Astro Puffs

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Microgravity continues to be a fascinating playground for observing surface tension effects on the macroscale without pesky gravity getting in the way. Here astronaut Don Pettit has created a sphere of water, which he then strikes with a jet of air from a syringe. Initially, the momentum from the jet of air creates a sharp cavity in the water, which rebounds into a jet of water that ejects one or more satellite drops.  Surface waves and inertial waves (inside the water sphere) reflect back and forth until the fluid comes to rest as a sphere once more. Note how similar the behavior is to the pinch-off of a water column. Both effects are dominated by surface tension, but on Earth we can only see this behavior with extremely small droplets and high-speed cameras! (Video credit: Don Pettit, Science Off the Sphere)

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