We’ve seen quite a few videos lately by people who send cameras up to the edges of space on weather balloons. Here’s the big-budget version of that: footage from a camera attached to a NASA Space Shuttle’s booster rockets. Lift off from Earth occurs at 0:27, separation from the shuttle occurs at 1:57, and splashing into the ocean occurs at 7:21. The sound captured by the cameras has been remastered by George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound.
If you’ve always wanted to be an astronaut photographer shooting images of Earth from a window of the International Space Station, Stratocam is an app for you. Created by Paul Rademacher, it allows you to snap your own photographs inside Google Maps’ satellite view of our planet. You can also view and rate other people’s photos, and browse the highest rated images from around the world. Read more…
This past Sunday, a group of amateur astronomers in San Antonio, Texas successfully “flashed” the International Space Station with a blue laser and spotlight as it whizzed by overhead. While this might sound like an easy thing to do, it’s much more complicated than you think. Astronaut Don Pettit shot the photo of the experiment seen above, and writes,
This took a number of engineering calculations. Projected beam diameters (assuming the propagation of a Gaussian wave for the laser) and intensity at the target had to be calculated. Tracking space station’s path as it streaked across the sky was another challenge. I used email to communicate with Robert Reeves, one of the association’s members. Considering that it takes a day, maybe more, for a simple exchange of messages (on space station we receive email drops two to three times a day), the whole event took weeks to plan.
The International Space Station maintains an orbital altitude of between 205 and 255 miles, so the fact that Pettit was able to see the flash of light from that distance is quite impressive.
On December 31st, 2011, Oaida Raul decided pay a tribute to the recently-retired Space Shuttle program by creating a GoPro video of a Lego Space Shuttle model traveling up to the edges of Earth’s atmosphere on a weather balloon. You can read an in-depth description of the mission and the components used — the entire project was launched and completed in a span of about a week — over on Raul’s blog.
Want to see how Las Vegas has grown from 1972 through 2010? NASA created this unique time-lapse video using photographs captured by Landsat satellites. From this perspective, it almost looks like humans are a mold spreading across the face of a fruit.
Captured on April 1, 1995 by the Hubble Telescope, the photograph Pillars of Creation is one of the most famous space images ever made. Here’s a crazy fact though: did you know that the “pillars” seen in the photo were already long gone by the time the image was captured? Astronomers have concluded that the pillars — which measure up to 4 light years in length — were destroyed about 6,000 years ago by the shock wave from a supernova. Because of how long it takes light to travel across such vast distances, we can currently see the shock waves approaching the pillars but won’t actually see their destruction for another thousand years or so!
The Suomi NPP satellite is in a polar orbit around Earth at an altitude of 512 miles (about 824 kilometers), but the perspective of the new Eastern hemisphere ‘Blue Marble’ is from 7,918 miles (about 12,743 kilometers). NASA scientist Norman Kuring managed to ‘step back’ from Earth to get the big picture by combining data from six different orbits of the Suomi NPP satellite. Or putting it a different way, the satellite flew above this area of Earth six times over an eight hour time period. Norman took those six sets of data and combined them into one image.
So rather than being a composite of multiple images captured from the same perspective, they do in fact map images captured by the satellite onto a 3D sphere. Read more…
Reddit user tirceol‘s father is an amateur astronomer who captures some amazing photographs of space from his front yard by hooking up a camera to his telescope’s eyepiece. He uses everything from a webcam to a Meade camera to capture the images, which are sometimes composites created using multiple photos. The above image shows the Andromeda galaxy 2.5 million light years away. Read more…
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.