Much of the big news this week seemed to concern things outside our planet’s atmosphere. For today’s Quality Linkage column we decided to share a bit of cosmic perspective. So suit up, strap in, and join us on a journey to the boundaries of imagination.
If you want the perfect reading music for this week’s linkage, we suggest the Cosmos: a Spacetime Odyssey soundtrack.
In case you missed it, the big news this week was all about the Rosetta Philae lander mission, humanity’s first-ever comet landing.
The comet’s name? 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It’s hurtling through deep space somewhere in our solar system right now, and it’s about the size of a small city.
As the gif below illustrates, the Rosetta mission has actually been going on for a decade (with another decade of research preceding that). It began tracking the comet in May 2014, met up with it in August 2014, and only now has it been able to finally land on the surface.
Unfortunately, the mission hasn’t gone as smoothly as hoped. Still, what a historic moment for humanity. This is what we’re capable of when we put differences aside and work together toward a common goal. Just imagine what we can do next.
See also this stunning Flickr gallery from the European Space Agency showing images taken by the Rosetta.
If you haven’t seen Christopher Nolan’s latest movie Interstellar yet, do it as soon as possible. Thanks to the teamwork of astrophysicist Kip Thorne and special effects wizard Paul Franklin, the film contains the most accurate simulation to date of what a black hole might actually look like.
Franklin’s team wrote new rendering software based on these equations and spun up a wormhole. The result was extraordinary. It was like a crystal ball reflecting the universe, a spherical hole in spacetime. “Science fiction always wants to dress things up, like it’s never happy with the ordinary universe,” [Franklin] says. “What we were getting out of the software was compelling straight off.”
Please excuse us as we become mesmerized for the next several hours by this gorgeous time-lapse. It was made from more than 17K images captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory between October 14th and October 30th, 2014.
As Jason Kottke summarized:
The bright area that starts on the far right is sunspot AR 12192, the largest observed sunspot since 1990. […] The sunspot is about 80,000 miles across (as wide as 10 Earths) and it’s visible from Earth with the naked eye.
If you’re lucky enough to own the new Retina iMac, that’s where we recommend watching the video.
An interesting, personalized test put together by BBC Earth. After entering some basic information about yourself, you are treated to an interactive infographic full of facts about your life and the world around you.
For example, there have apparently been 64 solar eclipses in my lifetime, I have traveled 17,112,986,000 miles around the sun (and counting), I would be 120 years old on Mercury, and a penguin of my age would have a family of 5 generations by now.
Rather than try to explain the entire game here, we recommend just buying it and getting immersed. If you want more info anyway, Neven wrote a great summary post explaining the gameplay and mechanics. You can also watch a trailer and game preview at the Space Age official site.
In one of the more interesting pieces of astronomical news I’ve seen recently, NASA somehow used an enormous galaxy cluster called Abell 2744 (aka Pandora’s Cluster) as a sort of cosmic lens to peer into the universe, resulting in the discovery of one of farthest, faintest, and smallest galaxies we’ve ever seen.
The new-to-us galaxy is only 850 light-years across (500 times smaller than our own Milky Way galaxy) and forms new stars at just 1/3 the rate ours does. Fascinating stuff!
If you’ve got any suggestions for articles, videos, stories, photographs, and any other links you think we should be posting in our weekly Quality Linkage, please send an email to Shawn Blanc.