Stardust: Voyager’s witness

Screen Shot from Stardust by Mischa Rozema
Screen shot from Stardust from PostPanic director Mischa Rozema.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged (sorry about that, much has been going on in the last month but still), but I would be more than a little remiss if I didn’t share this amazing video:

This is Stardust from PostPanic director Mischa Rozema. It depicts Voyager 1, currently on its way out of our Solar System, “looking back” billions of years from now at our Sun as it becomes Giant, engulfing Earth, and dissipating as a Planetary Nebula. Earth and the Sun are returned to the Cosmos as stardust, while Voyager 1 carries with it a final message from the people of Earth: We were here.

Of course, the video has some inaccuracies takes some artistic license. The timeframe of the Sun’s demise will take place over a much longer time period than depicted in the film (as in millions of years longer). The Sun won’t become a planetary nebula until long after it has engulfed the inner planets and will span up to several light years across at the time. And Voyager 1 itself will have long stopped transmitting back to Earth, its Plutonium-238 power source having long since depleted by then.

But that’s ok, because that’s not the point of the film. Instead, it’s an artistic reminder that no matter how short our time here on Earth is, our real destiny is to return to the universe as the stardust that we are and to seed the next generation of stars.

When that time comes, Voyager 1 and the other probes will be out there, carrying a message for that next generation: We were here.

Sandy’s vortex’s wind map has been producing some incredible imagery of the wind patterns of the United States throughout Hurricane Sandy. But this is as amazing as it is disturbing:

Screen cap of the winds in the Mid-Atlantic region during the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy. Credit:

Now keep in mind, this is simply a mashup of wind data, and not a radar map or a satellite image. But the pattern of Sandy is very clear. The white streaks indicate wind speeds of 30 mph, but the truth is that winds are much, much faster than that, with gusts up to 80 mph in some locations.

And that vortex is situated right in the area I grew up and not far at all from where I currently live. But it also means that there are a lot of folks I know, and many more I don’t know, without power tonight.

And the wind cries Sandy

There are many ways of tracking Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the eastern United States, but look out any window right now and the first thing you’ll notice is the wind. Tree branches are blowing and when the gusts kick up, they really start bending.

There are plenty of sites out there to track Hurricane Sandy’s progress (for lack of a better word) but this interactive wind map of the United States has the best representation I’ve seen yet:

Wind Map as of October 29, 2012 10:59 am EDT. Image credit

Click that link and take a look – the map is an animation of the predicted wind speeds and direction across the continental United States. It gets updated once per hour and the result is a mesmerizing look at something that is otherwise invisible.

You can really get a good look at the wind activity in the east, and it will be interesting to see it evolve over time. Meanwhile, just gazing at the animation, I cannot help but think of a certain Jimi Hendrix song (with “Sandy” substituted for “Mary” 🙂 )

Sandy’s death spiral

As I write this, my home state of Maryland is under a state of emergency, along with the entire Mid-Atlantic region and New England. And there’s a good reason why, check this out:

That’s a time-lapse view of Hurricane Sandy as seen from geostationary orbit – 22,300 miles (35,800 km) above Earth – by NOAA’s GOES-14 satellite. The images were taken once per minute from 7:15 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Tiem on October 28, 2012. The result is about 12 hours from sunup to sundown compressed into a 30-second video.

You can really start to see an eye develop around the 20-second mark as it makes its way out to sea, gaining strength as she goes.

As amazing as it is, Sandy is not to be trifled with, so please keep an eye on the National Hurricane Center’s website for updates. I’ll be doing the same, as we appear to be right along the path of Sandy as she comes through. Stay dry!

NASA animation by Kevin Ward, using images from NOAA and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.

Grand Canyon: Blink of Time

While it’s certainly no Valles Marineris, the Grand Canyon is truly one of planet Earth’s great wonders. To commemorate it’s sheer amazing-ness, the folks over at GOTM Films produced a stunning time-lapse movie:

Grand Canyon : Blink of Time from GOTM Films on Vimeo.

You definitely want to click the HD, go full screen, sit back and enjoy! The movie was made from over 80,000 still photos taken over the course of 7 weeks in April, May, and June of 2012. The result is a beautiful cascade through the Grand Canyon.

As an added bonus, the film ends with an awesome surprise – the annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012!

h/t to Mark “Indy” Kochte for sharing this!