UGC 12591: The Fastest Rotating Galaxy Known

Why does this galaxy spin so fast? To start, even identifying which type of galaxy UGC 12591 is difficult -- featured on the lower left, it has dark dust lanes like a spiral galaxy but a large diffuse bulge of stars like a lenticular. Surprisingly observations show that UGC 12591 spins at about 480 km/sec, almost twice as fast as our Milky Way, and the fastest rotation rate yet measured. The mass needed to hold together a galaxy spinning this fast is several times the mass of our Milky Way Galaxy. Progenitor scenarios for UGC 12591 include slow growth by accreting ambient matter, or rapid growth through a recent galaxy collision or collisions -- future observations may tell. The light we see today from UGC 12591 left about 400 million years ago, when trees were first developing on Earth. via NASA

Orion over the Central Bohemian Highlands

Do you recognize this constellation? Setting past the Central Bohemian Highlands in the Czech Republic is Orion, one of the most identifiable star groupings on the sky and an icon familiar to humanity for over 30,000 years. Orion has looked pretty much the same during this time and should continue to look the same for many thousands of years into the future. Prominent Orion is high in the sky at sunset this time of year, a recurring sign of (modern) winter in Earth's northern hemisphere and summer in the south. The featured picture is a composite of over thirty images taken from the same location and during the same night last month. Below and slightly to the left of Orion's three-star belt is the Orion Nebula, while four of the bright stars surrounding the belt are, clockwise, Sirius (far left, blue), Betelgeuse (top, orange, unusually faint), Aldebaran (far right), and Rigel (below). As future weeks progress, Orion will set increasingly earlier. via NASA

The Changing Surface of Fading Betelgeuse

Besides fading, is Betelgeuse changing its appearance? Yes. The famous red supergiant star in the familiar constellation of Orion is so large that telescopes on Earth can actually resolve its surface -- although just barely. The two featured images taken with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope show how the star's surface appeared during the beginning and end of last year. The earlier image shows Betelgeuse having a much more uniform brightness than the later one, while the lower half of Betelgeuse became significantly dimmer than the top. Now during the first five months of 2019 amateur observations show Betelgeuse actually got slightly brighter, while in the last five months the star dimmed dramatically. Such variability is likely just normal behavior for this famously variable supergiant, but the recent dimming has rekindled discussion on how long it may be before Betelgeuse does go supernova. Since Betelgeuse is about 700 light years away, its eventual supernova -- probably thousands of years in the future -- will likely be an amazing night-sky spectacle, but will not endanger life on Earth. via NASA

NGC 2392: Double Shelled Planetary Nebula

To some, this huge nebula resembles a person's head surrounded by a parka hood. In 1787, astronomer William Herschel discovered this unusual planetary nebula: NGC 2392. More recently, the Hubble Space Telescope imaged the nebula in visible light, while the nebula was also imaged in X-rays by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The featured combined visible-X ray image, shows X-rays emitted by central hot gas in pink. The nebula displays gas clouds so complex they are not fully understood. NGC 2392 is a double-shelled planetary nebula, with the more distant gas having composed the outer layers of a Sun-like star only 10,000 years ago. The outer shell contains unusual light-year long orange filaments. The inner filaments visible are being ejected by strong wind of particles from the central star. The NGC 2392 Nebula spans about 1/3 of a light year and lies in our Milky Way Galaxy, about 3,000 light years distant, toward the constellation of the Twins (Gemini). via NASA

Carina Nebula Close Up

A jewel of the southern sky, the Great Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372, spans over 300 light-years, one of our galaxy's largest star forming regions. Like the smaller, more northerly Great Orion Nebula, the Carina Nebula is easily visible to the unaided eye, though at a distance of 7,500 light-years it is some 5 times farther away. This gorgeous telescopic close-up reveals remarkable details of the region's central glowing filaments of interstellar gas and obscuring cosmic dust clouds in a field of view nearly 20 light-years across. The Carina Nebula is home to young, extremely massive stars, including the still enigmatic and violently variable Eta Carinae, a star system with well over 100 times the mass of the Sun. In the processed composite of space and ground-based image data a dusty, two-lobed Homunculus Nebula appears to surround Eta Carinae itself just below and left of center. While Eta Carinae is likely on the verge of a supernova explosion, X-ray images indicate that the Great Carina Nebula has been a veritable supernova factory. via NASA

