Learning to Walk Before Heading to Space

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen is suspended over a mock-up of the International Space Station during a microgravity simulation. via NASA http://ift.tt/2xGWGjb

Dark Matter in a Simulated Universe

Is our universe haunted? It might look that way on this dark matter map. The gravity of unseen dark matter is the leading explanation for why galaxies rotate so fast, why galaxies orbit clusters so fast, why gravitational lenses so strongly deflect light, and why visible matter is distributed as it is both in the local universe and on the cosmic microwave background. The featured image from the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium Space Show Dark Universe highlights one example of how pervasive dark matter might haunt our universe. In this frame from a detailed computer simulation, complex filaments of dark matter, shown in black, are strewn about the universe like spider webs, while the relatively rare clumps of familiar baryonic matter are colored orange. These simulations are good statistical matches to astronomical observations. In what is perhaps a scarier turn of events, dark matter -- although quite strange and in an unknown form -- is no longer thought to be the strangest source of gravity in the universe. That honor now falls to dark energy, a more uniform source of repulsive gravity that seems to now dominate the expansion of the entire universe. via NASA http://ift.tt/2A0FhDC

Viewing Australia's Great Sandy Desert From Space

Flying hundreds miles above, astronauts aboard the International Space Station photographed Lake Hazlett and Lake Willis in Western Australia's Great Sandy Desert. Hundreds of ephemeral salt lakes are peppered throughout the arid Australian Outback. via NASA http://ift.tt/2luBT0C

Orionid Meteors from Orion

Meteors have been shooting out from the constellation of Orion. This was expected, as October is the time of year for the Orionids Meteor Shower. Pictured here, over a dozen meteors were caught in successively added exposures last weekend over Wulan Hada volcano in Inner Mongolia, China. The featured image shows multiple meteor streaks that can all be connected to a single small region on the sky called the radiant, here visible just above and to the left of the belt of Orion, The Orionids meteors started as sand sized bits expelled from Comet Halley during one of its trips to the inner Solar System. Comet Halley is actually responsible for two known meteor showers, the other known as the Eta Aquarids and visible every May. Next month, the Leonids Meteor Shower from Comet Tempel-Tuttle should also result in some bright meteor streaks. via NASA http://ift.tt/2lr5sQj

Night on a Spooky Planet

What spooky planet is this? Planet Earth of course, on a dark and stormy night in 2013 at Hverir, a geothermally active area along the volcanic landscape in northeastern Iceland. Geomagnetic storms produced the auroral display in the starry night sky while ghostly towers of steam and gas venting from fumaroles danced against the eerie greenish light. Tonight, there is also a chance for geomagnetic storms triggered by recent solar activity, so high-latitude skygazers should beware. Ghostly shapes may dance in your neighborhood pretty soon, too. via NASA http://ift.tt/2iEW1Mp

NGC 6369: The Little Ghost Nebula

Wraithlike NGC 6369 is a faint apparition in night skies popularly known as the Little Ghost Nebula. It was discovered by 18th century astronomer Sir William Herschel as he used a telescope to explore the medicinal constellation Ophiucus. Herschel historically classified the round and planet-shaped nebula as a Planetary Nebula. But planetary nebulae in general are not at all related to planets. Instead they are gaseous shrouds created at the end of a sun-like star's life, the dying star's outer layers expanding into space while its core shrinks to become a white dwarf. The transformed white dwarf star, seen near the center, radiates strongly at ultraviolet wavelengths and powers the expanding nebula's glow. Surprisingly complex details and structures of NGC 6369 are revealed in this tantalizing image composed from Hubble Space Telescope data. The nebula's main round structure is about a light-year across and the glow from ionized oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen atoms are colored blue, green, and red respectively. Over 2,000 light-years away, the Little Ghost Nebula offers a glimpse of the fate of our Sun, which could produce its own planetary nebula about 5 billion years from now. via NASA http://ift.tt/2z9c1x2

