Donald Trump is so spectacularly horrible that it’s hard to look away – especially now that he’s discovered bombs. But precisely because everyone’s staring gape-mouthed in his direction, other world leaders are able to get away with almost anything. Don’t believe me? Look one country north, at Justin Trudeau.
Look all you want, in fact – he sure is cute, the planet’s only sovereign leader who appears to have recently quit a boy band. And he’s mastered so beautifully the politics of inclusion: compassionate to immigrants, insistent on including women at every level of government. Give him great credit where it’s deserved: in lots of ways he’s the anti-Trump, and it’s no wonder Canadians swooned when he took over.
But when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in Washington.
Not rhetorically: Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5C (2.7F).
But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tar sands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.
Last month, speaking at a Houston petroleum industry gathering, he got a standing ovation from the oilmen for saying: “No country would find 173bn barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”
Yes, 173bn barrels is indeed the estimate for recoverable oil in the tar sands. So let’s do some math. If Canada digs up that oil and sells it to people to burn, it will produce, according to the math whizzes at Oil Change International, 30% of the carbon necessary to take us past the 1.5C target that Canada helped set in Paris.
That is to say, Canada, which represents one half of 1% of the planet’s population, is claiming the right to sell the oil that will use up a third of the earth’s remaining carbon budget. Trump is a creep and a danger and unpleasant to look at, but at least he’s not a stunning hypocrite.
Reaching out into space yields benefits on Earth. Many of these have practical applications — but there’s something more than that. Call it inspiration, perhaps, what photographer Ansel Adams referred to as nature’s “endless prospect of magic and wonder."
Our ongoing exploration of the solar system has yielded more than a few magical images. Why not keep some of them close by to inspire your own explorations? This week, we offer 10 planetary photos suitable for wallpapers on your desktop or phone. Find many more in our galleries. These images were the result of audacious expeditions into deep space; as author Edward Abbey said, "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
1. Martian Selfie
This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the robotic geologist in the “Murray Buttes” area on lower Mount Sharp. Key features on the skyline of this panorama are the dark mesa called “M12” to the left of the rover’s mast and pale, upper Mount Sharp to the right of the mast. The top of M12 stands about 23 feet (7 meters) above the base of the sloping piles of rocks just behind Curiosity. The scene combines approximately 60 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Most of the component images were taken on September 17, 2016.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution, enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). Pluto’s surface sports a remarkable range of subtle colors, enhanced in this view to a rainbow of pale blues, yellows, oranges, and deep reds. Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a complex geological and climatological story that scientists have only just begun to decode.
On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, our Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings — and, in the background, our home planet, Earth. This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn’s orbit, the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.
Before leaving the Pluto system forever, New Horizons turned back to see Pluto backlit by the sun. The small world’s haze layer shows its blue color in this picture. The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn’s moon Titan. The source of both hazes likely involves sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to relatively small, soot-like particles called tholins. This image was generated by combining information from blue, red and near-infrared images to closely replicate the color a human eye would perceive.
A huge storm churning through the atmosphere in Saturn’s northern hemisphere overtakes itself as it encircles the planet in this true-color view from Cassini. This picture, captured on February 25, 2011, was taken about 12 weeks after the storm began, and the clouds by this time had formed a tail that wrapped around the planet. The storm is a prodigious source of radio noise, which comes from lightning deep within the planet’s atmosphere.
Jupiter is still just as stormy today, as seen in this recent view from NASA’s Juno spacecraft, when it soared directly over Jupiter’s south pole on February 2, 2017, from an altitude of about 62,800 miles (101,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops. From this unique vantage point we see the terminator (where day meets night) cutting across the Jovian south polar region’s restless, marbled atmosphere with the south pole itself approximately in the center of that border. This image was processed by citizen scientist John Landino. This enhanced color version highlights the bright high clouds and numerous meandering oval storms.
X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by our Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by our Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The NuSTAR data, seen in green and blue, reveal solar high-energy emission. The high-energy X-rays come from gas heated to above 3 million degrees. The red channel represents ultraviolet light captured by SDO, and shows the presence of lower-temperature material in the solar atmosphere at 1 million degrees.
This image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows Victoria crater, near the equator of Mars. The crater is approximately half a mile (800 meters) in diameter. It has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material. Since January 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been operating in the region where Victoria crater is found. Five days before this image was taken in October 2006, Opportunity arrived at the rim of the crater after a drive of more than over 5 miles (9 kilometers). The rover can be seen in this image, as a dot at roughly the “ten o'clock” position along the rim of the crater. (You can zoom in on the full-resolution version here.)