Kenneth Harris: From Teen Intern to Engineer

In this image, Kenneth Harris II works in the clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. via NASA

The Pale Blue Dot

On Valentine's Day in 1990, cruising four billion miles from the Sun, the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back one last time to make the first ever Solar System family portrait. The portrait consists of the Sun and six planets in a 60 frame mosaic made from a vantage point 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane. Planet Earth was captured within a single pixel in this single frame. It's the pale blue dot within the sunbeam just right of center in this reprocessed version of the now famous view from Voyager. Astronomer Carl Sagan originated the idea of using Voyager's camera to look back toward home from a distant perspective. Thirty years later, on this Valentine's day, look again at the pale blue dot. via NASA

Spitzer's View of the Tarantula Nebula

This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Tarantula Nebula in three wavelengths of infrared light, each represented by a different color. via NASA

Spitzer s Trifid

The Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, is easy to find with a small telescope. About 30 light-years across and 5,500 light-years distant it's a popular stop for cosmic tourists in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. As its name suggests, visible light pictures show the nebula divided into three parts by dark, obscuring dust lanes. But this penetrating infrared image reveals the Trifid's filaments of glowing dust clouds and newborn stars. The spectacular false-color view is courtesy of the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astronomers have used the infrared image data to count newborn and embryonic stars which otherwise can lie hidden in the natal dust and gas clouds of this intriguing stellar nursery. Launched in 2003, Spitzer explored the infrared Universe from an Earth-trailing solar orbit until its science operations were brought to a close earlier this year, on January 30. via NASA

Cargo Craft Named After 1st Black Astronaut Slated to Head to Station

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus resupply spacecraft is seen horizontal on Pad-0A for the final cargo load, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. via NASA

Star Trails of the North and South

What divides the north from the south? It all has to do with the spin of the Earth. On Earth's surface, the equator is the dividing line, but on Earth's sky, the dividing line is the Celestial Equator -- the equator's projection onto the sky.  You likely can't see the Earth's equator around you, but anyone with a clear night sky can find the Celestial Equator by watching stars move.  Just locate the dividing line between stars that arc north and stars that arc south. Were you on Earth's equator, the Celestial Equator would go straight up and down.  In general, the angle between the Celestial Equator and the vertical is your latitude.  The featured image combines 325 photos taken every 30 seconds over 162 minutes. Taken soon after sunset earlier this month, moonlight illuminates a snowy and desolate scene in northwest Iran. The bright streak behind the lone tree is the planet Venus setting. via NASA

Bernard Harris: The First African American to Perform a Spacewalk

Twenty-five years ago in Feb. 1995, astronaut Bernard Harris became the first African American to perform a spacewalk. via NASA

Launch of the Solar Orbiter

How does weather on the Sun affect humanity? To help find out, the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA have just launched the Solar Orbiter. This Sun-circling robotic spaceship will monitor the Sun's changing light, solar wind, and magnetic field not only from the usual perspective of Earth but also from above and below the Sun. Pictured, a long duration exposure of the launch of the Solar Orbiter shows the graceful arc of the bright engines of United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket as they lifted the satellite off the Earth. Over the next few years, the Solar Orbiter will use the gravity of Earth and Venus to veer out of the plane of the planets and closer to the Sun than Mercury. Violent weather on the Sun, including solar flares and coronal mass ejections, has shown the ability to interfere with power grids on the Earth and communications satellites in Earth orbit. The Solar Orbiter is expected to coordinate observations with the also Sun-orbiting Parker Solar Probe launched in 2018. via NASA

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Discusses 2021 Budget

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine discusses the fiscal year 2021 budget proposal during a State of NASA address,. via NASA

