My Italian is a little rusty, so I hope I got the title right. Either way, here’s what I was referring to:
Isn’t that gorgeous? It’s Italy, of course, seen on August 18, 2012, at night by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The ISS was well to the southeast, probably over Libya or Egypt in Africa, when the astronaut took this shot facing northwest. I poked around a bit, and the ISS was in this position twice on that date. Once was during the day, and the other around local midnight, so that fits.
It’s pretty neat to see Italy from space; I’ve posted an image like this before (though the ISS was much more overhead for that one). In this one you can see the arc of green airglow caused by oxygen atoms about 100 kilometers up giving up energy after getting whacked by ultraviolet light from the Sun. To the left and along the top you can see some of the ISS structures, too.
I’ll note that on Thursday, August 23, NASA announced that the private company SpaceX had been approved for a dozen cargo flights to and from ISS; this comes after their successful demo mission in May. The first of these flights is scheduled for October 2012. Not only that, but the aerospace company XCOR will be opening a new facility in Florida, near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. XCOR is building a reusable suborbital spaceplane called Lynx, and expects to phase into orbital work eventually.
It’s exciting to see private industry getting involved! And it shows that, when it comes to space travel, America is still looking up.
Image credit: NASA. Tip o’ the spacesuit visor to Fragile Oasis.
It’s been cold and snowy here in Boulder, but Europe is getting hit far harder: they’re having record freezes, and over the weekend Italy got a huge pile of snow dumped on them too, the largest in about 30 years. It’s closed airports and disrupted a lot of the daily activity… but from space, it’s actually quite beautiful:
[Click to molto embiggiano.]
The clouds and snow make it hard at first to see Italy, but it runs from the upper left to lower right in this picture, taken by the European Space Agency’s Envisat. The Adriatic Sea is above Italy, and the Tyrrhenian Sea below. You can just see a piece of Sicily, and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia are visible as well.
I’m always amazed at the perspective of space. Disasters, trouble, and the frailty of life are so apparent when you’re in their midst, but they fade rapidly with distance. It doesn’t make them any less real or any less terrible, but it does provide a longer view that all of us, perhaps, can use sometimes.
Image credit: ESA
[Reminder: I'm doing a live Q&A about asteroids impacts on the TED site at 20:00 UT today!]
Northeastern Italy is a mountainous, difficult terrain. Costazza peak, for example, is over 2000 meters (6600 feet) high, craggy and sharp. That makes it a daunting climb for a hiker… but if you’re content to stay near the bottom, it makes an awesomely dramatic frame for astrophotography.
Earlier this year Italian astrophotographer Edoardo Brotto ventured to Costazza and, late at night, took a series of pictures that he put together into an amazing mosaic of the sky. He calls it Crown of the Dolomites:
[Click to maggiorenate.]
Isn’t that breathtaking? He took 14 pictures in total for this mosaic; seven of the mountains themselves and seven of the sky. The Milky Way dominates the view; I love how it appears to arc over the mountains (hence Brotto’s title)! That’s actually not how it appears in the sky; it’s an artifact of taking pictures of the sky — which looks like a curved dome over our heads — and mapping it to a small rectangular picture. This sort of mapping confounds people (xkcd recently did a funny comic based on how maps are made), but it’s just what happens when you try to make a round peg fit a square hole.
Image credit: Edoardo Brotto, used by permission.
I love pictures of Earth from space, but there’s something especially thrilling when it’s some place you can easily recognize instantly. Like, say, the boot heel of Italy at night:
Sigh. Così bella! [Click to empeninsulate.]
This picture was taken by an astronaut on board the International Space Station. There’s not a lot of science to be done necessarily with pictures like this, but sometimes it’s OK just to gawk at pretty pictures from space.
And come to think of it… not that I recognized it, but just to the left of the top of the heel is Bari, a town I spent a day in while cruising with the Center for Inquiry. CfI sponsors many cruises to help raise funds, so keep an ear open for them. The JREF does things like this sometimes, too.
Italy is lovely from the ground, but, like the rest of the planet, literally takes on a new dimension from space.
Image credit: NASA
So you’re sitting around thinking, "What could I do in May 2011 that involves skepticism, a ginormous boat, and Mediterranean countries?"
Oh, do I have something for you then: a Mediterranean cruise sponsored by the Center For Inquiry!
From May 8 – 15 we’ll be on the MCS Musica, a 300 meter long cruise ship, and we’ll be visiting such ports of call as Venice, Santorini, Mykonos, and Korfu. Along the way will be talks by scientists and skeptics, including Ron Lindsay, Lawrence Krauss, Chris Mooney, Joyce Salisbury, and me.
Even better? If you want to book the cruise, mention you read about it here on Bad Astronomy and they’ll knock $100 off the top. Don’t say I never did anything for you.
I’m really looking forward to this. I’ll be coordinating with CfI to see what sort of astronomical things we can do on the cruise… which shouldn’t be too hard. The region has some connection to astronomy, as you might be able to figure out, and you probably know I have a love of geology and volcanoes, and those have played their part in that region too.
This will be an exciting trip, and I hope to see some BABloggees there!
I’ve been to France once, and only for a short time (basically, driving across the Large Hadron Collider site which straddles Switzerland and France, and only then to eat at a restaurant). I’d love to go and spend more time… especially when I see as lovely a view of L’hexagone as this one:
[Click to engrandenate.] C’est magnifique! C’est belle! It looks like a beach picture, the Moon shining down on the coastline, clouds gently wafting over the horizon…
Hey, wait a second. That isn’t a picture taken from the beach! That’s taken from space!