Monday, January 30, 2017

Venus through Water drops

Now the brilliant "star" in planet Earth's evening skies, Venus is captured in thiscreative astrophotograph. Taken with a close-focusing lens on January 18 from Milton Keynes, UK, it shows multiple images of the sky above the western horizon shortly after sunset. The images were created by water drops on a glass pane fixed to a tree. Surface tension has drawn the water drops into simple lens-like shapes. Refracting light, the drops create images that are upside-down, so the scene has been rotated to allow comfortable right-side up viewing of a macro-multiple-skyscape.
Image Credit &Copyright:John Bell

The Cats Eye Nebula from Hubble

To some, it may look like a cat's eye. The alluring Cat's Eye nebula, however, lies three thousand light-years from Earth across interstellar space. A classicplanetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging offouter layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this digitally reprocessed Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into this Cat's Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution ... in about 5 billion years.
Image Credit: NASAESAHubbleHLAReprocessing & Copyright: Raul Villaverde

Hubble Space Telescope

Cassini's Grand Finale Tour at Saturn

Cassini is being prepared to dive into Saturn. The robotic spacecraft that has been orbiting and exploring Saturn for over a decade will end its mission in September with a spectacular atmospheric plunge. Pictured here is a diagram of Cassini's remaining orbits, each taking about one week. Cassini is scheduled to complete a few months of orbits that will take it just outside Saturn's outermost ring F. Then, in April, Titanwill give Cassini a gravitational pull into Proximal orbits, the last of which, on September 15, will impact Saturn and cause the spacecraftto implode and melt. Cassini's Grand Finale orbits are designed to record data and first-ever views from inside the rings -- between the rings and planet -- as well as some small moons interspersed in the rings. Cassini's demise isdesigned to protect any life that may occur around Saturn or its moons from contaminationby Cassini itself.
Image Credit: NASAJPL-Caltech


GOES 16: Moon Over Planet Earth

Launched last November 19 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the satellite now known as GOES-16 can now observe planet Earth from a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the equator. Its Advanced Baseline Imager captured this contrasting view of Earth and a gibbous Moon on January 15. The stark and airless Moon is not really the focus of GOES-16, though. Capable of providing a high resolution full disk image of Earth every 15 minutes in 16 spectral channels, the new generation satellite's instrumentation is geared to provide sharper, more detailed views of Earth's dynamic weather systems and enable more accurate weather forecasting. Like previous GOES weather satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon over our fair planet as a calibration target.
Image Credit: NOAANASA


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Here's Looking at you, Tethys

Tethys, one of Saturn's larger icy moons, vaguely resembles an eyeball staring off into space in this view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The resemblance is due to the enormous crater, Odysseus, and its complex of central peaks.

Like any solar system moon, Tethys (660 miles or 1,062 kilometers across) has suffered many impacts. These impacts are a prime shaper of the appearance of a moon's surface , especially when the moon has no active geological processes. In this case, a large impact not only created a crater known as Odysseus, but the rebound of the impact caused the mountainous peaks, named Scheria Montes, to form in the center of the crater.

This view looks toward the leading side of Tethys. North on Tethys is up and rotated 1 degree to the left. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 10, 2016.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 228,000 miles (367,000 kilometers) from Tethys. Image scale is 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) 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


Friday, January 27, 2017

New Weather Satellite Sends First Images of Earth

The release of the first images today from NOAA’s newest satellite, GOES-16, is the latest step in a new age of weather satellites. This composite color full-disk visible image is from 1:07 p.m. EDT on Jan. 15, 2017, and was created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument. The image shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans. GOES-16 observes Earth from an equatorial view approximately 22,300 miles high, creating full disk images like these, extending from the coast of West Africa, to Guam, and everything in between.

GOES-16, formerly known as GOES-R, is the first spacecraft in a new series of NASA-built advanced geostationary weather satellites. NASA successfully launched the satellite at 6:42 p.m. EST on Nov. 19, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NOAA manages the GOES-R Series Program through an integrated NOAA-NASA office. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R series spacecraft and instruments.

