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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Fire rainbows....

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This is nothing to do with the solar system.... um, that is, apart from being a part of it, the same way everything on Earth is. But you know what I mean*. I just had to show it to someone:

Image above: A fire rainbow. Nature is just awesome. Image courtesy of Environmental Graffiti.

This is a fire rainbow - it only occurs in high altitude cirrus clouds when the condition are just right, and the  sunlight hits the ice crystals at exactly fifty eight degrees.

Have a look here [1] for more very cool fire rainbow stuff.

NuSTAR readying for science operations:

Image above: A copy of NuSTARs first ever image, signed by the science team. The picture is of the black hole Cygnus X-1, which is very bright in the X-ray sky. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous - google 'black hole accretion disk' to find out why. Image courtesy of Caltech.

The next generation X-ray telescope [2], with the nifty fold away design [3], is getting ready [4] to begin 'phase E' - science operations. This is a bit confusing for me, as Nu-STAR has already been making X-ray observations of the black hole in the centre of our galaxy, and observing quasars with with INTEGRAL [5], Suzaku [6], and XMM-Newton [7]. That sounds a lot like science to me, but then what do I know?

Video above: A quick run down on how the NuSTAR craft goes about unfloding itself in space. Video courtesy of JPL/Caltech.

..And a word on a veteran:

The Japanese Geotail [8] space craft is twenty years old today [9] - Geotail was the first in a small fleet of satellites called the International Solar Terrestrial Physics project, whose mission was to map Earths magnetosphere and its interactions with the Sun.

Image above: A cross section of the magnetosphere of Earth, which keeps solar storms from gradually eroding away our atmosphere. Quite useful then.Image courtesy of NASA.

This fairly unknown craft gave us our first comprehensive look at how the energy from a coronal mass ejection [10] is funnelled into a geomagnetic storm [11] in our magnetosphere, giving rise to aurora -  amongst other things. It's adjusted it's orbit several time to fly through the various parts of the magnetic field of Earth, and get a good collection of information on how it works, what it does, and how it fits into the larger interplanetary environment.

Video above: This is a brilliant excuse for another stunning video of the Aurora seen from space. Although I don't really need an excuse. Video courtesy of NASA.

The space satellite is still going strong, still collecting science data, after twenty years. Today it provides a comparison point for newer Sun and magnetosphere studying craft, like THEMIS [12].

Just goes to show - A veteran craft can do just as much as one o' these flashy young 'uns!.

* That's just a statement of vague hope.

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