Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Cocoon Nebula Deep Field

Inside the Cocoon Nebula is a newly developing cluster of stars. The cosmic Cocoon on the upper right also punctuates a long trail of obscuringinterstellar dust clouds to its left. Cataloged as IC 5146, the beautiful nebula is nearly 15 light-years wide, located some 3,300 light years away toward the northern constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). Like other star forming regions, it stands out in red, glowing,hydrogen gas excited by young, hot stars and blue, dust-reflected starlight at the edge of a nearly invisible molecular cloud. In fact, the bright star near the center of this nebula is likely only a few hundred thousand years old, powering the nebular glow as it slowly clears outa cavity in the molecular cloud's star forming dust and gas. Thisexceptionally deep color view of the Cocoon Nebula traces tantalizing features within and surrounding the dusty stellar nursery.

Image Credit & Copyright: Marcel Drechsler (Baerenstein Obs.)

First Light Data for NASA's Parker Solar Probe

Just over a month into its mission, NASA's Parker Solar Probe has returned first-light data from each of its four instrument suites. These early observations – while not yet examples of the key science observations Parker Solar Probe will take closer to the Sun – show that each of the instruments is working well. The instruments work in tandem to measure the Sun’s electric and magnetic fields, particles from the Sun and the solar wind, and capture images of the environment around the spacecraft.

This image shows the first-light data from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument suite. The right side of this image — from WISPR's inner telescope — has a 40-degree field of view, with its right edge 58.5 degrees from the Sun's center. The bright object slightly to the right of the image's center is Jupiter. The left side of the image is from WISPR’s outer telescope, which has a 58-degree field of view and extends to about 160 degrees from the Sun. It shows the Milky Way, looking at the galactic center. There is a parallax of about 13 degrees in the apparent position of the Sun as viewed from Earth and from Parker Solar Probe.

Image Credit: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe

Parker Solar Probe

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Staring Down Hurricane Florence

"Ever stared down the gaping eye of a category 4 hurricane? It's chilling, even from space," says European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst(@Astro_Alex), who is currently living and working aboard the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 56 crew.

A high-definition video camera outside the space station captured stark and sobering views of Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm. The video was taken on Tuesday as Florence churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center forecasts additional strengthening for Florence before it reaches the coastline of North Carolina and South Carolina early Friday, Sept. 14.

Get the latest NASA information on the hurricane.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA–A. Gerst

International Space Station

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Bright Spots On Ceres

Bright surface features on the dwarf planet Ceres known as faculae were first discovered by NASA'sDawn spacecraft in 2015. This mosaic of one such feature, Cerealia Facula, combines images obtained from altitudes as low as 22 miles (35 km) above Ceres' surface. The mosaic is overlain on a topography model based on images obtained during Dawn's low altitude mapping orbit (240 miles or 385 km altitude). No vertical exaggeration was applied. The center of Cerealia Facula is located at 19.7 degrees north latitude and 239.6 degrees south longitude.

During its mission of over a decade, the Dawn spacecraft has studied the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, celestial bodies believed to have formed early in the history of the solar system. The mission's goal is to characterize the early solar system and the processes that dominated its formation.

Image Credit: NASA

Dawn

Friday, September 7, 2018

Aurora around Saturn's North Pole

Are Saturn's auroras like Earth's? To help answer this question, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Cassini spacecraftmonitored Saturn's North Pole simultaneously during Cassini's final orbits around the gas giant in September 2017. During this time,Saturn's tilt caused its North Pole to beclearly visible from Earth. The featured image is a composite of ultraviolet images of aurora and optical images of Saturn's clouds and rings, all taken recently by Hubble. Like on Earth, Saturn's northern auroras can maketotal or partial rings around the pole. Unlike on Earth, however, Saturn's auroras are frequently spirals -- and more likely to peak in brightness just before midnight and dawn. In contrast to Jupiter's aurorasSaturn's aurorasappear better related to connecting Saturn's internal magnetic field to the nearby, variable, solar windSaturn's southern auroras were similarly imaged back in 2004 when the planet's South Pole was clearly visible to Earth.
Image CreditNASAESAHubbleOPAL ProgramJ. DePasquale (STScI), L. Lamy (Obs. Paris)

Hubble Space Telescope

Hubble’s Lucky Observation of an Enigmatic Cloud

The little-known nebula IRAS 05437+2502 billows out among the bright stars and dark dust clouds that surround it in this striking image from the Hubble Space Telescope. It is located in the constellation of Taurus (the Bull), close to the central plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Unlike many of Hubble’s targets, this object has not been studied in detail and its exact nature is unclear. At first glance it appears to be a small, rather isolated region of star formation, and one might assume that the effects of fierce ultraviolet radiation from bright, young stars probably were the cause of the eye-catching shapes of the gas. However, the bright, boomerang-shaped feature may tell a more dramatic tale. The interaction of a high-velocity young star with the cloud of gas and dust may have created this unusually sharp-edged, bright arc. Such a reckless star would have been ejected from the distant young cluster where it was born and would travel at 200,000 kilometers per hour (124,000 miles per hour) or more through the nebula.

This faint cloud was originally discovered in 1983 by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), the first space telescope to survey the whole sky in infrared light. IRAS was run by the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and found huge numbers of new objects that were invisible from the ground.

This image was taken with the Wide Field Channel of the Advanced Camera for Surveys on Hubble. It was part of a 'snapshot' survey. These are observations that are fitted into Hubble’s busy schedule when possible, without any guarantee that the observation will take place — so it was fortunate that the observation was made at all. This picture was created from images taken through yellow and near-infrared filters.

Credit: ESA/Hubble, R. Sahai and NASA
Text Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

Hubble Space Telescope

Saturn's North Polar Hexagon

In full view, the amazing six-sided jet stream known as Saturn's north polar hexagon is shown in this colorful Cassini image. Extending to 70 degrees north latitude, the false-color video frame is map-projected, based on infrared, visible, and ultraviolet image data recorded by the Saturn-orbiting spacecraft in late 2012. First found in the outbound Voyager flyby images from the 1980s, the bizarre, long-lived feature tied to the planet's rotation is about 30,000 kilometers across. At its center lies the ringed gas giant's hurricane-like north polar storm. A new long term study of Cassini data has found a remarkable higher-altitude vortex, exactly matching the outlines of the north polar hexagon, that formed as summer approached the planet's northern hemisphere. It appears to reach hundreds of kilometers above these deeper cloud tops, into Saturn's stratosphere.

Image Copyright: Image Credit: NASA,JPL-CaltechSpace Science Institute,Hampton University

Cassini