Frankenstorm and the Dragon

By Phil Plait | October 26, 2012 3:01 pm

Holy wow, check this out: I grabbed a screenshot from footage on October 26 of Hurricane Sandy from the International Space Station:

Yegads. Look at the storm center; you can see it towering above the cloud deck and feeder bands of the storm. As if that’s not cool enough, that bit of hardware on the left is actually the SpaceX Dragon capsule, berthed to the ISS since October 10. It is expected to undock and return to Earth on Sunday, splashing down in the Pacific ocean at 12:20 PDT.

Looking at this, I’m not sure if I should be awed or terrified. I think I’ll take a little of both.

[Update: Just to be clear, I am not making light of this hurricane. It’s already killed over 20 people in the Caribbean, and I noted how dangerous it is in my earlier post. As I said in a post about Hurricane Isaac: "Pictures of hurricanes from space are amazing. As always, there’s a fascinating dichotomy to pictures like this, a simultaneous ethereal beauty and repellent violence. Hurricanes are magnificent, and terrifying."]

Image credit: NASA

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures, Space

Comments (18)

  1. The center line of all the models predicting the storm’s path points directly at my house. Oh well, it’s been nice knowin’ ya.

  2. T-STORM

    Nobody thinks you were making light of things. Volcanoes are cool, and the pictures of the wildfires were cool, and so on, but we all understand that beyond that beauty is some really scary stuff.

  3. Chris

    Part of being a scientist (especially in the physical sciences) is to be really excited over natural disasters, calculating how much energy is released, comparing that to nuclear bombs and asteroid impacts, seeing how much it causes the Earth’s spin to change… That part of your brain that thinks about how the disaster impacts real people gets shut off when you have the opportunity to do a calculation. In case you didn’t know, a hurricane can be thought of as a Carnot heat engine. Crack out your books on thermodynamics.

  4. Wzrd1

    @Bob F, passing south of us here. It’s directly aimed at my sister in law’s house. But, we’re in Pennsylvania and at a decent elevation.
    Guess I’ll be loaning her my inverter for a week again.

    Well, back to shopping for whole house standby generators. It’s been on my to-do list, probably get one installed next spring (THIS most certainly is not the right time for it).

    @Phil, my first thought in seeing the Dragon capsule was, “Everbody, remember where we parked”.
    My second thought, wow, THAT is poofy!
    My third thought, WOW, *THAT* is big. Looks angry. Better stay away from it.
    Seriously though, got the lanterns staged, as we usually end up with a short power outage. Got the chem lights staged throughout the house and extras on hand. Got gallons of ice frozen. ALWAYS have plenty of food. Have batteries for radios and flashlights. Have all medicines we need.
    Checked the shield generator… All systems available through trans-warp. 😉

  5. David C.

    Wzrd1, I actually believed the shield generator bit, until I got to Trans-Warp ;D the rest is pretty good advice for anyone who is in need of disaster preparedness.

    Seriously though, I am a weather nut, living here in Canada, get excited about Colorado Lows (thanks Phil) and Alberta Clippers, in the winter. Don’t get too many Tornadoes or Hurricanes in Central Canada (aka Southern Ontario) but when I hear about them, while they can have an awe inspiring beauty, they are serial killers without conscience; and for that reason are to be taken seriously. Bob F and you and your sister are in my prayers and thoughts, as are everyone in the path of this work of nature.
    ummmm I’m a convert to skepticism, but times like this figure a little insurance is not bad, costs nothing 😉 (would do a wink, but not that geeky yet 😉 ) hey, waddahyahknow 😉 it’s a wink LOL dang the old man ain’t so old after all (65 in Jan.)

  6. Wzrd1

    @David C. Missed only one minor thing, a first aid kit. Mine is advanced, but that is due to my being a retired military medic. At least a basic first aid kit should ALWAYS be on hand.

    I’m a science nut in general. Weather is cool because only a degree or so over a large area can do interesting things. So, for me here, it’s not that big a deal beyond being an annoyance when it finally hits. I’m in SE Pennsylvania, just below Philadelphia, so we’ll get a heavier part of it than Bob F should get, assuming it tracks as predicted. But, we’re on higher ground than he is, with plenty of hills to break up the wind. NJ is largely flat as a pancake, so winds just sweep across the state.

    I’m more of a deist, personally. Still, the thought is what counts, so a prayer is never rejected. It says that you’re wishing the best for the one prayed for. :)
    I’ll be 51 in a week and change. Not an old man yet, just an old fart. 😉

  7. MartyM

    Looks like Earth has an outtie.

  8. Jess Tauber

    I’m in the path myself, not too far from the biggest river in the area but luckily uphill to some extent- though last time we had a major storm you could have taken a canoe down our street when drainage was slowest. Already thinking about staying in a motel somewhere west and north- like OHIO.

  9. Theron

    Well, my Mom, otherwise known as “Sandy,” now has her own hurricane. Otherwise though, this looks very bad. May it veer way to the east.

  10. shawmutt

    I thought the “Frankenstorm” was going to happen when it got farther north and mixed with the artic air from the north…

  11. Sandy is aimed at the richest, most powerful, densely populated, furiously Liberal Democrat corridor on the planet. Utilities and food refurbishment may fail for more than a week. Imposed mandatory waiting periods for firearm purchase dictate Inner Cities’ equal rights they so enthusiastically pursue (with other peoples’ monies) will be upon them. Empirical reality is what does not go away when you stop believing it.
    Civilian precipitation measurements. Click on the map.

  12. Joseph G

    So is Uncle Al a web bot or a PaulBot?
    Or both?

  13. VinceRN

    All this buildup, the evacuations, the statewide disaster declarations, over what is still a compound maybe, seems a little over the top. Yes, everyone should prepare, but they shouldn’t be declaring it the end of the world until they actually see the frost giants coming over the bridge.

    (That’s not happening here of course, but most of the major news media, and the talking heads they are interviewing, are pretty much roller skating up and down Venice Beach with a sign that says “Repent, the End is Near!” (when I was young and rude we sometimes throw stuff at that guy)).

    Hope everyone over there stays well, and I pretty much think they will.

  14. Reidh

    don’t worry phil? nobody thinks you aren’t PC. Everybody knows you’re a techno-weenie.

  15. MaDeR

    “Empirical reality is what does not go away when you stop believing it.”
    Rethuglican loon saying this broke my ironymeter. Again.

  16. Joseph G

    @16 MaDeR: Back when I hung out on Fark, there was this one bible thumper who always showed up in predictable threads (anything to do with evolution, for instance). He didn’t even really join the conversation so much as he copypasted Bible versus. But his sig (and something he said repeatedly) was “Reality is that which doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it.”
    My irony gland got quite a workout…


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