Solar Eclipse over the UAE

What's happening behind that camel? A partial eclipse of the Sun. About six and a half weeks ago, the Moon passed completely in front of the Sun as seen from a narrow band on the Earth. Despite (surely) many camels being located in this narrow band, only one found itself stationed between this camera, the distant Moon, and the even more distant Sun. To create this impressive superposition, though, took a well-planned trip to the United Arab Emirates, careful alignments, and accurate timings on the day of the eclipse. Although the resulting featured image shows a partially eclipsed Sun rising, the Moon went on to appear completely engulfed by the Sun in an annular eclipse known as a ring of fire. Forward scattering of sunlight, dominated by quantum mechanical diffraction, gives the camel hair and rope fray an unusual glow. The next solar eclipse is also an annular eclipse and will occur this coming June. via NASA

Launch of the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter

Launch of the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission to study the Sun from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 9, 2020. via NASA

Northrop Grumman Cargo Mission Awaits Launch

Northrop Grumman’s 13th contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,500 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. via NASA

To Fly Free in Space

What would it be like to fly free in space? At about 100 meters from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, Bruce McCandless II was living the dream -- floating farther out than anyone had ever been before. Guided by a Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU), astronaut McCandless, pictured, was floating free in space. McCandless and fellow NASA astronaut Robert Stewart were the first to experience such an "untethered space walk" during Space Shuttle mission 41-B in 1984. The MMU worked by shooting jets of nitrogen and was used to help deploy and retrieve satellites. With a mass over 140 kilograms, an MMU is heavy on Earth, but, like everything, is weightless when drifting in orbit. The MMU was later replaced with the SAFER backpack propulsion unit. via NASA

Cosmic Clouds in the Unicorn

Interstellar clouds of hydrogen gas and dust abound in this gorgeous skyscape. The 3 degree wide field of view stretches through the faint but fanciful constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. A star forming region cataloged as NGC 2264 is centered, a complex jumble of cosmic gas, dust and stars about 2,700 light-years distant. It mixes reddish emission nebulae excited by energetic light from newborn stars with dark dust clouds. Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds lie close to hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue reflection nebulae. A few light-years across, a simple sculpted shape known as the Cone Nebula is near center. Outlined by the red glow of hydrogen gas, the cone points toward the left and bright, blue-white S Monocerotis. Itself a multiple system of massive, hot stars S Mon is adjacent to bluish reflection nebulae and the convoluted Fox Fur nebula. Expansive dark markings on the sky are silhouetted by a larger region of fainter emission with yellowish open star cluster Trumpler 5 near the top of the frame. The curious compact cometary shape right of center is known as Hubble's Variable Nebula. via NASA

Victor Glover: Training for the Future

NASA astronaut Victor Glover trains on POGO--the Partial Gravity Simulator at Building 9N's Space Vehicle Mockup Training Facility at the Johnson Space Center. via NASA

NGC 7331 Close Up

Big, beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 7331 is often touted as an analog to our own Milky Way. About 50 million light-years distant in the northern constellation Pegasus, NGC 7331 was recognized early on as a spiral nebula and is actually one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier's famous 18th century catalog. Since the galaxy's disk is inclined to our line-of-sight, long telescopic exposures often result in an image that evokes a strong sense of depth. In this Hubble Space Telescope close-up, the galaxy's magnificent spiral arms feature dark obscuring dust lanes, bright bluish clusters of massive young stars, and the telltale reddish glow of active star forming regions. The bright yellowish central regions harbor populations of older, cooler stars. Like the Milky Way, a supermassive black hole lies at the core of spiral galaxy NGC 7331. via NASA

Record-Setting NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Return from Space Station

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is seen outside the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft after she, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, landed. via NASA

Southern Moonscape

The Moon's south pole is near the top of this detailed telescopic view. Looking across the rugged southern lunar highlands it was captured from southern California, planet Earth. At the Moon's third quarter phase the lunar terminator, the sunset shadow line, is approaching from the left. The scene's foreshortened perspective heightens the impression of a dense field of craters and makes the craters themselves appear more oval shaped close to the lunar limb. Below and left of center is sharp-walled crater Tycho, 85 kilometers in diameter. Young Tycho's central peak is still in sunlight, but casts a long shadow across the crater floor. The large prominent crater to the south (above) Tycho is Clavius. Nearly 231 kilometers in diameter its walls and floor are pocked with smaller, more recent, overlaying impact craters. Mountains visible along the lunar limb at the top can rise about 6 kilometers or so above the surrounding terrain. via NASA

