Friday, December 30, 2016

Lunar Farside

Tidally locked in synchronous rotation, the Moon always presents its familiar nearside to denizens of planet Earth. From lunar orbit, the Moon's farside can become familiar, though. In fact this sharp picture, a mosaic from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's wide angle camera, is centered on the lunar farside. Part of a global mosaic of over 15,000 images acquired between November 2009 and February 2011, the highest resolution version shows features at a scale of 100 meters per pixel. Surprisingly, the rough and battered surface of the farside looks very different from the nearside covered with smooth dark lunar maria. The likely explanation is that the farside crust is thicker, making it harder for molten material from the interior to flow to the surface and form the smooth maria.
Image Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State Univ. / Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Andromeda Galaxy

What is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy? Andromeda. In fact, our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromedais caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the featured image of M31 is a digital mosaic of several frames taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including exactly how many billions of years it will before it collides with our home galaxy.
Image Credit & Copyright: Farmakopoulos Antonis

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Magnificent Horse Head Nebula

Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, a magnificent interstellar dust cloud by chance has assumed this recognizable shape. Fittingly named the Horsehead Nebula, it is some 1,500 light-years distant, embedded in the vast Orion cloudcomplex. About five light-years "tall", the dark cloud is cataloged as Barnard 33and is visible only because its obscuring dust is silhouetted against the glowing red emission nebula IC 434. Stars are forming within the dark cloud. Contrastingblue reflection nebula NGC 2023, surrounding a hot, young star, is at the lower left. The gorgeous color image combines both narrowband and broadband images recorded using three different telescopes.
Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Burali, Tiziano Capecchi, Marco Mancini (Osservatorio MTM)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Western Europe at Night

A nighttime view of Western Europe is captured by crew members aboard the International Space Station. England is visible in the top right of the frame, Paris appearing as the bright city near the middle of the image and views of Belgium and the Netherlands occupying the middle-right of frame.

Image Credit: NASA

International Space Station

Hubble Chases A Small Stellar Galaxy in the Hunting Dog

On a clear evening in April of 1789, the renowned astronomer William Herschel continued his unrelenting survey of the night sky, hunting for new cosmic objects '” and found cause to celebrate! He spotted this bright spiral galaxy, named NGC 4707, lurking in the constellation of Canes Venatici or The Hunting Dog. NGC 4707 lies roughly 22 million light-years from Earth.

NGC stands for "New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars."

Over two centuries later, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is able to "chase down" and view the same galaxy in far greater detail than Herschel could, allowing us to appreciate the intricacies and characteristics of NGC 4707 as never before. This striking image comprises observations from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), one of a handful of high-resolution instruments currently aboard the space telescope.

Herschel himself reportedly described NGC 4707 as a 'small, stellar'� galaxy; while it is classified as a spiral (type Sm), its overall shape, center, and spiral arms are very loose and undefined, and its central bulge is either very small or non-existent. It instead appears as a rough sprinkling of stars and bright flashes of blue on a dark canvas.

The blue smudges seen across the frame highlight regions of recent or ongoing star formation, with newborn stars glowing in bright, intense shades of cyan and turquoise.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble andamp; NASA
Text credit: European Space Agency

Hubble Space Telescope

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pandora up Close

This image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft is one of the highest-resolution views ever taken of Saturn's moon Pandora. Pandora (52 miles, 84 kilometers) across orbits Saturn just outside the narrow F ring.

The spacecraft captured the image during its closest-ever flyby of Pandora on Dec. 18, 2016, during the third of its grazing passes by the outer edges of Saturn's main rings. (For Cassini's closest view prior to this flyby, see PIA07632, which is also in color.)

The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera at a distance of approximately 25,200 miles (40,500 kilometers) from Pandora. Image scale is 787 feet (240 meters) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The Cassini imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

History : at 1968 December 21st

This week in 1968, Apollo 8, the first crewed Saturn V launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Dec. 21, 1968. Here, the S-IC stage is being erected for final assembly of the Saturn V launch vehicle in Kennedy's Vehicle Assembly Building.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

International Space Station Solar Transit

This composite image, made from ten frames, shows the International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, in silhouette as it transits the sun at roughly five miles per second, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, from Newbury Park, California. Onboard as part of Expedition 50 are: NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson: Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko, Sergey Ryzhikov, and Oleg Novitskiy: and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

