Tag Archives: planet

The Real Deal

In the early 1960s I was in grade school, and my mother let me stay home to watch NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft launches on TV. We’d follow the whole exciting run-up and count-down, and cheer for blast-off, willing the fiery ship up, up and away into space.

This gave me my life-long love of space travel stories. Every moment of Star Trek the original series, the next generation, the movies. Star Wars amazed me with its realistic hardware, like Luke’s rusty little flying car – it felt so real!  I never miss a space flick on the big screen if I can help it.

I carried my space fandom into adulthood, thrilled when the Shuttle began to fly, and devastated when the Challenger burst apart before my eyes in the Florida sky. Then we lost Columbia, and the shuttle missions withered to an end.

While we may not be launching as many humans into orbit, NASA has stayed busy with amazing planetary missions and probes bringing us closer to the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets.

Today, the incredible Cassini mission to Saturn and its moons begins its final mission, 20 years after it lifted off from earth. For nearly 13 years Cassini has amazed with the data and imagery from the moons, rings and storms of Saturn.

Watch this. This is epic space opera, folks. And this one is REAL.

 

Miraculous Sounds of Spring

If you heard this sound, would you think it was?

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At first listen, you might think you were hearing something like this:

click to play audio

That’s a sound it’s good to hear in the woods these days. The mid-Atlantic winter has been hard on us, and the singing of frogs brings hope that today’s Spring Equinox has really arrived.

Those are ‘spring peepers,’ tiny chorus frogs that awaken and sing in vernal puddles each year in forest wetlands. They’re tiny: adults rarely more than an inch and a half in length. I am transported by the sound: these durable creatures rise from the frozen mud and sing for love in one of the first bright declarations of spring.

But even more miraculous that these singing amphibians is the first recording. Play it again. What you’re listening to is the dawn chorus of the planet Earth, sounds emitted by the energetic particles of the earth’s magnetosphere, stimulated by the solar wind.

These radio waves are at frequencies which are audible to the human ear, if sound traveled in a vacuum, and if you could expose your ear in space! Here they were recorded by two satellites studying the Van Allen belts and other phenomena of the near solar system.

Happy Equinox!