Monthly Archives: July 2014

Holy Meteor Smokes! Electric-Blue Sky Invasion

Noctilucent Clouds in Sandbukta, Norway. Photo: Morten Ross

Bright Noctilucent Clouds in Sandbukta, Norway. Photo: Morten Ross

This gorgeous image of noctilucent clouds, captured on July 4th by Morten Ross of Norway, is a result of “meteor smoke” — tiny ice crystals seeded into Earth’s highest clouds that form 50 miles above Earth’s surface at the very edge of space. When sunlight hits these clouds, according to, the ice crystals glow electric blue…as you can see in the image above.

Scientists are learning more about noctilucent clouds in recent years. Space dust, or meteor smoke, is comprised of microscopic specks of dust caused by meteoroids (think:  inner solar system litter) that hit Earth’s surface and burn up — leaving a haze of tiny particles around Earth’s outer edges. Specks of meteor smoke serve as the office water cooler — attracting water molecules to gather together and assemble themselves into ice crystals, in a process called nucleation.

These electric blue clouds are visible not only from Earth’s surface, but also from above. The crew of Space Station’s Expedition 31 captured the top down image of noctilucent clouds on July 13, 2012.

Noctilucent Clouds from Space Station. Image: NASA Expedition 31

Noctilucent Clouds from Space Station. Image: NASA Expedition 31

These clouds normally live in the Arctic Circle, but have migrated south due to the spread of green house gases, according to James Russell of Hampton University, principal investigator of NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission.

"Geophysical Light Bulb" over Arctic. Credit: AIM

“Geophysical Light Bulb” over Arctic. Credit: AIM

If you happen to see an invasion of electric-blue and white tendrils taking over the sky, you may want to send them back home — but get out your camera first. You can upload your images to SpaceWeather’s cloud gallery.





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Filed under Earth, Fragile Oasis, NASA

Happy Birthday USA!

White House image with Barbara Jordan quote: "What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise."Barbara Jordan was one of my professors at the LBJ School at the University of Texas. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate and the first southern black female elected to the US House of Representatives, where she served on the House Judiciary Committee.

Barbara Jordan was a commanding presence.

She filled any room she entered. She chose each word thoughtfully, offering insight and wisdom. She was an early role model for me, and I felt fortunate to spend time with her both inside and outside the classroom. I was both terrified and in awe of her, which I think she found quite amusing. I’ll share one extremely embarrassing story. On one occasion, she asked me take her to the restroom, which required maneuvering her wheelchair into narrow stalls — this was in the 1980’s before ADA-compliant standards. Horror upon horrors, I wedged her in the restroom and had to get help to free her. I was mortified. She just shook her head, and said, “Oh, Beth, Beth, Beck…” which only works if you can hear the authoritative enunciation with which she spoke. She actually used my name as a phrase quite often. I believe I was comic diversion for her. Thankfully, she was willing to put up with my knack for making a mess of things — perhaps because of my  insatiable curiosity and inability to accept traditional thinking. She saw promise in me, and invested her time and talent into a spunky 20-something who fervently believed in the American political system — flaws and all.

Note:  The following week after the wheelchair incident, the women’s restroom at LBJ School was remodeled for wheelchair access. I guess you could say its my LBJ School legacy….

As we head into the 4th of July, I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve our country for almost three decades in the federal government. Even today, I still believe my job is to provide public good — a uniquely public sector responsibility.  Open government, which may be a trendy phrase, is what I’ve always believed our government exists for —  much to the credit of LJB School professor Barbara Jordan and her contribution to public service. Even after leaving office, she poured into future change-makers, like me. How many other public servants are paying it forward because she invested in us….

“What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” ~Barbara Jordan

She’s right. What people want IS an America as good as it’s promise. We’re working to make that happen every day at NASA through open innovation programs like Space Apps and LAUNCH. I’m fortunate to play a role in Open NASA movement. We have much to celebrate.

Thank you Barbara Jordan. Thank you USA.

Happy Birthday!!

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Filed under federal government, NASA