dune crossing

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

From images to virtual reality and interactive simulations, NASA offers plenty of ways to explore our solar system – and beyond – in 3-D.

1. Step One: Get the Glasses

Many of the images and interactive features require special glasses with red and blue lenses.

2. Breaking News (Virtual Reality Edition)

Big news from 40 light-years away (235 trillion miles). Our Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, all of them have the potential for water on their surfaces.

No glasses required.

This image was created by combining two images from STEREO B (Feb. 24, 2008) taken about 12 hours apart, during which the sun’s rotation provides sufficient perspective to create a nice 3-D effect.

3. Free-Range 3-D Exploration

Our Eyes on the Solar System app allows free exploration of Earth, our Solar System and thousands of worlds discovered orbiting distant stars. And, you also can explore it all in 3-D!

Under visual controls just check 3-D, pop on your glasses and explore.

4. Your Star in 3-D

The STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission studied the sun in 3-D with twin satellites.

5. National Parks in 3-D

The Earth-orbiting Terra satellite’s Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument provides 3-D views while orbiting Earth, including some great shots of our National Parks.

6. Get in the Pilot’s Seat

Take a look inside the cockpit of our high altitude ER-2 aircraft as it descends for landing at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. This month, scientists used used the aircraft to collect data on coral reef health and volcanic emissions and eruptions. Flying at 65,000 feet, above 95 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, the ER-2 has a unique ability to replicate the data a future satellite could collect. Data from this mission will help in developing a planned NASA satellite mission to study natural hazards and ecosystems called Hyperspectral Infrared Imager, or HyspIRI.

7. Moon Views

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter creates 3-D images from orbit by taking an image of the moon from one angle on one orbit and a different angle on a separate orbit.

This stereo scene looking back at where Curiosity crossed a dune at “Dingo Gap” combines several exposures taken by the Navigation Camera (Navcam) high on the rover’s mast.

8. Martian 3D

Our Mars fleet of rovers and orbiters captures the Red Planet from all angles - often in 3-D.

9. Saturn in 3-D

The Cassini spacecraft’s mission to Saturn is well-known for its stunning images of the planet and its complex system of rings and moons. Now you can see some of them in 3-D.

10. Want More? Do It Yourself!

Put a new dimension to your vacation photos. Our Mars team created this handy how-to guide to making your own eye-popping 3-D images.

BONUS: Printer-Friendly

Why stop with images? The Ames Research Center hosts a vast collection of 3-D printable models ranging from the moon craters to spacecraft.

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

Follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Used book haul! I was definitely feeling the luck of my little bamboo plant today when I found all of these wonderful books! I’ve been waiting ever so patiently to find the fourth Dune book, God Emperor of Dune, and today I finally found it! I’m also nearly up to date with Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings world, so my journey into her other novels was bound to happen soon…thus my happiness at finding Shaman’s Crossing.

Elephants - Namibia

While Namibia is home to thousands of African elephants throughout its national parks, its desert dwelling elephants are often the subject of intrigue. They have adapted to the hot dry conditions, and have a smaller body mass, longer legs, and larger feet than other elephants, allowing them to cross sand dunes more easily to access water. 

They also live in smaller elephant families than usual, often made up of only two or three elephants, so that the burden of finding food to share is decreased. 


St Mary’s Church, East Somerton, Norfolk

CJT and I were back in Norfolk last week to visit my family. On Sunday we struck out for Winterton on a walk. After crossing the dunes and the low-lying farmland we came to St Mary’s Church, a ruin in woodland a hundred yards or so from the main road.

The church is mentioned in the Domesday Book and was in use up until at least 1495 leading me to think it was most likely abandoned after the reformation. Its tower is lost above the belfry stage and the chancel is long-gone leaving a tall arch at the east end. What remains are the walls of the nave, their buttresses, the lower stages of the flint-knapped tower, the handsome, moulded chancel arch and a small amount of Perpendicular tracery on the windows. You can just see where the piscina stood for the side altars by the marks on the brickwork.

Quite an incredible sight to see an oak tree in the nave of a church and ivy creeping down into the tower and it was fun to piece together the history and layout of the church on the ground with no guidebook. 

Dune bedding

The Navajo sandstone (see http://on.fb.me/1seOVqR) was deposited in a vast desert that covered much of western America around 200 million years ago as the Triassic faded into the Jurassic. Huge sand seas, called ergs (and found in the Sahara today, amongst other places) filled the basins of the region, with dunes moving across the surface and overlaying each other in multiple layers. The typical cross bedding in the photo was snapped in Arizona, and shows the pattern created as sand rolls over the back side of a sand dune. The nearly-horizontal layers are beds that record the changeover from one dune to another, typically with some erosion in-between.


Image credit: Rick Scott