International Space Station

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cosmic 'Winter' Wonderland

Although there are no seasons in space, this cosmic vista invokes thoughts of a frosty winter landscape. It is, in fact, a region called NGC 6357 where radiation from hot, young stars is energizing the cooler gas in the cloud that surrounds them.
This composite image contains X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the ROSAT telescope (purple), infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (orange), and optical data from the SuperCosmos Sky Survey (blue) made by the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope.
Located in our galaxy about 5,500 light years from Earth, NGC 6357 is actually a “cluster of clusters,” containing at least three clusters of young stars, including many hot, massive, luminous stars. The X-rays from Chandra and ROSAT reveal hundreds of point sources, which are the young stars in NGC 6357, as well as diffuse X-ray emission from hot gas. There are bubbles, or cavities, that have been created by radiation and material blowing away from the surfaces of massive stars, plus supernova explosions.
Astronomers call NGC 6357 and other objects like it “HII” (pronounced “H-two”) regions. An HII region is created when the radiation from hot, young stars strips away the electrons from neutral hydrogen atoms in the surrounding gas to form clouds of ionized hydrogen, which is denoted scientifically as “HII”.
Researchers use Chandra to study NGC 6357 and similar objects because young stars are bright in X-rays. Also, X-rays can penetrate the shrouds of gas and dust surrounding these infant stars, allowing astronomers to see details of star birth that would be otherwise missed.
A recent paper on Chandra observations of NGC 6357 by Leisa Townsley of Pennsylvania State University appeared in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series and is available online. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.
Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L. Townsley et al; Optical: UKIRT; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Crash Course

It may look as though Saturn's moon Mimas is crashing through the rings in this image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, but Mimas is actually 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) away from the rings. There is a strong connection between the icy moon and Saturn's rings, though. Gravity links them together and shapes the way they both move.

The gravitational pull of Mimas (246 miles or 396 kilometers across) creates waves in Saturn's rings that are visible in some Cassini images. Mimas' gravity also helps create the Cassini Division (not pictured here), which separates the A and B rings.

This view looks toward the anti-Saturn hemisphere of Mimas. North on Mimas is up and rotated 15 degrees to the right. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 23, 2016.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 114,000 miles (183,000 kilometers) from Mimas and at a Sun-Mimas-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 29 degrees. Image scale is 3,300 feet (1 kilometer) per pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute


Super Moon Over Spanish Castle

No, this castle was not built with the Moon attached. To create the spectacular juxtaposition, careful planning and a bit of good weather was needed. Pictured, the last supermoon of 2016 was captured last week rising directly beyond one of the towers of Bellver Castle in Palma de Mallorca on the Balearic Islands of Spain. The supermoon was the last full moon of 2016 and known to some as the Oak MoonBellver Castle was built in the early 1300s and has served as a home -- but occasional as a prison -- to numerous kings and queens. The Moon was builtabout 4.5 billion years ago, possibly resulting from a great collision with a Mars-sized celestial body and Earth. The next supermoon, defined as when the moonappears slightly larger and brighter than usual, will occur on 2017 December 3 and be visible not only behind castles but all over the Earth.
For image credit and copyright guidance, please visit the image website

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hubble "Crane-s" in for a closer look at a Galaxy

In 1900, astronomer Joseph Lunt made a discovery: Peering through a telescope at Cape Town Observatory, the British–South African scientist spotted this beautiful sight in the southern constellation of Grus (The Crane): a barred spiral galaxy now named IC 5201.

Over a century later, the galaxy is still of interest to astronomers. For this image, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope used its Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to produce a beautiful and intricate image of the galaxy. Hubble’s ACS can resolve individual stars within other galaxies, making it an invaluable tool to explore how various populations of stars sprang to life, evolved, and died throughout the cosmos.

IC 5201 sits over 40 million light-years away from us. As with two thirds of all the spirals we see in the Universe — including the Milky Way — the galaxy has a bar of stars slicing through its center.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Text credit: European Space Agency

Hubble Space Telescope

The Cart wheel Galaxy From Hubble

To some, it looks like the wheel of a cart. In fact, because of its outward oval appearance, the presence of a central galaxy, and their connection with what looks like the spokes of a wheel, the galaxy on the right is known as the Cartwheel Galaxy. To others, however, it looks like a complicated interaction between galaxies awaiting explanation. Along with the two galaxies on the left, the Cartwheel is part of a group of galaxies about 400 million light years away in theconstellation Sculptor. The large galaxy's rim spans over 100,000 light years and is composed of star forming regions filled with extremely bright and massive stars. Pictured, the Cartwheel's ring-like shape is the result of gravitational disruption caused by a smaller galaxy passing through a large one, compressing the interstellar gas and dust and causing a star formation wave to move out like aripple across the surface of a pond.
For image credit and copyright guidance, please visit the image website

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Lagoon Nebula in High Definition

