Captivating Visualization of the Solar System in the Nevada Desert

In a secluded Nevada desert, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits. Using simple objects (marbles and inflatable balls), this do-it-yourself project is beautiful.

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/139407849 w=600 h=400]

It’s pretty incredible that the largest orbit, that of Pluto, is seven miles away from the sun with the scale presented in the video.

I wish there was a “behind the scenes” video to see how they recorded and edited the orbits of the planets.

A Zircon Crystal on Earth Dated to 4.4 Billion Years Old

From a recently published paper in Nature Geoscience, we learn that the oldest dated piece of Earth’s crust is currently dated to 4.4 billion years old. It is a piece of zircon crystal measuring just 400 micrometers long, and its biggest dimension is just a bit larger than a house dust mite, or about four human hairs:

The only physical evidence from the earliest phases of Earth’s evolution comes from zircons, ancient mineral grains that can be dated using the U–Th–Pb geochronometer1. Oxygen isotope ratios from such zircons have been used to infer when the hydrosphere and conditions habitable to life were established23. Chemical homogenization of Earth’s crust and the existence of a magma ocean have not been dated directly, but must have occurred earlier4. However, the accuracy of the U–Pb zircon ages can plausibly be biased by poorly understood processes of intracrystalline Pb mobility567. Here we use atom-probe tomography8 to identify and map individual atoms in the oldest concordant grain from Earth, a 4.4-Gyr-old Hadean zircon with a high-temperature overgrowth that formed about 1 Gyr after the mineral’s core. Isolated nanoclusters, measuring about 10 nm and spaced 10–50 nm apart, are enriched in incompatible elements including radiogenic Pb with unusually high 207Pb/206Pb ratios. We demonstrate that the length scales of these clusters make U–Pb age biasing impossible, and that they formed during the later reheating event. Our tomography data thereby confirm that any mixing event of the silicate Earth must have occurred before 4.4 Gyr ago, consistent with magma ocean formation by an early moon-forming impact4 about 4.5 Gyr ago.

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(via CNN)

The Earth and Stars Seen from the International Space Station

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/38409143 w=600 h=400]

This is a fantastic compilation of the Earth and stars as seen from the International Space Station. It’s amazing the speed that the ISS passes over the Earth: at one moment you’re looking at Europe and the next you’re over China. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, the ISS has an average speed of 17,200+ miles per hour and an orbital period around Earth of 91 minutes.

The editing of the video was done by Alex Rivest, who used Adobe Lightroom to bring out the contrast in the stars. The accompanying music is “Truck out There” by London PM.

Blue Marble: The Most Amazing High Definition Image of Earth

The most amazing high definition image of Earth.

Earlier this week, NASA unveiled an image titled “Blue Marble” and dubbed it the most amazing high definition image of Earth. The image was captured with the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite, Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012.

The full resolution image is a stunning 8,000×8,000 pixels! I have taken NASA’s image and made some minor edits: a global curves adjustment, a saturation boost, and sharpened the image. Click on the image above to download the full resolution image. Makes for a great wallpaper!