Here’s what Earth and the Moon look like to a telescope on a Mars orbiter that’s 127 million miles from home

By Tom Yulsman | January 7, 2017 12:38 pm
Earth and the Moon

The HiRISE telescopic instrument in orbit around Mars captured this view of Earth and the Moon, showing continent-size detail on our home planet. (Source: ASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona) (Source: ASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Just two days ago, I posted a spectacular picture from the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars showing a fresh blast zone and crater gouged into the surface of Mars by an impacting space rock.

Now, comes this spectacular composite image, acquired around the same time.

You’re looking at Earth and the Moon, as seen on Nov. 20, 2016 by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Mars orbiter was 127 million miles from our home planet when HiRISE captured the images that were composited to produce this view.

SEE ALSO: A chunk of interplanetary debris recently slammed into Mars and left this fresh crater and spray of ejecta

The bright blob at the bottom-left of Earth is Antarctica. Other bright white areas are clouds. Meanwhile, the reddish feature toward the middle is Australia. And Southeast Asia is at upper left. The lushly green region appears red because this is a false color image. Read More

The first of several climate verdicts is in: 2016 was the warmest year on record — as widely expected

By Tom Yulsman | January 5, 2017 9:47 pm

Air temperatures at a height of two meters for 2016, shown relative to their 1981-2010 averages. (Source: ECMWF, Copernicus Climate Change Service)

On the heels of a study confirming that there had been no slowdown in global warming, there is now this news: 2016 was indeed the warmest year on record. The analysis was announced Thursday by the the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Scientists have been predicting for quite some time that 2016 would achieve this dubious distinction.

SEE ALSO: “Might not feel like it today, but 2016 will be the warmest year in the surface temperature records”

The announcement follows preliminary findings in December from the Japan Meteorological Agency also showing that 2016 would be the warmest year.

Two U.S. government agencies, NASA and NOAA, will follow soon with their own analyses. While they may differ somewhat in the details, there is no doubt that they will concur about 2016’s record-setting status.

In its analysis, the Copernicus Climate Change Service found that this past year was warmer than 2015 by close to 0.2°C. “Global temperatures reached a peak in February 2016 around 1.5°C higher than at the start of the Industrial Revolution,” according to a press release from Copernicus.

As the graphic above shows, the Arctic was especially warm. And no part of the Arctic was warmer in 2016 than the island archipelago of Svalbard, which sits more than 500 miles north of Norway in the high Arctic. Read More

A chunk of interplanetary debris recently slammed into Mars and left this fresh crater and spray of ejecta

By Tom Yulsman | January 5, 2017 2:43 pm

A small crater and surrounding blast zone on Mars, as imaged by the HiRISE instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on November 27, 2016. (Source: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Small asteroids and chunks of cometary debris frequently slam into the surface of Mars, gouging out new craters. Thanks to a high resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists can often spot such impacts relatively soon after they occur.

The image above, acquired by the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is a compelling example. It shows a crater and blast zone from an impact that likely occurred as recently as this past August, and no later than January 2014, according to HiRISE scientists.

The crater is about 13 feet acrossis about 13 across. That means the asteroid or comet fragment that gouged it out was probably about three to six feet across. Read More

On New Year’s Eve, this comet and the crescent moon will rendezvous in the sky to bid farewell to 2016

By Tom Yulsman | December 30, 2016 12:43 pm

If you have binocs, clear, dark skies, and some luck, Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková may be just the way to ring in the New Year

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, captured on October 1st, 2011. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, captured on October 1st, 2011. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Maybe you’ve seen stories about the comet that will supposedly provide some fireworks on New Year’s Eve, as it appears low on the western horizon?

As USA Today put it:

Apart from the traditional fireworks and illuminated ball in Times Square, look for a blazing comet to light the night sky on New Year’s Eve.

