by Alex Autin


Marseille vs Mars

Vive la différence…


While there are a few noticeable differences between Marseille, France on Earth and Gale Crater on Mars, such as one having MUCH better coffee than the other, there is one thing the two locations have in common – stunning sunsets!

The image on the left was taken in May of 2012 by Damia Bouic, and the image on the right was taken in April 2015  by NASA’s Curiosity Rover. The two images were scaled to have the same angular width, and one striking difference between the two is color. On Mars at sunset and sunrise the sky is pinkish-red in color and appears blue in the area of the setting or rising sun. In Marseille, and on Earth in general, we have the opposite of that situation. Our skies appear blue at sunrise and sunset with the area of the setting or rising sun typically appearing orange.

Us humans don’t yet fully understand the reason for the blue hues of Mars, but we think it is related to the forward scattering properties of Martian dust. Oh, and it should be noted that during the day, quite unlike Marseille, the Martian sky is a very uninviting yellow-brown butterscotch color. (This added to the lack of Mediterranean beaches, lack of museums, lack of restaurants, and an abundance of toxic air and extreme amounts of ultraviolet radiation, leads me to think of Marseille as being a much better vacation destination.)

Another noticeable difference in the two above sunsets is the appearance of the size of the Sun itself. Mars is 50% farther from the Sun than Earth. (This should be kept in mind when making travel arrangements. While from my location on Earth a flight to Marseille would take about 15 hours, give or take, and is sure to involve at least one antsy, restless, 7 year old seated directly in front of me, a ‘flight’ to Mars would take about 6 or 7 months using current chemical propulsion methods. Also worth mentioning, providing I survived the flight as well as my stay on planet, arranging a return trip ticket would be a royal bitch. )

Above image credit: Damia Bouic/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Astronomy Picture Of The Day

800px-Mars_sky_at_noon_PIA01546Mars sky at noon, June 1999, imaged by NASA’s Mars Pathfinder.

800px-MarsSunset_losslesscropMars sky at sunset, May 2005, imaged by NASA’s Spirit rover.

800px-Martian-Sunset-O-de-Goursac-Curiosity-2013Mars sky at sunset, February 2013, imaged by NASA’s Curiosity rover. (Simulated position of the Sun.)

May the 4th Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day!


Launching soon to a space station near you….

In celebration of May the Fourth, or Star Wars Day, NASA has issued the above Star Wars themed International Space Station Expedition 45 Crew Poster. How geeky is that?! Well, it’s pretty freaking geeky, and also pretty freaking cool. Featured on the poster are (clockwise from lower left) NASA astronaut Kjell N. Lindgren, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Kimiya Yui, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Volkov, Roscosmos Mikhail Kornienko, and finally (lower right) NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.  (Interestingly, Kelly and Kornienko, who launched to the Station along with Expedition 43, are taking part in an unprecedented One Year Mission which is twice as long as typical U.S. missions.)

And now, in a galaxy far, far, away…a video I’ve posted previously but on this day, May the 4th, it warrants re-posting! The Piano Guys with Cello Wars!


25 Years of Hubble’s Imagery



In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope a group of videos highlighting a selection of the telescope’s images has been featured on its YouTube channel. The videos represent a glimpse into Hubble’s quarter century of service. Here’s a look at one of those videos, Flight to Star Cluster Westerlund 2, which was released to commemorate a quarter century of Hubble exploration and discoveries since its launch on April 24, 1990.

Flight to Star Cluster Westerlund 2: Published on Apr 23, 2015, this visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. In the video we ‘fly’ past foreground stars to approach the lower left rim of Gum 29, along the way we pass through wispy dark clouds before arriving at bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by light and strong stellar winds from the cluster of thousands of stars. Video Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (Viz3D Team, STScI), and J. Anderson (STScI)

All 31 of Hubble’s commemorative videos can be found HERE!


Celestial Fireworks: The sparkling centerpiece of Hubble’s anniversary fireworks is a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2, named for Swedish astronomer Bengt Westerlund who discovered the grouping in the 1960s. The cluster resides in a stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Carina. Image Credit: NASA/ESA

The Hubble Space Telescope was built and launched by NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency, and is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute. Hubble is one of NASA’s Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.



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