Stars are battling gas and dust in the Lagoon Nebula but the photographers are winning. Also known as M8, this photogenic nebula is visible even without binoculars towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The energetic processes ofstar formation create not only the colors but the chaos. The red-glowing gasresults from high-energy starlight striking interstellar hydrogen gas. The dark dustfilaments that lace M8 were created in the atmospheres of cool giant stars and in the debris from supernovae explosions. The light from M8 we see today left about5,000 years ago. Light takes about 50 years to cross this section of M8. Data used to compose this image was taken with the wide-field camera OmegaCam of theESO's VLT Survey Telescope (VST).
Image Credit &Copyright:Data - ESO/INAF/R. Colombari/E. Recurt; Assembling & ProcessingR. Colombari

Thursday, December 15, 2016

HTV-6 Cargo Craft Approaches Space Station

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA shared this photograph of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) as it approached the International Space Station on Dec. 12, 2016, writing, "Beautiful #HTV6 @Space_Station. @NASA and @ESA astronauts using @csa_asc robot arm to capture @JAXA_en spacecraft. Proud of Int’l. #Teamwork"

Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) successfully captured the 12-ton spacecraft using the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Robotic ground controllers then installed it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module. Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA monitored HTV-6 systems during the rendezvous and grapple.

The unpiloted cargo spacecraft is loaded with more than 4.5 tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiment hardware for the six-person station crew. The spacecraft, named “Kounotori” – the Japanese word for white stork – launched Friday, Dec. 9 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. It is also delivering six new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates that will replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station’s solar arrays. These will be installed during a series of robotic operations and spacewalks between late December and mid-January.

The spacecraft also is bringing the Technology Education (TechEdSat-5) nanosatellite, which includes the Exo-Brake technology demonstration mission. The Exo-Brake technology is a tension-based, flexible braking device that could help bring small payloads back through Earth’s atmosphere unharmed, accurately de-orbiting through a series of adjustments to modulate drag. Exo-Brake deployment is targeted for early 2017.

Image Credit: NASA

International Space Station

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Meteors Over Four Girl Mountain

On some nights it rains meteors. Peaking over the next two nights, asteroid dust is expected to rain down on Earth during the annual Geminids meteor shower. This year, unfortunately, fainter Geminids will be harder to see because of the brightness of the Long Nights Full Moon, which occurs Wednesday. Pictured, an image from this year's Perseids meteor shower in August captured multiple streaks over Four Girls Mountain in central China. The bright Pleaides open star cluster appears toward the upper right, while numerous emission nebulas are visible in red, many superposed on the diagonal band of the Milky Way.
Image Credit & Copyright: Alvin Wu

Over Saturn's Turbulent North Pole

The Cassini spacecraft's Grand Finale at Saturn has begun. The Grand Finale will allow Cassini to explore Saturn and some of Saturn's moons and rings in unprecedented detail. The first phase started two weeks ago when a close flyby of Titan changed Cassini's orbit into one that passes near Saturn's poles and just outside of Saturn's outermost F-ringFeatured here is an image taken during the first of Cassini's 20 week-long F-ring orbits around Saturn. Visible are the central polar vortex on the upper left, a hexagonal cloud boundary through the image center, and numerous light-colored turbulent storm systems. In 2017 April, Cassini will again use the gravity of Titan to begin a new series of 22 Proximal orbits -- trajectories that will take Cassini inside of Saturn's rings for the first time.Cassini's new science adventure is scheduled to end on 2017 September 17, though, when the robotic spacecraft will be directed into a dramatic mission-ending dive into Saturn's atmosphere.
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging TeamSSIJPLESANASA

Sunday, December 11, 2016

IC 4628: The Prawn Nebula

South of Antares, in the tail of the nebula-rich constellation Scorpius, lies emission nebula IC 4628. Nearby hot, massive stars, millions of years young, irradiate the nebula with invisible ultraviolet light, stripping electrons from atoms. The electrons eventually recombine with the atoms to produce the visible nebular glow, dominated by the red emission of hydrogen. At an estimated distance of 6,000 light-years, the region shown is about 250 light-years across, spanning over three full moons on the sky. The nebula is also cataloged as Gum 56 for Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum, but seafood-loving astronomers might know this cosmic cloud as the Prawn Nebula. The tantalizing color image is a new astronomical composition using data from the European Southern Observatory's wide field OmegCAM and amateur images made under dark skies on the Canary Island of Tenerife.
For image credit and copyright guidance, please visit the image website

