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Australia from Space: Part 5

IT’S DIFFICULT TO GET A TRUE PICTURE of the scale of Australia’s Red Centre from the ground, but satellite images help us to comprehend the breadth and beauty of the region. These remarkable images were taken by the Proba, Envisat and Landsat satellites, and show two of Australia’s most famous landmarks—Uluru and Lake Eyre.

Uluru

The rock formation Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, as seen by the European Proba satellite. Uluru is the world's largest monolith, and a sacred site to Australia's indigenous peoples. It is 3.6 km long and two km wide. The walk around it covers 9.4 km.

Uluru 2

This black and white Proba image gives us a closer view of Uluru, and shows the layers of rock titled towards the vertical.

Lake Eyre Basin

This Envisat image highlights the Lake Eyre Basin, one of the world’s largest internally draining systems, in the heart of Australia. White cloud streaks stand in contrast to the Red Centre’s vast amounts of crimson soil and sparse greenery. The basin covers about 1.2 million sq km (about the size of France, Germany and Italy combined), including large portions of South Australia (bottom), the Northern Territory (upper left) and Queensland (upper right) and a part of western New South Wales (bottom right). This image was acquired by the European Envisat satellite’s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer on 3 July 2010 at a resolution of 300 metre.

Lake Eyre

This Landsat satellite image shows a portion of Lake Eyre (lower-left corner) and the north-south sand dunes of the Simpson and Tirari deserts in the remote outback of South Australia. The Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5 acquired this image on 31 May 2011.

Earlier Australia from Space pictorials:

Australia from Space: Part 1

Australia from Space: Part 2

Australia from Space: Part 3

Australia from Space: Part 4

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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Video – The Sun unleashes its fury

TO US DOWN HERE ON THE GROUND, the Sun seems unchanging and ever-reliable on a day-to-day basis. But satellites reveal the reality to be very different. Our nearest star is actually a boiling, roiling cauldron of hot gases, unseen magnetic fields and titanic explosions.

Those explosions are called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, and they shoot enormous clouds of particles far out into the Solar System. Sometimes they hit Earth…but fortunately we’re protected by our planet’s strong magnetic field and thick atmosphere.

The Sun produced about a dozen CMEs between November 22 and 28, 2011. The SOHO spacecraft—which monitors the Sun 24/7—spotted them blasting out in different directions. The following video clip comprises over 1,300 frames, and gives us a sped-up view of those eight eventful days on the Sun:

In order to see the CMEs, SOHO had to block out the glare of the Sun using a coronagraph (black circle). A separate instrument took images of the Sun at the same time (superimposed in the middle) so that we could get the best of both worlds.

The next video was produced from images taken with a different Sun-monitoring spacecraft, the Solar Dynamics Observatory. It shows a portion of an extremely long filament (over 1,000,000 km) that was stretched across much of the face of the Sun and gracefully erupted into space (November 14, 2011).

Filaments are cooler gas structures that are tethered to the Sun by magnetic forces. About the upper third of this filament rose up and broke away, but the other two-thirds still remains in sight. The images were taken in extreme ultraviolet light. The clip covers about 12 hours of activity.

Finally, here’s an amazing video that gives us a complete time-lapse of the Sun spanning the entire months of September, October and November 2011 as seen through the SWAP ultraviolet instrument aboard yet another Sun-monitoring satellite, the European Space Agency’s Proba-2 (PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy).

Adapted from information issued by NASA / SDO / ESA.

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