## Glorious images of the Sun, from NASA

July 3, 2014

Who’d have thought of such an image, before we used satellites to look?

From NASA: Image info: This combination of three wavelengths of light from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows one of the multiple jets that led to a series of slow coronal puffs on January 17, 2013. The light has been colorized in red, green and blue. Credit: NASA SDO

NASA’s press release, from June 27, 2014:

A suite of NASA’s Sun-gazing spacecraft have spotted an unusual series of eruptions in which a series of fast puffs forced the slow ejection of a massive burst of solar material from the Sun’s atmosphere. The eruptions took place over a period of three days, starting on Jan. 17, 2013. Nathalia Alzate, a solar scientist at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, presented findings on what caused the puffs at the 2014 Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Portsmouth, England.

The sun’s outermost atmosphere, the corona, is made of magnetized solar material, called plasma, that has a temperature of millions of degrees and extends millions of miles into space. On January 17, the joint European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, spacecraft observed puffs emanating from the base of the corona and rapidly exploding outwards into interplanetary space. The puffs occurred roughly once every three hours. After about 12 hours, a much larger eruption of material began, apparently eased out by the smaller-scale explosions.

By looking at high-resolution images taken by NASA’s NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (Little SDO), or SDO, and NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, over the same time period and in different wavelengths, Alzate and her colleagues could focus on the cause of the puffs and the interaction between the small and large-scale eruptions.

“Looking at the corona in extreme ultraviolet light we see the source of the puffs is a series of energetic jets and related flares,” said Alzate. “The jets are localized, catastrophic releases of energy that spew material out from the sun into space. These rapid changes in the magnetic field cause flares, which release a huge amount of energy in a very short time in the form of super-heated plasma, high-energy radiation and radio bursts. The big, slow structure is reluctant to erupt, and does not begin to smoothly propagate outwards until several jets have occurred.”

Because the events were observed by multiple spacecraft, each viewing the sun from a different perspective, Alzate and her colleagues were able to resolve the three-dimensional configuration of the eruptions. This allowed them to estimate the forces acting on the slow eruption and discuss possible mechanisms for the interaction between the slow and fast phenomena.

“We still need to understand whether there are shock waves, formed by the jets, passing through and driving the slow eruption,” said Alzate. “Or whether magnetic reconfiguration is driving the jets allowing the larger, slow structure to slowly erupt. Thanks to recent advances in observation and in image processing techniques we can throw light on the way jets can lead to small and fast, or large and slow, eruptions from the Sun.”

Van Gogh painted rather unusual images of the Sun and stars; Turner painted perhaps more life-like images.   There are many interesting views of the Sun in art, by Monet, and many, many others.

Vincent van Gogh, “Sower with the Setting Sun”

But who conceived of any image like this one from NASA, above?

What private entity could ever do that?

J. M. W. Turner, “Caernarvon Castle,” 1799

Claude Monet, “Impression Sunrise”

British biologist J. B. S. Haldane said:

I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

♦   Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927), p. 286

Haldane may as well have added, the universe is not only more beautiful that we imagine, but more beautiful than we can imagine.  Reality trumps fiction yet again.

## Glacier National Park, 104 years old and looking good

June 26, 2014

Department of Interior, May 18, 2014 — Here’s our most popular photo on social media last week celebrating @GlacierNPS 104th birthday. pic.twitter.com/JNaYYNnfcH

Glacier National Park marks its 104th year in 2014. Glacier offers views this spectacular every day of the year.

## Starry, starry night over Mt. Fuji

June 7, 2014

Time exposure of Mt. Fuji in Japan, from the south.  via @SciencePorn  Photo by Prasit Chansareekorn

As best I’ve determined, the photographer is Prasit Chansareekorn, of Thailand.  Obviously an amazing photographer.  We might also presume the star over the summit is Polaris.

Thai photographer Prasit Chansareekorn

Fujiyama is the single most-visited tourist spot in Japan. (“Fujiyama” translates to “Mt. Fuji.”)  It’s the tallest mountain in Japan, at 3,776 meters (12,380 feet).  In Japanese, there is a special word for a sunrise viewed from the mountain:  Goraiko.  About 200,000 people climb the mountain every year.

It’s an active volcano, though its last eruption was 1707.  Vulcanologists discuss the possibility the mountain is overdue for an eruption.

Who would be in the best spot to get a photo of such an eruption?  What would van Gogh have made of this view?

## Grand Falls, near Flagstaff, at sunset

June 7, 2014

Grand Falls, Flagstaff, Arizona by Scott Wood. pic.twitter.com/L0WDJmqhFr

## Milky Way over Arches N.P.

May 30, 2014

From the Department of Interior’s Twitter feed: Looking for a wow photo? This picture of the Milky Way over Natural Bridges Natl Monument should do the trick. pic.twitter.com/RfuDj7KXSA

Owachomo Bridge?  Photographer?  I wish Interior would put in all the details with their photos.

## Night heron in the Ding Darling NWR, by Errickson

May 22, 2014

Love this photo for many reasons.

