Astronaut Sunita Williams Gives an Extensive Tour of the International Space Station

After a 125-day stay aboard the International Space Station, ISS Commander Sunita (Suni) Williams touched down in Kazakhstan on Monday, along with Flight Engineers Aki Hoshide and Yuri Malanchenko. Part of what is known as Expedition 33, the three boarded their Soyuz TMA-05M on Sunday to return to Earth, but before they left, Williams downlinked an extensive tour above of the ISS orbital laboratory. Williams has given several interviews from her ISS post, so you may have already seen her floating weightless in front of the camera, a nimbus of dark hair around her face.

Here we see a number of interesting features of the station. She begins with the Japanese laboratory, then moves to the European module, “Columbus,” where many of the medical experiments take place. Interestingly, every surface is a suitable workstation; since there’s no reference for floor, walls, or ceiling, and no need for anything to stand on, one can maneuver into any position without losing a sense of direction. As Williams demonstrates the “sleep stations,” phone booth-size compartments with sleeping bags, she shows how the astronauts can also sleep in any position at all without feeling like they’re “upside-down” or disoriented in any way. There’s also a lengthy tour of the “facilities” (in case you’ve ever wondered how that works) and the “cupola,” a small transparent room like a WWII gunnery station where the astronauts can gaze out at their home planet.

So, yes, I will admit, I’ve always liked to imagine the interior of the ISS like the smooth, padded corridors of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, but the reality is still seriously cool. The Washington Post has a slideshow of Expedition 33’s touchdown near the town of Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan, and the video below shows the small ceremony that greeted the crew hours after their arrival back on Earth.

via Universe Today

Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.

Astronaut Don Pettit Demystifies the Art of Taking Photographs in Space

Over the years, we've shown you Don Pettit's work -- his many timelapse videos taken from the International Space Station. (Find some below.) By now, we take these videos almost for granted. We watch the breathtaking scenery flow by, and we shrug our shoulders a bit. Rarely do we step back and think: holy mackerel, this cat is taking artful videos in space. Nor do we wonder: how does one take pictures in zero gravity anyhow?

It's fascinating when you think about it. And, now Don Pettit gives you a glimpse inside his creative process. Speaking at the Luminance 2012 conference in New York City, Pettit explains the challenges of photographing on the ISS -- the equipment required, the quick decisions you need to make, the obstacles that get in the way, the aesthetic choices you need to consider, etc. And then he gets into some intriguing questions. Like how do you capture the colors of the aurora borealis? or what fabulous photographs can infrared photography yield?

His talk runs 30 minutes, and it will interest the casual observer or the all-out photography geek.

Don Pettit Videos from the ISS:

Animated Aurora Borealis from Orbit

Great Cities at Night: Views from the International Space Station

What It Feels Like to Fly Over Planet Earth

Star Gazing from the International Space Station (and Free Astronomy Courses Online)

via Metafilter

The Known Universe: The Hayden Planetarium’s Tour of the Cosmos Gets a Hans Zimmer Soundtrack

The German composer Hans Zimmer has made a name for himself (and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) by creating original scores for films. You’ve heard his music, even if you haven’t heard of him. The Lion King, The Dark Knight and Inception are a few of the films he scored.

If you've seen Inception then the music behind this video will sound familiar. Zimmer's music plays behind a small video with vast subject matter: The Known Universe, a six minute tour of, that’s right, the entire known universe. Put together in 2009 by the Hayden Planetarium in NYC, the video originally had a more New Agey, orchestral score. Zimmer’s track is beautiful and thankfully somebody decided to lay it down behind the Planetarium's video. The results are amazing, a slicker version of Charles and Ray Eames’ famous film Powers of Ten, but with a more distant starting and ending point.

Where Powers of Ten started its tour out at a bird’s eye level above Earth, The Known Universe begins above the planet’s highest point, above the Himalayan Mountains, and quickly pans out to show the Moon’s orbit, the orbits of the other planets in our solar system, and beyond.

Really beyond—all the way into the afterglow of the Big Bang. And even though it’s a simulation, it’s an accurate one.

The Known Universe was made using the Digital Universe Atlas, a four-dimensional map of the universe maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. (You can download your own copy here.)

Slip into your headphones and enjoy Zimmer’s music. The piece is called “Time (We Plants are Happy Plants Remix)” and it’s a tuneful, upbeat soundtrack that's out of our galaxy.

