Blue Waters Above and Starry Skies Below…Wait, What?

The moon is easing through its waning gibbous phase here in the mid-west.  Every night more and more of it disappears from sight – that is, if I am lucky enough to see it at all.  This is not the case for those onboard the ISS.

This picture was taken May 5th by astronaut André Kuipers. The image belongs to ESA/NASA – I take no credit for it.

This picture – featured on the European Space Agency’s Flickr account and website – is of a supermoon, taken by André Kuipers (a member of the Expedition 31 crew serving aboard the international space station).  The term supermoon is used to describe the point in the moon’s elliptical cycle in which it appears closest to Earth.  The best part about this picture?  Look above the moon…at the planet Earth.  Despite being a bit out of focus, it is still a fascinating part of this photo, and gives the viewer the unique opportunity to gaze at the night sky from a different perspective.  Thank you, André, for sharing your talents with us once again!

The Prompt That Keeps On…Er…Prompting

I have been participating in the Daily Blog photo challenge every week for several months now – and have loved every moment of it!  Every week (almost always on Friday), Daily Blog readers are challenged to discover new meanings to everyday things through the lens of their cameras – to perceive the world around them in different ways.  I responded to this week’s challenge with a photo of nature and technology occupying the same space: a picture of my mother’s lilac bush sharing the backyard with my family’s satellite dish.  Since posting this, I have caught myself seeing “two subjects” in everything around me.  Now when I look at pictures, I focus on the background every bit as much as the main subject, paying particular attention to how both subjects work in harmony to create beautiful pictures.  As a subscriber to several of NASA’s websites and missions, I receive daily emails to keep me abreast of NASA news via articles, videos, podcasts, and photos.

This image was taken on March 28th, 2012 by the International Space Station's Expedition 30 crew at an altitude of about two hundred and forty miles. One of the station's solar array panels can be seen on the left, while the city of Moscow occupies this photo's center. The horizon is suffused by riot of colors, a combination of the Aurora Borealis, airglow (light formed in the upper atmosphere by atoms and molecules via chemical processes), and daybreak.

This picture was posted on April 16th and tagged as the “Image of the Day for NASA” (I take no credit for this image: all credit goes to NASA).  Prior to this challenge, I would have looked at this picture and seen only the beauty of our planet – how the greens and blues of the Aurora Borealis naturally offset the bright, human-generated lights of Moscow.  The International Space Station’s solar array panels (on the left) would have caught my attention, but only in passing.  Now I look at this picture and not only do I gaze in awe at the sheer splendor of our planet, I find myself also giving an equal amount of attention to the technology that made this photo possible: the previously ignored solar array panels.  Without these panels, there is a good chance that there would not be an International Space Station (other methods of power being be too costly, bulky, or both to maintain or to have even justified the creation of the station in the first place), and my ability to see my planet in such a way would be severely limited.

Every week my perception shifts and evolves with every new photo challenge, altering the way I perceive the world around me.  I find myself anticipating each new challenge, excited at the chance to look at the ordinary and see something extraordinary.  What new theme will this week bring?  Only Friday will tell!

On This Day…

On this day in history:

  • Dr. King was assassinated
  • NATO was formed
  • Apollo 6 was launched

…Quite the set of events to share a birthday with!

Today is also “Walk Around Things Day”, so be sure to mind your step – figuratively, and literally!

How Did You Get Down There?

For several weeks I have been having vehicular problems in the form of a dead car battery – an unfortunate side-effect to not driving as often as I used to.  Thankfully, my Jeep started right up after being jumped, and continued to hold a charge after allowing it to run for a half hour or so (I definitely did not want to buy another battery).  As I am really rather fond of driving, missing out on the opportunity to do so for so long a period of time resulted in my looking for any excuse to get back out on the road.  A pressing need to go to the grocery store gave me the opportunity I was looking for, and I was more than happy to hop into my now-working Jeep to make the trip.  After backing out of my driveway, I happened to look down at the street and saw a soccer ball rolling away from my house.  It turns out this same soccer ball had been wedged underneath my Jeep, having been blown there by the wind over a week ago – keeping my then-immobile vehicle company, no doubt.

The perfect companion to any Jeep.

I took a picture of this soccer ball for this week’s photo challenge prompt, titled “Down“.  Of course, taking this picture was no easy feat – my sister’s dog thinks that if there is a spherical object within half a mile of his position, it is automatically his ball to play with.  Wrestling him away from the soccer ball would have been a much easier task had he not such a penchant for jumping and weighed over sixty pounds.  Taking this photo, and subsequently struggling with a “playing” dog, got me thinking about how subjective one’s perception of “down” really is.  After all, I look “down” at my dogs (as I am several feet taller than they are) and they look “up” at me, resulting in a shared, multi-directional gaze.