U. S. Department of Interior on Twitter: Amazing photo of a night heron in J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR by intern Libby Errickson. @USFWSSoutheast #Florida pic.twitter.com/PA04nE4hhD

Let me count the ways I love it:

• It’s a great photo, of a beautiful bird — a pose you won’t see often.
• An intern took it.  Management of our great natural treasures, the Wildlife Refuges, the National Parks, the National Monuments, is flat enough that an intern can get great experience, and spend a lifetime — and score a great picture that the poobahs in Washington like and promote.  It’s a career photo; let’s hope Libby Errickson has (or had) a great internship, and this is just the first of many career photos or studies or whatever.
• At a time when federal management of public lands is under fire, generally unjustifiably, simply for doing a good job but not having billionaires running their press operations, this is one more small example of something done right, for a long time.  The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest in the U.S.  It was created by Executive Order from President Harry Truman in 1945, and is now one of more than 500 units of National Wildlife Refuges under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other federal agencies.
• Bonus:  Ding Darling was a political cartoonist, and a conservationist.  His pen, in pictures and words, convinced authorities to stop the sale and development of Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico, preserving unique and valuable bird habitat.  This refuge celebrates one of our greatest political cartoonists.  It was renamed from Sanibel to Ding Darling NWR in 1967.  If you ask me, we don’t honor our political cartoonists enough.

More:

Video on the refuge, from the Ding Darling Society:

May 20, 2014

Photo after photo, I come increasingly to understand why my oldest brother, Jerry, wanted to spend his life and eternity in the Yellowstone.

Wholly apart from the thermal “features” and geological wonders, the area is just smashingly beautiful day in and day out, in even the mundane areas away from the celebrated features.

Here’s a part of the Madison River, just flowing through its streambed, at sunset.

## Moon and Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills, California

May 18, 2014

U.S. Department of Interior, Twitter feed: Beautiful view of the Moon over Mabius Mobius Arch in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. #California @BLMca pic.twitter.com/u0KYyJ6p0S

Interesting points, reasons to like this image:

1. No, that’s not the Sun.  It’s the Moon.
2. Who knew California had natural arches?  I mean, it makes sense — but there’s one in Virginia, and a bunch of them at Arches National Park, and . . .
3. An arch that should be in Utah, in the Alabama Hills, but not in Alabama, in California.
4. Stars!
5. Great photograph, obviously a long exposure.  Let’s see if we can find the name of the photographer.  Pox on Interior for failing to fit that into the caption. Photographer is Steve Perry, and you should check out his site (and buy some photos!). (Thanks, J. A. Higginbotham, for tracking that down.)
6. America’s public lands, showing how they are unexcelled at astonishing us.
7. What? Interior called the “Mabius Arch?” No, it’s the Mobius Arch!
8. This place was named after the Confederate warship C.S.S. Alabama. Sympathetic miners making claims on minerals, it appears. “The unusual name Alabama Hills came about during the Civil War. In 1864 Southern sympathizers in Lone Pine discovered gold ‘in them thar hills.’ When they heard that a Confederate cruiser named the Alabama had burned, sunk or captured more than 60 Federal ships in less than two years they named their mining claims after the cruiser to celebrate. Before long the name applied to the whole area. Coincidentally, while Southerners were prospecting around Lone Pine, there were Union sympathizers 15 miles north near Independence. And when the Alabama was sunk off the coast of France by the U.S.S. Kearsarge in 1864, the Independence people struck back. They not only named their mining claims ‘Kearsarge’ but a mountain peak, a mountain pass, and a whole town as well.”
9. More than 400 movies were shot using Alabama Hills for a backdrop, including How the West Was Won, Gunga Din (standing in for the hills of northern India) and the 1960 Audie Murphy classic, Hell Bent for Leather.
10. Geologists will love that this area is a prime example of chemical erosion — rocks made out of the same stuff as the craggy Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance, but eroded differently.
11. Lichens by moonlight!  (Or is that just desert varnish?)

More:

## Milky Way in Navajoland: YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ

May 13, 2014

Milky Way over Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Photo by Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović, from the video (which also features Grand Canyon National Park)

Phil Plait’s column/blog at Slate, Bad Astronomy, put me on to this one.  Wow.

You can see it at Vimeo, and read a lot more about the making of the film.

YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ (Navajo for Milky Way or “That Which Awaits the Dawn”)

And that they do. The Milky Way is the star of the show; the galactic bulge, disk, and dark fingers of vast dust lanes as clear as if this were taken from space. Well, sort of; I was impressed by the mix of clouds and sky, to be honest. The contrast was interesting, and it’s rather amazing the Milky Way could stand out so clearly above the cloud line.

One thing I want to point out specifically: At 2:10 in, a meteor flashes and leaves behind a curling wisp of what looks like smoke. This is called a persistent train, the vaporized remains of the meteoroid itself, and can glow for several minutes. The upper level winds from 60–100 km above Earth’s surface are what blow it into those curlicues.

