Tag Archives: atmosphere

2015’s Biggest Science Story

What do you think is the biggest science story of the year? 2015 isn’t over yet, but I think it’s safe to say that we have a very good candidate already.

My choice is New Horizons at the Pluto system. Pluto was expected to be a certain way, somewhat like Triton, but it turned out to be completely unique. It was unexpected. It’s likely to still be active, since there’s a huge area covered by ices, there are tall mountains, and the colouration is providing a lot of questions. One of the more recent pictures showed the atmosphere over a horizon that was lit by the sun, and the surface shows mountains. This is that image:

nh-apluto-wide-9-17-15-final_0Click the image to see a larger version. Or go here to see the full sized image.

There are still many months of images to download from New Horizons, so we’ll get to see many more surprises over the next year or so.

So, what’s your choice for biggest science news of 2015?

Recapturing a Place’s Atmosphere

Whenever I’ve been somewhere so many times it feels routing, I start going into automatic mode. I don’t seem to pay attention to my surroundings. When I go to new places, not only do I notice everything around me, I also feel the atmosphere of the place.

Thinking back to when I was a kid, I think I was always sensitive to the atmosphere of the places I was in. I got a certain mood from every place. I always remember camping at the Wapiti River, going to the playground near my house, and playing at recess in elementary school.  Later, after we moved to a new town, I always enjoyed the atmosphere of the undeveloped area behind our house. There was a forested area that I often walked through.

As I grew older, I found that I wasn’t feeling the atmosphere as much. But it wasn’t sudden, it was gradual. Or maybe as an adult, I’ve been distracted by inner thoughts, and just didn’t give my full attention to my surroundings. That’s probably more likely.

What I noticed earlier this week is that I was actually feeling the atmosphere of the place I was in. I was just going out to buy a drink during my lunch break, and as I walked past a temple, I slowed down and just looked around. I started noticing the details of the temple and the high-rise apartment building next to it. It was at that moment that it hit me. I could feel the atmosphere of the place. Not only that, it made me think about how it felt when I was a newcomer in Japan. Everywhere had an atmosphere. That’s one reason I started walking around neighbourhoods near train stations. I wanted to experience the atmosphere of different places. It fascinated me.

But lately, I haven’t really gone anywhere new. And then I decided what I would do with my YouTube channel, and I think I found a way to recapture that feeling. I started thinking about the places I could go, make videos, and share the atmosphere of the place with others. I want to give people a simple view of the place. Little talking, just observe what’s around. I decided to call this series A Taste of Japan. Maybe through this, I can regain that feeling of newness that I used to have. I hope I can. And I hope you’ll enjoy watching the videos, too.

The Skies of Mars Are Getting Busy

Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Odyssey are being joined by a pair of probes this week.  There will be five active orbiters around Mars.  That’s certainly a new record.

MAVEN concept art, NASA.
MAVEN concept art, NASA.

Already arrived is NASA’s MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution. It arrived at Mars on September 22nd, and has assumed orbit.  It will study the atmosphere and try to determine where the water had gone.  What’s interesting is that it’ll study how quickly the atmosphere is being stripped away by solar winds, so they may be able to extrapolate the thickness of the atmosphere billions of years ago, as well as see how much water there was.

Mars Orbiter Mission artist concept, by Nesnad for Wikipedia.
Mars Orbiter Mission artist concept, by Nesnad for Wikipedia.

The second probe arriving at Mars is the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), or Mangalyaan. It arrives at Mars today! This mission is exciting not because of what it will do, as much of it is pretty simple compared to what NASA and ESA orbiters have done, but it is the first time India has sent a probe to another planet.  Seeing other countries with successful interplanetary missions is very encouraging.  Apart from testing the technology, which is the primary mission, it also has scientific secondary objectives, including studying the mineralogy, morphology, and atmosphere.  This should be interesting.

Pretty busy at Mars now, isn’t it?  Which mission are you interested in?

Feeling the Atmosphere in Reading

I love reading books that pull me into the scene.  The action and dialogue is very important, but I get a lot of the feeling from the setting.  I love beautifully described scenery in books.

For example, Dan Simmons does a wonderful job in his Hyperion Cantos series in describing the different worlds.  I feel like I’m there.  There are so many wondrous and spectacular worlds to explore.  George R. R. Martin does a great job with A Song of Ice and Fire (aka Game of Thrones for those of you who only watch the TV series).  I feel the realism and grittiness of the atmosphere.

In the real world, I enjoy exploring new places, not only to see interesting things, but also to discover new atmospheres.  I like to experience how a place feels, and how it makes me feel.  Every place is unique, even though the urban landscape doesn’t change very much here in Japan.  Every neighbourhood has its own character and atmosphere.  I love that.

Weather also affects atmosphere.  Weather is, by definition, caused by the atmosphere, and it also creates atmosphere.  Later this week, a typhoon will hit my area.  During a typhoon, everything seems to change.  It’s like I’m in another place.  In fact, I love typhoons.  I find them fascinating.  I’m looking forward to the weather this week.

The sun can also create atmosphere.  Nighttime feels totally different than daytime.  The shadows are different.  The air is different.  Areas that are vibrant and busy during the day may be dark and mysterious at night.  This is shown quite a bit in Terry Brooks’ The Word and the Void series.  A lot of the story takes place in a park, yet the feeling is totally different between day and night.

Seasons bring different atmospheres, as well.  I love the feeling of spring and summer.  While the weather is wonderful here in fall, it also gives me a feeling of sadness, as it’s getting cooler and moving toward winter.  Winter is my least favourite season, so I’m thankful it’s quite short in the Tokyo area.  But snow can sure change the atmosphere.  It rarely snows here, but when it does, it seems strangely peaceful, yet chaotic.  The white coating over everything looks and feels peaceful, but human behaviour is completely changed.  And lots of people are out when it snows, especially those trying to figure out how to drive and walk.

Whether in a book or real life, I really enjoy feeling the atmosphere.  It can affect my mood and outlook on the day or scene.

How’s the atmosphere where you are now?