Last, but far from least, is this remarkable new view of our home planet. Last week, we released new global maps of Earth at night, providing the clearest yet composite view of the patterns of human settlement across our planet. This composite image, one of three new full-hemisphere views, provides a view of the Americas at night from the NASA-NOAA Suomi-NPP satellite. The clouds and sun glint — added here for aesthetic effect — are derived from MODIS instrument land surface and cloud cover products.
It’s been 25 years since the heroic pink puff made his debut, so we’re celebrating with a sale on Kirby games for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS family of systems. The included games are a great way to play through Kirby’s history, from his very first appearance in the Kirby’s Dream Land game all the way to last year’s Kirby: Planet Robobot. Make sure to check the sale out before it ends at 8:59am PT on Aug. 8.
It’s the time of year for summer break, swimming, and oh, yes storms. June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season on the Atlantic coast, but we’re not alone. Our neighboring planets have seen their fair share of volatile weather, too (like the Cassini spacecraft’s view of the unique six-sided jet stream at Saturn’s north pole known as “the hexagon”).
This week, we present 10 of the solar system’s greatest storms.
1. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot
With tumultuous winds peaking at 400 mph, the Great Red Spot has been swirling wildly over Jupiter’s skies for at least 150 years and possibly much longer. People saw a big spot on Jupiter as early as the 1600s when they started stargazing through telescopes, though it’s unclear whether they were looking at a different storm. Today, scientists know the Great Red Spot has been there for a while, but what causes its swirl of reddish hues remains to be discovered. More >
2. Jupiter’s Little Red Spot
Despite its unofficial name, the Little Red Spot is about as wide as Earth. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. More >
3. Saturn’s Hexagon
The planet’s rings might get most of the glory, but another shape’s been competing for attention: the hexagon. This jet stream is home to a massive hurricane tightly centered on the north pole, with an eye about 50 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. Numerous small vortices spin clockwise while the hexagon and hurricane spin counterclockwise. The biggest of these vortices, seen near the lower right corner of the hexagon and appearing whitish, spans about 2,200 miles, approximately twice the size of the largest hurricane on Earth. More>
4. Monster Storm on Saturn
A tempest erupted in 2010, extending approximately 9,000 miles north-south large enough to eventually eat its own tail before petering out. The storm raged for 200 days, making it the longest-lasting, planet-encircling storm ever seen on Saturn. More >
5. Mars’ Dust Storm
Better cover your eyes. Dust storms are a frequent guest on the Red Planet, but one dust storm in 2001 larger by far than any seen on Earth raised a cloud of dust that engulfed the entire planet for three months. As the Sun warmed the airborne dust, the upper atmospheric temperature rose by about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. More >
6. Neptune’s Great Dark Spot
Several large, dark spots on Neptune are similar to Jupiter’s hurricane-like storms. The largest spot, named the “Great Dark Spot” by its discoverers, contains a storm big enough for Earth to fit neatly inside. And, it looks to be an anticyclone similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. More >
7. Sun Twister
Not to be confused with Earth’s tornadoes, a stalk-like prominence rose up above the Sun, then split into about four strands that twisted themselves into a knot and dispersed over a two-hour period. This close-up shows the effect is one of airy gracefulness. More >
8. Titan’s Arrow-shaped Storm
The storm blew across the equatorial region of Titan, creating large effects in the form of dark and likely “wet” from liquid hydrocarbons areas on the surface of the moon. The part of the storm visible here measures 750 miles in length east-to-west. The wings of the storm that trail off to the northwest and southwest from the easternmost point of the storm are each 930 miles long. More >
9. Geomagnetic Storms
On March 9, 1989, a huge cloud of solar material exploded from the sun, twisting toward Earth. When this cloud of magnetized solar material called a coronal mass ejection reached our planet, it set off a chain of events in near-Earth space that ultimately knocked out an entire power grid area to the Canadian province Quebec for nine hours. More >
10. Super Typhoon Tip
Back on Earth, Typhoon Tip of 1979 remains the biggest storm to ever hit our planet, making landfall in Japan. The tropical cyclone saw sustained winds peak at 190 mph and the diameter of circulation spanned approximately 1,380 miles. Fortunately, we now have plans to better predict future storms on Earth. NASA recently launched a new fleet of hurricane-tracking satellites, known as the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), which will use the same GPS technology you and I use in our cars to measure wind speed and ultimately improve how to track and forecast hurricanes. More >
Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.