman last week. Feast your eyes on these simultaneously gorgeous and terrifying views of storm clouds over the great plains.

(Credit: Camille Seaman) Click through to view the full gallery.

I didn’t fall of the face of the earth, I just totally forgot to post a disclaimer here that I would be out of pocket for a while taking photos at Bonnaroo. This was my 5th year there and we had amazing weather. It actually felt a bit chilly some nights! Anyway, please do check out the Nashville Cream for comprehensive coverage and lots of photos from me and Michael Bunch. Back soon y’all!

 

Copyright 2010 Steve Cross

Whoa. Just whoa. I just read on Brooklynvegan that Kelley Anderson has left Those Darlins. A bit of a shock to me, really, but at the same time, I’ve known Kelley (and all of them) for years and I know that Kelley is a very driven and ambitious woman with lots of talent. I’ve no doubt she’s got some awesome projects up her sleeve and I can see how the rigorous touring of Those Darlins may have become a bit too much. I mean, look what she did by founding the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp! That grew into Youth Empowerment through Arts & Humanities, one of the coolest non-profits around, and a cause well worth your support & time. I have no doubt that Those Darlins will power on ahead with the talents of Jessi, Linwood, and Nikki, plus whomever replaces Kelley. The above photo is from a documentary project in which I spent a few days on tour with them, as is the one below. These haven’t been published anywhere else, and I intend to keep it that way- so please don’t download and/or use these!

Copyright 2010 Steve Cross

Credit: NASA

As I’ve mentioned before, our Sun is steadily heading toward the peak of its next 11-year sunspot cycle. The peak is expected in 2013. That means we can expect a steady increase in aurorae as well, because sunspots lead to solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and when those happen to be aimed at earth, we get dazzling displays near the north and south poles. Sometimes those displays can even be seen as far south as Tennessee. Over the weekend there was a massive solar flare and CME, one that released the same amount of energy as millions of nuclear bombs, and it headed straight for earth. The blast of particles reached earth last night/this morning and created an astonishing auroral display, which was captured by many photographers at various locations. Here are a few blog posts and other links I’ve come across today showing some of those photos as well as explaining the physics of what actually causes the upper atmosphere to glow when bombarded by these particles.

Spectacular Aurorae Erupt Over Norway (Discovery News) Absolutely breathtaking photos by Bjørn Jørgensen.

Huge Solar Flare Seen By Solar Dynamics Observatory (Space.com)

The Sun Aims a Storm Right at Earth! (Bad Astronomy) Good explanation of the science behind the aurorae.

Can Solar Flares Hurt Astronauts? (Universe Today) Good explanation of why the flare/CME poses little risk to astronauts onboard the ISS.

Credit: NASA

The Kepler team at NASA announced yet another exciting discovery yesterday: the first confirmed earth-size alien planets, Kepler 20f and 20e. The mission has found other exoplanets that pretty close to earth-size, but these two are by far the closest yet. What really befuddled me about this announcement was that that in addition to those two smaller, rocky worlds, there are three bigger gas-giant or super-earths in this system as well. No only that, but all five of these exoplanets’ orbits would fit inside our own Mercury’s orbit around our sun! That’s a lot of planets crammed into a tiny area! Of course that also means that these planets are scorching hot- far too hot to be habitable. But, it’s very reassuring to confirm that Kepler can positively identify alien planets that are earth-size and even tad bit smaller (Kepler 20e is about 87% the size of earth). As usual, Dr. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has a very good explanation of the whole thing. And I’ll also point you toward this article on space.com about the likelihood of us finding a true earth-twin within the coming year.

And now I will simply tell you to go take a look at this amazing set of volcano photographs and have a a few eyegasms. You’re welcome.

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