Tag Archives: gif

This Is What An Erupting Volcano Looks Like from the Space Station (GIF)

On June 12, 2009, the International Space Station’s orbit happened to take it over the Kuril Islands (northeast Japan).

The Kuril Islands were built by volcanic activity and still have active volcanoes. The most active is Sarychev Peak, located on the northwestern end of Matua Island.

Although Sarychev Peak hadn’t erupted since 1989, it was somewhat overdue for one, considering it had previously erupted in 1986, 1976, 1954, and 1946.

By a stroke of luck, the ISS was flying overhead when Sarychev Peak was in the early stages of its eruption on that June day in 2009, and captured a series of amazing images which were converted into the incredible GIF below:

The images (which you can view frame by frame courtesy of NASA here) are remarkable for a number of reasons.

Firstly, there was little to no shearing wind to spread and disperse the ash plume, so the ISS was able to capture crucial features of the eruption, like the pyroclastic flow at the base.

Click to enlarge

The small white cloud at the top of the ash plume is known as a pileus cloud. It was formed as the eruption rapidly pushed the moist air above the island upwards with the plume. As this moist air is pushed upwards, it cools and condenses, forming a cloud. When a pileus cloud in above an eruption or explosion, it’s called an “ice cap”.

One of the coolest features of these images has actually caused a bit of controversy in the science world. If you look around the edges of the images, you will see that the ash plume is emerging from a large circular opening in the clouds.

When the photo was originally published, NASA postulated that the hole was “punched” through the clouds by the upward shockwave of the eruption. But this explanation sparked a debate between meteorologists, geoscientists, and volcanologists who viewed the images. SInce then, two other possible theories have been proposed.

One is that the hole has nothing to do with the eruption at all. In areas where islands are surrounded by oceans with cool surface temperature, it is very common for sheets of clouds to form and drift along with the low-level winds.

When these clouds drift over an island, the moist air closer to the surface is pushed up by the island. Since the air above the marine layer (where the clouds form) is dryer and warmer than the air over the water, the portion of the cloud over the island evaporates, leaving a hole.

Though it looks similar, this type of hole-punch cloud is created when supercooled water droplets (water that is below the freezing point but still in liquid form) in the cloud suddenly separate out into ice crystals and vapor, which quickly evaporates leaving behind a hole. Click to enlarge

The final theory is that as the ash plume rises, the air above it flows down its sides, like water flowing off the back of a surfacing whale. As this air falls, it tends to warm, which could also cause an evaporation of the clouds around the volcano plume.

Whatever the reason, I think we can all agree that watching a volcano erupt from space is a truly mesmerizing site.

Check out the original post from NASA’s Earth Observatory here.


Watching A Cell Divide Under An Electron Microscope Is Mesmerizing (GIF)

Mitosis, or cell division, is the process by which your body grows and/or repairs itself by producing more cells.

In the first stage of mitosis, known as prophase, the cell condenses, and the chromosomes inside the cell’s nucleus replicate. The membrane which encases the nucleus also disappears.

In the second stage, metaphase, these chromosomes align along the center of the cell, held in place by structures known as microtubules. Then in the third phase, anaphase, the chromatids which make up each chromosome are pulled apart to opposite ends of the cell.

In the last phase, telophase, the microtubules disappear, new membranes form around each set out chromosomes, and the cell completes its division. The incredible gif below (courtesy of Nikon’s MicroscopyU) shows a cell going through mitosis:

This gif is sped up though. Mitosis can take anywhere from a few minutes to years or even decades, depending on the animal and what type of cell is being replicated.

For example, human skin cells can replicate in about 20-24 hours, which is why we are able to heal relatively quickly after a cut or scrape.

Human liver cells, on the other hand, take a year or more to replicate, which is why the livers of alcoholics are often destroyed by heavy alcohol consumption over an extended period of time.

The diagram below illustrates the phases of mitosis and gives a little more detail about what is happening in each phase.

Click to enlarge

If You Missed The Blood Moon You Can Watch The Whole Thing Here In Just 9 Seconds (Gif)

You may have heard people talking about the “blood moon” that happened last night. If you missed it, not to worry! Here’s the entire event (which took just under two and a half hours) in just 9 seconds:

Getty Images (25); Gif by Mia Tramz/TIME

To learn more about what caused the blood moon checkout our post about the event from yesterday.

Edit: Just found another cool gif of the event from another perspective-Enjoy!


What Does The Shadow of A Solar Eclipse Look Like From Space? (gif)

This amazing gif was generated using images captured by a weather satellite owned by EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites).

Click to enlarge

The satellite is traveling in geosynchronous orbit, meaning it’s orbiting Earth at the same speed that Earth rotates on its axis. This is what allows the satellite to focus on the same region the whole time.

(Feature photo courtesy of nethskie2010)

Satellite Photos Show the Severity of California’s Worst Drought in 150+ Years (gif)

Check out this gif from grist.org showing California around this time last year and this year. Note the drastic lack of green in the second image, as well as the lack of snow to the northeast.

Last week, California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of drought emergency. So far, 2014 is the driest year since the state began keeping records in the 1840s.

A team of paleoclimatologists (scientists who study the history of weather through geology) from the University of California- Berkeley has been examining old tree rings, which can be used to determine how wet or dry a particular year was.

B. Lynn Ingram, who led the study, believes that California hasn’t seen this level of drought since 1580, and worries that this drought may be a mega-drought, saying,

If you go back thousands of years, you see that droughts can go on for years if not decades, and there were some dry periods that lasted over a century.”

Other studies have previously shown that California has a history of these mega-droughts.

Read more from TIME Magazine here.