A striking new image captured by Mars Odyssey is a stark contrast to the rust-colored, rugged landscape that’s synonymous with the Red Planet. Released last week by NASA, the false-color composite—it’s a patchwork captured between December 2002 and November 2004—reveals long dunes surrounding the northern polar cap of the relatively small planet. Warmer areas touched by the sun emit a golden glow, while the chillier parts are tinted blue. The image frames just the dunes carved into a 19-mile swath of land, although the billowing pattern covers an area the size of Texas.
NASA released the infrared image as part of a collection that celebrates the 20th year in service for the orbiter, which currently holds the record as the longest-running spacecraft in history since its launch on April 7, 2001, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It was taken by the Odyssey’s Thermal Emission Imaging System, a tool that’s instrumental in determining the mineral composition of the planet’s surface by documenting temperature changes throughout the day. Since it began exploring two decades ago, the system has transmitted more than one million images of the Martian landscape back to Earth.
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An Astronaut and Photographer Collaboratively Document the Vast International Space Station in a New Book
In what is believed to be the first collaboration between an Earth-bound artist and an astronaut in space, photographer Roland Miller and engineer Paolo Nespoli have recorded the momentous journey of NASA’s International Space Station (ISS). The two have been working together during the last few years to document the current technologies and sights of modern space travel. They’ve shot extraordinary photographs of an ocean blanketed with clouds, the wire labyrinths lining the vehicle, and astronaut’s bulging suits and helmets. “If you were to stand there and look at (the spacecraft), I’m hoping that this is how you would see it,” Miller shares with Colossal.
The project began after the photographer spoke with astronaut and chemist Cady Coleman, who encouraged him to share his vision and approach to the medium with those on the space station. While researching the possibilities for such an endeavor, he discovered that Coleman is an avid flutist and would carry several of the instruments with her during missions. She even performed a duet with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, while he was in Russia and she far above the earth, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first human launch. “And I thought, what if I did something like that? Maybe I could somehow work with an astronaut directly,” Miller says.
While a similar process executed simultaneously proved too complicated, the photographer decided on a unique collaboration utilizing Google Street View, which shows both the views inside and outside the ISS. “Not only could I use it to see what the station really looked like, but I could do screenshots of parts of it,” he says, a process that he ultimately used. Miller would capture different portions within the station or views out its windows and share them with Nespoli, who would then recreate the image during a mission.
Because the ISS was in a weightless environment with fluctuating light, many of the images astronauts typically capture utilize a flash, which Miller, who generally photographs using a very low shutter speed, wanted to avoid. “The first problem you run into is you can’t use a tripod in space because it just floats away, and the station itself is going 17,500 miles an hour. Just because of the size and the speed, there’s a harmonic vibration to it,” he notes. To combat the constant quivering, Nespoli constructed a stabilizing bipod and shot about 135 images with a high shutter speed, before sending the shots to Miller for aesthetic editing.
Now, the photographs have culminated in a 200-page, full-color book titled Interior Space: A Visual Exploration of the International Space Station, which already has passed its fundraising goal on Kickstarter and still has 17 days to go. Included in the forthcoming tome are essays by four experts, the celestial photographs, and some Earth-based shots, which Miller took separately at the Kennedy and Johnson space centers. These images range from scaffolding obscuring a Pressurized Mating Adapter to up-close frames of a potable water cooler that position the dials and buttons side-by-side with stickers chronicling previous missions. With a publish date of November 2, 2020, Interior Space will launch the 20-year anniversary of uninterrupted human habitation on the ISS.
Preferring an abstract, documentarian approach, Miller strives to tell a broader story that integrates design, art, and science. “It makes it more visually interesting than just topographic recording of things,” he says, noting that he always layers his photographs with distinct elements. Miller explains his particular fascination with space artifacts and the ISS:
This is a very good subject for that because they’re really amazing, beautiful things and are very complex modules… If you look at Star Trek and people walk down these spacious, pristine, white-walled hallways with carpeting and nice lights, and then you look at what a real spacecraft is, and you look at that hallway with wires and cables and computers hanging out, and it’s just crazy, chaotic, a mess of stuff. I think it’s really good to show this is what it really looks like… This is the reality of space travel right now.
