Sandy Through a Spyglass

Kevin Ward, of Nasa’s Earth Observatory project, put together this 12-hour time lapse of Hurricane Sandy off the Carolina coasts on October 28th from the GOES-14 satellite. It’s fascinating to watch how complex the dynamics are within and around the storm. A simple swirling pinwheel it is not.

Sometimes people at public outreach events ask me if I look into people’s windows with my telescope. I usually laugh and shake my head and hope that they’re not native to Bulgaria (where yes and no head movements are reversed). But I think from now I’ll explain that, no, I don’t do that. But our government does. Take the time lapse above; satellite imagery of the earth is commonplace in weather reports and newscasts, but lest we forget, there is a US space agency with a budget larger than NASA’s, and its sold purpose is to spy on earth from above. It’s called the National Reconnaissance Office or NRO, and it just recently gave NASA two partially-complete space telescopes that it considers obsolete and superfluous to its needs. Yep, the NRO had two space telescopes, with optics the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope, sitting in mothballs in Rochester, NY, not far from ¬†Bicycle Astronomy Mission Control. Though NRO techs turn their nose up at the ancient optical systems, NASA is foaming at the mouth and, if they can complete the telescopes, can foresee several important science projects it can finally move forward on. Makes you wonder what we would achieve if scientists and not spies had control of the new stuff.

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