“Light the night sky”? Uhm, no. Not even remotely close. But if you’re properly equipped, and in the right place, Comet 45P may well put on a pretty — albeit subtle — show for you.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Comets, select, Top Posts

As seen from space: the sacred lands of Bears Ears — now protected as a national monument

By Tom Yulsman | December 29, 2016 10:00 pm

As far as I can tell, this is the first published satellite image of the newly created Bears Ears National Monument

Landsat-8 satellite image of the region encompassing the new Bears Ears National Monument, created under the Antiquities Act by President Barack Obama on Dec. 28, 2016.

Landsat-8 satellite image of the region encompassing the new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, created under the Antiquities Act by President Barack Obama on Dec. 28, 2016.

Speaking of the wild western side of the Bears Ears buttes in Utah, Wallace Stegner wrote in 1969:

To start a trip at Mexican Hat, Utah, is to start off into empty space from the end of the world.

And now, 47 years later, a huge chunk of of this empty space — some 1.35 million acres of it, an area nearly as large as Delaware — has been set aside by President Barack Obama as the new Bears Ears National Monument.

I do have to respectfully disagree with Stegner on one point: This land is not at all empty space. In addition to some of the most spectacular geological features on Earth, it is filled with stunning rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, caches of untouched cultural remains, and countless other artifacts — much of it at increasing risk from vandals and looters.

As President Obama put it in his proclamation establishing the monument:

Rising from the center of the southeastern Utah landscape and visible from every direction are twin buttes so distinctive that in each of the native languages of the region their name is the same: Hoon’Naqvut, Shash Jáa, Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, or “Bears Ears.” For hundreds of generations, native peoples lived in the surrounding deep sandstone canyons, desert mesas, and meadow mountaintops, which constitute one of the densest and most significant cultural landscapes in the United States.

“The reason we are where we are now is because of the dignity and integrity of the tribal leaders,” says Charles Wilkinson, Distinguished Professor at the University of Colorado Law School. Wilkinson consulted with five tribes — the Hopi, Navajo, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe — as they produced the proposal for the monument that President Obama has now created, under authority granted by the Antiquities Act. Read More

Here’s what the the northern lights look like from 512 miles up in space: glowing swirls of diaphanous fog

By Tom Yulsman | December 28, 2016 10:31 am
northern lights

The VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this view of the aurora borealis during the nighttime hours of Dec. 22, 2016. The northern lights — those swirling, almost cloud-like features along the top of the of image — stretched across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories. The point sources of light are cities and towns. (Source: NASA)

Just hours after the winter sosltice this month, particles blowing in the solar wind slammed into Earth’s magnetic field and kicked up quite the auroral ruckus.

northern lights

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

The Suomi NPP spacecraft, orbiting 512 miles overhead — more than twice as high as the International Space Station — recorded all the action over Canada on December 22. The image above is based on the data that the spacecraft’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRs, gathered that night.

Click on the thumbnail at right for an annotated image that can help you get your geographic bearings.

And to get a sense of scale, check out this broader composite image (compiled using the spectacular SSEC Real Earth tool), showing almost all of North America: Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Sun, Top Posts

Peace * שָׁלוֹם * Pacem * سلام * Paix * शान्ति * Paz * Hodéezyéél * мир * 和平 * Keamanan * Uxolo . . .

By Tom Yulsman | December 25, 2016 2:01 pm

May this luminously beautiful image of the War and Peace Nebula inspire us to work for the latter — peace — in the coming year

War and Peace Nebula

A group of three star clusters comprising the War and Peace Nebula is seen in this composite image released by NASA to commemorate Christmas and the holiday season. It was made using data from three space telescopes: X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the ROSAT telescope (purple); and infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (orange). Plus optical data from the SuperCosmos Sky Survey (blue) made by the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope in Hawaii. (Source: NASA)

There are more than 6,900 distinct languages, and thus at least that many ways for us humans to express freedom from war, violence, and disturbance, and the presence of quiet, tranquility and serenity.

The headline expresses these ideas in ten different languages: English, of course, plus Hebrew, Latin, Arabic, French, Hindi, Spanish, Navajo, Russian, Chinese, Malay, and Xhosa.

