Next Stop: Mars with Mae Jemison

by Summer Ash

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Mae Jemison in person as part of a celebration of National Geographic's upcoming special on Mars (part documentary, part drama). Dr. Jemison was a science advisor on the project and helped the team to accurately portray astronaut behavior in crisis as well as how the bunks of the spacecraft should be designed. And she would know, having flown on the Space Shuttle as a Mission Specialist for STS-47.  

After a panel discussion to open the day, I was fortunate enough have Dr. Jemison all to myself for almost half and hour! Knowing I would have this amazing opportunity, I came prepared thanks to Celine...

In addition to personally wearing one of Slow Factory's Women Who Inspire scarves featuring Dr. Jemison along with fellow astronaut, Jan Davis, Celine gave me the scarf of Dr. Jemison alone to present to her in person. So before my time with her was up, I showed her the full design on the scarf I was wearing and told her all about the Women Who Inspire collection. She was amazed such a thing even existed. To her surprise, I then gave her the second scarf and needless to say, she loved both. I managed to get this photo of both of us rocking our scarves in celebration of women everywhere. 

The day ended with a screening of the first episode of the MARS miniseries so clearly I had to represent the red planet with some more Slow Factory

If you don't know Dr. Jemison's work already, I highly recommend reading up on her. A former dancer, she entered college at age 16 and finished medical school by age 25. She then did a stint in the Peace Corps before going on to become the first African American women in space (such a slacker!). One of her current projects it the 100 Year Starship which aims to make interstellar travel a reality in the next 100 years by "including the broadest swath of people and human experience in understanding, shaping and implementing this global aspiration."

National Geographic's MARS airs nationwide on Monday, November 14th. You can already stream the first episode online and there are three more to come. It's a stunning mix of science and narrative jumping between the present in 2016 and the future first crewed mission to Mars in 2033. It will inspire the hell out of you. 

Summer Ash is the Director of Outreach for Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy. Having been both a rocket scientist and a radio astronomer, she’s now harnessing her powers for science communication. She is the "In-House Astrophysicist" for The Rachel Maddow Show and has written for The AtlanticScientific American, Slate, and Nautilus Magazine. She tweets as@Summer_Ash and is also one-half of Startorialist.

Filed under: astronaut astronauts awe event feminism going to space inspiration mae jemison mars national geographic nyc scarf scarves science space who wears slow factory women who inspire

Celestial Send-off

by Summer Ash

 

Yesterday morning, the European Space Agency's Rosetta Mission was given a fond farewell as it performed the final maneuver of its programmed life - a controlled descent onto the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. I'm still consoling myself on the loss by cozying up on my couch in my Le Petite Prince sweater which is one of my most treasured possession in the world.


 

Rosetta launched in 2004, but didn't fully enter our hearts and minds when it rendezvoused with its target in mid-2014 and began sending back some of the most incredible images of this strangely beautiful rocky interloper. 

Browsing through ESA's Rosetta gallery reminds me just what an amazing time we live in. Humans banded together to create the dream, the technology, and the means to not only build and launch a spacecraft to a comet, but one that could orbit it, send down a lander, and then later descend to the surface itself.

Every single image is worth contemplating in detail if you have a quite moment, but here are just a few of my favorites.

 

October 19, 2014: As Rosetta approached the comet in the summer of 2014, scientists saw the comet had a very irregular shape, instead of one lumpy body, it looked more like two stuck together. In fact, the closer Rosetta got, the increased resolution in images revealed it to be shaped like a rubber duck. This image is looking from the "head" of the duck towards the "body." (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

 

January 22, 2015: Comet 67P from a distance of 27.9 km above the surface looking at the "neck" area of the duck. The Hathor cliffs are to the left and the Hapi region strewn with boulders are just right of center. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

 

July 26, 2015: When Rosetta first reached Comet 67P, it was far enough away from the Sun that it wasn't yet "active". But as it continued toward the inner solar system, the Sun's heat caused the ices on the comet to warm and sublimate (go directly from solid to gas). This activity is what gives comet's their characteristic comas and tails. Comet 67P was too small to produce a large observable tail in the popular sense, but Rosetta go a great look at its many outgassing events. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

 

September 30, 2016: Rosetta took a few last photos during its final approach. This is from roughly 16 km above the surface, captured overnight (at least for this New Yorker). (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

 

September 30, 2016: A collage of images of Rosetta's targeting landing site as it continued to descend. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

 

September 30, 2016: Rosetta's final photograph. Scientists estimate this is approximately 20 meters above the surface. (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

There's a sign at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that reads "Dare Mighty Things". I always think of that when celebrating amazing feats like Rosetta. Go big or go home. Rosetta went big and now its at rest in its new home, riding through the Solar System on what is probably the best roller coaster ever.

Summer Ash is the Director of Outreach for Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy. Having been both a rocket scientist and a radio astronomer, she’s now harnessing her powers for science communication. She is the "In-House Astrophysicist" for The Rachel Maddow Show and has written for The AtlanticScientific American, Slate, and Nautilus Magazine. She tweets as @Summer_Ash and is also one-half of Startorialist.

 

Filed under: astronomy clothes comet cosmos exploration little prince petit atlas petit prince rosetta comet rosetta landing science science life space universe

A Universe of Love

by Summer Ash

February is branded as heart month by corporations, but I say we should feel the beat all year long. 

I have a complicated relationship with my heart to say the least, but if anything, it's made me realize the importance of friendship, love, and appreciating the Universe on a daily basis. So on this last day of February, and a bonus one at that, I thought I would share some of my favorite celestial symbols of love. 

