A bubble inside a bubble inside a bubble… Astronaut films fascinating anti-gravity experiments from the space station


PUBLISHED: 14:04 GMT, 22 April 2012 | UPDATED: 19:44 GMT, 22 April 2012

Blowing bubbles might typically be the mindless pastime of young children but for one astronaut it has become a scientific experiment.

Don Pettit, of NASA, has been passing time on the International Space Station by injecting bubbles into bubbles.

This video shows the fruits of his labours, while he talks through his mini experiment, telling the camera: ‘I’m just playing right now… I wanna make one big bubble.’

Gently does it! Astronaut Don Pettit has filmed experiments on the International Space Station including his method of injecting bubbles into bubbles

Forever blowing bubbles! Don Pettit carried out his mini experiment on the International Space Station

A new perspective: The astronaut's experiment is a bit more scientific than blowing bubbles in the traditional sense

With no gravity to pull down on the liquid and burst his bubbles, the rim between one bubble and a second injected within it can become very thick and last for a long time.

‘Now,’ he says, ‘let me show you something wild’. Pettit injects a third bubble into the centre which bounces around within the rim.

He excitedly says: ‘Oh look at that… a droplet with bubbles inside of a bubble in the water… Oh wow!’

The small droplet rotates around the shell, with lots of tiny bubbles emerging in the centre. ‘That’s where I would go if I was a bubble,’ Pettit says.

He injects some water into the space between the outer bubble and the one inside it, causing the smaller one to rotate.

Using lasers he shows the movement of the bubble with the coloured light reflecting off the different layers of bubble.

‘Now I have to figure out what it all means,’ he says.

Pettit is currently on the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 30 crew, where he will remain until May.

He spent more than five and half months on board the station during Expedition 6 in 2002 and 2003, returning to space during STS-126 in 2008. While there he gathered quite a fan base with video demonstrations such as the Zero G Coffee Cup.

Intriguing: NASA astronaut Don Pettit has done several experiments with bubbles in space which he posts on YouTube


Off the back of his viral success, NASA and the American Physical Society have launched a partnership to share videos from the orbiting outpost with students, educators and science fans around the world.

Astronauts like Pettit use everyday objects from Earth to demonstrate physics through ‘Science off the Sphere’ presentations, posing questions for viewers at the end of the clips.

At the end of the bubbles video, Pettit asks: ‘When the water sphere rotates why do the bubbles centre themselves?’

It really is a lesson from outer space!


Precision: Using a needle Pettit carefully injects water into the rim so that the inside bubble spins round

No gravity: The lack of gravity means that the rim is thick and lasts for a long time

Bright lights: The astronaut shows the movement of the small interior bubbles using lasers

Glittering: Lots of tiny bubbles within the larger shell bounce around and reflect the light

Bubble in a bubble  Video on you tube

A bubble inside a bubble inside a bubble… Astronaut films fascinating anti-gravity experiments from the space station | Mail Online.

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