Discovery Space Quiz: Dalek Mothership?

space_quiz

For my first Discovery Space Quiz, I was sent a selection of images from the Lowell Observatory StarTales Archive. On looking through the selection this week, one image grabbed my attention and I decided to use it in the monthly “What Is That?” quiz.

So what is it? The insides of a Dalek spaceship? A new hi-tech observatory? A washing machine drum?

Check out my space photo quiz on Discovery Space… you might be surprised by the answer…

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A Lightning Bolt Hits Water, So Close You Can See Its Streamers

A bolt of lightning, 40 metres away (©Francis Schaefers and Daniel Burger)

A bolt of lightning, 40 metres away (©Francis Schaefers and Daniel Burger)

It’s pictures like these that make me a) want to do more photography, b) feel more in awe of nature than I already am, and c) wonder how the photographer didn’t pack up his gear and run away screaming. But thank goodness the talented storm chasers didn’t run away, they actually witnessed a very rare event, up close.

This astounding image was shot by photographers Francis Schaefers and Daniel Burger when they were chasing a thunderstorm along a beach in Vlissingen, the Netherlands. Chasing a storm along a beach. The best bit of the SpaceWeather.com article comes right at the end, where it says that Schaefers and Burger took a series of shots from “underneath a balcony where they figured the lightning wouldn’t reach.”

Let me emphasise that last bit: underneath a balcony.

Balls of steel comes to mind. For me, nothing less than a reinforced bunker surrounded by lightning rods will do.

Related Lightning Articles:

Anyway, back to why this image is so fantastic. When lightning strikes the ground, if you are able to get the timing perfect, you might be able to capture ‘upward streamers’ rising from the ground to meet the leading edge of the bolt, as NASA lightning expert Richard Blakeslee explains:

Streamers reach upward from the water.

Streamers reach upward from the water.

In a typical cloud-to-ground lightning strike, as the leader approaches the ground, the large electric field at the leader tip induces these upward propagating streamers. The first one that connects to the downward propagating leader initiates the bright return stroke that we see with our eye. Upward streamers are often observed on photographs of lightning hitting the ground.”

It’s hard to imagine if this streamer phenomenon has been observed to reach out from water before, but this Dutch example must be very rare. It’s hard enough to photograph lightning streamers on solid ground, let alone on the surface of a body of water.

In case you weren’t already amazed, check out this shot. It’s called The Cruise You Don’t Want to Take for very obvious reasons:

The storm, plus cruise, ship off the coast of Vlissingen, the Netherlands (©Francis Schaefers and Daniel Burger)

The storm, plus cruise, ship off the coast of Vlissingen, the Netherlands (©Francis Schaefers and Daniel Burger)

Source: SpaceWeather.com

Hubble and Atlantis Transit the Sun (Photo)

The Hubble Space Telescope and Shuttle Atlantis pass in front of the blank Sun. Can't see their silhouettes? Click on the image for the large version and look in the bottom-left-hand corner. That's no sunspot pair... (©Thierry Legault)

The Hubble Space Telescope and Shuttle Atlantis pass in front of the blank Sun. Can't see their silhouettes? Click on the image for the large version and look in the bottom-left-hand corner. That's no sunspot pair... (©Thierry Legault)

Thierry Legault is one highly skilled astrophotographer. The transit of the Hubble Space Telescope and Space Shuttle Atlantis took only 0.8 seconds to clear the disk of the Sun, so Legault rapidly took four pictures per second, starting his series of pictures two seconds before the pair were predicted to pass in front of the Sun.

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. The image was captured from Florida at 12:17pm EST on May 13th as the Shuttle approached the orbiting telescope at 600km from Earth (©Thierry Legault)

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. The image was captured from Florida at 12:17pm EST on May 13th as the Shuttle approached the orbiting telescope at 600km from Earth (©Thierry Legault)

In the image above, the 35 meter-long Atlantis is easily identifiable, but the tiny speck of the 13 meter-long Hubble isn’t so easy to define, but the result is superb. According to Legault’s website, this is the only picture of the STS-125 and the observatory, orbiting at an altitude of 600 km.

Back in July 2008, Astroengine reported on the transit of the International Space Station across the disk of the Sun. Fortunately, in both cases, the Sun’s face was blank, and no sunspots are prominent enough to ruin the view.

Stunning!

Sources: NASA on Flickr, Astrosurf

Atlantis Launch… Infrared-ed

The STS-125 Atlantis launch today, as seen through the lens of an infrared digital camera (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

The STS-125 Atlantis launch today, as seen through the lens of an infrared digital camera (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

I thought I wouldn’t see anything as impressive as the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch in high-definition, but it appears I was wrong. This is probably one of the most unique views of a shuttle launch I’ve seen to date; a high resolution, infrared photograph of the beginning of the STS-125 mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

This would make a nice wallpaper… yes, it does :)

Source: Gawker

A Hole In Arizona

©Stan Gaz

This picture was posted by Phil Plait and I was mesmerized. Stan Gaz, the photographer of Meteor Crater in Arizona, will be laying on an exhibition in New York from April 30th to June 6th. If this is anything to go by, it’s an event you can’t afford to miss out on… if you’re in or near New York that is. As I am quite literally on the other side of the country, I’ll miss it, but here’s more info if you are more fortunate.

Mars Chaos

The Ariadnes Colles region of Mars (ESA)

Of all the places I’d want to visit on Mars, this would be high on my list. After travelling to the bottom of Hellas Planitia (for the thick atmosphere and possibly finding liquid water) and the summit of Olympus Mons (for the view), I’d be sure to have a scout around Ariadnes Colles, in the southern hemisphere (pictured above).

The Ariadnes Colles region may not be a household name, but looking at these new high resolution images coming from the Mars Express orbiter, I can’t help but be impressed…
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Return of the Bouncing Boulder: Debris After a Martian Landslide

The debris after a landslide on Mars (NASA/HiRISE/Stuart Atkinson)

The debris after a landslide on Mars (NASA/HiRISE/Stuart Atkinson)

Mars is far from being geologically active when compared with the Earth, but it isn’t geologically dead either. In a stunning visual study by Stuart Atkinson over at Cumbrian Sky, he has done some desktop detective work on high-resolution HiRISE images of the Martian surface and turned up some astounding images. One scene shows a huge chunk of material, slumped down a slope, but in the detail are the familiar divots etching out the tracks of bouncing boulders after being disturbed by the Martian avalanche…
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