Space Shuttle Endeavour being ferried by NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as it departs KSC. NASA pilots Jeff Moultrie and Bill Rieke are at the controls of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Photo taken by NASA photographer Robert Markowitz in the backseat of a NASA T-38 chase plane with NASA pilot Greg C. Johnson at the controls.
Photo Date: September 19, 2012. Location: Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Photographer: Robert Markowitz
Source: NASA - Flickr
These wave-like Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds can form due to shear between different layers of air in the atmosphere. When one region of air has a higher velocity than the other, their interface forms a shear layer, which can break down in this wavy pattern. In this case, the lower layer of air was moist enough to form condensation and clouds, making the pattern visible to the naked eye. (Photo credit: Gene Hart; via Flow Visualization)
Nothing quite compares to the beauty of fluid dynamics on astronomical scales. What you see here are raw photographs of recent storms at Saturn’s north pole. The recent change in Saturnian seasons has afforded Cassini a sunlit view of the northern pole, which had previously lain in darkness. A roiling vortex filled with clouds being twisted and sheared was revealed near the center of its famed polar hexagon. (Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute; submitted by J. Shoer)
The volcanoes of the South Sandwich Islands, located in the South Atlantic, have a notable effect on cloud formation in this satellite photo. Visokoi Island, on the right, sheds a wake of large vortices that distort the cloud layer above it. On the left, Zavodovski Island’s volcano does the same, with the added effect of low-level volcanic emissions, which include aerosols. These tiny particles provide a nucleus around which water droplets form, causing an marked increase in cloud formation visible in the bright tail streaming off the island. (Photo credit: NASA, via Earth Observatory)
Two interesting sets of clouds are featured in this satellite photo of the Canary Islands and the coast of Africa. In the upper part of the picture, closed cell stratocumulus clouds cover the ocean. As the wind drives these clouds over the islands, their pattern is disturbed by mountains that force the lower layers of air up and around, forming von Karman vortices and wakes that mingle and twist the cloud patterns to the south of the islands. (Photo credit: European Space Agency; via Wired)
Last week, Birmingham, Alabama got treated to a special cloudy day, thanks to some Kelvin-Helmholtz waves, shown above. When a layer of faster moving fluid shears a slower moving fluid, this instability can form and cause some spectacular mixing. In this case, the lower, slower fluid was cool and moist enough to contain clouds, enabling us to see the effect with the naked eye. The same mechanism is responsible for the shape of breaking ocean waves and can even be seen in the atmospheres of gas giants like Saturn and Jupiter. (submitted by David B)