Tag: Iceland

Icelandic lights

By Phil Plait | October 17, 2012 1:10 pm

Jean-Luc Dauvergne is a journalist for the French-language astronomy magazine Ciel et Espace (Sky and Space). In September he was in Iceland for a stunning display of aurorae, and the pictures he took of it were, well, stunning:

Ye. Gads. [Click to reykjavikenate.]

You can see the Big Dipper on the right, and Arcturus right near the horizon, if you can tear your eyes away from that unbelievable phenomenon. He was in Jökulsárlón when he took this – he tells me that’s Icelandic for "glacial river lagoon". I’d buy that.

He also took a cool shot of an airplane wreck from the 1970s with the Pleiades and Taurus hanging in the sky through the aurorae too. It’s part of a real-time and time lapse video he did showing off the natural wonders of Iceland:

It took me a second, but then I recognized the song: it’s by Björk! Well played, Jean-Luc.

I swear, I write so much about that island that the Iceland tourism board should pay for me to visit. Not that I’m suggesting that*.

* I am totally suggesting that.

Image credit: Jean-Luc Dauvergne

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures

Nearly iceless Iceland and an icy island

By Phil Plait | October 12, 2012 7:00 am

Sometimes, you have to leave a planet to appreciate it.

I love pictures of Earth from space. They provide a perspective you just cannot get from the ground, or even from the air. For example, have you ever seen a nearly iceless Iceland?

[Click to enbjörkenate.]

This picture was taken by the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite in July 2010 and is a rare shot of the island nation completely cloud-free. Since it was summer it’s nearly ice free as well, though you can see glaciers dominating some parts of the landscape (contrast this with one of my all-time favorite pictures of Earth from space, also of Iceland).

The blue-green swirls to the north are phytoplankton blooms – another favorite of mine when seen from space.

Half a planet away is another island, far smaller, that was also cloudless but this time encased in ice: South Gerogia Island off the coasts of South America and Antarctica, seen by the Terra satellite:

This picture was taken in late September, 2012, and the island is locked in by ice. You can see large icebergs floating nearby too. To give a sense of scale, both bergs are about 35 kilometers (roughly 20 miles) across. South Georgia Island is pretty rugged, with quite a few peaks over 2000 meters high and one at nearly 3000 meters (impressive for an island only about 150 km long).

When I saw the picture, I knew I had heard of the island, and the caption at the Earth Observatory site reminded me of how I knew it: Antarctic explorer Shackleton went there with a small number of men on an ailing lifeboat after his ship Endurance was crushed by the ice of Antarctica. He left most of his crew on Elephant Island after a harrowing trek across the ice, went to South Georgia Island, hiked across those ridiculously difficult peaks, got to a whaling station and set up a rescue mission for his men… which took months to be completed.

And get this: he didn’t lose a single man. Not one.

The story of Shackleton, the Endurance, and his men, is in my opinion the single greatest tale of exploration and adventure that has ever been recorded. Even reading an abbreviated timeline will chill you. Trust me: go find a book about this, settle down in a comfortable (warm!) spot, and read it. There are instances in history where the human spirit is uncrushable, unstoppable. This is one of those times, and will inspire you.

It’s that same spirit, in fact, that put our telescopes in the sky so we can better look at ourselves.

Image credits: ESA; Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

Related Posts:

Oh. So that’s why they call it that.
Incredible surreal volcanic riverscapes
Volcano followup: pix, video
Weather satellites capture shots of volcanic plume blasting through clouds (yeah, you really wanna see this one!)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Time lapse of the midnight Sun

By Phil Plait | May 13, 2012 7:19 am

Iceland has long been on my list of Places I Really Really Want to Visit. This video makes me want to go there even more.

[You may need to refresh this page to get the video to load.]

The video was the Grand Prize winner in the X Prize Foundation’s video contest "Why Do You Explore?", and it won videographer Joe Capra a $10,000 National Geographic Expedition of his choosing. Wow.

And Iceland! What a place! The chance to see something like this, or an active volcano (or another active volcano)… and then there’s this video promoting Icelandic tourism, which is totally adorable.

