Photo: Sylvain Weiller

As this week’s full moon rose in a clear Portland night sky, I happened to be reading Robert M. Hazen’s The Story of Earth, chapter two: The Big Thwack. Hazen’s experience in the subject of Earth’s 4.5 billion year history is impressive, and I never knew basic things about our solar system before reading it; such as Jupiter was vying to be a sun, as were Uranus and Neptune, but due to a variance in stellar “winds,” cooled too fast, and they became gas giant planets, instead.

The Big Thwack is also known as the giant impact hypothesis, that Hazen believes to be the only scientifically plausible origin of our moon. Take a look at this video to see what most likely happened a long time ago, in this galaxy.

What’s not fascinating about that? Especially the name Theia. The goddess child of Earth and Sky, who gave birth to the Moon. I used to lament that the moons of other planets all got names, but ours is just called the moon. Since it was clearly a planet before thwacking into this larger sphere, I will forever refer to her by the true name she deserves.


Canary Sky


(Vimeo Link)

In case Terje Sorgjerd is growing a bit too March, 2011 for you hipsters out there, and for everyone else who can’t get enough of great time-lapse photography highlighting the eternal earth…

Daniel Lopez showcases the cascading Milky Way over desert landscapes, the foaming clouds lapping like ocean shores at the feet of mountains, and more astounding sites from one of the most beautiful places on this pale blue dot, the Canary Islands.

Happy Birthday, Hubble Telescope


The Rose. Image: NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA

April 24 marks the 21st anniversary of the orbiting of the Hubble telescope, deployed by space shuttle Discovery. After some false starts and costly repairs, it proved to be one of our greatest tools for peering into the cosmos. To commemorate the landmark achievement, NASA has released this image of two galaxies in the Andromeda constellation that swirl together, seemingly in the shape of a rose. Their boring, official name is Arp 273.

Saturn Fly-By


(Vimeo Link)

Back in grade school, I once got in trouble with my teacher for goofing around during class, and as punishment I was to copy an article out of the encyclopedia. I ended up choosing Saturn for my chore, and have considered it my favorite non-Earth planet ever since. That’s why I’m agape at this CS5 rendering of available photographs taken by the Cassini spacecraft, launched by NASA to study our ringed neighbor; the project is called “Outside In” and Vimeo user stephen V2 explains it best in a comment at the link:

What I’ve done (since this is an art film) is take the photograph… and create a flythrough using many other images Cassini has taken. It’s kind of the only way to do it – necessity is the mother of invention here – if you only want to use real photographs.

Note: this was not done using CGI or 3D effects. It really is representative of what it’s like to be the Cassini spacecraft.

Link to the photograph.

The song is the lovely, ubiquitous “Adiago for Strings” by Samuel Barber.  | via