On a related side note, NASA has been posting pictures taken by members of the ISS (International Space Station) crew and posting them on their website.  It is interesting to consider that an astronaut’s perception of “down” is also our perception of “up” – another representation of this shared, multi-directional gaze.  Take this picture as an example.  I spent several years of my youth living in the Arctic Circle, in a place where viewing the Aurora Borealis was a regular occurrence.  It fascinates me to think that the natural phenomenon that I have seen so many times in the night sky is something someone else must look “down” to see!

It’s All About Me…With The New Google Search Option, That Is

In searching for a topic about which to blog this evening, I decided to try my luck with the Google search engine.  After opening my web browser to Google’s home address, I noticed that there was a message posted underneath the search bar, informing Google users of the availability of the new Search plus Your World feature.  Curious, I clicked on the informational link attached to the message, eager to know about any new feature my favorite search engine had rolled out.  Search plus Your World is a personalized search option available to Google Plus users, which integrates the content from your Plus circles with the content found in a regular search.  For example, I typed in the word “photos” into the search bar.  The first thing on the page were photos posted by my friends, family, and my self, followed by the expected results of my search – links to Flicker, an advertisement for Walgreens, and so on.  In addition to this, the right hand side of the screen featured a Google map of my search, displaying locations that had something to do with the word “photos”: selling them, developing them, etc.  Below that a section titled “People and Pages on Google+” featured Google+ members that had posted about “photos” on their Plus account – now available for easy perusal to the Google user.

Needless to say, I had a new “toy” to play with for the better part of half an hour.  Just when I think that Google could not possibly get anymore convenient and exciting to use, they give me a new feature to enjoy!  By the way, if you have not read it, yesterday’s post was all about the ISS (International Space Station) and my desire to see it from my own backyard – not just via NASA’s website.  During my “research” into Search plus Your World, I came across an Android app that is supposed to detect when the space station is overhead!  I immediately downloaded it to my phone, and I cannot wait to try it out and see if it works.  If you are curious about this app as well (or just like downloading apps for the sake of downloading apps), it is called ISS Detector by RunaR.  It is available for download from this link to the Android Marketplace website, or by typing “ISS Detector” into your marketplace search bar on your phone – it should be the first result posted.  Happy hunting, fellow stargazers!

It’s A Full Moon Out, And Who Cares About Werewolves…I Want To See The ISS!

Tonight’s is a quick post: I have been a bit busy today, and am really cutting it close on my midnight deadline (I usually have my posts at least written by now).  I do not know if any one else frequents NASA’s website as much as I do – I am guilty of visiting it at least three times a week, usually more.  If this is your first time visiting the website, one of the many things you will notice is the section of the homepage on the lower-left hand side called NASA Images.  If you click on the picture they have featured, it will link you to the Image of the Day Gallery.  In this Gallery, web users can look at past and present photos about topics ranging from active black holes, recently discovered nebulae, astronauts and spacecraft from every decade, and even pictures from some of the missions themselves.  Today’s photo is a picture of our moon, with the International Space Station (ISS) clearly visible on the upper-left hand side of the screen.  If you read the caption below, you will learn that the ISS is actually visible to the naked eye – though it is only occasionally and on clear nights free of light pollution.  This makes me more determined to keep my seat on the “green” bandwagon and fight pollution (of all kinds).  It is more than worth it for a chance at glimpsing the ISS, especially if I can do so right from my backyard!  For more information about the ISS – just in case this is your first time hearing about it – please visit the station’s mission page on NASA’s website, located here.

After looking at the picture “Launch” selected for this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge, the first image that came to my mind was that of the launch of the twin spacecraft for the NASA GRAIL mission.  Geeky of me, I know, but I am absolutely fascinated with outer-space: the universe, constellations, planets, the various galaxies…the list goes on.  As I know I would never have made the cut for being an astronaut, and science was never my best subject in school, keeping up with NASA missions is the closest I will ever get to touching the heavens.

For those who have not heard of it, the purpose of the GRAIL – Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory – mission is to  learn about the structure of the moon – from the interior out – in order to better understand its thermal evolution.  This will be accomplished via the data gathered from the twin spacecraft currently orbiting around the surface of our moon.  With this knowledge, NASA will be able to apply what they have learned from the moon to better understand the evolution of other terrestrial planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.  As part of their Education and Public Outreach – E/PO – program, both spacecraft (GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B) were outfitted with several “MoonKam” cameras.  The purpose of these cameras is to take pictures and video feed of the moon, space, Earth, and the spacecraft themselves.  These images and videos will be available for participating middle schools to use in an effort to increase student knowledge and curiosity about the universe around them, and to foster a stronger desire for learning.  I only wish this was available when I was in middle school – my eighth grade science class would have easily been my favorite!

As I cannot post a picture of the GRAIL launch on my blog, readers can look at the spectacular photos of the launch and the spacecraft themselves by clicking this link.  GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B successfully achieved orbit around the moon over the New Year’s weekend, and will begin work in March of this year.  You can follow-up on the GRAIL mission by visiting either of the following two websites: or  A link to the mission project homepage can be found here.