Trailblazers: The Story of a Tuskegee Airman

Retired U.S. Air Force Honorary Brigadier General Charles McGee speaks with NASA astronaut Alvin Drew during a Black History Month program via NASA

Lunar Eclipse Perspectives

Do we all see the same Moon? Yes, but we all see it differently. One difference is the apparent location of the Moon against background stars -- an effect known as parallax. We humans use the parallax between our eyes to judge depth. To see lunar parallax, though, we need eyes placed at a much greater separations -- hundreds to thousands of kilometers apart. Another difference is that observers around the Earth all see a slightly different face of our spherical Moon -- an effect known as libration. The featured image is a composite of many views across the Earth, as submitted to APOD, of the total lunar eclipse of 2019 January 21. These images are projected against the same background stars to illustrate both effects. The accurate superposition of these images was made possible by a serendipitous meteorite impact on the Moon during the lunar eclipse, labeled here L1-21J -- guaranteeing that these submitted images were all taken within a split second. via NASA

Astronaut Christina Koch's Record-Setting Mission

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is set to return to Earth on Thursday, Feb. 6, after 328 days living and working aboard the International Space Station. via NASA

A Sunset Night Sky over the Grand Canyon

Seeing mountain peaks glow red from inside the Grand Canyon was one of the most incredible sunset experiences of this amateur photographer's life. They appeared even more incredible later, when digitally combined with an exposure of the night sky -- taken by the same camera and from the same location -- an hour later. The two images were taken last August from the 220 Mile Canyon campsite on the Colorado River, Colorado, USA. The peaks glow red because they were lit by an usually red sunset. Later, high above, the band of the Milky Way Galaxy angled dramatically down, filled with stars, nebula, and dark clouds of dust. To the Milky Way's left is the planet Saturn, while to the right is the brighter Jupiter. Although Jupiter and Saturn are now hard to see, Venus will be visible and quite bright to the west in clear skies, just after sunset, for the next two months. via NASA

Deborah Johnson: A Career in the Service of Space Exploration

Deborah Johnson has worked for NASA since 1978. via NASA

Solar Granules at Record High Resolution

Why does the Sun's surface keep changing? The help find out, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) has built the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii, USA. The Inouye telescope has a larger mirror that enables the capturing of images of higher resolution, at a faster rate, and in more colors than ever before. Featured are recently-released first-light images taken over 10 minutes and combined into a 5-second time-lapse video. The video captures an area on the Sun roughly the size of our Earth, features granules roughly the size of a country, and resolves features as small as 30-kilometers across. Granule centers are bright due to the upwelling hot solar plasma, while granule edges are dim due to the cooled plasma falling back. Some regions between granules edges are very bright as they are curious magnetic windows into a deep and hotter solar interior. How the Sun's magnetic field keeps changing, channeling energy, and affecting the distant Earth, among many other topics, will be studied for years to come using data from the new Inouye telescope. via NASA

Zeta Oph: Runaway Star

Like a ship plowing through cosmic seas, runaway star Zeta Ophiuchi produces the arcing interstellar bow wave or bow shock seen in this stunning infrared portrait. In the false-color view, bluish Zeta Oph, a star about 20 times more massive than the Sun, lies near the center of the frame, moving toward the left at 24 kilometers per second. Its strong stellar wind precedes it, compressing and heating the dusty interstellar material and shaping the curved shock front. What set this star in motion? Zeta Oph was likely once a member of a binary star system, its companion star was more massive and hence shorter lived. When the companion exploded as a supernova catastrophically losing mass, Zeta Oph was flung out of the system. About 460 light-years away, Zeta Oph is 65,000 times more luminous than the Sun and would be one of the brighter stars in the sky if it weren't surrounded by obscuring dust. The image spans about 1.5 degrees or 12 light-years at the estimated distance of Zeta Ophiuchi. Last week, NASA placed the Spitzer Space Telescope in safe mode, ending its 16 successful years of studying our universe. via NASA