Image Credit: NOAA/NASA


The Space X Falcon 9 to Orbit

Birds don't fly this high. Airplanes don't go this fast. The Statue of Liberty weighs less. No species other than human can even comprehend what is going on, nor could any human just a millennium ago. The launch of a rocket bound for space is an event that inspires awe and challenges description. Pictured here, a SpaceXFalcon 9 V rocket lifted off through a cloud deck from Cape Canaveral, Florida last July to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station. From a standing start, the 300,000+ kilogram rocket ship lifted its Dragon Capsule up to circle the Earth, where the outside air is too thin to breathe. Rockets bound for space are now launched from somewhere on Earth about once a week.
Image Credit & Copyright: Tim ShorttFlorida Today

Global Temperature Record Broken for Third Consecutive Year

Two years ago, we wrote: 'The year 2014 was Earth's warmest in 134 years of records.'� Last year we wrote: '2015 was the warmest year ever recorded on Earth, and it was not even close.'� This year, we are running out of ways to say it.
In 2016, surface temperatures on Earth were the warmest that they have been since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This is the third year in a row that a new global temperature record has been set. The UK Met Office and Japan Meteorological Agency have announced similar findings.
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 0.99 degrees Celsius (1.78 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the mid-20th century mean, according to an analysis by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Because the location of weather stations and temperature measurement practices change over time, there can be uncertainties in the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences. However, even taking this into account, the NASA GISS analysis has greater than 95 percent certainty that 2016 was the warmest year on record.
The map above depicts global temperature anomalies in 2016. It does not show absolute temperatures; instead, it shows how much warmer or cooler each region of Earth was compared to a baseline average from 1951 to 1980.
'We don't expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear,'� said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1.1°C (2.0°F) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other manmade emissions into the atmosphere. Much of the warming has occurred in the past 35 years.
This animated figure shows global temperature anomalies for every month since 1880, a result of the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2) model run by NASA's Global Modeling and Assimilation Office. Each line shows how much the global monthly temperature was above or below the annual global mean from 1980-2015. The column on the right lists each year when a new global record was set.
Not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the 12 months of the year--from January through September, with the exception of June--were the warmest on record for those respective months. October and November were the second warmest of those months, just behind records set in 2015.
Phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina--which warm and cool the surface waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean and cause variations in global wind and weather patterns--contribute to short-term variations in global average temperature. An El Nino event spanned much of 2015 and the first third of 2016, and researchers estimate that it increased the annual global temperature anomaly for 2016 by 0.12°C (0.2°F).
Weather dynamics often affect local temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced record temperatures last year. Both NASA and NOAA found the 2016 annual mean temperature for the contiguous ('lower'�) 48 United States was the second warmest on record. The Arctic experienced its warmest year ever, consistent with record low sea ice for most of the year.
The NASA GISS team assembles its analysis from publicly available data acquired by roughly 6,300 meteorological stations around the world; from ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature; and from Antarctic research stations. This raw data is analyzed using methods that account for the distribution of temperature stations around the globe and for urban heating effects that could skew the calculations. (For more explanation of how the analysis works, read World of Change: Global Temperatures.)
Scientists from NOAA, JMA, and the UK Met Office use much of the same raw temperature data, but with different baseline periods or slightly different methods to analyze Earth's polar regions and global temperatures.
References and Related Reading
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP). Accessed January 18, 2017.NASA Earth Observatory (2015) World of Change: Global Temperatures.NOAA National Climatic Data Center (2017, January 18) Global Analysis: Annual 2016. Accessed January 18, 2017.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2017, January 18) 2016 marks three consecutive years of record warmth for the globe. Accessed January 18, 2017.UK Met Office (2017, January 18) 2016: one of the warmest two years on record. Accessed January 18, 2017.Japan Meteorological Agency (2016, December 19) Global temperature for 2016 to be the highest since 1891. Accessed January 18, 2017.The Washington Post (2017, January 18) Scientists react to Earth's warmest year. Accessed January 18, 2017.NASA Earth Observatory (2010, June 3) Global Warming.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, based on data from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Caption by Kate Ramsayer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, with Mike Carlowicz.
In situ Measurement

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Elephant's Trunk Nebula in Cepheus

Like an illustration in a galactic Just So Story, the Elephant's Trunk Nebula winds through the emission nebula and young star cluster complex IC 1396, in the high and far off constellation of Cepheus. Also known as vdB 142, the cosmic elephant's trunk is over 20 light-years long. This colorful close-up view includes image data from a narrow band filter that transmits the light from ionized hydrogen atoms in the region. The resulting composite highlights the bright swept-back ridges that outline pockets of cool interstellar dust and gas. Such embedded, dark, tendril-shaped clouds contain the raw material for star formationand hide protostars within. Nearly 3,000 light-years distant, the relatively faint IC 1396 complex covers a large region on the sky, spanning over 5 degrees. This dramatic scene spans a 1 degree wide field, about the size of 2 Full Moons.
Image Credit & CopyrightStephen Leshin