The photo at the top of this post is of the surface of Mars, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2009. Launched by NASA in 2005, MRO had a two-year primary mission to study the history of water on Mars. Now almost ten years later, it continues to function, still taking data while also assisting in relaying communication from other satellites and rovers on the Red Planet. 

Our other planetary neighbor, Venus, is of course named after the goddess of love herself. Venus is practically an Earth-twin in size, but an anti-twin in everything else. This image is a composite of radar data taken by the Magellan spacecraft NASA sent to Venus in 1989. The planet itself is shrouded in thick cloud layers, but NASA was able to make this image with radio waves that penetrate the atmosphere and bounce off the planet's surface, giving us a picture of the topography. While on Venus, this dense atmosphere is toxic to life, from here on Earth, it's what allows Venus to shine so bright in our morning and evening skies - and perhaps inspire our imaginations from time to time. 

Eros is a member of the asteroid belt, orbiting the Sun in an orbit similar to Mars, sometime further and sometimes closer. Fittingly, it's a member of the Amor group of asteroids. In 2000 NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR Shoemaker) mission was the first spacecraft to visit Eros and send back high resolution images like this one. Even more incredible is the fact that NEAR Shoemaker successfully landed on the asteroid's surface at the end of its mission life in February of 2001, just over fifteen years ago today. 

Hopefully this image needs no introduction, but if Pluto hadn't captured your heart before, I hope this picture seals the deal. Less than eight months ago, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft arrived at Pluto and snapped this phenomenal image - our first ever glimpse of this distant world. The heart shaped feature (aka Sputnik Planum) became an instant symbol of our love of exploration and discovery. 

Lastly, moving out into the galaxy, I leave you with these nebulae colloquially called Heart and Soul. Located over 6,000 light years away from us, these regions of gas and dust, called nebulae, are where are stars are actively being formed (or at least they were 6,000 years ago!). This image was taken with NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) which was launched into Earth orbit in 2009. WISE uses infrared light to detect emission from dust, asteroids, brown dwarfs, stars and galaxies. It captured the glow of these striking regions, IC 1848 (aka Soul Nebula) on the right and IC 1805 (aka Heart nebula) on the left, in 2010. I think it's safe to say, it also captured my heart for now and evermore. 

I hope you'll take this opportunity to look around you and realize that love is everywhere, here on Earth and throughout the Universe, not only during "heart month" but everyday. 

Summer Ash is the Director of Outreach for Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy. Having been both a rocket scientist and a radio astronomer, she’s now harnessing her powers for science communication. She is the "In-House Astrophysicist" for The Rachel Maddow Show and has written for Scientific American, Slate, and Nautilus Magazine. She tweets as @Summer_Ash and is also one-half of Startorialist.

Filed under: allthelove asteroid asteroid belt astronomy awe cosmos Eros heart heart and soul inspiration love Mars nasa nebula pluto romance science science life soul space universe Venus

Olafur Eliasson: Imagine Yourself as an Asteroid

by Alyse Archer-Coite

  

Contact is Eliasson's first solo show in France since that pivotal exhibition at MAM, and only the second solo exhibition presented at the Fondation Louis Vuitton. 

"First imagine that you are an asteroid," Olafur Eliasson's voice intones purposefully. "Focus on the feeling of floating through space and try to be present in that idea." He pauses. "Now be aware of your asteroid self and at the same time the endless space around you." He continues, encouraging you, the listener, to experience the artworks as other asteroids, sliding by you as you continue on your asteroidal trajectory. "Now you have familiarized yourself with the possibility oforbiting through the exhibition," he concludes.

 

 

The exhibition revolves around two large-scale, circular installations. In the first,Map for unthought thoughts, a light source situated on the floor of the gallery illuminates a lattice structure that casts a choreography of shadows across the wall, with the viewers' bodies playing an integral role in the dynamic interplay of shadows. A mirrored wall completes the illusion of an entirely circular space. InContact's second installation viewers encounter a sloping floor, emulating a planetary curve, and a bright, golden horizon line, reminiscent of a celestial eclipse. In a transitional space set between the installations the space titled Double Infinityforms a passageway in the shape of the infinity symbol, with two portholes on either end, perhaps suggesting the looping pathways of electrons or satellites, the future and the past, or the grip of space. 

If you are in Paris, take a trip down asteroid lane...

Foundation Louis Vuitton, 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, 75116 Paris, France

 

 

Filed under: art asteroid contemporary art exploration imagine Louis Vuitton museum nasa Olufar Eliasson science space

The Story Behind Slow Factory

by Celine Semaan Vernon

 

I come from a land of chaos: Beirut, Lebanon. Ever since I was a child, we moved around, traveling from Beirut to Paris to Montreal. Throughout it all, the stars always guided our travels and imagining space became a way to ground me. Because while I never had a traditional definition of home, I always felt comforted by the constant presence of the stars.


That’s why I started Slow Factory. I learned a lot from working with the open-knowledge, open-source movement and how it allowed people to connect to one another. Inspired by NASA’s publicly-available satellite images and by collaborating with other artists, our nebula and supernova collections were created to be a reminder of how we can find beauty and connection in the cosmos.


Now that I’ve made a home in New York, the bright city lights make it harder to see the stars. But if I can help people feel a little more connected with our cosmic silk prints, I will be happy knowing that I’ve made a small impact in a really big way.


- Celine Vernon, founder of Slow Factory

Filed under: astronaut beirut connected connection earth journey love magic mother-ship earth power refugees space story strength struggle survival travel