Dancing Droplets: Water Orbits Statically Charged Knitting Needles in Space
His name is Don Pettit, but I like to call him Space MacGyver. He's well known for his paper clip fixes and ingenious coffee invention in zero gravity, and we've all seen the NASA astronaut in his Saturday Morning Science videos during his first stay on the International Space Station. And now he's back on the ISS with a brand new physics-related show... Science Off the Sphere.
In his first space video, "Dancing Droplets", Pettit performs a science experiment using three different kinds of knitting needles, a piece of paper, water droplets and a Teflon cannula-tipped syringe. He rubs each of the needles (Teflon, nylon, polyethylene) with the piece of paper to create static electricity, then releases tiny, charged water droplets from the syringe above the needles.
The water droplets head slowly for the needle and into orbit around them, dancing in corkscrew motion, unable to escape. That is, until they get to close and explode on the needle's surface. It's a beautiful demonstration of the attraction between two charged materials in micro-gravity.
For further physics shows on-board the ISS with Pettit, keep an eye on Science Off the Sphere.