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Space Station Vista: Planet and Galaxy

If you could circle the Earth aboard the International Space Station, what might you see? Some amazing vistas, one of which was captured in this breathtaking picture in mid-2015. First, visible at the top, are parts of the space station itself including solar panels. Just below the station is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy, glowing with the combined light of billions of stars, but dimmed in patches by filaments of dark dust. The band of red light just below the Milky Way is airglow --Earth's atmosphere excited by the Sun and glowing in specific colors of light. Green airglow is visible below the red. Of course that's our Earth below its air, with the terminator between day and night visible near the horizon. As clouds speckle the planet, illumination from a bright lightning bolt is seen toward the lower right. Between work assignments, astronauts from all over the Earth have been enjoying vistas like this from the space station since the year 2000.

International Space Station

Chandra Images Shows that Geometry Solves a Pulsar Puzzle

NASA'S Chandra X-ray Observatory has taken deep exposures of two nearby energetic pulsars flying through the Milky Way galaxy. The shape of their X-ray emission suggests there is a geometrical explanation for puzzling differences in behavior shown by some pulsars.
Pulsars 'ˆ’ rapidly rotating, highly magnetized, neutron stars born in supernova explosions triggered by the collapse of massive stars 'ˆ’ were discovered 50 years ago via their pulsed, highly regular, radio emission. andnbsp;Pulsars produce a lighthouse-like beam of radiation that astronomers detect as pulses as the pulsar's rotation sweeps the beam across the sky.andnbsp;
Since their discovery, thousands of pulsars have been discovered, many of which produce beams of radio waves and gamma rays. Some pulsars show only radio pulses and others show only gamma-ray pulses. Chandra observations have revealed steadier X-ray emission from extensive clouds of high-energy particles, called pulsar wind nebulas, associated with both types of pulsars. New Chandra data on pulsar wind nebulas may explain the presence or absence of radio and gamma-ray pulses.
This four-panel graphic shows the two pulsars observed by Chandra. Geminga is in the upper left and B0355+54 is in the upper right. In both of these images, Chandra's X-rays, colored blue and purple, are combined with infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope that shows stars in the field of view. Below each data image, an artist's illustration depicts more details of what astronomers think the structure of each pulsar wind nebula looks like.
For Geminga, a deep Chandra observation totaling nearly eight days over several years was analyzed to show sweeping, arced trails spanning half a light year and a narrow structure directly behind the pulsar. A five-day Chandra observation of the second pulsar, B0355+54, showed a cap of emission followed by a narrow double trail extending almost five light years.
The underlying pulsars are quite similar, both rotating about five times per second and both aged about half a million years. However, Geminga shows gamma-ray pulses with no bright radio emission, while B0355+54 is one of the brightest radio pulsars known yet not seen in gamma rays.
A likely interpretation of the Chandra images is that the long narrow trails to the side of Geminga and the double tail of B0355+54 represent narrow jets emanating from the pulsar's spin poles. Both pulsars also contain a torus of emission spreading from the pulsar's spin equator. These disk-shaped structures and the jets are crushed and swept back as the pulsars fly through the Galaxy at supersonic speeds
In the case of Geminga, the view of the torus is close to edge-on, while the jets point out to the sides.andnbsp; B0355+54 has a similar structure, but with the torus viewed nearly face-on and the jets pointing nearly directly towards and away from Earth. In B0355+54, the swept-back jets appear to lie almost on top of each other, giving a doubled tail.
Both pulsars have magnetic poles quite close to their spin poles, as is the case for the Earth's magnetic field. These magnetic poles are the site of pulsar radio emission so astronomers expect the radio beams to point in a similar direction as the jets. By contrast the gamma-ray emission is mainly produced along the spin equator and so aligns with the torus.andnbsp;
For Geminga, astronomers view the bright gamma-ray pulses along the edge of the torus, but the radio beams near the jets point off to the sides and remain unseen. For B0355+54, a jet points almost along our line of sight towards the pulsar. This means astronomers see the bright radio pulses, while the torus and its associated gamma-ray emission are directed in a perpendicular direction to our line of sight, missing the Earth.
These two deep Chandra images have, therefore, exposed the spin orientation of these pulsars, helping to explain the presence, and absence, of the radio and gamma-ray pulses.
The Chandra observations of Geminga and B0355+54 are part of a large campaign, led by Roger Romani of Stanford University, to study six pulsars that have been seen to emit gamma-rays. The survey sample covers a range of ages, spin-down properties and expected inclinations, making it a powerful test of pulsar emission models.
A paper on Geminga led by Bettina Posselt of Penn State University was accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online. A paper on B0355+54 led by Noel Klingler of the George Washington University was published in the December 20th, 2016 issue of The Astrophysical Journal 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: Geminga image: NASA/CXC/PSU/B. Posselt et al; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech; B0355+54: X-ray: NASA/CXC/GWU/N. Klingler et al; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Illustrations: Nahks TrEhnl

Monday, January 23, 2017

Peeking Over Saturn's Shoulders

No Earth-based telescope could ever capture a view quite like this. Earth-based views can only show Saturn's daylit side, from within about 25 degrees of Saturn's equatorial plane. A spacecraft in orbit, like Cassini, can capture stunning scenes that would be impossible from our home planet.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 25 degrees (if Saturn is dominant in image) above the ring plane. The image was taken in violet light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Oct. 28, 2016.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 810,000 miles (1.3 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 50 miles (80 kilometers) 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


Friday, January 20, 2017

NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough on Space walk

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA at work outside the International Space Station on Jan. 13, 2017, in a photo taken by fellow spacewalker Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. During the nearly six-hour spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully installed three new adapter plates and hooked up electrical connections for three of the six new lithium-ion batteries on the International Space Station. This was the second spacewalk in a week for Kimbrough and the fourth of his career, and the first for Pesquet.

To date, space station crew members have conducted 197 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 51 days 6 hours and 4 minutes working outside the station.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA

International Space Station

Fly me to the Moon

No, this is not a good way to get to the Moon. What is pictured is a chance superposition of an airplane and the Moon. The contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the setting Sun preferentially knocks away blue light, giving the reflected trail a bright red hue. Far in the distance, to the right of the plane, is the young Moon. This vast world shows only a sliver of itself because the Sun is nearly lined up behind it. Captured two weeks ago, the featured image was framed by an eerie maroon sky, too far from day to be blue, too far from night to be black. Within minutes the impromptu sky show ended. The plane crossed the Moon. The contrail dispersed. The Sun set. The Moon set. The sky faded to black, only to reveal thousands of stars that had been too faint to see through the rustic red din.
Image Credit & Copyright: Tamas Ladanyi (TWAN)

The Matter of the Bullet Cluster

What's the matter with the Bullet Cluster? This massive cluster of galaxies (1E 0657-558) creates gravitational lens distortions of background galaxies in a way that has been interpreted as strong evidence for the leading theory: that dark matter exists within. Different recent analyses, though, indicate that a less popular alternative -- modifying gravity-- could explain cluster dynamics without dark matter, and provide a more likely progenitor scenario as well. Currently, the two scientific hypotheses are competing to explain the observations: it's invisible matter versus amended gravity. The duel is dramatic as a clear Bullet-proof example of dark matter would shatter the simplicity of modified gravity theories. For the near future, the battle over the Bullet cluster is likely to continue as new observations, computer simulations, and analyses are completed. The featured image is a Hubble/Chandra/Magellan composite with red depicting the X-rays emitted by hot gas, and blue depicting the suggested separated dark matterdistribution.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/ M. Markevitch et al.; 
Lensing Map: NASA/STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan/U.Arizona/ D.Clowe et al. 
Optical: NASA/STScI; Magellan/U.Arizona/D.Clowe et al.

Chandra X-ray Observatory
Hubble Space Telescope

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hubble Gazes Into a Black Hole of Puzzling Lightness

The beautiful spiral galaxy visible in the center of the image is known as RX J1140.1+0307, a galaxy in the Virgo constellation imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and it presents an interesting puzzle. At first glance, this galaxy appears to be a normal spiral galaxy, much like the Milky Way, but first appearances can be deceptive!

The Milky Way galaxy, like most large galaxies, has a supermassive black hole at its center, but some galaxies are centered on lighter, intermediate-mass black holes. RX J1140.1+0307 is such a galaxy '” in fact, it is centered on one of the lowest black hole masses known in any luminous galactic core. What puzzles scientists about this particular galaxy is that the calculations don't add up. With such a relatively low mass for the central black hole, models for the emission from the object cannot explain the observed spectrum. There must be other mechanisms at play in the interactions between the inner and outer parts of the accretion disk surrounding the black hole.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble andamp; NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

Text credit: European Space Agency

Hubble Space Telescope

Stardust in the Perseus Molecular Cloud

Clouds of stardust drift through this deep skyscape. The cosmic scene spans nearly 2 degrees across the Perseus molecular cloud some 850 light-years away.A triangle of dusty nebulae reflecting light from embedded stars is captured in the telescopic field of view. With a characteristic bluish color reflection nebula NGC 1333 is at left, vdB13 at bottom right, and rare yellowish reflection nebula vdB12lies at the top. Stars are forming in the Perseus molecular cloud, though most are obscured at visible wavelengths by the pervasive dust. Still, hints of contrasting red emission from Herbig-Haro objects, the jets and shocked glowing gas emanating from recently formed stars, are evident in NGC 1333. At the estimated distance of the molecular cloud, legs of the triangle formed by the reflection nebulae would be about 20 light-years long.
Image Credit & CopyrightLorand Fenyes

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Crescent Jupiter With the Great Red Spot

This image of a crescent Jupiter and the iconic Great Red Spot was created by a citizen scientist (Roman Tkachenko) using data from Juno's JunoCam instrument. You can also see a series of storms shaped like white ovals, known informally as the ‘string of pearls.’ Below the Great Red Spot a reddish long-lived storm known as Oval BA is visible.

The image was taken on Dec. 11, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. PST (5:30 p.m. EST), as the Juno spacecraft performed its third close flyby of Jupiter. At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 285,100 miles (458,800 kilometers) from the planet.

JunoCam's raw images are available at for the public to peruse and process into image products.

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Edge on NGC 891

Large spiral galaxy NGC 891 spans about 100 thousand light-years and is seen almost exactly edge-on from our perspective. In fact, about 30 million light-years distant in the constellation Andromeda, NGC 891 looks a lot like our Milky Way. At first glance, it has a flat, thin, galactic disk of stars and a central bulge cut along the middle by regions of dark obscuring dust. But remarkably apparent in NGC 891's edge-on presentation are filaments of dust that extend hundreds of light-years above and below the center line. The dust has likely been blown out of the disk by supernova explosions or intense star formation activity. Fainter galaxies can also be seen near the edge-on disk in this deep portrait of NGC 891.
Image Credit &Copyright:Alessandro Falesiedi

Friday, January 13, 2017

In the Center of the Spiral Galaxy

What's happening in the center of spiral NGC 5033? Many things -- some circular, some energetic, and some not well understood. NGC 5033 is known as a Seyfert galaxy because of the great activity seen in its nucleus. Brightstars, dark dust, and interstellar gas all swirl quickly around a galactic center that appears slightly offset from a supermassive black hole. This offset is thought to be the result of NGC 5033 merging with another galaxy sometime in the past billion years. The featured image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005.NGC 5033 spans about 100,000 light years and is so far away that we see it only as it existed about 40 million years ago.
Image Credit: NASAESAHubbleMAST -Processing: Judy Schmidt

Hubble Space Telescope

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sharpless 249 and the Jellyfish Nebula

Normally faint and elusive, the Jellyfish Nebula is caught in this alluring telescopic mosaic. The scene is anchored below by bright star Eta Geminorum, at the foot of the celestial twin, while the Jellyfish Nebula is the brighter arcing ridge of emission with tentacles dangling below and left of center. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astrophysical waters theCrab Nebula supernova remnant, the Jellyfish Nebula is known to harbor a neutron star, the remnant of the collapsed stellar core. An emission nebula cataloged asSharpless 249 fills the field at the upper right. The Jellyfish Nebula is about 5,000 light-years away. At that distance, this narrowband composite image presented in the Hubble Palette would be about 300 light-years across.
Image Credit &Copyright:Eric Coles

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Earth and It's Moon Seen From Mars

From the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars comes a new view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon.

The image combines two separate exposures taken on Nov. 20, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The images were taken to calibrate HiRISE data, since the reflectance of the moon's Earth-facing side is well known. For presentation, the exposures were processed separately to optimize detail visible on both Earth and the moon. The moon is much darker than Earth and would barely be visible if shown at the same brightness scale as Earth.

The combined view retains the correct positions and sizes of the two bodies relative to each other. The distance between Earth and the moon is about 30 times the diameter of Earth. Earth and the moon appear closer than they actually are in this image because the observation was planned for a time at which the moon was almost directly behind Earth, from Mars' point of view, to see the Earth-facing side of the moon. 

In the image, the reddish feature near the middle of the face of Earth is Australia. When the component images were taken, Mars was about 127 million miles (205 million kilometers) from Earth.

