Science in motion: NASA has a new giphy channel and it’s fabulous

5
A Simple Click Really Helps

NASA has a new giphy channel, and it’s like drinking from a fire hose of win. The whole page is crammed full of things that immediately made me open a new browser tab and start googling — which, as a scientist, curious person, space enthusiast, and all-around nerd, I consider high praise. (NASA’s also got a Pinterest board, if you’re thusly inclined.)

Home schoolers and STEM educators in particular could use this page as an engaging jumping-off point for teaching little zerglings about space. These gifs are concise enough to capture even a very short attention span, and their content spans the STEM bailiwick from how-it’s-made shots of spacecraft construction to mini-movies of solar flares, satellites, rocket launches and even reaction gifs of crew members and mission scientists losing their chill over launch successes.

Among the (currently) 462 pieces of eye candy are some recurring themes:

Andromeda vs. the Milky Way

Right now, the Andromeda Galaxy is barreling toward the Milky Way at 250,000 mph. It’s expected to collide with the Milky Way in about 3.75 billion years. Our solar system should survive the cataclysm — space is mostly space, so we won’t collide with other stars, and our sun isn’t supposed to turn into a red giant and consume the Earth until about 5 billion years from now. But we could also be flung away into space to become a rogue star system, our former galaxy fading into the distance. Either way, our night sky will be completely changed. Observers on Earth would see an incredible show.

This is a fluid-dynamics artist’s rendering of what it’ll look like to a distant observer when the Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way collide in just under 4 billion years.

Orbital mechanics

There are fascinating 3D pan-and-zoom images of the complex shapes orbits can take, which led me to start looking into complex orbital shapes, and you wouldn’t believe the wacky horseshoe-shaped orbits you can achieve with the right conditions. We think of orbits as if every pass occurs along the same line in space, like a train on a track. But the way things move in space means that orbiting bodies leave a cluster of 3D traces behind them that are oddly engrossing to track and contemplate. The Perseid meteor shower, for example, happens because our planet passes through the 3D network of Swift-Tuttle’s cometary debris trails.

NASA does a great deal of calculation to know in advance exactly where its spacecraft will be at any given time, and telemetry from the spacecraft let them hone their equations and assumptions in real time. This shows the way Cassini will orbit Saturn until we deorbit the spacecraft by crashing it straight into the planet.

Chris Hadfield

Everyone’s favorite Canadian spaceman lends his deadpan to, among a great many other shots, these very important gifs of Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station, eating a Space Tortilla.

With Space Hot Sauce, because reasons.

Movies from Mars

What do our Mars rovers see? Take a virtual tour around the Red Planet with these scenic views from Curiosity as it ascends Mount Sharp.

Pan around by clicking and dragging. This is Mars!

Storms on Saturn

Currently I’m a little obsessed with the hexagon rotating around Saturn’s north pole. It’s a regular hexagon whose sides are longer than the diameter of the Earth. Cassini even saw it change color as Saturn’s northern hemisphere changes seasons; right now our best guess as to why it’s changed from blue to gold is that the increased solar gain during Saturn’s seven-year summer produces more photochemical clouds. There are exoplanets that have such visible shapes, too, but sadly, they’re probably not because of aliens.

Scientists modeled the fluid dynamics around Saturn’s pole and found that, accounting for things like shear layers, density, and the particular chemicals being churned up in the storm, the hexagon is probably an emergent phenomenon of the unfathomable vortex swirling around the pole. The scientists who did the modeling were able to make regular polygons from three to seven sides in their vortex model. In any case, NASA has done a lot of imaging of the hexagon, including a huge, psychedelic infrared montage of the hexagon with its vortex in motion and a clearly defined eyewall.

Whoa.

Now read: The best science gifts for kids in 2016



Source link

SHARE

Have your say

Loading Facebook Comments ...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here