Of course, this picture does mitigate things somewhat.

We live on an amazing world, and there’s still so much of it left to see.

Via Wired and Ed Yong.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Iceland, time lapse

Top 16 Pictures from Space 2011

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

Volcano followup: pix, video

By Phil Plait | May 23, 2011 2:07 pm

Within hours of posting about the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Grimsvötn, I found out that helicopter footage of the plume (with tons of lightning) has been posted on Vimeo by Jon Gustafsson:

Lightning is common in volcanic plumes, but this one produced quite a bit more than usual. The footage is striking. Ha ha.

Also, NASA released a beautiful image of the plume as seen by the Earth-observing Terra satellite:

[Click to hephaestenate.]

Note the scale; the ash column is over 20 km (12 miles) across. I said in the post earlier it reached 11 km in height; however the NASA news release states that it reached over 20 km high!

There is some indication the ash may be a threat to air travel in the UK, too. That’s a bummer; Eyjafjalajökull disrupted air travel for weeks. Let’s hope this one subsides sooner.

Video from Jon Gustafsson on Vimeo; Terra image from Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Weather satellites capture shots of volcanic plume blasting through clouds

By Phil Plait | May 23, 2011 10:06 am

[Note: at the bottom of this post is a gallery of volcano pictures taken from space.]

Just in case you forgot that the Earth is one of the most geologically active worlds in the solar system*, the Icelandic volcano Grimsvötn has sent a very loud reminder: after seven years of relative inactivity, the volcano woke up on Saturday, rocketing a plume 11 kilometers (7 miles) into the air. The ash column blasted through the cloud layer, and was seen by weather satellites in space! Check out this amazing animation:

That was the view from the Meteosat-9, a European satellite in geostationary orbit. The animation is composed of visible light images and covers just under a three hour time span on May 21. You can clearly see the plume breaching the cloud layer and spreading out, then a second plume blowing through shortly thereafter. The shadow of the plume on the clouds gives an excellent but eerie sense of the scale of this event.

Here’s a similar view from the US GOES 13 satellite showing 3.5 hours of the eruption:

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Oh. So that's why they call it that.

By Phil Plait | April 3, 2011 7:35 am


Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Live Eyjafjallajökull cam!

By Phil Plait | May 13, 2010 9:47 am

This is very cool: a live camera pointed at the Iceland volcano Eyjafjallajökull. I don’t think it’s embeddable, so just click that link and take a look. To add to the coolness factor, there is also a thermal camera pointed at it with the same field of view and scale, so you can compare what you’re seeing visually with what’s going on in the far infrared.

Here’s a still I grabbed last night; You can clearly see the ash plume through the cloud layers:


They provide a map of the camera location, but there’s no scale. I put it into Google maps, and it appears to be just a few kilometers from the volcano. That matches the rate the plume appears to change, too.

aqua_iceland_may122010Take a look. It’s mesmerizing. And don’t forget that the NASA Earth Observatory is posting very high-resolution and beautiful images of the volcano quite often as well. Put that in your RSS feed reader! I check it every day; besides the volcano they frequently have incredible imagery of places I’ve never even heard of. It’s a big planet, with lots to see.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

Iceland volcano eruption making an ash of itself

By Phil Plait | April 15, 2010 12:21 pm

The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull has erupted for the second time this month, sending a long plume of ash across the north Atlantic into the UK, enough to disrupt air traffic there!

NASA’s Terra satellite caught the plume:


You can easily see the plume extending from Iceland across the ocean. Boston.com’s The Big Picture has dramatic and beautiful shots of the volcano as well.

I’ve seen a few volcanoes in my time, but I’ve never witnessed an actual eruption. I’d really like to… from a safe distance. This particular eruption is likely to be a big pain to a lot of people for quite some time; there have already been floods and evacuations due to the activity. I feel badly for those folks affected, but I also can’t help but gasp in awe at the beauty of events like these. It always amazes me that violence on such a large scale — volcanoes, solar flares, supernovae, galactic collisions — can also be so beautiful.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Iceland, volcano

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