Tag: Ron Garan

An astronaut's away-from-home movie: Fragile Oasis

By Phil Plait | November 21, 2011 9:11 am

Astronaut Ron Garan’s photography is a common feature here at BA Central, and although his still photos are incredible, he hadn’t tried time-lapse photography until his last trip up to the space station.

He took a series of images and he himself created a video from them, called "Time Lapse From Space – Literally. The Journey Home". It’s similar to the time lapse I posted recently of the Earth from space, but has some new stuff in it:

Breathtaking, isn’t it?

This is part of a project Ron is working on called Fragile Oasis, an effort to get everyone to see the Earth as a single home for humanity, and to inspire people to make a difference, change things for the better. About his feelings as he gazed down on the Earth from space, Ron writes:

It was very moving to see the beauty of the planet we’ve been given. But as I looked down at this indescribably beautiful fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us and has protected all life from the harshness of space, I couldn’t help thinking of the inequity that exists.

I couldn’t help but think of the people who don’t have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, of the social injustice, conflict, and poverty that exist.

The stark contrast between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life for many of its inhabitants reaffirmed the belief I share with so many. Each and every one of us on this planet has the responsibility to leave it a little better than we found it.

I can’t argue with that. In fact, I strongly support this effort, and hope everyone out there spreads the word.

Related posts:

JAW DROPPING Space Station time lapse!
The twice reflected Moon light
A new day, from space
Expedition 28 from the ISS lands safely in Kazakhstan

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

The twice reflected Moon light

By Phil Plait | November 19, 2011 7:22 am

American astronaut Ron Garan may be the single best promoter of space exploration we have today, if only because of his breathtaking photographs of the Earth from space. In July 2011, as he orbited our planet in the International Space Station, he took this gorgeous shot of the crescent Moon, setting over the Earth’s silhouetted limb:

[Click to enlunenate.]

This shows no fewer than three of my favorite optical effects! First, the colors of the sunset are due to the Earth’s air, which preferentially scatters away bluer light, leaving just the orange and red colors from the Sun to get through.

Second, the Moon is squashed! Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Earthshine, ISS, Moon, Ron Garan

The Moon, waxing poetic

By Phil Plait | October 22, 2011 7:00 am

Space Shuttle astronaut Ron Garan should be familiar to regular BA readers; I’ve featured a lot of the photos he’s taken from space here on the blog. He’s been posting more of them on Google+, and he just put up this gorgeous shot of the Moon over the limb of the Earth:

Spectacular! [Click to enlunanate.]

I thought at first the Moon was a day after full in this image. If the terminator — the line dividing day and night — is on the bottom, then the Moon was a day past full. But the bottom also looks a bit squished, which may be due to Earth’s atmosphere distorting the shape of the Moon. So it’s really hard to tell. Unfortunately Ron didn’t post the date of the picture, so I’m not sure of the exact phase.

But then, it doesn’t really matter. It’s close enough to full, and not being sure of the exact phase neither bugs me nor detracts from the amazing beauty of the picture he took as he sailed around the Earth on board the space station.

Related posts:

The Moon is flat!
A new day, from space
Moon over Afghanistan
A puzzling planet picture from the ISS (and make sure you read the followup post!)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Sounds of a meteor shower

By Phil Plait | October 3, 2011 9:28 am

In August, I wrote about how you can listen to meteors: radar bounced off their ion trail can be converted to sound, making eerie, creepy noises.

Via astronaut Ron Garan comes this video of recordings made by the U.S. Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas during the Perseid meteor shower. It’s very, very cool:

As I wrote in the earlier post, here’s how this works:

You’re not really hearing sound, of course: meteors burn up in our atmosphere at a height of 100 km or so, too high to directly carry sound waves. But the Air Force has a radar surveillance facility in Texas that beams radio waves into the sky. When a bit of cosmic fluff streaks through our sky, the ionized trail it leaves reflects the radio waves, producing an echo. This radio wave is then translated into sound, so you can effectively hear a meteor!

The initial "whoosh" is from the meteor itself, and the dying whistling sound is from the ionized gas it leaves behind, which slowly recombines and fades.

