What Felix Baumgartner REALLY saw from the edge of space.
I’ll start with an apology- this blog has been everything but daily, really. I guess the university application season started and other things took over. But since that has sort of died down (until exam season at least) I thought it would be good to get things going again.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted this observation of Felix Baumgartner’s ‘edge of space’ jump that inspired me to write something about it.
In the first picture above, you can see the images that have been televised and otherwise publicised since the BASE jumper performed his ballsy feat. Just before his jump, he spoke to his microphone, “I wish you could see what I see.”
At first, I thought, ‘silly Felix, we can see what you see, through the magic of television’; but in reality, we saw an obscured view of what Felix really saw.
Here’s the science: wide angle camera lenses cause curvature in horizontal lines in the images the camera records. If these horizontal lines are above the vertical midpoint of the lens, there is a ‘downwards’ curve. Conversely, of the horizontal lines are below the midpoint, they curve ‘upwards’.
In the images we saw, the Earth’s horizon was above the midpoint, and hence you can see the ‘downwards’ curve.
A kind gentleman of the internet ‘did a photoshop’ on the image Tyson tweeted, and provided for us the second photograph in the image above.
This image shows what Felix Baumgartner REALLY saw. He saw a horizontal horizon. In reality, Felix wasn’t THAT far above the Earth’s surface.
If scaled down to the size of a desktop globe, Felix was only about 1mm above the surface. not very high at all.
So that’s surprising, and a little humbling, really.
I wonder how high you’d have to be to actually see the blue marble AS a marble? I don’t know if that’s something that can be worked out theoretically, or would have to be done experimentally.
In other news, it’s just hitting me how significant Felix Baumgartner’s jump was. Like, that was a long fall, and he was going so fast. And he landed on his feet. I guarantee he hasn’t paid for a single drink since.