More details, for more films from these guys:

Shot and Produced by: Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinović
Music: A Seated Night (Ambient) by Moby. Courtesy MobyGratis.com / Unknown Native Chant
Thanks: Northern Arizona University, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley Tribal Park.

See other Sunchaser Timelapses on Vimeo here: vimeo.com/album/189653

For more from the artists:

## Insta-Millard: Look alive, kids, Fuego is lurking!

May 12, 2014

One way to get the kids out of their sleeping bags in the morning, no?  Just alert them to the passing California condor, looking for something that doesn’t move, to eat.

USFWS PacificSouthwest: “Now that is up close and personal! Melissa Galieti snapped this picture of #Condor 470 ‘Fuego,’ May 5 in Big Sur, California. pic.twitter.com/QKvURadqaV

Only way to get closer to these majestic birds is to do what our cousin Amanda Holland did, and work with the Condor recovery project.

Might be a life’s work in there somewhere.

## Milky Way from Joshua Tree N.P..

May 5, 2014

From the U.S Department of Interior Twitter feed: To celebrate being named to the @TIME #Twitter140, here is an amazing photo from @JoshuaTreeNP. pic.twitter.com/F4DS5Xv9vq

Milky Way in a long exposure with a light-painted tree in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

More:

## Arbor Day sunset in Redwood National Park

April 25, 2014

Another stunner from our public lands, from the Department of Interior’s Great American Outdoors Tumblr:

Department of Interior: Let’s end #ArborDay with this great shot from Redwood National Park in #California. pic.twitter.com/SzlkQASYFI

Today is Arbor Day, too?

## Cross seas: Nature, or design?

April 16, 2014

Here’s just exactly the sort of thing that happens in nature that drives creationists nuts.  How could this happen without God personally working to confuse and/or delight the photographer?  Not to mention the physicist and mathematician.

Photo from the Twitter feed of Science Porn: “Go home waves you’re drunk. This is called cross sea btw pic.twitter.com/5Cv1UUo8QX”

Where? Somewhere in France, one might gather from the flag on the structure (lighthouse?).

Turns out to be a Wikipedia photo, with this intriguing caption:

Crossing swells, consisting of near-cnoidal wave trains. Photo taken from Phares des Baleines (Whale Lighthouse) at the western point of Île de Ré (Isle of Rhé), France, in the Atlantic Ocean. The interaction of such near-solitons in shallow water may be modeled through the Kadomtsev–Petviashvili equation.

Oh, you remember that one, don’t you?  The Kadomtsev–Petviashvili equation?

At least we confirmed it was taken in France.

They do everything differently in France, don’t they?

Update:Got an e-mail suggestion that I include the equation itself.  You may certainly click to Wikipedia to find it; here’s what it says over there:

In mathematics and physics, the Kadomtsev–Petviashvili equation – or KP equation, named after Boris Borisovich Kadomtsev and Vladimir Iosifovich Petviashvili – is a partial differential equation to describe nonlinearwave motion. The KP equation is usually written as:

$\displaystyle \partial_x(\partial_t u+u \partial_x u+\epsilon^2\partial_{xxx}u)+\lambda\partial_{yy}u=0$

where $\lambda=\pm 1$. The above form shows that the KP equation is a generalization to two spatial dimensions, x and y, of the one-dimensional Korteweg–de Vries (KdV) equation. To be physically meaningful, the wave propagation direction has to be not-too-far from the x direction, i.e. with only slow variations of solutions in the y direction.

Like the KdV equation, the KP equation is completely integrable. It can also be solved using the inverse scattering transform much like the nonlinear Schrödinger equation.

Certainly the longest equation ever published at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

## Sky and stars peeking into Antelope Canyon

April 11, 2014

Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, near Page Arizona, get more visitors annually than just about any other canyon except the Grand Canyon.  They cover only a few miles.

You’re not familiar with Antelope Canyon?  You’ve seen the photos, even if you don’t know the name of the place — it’s a slot canyon, carved as with a wandering knife into the sandstone at the top of the cliffs leading to the Colorado River.

Over at EarthSky, I found a view you haven’t seen before.

Antelope Canyon at night by Sergio Garcia Rill. Stunning contrast of rock painted by light, and stars. From EarthSky.com. Visit Sergio’s website and read more about this adventure.

Details from EarthSky.com:

Sergio Garcia Rill captured this beautiful image from within Upper Antelope Canyon in Arizona, which is the most visited slot canyon in the United States. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide. It’s formed by water rushing through rock. Sergio wrote:

During my recent trip to Arizona, I stopped by Page to get a chance at touring the now famous canyons (Upper and Lower Antelope) and I also had a chance to visit Upper Antelope at night.

I couldn’t really get too many shots with the sky (since the openings were very narrow and limited) but I liked this one in particular since I got a chance to set it up and do the light painting myself a couple of chambers behind from where my guide and another participant were working on another shot.

Thank you, Sergio.

Visit Sergio Garcia Rill’s Facebook page.