Apollo 14 Heads for Home

When leaving lunar orbit in February 1971, the crew of Apollo 14 watched this Earthrise from their command module Kittyhawk. With Earth's sunlit crescent just peaking over the lunar horizon, the cratered terrain in the foreground is along the lunar farside. Of course, while orbiting the Moon, the crew could watch Earth rise and set, but the Earth hung stationary in the sky over Fra Mauro Base, their landing site on the lunar surface. Rock samples brought back by the Apollo 14 mission included a 20 pound rock nicknamed Big Bertha, later determined to contain a likely fragment of a meteorite from planet Earth. via NASA

Goldilocks Zones and Stars

The Goldilocks zone is the habitable zone around a star where it's not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist on the surface of orbiting planets. This intriguing infographic includes relative sizes of those zones for yellow G stars like the Sun, along with orange K dwarf stars and red M dwarf stars, both cooler and fainter than the Sun. M stars (top) have small, close-in Goldilocks zones. They are also seen to live long (100 billion years or so) and are very abundant, making up about 73 percent of the stars in the Milky Way. Still, they have very active magnetic fields and may produce too much radiation harmful to life, with an estimated X-ray irradiance 400 times the quiet Sun. Sun-like G stars (bottom) have large Goldilocks zones and are relatively calm, with low amounts of harmful radiation. But they only account for 6 percent of Milky Way stars and are much shorter lived. In the search for habitable planets, K dwarf stars could be just right, though. Not too rare they have 40 billion year lifetimes, much longer than the Sun. With a relatively wide habitable zone they produce only modest amounts of harmful radiation. These Goldilocks stars account for about 13 percent of the stars of the Milky Way. via NASA

NASA Day of Remembrance

Amy Resnik touches the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial after a wreath laying ceremony as part of NASA’s Day of Remembrance, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, at Arlington National Cemetery. via NASA

Luca Parmitano Works to Repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer

Astronaut and station commander Luca Parmitano is tethered to the International Space Station while finalizing thermal repairs on the AMS. via NASA

Two Custers and a Comet

This lovely starfield spans some four full moons (about 2 degrees) across the heroic northern constellation of Perseus. In telescopic exposures made during the nights of January 24, 26, and 28 it holds the famous pair of open or galactic star clusters h and Chi Persei with comet PanSTARRS (C/2017 T2) captured each night as it swept left to right across the field of view. Also cataloged as NGC 869 (right) and NGC 884, both star clusters are about 7,000 light-years away and contain stars much younger and hotter than the Sun. Separated by only a few hundred light-years, the clusters are both 13 million years young based on the ages of their individual stars, evidence that they were likely a product of the same star-forming region. Discovered in 2017 while still beyond the orbit of Saturn, Comet PanSTARRs is a new visitor to the inner solar system and just over 13 light-minutes from planet Earth. Always a rewarding sight in binoculars, the Double Cluster is even visible to the unaided eye from dark locations. C/2017 T2 could remain a telescopic comet though. One of the brightest comets anticipated in 2020 it makes its closest approach to the Sun in early May. via NASA

Milky Way over Yellowstone

The Milky Way was not created by an evaporating lake. The pool of vivid blue water, about 10 meters across, is known as Silex Spring and is located in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA. Steam rises off the spring, heated by a magma chamber deep underneath known as the Yellowstone hotspot. The steam blurs the image of Venus, making it seem unusually large. Unrelated and far in the distance, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy rises high overhead, a band lit by billions of stars. The featured picture is a 3-image panorama taken last August. If the Yellowstone hotspot causes another supervolcanic eruption as it did 640,000 years ago, a large part of North America would be affected. via NASA

Chandra Spots a Mega-Cluster of Galaxies in the Making

Astronomers using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes have put together a detailed map of a rare collision between four galaxy clusters. via NASA