… which is all well and good, but science aside, all I could think of while listening to that was the soundtrack to Ren and Stimpy walking along the landscape inside the hideous vortex of the black hole.

Related posts:

A meteor’s lingering tale
Listen in on the Perseid meteor shower
Saturn, the forbidden planet
Phoenix sings

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Humor
MORE ABOUT: meteor, Perseid, radar, Ron Garan

A new day, from space

By Phil Plait | September 21, 2011 2:34 pm

Imagine sitting in a gossamer structure 100 meters long, 400 kilometers off the Earth’s surface, and hurtling through space at nearly 30,000 kilometers per hour.

Now imagine facing east while doing so, looking out the window, and seeing this:

ISS astronaut Ron Garan took this shot on Saturday morning, August 27, 2011, as the Sun rose over South America… of course, when you see the sunrise, it’s always morning, right? Not necessarily, especially when you outrace the rotating Earth and see 18 such sunrises and sunsets every day*.

Around the same time Ron took this shot, I was getting up to start my own day, and find out just what the Sun can do given a couple of hours to heat up the desert near Yuma, Arizona. Why? Well, without giving anything away, that’s a story that’ll have to wait for a few more sunrises in the future.

[Note: I’m still waiting for more news about the reinstatement of launches to the ISS now that the Soyuz flaw has been found. If there’s some metaphor to be had here with the picture above, feel free to consider it.]

Image credit: NASA

* <pedant>Actually, in the winter at extreme latitudes, the Sun doesn’t rise until afternoon, and may set shortly thereafter. But that’s if you’re stuck here on the surface of the planet.</pedant>

Related posts:

Moon over Afghanistan
Squishy moonrise seen from space!
What a falling star looks like… from space!
Crescent Moonset from space

MORE ABOUT: ISS, Ron Garan, sunrise

Expedition 28 from the ISS lands safely in Kazakhstan

By Phil Plait | September 16, 2011 9:22 am

Last night, a Soyuz TMA-21 capsule carrying three members of the space station’s Expedition 28 crew landed safely in Kazakhstan:

Among them was American Ron Garan, who has been taking devastating pictures of the Earth from the station.

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but it bears repeating: the Russian space agency says they have found and fixed the flaw that caused a Soyuz rocket to crash last month. This rocket (and another one very much like it) carries supplies and humans to the station. After the crash, flights were put on hold. Now that the problem with the third stage pump is supposed to be fixed, an unmanned flight will be attempted in October. If it works, a manned flight to the station carrying three members of Expedition 29 will go up in November.


The Hunter, the station, and the southern lights

By Phil Plait | September 15, 2011 3:59 pm

Astronaut Ron Garan has been on board the International Space Station since April 2011. Tonight, at midnight Eastern (US) time, he will land back on Earth with two of his crewmates.

While on the ISS he took a huge number of breath-taking photos of the Earth. One of the very last he shot was this amazing scene:

[Click to embiggen.]

That stunning view shows the Earth, of course, with part of the space station itself hanging off to the right. But what steals the scene are the aurora australis — aka the southern lights — and half of the constellation Orion of to the left. You can easily see the three belt stars, but I have to admit they looked funny to me. It took me a second to figure this out…

If the header info in the picture is accurate, it was taken at 18:48 UTC on September 14, 2011. According to Wolfram Alpha, the ISS was off the coast of Antarctica at the time, and that fits with seeing the aurorae. At that time, Orion would be setting in the west. That makes sense; the aurorae would be to the south, so west would appear to be to the left in this picture. [CORRECTION: As noted in the comments, I was wrong here. First, west would be to the right, not the left — I was thinking upside-down, ironically. Second, checking some sky maps, Orion was neither rising nor setting at that time. I think the camera timestamp may be off. But east is to the left, so I’m assuming Orion was rising (again, apparently oreinted upside-down to what I’m used to) in this picture. If the timestamp was off by only 8 minutes, and the picture was actually taken at 18:56, then the ISS would’ve been off the coast of southwestern Australia, and Orion would’ve been in the position seen in this picture. Thanks to Steve in the comments for pointing out the directions were off in my original description.]

