archiemcphee:

Today the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena teaches us about yet another amazing form of lightning: Red Sprite Lightning. Slovenian photographer Marko Korošec was chasing storms in Vivaro, Italy when he captured these spectacular images of red sprites flashing above a storm taking place over the central Adriatic sea.

"Sprites are large-scale electrical discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, or cumulonimbus, giving rise to a quite varied range of visual shapes flickering in the night sky. They are triggered by the discharges of positive lightning between an underlying thundercloud and the ground. Sprites appear as luminous reddish-orange flashes. They often occur in clusters within the altitude range 50–90 km (31–56 mi) above the Earth’s surface.”

When red sprites flash they only last for a millisecond, so getting to see their beautiful display preserved in dazzling photos like these is an exceptionally rare treat.

Photos by Marko Korošec via Solent News/SIPA Press

[via Design You Trust and Wikipedia]

(via galaxyclusters)

sagansense:

child-of-thecosmos:

Radio and television broadcasting may be only a brief passing phase in our technological development. When we imagine alien civilizations broadcasting signals with radio telescopes, are we any different from earlier generations who imagined riding cannon shells to the moon? Civilizations even slightly more advanced than ours may have already moved on to some other mode of communication, one that we have yet to discover or even imagine. Their messages could be swirling all around us at this very moment, but we lack the means to perceive them just as all of our ancestors, up to a little more than a century ago, would have been oblivious to the most urgent radio signal from another world. 

But there’s another more troubling possibility: Civilizations, like other living things, may only live so long before perishing due to natural causes, or violence, or self-inflicted wounds. Whether or not we ever make contact with intelligent alien life may depend on a critical question: What is the life expectancy of a civilization?

- Episode 11: The Immortals, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey

Recommended reading:

Everything you need to know about this book can be found in this wonderfully thorough review by Astrobiology Magazine from 2003.

I plan on doing a full writeup/review about this book; however, I can tell you it’s one of the best Carl’s ever written and is still heavily referenced by scientists across multiple fields regarding the search for extraterrestrial life, be it intelligent or otherwise. A review on the book and the study of astrobiology itself can be via a PDF by Charley Lineweaver of the Planetary Science Institute at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Earth Sciences.

The most fascinating aspect of this book is that it was originally written by I.S. Shklovskii in Russian, re-translated into English, whereby Carl adds his scientific “two-cents”, expanding on subjects and explaining further in a way only Carl, himself, can. For instance, the last paragraph in Chapter 31: Interstellar contact by automatic probe vehicles:

At this point in the Russian edition of the present work, Shklovskii expresses his belief that civilizations are not inevitably doomed to self-destruction, despite his description of contemporary Western literature as filled with details of atomic holocaust. He expresses his belief that as long as capitalism exists on Earth, a violent end to intelligent life on the planet is probable. There is reason to assume, he asserts, that future peaceful societies will be constructed on the basis of Communism. I am able to imagine alternative scenarios for the future. No one today lives in a society which closely resembles Adam Smith capitalism or Karl Marx communism. The political dichotomies of the twentieth century may seem to our remote descendants no more exhaustive of the range of possibilities for the entire future of mankind than do, for us, the alternatives of the European religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As Shklovskii says, the forces of peace in the world are great. Mankind is not likely to destroy itself. There is too much left to do.

Also recommended:

SETI Scientist Jill Tarter provided a beautiful TED Talk about this subject, and in this interview with NOVA, she speaks on being the inspiration for Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan’s book/film ‘Contact’ whereby Jodie Foster portrays Dr. Tarter.

Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer for SETI, presented an enriching TED Talk about why he’s convinced we’re closer than ever in detecting, contacting, or receiving signals from ETI; and recently, had a Q&A conversation with Science 2.0 appropriately titled “Why I Believe We’ll Find Aliens.”

…stay curious.

(via jtotheizzoe)

bluebottle fly maggot cat flea moth caterpillar dust mite, the kind that are most certainly in house right now feeding on your dead skin cells mosquito larva magnified more than a thousand times a parasitic water mite on a mosquito larva, at 700 times magnification woodworm larva silkworm moth caterpillar water bear magnified at 500 times

nubbsgalore:

coloured scanning electron microscopy by steve gschmeissner (and sixth photo by nicole ottawa). an electron microscope uses a particle beam of electrons, which have much shorter wavelenghts than photons (visible light) and produce a greatly magnified image of the illuminated specimen (up to 10 million times).

dyk: the tardigrade, or water bear, seen in the last photo, can survive in temperatures of one degree kelvin and tolerate pressures six times that of the deepest oceans. despite preferring simple ground dirt, these creatures (which aren’t technically extremophiles) were shown in one experiment to have survived ten days in the vacuum of space. they can also endure heavy doses of radiation and hibernate for a decade. 

dy-also-k: the maggots of the bluebottle fly (the goofy looking dude in the first photo), are used medicinally to clean wounds. once sterilized, they are placed in a wound where they feed on dead tissue and leave healthy tissue untouched. their saliva contains anti bacterial chemicals which maintain sterility in the area.  

click pic for a description of other photos. see also: previous microscopy posts

(via galaxyclusters)