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Best of Goddard Video 2011: Beautiful Universe

December 14th, 2011 3 comments

multiple wavelenth sun imageOn Friday this week, NASA/Goddard filmmakers, writers, and animators will screen what they consider their best work of 2011. It’s called the Best of Goddard Film Festival, and it’s held every year about this time for Goddard employees. (For employees, the festival will run from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm in the Goett Auditorium, Building 3.)

Even if you are “outside the Center” and can’t be here with us, you can still watch and enjoy the entries to the festival that are available on YouTube on the NASA Explorer channel. They’ll run in groups this week on the blog.

Previous posts featured NASA scientific discoveries from 2011 and Space Technology. Today, let’s look at videos featuring scientific phenomenon in our beautiful universe.

SDO: Year One

  • Video Editor:Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Producer:Scott Wiessinger (UMBC)
  • Scientist:Barbara Thompson (NASA/GSFC)
  • Writer:Barbara Thompson (NASA/GSFC)



Massive Solar Eruption Close-up
Animator:Tom Bridgman (GST)
Video Editor:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Producer:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)



Lunar Eclipse Essentials

  • Animators:Chris Smith (HTSI) Ernie Wright (USRA)
  • Video Editor:Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Narrator:Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Producer:Chris Smith (HTSI)
  • Scientist:Richard Vondrak (NASA/GSFC)
  • Writer:Chris Smith (HTSI)

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.





Explore the sun in depth with JHelioviewer

June 15th, 2011 Comments off

Post 1 of 5: Explore the sun on your desktop with Helioviewer
Post 2 of 5: Getting Started with Helioviewer.org
Post 3 of 5: Explore the sun in depth with JHelioviewer]

New interactive visualization tools developed by the NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Helioviewer Project allow scientists and the general public to explore images captured by solar observing spacecraft. Previous posts explained the origins and aims of the Helioviewer Project, and the basics of a Web-based app called Helioviewer.org. This post takes a closer look at a downloadable software application JHelioviewer.

JHViewer_600

The Web app Helioviewer.org allows you to dip your toes into the water of solar image visualization. JHelioviewer, a piece of software you install on your computer, is a dive into the deep end. It gives you powerful additional tools to create vivid images and time-lapse videos.

When you install and start JHelioviewer, it displays a time-lapse video of the most recent 24-hour set of images available from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) at 171 Angstroms. (Read this previous post to learn more about the AIA 171 Angstrom channel on SDO.)

Here are the basic menus along the left of the JHelioviewer desktop. Guidance is also available on the JHelioviewer Wiki Handbook.

SCREEN SHOT OF overview menu areaOverview
In the Overview menu area (top left), use the yellow frame with the little “Bull’s eye” to target the area of the image you want to work with. If you have a thumb wheel on your mouse, use it to expand or contract the size of the frame. Or use the Zoom in and Zoom out buttons on the top navigation bar.

One of the coolest tools in JHelioviewer is Feature tracking. Center the yellow Bull’s eye on a feature and click the Track icon on the top-navigation bar. When you make a time-lapse video, it will hold the targeted feature steady as the rest of the sun moves around it! The software compensates for the rotation of the sun.

This can be especially dramatic if you zoom in close to a feature, like a tangle of magnetic loops, and switch on Track. The feature stays right in the center of the viewer as you watch the magnetic loops dance.

movie-controls_250Movie Controls
With the More Options tab selected, you can adjust the per-second cadence of your video sequence. The higher the rate, the smoother the video.

Also, there are three play modes: play once and stop; loop forward; or play forward and then backward.

screen shot of layer menuLayers
These controls allow you to create sets of solar images to examine, alter, and render into videos. Clicking Add Layer brings up a panel for choosing the start and stop dates, the observatory, the instrument, and the time step between images. The time settings are in UTC (coordinated universal time), which is the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). UTC minus 5 hours gives you Eastern Standard Time.

If you, for example, want to make a video of the past day of solar activity, choose a 24-hour start and stop interval. Now you have to choose the Time Step. Once per hour will make a pretty jumpy video.

So, say you pick the other extreme — once per minute. Unfortunately, you can’t do it, because the system limits you to sets of no more than 1000 images at a time, and there are 1,440 minutes in a day. How about every 10 minutes? Set the Time Step to 2 minutes and you will get 144 images to cover the 24-hour period.

screen shot of adjustments menuAdjustments
The video you create initially may already look pretty good. But you can use the Adjustments tools to tweak the look of the video and highlight details. Sharpen compensates for fuzziness. Gamma brightens the image. And Contrast increases the differences between bright and dark areas.

