Sandy’s Big Night

By Phil Plait | October 29, 2012 9:47 am

Last night On October 28, at 02:42 Eastern US time, NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite took this incredible picture of Hurricane Sandy, poised to strike the coast:

[Click to coriolisenate, or download the typhoonesized 3500 x3500 pixel version.]

Suomi-NPP has fantastic imaging capabilities, including a camera which can "see" across the spectrum from green light out into the infrared. City lights in the southeast are easy to spot from their own glow, while Sandy’s dangerous clouds are illuminated by the nearly full Moon. I recommend getting the super-hi-res image and simply scanning around. The detail is amazing.

I suppose this is how a mouse feels, staring into the eyes of snake. There is a simultaneous dread, paralyzing fear, and entrancing beauty to hurricanes seen from space. I marvel when I see these… and then I remember the dozen or so hurricanes I’ve lived and driven through; the adrenaline surges every time I heard a branch crash down; the lying in bed at night awake, wondering what I’d awaken to. There can be terror in beauty.

I escaped all that by moving to Colorado, trading it all instead for flooding, fires, drought… we all have our crosswind to bear, I suppose. But in this case, Sandy is clearly the front page news. If you’re in its path, stay safe and warm.

Image credit: Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon/NASA/NOAA/DoD

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures

Comments (14)

  1. I’m reminded of a couple lines from Rilke’s Duino Elegies, “For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure, / and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.”

  2. theoncomingstorm

    I am more annoyed then anything else. I still stuff to do outside before winter comes and this strom is taking about week from me. Well I at least I won’t feel most of it by the time it hits me. For everyone who will get the worse of it as Phil says stay warm and safe.

  3. MichaelL65

    Phil, your fans here in British Columbia dodged a bullet with the 7.7 Magnitude Earthquake off Haida Gwaii 2 days ago. It seems Hurricane Sandy picked up that bullet and aimed it at the NE US Coast. Please stay safe people!

  4. Wzrd1

    @theoncomingstorm, I’m in SE Pennsylvania near the NJ and Delaware border. So far, it’s annoying. Just found a new project to do before winter.
    The kitchen is converted from an attached garage, with the wall extended out to where our old back door once was. That overhang is now leaking, where the flashing must have lost its seal under the aluminum siding.
    Well, I now get to learn how to remove and reinstall aluminum siding without damaging it to fix the leaking four foot roof. :/

    Upside, we recently found the three spruce trees on the lawn were heavily infested with mites. The hurricane should sort them out nicely.
    Current wind: 30 MPH, with gusts at 47 MPH.
    Considering our history of power losses from small branches landing on the high voltage lines, I’d estimate the probability of power loss at 100% or higher (assuming restoration and another loss for the higher than unity).

    Missed WHERE in NJ it was, but there was a building fire. The fire department had to put the pumper truck onto a flatbed to get to the fire.

  5. Wzrd1

    Lost power at 1830. Blinked a few times, went out, blinked on and went out and stayed out.
    On inverter power.
    Local electric company automated message first said 2000 with power out, estimated recovery time 2100. Called 30 minutes later and the automated message said 1000 out, estimated recovery time 2300.
    Across the street has power, only my side is without power. The last time we had an outage, it was the same way and I followed the electric company trucks to where our line fuse is, as the circuit splits a block away.
    A fine fu-erm, nice folk neighbor with tall trees has branches that routinely fall from their tall elm trees and fall laterally 30 meters onto the high voltage power lines. Each major storm.

  6. Wzrd1

    Power restored at 2000. Amazing, considering the 50 MPH gusts!
    Hats off to the PECO workers!

  7. theoncomingstorm

    In the SW corner of New Brunswick Canada we have getting rain from Sand here since last night. We are at the very northern edge of Sandy and then it goes to Ontario then swings back with another pass ot the maritimes.

  8. Darth_borehd

    Phil, are hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina becoming the norm due to global warming?

  9. @10. Darth_borehd asked : “Phil, are hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina becoming the norm due to global warming?”

    You’ve probably already seen it but in case you haven’t, the Bad Astronomer has posted on that point now – click on my name here for link or cut’n’paste and search for :

    ‘A wind is rising’ posted on this blog 30th October , 2012 at 9:49 in the morning to see what he (& others) think in this regard.

  10. xmundt

    Greetings and Salutations;
    That is quite a picture, and really gives a feel for the size of this storm. Now, I believe, SOMEWHERE, Dr. Plait, you mentioned this images = on (if not, then, go check it out…) It is Post-Sandy, of course, but, the amazing thing for me is that when I saw it, my first thought was “I have seen that before!”. I could not recall immediately, but, then, it came to me. 40 years or so ago, while reading “Amateur Telescope Making”, Albert Ingalls (ed), (volume 3, I think), there was an interesting and lengthy analysis of sky phenomena, including rainbows. One of the illustrations showed what a rainbow would look like if we could see ALL the refractions and reflections that were there…and the picture is AMAZINGLY close to it. The illustration was created using the laws of optics, and tedious calculations (no computers other than slide rules available to the general public back in the 20s to the 50s! )
    It was quite some thing, after all these years, to see reality displaying what the calculations had allowed to be drawn, and, raises my respect for that little, 3 volume compilation of eclectic articles on astronomy, telescopes and optics.
    dave mundt


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