The final post...

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    Aira Idris Aira Idris | 10:00 AM, Monday, 26 March 2012

    The aim of this last post is to essentially thank everyone for participating in our project. We set out, marking our distance through space, every step of the way throughout the year of 2011.

    From the early stages of Aonach Mor, bringing you the first video blog from the team on location, to our first call to action for your iwtiness severe weather footage, during the February Scottish storm - several snow storms, tornadoes, monsoon events, tropical storms and aurora's later, we are very grateful for all the footage sent in to help us document Earth's extraordinary journey on this blog.

    A selection of the footage can be viewed on the 'severe weather videos' page and remain available to flick through on our 'photography pool' and on the blog. We want to remind you that you can continue to send your up to date severe weather footage and astronomy photos to yourpics@bbc.co.uk where they may form part of future weather and astronomy stories across the BBC.

    We also want to thank everyone who joined us on twitter at the beginning with #bbc23degrees and then later with #bbcorbit - the latter hashtag will remain available to you as archive.

    For all the comments on the blog posts across the entire production, we thank you for sharing your opinions with us to create an informed series, and raising points worth consideration for future BBC Science projects.

    This post as with the three episode posts will remain open for comments until the end of this week, after which commenting on the blog will be closed.

    All that is left to say is, Goodbye, and remember that you're hurtling through space at over 100'000 kph.

    New series title! Orbit: Earth's Extraordinary Journey

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    Aira Idris Aira Idris | 11:30 AM, Tuesday, 14 February 2012

    We have finally decided on the title of our series. So long '23 Degrees' and hello 'Orbit: Earth's Extraordinary Journey'.

    23 Degrees was always the working title and with this change we're just about wrapping up.

    Look out for more updates. What do you think about the title?

    Day 363: Two things have stood out this year

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    Helen Czerski Helen Czerski | 09:00 AM, Thursday, 29 December 2011

    Distance travelled ~ 932'318'400 km

     

    It’s very liberating to be completely and utterly soaked by a rainstorm, especially when what’s falling out of the sky are raindrops the size of large peas.


    helen czerski

     

    I tried to explain this to the director and crew who were huddled beneath enormous umbrellas, missing out on all the fun. They were not convinced. They had not come to India during the monsoon to get wet. That was my job.

     

    The thing is, weather is fun. We are brought up to hide from it a bit, to carry on (usually with a British stiff upper lip) in spite of it. But it’s not going away, so I think that we might as well appreciate it. As long as it’s not giving you hypothermia or sunburn, why not just play with whatever the atmosphere is doing today?

    For 23 degrees, we’ve been lucky enough to travel to some fantastic places in our global weather patterns. Different parts of the planet receive different amounts of energy from the Sun, and this is just the start. That energy is carried around the planet by the ocean and atmosphere, and the result is a giant pattern of hot and cold air, dry and moist air and huge swirling wind systems. The pattern is never exactly the same from one year to the next, but there are features that are present all the time (tropical thunderstorms and the jet stream), or that return every year (spring showers and hurricanes).

    Two things have stood out for me. The first is how little we appreciate the depth of the atmosphere. I realized this properly while looking at the tornado we found in June.


    tornado, midwest US

     

    It’s almost certainly the biggest thing I’ve seen whose scale I’ve been able to understand. We know that the clouds are high up, but until you see a single thing joining the clouds to the ground, you have no idea what “high up” means. The atmosphere is big, vertically as well as horizontally.

     

    The second thing is how little we actually look at the sky, especially in Britain. We’re too busy getting on with things on the ground, and anyway there are lots of buildings and trees in the way. Above us thousands of tonnes of nitrogen and oxygen are flowing around, carrying water and energy, and all we do is complain about it when it gets uncomfortable down here. But if you look up, you can usually see some of the structure of the atmosphere, and that gives you a hint about the larger scale patterns that cover our continent and our planet. Next time you look up at the sky, imagine how all this is connected to the weather over Iceland and Morocco and Costa Rica.

    The last day of filming for this series was on the south coast of England, near Beachy Head. We haven’t done that many days filming in the UK, and it was as though the weather was determined to prove that it shouldn’t have been neglected.

    helen czerski

     

    As the day went on, we had incredibly hard rain followed by hail, very strong winds and occasional spells of sunshine. My boots filled up with water and at the end of the day I felt as though I’d been in a giant washing machine for a few hours. It was impossible not to be impressed by what the atmosphere was up to, even on our own doorstep.

    Behind the scenes: Physicist in freefall

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    Helen Czerski Helen Czerski | 17:00 PM, Wednesday, 23 November 2011

    Distance travelled ~ 840'555'200 km

    helen czerski

     

    Being surrounded by sky is not a natural place for a human being. We have evolved to scoot about on the bottom of the atmosphere, stuck to the ground, and we don't often look up. Even when we do, we tend to see the sky as flat - clouds, the moon and aeroplanes move sideways across the sky. It's easy to forget that the sky has depth too, and that air in the atmosphere moves up and down as well as sideways.

    Your perspective changes quickly when you're in freefall, three thousand metres above the Earth's surface and travelling downwards at 120 mph.

    sky full of cumulus clouds

     

    Skydivers relish the sense of freedom that falling through the sky brings. There is nothing to get in the way, nothing touching you and a whole extra dimension to play in. For the air in our atmosphere, three-dimensional movement is normal. At the place where I jumped out of the plane, in Arizona, air that starts about 10 miles up is gradually sinking towards the ground. The air doesn't make the squeaking noises that I did, but then it isn't falling nearly as fast - it's a few millimeters per second on average. I was falling through a giant atmospheric waterfall, but a very slow one.

    It's not just in Arizona that this happens. Although weather maps tend to show sideways winds, the air making up those winds is all rising and falling as it travels around the Earth. The paths of air parcels weave in and out of each other, making the Tokyo subway map look simplistic by comparison.

    tokyo subway map

    Image courtesy of Tokyo Metro

    All this is very interesting, but not much comfort to a plummeting physicist. I don't think that I really breathed during the 40 seconds of freefall. Then the parachute opened, everything slowed down, and my brain stopped panicking and started appreciating what was going on around it.

    Seeing the layers of the sky is fascinating. Floating down past a cloud is amazing - a fluffy cumulous cloud is telling you that there's been a little puff of air upwards in that location. We can't really see the structure of the atmosphere, but seeing a cloud from the side makes it easy to imagine the turbulent swirls that are mixing all that air up.

    After five minutes of sharing the three dimensions of the sky with the clouds, we arrived at the landing zone and my feet touched the ground again. I was very happy to feel something solid under my feet, but there was also a small sense of loss. I was back to crawling around on the bottom of our fabulous three-dimensional atmosphere, and my understanding of the depth of the atmosphere was again limited to hints given away by the clouds. But I remember what it felt like, and my view of the sky will never be quite the same again.

    Behind the scenes: Shooting the pre-titles [video]

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    Aira Idris Aira Idris | 12:00 PM, Friday, 21 October 2011

     

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