Starlight + long exposure + the International Space Station = totally rad

TEDxHouston speaker Don Pettit’s photos from the ISS might have your Instagram feed beat. The cosmonaut’s beautiful images — seen above — capture the trails of light created by stars over a period of 10-15 minutes in captivating detail.

When down on Earth, the NASA flight engineer gave a talk on the fascinating physics of space travel, which we promise isn’t as daunting as it sounds.

Watch the whole talk here»

(Photos: NASA / Johnson Space Center, Don Pettit)

One small step for man, one giant leap for the career fair — meet a space archaeologist!

TEDxSydney speaker Alice Gorman might have one of the coolest job titles ever … space archaeologist. To have known that was a career option back in second grade!

Yep, Alice doesn’t research the things we don’t normally associate with archaeologists — clay pots or ancient weapons or old bones. Instead, she takes on the artifacts we leave beyond our planet: footprints, abandoned satellites, debris, even the American flag.

In her talk at TEDxSydney, Alice lets us in on some of the cool parts of her job, and explains just what space archaeology is all about:

In 1969, the Apollo 11 mission landed on the surface of the moon and changed the way we view the moon forever.

The moon has always been a huge part of human life: it governs the tides; it’s the light in the sky that we see at night; so many myths and legends are centered on the moon.

But now it’s a human landscape. Tranquility Base, where those astronauts first set foot on the moon, is an archeological site. They’ve left artifacts there; they’ve left footprints; we [can] analyze those footprints and artifacts to learn something about that very extraordinary kind of encounter with the landscape…

These artifacts and places, these are human, material interactions with the solar system, with the space environment … They remind us that space isn’t just empty and vast and black and dark and somewhere else out there. We’re actually part of it. We connected to the Earth’s orbit, to the very edge of the solar system.

Space archaeology is something that connects us to our past in space … and to our future in the stars. And that future is yours and mine to decide.

So, next time someone asks what you wanna be when you grow up, you can totally blow them out of the water (or outta this world). And if you’d like to learn more about the cultural history of space, check out Alice’s talk here.

(Above, thanks to NASA, the Earth as seen from the moon, Neil Armstrong’s famous lunar footprints, and Mars Curiosity
's first tracks on the Red Planet.)

Today in cool science news: Sounds from space! Voyager 1 leaves the solar system, sends back an eerie interstellar song

image(Photo: An artist’s rendering of the general locations of Voyager 1 and 2. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Many years ago, NASA’s Voyager 1 left Earth. And now, on a recent star trek, the craft departed our solar system, moved past cosmic purgatory (a real thing), entered interstellar space, and brought home supernatural sounds of the beyond (cue Twilight Zone music).

How did Voyager 1 hear this deep, dark area of space? Via plasma! While traveling through the space between the stars, Voyager 1 recorded vibrations made by the very, very dense plasma of interstellar space, and sent back to Earth the very first recordings of the sound caused by this über-dense ionized gas, which you can hear for yourself in the video below:

To celebrate this grand achievement. 2 TEDx Talks on the wonders of space exploration:

Tour the solar system from home: Jon Nguyen at TEDxSanDiego
Not all of us can board a spacecraft to tour the universe. At TEDxSanDiego, NASA engineer Jon Nguyen demos NASA’s "Eyes on the Solar System" software — a free-to-use program that allows users to navigate our solar system without ever having to leave home. Look out for a Voyager 1 cameo at the 5-minute mark.

A sense of place from space: Joseph P. Allen at TEDxSonomaCountry.
Ever want to know what it’s like to walk around in space? At TEDxSonomaCounty, astronaut Joseph Allen walks you through daily life on the International Space Station:

Mars rover Curiosity captures a solar eclipse …. from Mars

Many of us have seen images of the moon eclipse the sun, but it’s not so often that one sees the sun eclipsed by a moon that is not our own. Yet just a few weeks ago, the telephoto-lens camera of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover saw just that: Mars’s moon Phobos eclipsing the sun.

On August 17, Curiosity snapped a series of photos of Mars’s larger moon, Phobos, “dash in front of the sun,” as Reuters put it. These photos are now considered to be the clearest photos of a Mars solar eclipse ever taken.

Above, at top, you can see three of Curiosity’s photos of Phobos’s solar eclipse, and below, Curiosity’s documentation of Phobos passing directly in front of Mars’s other moon, Deimos.

As we all wait for more information, discoveries, and super cool photos from the world’s most powerful rover to land on Mars, learn more about Mars thanks to these 4 TEDx Talks about the Red Planet:

How we landed a car on Mars: Jordan Evans at TEDxMidAtlantic
In this talk from TEDxMidAtlantic, Jordan Evans, Engineering Development and Operations Manager for the Mars rover Curiosity project explains what it was like to be behind the scenes as the rover landed on Mars, making sure one of the greatest achievements in the history of space exploration was a success.

Why is there water on Earth? Why not Mars?: Maria Sundin at TEDxUniversityofGothenburg
In this talk, astrophysicist Maria Sundin discusses the importance of water to supporting life on our planet — and possibly others — and provides us with a look into the surprisingly watery history of our neighbor planet, Mars, a history which could have maybe included life.

No life on Mars? No problem; we’ll bring it: Bas Lansdorp at TEDxDelft
Bas Lansdorp is the head of the Mars One project, an endeavor to establish a human settlement on the planet Mars in 2023. At TEDxDelft, he lays out the project’s plan for a manned mission to Mars, explaining the drive behind this very ambitious goal.

Live like a rocket scientist: Charles Elachi at TEDxBeirut
Charles Elachi is the director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the outlet responsible for the Mars Science Laboratory, which launched and maintains Mars rover Curiosity. Just 100 days after Curiosity's landing, he spoke at TEDxBeirut about how a sense of curiosity and a willingness to collaborate drive not only missions to Mars, but also all great things in life.

(Photos: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)