Another cool feature: You can make these changes “on the fly,” as your video continues to play. You can also switch AIA instruments on the fly, and frame rate, too, to get the perfect video.

HEK Events
Turning on this feature adds a layer of labels drawn from the Heliophysics Events Knowledgebase. It labels flares, for example, with a special icon. Clicking on an icon makes a window pop up with detailed technical information about the event.

screen shot of HEK regions

HEK events

Cool stuff in JHelioviewer
You can create multiple layers and adjust the relative contribution of each using the Opacity control. Layers chosen from the same time period will play in synch.

Another cool feature: Notice in the Layers panel how you can watch the minutes, hours, days, etc. progress as the video plays. I made a 1-year video to browse for times of the year when the sun was especially active, then went back to those periods to grab still images.

For example, set the time to October 7, 2010, and make a video of that day. Do you see a big dark circle cross in front of the sun? That was the moon during a lunar transit.

JHelioviewer does not, like the Web app Helioviewer.org, allow you to instantly share your video to YouTube. But you can download it as an mp4 file (File>Export Movie), and post it manually on your blog, YouTube channel, or other sharing sites.

But watch out for the file size! My 1-year video at 12-hour time steps (627 SDO images) came in at a file size of 127 Mb. To generate a smaller output file, make the “frame size” smaller in the Export dialog settings.

Here is the video I made with JHelioviewer of a year in the life of our star, May 2010 to May 2011. You can do it, too.





LEARN MORE

Helioviewer.org (Web app)

A collection of video highlights from 2011 (so far) created by Helioviewer.org users.

See a Helioviewer.org video made by “citizen scientist” LudzikLegoTechnics on YouTube.

The Helioviewer Project Wiki

JHelioviewer (downloadable software)

Read a Web feature about JHelioviewer and its capabilities

The JHelioviewer online handbook

JHelioviewer video tutorial on YouTube HD

ESA Web feature about JHelioviewer.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.




Time-lapse photography of the partial solar eclipse this morning, photographed from England

January 4th, 2011 1 comment




Phil Evans, an X-ray astronomer in England and frequent guest blogger for Geeked On Goddard, sends us this report on the partial solar eclipse this morning. The video above consists of 50 still shots taken by Phil over a 15-minute period. The music is Mars, Bringer of War, by Gustav Holst, brought to you in its copyright-free glory by the U.S. Air Force Band.

Being a Brit and an astronomer is often no fun. The clouds know when something interesting is happening, or you’ve bought a new piece of equipment. Almost every lunar eclipse I’ve tried to watch has been clear until the moon was about 30% covered, and then I was clouded out until the moon was about 30% covered on the way out of eclipse.

So it was with extreme pessimism that I began my first working day of 2011 by trudging my way up to the 5th floor of a tall campus buiding, carrying my brand-new Canon EOS 500D (a Christmas present plus my savings!). Sure enough, as the sky began to glow, two large, banks of cloud were illuminated near the horizon. Typical!

Or not.

Actually, there were two small, sun-size gaps: one between the horizon and the first bank, and one between the two banks. As the Sun rose (surprisingly quickly) we were treated to a fantastic view of the crescent Sun above the trees, distorted by the atmosphere, and actually accentuated by the clouds. They added depth, colour and an extra sense of anticipation as the Sun, rather than baring all, made use of the available cover to dance suggestively, keeping us on the edge of our seats.

108 photos later and the cloud had taken over. But was it worth the climb up 5 floors at 8 a.m.? You bet it was. Nice one, Universe.

— Phil Evans

Follow Phil on Twitter to get updates on hius life and work in X-ray astronomy.
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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.




SDO sees a solar eclipse from space: watch the dark shadow of the moon chug across the surface of our sun

October 18th, 2010 2 comments



On October 7, 2010, the moon passed between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and its target. And SDO saw the equivalent of a partial solar eclipse — from space.  The SDO “Pick of the Week” write-up below provides additional details. Watch the incredible video to see the dark shadow of the moon chug across the surface of our sun.

This was a first for SDO and it was visually engaging too. On October 7, 2010, SDO observed its first lunar transit when the new Moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the Sun. With SDO watching the Sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, the dark Moon created a partial eclipse of the Sun.

