Tag Archives: NASA

Artemis 1 Moonshot

When the Artemis 1 mission’s Orion spacecraft makes its November 21 powered flyby of the Moon, denizens of planet Earth will see the Moon in a waning crescent phase. The spacecraft will approach to within about 130 kilometers of the lunar surface on its way to a distant retrograde orbit some 70,000 kilometers beyond the Moon. But the Moon was at last quarter for the November 16 launch and near the horizon in the dark early hours after midnight. It’s captured here in skies over Kennedy Space Center along with the SLS rocket engines and solid rocket boosters lofting the uncrewed Orion to space. Ragged fringes appearing along the bright edge of the sunlit lunar nearside are caused as pressure waves generated by the rocket’s passage change the index of refraction along the camera’s line of sight. via NASA

Wolfs Cave Nebula

The mysterious blue reflection nebula found in catalogs as VdB 152 or Ced 201 really is very faint. It lies at the tip of the long dark nebula Barnard 175 in a dusty complex that has also been called Wolf’s Cave. At the center of this deep telescopic view, the cosmic apparitions are nearly 1,400 light-years away along the northern Milky Way in the royal constellation Cepheus. Interstellar dust in the region blocks light from background stars and scatters light from the embedded bright star, giving the end nebula its characteristic blue color. Though stars do form in molecular clouds, this star seems to have only accidentally wandered into the area, as its measured velocity through space is very different from the cloud’s velocity. At the image bottom is the planetary nebula Dengel-Hartl 5, while red glowing gas from an ancient supernova remnant is also visible along the image’s right side. via NASA

NGC 7380: The Wizard Nebula

What powers are being wielded in the Wizard Nebula? Gravitation strong enough to form stars, and stellar winds and radiations powerful enough to create and dissolve towers of gas. Located only 8,000 light years away, the Wizard nebula, featured here, surrounds developing open star cluster NGC 7380. Visually, the interplay of stars, gas, and dust has created a shape that appears to some like a fictional medieval sorcerer. The active star forming region spans 100 about light years, making it appear larger than the angular extent of the Moon. The Wizard Nebula can be located with a small telescope toward the constellation of the King of Aethiopia (Cepheus). Although the nebula may last only a few million years, some of the stars being formed may outlive our Sun. via NASA

Flying Saucer Crash Lands in Utah Desert

A flying saucer from outer space crash-landed in the Utah desert after being tracked by radar and chased by helicopters. The year was 2004, and no space aliens were involved. The saucer, pictured here, was the Genesis sample return capsule, part of a human-made robot Genesis spaceship launched in 2001 by NASA itself to study the Sun. The unexpectedly hard landing at over 300 kilometers per hour occurred because the parachutes did not open as planned. The Genesis mission had been orbiting the Sun collecting solar wind particles that are usually deflected away by Earth’s magnetic field. Despite the crash landing, many return samples remained in good enough condition to analyze. So far, Genesis-related discoveries include new details about the composition of the Sun and how the abundance of some types of elements differ across the Solar System. These results have provided intriguing clues into details of how the Sun and planets formed billions of years ago. via NASA

Eclipse in the City

A darker Moon sets over Manhattan in this night skyscape. The 16 frame composite was assembled from consecutive exposures recorded during the November 8 total lunar eclipse. In the timelapse sequence stars leave short trails above the urban skyline, while the Moon remains immersed in Earth’s shadow. But the International Space Station was just emerging from the shadow into the sunlit portion of its low Earth orbit. As seen from New York City, the visible streak of this ISS flyover starts near a star in Taurus and tracks right to left, through the belt of Orion and over Sirius, alpha star of Canis Major. Gaps along the bright trail of the fast moving orbital outpost (and an aircraft flying closer to the horizon) mark the time between individual exposures in the sequence. The trail of bright planet Mars is at the top of the frame. Pleiades star cluster trails are high over the eclipsed Moon and Empire State Building. via NASA

Blood Moon, Ice Giant

On November 8 the Full Moon turned blood red as it slid through Earth’s shadow in a beautiful total lunar eclipse. During totality it also passed in front of, or occulted, outer planet Uranus for eclipse viewers located in parts of northern America and Asia. For a close-up and wider view these two images were taken just before the occultation began, captured with different telescopes and cameras from the same roof top in Shanghai, China. Normally very faint compared to a Full Moon, the tiny, pale, greenish disk of the distant ice giant is just to the left of the Moon’s edge and about to disappear behind the darkened, red lunar limb. Though only visible from certain locations across planet Earth, lunar occultations of planets are fairly common. But for this rare “lunar eclipse occultation” to take place, at the time of the total eclipse the outer planet had to be both at opposition and very near the ecliptic plane to fall in line with Sun, Earth, and Moon. via NASA

The Asymmetric Nebula Surrounding Wolf Rayet Star 18

Why does the nebula around the star WR-18 shine brighter on one side? Also known as NGC 3199, this active star and its surrounding nebula lie about 12,000 light-years away toward the nautical southern constellation of Carina. The featured deep image has been highly processed to bring out filamentary details of the glowing gas in the bubble-shaped nebula. The nebula is about 75 light-years across. Near the nebula’s center is a Wolf-Rayet star, WR-18, which is a massive, hot, short-lived star that generates an intense and complex stellar wind. In fact, Wolf-Rayet stars are known to create nebulas with interesting shapes as their powerful winds sweep up surrounding interstellar material. In this case, the bright right edge was initially thought to indicate that a bow shock was being produced as the star plowed through a uniform medium, like a boat through water. Recent measurements and analyses, however, have shown the star is not moving quickly toward the bright edge. A more likely explanation has emerged that the material surrounding the star is not uniform, but clumped and denser near the bright edge. via NASA

Galaxies: Wilds Triplet from Hubble

How many galaxies are interacting here? This grouping of galaxies is called the Wild Triplet, not only for the discoverer, but for the number of bright galaxies that appear. It had been assumed that all three galaxies, collectively cataloged as Arp 248, are interacting, but more recent investigations reveal that only the brightest two galaxies are sparring gravitationally: the big galaxies at the top and bottom. The spiral galaxy in the middle of the featured image by the Hubble Space Telescope is actually far in the distance, as is the galaxy just below it and all of the other numerous galaxies in the field. A striking result of these giants jousting is a tremendous bridge of stars, gas, and dust that stretches between them — a bridge almost 200,000 light-years long. Light we see today from Wild’s Triplet left about 200 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. In perhaps a billion years or so, the two interacting galaxies will merge to form a single large spiral galaxy. via NASA

M33: The Triangulum Galaxy

The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other’s grand spiral star systems. As for the view from the Milky Way, this sharp image combines data from telescopes on and around planet Earth to show off M33’s blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy’s loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o’clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33’s population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe. via NASA

A Partial Eclipse of an Active Sun

Watch for three things in this unusual eclipse video. First, watch for a big dark circle to approach from the right to block out more and more of the Sun. This dark circle is the Moon, and the video was made primarily to capture this partial solar eclipse last week. Next, watch a large solar prominence hover and shimmer over the Sun’s edge. A close look will show that part of it is actually falling back to the Sun. The prominence is made of hot plasma that is temporarily held aloft by the Sun’s changing magnetic field. Finally, watch the Sun’s edge waver. What is wavering is a dynamic carpet of hot gas tubes rising and falling through the Sun’s chromosphere — tubes known as spicules. The entire 4-second time-lapse video covers a time of about ten minutes, although the Sun itself is expected to last another 5 billion years. via NASA