NASA Johnson Style!

I confess I haven’t blogged nearly as much as I expected to this month, and perhaps that’s because I’ve allowed the events in the news to consume more of my attention than I wish it had. Still, there is an amazing universe out there to explore.

And there’s also this:

There are several parodies of Gangham style out there, but this, for some strange reason, is my favorite 🙂

Reliving Apollo 11’s descent to the Moon

With the recent passing of Neil Armstrong, there have been many tributes to the first manned landing on the moon. Tamtech has done something I’ve never quite seen before – a real-time playback of the audio, video, and spacecraft telemetry of the actual Apollo XI landing.

Screenshot from FirstMenOnTheMoon.com. Image credit Tamtech, LLC

The movie points out who’s talking, both from the Eagle lunar module and from mission control in Houston. It shows you the footage from Eagle’s landing camera, it’s orientation with respect to the surface of the Moon, and even Neil Armstrong’s heart rate (which, understandably, increases the closer he gets to the surface.)

Best of all, all of this is played back in real-time, so you get a sense of all of the events that were happening simultaneously on the Moon and in the Mission Operations Control Room in Houston. While the rest of the world watched and held their breath, these men were working feverishly yet diligently to bring Eagle to a safe landing – even as they were rapidly running out of fuel on the descent engine.

It’s a riveting watch. Though I’ve seen similar playbacks before, I found myself yet again watching and even holding my breath at times as the events unfolded. It’s an amazing fusion of data, events, and history. Most of all, it’s a reminder that we did this. We sent humans to the Moon.

And we can do it again, if we choose to.

The coolest Curiosity descent video you will ever see

From Bard’s YouTube description “Working frame-by-frame, it took me four weeks to produce this video. It was a labor of love. You can support my efforts with a donation or just let me know that you enjoyed it.”

By now you’ve probably seen several of the videos of MSL Curiosity’s descent to the surface of Mars, but I betcha haven’t seen it like this:

Is that incredible or what? This video is brought to us not by NASA, but by Bard Canning, an “amateur” video engineer who obviously put a lot of work into creating this magnificent video.

The video is actually an interpolation of the original high-resolution video taken by the Mars Descent Imager mounted at the bottom of Curiosity. The original video was taken at a rate of of just 4 frames per second (fps), resulting in a very jerky visual. To create the smooth, natural motion, Bard had to increase the frame rate from 4fps to 30fps. But those frames don’t actually exist, so Bard had to create them!

Bard does this by using a technique called motion-flow interpolation. In other words, he had to work frame-by-frame for 4 weeks straight, creating 26 additional frames by comparing the differences between the 4 frames of the original video – for each second of footage!

But that’s not all – Bard worked hard to stabilize the video, since Curiosity was obviously swinging wildly on the way down, and even tweak the color balance of every frame of footage.

The result is a smooth, natural feeling of what it must have been like to actually descend with Curiosity through the atmosphere and land on the surface of Mars. Coupled with the actual sound from the spacecraft, and you have a video that feels more real than the actual footage!

As an added bonus, Bard was kind enough to share his movie-making magic with us in a separate video, and even a side-by-side comparison with the original video. Both are worth checking out.

VIDEO: Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational Death Sun!

That’s no painting….

When I saw this image I thought “wow, what an awesome painting!” But that’s not a painting at all – instead, it’s an actual image of the Sun taken in Ultraviolet light by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on August 31 2012, and it was a monster! Here’s the breakdown:

A filament of relatively cool gas had been suspended for several days in the upper atmosphere by the Sun’s magnetic field. The magnetic field on the Sun is very dynamic, with its local field lines tangling and twisting as the Sun rotates. This causes escaping gases to be trapped in the field lines and “hang” in the atmosphere for several days or even weeks at a time. These filaments can be huge. How huge? Huge:

It’s a trap!

But that’s not all … if opposite magnetic field lines are brought together, the result is a powerful release of matter and energy called a Coronal Mass Ejection. And that’s exactly what happened here, hurtling the filament, plus a whole lot more, out at over 900 miles per second!

Even better, NASA caught the whole thing on video and put it together into a spectacular movie featuring footage from SDO, SOHO, and even STEREO-B from the far side of the Sun (be sure to go to HD and full screen for maximum awesomeness):

More to come!

Over the next two years the Sun will be approaching solar maximum, which means we should be treated to even more spectacular events like this one.

Enjoy the show!