The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi

What created the strange spiral structure on the left? No one is sure, although it is likely related to a star in a binary star system entering the planetary nebula phase, when its outer atmosphere is ejected. The huge spiral spans about a third of alight year across and, winding four or five complete turns, has a regularity that is without precedent. Given the expansion rate of the spiral gas, a new layer must appear about every 800 years, a close match to the time it takes for the two stars to orbit each other. The star system that created it is most commonly known asLL Pegasi, but also AFGL 3068. The unusual structure itself has been cataloged as IRAS 23166+1655. The featured image was taken in near-infrared light by theHubble Space Telescope. Why the spiral glows is itself a mystery, with a leading hypothesis being illumination by light reflected from nearby stars.
Image Credit: ESAHubbleR. Sahai (JPL), NASA

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Filaments around a Black hole

What's happening at the center of elliptical galaxy NGC 4696? There, long tendrils of gas and dust have been imaged in great detail as shown by this recently released image from the Hubble Space Telescope. These filaments appear to connect to the central region of the galaxy, a region thought occupied by asupermassive black holeSpeculation holds that this black hole pumps out energy that heats surrounding gas, pushes out cooler filaments of gas and dust, and shuts down star formation. Balanced by magnetic fields, these filaments then appear to spiral back in toward and eventually circle the central black holeNGC 4696 is the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster of Galaxies, located about 150 million light years from Earth. The featured image shows a region about 45,000 light years across.
Image Credit: NASAESAHubbleA. Fabian

Hubble Space Telescope

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Milky Way over Shipwreck

Explanation: What happened to this ship? It was carried aground by a giant storm that struck the coast of Argentina in 2002. The pictured abandoned boat, dubbed Naufragio del Chubasco, wrecked near the nearly abandoned town of Cabo Raso (population: 1). The rusting ship provides a picturesque but perhaps creepy foreground for the beautiful sky above. This sky is crowned by the grand arch of our Milky Way and features galaxies including the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, stars including Canopus and Altair, planets including Mars and Neptune, and nebulas including the LagoonCarina, and the Coal Sack. The mosaic was composed from over 80 images taken in early September. A 360-degree interactive panoramic version of this image is also available. The adventurous astrophotographer reports that the creepiest part of taking this picture was not the abandoned ship, but the unusual prevalence of black and hairy caterpillars.

Image Credit & Copyright: Sergio Montúfar (Planetario Ciudad de La Plata)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

W5: The Soul of Star Formation

Explanation: Where do stars form? Many times, stars form in energetic regions where gas and dark dust are pushed around in chaotic mayhem. Pictured, bright massive stars near the center of W5, the Soul Nebula, are exploding and emitting ionizing light and energetic winds. The outward-moving light and gas push away and evaporate much surrounding gas and dust, but leave pillars of gas behind dense protective knots. Inside these knots, though, stars also form. The featured image highlights the inner sanctum of W5, an arena spanning about 1,000 light years that is rich in star forming pillars. The Soul Nebula, also cataloged as IC 1848, lies about 6,500 light years away toward the constellation of the Queen of Aethopia (Cassiopeia). Likely, in few hundred million years, only a cluster of the resulting stars will remain. Then, these stars will drift apart.
Image Credit: José Jiménez Priego (Astromet)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Arb 240: A Bridge Between Spiral Galaxies from Hubble

Why is there a bridge between these two spiral galaxies? Made of gas and stars, the bridge provides strong evidence that these two immense star systems have passed close to each other and experienced violent tides induced by mutual gravity. Known together as Arp 240 but individually as NGC 5257 and NGC 5258, computer modelling and the ages of star clusters indicate that the two galaxies completed a first passage near each other only about 250 million years ago.Gravitational tides not only pulled away matter, they compress gas and so caused star formation in both galaxies and the unusual bridge. Galactic mergers are thought to be common, with Arp 240 representing a snapshot of a brief stage in this inevitable process. The Arp 240 pair are about 300 million light-years distant and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of Virgo. Repeated close passages should ultimately result in a merger and with the emergence of a single combined galaxy.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Space Telescope; Processing & Copyright: Chris Kotsiopoulos

Hubble Space Telescope

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Verona Rupes: Tallest Known Cliff in the Solar System

Could you survive a jump off the tallest cliff in the Solar System? Quite possibly.Verona Rupes on Uranus' moon Miranda is estimated to be 20 kilometers deep -- ten times the depth of the Earth's Grand Canyon. Given Miranda's low gravity, it would take about 12 minutes for a thrill-seeking adventurer to fall from the top, reaching the bottom at the speed of a racecar -- about 200 kilometers per hour. Even so, the fall might be survivable given proper airbag protection. The featured image of Verona Rupes was captured by the passing Voyager 2 robotic spacecraft in 1986. How the giant cliff was created remains unknown, but is possibly related to a large impact or tectonic surface motion.
Image Credit: Voyager 2, NASA