Hubble Digs into Cosmic Archaeology

This Hubble infrared image is part of an observing program that imaged 41 massive galaxy clusters to find the brightest distant galaxies for theJames Webb Space Telescope to study. via NASA http://ift.tt/2zIrErL

Mirach s Ghost

As far as ghosts go, Mirach's Ghost isn't really that scary. Mirach's Ghost is just a faint, fuzzy galaxy, well known to astronomers, that happens to be seen nearly along the line-of-sight to Mirach, a bright star. Centered in this star field, Mirach is also called Beta Andromedae. About 200 light-years distant, Mirach is a red giant star, cooler than the Sun but much larger and so intrinsically much brighter than our parent star. In most telescopic views, glare and diffraction spikes tend to hide things that lie near Mirach and make the faint, fuzzy galaxy look like a ghostly internal reflection of the almost overwhelming starlight. Still, appearing in this sharp image just above and to the left of Mirach, Mirach's Ghost is cataloged as galaxy NGC 404 and is estimated to be some 10 million light-years away. via NASA http://ift.tt/2i7IzMS

Studying the Genetics of Organisms in Space

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center, organisms in a Petri plate are exposed to blue excitation lighting in a Spectrum prototype unit. NASA scientists and engineers are developing experiments to determine how different organisms, such as plants, microbes or worms, develop under conditions of microgravity. via NASA http://ift.tt/2ySUIzn

NGC 7635: Bubble in a Cosmic Sea

Adrift in a cosmic sea of stars and glowing gas the delicate, floating apparition left of center in this widefield view is cataloged as NGC 7635, the Bubble Nebula. A mere 10 light-years wide, the tiny Bubble Nebula was blown by the winds of a massive star. It lies within a larger complex of interstellar gas and dust clouds found about 11,000 light-years distant, straddling the boundary between the parental constellations Cepheus and Cassiopeia. Included in the breathtaking vista is open star cluster M52 (lower left), some 5,000 light-years away. Above and right of the Bubble Nebula is an emission region identified as Sh2-157, also known as the Claw Nebula. Constructed from 47 hours of narrow-band and broad-band exposures, this image spans about 3 degrees on the sky. That corresponds to a width of 500 light-years at the estimated distance of the Bubble Nebula. via NASA http://ift.tt/2i2Uk7E

NASA Astronauts on Third and Final Spacewalk in October Series

NASA astronauts Joe Acaba (left) and Randy Bresnik (right) at work outside the International Space Station on Oct. 20, 2017, in the third of a series of three planned spacewalks. The two astronauts successfully completed the 6 hour, 49 minute spacewalk at 2:36 p.m. EDT. via NASA http://ift.tt/2zFnj8q

Remembering Astronaut Paul Weitz

In this June 1973 photo, astronaut Paul J. Weitz, Skylab 2 pilot, mans the control and display console of the Apollo Telescope Mount. Weitz, who also commanded the STS-6 shuttle mission and served as Deputy Director of Johnson Space Center, passed away this week at the age of 85. via NASA http://ift.tt/2z2GxbS

Where Your Elements Came From

The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. There are no other appreciable sources of hydrogen in the universe. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen. Much of the iron in your body was made during supernovas of stars that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in your jewelry was likely made from neutron stars during collisions that may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts or gravitational wave events. Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in only small amounts but are essential to the functioning of all known life. The featured periodic table is color coded to indicate humanity's best guess as to the nuclear origin of all known elements. The sites of nuclear creation of some elements, such as copper, are not really well known and are continuing topics of observational and computational research. via NASA http://ift.tt/2zIV0GZ

The Grace of Saturn

Saturn's graceful lanes of orbiting ice -- its iconic rings -- wind their way around the planet to pass beyond the horizon in this view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. via NASA http://ift.tt/2xglHRL