These images, while unusual and cool to see, have practical value to the SDO science team. Karel Schrijver of Lockheed-Martin’s Solar and Astrophysics Lab explains: “The very sharp edge of the lunar limb allows us to measure the in-orbit characteristics of the telescope e.g., light diffraction on optics and filter support grids. Once these are characterized, we can use that information to correct our data for instrumental effects and sharpen up the images to even more detail.”

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.



That Was The Week That Was, July 12-16, 2010. . . A Digest of Goddard People, Science, & Media, PLUS Historical Tidbits and Our Best Stuff in the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

July 16th, 2010 Comments off

click to make me big

star factory

MONDAY JULY 12: Washington Post weather blogger Andrew Freedman writes about a recent glacier retreat in NASA eyeballs glacial melt in Greenland. . . .  NASA Earth science storyteller Mike Carlowicz explained the science last week.

DEAD WEIGHT: Engineers at Goddard simulate the heavy load of instruments James Web Space Telescope will carry into deep space.

AWESOMENESS: NASA Blueshift‘s Weekly Awesomeness Roundup covers Hubble fireworks, renegade planets, a mind-blowing physics experiment in Germany, and other USDA Choice Scientific Beef of the week.

MARS ROCKS! Goddard’s Sciences and Exploration Directorate Chief Scientist James Garvin gives you a guided tour of Martian geology on WorldWideTelescope. Here’s the article in The Universe Today.

RABBIT HOLE: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter unveils “rabbit holes” on the moon.

THREE’S A CHARM: On this day in 1961, NASA launched the Tiros 3 satellite. . . In 1960, Tiros 1 had taken the first-ever image of Earth from orbit. . . . Tiros stands for Television and InfraRed Observation Satellite, designed to test experimental television techniques and infrared equipment.

DUST-UP: A Space.com story about effects of lunar dust on equipment quotes Goddard planetary scientist William Farrell.



<b>blooming ocean</b>

blooming ocean

TUESDAY JULY 13: What, ANOTHER fabulous Hubble Space Telescope image of a cosmic star factory? This one’s in the constellation Puppis, the poop deck of Jason’s fabled ship Argo from Greek mythology.

GRAB A SHOVEL: In today’s Systems Engineering Seminar, Warren Mitchell, Syed Hasan, and Jason Laing of the Goddard Flight Dynamics Facility recalled the drama of supporting the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-130) mission and the launch and operation of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) during the worst snowstorm in memory. Rani Gran’s account of Goddard’s Snowpocalyse adventure provides details.

MUMMA’s THE WORD: A video profile of astrobiologist Michael Mumma talks about the origin and evolution of life in the universe. . . . SAM I AM: And don’t miss the series of video profiles of Goddard researchers working on the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument package that will allow the Mars Science Laboratory rover to search for life signs.

OCEAN BLOOMS: The MODIS Image of the Day team posts a mighty fine satellite portrait of phytoplankton blooming in the North Sea.

TURN, TURN, TURN: A video made of GOES-13 satellite imagery tracks two weeks in the rip-roaring life of Hurricane Alex.



<b>X-ray blast</br>

X-ray blast

WEDNESDAY JULY 14: NASA’s Swift observatory is temporarily blinded by the X–ray flash triggered by the explosion of a massive star morphing into a new black hole. . . . ME TOO! Gogblog profiles Phil Evans, the British investigator who uncovered the X-ray flash. . . . FAST WORK: PSU and gogblog post the story 10:58 am; Science NOW posts a “ScienceShot” news brief at 4:24 pm by astro-writer extraordinaire Ken Croswell. . . . LISTEN:How a bright star fooled a top observatory into thinking it was unreal,” according to BBC Five Live presenter Dotun Adebayo. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: The University of Leicester, where Phil Evans works, posts its own release on the blinding blast.

RED PLANET RENDEZVOUS: Forty-five years ago today, the Mariner 4 space probe flew within 6,118 miles of Mars after an 8-month journey. . . . MARINER 4 was the first spacecraft to take close-up pictures of another planet.

NEW TREND: Goddard Tech Trends releases its summer issue, featuring blacker-than-black nanotechnology and other innovations brewing at Goddard.

GULF OIL SPILL: NASA’s Aqua satellite scans the Gulf oil spill in a natural-color image.



<b>planet or comet?</b>

planet or comet?

