A couple weeks ago, 17-year-old Canadian teens Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad successfully sent a Lego man and four cameras to the edges of space on a weather balloon and captured photographs of the figurine posing with a Canadian flag at 78,000 feet — three times the cruising altitude of jets. They spent $400 on materials and four months of free Saturdays planning, buying, making, building, and testing:
[...] the two scoured Craigslist and Kijiji for used point-and-shoots. They needed Canons, which can be programmed to take photos every 20 seconds without stopping.
Next they sewed the parachute. “By no means are we, like, seamstresses,” says Ho. “We broke like, what, four needles? It was ridiculous.”
[...] Finally, they assembled the whole thing, carefully carving out space inside the Styrofoam container for the three point-and-shoots, the wide-angle video camera, and a cellphone with a downloaded GPS app. They super-glued their Lego astronaut to a gangplank on the outside, and printed off a Canadian flag for him to hold.
The vessel completed a 97-minute journey and captured plenty of footage and photos along the way. You can view a gallery of the images here.
NASA has released another Blue Marble photograph of Earth. It calls this one the “most amazing, highest resolution image of Earth ever”. The image is a composite created from a number of photos of Earth’s surface captured on January 4, 2012, and weighs in at a massive 64-megapixels (8000×8000). You can download the full-res version here. Be warned though — it might crash your browser.
Here’s a satellite photograph showing what the Costa Concordia disaster looks like from space. On January 13th the gigantic Italian cruise ship ran aground and partially sank, killing at least 13 people.
Ever wonder how the US government managed to capture spy photos with satellites during the Cold War without the help of digital cameras, computers, or wireless transmission? The Atlantic has a fascinating article on the various techniques that were used:
From 1971 to 1986 a total of 20 satellites were launched, each containing 60 miles (100 kilometers) of film and sophisticated cameras that orbited the earth snapping vast, panoramic photographs of the Soviet Union, China and other potential foes. The film was shot back through the earth’s atmosphere in buckets that parachuted over the Pacific Ocean, where C-130 Air Force planes snagged them with grappling hooks.
Over the past year, there have been a number of jaw-dropping (and viral) time-lapse videos created from the amazing photos captured from the International Space Station by astronaut Mike Fossum. The video above provides an interesting behind-the-scenes look into how the images are captured.
If you had the task of choosing some photos that represented Earth and mankind to extraterrestrial life forms, which photos would you select? NASA had to do this back in 1977 when it launched the Voyager space probes, which are now the farthest human-made objects from Earth. A committee led by Carl Sagan eventually settled on 116 images:
[...] a collection of 116 pictures (one of which is for calibration) detailing but not limited to human life on earth and the planet itself. Many pictures are annotated with one or many indications of scales of time, size or mass. Some images also contain indications of chemical composition. All measures used on the pictures are first defined in the first few images using physical references.
Among the photos chosen was Ansel Adam’s famous Snake River and Grand Tetons photograph. Read more…
Photographer Edouard Janssens recently sent a weather balloon equipped with a Sony NEX-5 and a GoPro HD to the edges of space. While this isn’t exactly a novel idea, the GoPro camera managed to capture footage of a jet airliner whizzing by at roughly the same altitude!
This amazing image might look like a computer generated graphic, but it’s actually a composite photograph by NASA showing India’s population growth over the years. The white areas show the illumination visible in the country prior to 1992, while the blue, green, and red lights indicate new lights that became visible in 1992, 1998, and 2003, respectively. The four photos were tinted and then combined into an image that reveals where new populations are appearing. NASA definitely needs to do one for every country!
Sending cameras to the edges of space on a weather balloon has become a pretty popular activity as of late, but up to now people were mostly sending up cell phones, compact cameras, and small HD video cameras (e.g. GoPros). While those devices are light and relatively cheap, the quality of images produced isn’t the best.
Well, Texas Tech students Erich Leeth and Terry Presley recently decided to step things up a notch by using a Nikon D300s and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens for their space photography. Their craft, which consisted of a 22-foot weather balloon filled with helium and a styrofoam beer cooler purchased from Walmart, rose to an estimated 100K feet before the balloon popped. A parachute then brought the pricey gear safely back down to Earth. The entire project took just 13 days from start to finish, and the duo managed to capture some pretty neat photos from the edge of space.