Yesterday was a great day for space images. First, celebrating Hubble’s 20th anniversary (via Wired):


This craggy fantasy mountaintop enshrouded by wispy clouds looks like a bizarre landscape from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” or a Dr. Seuss book, depending on your imagination. The NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, which is even more dramatic than fiction, captures the chaotic activity atop a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being assaulted from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks


I guess they know their target audience pretty well!

And here’s a false-color image of that startling eruptive prominence on the Sun at APOD:


Don’t panic, the Sun has not gone wild. But this wild-looking portrait of the nearest star to planet Earth was made on March 30th by the recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Shown in false-color, the composite view covers extreme ultraviolet wavelengths and traces hot plasma at temperatures approaching 1 million kelvins. At full resolution, SDO image data is intended to explore solar activity in unprecedented detail. In fact, SDO will send 1.5 terabytes of data back each day, equivalent to a daily download of about half a million MP3 songs.

Space is amazing, isn’t it?

PS. Discovery News put together this anniversary slideshow of the Hubble’s greatest hits.


  1. #1 blf
    April 24, 2010

    Space is amazing, isn’t it?

    That reminds me of Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy):

    Space is big. Really, really big. I mean, you might think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

    B.t.w., how are the monstersdust bunnies under you bed?

  2. #2 Jessica Palmer
    April 24, 2010

    Alas, the boyfriend vacuumed under the bed, and exterminated their entire colony. It was dustbunny genocide.

    I still want an iPad with a “don’t panic” sticker.

  3. #3 Comrade PhysioProf
    April 24, 2010

    That space mountain shit is fucking wild.

  4. #4 michael5000
    April 25, 2010

    Space ~IS~ amazing and awesome — and the images are amazing, awesome, beautiful, and useful — but I don’t feel like I really have any idea what, if anything, space looks like per se. “False-color image” is key, as almost ALL space images, including those of Earth, are false-color, or use color to indicate non-visible portions of the spectrum, or photomosaics of multiple images.

    I suspect that the artists who put together the “craggy fantasy mountaintop” data representation, no less than the folks at Wired, knew their target audience pretty well.

  5. #5 Rob Monkey
    April 26, 2010

    Awesome stuff, but “1 million kelvins?” Plural? Yeah, I had a fever the other week, it was up to 104 fahrenheits!

  6. #6 Jessica Palmer
    April 26, 2010

    Go complain to APOD about their plurals – it’s not my doing. 🙂 However, before you do, it’s worth noting that “kelvin”, unlike Fahrenheit, names both the scale and the unit of temperature. APOD’s sentence uses kelvins as a noun, analogous to “degrees Fahrenheit.” “fahrenheits” is not a noun, so your example makes less sense than theirs. (You don’t need to say “degrees Kelvin”). You may still object to the pluralization of the noun kelvin, but that’s a different issue than whether it can serve as a noun at all. Your example implies it can’t, but it can.

  7. #7 derek
    May 3, 2010

    No, “kelvins” is fine, even though “centigrades” would not be. Why? Because the degree centigrade starts from an arbitrary zero and marks off equal distances, but does not represent a quantity. The kelvin, even though it’s the same size as a degree centigrade, is an actual “thing”. It starts at real zero, and adds up linearly. The distinction is is one between an interval data type (degrees Centigrade) and a ratio data type (kelvins), as laid out by the statistician S. S. Stevens in the 1940s. They’re different kinds of entity.

    Your fever could quite legitimately have been 564 rankines!

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