… which explains why Orion looked funny. From the southern hemisphere, Orion appears upside to me! I first thought those two stars at the bottom were Rigel and Saiph, Orion’s knees, but in reality they’re Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, Orion’s armpits! I remember the first time I saw Orion from Australia, and it freaked me out. Seeing a familiar constellation upside-down is pretty disconcerting to an astronomer.

Of course, to Ron, nothing would have been upside-down. He was in space when he took this shot, so there is no up or down. Unless you count towards Earth being down… and in that case, that’s where he’s headed. As I write this, the hatch to the Soyuz TMA-21 capsule is already closed, and in a few hours it will undock, bringing the three astronauts back to the Earth.

The good news is that, if an October 30th Soyuz unmanned flight launches as planned, three more astronauts will head up the space station on November 12. This comes after much angst the past few weeks over that rocket, but the Russian space agency says the problem has been solved. I hope so. NASA is facing a lot of troubling times right now, so a successful launch by the Russians would go a long way toward taking some of the pressure off.

Related posts:

Soyuz rocket flaw found?
NASA ponders de-crewing the space station in November
Moon over Afghanistan
What a falling star looks like from space

Image credit:NASA

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, NASA, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: aurora, ISS, Orion, Ron Garan, Soyuz

Moon over Afghanistan

By Phil Plait | August 25, 2011 11:13 am

Posted without comment: the waning third quarter Moon over Afghanistan, as seen by astronaut Ron Garan on board the International Space Station:

[Click to embiggen.]

You can follow Ron on Twitter and see these amazing pictures as he posts them.

Image credit: NASA. Technically, I saw this on Nancy_A’s Twitter stream before I saw it on Ron’s, so tip o’ the spacesuit visor to her.

Related posts:

Squishy moonrise seen from space!
What a falling star looks like… from space!
Crescent Moonset from space
A puzzling planet picture from the ISS
Followup: City lights from space

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures

What a falling star looks like… from space!

By Phil Plait | August 15, 2011 6:30 am

Astronaut Ron Garan, currently on board the International Space Station, was taking pictures of our home world out the window — and how cool is it to be able to say that? — when he took this amazing picture of a meteor burning up in our atmosphere:

Wow! [Click to bolidenate.] How cool would it be to look down to see a falling star?

He took this shot (according to the header info in the picture) on August 13 at 7:17 p.m. UT, when the ISS was above the Mongolia/China border. This was during the annual Perseid meteor shower, but that doesn’t guarantee this meteor Ron saw was a Perseid. It probably was, though. For an observer on Earth, the Perseids rain down at a rate of about 60 per hour or so. You can usually see about 5 meteors per hour that are just random bits of cosmic detritus. So only 1 meteor in 12 is not a real Perseid, making it likely this one was.

But that got me thinking… [WARNING: math ahead. Cool, tasty, refreshing math that will lead to insight, wonder, potential party conversation (assuming you go to the same dorky parties I do), and other nifty things.]

Meteors burn up roughly 100 kilometers (60 miles) above the Earth’s surface. To make the math simpler, let’s say they burn up at exactly that height, so that any meteor coming in hits this barrier and evaporates. You can picture it as a thin shell of air surrounding the Earth 100 km high, like a force field, or better yet as an umbrella that rain hits (it’s a meteor shower, after all, ha!) and stops cold.

When you look straight up, that barrier is 100 km directly above your head. When you look to the horizon, that distance is actually a little over 1000 km away, because the atmosphere follows the curve of the Earth (you can get an idea of this in the diagram above). The top of this umbrella is then 100 km up and over 1000 km to the sides.

From the space station, though, looking down from orbit at a height of roughly 350 km, more of the atmosphere can be seen because the station is higher up (just like you can see farther if you go to the top of a building). Read More

Crescent Moonset from space

By Phil Plait | July 31, 2011 10:20 pm

Presented without comment: The crescent Moon, "dark" half lit by reflected Earthlight, setting over the limb of our planet as seen by astronaut Ron Garan aboard the space station:

[Click to embiggen.]

Credit: NASA

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: ISS, Moon, Ron Garan

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