NGC 4993: The Galactic Home of an Historic Explosion

That reddish dot -- it wasn't there before. It's the dot to the upper left of galaxy NGC 4993's center, do you see it? When scanning the large field of possible locations of an optical counterpart to the unprecedented gravitational wave event GW170817 in August, the appearance of this fading dot quickly became of historic importance. It pinpointed GW170817's exact location, thereby enabling humanity's major telescopes to examine the first ever electromagnetic wave counterpart to a gravitational wave event, an event giving strong evidence of being a short gamma-ray burst kilonova, the element-forming explosion that occurs after two neutron stars merge. The featured image of lenticular galaxy NGC 4993 by Hubble shows the fading dot several days after it was discovered. Analyses, continuing, include the physics of the explosion, what heavy elements formed, the similarity of the speeds of gravitational radiation and light, and calibrating a new method for determining the distance scale of our universe. via NASA http://ift.tt/2gXzCWG

Two Black Holes Dancing in 3C 75

What's happening at the center of active galaxy 3C 75? The two bright sources at the center of this composite x-ray (blue)/ radio (pink) image are co-orbiting supermassive black holes powering the giant radio source 3C 75. Surrounded by multimillion degree x-ray emitting gas, and blasting out jets of relativistic particles the supermassive black holes are separated by 25,000 light-years. At the cores of two merging galaxies in the Abell 400 galaxy cluster they are some 300 million light-years away. Astronomers conclude that these two supermassive black holes are bound together by gravity in a binary system in part because the jets' consistent swept back appearance is most likely due to their common motion as they speed through the hot cluster gas at 1200 kilometers per second. Such spectacular cosmic mergers are thought to be common in crowded galaxy cluster environments in the distant universe. In their final stages the mergers are expected to be intense sources of gravitational waves. via NASA http://ift.tt/2gWCW4t

Lynds Dark Nebula 183

Beverly Lynds Dark Nebula 183 lies a mere 325 light-years away, drifting high above the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Obscuring the starlight behind it when viewed at optical wavelengths, the dark, dusty molecular cloud itself seems starless. But far infrared explorations reveal dense clumps within, likely stars in the early stages of formation as enhanced regions of the cloud undergo gravitational collapse. One of the closest molecular clouds, it is seen toward the constellation Serpens Caput. This sharp cosmic cloud portrait spans about half a degree on the sky. That's about 3 light-years at the estimated distance of Lynds Dark Nebula 183. via NASA http://ift.tt/2x9BMbW

Hubble Unravels a Twisted Cosmic Knot

This Hubble image shows what happens when two galaxies become one. The twisted cosmic knot seen here is NGC 2623 — or Arp 243 — and is located about 250 million light-years away in the constellation of Cancer (The Crab). via NASA http://ift.tt/2xTIy5i

Jovian Moon Shadow

Jupiter’s moon Amalthea casts a shadow on the gas giant planet in this image captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. via NASA http://ift.tt/2yDDMwL

M51: The Whirlpool Galaxy

Find the Big Dipper and follow the handle away from the dipper's bowl until you get to the last bright star. Then, just slide your telescope a little south and west and you'll come upon this stunning pair of interacting galaxies, the 51st entry in Charles Messier's famous catalog. Perhaps the original spiral nebula, the large galaxy with well defined spiral structure is also cataloged as NGC 5194. Its spiral arms and dust lanes clearly sweep in front of its companion galaxy (bottom), NGC 5195. The pair are about 31 million light-years distant and officially lie within the angular boundaries of the small constellation Canes Venatici. Though M51 looks faint and fuzzy to the eye, deep images like this one can reveal striking colors and the faint tidal debris around the smaller galaxy via NASA http://ift.tt/2yQWhyI

What Lurks Below NASA’s Chamber A?