An ardent photographer for more than 30 years, Miller’s foray into the field began with a visit to an old launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He previously shot the NASA, Air Force, and Army facilities across the United States for his 2016 book, Abandoned in Place: Preserving America’s Space History. The collection contains a glimpse into the stations, launchpads, and other vehicles that have been deactivated, repurposed, and even demolished in recent years.
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Most experts advise against staring at the sun for more than a few seconds, and yet, a new timelapse from NASA lets viewers peer into the fiery mass for an entire decade. During the course of ten years, the Solar Dynamics Observatory took more than 425 million images of the massive star that were captured .75 seconds apart. Aggregated into an hour-long compilation titled “A Decade of Sun,” the photographs provide visual evidence of how the giant orb functions and its influence on the rest of the solar system. Each image was captured at a wavelength of 17.1 nanometers, or one-billionth of a meter, to show the exterior atmospheric layer that’s called the corona.
NASA has shared on YouTube a list of notable moments, including an appearance by Venus and an iconic interruption in 2012. Most of the dark spots in the video are a result of the earth or moon passing in between the Solar Dynamics Observatory and blocking its view, although there was a longer lapse in 2016 due to an equipment malfunction. When the spacecraft was recalibrating its tools, the sun shifts to one side of the screen.
Head to YouTube to dive into more of NASA’s explorations into outer space.
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On February 1, LEGO launched a new Expert Creator that’s on a mission to explore outer space. Comprised of 864 pieces, the International Space Station set is equipped with a robotic arm for satellite deployment, a miniature dock, and two astronauts ready to traverse the built-in spacewalk. It also has eight movable solar panels, three cargo spacecrafts, and booklet detailing the history of the design. Fully built, the realistic model stands more than 7 inches high, 12 inches long, and 19 inches wide.
Christoph Ruge designed the kit as part of a proposal for the 10th anniversary of the iconic brand’s ideas program, which has released a variety of sets with themes like dinosaur fossils and The Flintstones. Get your own miniature spacecraft on LEGO’s site, and see if you can put it together in the 92 minutes it takes the real model to orbit the earth. (via designboom)
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This past weekend, a volcanic eruption on Russia’s Kuril Islands was so massive it was quite literally visible from space. An astronaut on the International Space Station’s (ISS) Expedition 59 crew documented the plume from Raikoke Volcano, which reached eight miles into the sky. The ISS orbits 250 miles above earth. NASA explained:
On the morning of June 22, astronauts shot a photograph of the volcanic plume rising in a narrow column and then spreading out in a part of the plume known as the umbrella region. That is the area where the density of the plume and the surrounding air equalize and the plume stops rising. The ring of clouds at the base of the column appears to be water vapor.
Because of the reach of its plume, the ash and gas pose a flight risk to airplanes. Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers in Tokyo and Anchorage have been monitoring its movements. Raikoke rarely erupts; its last explosion was in 1924, and before that, 1778. You can explore more scientific documentation of the blast on NASA’s Earth Observatory blog. (via PetaPixel)
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Earlier this month NASA’s cryosphere research division, NASA ICE, posted an image of a peculiar iceberg floating near the Larsen C Ice Shelf. Its perfectly rectangular shape and flat surface sparked the interest of many online, but its form is one that is more common than one might expect. Unlike the recognizable pyramid-shaped icebergs, tabular icebergs split from the edges of ice shelves when they become too brittle. In 2017 an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off of the same arctic ice shelf. The iceberg weighed over a trillion tons, and was one of the largest ever recorded.
The recent image of the tabular iceberg was taken as a part of Operation IceBridge, NASA’s extensive survey of Earth’s Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice. You can see the edge of the perfectly formed tabular iceberg in addition to a slightly less rectangular example in the image taken by IceBridge senior support scientist Jeremy Harbeck below. A GIF of a plane from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center approaching the iceberg can be viewed their Twitter. (via NASA ICE)
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