Will the fast-approaching New Year bring peace? Or more strife and violence? Will we see an outbreak of tranquility and serenity? Or, as Pope Francis put it in his annual Christmas address, yet more horrors for children in war-torn regions, “hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants”?

Call me naive, but images like the one of the War and Peace Nebula above give me faith that the better angels of our nature can overcome. It is a composite, created by NASA using data from three telescopes in space, and one atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano.  Read More

The Philippines is about to get the most unwelcome Christmas present imaginable: Super Typhoon Nock-ten

By Tom Yulsman | December 24, 2016 4:05 pm

Watch a dramatic animation of satellite images showing Super Typhoon Nock-ten exploding in strength and taking dead aim on the Philippines


An animation of images from the Himawari-8 satellite shows the evolution of Super Typhoon Nock-ten in the western Pacific over a 31-hour period between Dec. 23 and 24, 2016. Nighttime falls part of the way through the animation, and the screen goes dark. Make sure to keep watching. Overnight, the cyclone becomes much stronger and well-developed — as is evident when light returns and Nock-ten is visible again in the animation. (Source: CIRA/RAMMB)

Super Typhoon Nock-ten is swirling toward a Christmas Day landfall as a Category 3 or 4 storm on the Philippine island of Catanduanes. With winds gusting as high as about 140 miles per hour, Nock-ten could have a devastating impact.

After landfall, Nock-ten is forecast by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center  to churn westward and pass close to Manila on December 26. It should rake the city and the highly populous island of Luzon with heavy rainfall and sustained winds of about 90 miles per hour.

At the Category 6 blog, Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters reports: Read More

“Might not feel like it today, but 2016 will be the warmest year in the surface temperature records”

By Tom Yulsman | December 15, 2016 2:01 pm

Temperature anomalies for November 2016. North America, and especially the Arctic region, were much warmer than average. Central Russia was colder than normal. (Source: NASA/GISS/GISTEMP)

The quote in the headline is from a Tweet this morning from Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, following release of his institute’s monthly climate analysis.

It found that November was the second warmest such month in 136 years of modern record-keeping. It was edged out only by November of 2015, which was 0.07 degrees Celsius (0.126 degrees F) warmer. As Schmidt’s Tweet suggests, despite November’s second-place status, and today’s frigid cold, the full year of 2016 is firmly on track to end as the very warmest on record.

If you’re wondering what goes into the analysis, according to NASA:

…it is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations.

For more details about how the analysis is carried out, including how adjustments are made to account for the urban heat island effect, see the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis, or GISTEMP, pages — here.

If you have been shivering today under the massive blast of Arctic air that is surging south across large parts of the United States — and wondering why anyone would talk about record warmth — keep in mind that what you are experiencing today is weather. That’s the state of the atmosphere at a particular place and a particular time.

And the state of the atmosphere today in much of the United States is, well, polar. Here is what’s producing these conditions: Read More

A NASA spacecraft watches as a huge ‘hole’ in the Sun’s atmosphere rotates into view

By Tom Yulsman | December 10, 2016 12:37 pm

The solar wind, blowing at 2 million miles per hour from the hole, just caused a geomagnetic storm here on Earth

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft watched a coronal hole on the Sun between Dec. 2 and 9, 2016. (Source: NASA SDO/

A  coronal hole on the Sun, as seen by a NASA spacecraft between Dec. 2 and 9, 2016. (Source: NASA SDO/

Over the past week, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft watched a massive coronal hole rotate into view as the Sun spun on its axis.

Click on the screenshot above to bring up a video I posted to my Youtube channel showing all the action as seen by SDO between December 2nd and 9th.

Such holes occur in areas of the solar atmosphere, called the corona, where the Sun’s magnetic field is open to space, rather than closed in on itself. This allows charged particles to stream out at high speed, lowering the density and temperature of material in the parts of the corona where this occurs.

The result: When the Sun is viewed in x-ray wavelengths, as it is above, we see a dark region, or “hole,” in the corona.

SEE ALSO: What’s up with that huge dark hole in the Sun? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, select, Sun, Top Posts


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

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