Skip to main content

NASA assembled this amazing video of the Sun in Ultra-HD (4K) from footage generated by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, and added some tasty music by Lars Leonhard to it. On top of that, the folks at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center decided to make this video public domain, posting it so it can be downloaded at:, along with several others. If they keep doing this, I might have to break down and buy myself a TV suitable for watching these on, and download the entire collection.

When LIGO detected the gravity wave signature of two black holes merging, it inspired the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes Project to create this simulation of the event as it would have appeared to human eyes, and post it online. The Astronomy Picture Of the Day site maintained by the folks at NASA then picked it up, which is where I stumbled across it. For those wondering, LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, a technology dreamed up by Einstein and an operation run by Cal Tech and MIT. The video is slowed way down so you can make out details, the part of the event simulated took about a third of a second to happen. I particularly liked the gravitational lensing effect, nice attention to detail.

The ISS, or International Space Station, is very easy to see from the surface of the Earth using just the Mark I Eyeball, providing you know where to look, and depending on whether or not you will have clear sky’s for viewing. There are a number of resources available for knowing where to look; the one embedded here is from the folks at SatFlare, who do a great job with online satellite and flare tracking. Another favorite is the one at I.S.S. Tracker, and of course Heavens-Above has a 2D tracker, the 3D tracker I linked here, and an app you can download to your phone or tablet. I rather enjoy watching the ISS hurtling overhead, knowing that someone might be looking back at us; you should try it sometime and see if you don’t agree.

The award winning short film Somnium was created by Team Somium of The Animation School in South Africa, the team being Gerard Seymour, Riann Sholtz, Pieter Louw, Eben De Waal, Jasmine Morvan, and Greta Pepler. The award it won was the World Silver Award from the New York Festival’s International Television & Film Awards of 2014, and it only takes about 5 minutes to watch. I find it interesting but appropriate that they named it after the 1608 science fiction story Somnium by astronomer Johannes Kepler. Enjoy!

In Shelf Life Episode 5 we get to learn how astronomers collect baseline data over time, and collate it into a meaningful picture about how stellar phenomena change in periods as short as generations. The common belief in scientific circles used to be that stellar events either happened overnight, like supernovas, or took tens of thousands to millions of years to evolve to the next stage. Recently some museums have been compiling the images of the night skies taken on photographic plates as far back as the 1890s into a huge database, and then processed the results to show small pieces of sky over that 130 year span. What they discovered was that lots of stars fluctuate over a decade or two much more than anyone suspected, rather than remaining unchanged for the lifetimes of civilizations. I can’t wait to find out what new insights we gain with this as a baseline supposition as we process still more collections of data that we were never able to put together before computers made it easy.