NOAA Launches Virtual Tours of America’s Marine Sanctuaries

NOAA just made it a lot easier to explore their national marine sanctuaries without obtaining a scuba license. This month, the administration unveiled a virtual dives gallery that allows anyone with a web connection to tour some of the most impressive underwater sites in U.S. jurisdiction.

The online tool showcases the waters of five locations. Users can examine sights that include Tafeu Cove off America Samoa, the barrel sponges of Flower Garden Banks, the coral colonies of Gray’s Reef, the Christ of the Abyss statue off the Florida Keys, and the shipwrecks at the bed of Thunder Bay in Lake Huron.

Diver photographs Christ of the Abyss statue in Key Largo.
Sebastian Carlosena, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Fish and coral at Gray's Reef.
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The 360-degree scenes were stitched together from photos captured by professional divers, and can be viewed with or without VR headsets. "Shooting these images is all about balance," Phil Hartmeyer, a maritime archaeologist at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said in a statement. "Each virtual dive you see is the result of the camera's settings, diver positioning, and subject framing all being in perfect equilibrium."

NOAA plans to continue building the dives gallery, eventually adding photography from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale, Monterey Bay, Stellwagen Bank, Channel Islands, and Olympic Coast marine sanctuaries, as well as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National, to the collection.

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ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017
Look Closely—Every Point of Light in This Image Is a Galaxy
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017

Even if you stare closely at this seemingly grainy image, you might not be able to tell there’s anything to it besides visual noise. But it's not static—it's a sliver of the distant universe, and every little pinprick of light is a galaxy.

As Gizmodo reports, the image was produced by the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, a space-based infrared telescope that was launched into orbit in 2009 and was decommissioned in 2013. Created by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) and Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS), it looks out from our galaxy toward the North Galactic Pole, a point that lies perpendicular to the Milky Way's spiral near the constellation Coma Berenices.

A close-up of a view of distant galaxies taken by the Herschel Space Observatory
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017

Each point of light comes from the heat of dust grains between different stars in a galaxy. These areas of dust gave off this radiation billions of years before reaching Herschel. Around 1000 of those pins of light belong to galaxies in the Coma Cluster (named for Coma Berenices), one of the densest clusters of galaxies in the known universe.

The longer you look at it, the smaller you’ll feel.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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iStock
Unwind With 10 Hours of Soothing Ocean Footage From BBC Earth
iStock
iStock

The internet can be a stressful place at times. Do yourself a favor by taking a break from the endless barrage of content to focus on the tranquil beauty of nature. The video below, spotted by Motherboard, features 10 hours of peaceful oceanscapes, courtesy of BBC Earth.

Unlike BBC's usual nature documentaries, which almost always include narration, this footage is completely human-free. There are no voices, no music, and no graphics. Instead, you'll find leisurely shots of whale sharks, schools of hammerheads, sailfish, and sea turtles drifting through the open ocean to a soundtrack of sloshing water.

Even if you don't have time to watch the whole 10 hours, just a few minutes of sitting in front of the meditative footage is probably enough to refresh your brain. Just don't be surprised if a few minutes quickly becomes an hour (or a few).

And if 10 hours of relaxing video still isn't enough for you, we recommend checking out some Norwegian slow TV. "Shows" include footage of a sea cruise, a train ride, and migrating reindeer.

[h/t Motherboard]

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