With HiRISE and five other instruments, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been investigating Mars since 2006.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the orbiter and collaborates with JPL to operate it.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Friday, January 6, 2017

Peculiar Galaxies of Arp 273

The spiky stars in the foreground of this sharp cosmic portrait are well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. The two eye-catching galaxies lie far beyond the Milky Way, at a distance of over 300 million light-years. Their distorted appearance is due to gravitational tides as the pair engage in close encounters. Cataloged as Arp 273 (also as UGC 1810), the galaxies do look peculiar, but interacting galaxies are now understood to be common in the universe. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be some 2 million light-years away and approaching the Milky Way. Arp 273 may offer an analog of their far future encounter. Repeated galaxy encounters on a cosmic timescale can ultimately result in a merger into a single galaxy of stars. From our perspective, the bright cores of the Arp 273 galaxies are separated by only a little over 100,000 light-years.
Image Credit &Copyright:Wolfgang Ries/Stefan Heutz(Astrokooperation)

Clouds on Andromeda

The beautiful Andromeda Galaxy is often imaged by planet Earth-based astronomers. Also known as M31, the nearest large spiral galaxy is a familiar sight with dark dust lanes, bright yellowish core, and spiral arms traced by blue starlight. A mosaic of well-exposed broad and narrow-band image data, thiscolorful, premier portrait of our neighboring island universe offers strikingly unfamiliar features though, faint reddish clouds of glowing ionized hydrogen gas in the same wide field of view. Still, the ionized hydrogen clouds likely lie in the foreground of the scene, well within our Milky Way Galaxy. They could be associated with the pervasive, dusty interstellar cirrus clouds scattered hundreds of light-years above our own galactic plane. If they were located at the 2.5 million light-year distance of the Andromeda Galaxy they would be enormous, since the Andromeda Galaxy itself is 200,000 or so light-years across.
Image Credit &Copyright:Rogelio BernalAndreo (Deep Sky Colors)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Comet 45P Returns

An old comet has returned to the inner Solar System. Not only is Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková physically ancient, it was first discovered 13 orbits ago in 1948. Comet 45P spends most of its time out near the orbit ofJupiter and last neared the Sun in 2011. Over the past few months, however,Comet 45P's new sunward plummet has brightened it considerably. Two days ago, the comet passed the closest part of its orbit to the Sun. The comet is currently visible with binoculars over the western horizon just after sunset, not far from the much brighter planet Venus. Pictured, Comet 45P was captured last week sporting a long ion tail with impressive structure. Comet 45P will pass relatively close to the Earth early next month.
Image Credit & Copyright: Fritz Helmut Hemmerich

A Full Sky Aurora Over Norway

Higher than the highest building, higher than the highest mountain, higher than thehighest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Auroras rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from energetic electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth's atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth's magnetic poles. The featured wide-angle image, horizontally compressed, captured an unexpected auroral display that stretched across the sky five years ago over eastern Norway.
Image Credit & Copyright: Sebastian Voltmer

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Infrared Trifid

The Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, is easy to find with a small telescope, a well known stop in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. But where visible light pictures show the nebula divided into three parts by dark, obscuring dust lanes, this penetrating infrared image reveals filaments of glowing dust clouds and newborn stars. The spectacular false-color view is courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astronomers have used the Spitzer infrared imagedata to count newborn and embryonic stars which otherwise can lie hidden in the natal dust and gas clouds of this intriguing stellar nursery. As seen here, the Trifid is about 30 light-years across and lies only 5,500 light-years away.
Image Credit: J. Rho (SSC/Caltech), JPL-CaltechNASA

Small Satellite Deployed From Space Station

A satellite is ejected from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Small Satellite Orbital Deployer on the International Space Station on Dec. 19, 2016. The satellite is actually two small satellites that, once at a safe distance from the station, separated from each other, but were still connected by a 100-meter-long Kevlar tether. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson helped the JAXA ground team to deploy the satellite, called Space Tethered Autonomous Robotic Satellite (STARS-C). Once deployed, STARS-C will point toward Earth and use a spring system and gravitational forces to separate, pushing one satellite closer to the planet. Besides being a technology demonstration, the investigation will also collect electrons from the plasma environment in space to analyze the creation of an electrical current.

The satellite deployment capability provides a unique satellite launching system for use on the station. Handled by the robotic arm known as the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS), the system provides a reliable, safe and economically viable means of deploying small research satellites into orbit. Crew members load pre-packed satellites into J-SSOD on a special sliding table in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) airlock to transfer the payload to the space environment where the robotic arm will grapple it and maneuver into position for deployment.

Image Credit: NASA

International Space Station