I just got back from travel, and now I'm deep into planning my panels for San Diego Comic-Con next week, so at the moment I'm enjoying a slow, broiling panic.
But I couldn't pass up the chance to post this breathtaking picture of the ocean around the Bahamas taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station as it sailed over on July 15, 2014:*
Yegads. You very much want to embiggen that.
The bright lights to the upper left outline Florida (the long glow is from Miami), and you can trace cities up the East Coast of the U.S. Cuba dominates the lower left (cut off a bit by an ISS solar panel), but the teal and turquoise waters are what draw the eye. The islands right in the middle are the Bahamas, and the bright glow smack dab in the middle of the picture, is (I believe) Nassau—remind me not to go stargazing there! The lights must wash out the sky. But that's probably not why people go to Nassau in the first place.
Speaking of the sky, note the green arc of light over the Earth's limb. This is called airglow, and it due to the slow release of energy from sunlight the upper atmosphere stores during the day. It's actually a fascinating physical process that I've described before. In that link I also talk about the brownish-yellow glow beneath it: That's from glowing sodium in the air, and the source of that sodium may be meteors that have previously burned up in our atmosphere!
Amazing. There's no such thing as just a pretty picture taken from space—there is always a lot more going on than you might think. And just like any artwork, knowing the story behind the beauty makes it that much more wonderful.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Irritating Confidante
John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.
My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee
Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?
Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?
Driving in Circles
The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.