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Life, Unbounded

Life, Unbounded

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Oh Extravagant Planet!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Sitting here in New York after a night of listening to the roar of hurricane Sandy I, along with everyone else here, am feeling a little bit worn. And I’m lucky, many people are still in the midst of dealing with a very real disaster in the city and the states up and down the Eastern seaboard of the US. Across the world too at any given moment there are big and small natural events – storms, earthquakes, tsunami, fires, you name it. In many, many locations people are far less fortunate, with far fewer resources and already hanging on to a passable existence by their fingernails. There is little solace to be found. But our planet can still turn around and provide beauty and inspiration.

So in the spirit of reminding us of the incredible place we inhabit I thought I’d share a few favorite images of a small but surprisingly extravagant planet.

Cloud vortices off Cape Verde, Africa (Space Shuttle Atlantis 2009, NASA)

Cumulonimbus clouds over the Gulf of Mexico 1984 (Shuttle image, NASA)

Sunrise over Atlantic, Space Shuttle 1985 (NASA)

Thunderstorms over Brazil (Space Shuttle, 1984, NASA)

Anvil cloud over Africa (ISS, NASA)

'Eye' of Typhoon Yuri in western Pacific 1991 (Space Shuttle, NASA)

Eruption of Sarychev Volcano in 2009, Kuril Islands northeast of Japan (ISS, NASA)

And a parting shot – the receding Earth as the Messenger mission to Mercury left it behind in the blackness of space…

Caleb A. Scharf About the Author: Caleb Scharf is the director of Columbia University's multidisciplinary Astrobiology Center. He has worked in the fields of observational cosmology, X-ray astronomy, and more recently exoplanetary science. His books include Gravity's Engines (2012) and The Copernicus Complex (2014) (both from Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux.) Follow on Twitter @caleb_scharf.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Postman1 9:47 pm 10/30/2012

    Outstanding, Caleb! Thank you and I hope you too, are safe and snug.

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