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Apollo 17 VIP Site Analglyph

Get out your red/blue glasses and check outthis stereo scene from Taurus-Littrow valley on the Moon! The color anaglyph features adetailed 3D view of Apollo 17's Lunar Rover in the foreground -- behind it lies the Lunar Module and distant lunar hills. Because the world was going to be able to watch the Lunar Module'sascent stage liftoff via the rover's TV camera, this parking place was also known as the VIP Site. In December of 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the Moon, while colleague Ronald Evans orbited overhead. The crew returned with 110 kilograms of rock and soil samples, more than from any of the other lunar landing sites. Cernan and Schmitt are still the last to walk (or drive) on the Moon.
Image Credit: Gene CernanApollo 17NASA; Anaglyph by Erik van Meijgaarden

Friday, November 25, 2016

Ring Scan

Scroll right and you can cruise along the icy rings of Saturn. This high resolution scan is a mosaic of images presented in natural color. The images were recorded in May 2007 over about 2.5 hours as the Cassini spacecraft passed above the unlit side of the rings. To help track your progress, major rings and gaps are labeled along with the distance from the center of the gas giant in kilometers. The alphabetical designation of Saturn's rings is historically based on their order ofdiscovery; rings A and B are the bright rings separated by the Cassini division. In order of increasing distance from Saturn, the seven main rings run D,C,B,A,F,G,E. (Faint, outer rings G and E are not imaged here.) Four days from now, on November 29, Cassini will make a close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan and use the large moon's gravity to nudge the spacecraft into a series of 20 daring, elliptical,ring-grazing orbits. Diving through the ring plane just 11,000 kilometers outside the F ring (far right) Cassini's first ring-graze will be on December 4.
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging TeamSSIJPLESANASA

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Prototype of Space Station's Advanced Plant Habitat

A high fidelity test version of NASA’s Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), the largest plant chamber built for the agency, arrived at Kennedy Space Center the third week of November, 2016. The APH unit, containing small flowering plant seeds, will be delivered to the International Space Station in 2017.

Hubble Spies Spiral Galaxy

Spiral galaxy NGC 3274 is a relatively faint galaxy located over 20 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion).  This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image comes courtesy of Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), whose multi-color vision allows astronomers to study a wide range of targets, from nearby star formation to galaxies in the most remote regions of the cosmos.
This image combines observations gathered in five different filters, bringing together ultraviolet, visible and infrared light to show off NGC 3274 in all its glory.  NGC 3274 was discovered by Wilhelm Herschel in 1783. The galaxy PGC 213714 is also visible on the upper right of the frame, located much farther away from Earth.
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Calzetti
Text Credit: ESA (European Space Agency)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NGC 7635: Bubble in the Cosmic Sea

Do you see the bubble in the center? Seemingly adrift in a cosmic sea of starsand glowing gas, the delicate, floating apparition in this widefield view is cataloged as NGC 7635 - The Bubble Nebula. A mere 10 light-years wide, the tiny Bubble Nebula and the larger complex of interstellar gas and dust clouds are found about 11,000 light-years distant, straddling the boundary between the parental constellations Cepheus andCassiopeia. Also included in thebreathtaking vista is open star cluster M52 (upper left), some 5,000 light-years away. The featured image spans about two degrees on the sky corresponding to a width of about 375 light-years at the estimated distance of the Bubble Nebula.
Image Credit & Copyright: Sébastien Gozé

Pluto's Sputnik Planum - Is there a Ocean on Pluto

Is there an ocean below Sputnik Planum on Pluto? The unusually smooth 1000-km wide golden expanse, visible in the featured image from New Horizons, appears segmented into convection cells. But how was this region created? One hypothesis now holds the answer to be a great impact that stirred up anunderground ocean of salt water roughly 100-kilometers thick. The featured imageof Sputnik Planum, part of the larger heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio, was taken last July and shows true details in exaggerated colors. Although the robotic New Horizons spacecraft is off on a new adventure, continued computer-modeling of this surprising surface feature on Pluto is likely to lead to more refined speculations about what lies beneath.
Image Credit: NASAJohns Hopkins U./APLSouthwest Research Inst.

New Horizons

Linear Dunes, Nabib Sand Sea

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) used a long lens to document what crews have termed one of the most spectacular features of the planet: the dunes of the Namib Sand Sea.