Star Formation in the Tadpole Nebula

What's all of the commotion in the Tadpole Nebula? Star formation. Dusty emission in the Tadpole Nebula, IC 410, lies about 12,000 light-years away in the northern constellation of the Charioteer (Auriga). The cloud of glowing gas is over 100 light-years across, sculpted by stellar winds and radiation from embedded open star cluster NGC 1893. Formed in the interstellar cloud a mere 4 million years ago, bright newly formed cluster stars are seen all around the star-forming nebula. Notable near the image center are two relatively dense streamers of material trailing away from the nebula's central regions. Potentially sites of ongoing star formation in IC 410, these cosmic tadpole shapes are about 10 light-years long. The featured image was taken in infrared light by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. via NASA

Spitzer Observes TRAPPIST-1

Spitzer Space Telescope, one of agency’s great observatories, one of Spitzer's great discoveries was that of the TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, which has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. via NASA

Comet CG Evaporates

Where do comet tails come from? There are no obvious places on the nuclei of comets from which the jets that create comet tails emanate. One of the best images of emerging jets is shown in the featured picture, taken in 2015 by ESA's robotic Rosetta spacecraft that orbited Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Comet CG) from 2014 to 2016. The picture shows plumes of gas and dust escaping numerous places from Comet CG's nucleus as it neared the Sun and heated up. The comet has two prominent lobes, the larger one spanning about 4 kilometers, and a smaller 2.5-kilometer lobe connected by a narrow neck. Analyses indicate that evaporation must be taking place well inside the comet's surface to create the jets of dust and ice that we see emitted through the surface. Comet CG (also known as Comet 67P) loses in jets about a meter of radius during each of its 6.44-year orbits around the Sun, a rate at which will completely destroy the comet in only thousands of years. In 2016, Rosetta's mission ended with a controlled impact onto Comet CG's surface. via NASA

Hills Ridges and Tracks on Mars

Sometimes, even rovers on Mars stop to admire the scenery. Just late last November the Curiosity rover on Mars paused to photograph its impressive surroundings. One thing to admire, straight ahead, was Central Butte, an unusual flat hill studied by Curiosity just a few days before this image was taken. To its right was distant Mount Sharp, the five-kilometer central peak of entire Gale crater, the interior of which Curiosity is exploring. Mount Sharp, covered in sulfates, appears quite bright in this colorized, red-filtered image. To the far left, shrouded in a very dark shadow, was the south slope of Vera Rubin ridge, an elevation explored previously by Curiosity. Between the ridge and butte were tracks left by Curiosity's wheels as they rolled forward, out of the scene. In the image foreground is, of course, humanity's current eyes on Mars: the complex robotic rover Curiosity itself. Later this year, if all goes well, NASA will have another rover -- and more eyes -- on Mars. Today you can help determine the name of this rover yourself, but tomorrow is the last day to cast your vote. via NASA

Rubin s Galaxy

In this Hubble Space Telescope image the bright, spiky stars lie in the foreground toward the heroic northern constellation Perseus and well within our own Milky Way galaxy. In sharp focus beyond is UGC 2885, a giant spiral galaxy about 232 million light-years distant. Some 800,000 light-years across compared to the Milky Way's diameter of 100,000 light-years or so, it has around 1 trillion stars. That's about 10 times as many stars as the Milky Way. Part of a current investigation to understand how galaxies can grow to such enormous sizes, UGC 2885 was also part of astronomer Vera Rubin's pioneering study of the rotation of spiral galaxies. Her work was the first to convincingly demonstrate the dominating presence of dark matter in our universe. via NASA

Setting the Stage for Artemis Testing

All eyes are on south Mississippi with this month’s delivery and installation of NASA’s Space Launch System. via NASA