Hidden beneath Chamber A at the Johnson Space Center is an area engineers used to test critical contamination control technology that has helped keep our James Webb Space Telescope clean during cryogenic testing. via NASA http://ift.tt/2gjAzIb

Puerto Rico From the Space Station

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba photographed Puerto Rico from the cupola of the International Space Station on Oct. 12, 2017. Sharing the image with his followers on social media, he wrote, "Finally a chance to see the beautiful island of Puerto Rico from @Space_Station. Continued thoughts throughout the recovery process." via NASA http://ift.tt/2gpX41X

Haumea of the Outer Solar System

One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System has recently been found to have a ring. The object, named Haumea, is the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea's oblong shape makes it quite unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Illustrated above, an artist visualizes Haumea as a cratered ellipsoid surrounded by a uniform ring. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was renamed in 2008 by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Besides the ring discovered this year, Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, named Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess. via NASA http://ift.tt/2gKDBWu

When (Neutron) Stars Collide

This illustration shows the hot, dense, expanding cloud of debris stripped from neutron stars just before they collided. via NASA http://ift.tt/2hK4fP8

On the Origin of Gold

Where did the gold in your jewelry originate? No one is completely sure. The relative average abundance in our Solar System appears higher than can be made in the early universe, in stars, and even in typical supernova explosions. Some astronomers have suggested, and many believe, that neutron-rich heavy elements such as gold might be most easily made in rare neutron-rich explosions such as the collision of neutron stars. Pictured here is an artist's illustration depicting two neutron stars spiraling in toward each other, just before they collide. Since neutron star collisions are also suggested as the origin of short duration gamma-ray bursts, it is possible that you already own a souvenir from one of the most powerful explosions in the universe. via NASA http://ift.tt/2i98Z4L

All Sky Steve

Familiar green and red tinted auroral emission floods the sky along the northern (top) horizon in this fish-eye panorama projection from September 27. On the mild, clear evening the Milky Way tracks through the zenith of a southern Alberta sky and ends where the six-day-old Moon sets in the southwest. The odd, isolated, pink and whitish arc across the south has come to be known as Steve. The name was given to the phenomenon by the Alberta Aurora Chasers Facebook group who had recorded appearances of the aurora-like feature. Sometimes mistakenly identified as a proton aurora or proton arc, the mysterious Steve arcs seem associated with aurorae but appear closer to the equator than the auroral curtains. Widely documented by citizen scientists and recently directly explored by a Swarm mission satellite, Steve arcs have been measured as thermal emission from flowing gas rather than emission excited by energetic electrons. Even though a reverse-engineered acronym that fits the originally friendly name is Sudden Thermal Emission from Velocity Enhancement, his origin is still mysterious. via NASA http://ift.tt/2ykOVlG

Glorious Sunrise at the Start of a Spacewalk

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei exits the International Space Station on Oct. 10, 2017, for a spacewalk in this photograph taken by fellow spacewalker Randy Bresnik. Bresnik wrote, "A glorious sunrise greeted @Astro_Sabot and I at the start of our 2nd #spacewalk. His visor reflection shows the airlock hatch we came out." via NASA http://ift.tt/2hExaE6

Dream Chaser at Dawn

Dawn bring the sight of Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada's reusable spaceplane, as it sits on the runway at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center. via NASA http://ift.tt/2kJGA6h

NGC 1365: Majestic Island Universe

Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. This impressively sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, and details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy's bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole. Astronomers think NGC 1365's prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy's evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming maelstrom and ultimately feeding material into the central black hole. via NASA http://ift.tt/2g120qf

Apollo 7 Launches on October 11, 1968

On October 11, 1968, Apollo 7 launched via NASA http://ift.tt/2gwjhbq

Star Cluster NGC 362 from Hubble

If our Sun were near the center of NGC 362, the night sky would glow like a jewel box of bright stars. Hundreds of stars would glow brighter than Sirius, and in many different colors. Although these stars could become part of breathtaking constellations and intricate folklore, it would be difficult for planetary inhabitants there to see -- and hence understand -- the greater universe beyond. NGC 362 is one of only about 170 globular clusters of stars that exist in our Milky Way Galaxy. This star cluster is one of the younger globulars, forming likely well after our Galaxy. NGC 362 can be found with the unaided eye nearly in front of the Small Magellanic Cloud, and angularly close to the second brightest globular cluster known, 47 Tucanae. The featured image was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope to help better understand how massive stars end up near the center of some globular clusters. via NASA http://ift.tt/2zc33My

Where Does the Sand Come From?

