Tag: hurricane

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

Top 16 Pictures from Space 2011

By Phil Plait | December 6, 2011 5:57 am

The pressure of living on a spinning planet

By Phil Plait | September 27, 2011 9:27 am

If you live on or near the East coast of the US and you’ve been wondering why it’s been so cloudy lately, here’s the reason:

That’s a low-pressure system that’s been squatting over the Great Lakes region for a few days, as seen by NASA’s Aqua Earth-observing satellite [click to centrifugenate]. It stretches clear across the country north-to-south; you can see the Gulf of Mexico at the bottom of the picture.

Why is it comma-shaped? Because the Earth rotates. Seriously.

The Earth spins once per day, and is about 40,000 km (24,000 miles) around at the Equator. That means someone standing there makes a circle that big once per day, moving at a velocity of about 1700 kph (1000 mph). But someone standing at the pole isn’t making a circle at all; they would just spin in place once a day. At an intermediate point, say a latitude of 45°, someone would be moving around in a circle at a velocity of about 1200 kph (700 mph).

Now imagine you’re standing on the Equator, moving east at 1700 kph. I suddenly magically transport you to 45° north latitude. What happens? Well, you’re still moving east at 1700 kph, but the ground is only moving east at 1200 kph. That means relative to the ground you’re moving faster to the east by 500 kph! To someone standing there, you’d pop out of thin air screaming eastward nearly as fast as an airplane. Better pack a parachute.

The opposite is true if you’re at the north pole, not moving at all, and I whisk you south to 45°: now the ground is moving east of you at 1200 kph. To someone already there, you’d appear moving west at that speed. It’s all relative.

Weird, isn’t it? But it’s a natural consequence of living on a rotating ball.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures, Science

It's a hurricane. Shouldn't it be EYEgor?

By Phil Plait | September 13, 2010 4:00 pm

I have no real reason to post this image of the new hurricane Igor — now exploding into a category 4 monster in the Atlantic — other than to make the joke in the title, and because it’s terribly pretty.


[Click to encoriolisize, or go here to see a range of size options.]

The picture was taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Sunday, September 12 at 16:00 UT.
It’s well east and south of the US right now, but its path is unclear. I suspect Chris Mooney at The Intersection will be keeping a close eye — yes, haha — on it. Stay tuned.

Image credit: NASA, Aqua team hunger force


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar