Tag Archives: earth observation

Help for Sunflower

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Lyrid meteor shower

April22
Todaywas the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower. We set up four cameras in the cupola simultaneously takingpictures.  Gardener said there wereplaces on Earth that were doing the same and all these pictures taken togetherwill make a very interesting scientific data set.  Since I had been placed next to a window, Iwas living through 16 periods of day-night every 24 hours.  Jet-lagged, I could thus stay awake duringthe night and help in the observations.

 May1
Gardenerhas been spending a lot of time playing a computer game.  His computer is near our grow light so we canwatch him.  He plays in the morningbefore works starts and in the evening after work is over.  He must find this relaxing.  The game he plays is called “Catch theDragon”.  The best part about this gameis that he does not have to put in any quarters.

 

May5
Sunflowerhas brown patch.  His leaves are coveredwith dry, dark blotches.  He is nothappy.  Gardener says it looks like afungus.  I am afraid that if something isnot done we are going to lose Sunflower. The crew medical kit is designed for animals not plants so there are nomedications for this disease.  Gardeneris treating Sunflower with a disinfectant wipe that has an antibacterial agentcalled BZK (Benzalkonium chloride).  Wedo not know if this is going to work. Our spacecraft is designed for animals so life can be a struggle forplants.  On the frontier, the answers arenot found in the back of the book and sometimes you have to venture into theunknown and improvise.

 

May11
TheBZK wipes seem to be helping.  Gardenerpats down Sunflower’s leaves every other day. He does this with the healthy new green ones as well.  Sunflower is beginning to smile again.  Broccoli and I seem resistant to this so heis not treating us.  

Don’s blog also appears at airspacemag.com.

Helen of Earth

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Helen of Earth

An Alienforce,

          smitten by the sight of Earth.

Stunningoccipital pleasure,

witha face of such beauty.

As to launcha thousand ships,

layingsiege to our planet,

                   untilthey can take her as their own.



Don’s blog also appears at airspacemag.com.

Space Is My Mistress

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Aurora over Earth

Seeing as how April is National Poetry Month….

Space is My Mistress

Space is my Mistress,
and she beckons myreturn.
Since our departure I think of you
and yearn to fly across the heavens arm in arm.
I marvel at your figure,
defined by theedges of continents.
You gaze at me with turquoise eyes,
perhaps mistaken for ocean atolls.
Youtease me to fall into your bosom,
sculptured by tectonicrifts,
only to move away as if playing some tantalizinggame.
Time and time we turn together,
through day, and night, and day,
repeatingencounters every 90 minutes with a freshness,
as if we havenever seen our faces before.
We stroll outside together,
enveloped by naked cosmos,
filled withdesire to be one.
So close,
you sense myevery breath,
which masks your stare through visor haze.
We dance on the swirls of cloud tops,
whileskirting the islands of blue.
You know my heart beats fastfor you.
Oh, Space is my mistress,
andwhen our orbits coincide,
we will once again make streaks ofaurora across the sky.


Don’s blog also appears at airspacemag.com.

Mar del Fuego

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Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire, was what Magellan named the tip of South America in 1520. He saw the fires set by local inhabitants who did not want the Portuguese explorer to set foot on their land.

A new page in the history of this distant part of our globe is now being written. Oil has been discovered off the eastern shore of Tierra del Fuego, and Argentina is building offshore platforms to access it. Brightly lit, they appear from orbit as constellations—not in the starry sky, but on the surface of the sea. Collectively, they are one of the most brightly-lit areas I have seen anywhere on Earth (except for Las Vegas, which still holds the title). From my orbital perspective, this is no longer Tierra del Fuego but Mar del Fuego.

In these pictures taken from Space Station, the dim lights from Tierra del Fuego, visible in the background, do not hold a candle to the bright lights of the offshore oil platforms.





Don’s blog also appears at airspacemag.com.

The World Through a Looking Glass

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Looking through the cupola windows on Space Station, it’s only naturalto reflect upon who we are and where we fit into the world below. Likesomething out of Alice in Wonderland, this orbital lookingglass can be both a window through which to observe the jeweled sphereof Earth and a mirror that (sometimes, depending on your viewing angle)shows you a translucent reflection of yourself superimposed on theplanet.

From orbit, the more you know about our planet, the more you can see.You see all the geological features described in textbooks. You seefault zones, moraines, basins, ranges, impact craters, dikes, sills,braided channels, the strike and dip of layered rocks, folding,meanders, oxbow lakes, slumps, slides, mud flows, deltas, alluvial fans,glaciers, karst topography, cirques, tectonic plates, rifts zones,cinder cones, crater lakes, fossil sea shores, lava flows, volcanicplumes, fissures, eruptions, dry lakes, inverted topography, lattericsoils, and many more.

You see clouds of every description and combination: nimbus, cumulus,stratus, nimbo-cumulus, nimbo-stratus, cirrus, thunderheads, andtyphoons, sometimes with clockwise rotation, sometimes withcounter-clockwise. You notice patterns: clouds over cold oceans lookdifferent than clouds over warm oceans. Sometimes the continents are allcloud-covered, so you have no recognizable landmass to help you gaugewhere you are. If you see a crisscross of jet contrails glistening inthe sun above the clouds, you know you are over the United States.

Lightning storms flash like gigantic fireflies looking for mates halfa continent away. You see patterns on the ocean surface, swirls andvortices on large scales, wave diffraction patterns around capes,solitary waves forming long lines out in the middle of nowhere, andrivers that look like they are spilling milk chocolate into turquoiseoceans.

You see light-scattering phenomena of all kinds—at sunrise, atsunset, across the terminator, 16 times a day. You see crepuscular rays,forward reddened lobes, off-axis blue lobes, and corona halos. Withbinoculars you can count six distinct layers in the atmosphere, with theouter one seemingly fading into fuzzy blackness.

The aurora is nothing short of occipital ecstasy. It is alwaysmoving, always changing, and like snowflakes, no two displays are thesame. The glowing red and green forms meander like celestial amoebascrawling across some great petri dish. One time our orbit took usthrough the center of an auroral display. It was as if we were in aglowing fog of red and green. Had we been shrunk down and inserted intothe tube of a neon sign? It looked like it was just on the other side ofthe windowpane. I wanted to reach out and touch, but of course Icouldn’t. Afterwards, I had to clean nose prints off of the window.

You catch an occasional meteor while looking down at Earth.You see stars and planets in oblique views, next to Earth’s limb. Andthey do not twinkle. Perchance you might spot a ragged shadow from atotal solar eclipse projected onto Earth. Amazing, it looks just like itdoes in the textbooks! You have a godlike view of the finer details ofshadowy projections onto spherical bodies. You see space junk orbitingnearby. Sometimes it flickers due to an irregularity, catching light asit rotates. An overboard water dump produces a virtual blizzard in thesurrounding vacuum. Like strangers passing in the night, you see othersatellites flash brilliantly for a few seconds, then fade into oblivion.

Jungles are the darkest land features you can observe in fullsunlight. They are so dark that you need to open your camera lens toobtain a proper exposure. If there are clouds partly shrouding yourview, you can be fooled into thinking you are over the ocean. Only whenyou notice rivers with braided channels and meandering loops ofchocolate brown do you realize that it is jungle and not water.Farmland, rich with vibrant crops, is different. Farmland is bright,much brighter than the jungles. Here nature is giving us a clue as tothe efficiency of light capture by plants.

The impact of humanity on Earth is humbling from orbit. Our greatestcities appear to the bare eye as minor gray smudges on the edges ofcontinents—they could be the fingerprints of Atlas, from the last timehe handled the globe. They are hardly distinguishable from volcanic ashflow or other geologic features. If you didn’t know it was a city, itwould be difficult to conclude it was the result of human design. Underthe scrutiny of the telephoto lens, things appear different. Like antsmoving crumbs of dirt, we are slowly changing our world. You realizethat Earth will do just fine, with or without us. We are wedded to thisplanet, for better or for worse, until mass extinction do us part.

Cities at nightare different from their drab daytime counterparts. They present a mostspectacular display that rivals a Broadway marquee. And cities aroundthe world are different. Some show blue-green, while others showyellow-orange. Some have rectangular grids, while others look like afractal-snapshot from Mandelbrot space.

Patterns in the countryside are different in Europe, North America,and South America. In space, you can see political boundaries that showup only at night. As if a beacon for humanity, Las Vegas is truly thebrightest spot on Earth. Cities at night may very well be the mostbeautiful unintentional consequence of human activity.

This looking glass incites your mind to ponder the abstract. Throughthe window, you explore the world. In the mirror, you reflect upon yourplace within it and the reasons we explore. Is it fundamentally aboutfinding new places to live and new resources to use? Or is it aboutexpanding our knowledge of the universe? Either way, exploration seemsfundamental to our survival as a species. After all, if the dinosaurshad explored space and colonized other planets, they would still bealive today.

The Eye of Issyk Kul

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Kyrgyzstan is wedged in the mountainous wrinkles between Kazakhstan andChina, created long ago when the land mass we now call India, propelled by platetectonics, slammed into the Asian plate. Living there are a proud people with arich history, surrounded by natural, high-altitude beauty.

Issyk Kul

Out of numerous Kyrgyz lakes, one in particular stands out—Lake Issyk Kul.When seen from orbit, Issyk Kul appears to be a giant eye, looking at us lookingdown at it. The snow-covered mountains become aged eyebrows. The lake itself,having a fairly high salt concentration, does not typically freeze over, thusreflecting wintertime light in such a way as to form a “pupil” that seems totrack us as we orbit overhead.