Looking inland (from an ISS position over the South Atlantic) near sunset, the highest linear dunes show smaller linear dunes riding along their crests. Linear dunes are generally aligned parallel to the formative wind'”in this case, strong winds from the south. Southerly winds explain the parallel north-aligned linear dunes on the left side of the image.

But this simple pattern is disrupted near the Tsondab valley. The valley acts as a funnel for winds from the east. These less frequent but strong winter winds are channeled down the valley and usuallycarry large amounts of sand, similar to theSanta Ana winds in California. These strong easterly winds significantly deflect all the linear dunes near the valley so that they point downwind (image center).

Further inland (right), the north-pointing and west-pointing patterns appear superimposed, making a rectangular pattern. Because the Namib Desert is very old'”dating from the time when the cold, desert-forming Benguela ocean currentstarted to flow about 37 million years ago'”wind patterns and dune patterns have shifted over time. North-oriented dunes have shifted north and east with drier climates and stronger winds, overriding but not removing earlier dune chains and making the rectangular dune network we see today.

The Tsondab River is a well-known Namib Desert river because it is blocked by linear dunes (just outside the left margin of the image) 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean. Research has shown that during wetter times, it did reach the ocean. The name Tsondab means 'that which is running is suddenly stopped'� in the local Khoisan language.

Along the edge of the dune-free Tsondab River valley, we can see star dunes, which are smaller and display multiple arms (top left).

Astronaut photograph ISS047-E-23405was acquired on March 27, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 500 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 47 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. TheInternational Space Station Programsupports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.

Instrument(s):andnbsp;ISS - Digital Camera 

International Space Station

Monday, November 21, 2016

Nova Over Thailand

A nova in Sagittarius is bright enough to see with binoculars. Detected last month, the stellar explosion even approached the limit of naked-eye visibility last week. A classical nova results from a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star -- a dense star having the size of our Earth but the mass of our Sun. In the featured image, the nova was captured last week above ancient Wat Mahathatin SukhothaiThailand. To see Nova Sagittarius 2016 yourself, just go out just after sunset and locate near the western horizon the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius), popularly identified with an iconic teapot. Also visible near the novais the very bright planet Venus. Don’t delay, though, because not only is the nova fading, but that part of the sky is setting continually closer to sunset.
Image Credit & CopyrightJeff Dai (TWAN)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hubble Nets a Subtle Swarm

This Hubble image shows NGC 4789A, a dwarf irregular galaxy in the constellation of Coma Berenices. It certainly lives up to its name '” the stars that call this galaxy home are smeared out across the sky in an apparently disorderly and irregular jumble, giving NGC 4789A a far more subtle and abstract appearance than its glitzy spiral and elliptical cousins.

These stars may look as if they have been randomly sprinkled on the sky, but they are all held together by gravity. The colors in this image have been deliberately exaggerated to emphasize the mix of blue and red stars. The blue stars are bright, hot and massive stars that have formed relatively recently, whereas the red stars are much older. The presence of both tells us that stars have been forming in this galaxy throughout its history.

At a distance of just over 14 million light-years away NGC 4789A is relatively close to us, allowing us to see many of the individual stars within its bounds. This image also reveals numerous other galaxies, far more distant, that appear as fuzzy shapes spread across the image.

Image Credit:andnbsp;ESA/Hubble andamp; NASA, Acknowledgements: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)
Text Credit:andnbsp;European Space Agency

Hubble Space Telescope

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Expedition 50 Crew Launched to the International Space Station

In this one second exposure photograph, the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft is seen launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with Expedition 50 crewmembers NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, Kazakh time (Nov 17 Eastern time). Whitson, Novitskiy, and Pesquet will spend approximately six months on the International Space Station.

Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

International Space Station

Satellite Detects Human Contribution to Atmospheric CO2

Launched in July 2014, NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) was designed to give scientists comprehensive, global measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Now a team of scientists has used that satellite data to identify a human signal amid the seasonal fluctuations of the greenhouse gas.

For decades, ground-based observatories have been measuring CO2, and those measurements have been steadily climbing. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide now averages more than 400 parts per million, year-round, which is more than one third higher than CO2 levels before modern industrialization and fossil fuel use began.

Ground stations have provided a broad view of carbon in the atmosphere, and other models and estimates (such as economic data) have filled in some details. Even a few satellites have offered short-term or regional glimpses of CO2patterns. But past efforts have been limited in various ways: by the inability to collect measurements over the oceans; by a lack of resolution or methodical measurement from space-based instruments; and by incomplete reporting by countries and companies monitoring the gas. Most of all, past measurements could not necessarily pinpoint the sources of carbon dioxide.