THURSDAY JULY 15: The late Dr. Timothy Hawarden receives a posthumous NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal for developing innovative cooling techniques for infrared space telescopes — including the coming James Webb orbiting observatory.

SUPER-HUBBLE: Is it a planet? Is it a comet? No — it’s . . . . ANOTHER mind-numbingly interesting Hubble Space Telescope exoplanet discovery!

ORDER UP: According to a report in eWeek.com, Dell Inc. will sell Goddard’s NASA Center for Climate Simulation souped-up servers in a contract worth up to $5.1 million dollars . . . . The new servers will double NCCS’s computational capacity to more than 300 trillion calculations per second.

RUN THAT BY ME AGAIN: “The extreme tail loading and unloading observed at Mercury implies that the relative intensity of substorms must be much larger than at Earth.” Find out what Goddard space physicist James A. Slavin is talking about in a web feature about recent discoveries by the MESSENGER spacecraft.

ECLIPSE PORTRAIT: Like most earthlings, you probably didn’t make it to Easter Island to see the solar eclipse on Sunday July 11. But here’s something you would not have been able to see even from Easter Island: a combined space-and-surface view of the eclipse, created by Goddard media specialist and sun worshipper Steele Hill.

PLANKTON ON PARADE: The What On Earth blog posts the last of four dispatches from guest writer Karen Romano Young on the ICESCAPE expedition, “Plankton On Parade.”



<b>man on the moon</b>

man on the moon

FRIDAY JULY 16: Today in 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off at 09:32:00 am EDT from Launch Complex 39-A Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the first manned landing on the moon.

WoE OF THE WEEK: The What On Earth bloggers post the latest NASA Earth Buzz, with the top recent Earth science stories and the answer to the “What on Earth is THAT?” image quiz from last week. . . . ANSWER: soot particles from a wildfire.

WARM DATA: NASA’s Earth Observatory posts a global temperature anomaly map comparing readings for July 4–11, 2010, to the same dates from 2000 to 2008. Land surface temps come courtesy of the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite.

HOT LINKS: The Physics Today website offers a feature story about NASA’s A-Train of satellites, Touring the atmosphere aboard the A-Train, by Tristan S. L’Ecuyer and Jonathan H. Jiang. “A convoy of satellites orbiting Earth measures cloud properties, greenhouse gas concentrations, and more to provide a multifaceted perspective on the processes that affect climate.”

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.




The solar eclipse from above and below: Blogolicious image of the day, July 15, 2010.

July 15th, 2010 Comments off
click to make me big!

click to make me big!

Like most earthlings, you probably didn’t make it to Easter Island to see the solar eclipse on Sunday July 11. But here’s something you would not have been able to see even from Easter Island: a combined space-and-surface view of the eclipse.

This is another in the series of fantastic solar images that Goddard’s Steele Hill releases to science museums and other public places every week from the Solar Dyanamics Observatory (SDO), SOHO, and STEREO spacecraft. Hill is one of our media people for those three missions.

Steele created this image by combining an image taken by the Williams College Expedition to Easter Island (the black-and-white portion) with snapshots from space courtesy of SDO and SOHO.

SOHO’s contribution, in red, shows the sun’s outer atmosphere (corona). To make the corona more visible,  SOHO uses a device called a “coronograph” to cover the glaring central disk. It’s sort of what you do when you hold your palm out to mask the blinding glare of a bright light shining in your eyes.

The Williams College image (again, the black-and-white portion) shows the sun’s inner corona.

Finally, SDO donated the image of the sun’s central disk to cover the silhouette of the moon, which blocked the sun’s glare during the eclipse.

Goddard's Steele Hill Photoshopically manipulating the sun...

Steele Hill

Voila! A truly blogolicious composite of gogblog’s favorite star ever!

In Steele’s own words:

I’ve done this several times before.  The challenge is correctly rotating the image to align the structures in the eclipse image with the structures the coronagraph sees.  Since the eclipse image was taken in the South Pacific, the image has a different perspective versus our spacecraft.  But that did not take too long.  I like the way that we can combine ground-based and space-borne images and bring the three perspectives together.

For additional details about this image, read the NASA image release from this morning. And let’s not forget to thank Jay M. Pasachoff, Muzhou Lu, and Craig Malamut from the Williams College Eclipse Expedition for allowing this use of their image.

An earlier gogblog post explores one of Steele Hill’s previous solar images from SDO.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.