Venus and the Pleiades
Credit: Jerry Lodriguss
I hate waking up to bad news.
Thanks to Congress and the White House failing to agree on budget cuts, and the subsequent “sequestration” (across-the-board, slash-and-burn, top-to-bottom money-trimming), NASA has announced that they are suspending all education and public outreach activities. It’s a suspension, not a cancellation … but uggghhhh.
NASA knows this sucks. But they’ve been put in a place where they have to choose whether they can support their actual missions with the money they have been given, and no matter how much they value the extras (and they do), it’s rock-and-a-hard-place time for space folks. It’s hard to put presents under the tree if you’re struggling to keep the lights on.
Projects like the Mars Curiosity Twitter account and NASA’s Twitter socials will continue. So what could we be saying goodbye to? These are the outreach programs that put Mars science in underprivileged classrooms, turning science into smiles. The programs that publish free ebooks of our Earth as art, erasing borders and instilling wonder in one fell swoop. Programs that allow us to travel beyond our planet in a single click. These are programs that plop down space telescope mock-ups in the middle of downtown Austin so the kid in me can do cartwheels with sciencey glee.
Today, online, there are so many wonderful places that can take up the slack (blogs and websites like this). But will we be able to do this effectively if NASA can’t even do it themselves? I don’t know. But we will try.
Because if we do try, then we can remind people who vote and people who make budgets of what NASA already knows: Whenever we look up, we are inspired to make new things possible, in sciences terrestrial and astronomical. And when we look back down at Earth, and those borders disappear, doesn’t it make you want to make this chart a little more even?
The Hubble Space Telescope has been looking deep into the Cosmos for over two decades returning over a million observations of planets, exoplanets, nebulae, galaxies and clusters of galaxies. The mission has surpassed our wildest expectations, but some of the most intricately beautiful views of the Universe have been released only recently — sometimes in collaboration with other observatories.
(via n-a-s-a)Source: news.discovery.com
Earth from Space: Deep South Delta
This Landsat image of 3 October 2011 shows the Mississippi River Delta, where the largest river in the United States empties into the Gulf of Mexico. In this false-colour image, land vegetation appears pink, while the sediment in the surrounding waters are bright blue and green. The delta is known as the ‘bird-foot’ delta because of the shape created by the channels extending outward.
The size of the Mississippi River Delta built over millions of years owing to sediment deposition. The tons of sediment carried by the river system created the wetlands in southern Louisiana, which are home to many endangered species and help to protect the mainland from hurricane winds by acting like speed bumps.
Over the last several decades, however, the delta’s sediment load has been drastically reduced by natural and man-made factors. Extensive oil and gas extraction causes the subsidence of the delta and wetlands, and rising sea levels increase erosion as the fresh water vegetation dies due to the influx of salt water.