Various studies and models have determined that humans release about 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. But where, exactly, are those emissions coming from today? A group of scientists from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) have used OCO-2 data to make satellite-based maps of human emissions of carbon dioxide. Those satellite observations match well with ground-based estimates.

The maps on this page depict carbon dioxide anomalies in the atmosphere; that is, places where CO2 levels were higher than the normal fluctuations that occur with the seasons. They are based on work published in November 2016 by Janne Hakkarainen and colleagues at FMI. The maps depict widespread carbon dioxide around major urban areas, as well as some smaller pockets of high emissions. The highest values in the study were observed over eastern China, with other hot spots in the eastern United States, Central Europe, the Middle East, and Japan.

'OCO-2 can even detect smaller, isolated emitting areas like individual cities. It's a very powerful tool that gives new insight,'� said Hakkarainen, the atmospheric scientist at FMI who led the study. 'One of the most interesting findings was to see a strong signal over Middle East that is not present in emission inventories'”suggesting that the inventories might be incomplete over that area.'� (Note that the Middle East map does not show data east of Iran because calculations have not yet been made for those areas.)

Carbon dioxide molecules linger in the atmosphere for a century or more, so much of what OCO-2 observes is greenhouse gas that was emitted and accumulated years ago. The amount also fluctuates with the seasons, as plants and phytoplankton soak up more carbon during spring and summer and less in the winter.

The human fingerprint in any given year is relatively small. 'Human emissions within the past year may add only something like three parts per million to that total,'� Hakkarainen noted. The challenge was to isolate the recent manmade emissions from natural cycles and long-term accumulations.

The researchers analyzed and processed OCO-2 data to account for seasonal changes, as well as the background level (already near 400 parts per million). That left them with the signal of emissions from motor vehicles, power plants, and other industrial processes. But to be sure their signal was true, the team turned to another sensor, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA's Aura satellite. Built by a Dutch-Finnish team, OMI can measure nitrogen dioxide, another gas emitted during fossil fuel combustion. Carbon detections from OCO-2 lined up with NO2 detections by OMI, confirming the extra carbon dioxide was a result of human activities.

'This is a first step to realizing the potential of the OCO2 data,'� said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He was not involved in the study. 'This provides a baseline against which future changes and variability can be assessed.'�

References and Related Reading

Hakkarainen, J., Ialongo, I., and Tamminen, J. (2016) Direct space-based observations ofanthropogenic CO2 emission areas from OCO-2. Geophysical Research Letters 43.NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2016, November 2) A New Space-Based View of Human Made Carbon Dioxide. Accessed November 11, 2016.NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2016) Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.Accessed November 11, 2016.University of East Anglia (2016, November 10) Low growth in global carbon emissions continues for third successive year. Accessed November 11, 2016.NASA Earth Observatory (2011, June 16) The Carbon Cycle.NASA Earth Observatory (2013, September 27) Global Patterns of Carbon Dioxide.

NASA Earth Observatory maps by Joshua Stevens, using OCO-2 anomaly data courtesy of Hakkarainen, J., Ialongo, I., andamp; Tamminen, J. (2016). Caption by Mike Carlowicz, NASA Earth Observatory, and Carol Rasmussen, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.



Friday, November 18, 2016

Expedition 50 Crew Waves Farewell

Expedition 50 crewmembers ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, top, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, middle, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos wave farewell before boarding their Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft for launch Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, (Kazakh Time) in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The trio will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:20 p.m. EST, Nov. 17 (Nov. 18, Kazakh time). All three will spend approximately six months on the orbital complex.

Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

International Space Station

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Third Crewed Skylab Mission Launches- Nov 16 1973

This week in 1973, Skylab's third and final crewed mission, launched to America's first space station. This image of Skylab in orbit was taken as the crew departed the space station after 84 days in the station. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center provided the Saturn launch vehicles for the four Skylab missions and directed many of the space station's experiments. Today Marshall's Payload Operations Integration Center serves as "science central" for the International Space Station, working 24/7, 365 days a year in support of the orbiting laboratory's scientific experiments. The NASA History Program is responsible for generating, disseminating, and preserving NASA's remarkable history and providing a comprehensive understanding of the institutional, cultural, social, political, economic, technological, and scientific aspects of NASA's activities in aeronautics and space. For more pictures like this one and to connect to NASA's history, visit the History Program's webpage.

