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Awesomeness Round-up – 4/19/11

This stunning new image was taken of the first six James Webb Space Telescope flight mirrors were being prepped for cryo testing at Marshall Space Flight Center. You can read more about this mirror milestone in the feature.

Flight Mirror Cryo Testing
Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham

There’s a video of the mirrors being installed for cryo testing as well!


This gorgeous time-lapse video was made by Terje Sorgjerd. Around 32 seconds in is something particularly special. He had set up his camera for a 5 hour shot of the Milky Way during which time a sandstorm hit the Sahara Desert, the resulting dust of which made it impossible for the videographer to even see the sky. He assumed the whole shot was ruined. He was surprised to find that his camera actually captured a beautiful scene of golden clouds of sand backlit by Grand Canary Island, with the Milky Way shining through. The whole video is lovely.

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

How do you learn about terrain on extraterrestrial worlds in 3D? You can use a tool called LIDAR. Watch the video for an explanation of what that is!

Or you can actually watch this video in 3D!

We’ve been in a solar minimum for a while, but the sun is starting to be active again, with powerful solar flares on February 15th and March 9th 2011. (The last such eruption was back in December 2006.) Below is an eruption from March 7th when the sun hurled away a “billion-ton cloud of plasma” at five million miles per hour (2200 km/s). The animation is a Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) chronograph of the fast coronal mass ejection (CME) of March 7, 2011 with a Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) 304 angstrom solar image overlaid. Check out the news release for more.
Credit: Naval Research Lab/Karl Battams

Though the plasma cloud wasn’t aimed directly at Earth, our magnetic field did catch a glancing blow, giving a beautiful show of the Northern Lights to the northern parts of our planet, extending even as far south as the US’s northern states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan a view of the Northern Lights.

There are a number of lovely pics of the aurora from this event on Flickr.

Slow moving AuroraCredit: norseman1968

Aurora borealisCredit: norseman1968

In honor of the retirement of space shuttle, NASA put out this fun infographic about the orbiter. You can find the original on the NASA shuttle page under “orbiter facts”.

Credit: NASA

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