Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sand Moving Under Curiosity, One day to Next

This pair of images shows effects of one Martian day of wind blowing sand underneath NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on a non-driving day for the rover. Each image was taken just after sundown by the rover's downward-looking Mars Descent Imager (MARDI). The area of ground shown in the images spans about 3 feet (about 1 meter) left-to-right.
The first image was taken on Jan. 23, 2017, during the 1,587th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. Figure A is this image with a scale bar in centimeters. The second was taken on Jan. 24, 2017 (Sol 1588).andnbsp; The day-apart images by MARDI were taken as a part of investigation of wind's effects during Martian summer, the windiest time of year in Gale Crater.
When Curiosity landed inside Gale Crater in August 2012, MARDI recorded the descent from the rover's point of view. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates MARDI. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built the project's Curiosity rover.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A White Oval Cloud on Jupiter from Juno

This storm cloud on Jupiter is almost as large as the Earth. Known as a white oval, the swirling cloud is a high pressure system equivalent to an Earthly anticyclone. The cloud is one of a "string of pearls" ovals south of Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot. Possibly, the Great Red Spot is just a really large white oval than turned red. Surrounding clouds show interesting turbulence as they flowaround and past the oval. The featured image was captured on February 2 as NASA's robotic spacecraft Juno made a new pass just above the cloud tops of theJovian world. Over the next few years, Juno will continue to orbit and probe Jupiter, determine atmospheric water abundance, and attempt to determine ifJupiter has a solid surface beneath its thick clouds.
Image Credit: NASAJPL-CaltechSwRIMSSSProcessing: Roman Tkachenko


Monday, February 27, 2017

Images of the Sun From the GOES 16 Satellite

These images of the sun were captured at the same time on January 29, 2017 by the six channels on the Solar Ultraviolet Imager or SUVI instrument aboard NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite. They show a large coronal hole in the sun’s southern hemisphere. Data from SUVI will provide an estimation of coronal plasma temperatures and emission measurements which are important to space weather forecasting.

SUVI is essential to understanding active areas on the sun, solar flares and eruptions that may lead to coronal mass ejections which may impact Earth. Depending on the magnitude of a particular eruption, a geomagnetic storm can result that is powerful enough to disturb Earth’s magnetic field. Such an event may impact power grids by tripping circuit breakers, disrupt communication and satellite data collection by causing short-wave radio interference and damage orbiting satellites and their electronics. SUVI will allow the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center to provide early space weather warnings to electric power companies, telecommunication providers and satellite operators.

NASA successfully launched GOES-R at 6:42 p.m. EST on November 19, 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It was renamed GOES-16 when it achieved orbit. GOES-16 is now observing the planet from an equatorial view approximately 22,300 miles above the surface of the Earth.

Image Credit: NOAA


Four Quasar Images Surround a Galaxy Lens

An odd thing about the group of lights near the center is that four of them are the same distant quasar. This is because the foreground galaxy -- in the center of the quasar images and the featured image -- is acting like a choppy gravitational lens. A perhaps even odder thing is that by watching these background quasars flicker, you can estimate the expansion rate of the universe. That is because the flicker timing increases as the expansion rate increases. But to some astronomers, theoddest thing of all is that these multiply imaged quasars indicate a universe that is expanding a bit faster than has been estimated by different methods that apply to the early universe. And that is because ... well, no one is sure why. Reasons might include an unexpected distribution of dark matter, some unexpected effect of gravity, or something completely different. Perhaps future observations and analyses of this and similarly lensed quasar images will remove these oddities.
Image Credit: ESA/HubbleNASASherry Suyu et al.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Supercell Thunderstorm Cloud Over Montana

Is that a spaceship or a cloud? Although it may seem like an alien mothership, it's actually a impressive thunderstorm cloud called a supercell. Such colossal stormsystems center on mesocyclones -- rotating updrafts that can span several kilometers and deliver torrential rain and high winds including tornadoes. Jagged sculptured clouds adorn the supercell's edge, while wind swept dust and raindominate the center. A tree waits patiently in the foreground. The above supercell cloud was photographed in 2010 July west of GlasgowMontanaUSA, caused minor damage, and lasted several hours before moving on.
Image Credit & Copyright: Sean R. Heavey

Saturday, February 25, 2017

All Planet in Panorama

For 360 degrees, a view along the plane of the ecliptic is captured in this remarkable panorama, with seven planets in a starry sky. The mosaic was constructed using images taken during January 24-26, from Nacpan Beach, El Nido in Palawan, Philippines. It covers the eastern horizon (left) in dark early morning hours and the western horizon in evening skies. While the ecliptic runs along the middle traced by a faint band of zodiacal light, the Milky Way also cuts at angles through the frame. Clouds and the Moon join fleeting planet Mercury in the east. Yellowish Saturn, bright star Antares, and Jupiter lie near the ecliptic farther right. Hugging the ecliptic near center are Leo's alpha star Regulus and star cluster M44. The evening planets gathered along the ecliptic above the western horizon, are faint Uranus, ruddy Mars, brilliant Venus, and even fainter Neptune. A well labeled version of the panorama can be viewed by sliding your cursor over the picture, or just following this link.
Image Credit & CopyrightTunç Tezel (TWAN)

Friday, February 24, 2017

NGC:3621 Far Beyond Our Local Group

Far beyond the local group of galaxies lies NGC 3621, some 22 million light-years away. Found in the multi-headed southern constellation Hydra, the winding spiral arms of this gorgeous island universe are loaded with luminous blue star clusters, pinkish starforming regions, and dark dust lanes. Still, for astronomers NGC 3621has not been just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy. Some of its brighter stars have been used as standard candles to establish important estimates of extragalactic distances and the scale of the Universe. This beautiful image of NGC 3621, is a composite of space- and ground-based telescope data. It traces the loose spiral arms far from the galaxy's brighter central regions for some 100,000 light-years. Spiky foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy and even more distant background galaxies are scattered across the colorful skyscape.
Image Credit & Copyright: Processing - Robert GendlerRoberto Colombari
Data - Hubble Legacy ArchiveEuropean Southern Observatory, et al.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Calabash Nebula from Hubble

Fast expanding gas clouds mark the end for a central star in the Calabash Nebula. The once-normal star has run out of nuclear fuel, causing the central regions to contract into a white dwarf. Some of the liberated energy causes the outer envelope of the star to expand. In this case, the result is a photogenic proto-planetary nebula. As the million-kilometer per hour gas rams into the surroundinginterstellar gas, a supersonic shock front forms where ionized hydrogen and nitrogen glow blue. Thick gas and dust hide the dying central star. The Calabash Nebula, also known as the Rotten Egg Nebula and OH231.8+4.2, will likely develop into a full bipolar planetary nebula over the next 1000 years. The nebula, featured here, is about 1.4 light-years in extent and located about 5000 light-years away toward the constellation of Puppis.
Image Credit: NASAESAHubbleMASTAcknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

Hubble Space Telescope

Daphnis and the Rings of Saturn

What's happening to the rings of Saturn? Nothing much, just a little moon making waves. The moon is 8-kilometer Daphnis and it is making waves in the Keeler Gapof Saturn's rings using just its gravity -- as it bobs up and down, in and out. The featured image is a wide-field version of a previously released image taken last month by the robotic Cassini spacecraft during one of its new Grand Finale orbits. Daphnis can be seen on the far right, sporting ridges likely accumulated from ring particlesDaphnis was discovered in Cassini images in 2005 and raised mounds of ring particles so high in 2009 -- during Saturn's equinox when the ring plane pointed directly at the Sun -- that they cast notable shadows.
Image Credit: NASAJPL-CaltechSpace Science InstituteCassini


Seven World for TRAPPIST 1

Seven worlds orbit the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, a mere 40 light-years away. In May 2016 astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) announced the discovery of three planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Just announced, additional confirmations and discoveries by the Spitzer Space Telescope and supporting ESO ground-based telescopes have increased the number of known planets to seven. The TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely all rocky and similar in size to Earth, the largest treasure trove of terrestrial planets ever detected around a single star. Because they orbit very close to their faint, tiny star they could also have regions where surface temperatures allow for the presence of liquid water, a key ingredient for life. Their tantalizing proximity to Earth makes them prime candidates for future telescopic explorations of the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets. All seven worlds appear in this artist's illustration, an imagined view from a fictionally powerful telescope near planet Earth. Planet sizes and relative positions are drawn to scale for the Spitzer observations. The system's inner planets are transiting their dim, red, nearly Jupiter-sized parent star.
For image credit and copyright guidance, please visit the image website http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap170223.html

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rays of Creusa

When viewed from a distance with the sun directly behind Cassini, the larger, brighter craters really stand out on moons like Dione. 

Among these larger craters, some leave bright ray patterns across the moon, calling attention to their existence and to the violence of their creation.

The rayed crater seen here on Dione (698 miles, or 1,123 kilometers across) is named Creusa. The rays are brighter material blasted out by the impact that formed the crater. Scientists can use the patterns of ejecta (like these rays), to help determine the order of geological events on a moon's surface by examining which features lie on top of other features.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing side of Dione. North on Dione is up and rotated 31 degrees to the right. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 26, 2016 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 727 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 350,000 miles (560,000 kilometers) from Dione. Image scale is 1.8 miles (3 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.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute


Mars landing sites for 2020 NASA mission down to the final three

 Courtesy: New Scientist

Voting has closed the results are in. The list of places where NASA’s next Mars rover, due to launch in 2020, could land has been narrowed down to three: Jezero crater, the dry remains of an ancient lake; Northeast Syrtis, which used to host hot springs; and the Columbia Hills, previously explored by NASA’s Spirit rover.

During a three day workshop in California, eight different landing sites were presented and put to a vote. These options were already whittled down from the 30 potential sites identified in 2015.

The emphasis of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is searching for signs of life, whilst also laying the ground work for future missions to return samples to Earth. Bringing back souvenirs from Mars will be difficult and expensive, so NASA need to make sure they choose the best location to collect them from.

Top of the shortlist at the moment is Jezero crater, which used to be home to a lake the size of Lake Winnipeg in Canada. Microbes may have lived there during the wet periods in Jezero’s history, and researchers hope that signs of them are preserved somewhere near the surface.

Second place went to Northeast Syrtis, which used to be warmed by volcanic activity. This created hot springs that flowed to the surface and melted ice there. Northeast Syrtis has a layered terrain that has recorded the interactions of mineral and water over the years. It may also contain biosignatures from early Martian history.

The third and final spot in the shortlist went to the Columbia Hills, even though it actually came fifth in the popular vote. The workshop voting was only advisory, so NASA’s project scientists and engineers could prioritise other sites.

The Spirit rover had previously discovered that hot springs used to flow in the Columbia Hills as well, making it another area where life may have existed and been preserved.

“We had lots of really good options going in, so we couldn’t really go wrong with any of them,” says Tanya Harrison at Arizona State University.

That being said, she was surprised that the Columbia Hills were bumped up the list. The reasons behind that decision have not yet been released. “We’re sending a $2.5 billion spacecraft to Mars. To get the most bang for our buck we should go somewhere we’ve never been before,” says Harrison.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hubble Spotlights Celestial Sidekick

This image was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), a highly efficient wide-field camera covering the optical and near-infrared parts of the spectrum. While this lovely image contains hundreds of distant stars and galaxies, one vital thing is missing '” the object Hubble was actually studying at the time!

This is not because the target has disappeared. The ACS actually uses two detectors: the first captures the object being studied '” in this case an open star cluster known as NGC 299 '” while the other detector images the patch of space just '˜beneath' it. This is what can be seen here.

Technically, this picture is merely a sidekick of the actual object of interest '” but space is bursting with activity, and this field of bright celestial bodies offers plenty of interest on its own. It may initially seem to show just stars, but a closer look reveals many of these tiny objects to be galaxies. The spiral galaxies have arms curving out from a bright center. The fuzzier, less clearly shaped galaxies might be ellipticals. Some of these galaxies contain millions or even billions of stars, but are so distant that all of their starry residents are contained within just a small pinprick of light that appears to be the same size as a single star!

The bright blue dots are very hot stars, sometimes distorted into crosses by the struts supporting Hubble's secondary mirror. The redder dots are cooler stars, possibly in the red giant phase when a dying star cools and expands.

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

Hubble Space Telescope

Black Sun and Inverted Starfield

Does this strange dark ball look somehow familiar? If so, that might be because it is our Sun. In the featured image from 2012, a detailed solar view was captured originally in a very specific color of red light, then rendered in black and white, and then color inverted. Once complete, the resulting image was added to a starfield, then also color inverted. Visible in the image of the Sun are long light filaments, dark active regions, prominences peeking around the edge, and a moving carpetof hot gas. The surface of our Sun can be a busy place, in particular during Solar Maximum, the time when its surface magnetic field is wound up the most. Besides an active Sun being so picturesque, the plasma expelled can also become picturesque when it impacts the Earth's magnetosphere and creates auroras.
Image Credit & Copyright: Jim Lafferty

Penumbral Eclipse Raising

As seen from Cocoa Beach Pier, Florida, planet Earth, the Moon rose at sunset on February 10 while gliding through Earth's faint outer shadow. In progress was thefirst eclipse of 2017, a penumbral lunar eclipse followed in this digital stack of seaside exposures. Of course, the penumbral shadow is lighter than the planet's umbral shadow. That central, dark, shadow is easily seen on the lunar disk during a total or partial lunar eclipse. Still, in this penumbral eclipse the limb of the Moon grows just perceptibly darker as it rises above the western horizon. The second eclipse of 2017 could be more dramatic though. With viewing from a path across planet Earth's southern hemisphere, on February 26 there will be an annular eclipse of the Sun.
Image Credit & CopyrightBill Jelen

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Tulip and Cygnus X 1

Framing a bright emission region, this telescopic view looks out along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the nebula rich constellation Cygnus the Swan. Popularly called the Tulip Nebula, the reddish glowing cloud of interstellar gas and dust is also found in the 1959 catalog by astronomer Stewart Sharpless as Sh2-101. About 8,000 light-years distant and 70 light-years across the complex and beautiful nebula blossoms at the center of this composite image. Ultraviolet radiation from young energetic stars at the edge of the Cygnus OB3 association, including O star HDE 227018, ionizes the atoms and powers the emission from the Tulip Nebula. HDE 227018 is the bright star near the center of the nebula. Also framed in the field of view is microquasar Cygnus X-1, one of the strongest X-ray sources in planet Earth's sky. Driven by powerful jets from a black hole accretion disk, its fainter visible curved shock front lies above and right, just beyond the cosmic Tulip's petals
Image Credit &Copyright:Ivan Eder

Friday, February 17, 2017

Polar Ring Galaxy NGC 660

NGC 660 is featured in this cosmic snapshot. Over 40 million light-years away and swimming within the boundaries of the constellation Pisces, NGC 660's peculiar appearance marks it as a polar ring galaxy. A rare galaxy type, polar ring galaxies have a substantial population of stars, gas, and dust orbiting in rings strongly tilted from the plane of the galactic disk. The bizarre-looking configuration could have been caused by the chance capture of material from a passing galaxy by a disk galaxy, with the captured debris eventually strung out in a rotating ring. The violent gravitational interaction would account for the myriad pinkish star forming regions scattered along NGC 660's ring. The polar ring component can also be used to explore the shape of the galaxy's otherwise unseen dark matter halo by calculating the dark matter's gravitational influence on the rotation of the ring and disk. Broader than the disk, NGC 660's ring spans over 50,000 light-years.
Image Credit & CopyrightCHART32 TeamProcessing - Johannes Schedler

NASA's OSIRIS REx Takes Closer, Image of Jupiter

During Earth-Trojan asteroid search operations, the PolyCam imager aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image of Jupiter (center) and three of its moons, Callisto (left), Io, and Ganymede. The image, which shows the bands of Jupiter, was taken at 3:34 a.m. EST, on Feb. 12, when the spacecraft was 76 million miles (122 million kilometers) from Earth and 418 million miles (673 million kilometers) from Jupiter. PolyCam is OSIRIS-REx's longest range camera, capable of capturing images of the asteroid Bennu from a distance of two million kilometers.

This image was produced by taking two copies of the same image, adjusting the brightness of Jupiterandnbsp;separately from theandnbsp;significantly dimmer moons, and compositing them back together so that all four objects are visible in the same frame.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission's observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency's New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona 


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Rosette Nebula

Would the Rosette Nebula by any other name look as sweet? The bland New General Catalog designation of NGC 2237 doesn't appear to diminish the appearance of this flowery emission nebula. Inside the nebula lies an open clusterof bright young stars designated NGC 2244. These stars formed about four million years ago from the nebular material and their stellar winds are clearing a hole in the nebula's center, insulated by a layer of dust and hot gas. Ultraviolet lightfrom the hot cluster stars causes the surrounding nebula to glow. The Rosette Nebula spans about 100 light-years across, lies about 5000 light-years away, and can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros).
Image Credit & Copyright: Evangelos Souglakos

F for Fabulous

When seen up close, the F ring of Saturn resolves into multiple dusty strands. This Cassini view shows three bright strands and a very faint fourth strand off to the right.

The central strand is the core of the F ring. The other strands are not independent at all, but are actually sections of long spirals of material that wrap around Saturn. The material in the spirals was likely knocked out from the F ring's core during interactions with a small moon. To read more about the spiral, see The F Ring's Spiral Arm .

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 38 degrees above the ring plane.  The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 18, 2016.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 122,000 miles (197,000 kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Ring-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 47 degrees. Image scale is 0.7 miles (1.2 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.


Cloud Swirls Around Southern Jupiter From Juno

Juno just completed its fourth pass near Jupiter. Launched from Earth in 2011 and arriving at Jupiter just last July, robotic Juno concluded its latest elliptical orbit around our Solar System's largest planet 11 days ago. Pictured here from that pass is a new high-resolution image of the southern hemisphere of Jupiter featuring a mesmerizing tapestry of swirling cloud systems. The terminatorbetween day and night cuts diagonally across the bottom, meaning that the Sun is positioned off the top right. Large Oval BA is visible in orange on the far right. Reasons for the details and colors of Jupiter's cloud swirls are currently unknown.Juno planned six year mission will study Jovian giant in new ways, including trying to determine if beneath its thick clouds, Jupiter has a solid core.
Image Credit: NASAJPL-CaltechSwRIMSSSProcessing: Damian Peach


Comet 45P Passes Near the Earth

A large snowball has just passed the Earth. Known as Comet 45P/Honda–Mrkos–Pajdušáková", or 45P for short, the comet came 10 times closer to Earth yesterday than the Earth ever gets to the Sun. During this passage, the comet was photographed sporting a thin ion tail and a faint but expansive green coma. The green color is caused mostly by energized molecules of carbon. Comet 45Pbecame just bright enough to see with the unaided eye when it came closest to the Sun in December. Now, however, the comet is fading as it heads back out to near the orbit of Jupiter, where it spends most of its time. The kilometer-sizednucleus of ice and dirt will return to the inner Solar System in 2022.
Image Credit & Copyright: Fritz Helmut Hemmerich

Monday, February 13, 2017

Jupiter from Below (Enhanced View)

This enhanced-color image of Jupiter's south pole and its swirling atmosphere was created by citizen scientist Roman Tkachenko using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA's Juno spacecraft.

Juno acquired the image, looking directly at the Jovian south pole, on February 2, 2017, at 6:06 a.m. PST (9:06 a.m. EST) from an altitude of about 63,400 miles (102,100 kilometers) above Jupiter's cloud tops. Cyclones swirl around the south pole, and white oval storms can be seen near the limb -- the apparent edge of the planet.

JunoCam's raw images are available at www.missionjuno.swri.edu/junocam 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


Crescent Enceladus

Peering from the shadows, the Saturn-facing hemisphere of tantalizing inner moon Enceladus poses in this Cassini spacecraft image. North is up in the dramatic scene captured last November as Cassini's camera was pointed in a nearly sunward direction about 130,000 kilometers from the moon's bright crescent. In fact, the distant world reflects over 90 percent of the sunlight it receives, giving its surface about the same reflectivity as fresh snow. A mere 500 kilometers in diameter, Enceladus is a surprisingly active moon. Data collected during Cassini's flybys and years of images have revealed the presence of remarkable south polar geysers and a possible global ocean of liquid water beneath an icy crust.
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging TeamSSIJPLESANASA

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Lobsters Nebula

Why is the Lobster Nebula forming some of the most massive stars known? No one is yet sure. Near the more obvious Cat's Paw nebula on the upper right, theLobster Nebula, on the lower left and cataloged as NGC 6357, houses the open star cluster Pismis 24, home to these tremendously bright and blue stars. The overall red glow near the inner star forming region results from the emission ofionized hydrogen gas. The surrounding nebula, featured here, holds a complex tapestry of gas, dark dust, stars still forming, and newly born stars. The intricate patterns are caused by complex interactions between interstellar windsradiation pressuresmagnetic fields, and gravity. The full zoomable version of this image contains about two billion pixels, making it one of the largest space images ever released. NGC 6357 spans about 400 light years and lies about 8,000 light yearsaway toward the constellation of the Scorpion.
Image Credit: ESOVLT Survey Telescope

Friday, February 10, 2017

Soccer Ball Recovered From Space Shuttle Challenger Flies to the Space Station

A soccer ball originally packed onto space shuttle Challenger in 1986 is now orbiting the Earth on board the International Space Station, 31 years later.

The soccer ball was signed and presented to NASA astronaut Ellison Onizuka by soccer players '“ including his daughter '“ from Clear Lake High School, near NASA's Johnson Space Center. Onizuka was one of seven astronauts on board Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986, when it exploded shortly after liftoff.

Following the accident, the ball was recovered and returned to the high school, where it has been on display for the past three decades. Its history had begun to fade into obscurity when Principal Karen Engle learned of its origin. Soon after, Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough, whose son attends Clear Lake High School, offered to carry a memento to the space station on the school's behalf, and she had the idea to send the soccer ball into space.

Kimbrough snapped this photo of the ball floating in front of the station's Cupola window in advance of Challenger anniversary and NASA's Day of Remembrance. After getting permission from the school and Onizuka family, he decided to share it via social media.

'I'm honored to be a part of bringing this small piece of Challenger's legacy to the International Space Station,'� Kimbrough said. 'Remembering the Challenger crew is important to all of us in the astronaut corps, and all of us at NASA, and I hope that when the ball is returned to Clear Lake High School, it will be a reminder for generations to come.'�

The soccer ball is slated to be returned to Earth and the school on an upcoming cargo flight.

International Space Station

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Butterfly Nebula From Hubble

The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth's night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up of the dying star's nebula was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope and is presented here in reprocessed colors. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot star's dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius).
Image Credit: NASAESAHubbleHLAReprocessing & Copyright: Jesús M.Vargas & Maritxu Poyal

Hubble Space Telescope

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hubble Captured Brilliant Star Death in "Rotten Egg" Nebula

The Calabash Nebula, pictured here — which has the technical name OH 231.8+04.2 — is a spectacular example of the death of a low-mass star like the sun. This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the star going through a rapid transformation from a red giant to a planetary nebula, during which it blows its outer layers of gas and dust out into the surrounding space. The recently ejected material is spat out in opposite directions with immense speed — the gas shown in yellow is moving close to one million kilometers per hour (621,371 miles per hour).
Astronomers rarely capture a star in this phase of its evolution because it occurs within the blink of an eye — in astronomical terms. Over the next thousand years the nebula is expected to evolve into a fully-fledged planetary nebula.
The nebula is also known as the Rotten Egg Nebula because it contains a lot of sulphur, an element that, when combined with other elements, smells like a rotten egg — but luckily, it resides over 5,000 light-years away in the constellation of Puppis.
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Space junk collector burns up after hitting snag in first test

It’s a rubbish start for the world’s first space clean-up experiment. A cable designed to drag space junk out of orbit has failed to deploy from a Japanese spacecraft.
More than half a million pieces of debris are currently whizzing around our planet, including abandoned satellites and fragments of old spacecraft. They pose a danger to working satellites and new space vehicles.
Scientists are working on a range of clean-up solutions, including cables, nets, harpoons, sails and robotic arms. All are designed to capture pieces of space junk and tug them down into Earth’s atmosphere where they will burn up and disintegrate.

On 28 January, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) started an inaugural in-space evaluation of their junk-removing cable technology.
A 700-metre-long metal cable was fitted to an unmanned spacecraft called Kounotori 6, which was on its way back to Earth after delivering supplies to the International Space Station.
The cable was meant to unfurl from the spacecraft, at which point an electric current would pass along its length. The idea was that the current would interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, creating a drag that pulled the spacecraft out of orbit. The spacecraft would then tumble into our atmosphere and become incinerated.
Proponents of such junk-removing cables say that special space vehicles could attach cables to existing pieces of space junk. In addition, each new satellite launched could go up with a cable that could be activated at the end of its working life.

However, Kounotori 6 was unable to release the cable to test its junk-removing potential, and JAXA could not fix the glitch before the spacecraft returned to Earth’s atmosphere this morning. “We could not extend the cable, but we think it is not because of the cable itself, but some other reasons,” a spokesperson for JAXA told New Scientist. “A detailed analysis is underway.”

Courtesy : New Scientist Read Article 

Friday, February 3, 2017

NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide

An example of violence on a cosmic scale, enormous elliptical galaxy NGC 1316 lies about 75 million light-years away toward Fornax, the southern constellation of the Furnace. Investigating the startling sight, astronomers suspect the giant galaxy of colliding with smaller neighbor NGC 1317 seen just above, causing far flung loops and shells of stars. Light from their close encounter would have reached Earth some 100 million years ago. In the deep, sharp image, the central regions of NGC 1316 and NGC 1317 appear separated by over 100,000 light-years. Complex dust lanes visible within also indicate that NGC 1316 is itself the result of a merger of galaxies in the distant past. Found on the outskirts of the Fornax galaxy cluster, NGC 1316 is known as Fornax A. One of the visually brightest of the Fornax cluster galaxies it is one of the strongest and largest radio sourceswith radio emission extending well beyond this telescopic field-of-view, over several degrees on the sky.
Image Credit & CopyrightSteve MazlinWarren Keller, and Steve Menaker (SSRO /UNC / PROMPT / CTIO)

Red Aurora Over Australia

Why would the sky glow red? Aurora. A solar storm in 2012, emanating mostly from active sunspot region 1402, showered particles on the Earth that excited oxygen atoms high in the Earth's atmosphere. As the excited element's electrons fell back to their ground state, they emitted a red glow. Were oxygen atoms lower in Earth's atmosphere excited, the glow would be predominantly green. Pictured here, this high red aurora is visible just above the horizon last week near Flinders,VictoriaAustralia. The sky that night, however, also glowed with more familiar but more distant objects, including the central disk of our Milky Way Galaxy on the left, and the neighboring Large and Small Magellanic Cloud galaxies on the right. A time-lapse video highlighting auroras visible that night puts the picturesque scene in context. Why the sky did not also glow green remains unknown.
Image Credit & Copyright: Alex Cherney (TerrastroTWAN)

N159 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

The lesser-known constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs), is home to a variety of deep-sky objects '” including this beautiful galaxy, known as NGC 4861. Astronomers are still debating on how to classify it. While its physical properties '” such as mass, size and rotational velocity '” indicate it to be a spiral galaxy, its appearance looks more like a comet with its dense, luminous 'head'� and dimmer 'tail'� trailing off. Features more fitting with a dwarf irregular galaxy.

Although small and messy, galaxies like NGC 4861 provide astronomers with interesting opportunities for study. Small galaxies have lower gravitational potentials, which simply means that it takes less energy to move stuff about inside them than it does in other galaxies. As a result, moving in, around, and through such a tiny galaxy is quite easy to do, making them far more likely to be filled with streams and outflows of speedy charged particles known as galactic winds, which can flood such galaxies with little effort.

These galactic winds can be powered by the ongoing process of star formation, which involves huge amounts of energy. New stars are springing into life within the bright, colorful '˜head' of NGC 4861 and ejecting streams of high-speed particles as they do so, which flood outwards to join the wider galactic wind. While NGC 4861 would be a perfect candidate to study such winds, recent studies did not find any galactic winds in it.

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

Hubble Space Telescope

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Star Birth With a Chance of Winds

The lesser-known constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs), is home to a variety of deep-sky objects '” including this beautiful galaxy, known as NGC 4861. Astronomers are still debating on how to classify it. While its physical properties '” such as mass, size and rotational velocity '” indicate it to be a spiral galaxy, its appearance looks more like a comet with its dense, luminous 'head'� and dimmer 'tail'� trailing off. Features more fitting with a dwarf irregular galaxy.

Although small and messy, galaxies like NGC 4861 provide astronomers with interesting opportunities for study. Small galaxies have lower gravitational potentials, which simply means that it takes less energy to move stuff about inside them than it does in other galaxies. As a result, moving in, around, and through such a tiny galaxy is quite easy to do, making them far more likely to be filled with streams and outflows of speedy charged particles known as galactic winds, which can flood such galaxies with little effort.

These galactic winds can be powered by the ongoing process of star formation, which involves huge amounts of energy. New stars are springing into life within the bright, colorful '˜head' of NGC 4861 and ejecting streams of high-speed particles as they do so, which flood outwards to join the wider galactic wind. While NGC 4861 would be a perfect candidate to study such winds, recent studies did not find any galactic winds in it.

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

Hubble Space Telescope