Image credit: NASA

The Heart and Soul Nebulas

Is the heart and soul of our Galaxy located in Cassiopeia? Possibly not, but that is where two bright emission nebulas nicknamed Heart and Soul can be found. The Heart Nebula, officially dubbed IC 1805 and visible in the featured image on the right, has a shape reminiscent of a classical heart symbol. Both nebulas shine brightly in the red light of energized hydrogen. Several young open clusters ofstars populate the image and are visible here in blue, including the nebula centers.Light takes about 6,000 years to reach us from these nebulas, which together span roughly 300 light yearsStudies of stars and clusters like those found in theHeart and Soul Nebulas have focused on how massive stars form and how theyaffect their environment.
Image Credit & Copyright: David Lindemann

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Cloudscape Over the Philippine Sea

Flying over the Philippine Sea, an astronaut looked toward the horizon from the International Space Station and shot this photograph of three-dimensional clouds, the thin blue envelope of the atmosphere, and the blackness of space. The late afternoon sunlight brightens a broad swath of the sea surface on the right side of the image. In the distance, a wide layer of clouds mostly obscures the northern Philippine islands (top right).

Looking toward the Sun to capture an image is a special technique used by astronauts to accentuate the three dimensions of landscapes and cloudscapes through the use of shadows. Two large thunderclouds rise next to one another (lower right). These clouds have long tails, also known as anvils, that stretch nearly 100 kilometers to the south. Anvils form when thunderstorm clouds rise high into the atmosphere and reach a 'capping layer'� thousands of meters (tens of thousands of feet) above sea level. Capping layers stop the upward growth of a cloud, deflecting air currents horizontally to form anvils.

Related Images

NASA Earth Observatory (2016, March 21) East Indonesia Island Chain.NASA Earth Observatory (2012, May 28) Sunglint and Clouds off Western South America.

Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-10018 was acquired on June 25, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 116 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.

Instrument(s) ;ISS - Digital Camera 

International Space Station

Super moon and Expedition 50 Soyuz

The moon, or supermoon, is seen rising behind the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome to the International Space Station at 3:20 p.m. EST, Nov. 17 (2:20 a.m., Nov. 18, Kazakh time). All three will spend approximately six months on the orbital complex. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. 

Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

International Space Station

Monday, November 14, 2016

Super Moon and International Space Station

What are those specks in front of the Moon? They are silhouettes of theInternational Space Station (ISS). Using careful planning and split-second timing, a meticulous lunar photographer captured ten images of the ISSpassing in front of last month's full moon. But this wasn't just any full moon -- this was the first of the three consecutive 2016 supermoons. A supermoon is a full moon that appears a few percent larger and brighter than most other full moons. The featured image sequence was captured near Dallas, Texas. Occurring today is the second supermoon of this series, a full moon that is the biggest and brightest not only of the year, but of any year since 1948. To see today's super-supermoon yourself, just go outside at night and look up. The third supermoon of this year's series will occur in mid-December.
Image Credit & Copyright: Kris Smith

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Cosmic Web of the Tarantula Nebula

It is the largest and most complex star forming region in the entire galactic neighborhood. Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy orbiting our Milky Way galaxy, the region's spidery appearance is responsible for its popular name, the Tarantula nebula. This tarantula, however, is about 1,000 light-years across. Were it placed at the distance of Milky Way's Orion Nebula, only 1,500 light-years distant and the nearest stellar nursery to Earth, it would appear to cover about 30 degrees (60 full moons) on the sky. Intriguing details of the nebula are visible in the featured image shown incolors emitted predominantly by hydrogen and oxygen. The spindly arms of the Tarantula nebula surround NGC 2070, a star cluster that contains some of the brightest, most massive stars known, visible in blue in the image center. Since massive stars live fast and die young, it is not so surprising that the cosmic Tarantula also lies near the site of the closest recent supernova.
Image Credit & Copyright: Josep Drudis

Super Moon vs Micro Moon

What is so super about tomorrow's supermoon? Tomorrow, a full moon will occur that appears slightly larger and brighter than usual. The reason is that the Moon's fully illuminated phase occurs within a short time from perigee - when the Moon is its closest to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. Although the precise conditions that define a supermoon vary, tomorrow's supermoon will undoubtedly qualify because it will be the closest, largest, and brightest full moon in over 65 years. One reason supermoons are popular is because they are so easy to see -- just go outside and sunset and watch an impressive full moon rise! Since perigee actually occurs tomorrow morning, tonight's full moon, visible starting at sunset, should also be impressive. Pictured here, asupermoon from 2012 is compared to a micromoon -- when a full Moon occurs near the furthest part of the Moon's orbit -- so that it appears smaller and dimmer than usual. Given many definitions, at least one supermoonoccurs each year, with another one coming next month (moon-th). However, a full moon will not come this close to Earth again until 2034.
Image Credit & Copyright: Catalin Paduraru