It’s Halloween, and the Blueshift team wants to keep you in the holiday spirit – but with an astronomical twist. We’re running a costume contest, we posted a gallery of spooky astronomy, and now we want to share a blast from the past! We made this video three years ago, to highlight the history of NASA Goddard’s Building 2 as it celebrated its 50th birthday. We spoke to some colleagues who had known the building since its humble beginnings, and we explored the labyrinth of corridors and storage areas. And, well… you’ll just have to see what happens! Turn off the lights for a spookier experience.
Posts tagged: Goddard
One of the things you can see if you visit NASA Goddard (or dozens of museums and other institutions worldwide) is a 68-inch sphere on which moving images are projected – it’s called “Science on a Sphere.” Goddard has one on display in its Visitor Center, and there’s also a traveling sphere that’s sometimes on display behind the gates in Building 34. Blueshift’s Sara Mitchell chatted with some of the Goddard folks who work with Science on a Sphere – Maurice Henderson, Britt Griswold, and Jay Friedlander – to find out how it came about, how it’s used, and what they are planning for the future.
Sara: What is Science on a Sphere?
Maurice Henderson: Science on a Sphere is a visualization platform that was developed by NOAA’s Forecast Systems Lab. Dr. Sandy MacDonald at OAR holds the patent for projecting earth science or spherical data sets onto a sphere-shaped movie screen. The software program allows us to drive four projectors – one at each corner of a square – and it gives the visualization effect of a ball in motion – Earth in motion, Sun in motion, planetary body in motion.
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We have had three rare celestial events in succession – an annular
solar eclipse on May 20 (May 21 in the Eastern Hemisphere), a partial
lunar eclipse on June 4, and a Transit of Venus on June 5/6.
The first image here is a composite image of several stages of the annular solar eclipse taken from New Mexico. The second is a lucky shot of the Venus transit caught in a thin strip between clouds.
Of these, the Transit of Venus is not visually spectacular – when Venus moves in front of the disk of the Sun as seen from the Earth, it only casts a small shadow, and the shadow is not all that impressive even in images taken with a properly equipped camera (staring directly at the Sun can be damaging to your eyes and to your cameras!) However, the transit probably was the most important event of the three, historically speaking. This is because the observations of transits of Venus are very rare and in the past they were used to establish the scale of the solar system.
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Today we said a bittersweet farewell to the space shuttle orbiter Discovery, as it headed off to retirement at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center atop a special 747.
On its way to Dulles Airport (where it landed just outside DC) from Kennedy Space Center (where it took off from), it made approximately 4 loops around the Washington, DC metro area. There are many spectacular pictures of it, many of them taken by people lucky enough to look up and see it. Check out the #spottheshuttle hash tag on twitter to see some of them.
Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
The shuttle did fly over NASA Goddard and was a beautiful if bittersweet sight. There is a Flickr group that has lots of photos taken by NASA Goddard folks. If you are one of them, consider adding your photos.
We’ll leave with you a couple of photos taken by friends from Goddard.
There are gorgeous new images out from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Here, Saturn’s third-largest moon, Dione, can be seen through the haze of the planet’s largest moon, Titan, in this view of the two posing before the planet and its rings. There are more on the Cassini website.
While scientists have discovered hundreds of extrasolar planets over the past decade, finding Earth’s twin (an Earth-like planet in a similar orbit to ours around a Sun-like star) has been much more difficult. But a recent discovery by the Kepler mission has brought us one step closer – planet Kepler-22b is 2.4 times the radius of Earth, orbiting within the habitable zone (the region where an Earth-like planet could maintain liquid water on its surface) around a host star slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun. Kepler’s observations have identified several dozen other habitable zone planet candidates, and the mission will continue watching these objects as they transit in front of their host stars to see if more potential Earth twins are found.
Pulsars are fascinating stars. They’re neutron stars – objects so dense that a teaspoonful of their matter weighs as much as Mount Everest – and they emit periodic bursts of energy as they rotate, like lighthouse beacons in space. Scientists watch for the tell-tale pattern of emissions, which typically show up every few seconds. A specific group of pulsars known as millisecond pulsars whirl thousands of times per minute. The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has recently identified ten new pulsars, including an unusual millisecond pulsar that may be the youngest ever observed. To learn more about the 100 pulsars that Fermi has discovered to date, you can check out the interactive Fermi Pulsar Explorer.
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In the hunt for extrasolar planets, we’re interested in finding Earth-like planets… but how about Tatooine-like planets? NASA’s Kepler satellite has discovered a planet that might look a little familiar to Star Wars fans. It’s the first planet scientists have seen that orbits two stars! The planet, called Kepler-16b, is about 200 light-years away, and it’s a little different from the sci-fi home of Luke Skywalker. It’s cold and gaseous, orbiting outside of the star system’s habitable zone. Still, it shows that there’s a whole new class of planetary systems out there – and that sometimes science fact is as exciting as science fiction!
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Bill Nye the Science Guy paid a visit to NASA Goddard on Thursday, September 9th, 2011, and while he was here he checked out some James Webb Space Telescope hardware and talked to some of the project’s scientists.
There’s a great Flickr set of photos of his visit – but we thouht this one of him doing something many of us do, a phone self-portrait, was really fun.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Bill Hrybyk
Here’s another of him with the Webb model:
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Bill Hrybyk
In additional Webb news, all of its mirrors are not only polished, but coated in gold! (This is something that optimizes the mirror for infrared observations.) It’s a microscopically thin coating and completing this on all the mirrors is a big milestone for the project! You can read more at the NASA feature.
Hubble won our hearts by producing breathtaking images of galactic collisions, clusters of stars and supernova remnants (among many other things). Now the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s next generation successor, is planning to once more furnish an unprecedented look into the Universe around us. Take a look at this sneak peak of what scientists expect to see with our new set of “eyes.”