Into the Shadow

On January 21, 2019 moonwatchers on planet Earth saw a total lunar eclipse. In 35 frames this composite image follows the Moon that night as it crossed into Earth's dark umbral shadow. Taken 3 minutes apart, they almost melt together in a continuous screen that captures the dark colors within the shadow itself and the northern curve of the shadow's edge. Sunlight scattered by the atmosphere into the shadow causes the lunar surface to appear reddened during totality (left), but close to the umbra's edge, the limb of the eclipsed Moon shows a remarkable blue hue. The blue eclipsed moonlight originates as rays of sunlight pass through layers high in Earth's upper stratosphere, colored by ozone that scatters red light and transmits blue. The Moon's next crossing into Earth's umbral shadow, will be on May 26, 2021. via NASA

Globular Star Cluster NGC 6752

Some 13,000 light-years away toward the southern constellation Pavo, the globular star cluster NGC 6752 roams the halo of our Milky Way galaxy. Over 10 billion years old, NGC 6752 follows clusters Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae as the third brightest globular in planet Earth's night sky. It holds over 100 thousand stars in a sphere about 100 light-years in diameter. Telescopic explorations of the NGC 6752 have found that a remarkable fraction of the stars near the cluster's core, are multiple star systems. They also reveal the presence of blue straggle stars, stars which appear to be too young and massive to exist in a cluster whose stars are all expected to be at least twice as old as the Sun. The blue stragglers are thought to be formed by star mergers and collisions in the dense stellar environment at the cluster's core. This sharp color composite also features the cluster's ancient red giant stars in yellowish hues. (Note: The bright, spiky blue star at 11 o'clock from the cluster center is a foreground star along the line-of-sight to NGC 6752) via NASA

Martin Luther King Day of Service at NASA Headquarters

The Amidon-Bowen Elementary School choir performs at the MLK Day of Service. via NASA

The Hyades Star Cluster

It is the closest cluster of stars to the Sun. The Hyades open cluster is bright enough to have been remarked on even thousands of years ago, yet is not as bright or compact as the nearby Pleiades (M45) star cluster. Pictured here is a particularly deep image of the Hyades which has brings out vivid star colors and faint coincidental nebulas. The brightest star in the field is yellow Aldebaran, the eye of the bull toward the constellation of Taurus. Aldebaran, at 65 light-years away, is now known to be unrelated to the Hyades cluster, which lies about 150 light-years away. The central Hyades stars are spread out over about 15 light-years. Formed about 625 million years ago, the Hyades likely shares a common origin with the Beehive cluster (M44), a naked-eye open star cluster toward the constellation of Cancer, based on M44's motion through space and remarkably similar age. via NASA

Liftoff of SpaceX's In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:30 a.m. EST on Jan. 19, 2020. via NASA

Parker: Sounds of the Solar Wind

What does the solar wind sound like? A wind of fast moving particles blows out from our Sun, and although space transmits sound poorly, particle impact and variable-field data from NASA's near-Sun Parker Solar Probe is being translated into sound. The disarming audio track of the featured video recounts several of these reverberations, including spooky-sounding Langmuir Waves (heard first), hurricane-sounding Whistler Mode Waves (heard next), and hard-to-describe Dispersive Chirping Waves (heard last). Also impressive is the video's time-lapse visual track which shows Parker's view to the side of its sun shield, and where the planets Earth, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus appear in succession, interspersed with bursts of powerful cosmic rays impacting the imager. The nature of the solar wind near Mercury is surprisingly different from near the Earth, and much study is underway to better understand the differences. via NASA

Quadrantid Meteors through Orion

Why are these meteor trails nearly parallel? Because they were all shed by the same space rock and so can be traced back to the same direction on the sky: the radiant of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. This direction used to be toward the old constellation of Quadrans Muralis, hence the name Quadrantids, but when the International Astronomical Union formulated its list of modern constellations in 1922, this constellation did not make the list. Even though the meteors are now considered to originate from the recognized constellation of Bootes, the old name stuck. Regardless of the designation, every January the Earth moves through a dust stream and bits of this dust glow as meteors as they heat up in Earth's atmosphere. The featured image composite was taken on January 4 with a picturesque snowy Slovakian landscape in the foreground, and a deep-exposure sky prominently featuring the constellation Orion in the background. The red star Betelgeuse appears unusually dim -- its fading over the past few months is being tracked by astronomers. via NASA