Are you watching, Carl Sagan?

Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Find more of her work at katerixwriter.com.

Hurricane Sandy Seen from Outer Space, in Timelapse Motion

Hovering some 22,300 miles above Earth, the GOES-14 satellite, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, captured images of Hurricane Sandy barreling its way across the Atlantic yesterday. The video above puts into animation a series of images taken over an 11 hour period. Off to the left, you see the state of North Carolina, which looks sadly small compared to the 900-mile-wide storm. For anyone living on the east coast, you might want to check out this resource that offers advice on what to do before, during, and after a hurricane. Stay safe, and we'll see you on the other side of the storm.

Note: Below you will find an alternate view provided by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. This animation brings together satellite observations from October 26 through October 29 2012.

What an Astronaut’s Camera Sees (and What a Geographer Learns About Our Planet) from the ISS

Justin Wilkinson has a pretty cool sounding gig. He's the chief geoscientist at NASA, and he learns all about planet Earth from space. When astronauts head to the International Space Station (ISS), Wilkinson asks them to snap pictures of various geographical locations. And, from this vantage point 250 miles above the planet's surface, he learns many things -- for example, he tells Slate, "there are a lot more examples of a geographical phenomenon called an inland delta or megafan—that is, deltas formed far from coastlines—than was once thought."

Out of Wilkinson's research comes some great pictures and videos, and today we're featuring two clips. The first video above shows you what an astronaut sees at night, giving you an aerial tour of cities and coastlines in the Americas, the Middle East and Europe. The equally impressive video below gives you stellar shots (in daylight) of Namibia, Tunisia, Madagascar, Sicily, China, Iran, and Utah. You'll find these videos added to our collection of Great Science Videos. Courses on astronomy can be found in our collection of Free Courses Online.  h/t @stevesilberman

Reef View: Google Gives Us Stunning Underwater Shots of Great Coral Reefs

Most of us have looked up our own addresses using Google Street View. But have you ever wished you could virtually dive right into the ocean, lake or river near your home?

It may not be long until you can. Google has taken its Street View model, complete with directional arrows and swipe-controlled scaling, and plunged into the watery universe.

In a collaboration with a major scientific study of the ocean, Street View now includes panoramic views of six of the world’s living coral reefs. These images, shot using a special camera, allow us to zoom in and see schools of fish and sea turtles make their way over the sea floor off the coast of Australia’s Heron Island. Check out the shape and texture of this ancient volcanic rock near Apo Island in the Philippines.

Above the Molokini Crater near Maui you might be surprised to stumble upon some other snorklers.

Scooting along is amazingly fun and the photographic clarity is incredible. Take a cool swim with a manta ray and an underwater photographer off the Great Barrier Reef. It really does feel like you’re there—only you’re not (and the Google watermarks bring you back to reality ).


View Larger Map

Photos come courtesy of the Catlin Seaview Survey, an international study of the oceans. Researchers use a continual 360 degree panoramic camera to capture underwater images. In deeper trenches, they send the camera down on robots.

Scientists with the study say that some 95 percent of the ocean still hasn’t been seen by the human eye. Short of traveling to all these spots ourselves, this may be our best chance to bring that number down.

Related Content:

Perpetual Ocean: A Van Gogh-Like Visualization of our Ocean Currents

Google Street View Opens Up a Look at Shackleton’s Antarctic

Tour the Amazon with Google Street View; No Passport Needed

Google Art Project Expands, Bringing 30,000 Works of Art from 151 Museums to the Web

Kate Rix is an Oakland-based freelance writer. See more of her work at katerixwriter.com.

The Final Descent of NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity Captured in High Resolution

A few weeks back, we showed you the first grainy footage of NASA's rover, Curiosity, landing on the dusty surface of Mars. And we promised to follow up with higher res footage when it became available. Well, it's now online and on display above. Just to recap, the video shows the final descent of Curiosity, from the point where it jettisons its heat shield to the moment when it touches down on the martian surface. The video was stitched together with 666 images taken at a rate of four per second.

Related Content:

Find Astronomy courses in our collection of 500 Free Online Courses

Carl Sagan Presents Six Lectures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar System … For Kids (1977)

Ray Bradbury Reads Moving Poem on the Eve of NASA’s 1971 Mars Mission

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