Sunday Matinee – Aurora Borealis and North America at Night


[Video Credit: Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center]

This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken October 18, 2011 from 07:09:06 to 07:27:42 GMT[.]

This video compacts about 18-and-a-half minutes of ISS travel into about 30 seconds.

What I particularly enjoy about this video is that it starts looking directly to the area of the planet I occupy. Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula is easily distinguishable, especially due to the city lights of Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, and Seward. South of that you can see Kodiak Island. Immediately north of the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage is brightly lit; Fairbanks can be seen even further to the north. The video travels east across the United States, as you find yourself struggling to decide on whether you should watch the aurora borealis (northern lights) to the north, or try to guess all of the cities you can see due to the concentrated man-made light. Clouds obscure much of the view between Alaska and the Rockies, but they break in time to offer great Canadian views of Calgary and Edmonton.

Following that, Minneapolis/St.Paul stand out, just before Chicago takes center-stage at around 24 seconds in, brilliantly lit, just south of Lake Michigan. You can catch the flashes of a lightning storm as we continue east towards the East Coast of the United States. You might notice how populated and electrified the East Coast is, compared to the Mid-West and the central United States. The video ends just after our view heads east over the coast of Florida, and above the shallow waters of the Bahamas.


Be A Citizen Scientist – Globe At Night 2012

Globe At Night Logo

When we think of what it takes to be a scientist, we imagine many torturous years or studying, research, and education. While that certainly might be the path for a Ph.D. in a field of science, it certainly isn’t required to do science. In all actuality, we do science everyday; most of the time without even thinking about it.

For now, I want you to think about doing some science; science that will help many other scientists around the globe. It’s quick, easy, and fun. Participate in the 2012 Globe At Night.

Globe At Night relies on scientists around the globe, including amateurs, to make simple observations of the night sky in their area. The purpose is to obtain useful data on light pollution and astronomical viewing. Light pollution has a number of detrimental aspects, from negative affects on wildlife to issues regarding energy consumption. Most apparent to skygazers such as myself and many of you, light pollution is quickly degrading our view of the starry night sky. Globe At Night’s mission is to raise awareness about light pollution and collect data to measure its current impacts.

So contribute your scientific skills to the effort! All you really have to do is go outside, look at the constellation Orion (which is one of my favorites and worth viewing just for the sake of viewing it), and then compare your view with the charts provided. Globe At Night has a very user-friendly interface¬†for recording the data, and they even offer smartphone applications (check your market for “Globe At Night”). After that, check out the map that integrates all of the data already being collected around the planet and find out where on Earth you’ll see the darkest skies.

There are four opportunities to participate this year, and the first is currently happening now (January 14 to 23). So please do it now! The next opportunities will be: February 12-21, March 13,22, and April 11-20.

Fellow scientists, thanks for your help!