This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter (MRO) shows one possible place where sand grains are being produced on Mars today. via NASA http://ift.tt/2yUEv9G

Unusual Mountain Ahuna Mons on Asteroid Ceres

What created this unusual mountain? Ahuna Mons is the largest mountain on the largest known asteroid in our Solar System, Ceres, which orbits our Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ahuna Mons, though, is like nothing that humanity has ever seen before. For one thing, its slopes are garnished not with old craters but young vertical streaks. One hypothesis holds that Ahuna Mons is an ice volcano that formed shortly after a large impact on the opposite side of the dwarf planet loosened up the terrain through focused seismic waves. The bright steaks may be high in reflective salt, and therefore similar to other recently surfaced material such as visible in Ceres' famous bright spots. The featured double-height digital image was constructed from surface maps taken of Ceres last year by the robotic Dawn mission. via NASA http://ift.tt/2y8JHtl

Eclipsosaurus Rex

We live in an era where total solar eclipses are possible because at times the apparent size of the Moon can just cover the disk of the Sun. But the Moon is slowly moving away from planet Earth. Its distance is measured to increase about 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) per year due to tidal friction. So there will come a time, about 600 million years from now, when the Moon is far enough away that the lunar disk will be too small to ever completely cover the Sun. Then, at best only annular eclipses, a ring of fire surrounding the silhouetted disk of the too small Moon, will be seen from the surface of our fair planet. Of course the Moon was slightly closer and loomed a little larger 100 million years ago. So during the age of the dinosaurs there were more frequent total eclipses of the Sun. In front of the Tate Geological Museum at Casper College in Wyoming, this dinosaur statue posed with a modern total eclipse, though. An automated camera was placed under him to shoot his portrait during the Great American Eclipse of August 21. via NASA http://ift.tt/2ggIeYc

Suited Up for a Day's Work

Astronaut Randy Bresnik conducts a spacewalk on October 5. via NASA http://ift.tt/2y0CIR2

Global Aurora at Mars

A strong solar event last month triggered intense global aurora at Mars. Before (left) and during (right) the solar storm, these projections show the sudden increase in ultraviolet emission from martian aurora, more than 25 times brighter than auroral emission previously detected by the orbiting MAVEN spacecraft. With a sunlit crescent toward the right, data from MAVEN's ultraviolet imaging spectrograph is projected in purple hues on the night side of Mars globes simulated to match the observation dates and times. On Mars, solar storms can result in planet-wide aurora because, unlike Earth, the Red Planet isn't protected by a strong global magnetic field that can funnel energetic charged particles toward the poles. For all those on the planet's surface during the solar storm, dangerous radiation levels were double any previously measured by the Curiosity rover. MAVEN is studying whether Mars lost its atmosphere due to its lack of a global magnetic field. via NASA http://ift.tt/2fMTEm8

First Meeting of the National Space Council

Members of the National Space Council are seen during the council's first meeting on Oct. 5 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence heard testimony from representatives from civil space, commercial space, and national security space industry representatives. via NASA http://ift.tt/2yrxjWh

Giants: Bruce Bochy will undergo third heart procedure in three years (ESPN)

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Oct. 4, 1957 - Sputnik, the Dawn of the Space Age

History changed on Oct. 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball, about 23 inches in diameter and weighing less than 190 pounds. via NASA http://ift.tt/2hNf1Yq

The Soul Nebula in Infrared from Herschel

Stars are forming in the Soul of the Queen of Aethopia. More specifically, a large star forming region called the Soul Nebula can be found in the direction of the constellation Cassiopeia, who Greek mythology credits as the vain wife of a King who long ago ruled lands surrounding the upper Nile river. The Soul Nebula houses several open clusters of stars, a large radio source known as W5, and huge evacuated bubbles formed by the winds of young massive stars. Located about 6,500 light years away, the Soul Nebula spans about 100 light years and is usually imaged next to its celestial neighbor the Heart Nebula (IC 1805). The featured image, impressively detailed, was taken last month in several bands of infrared light by the orbiting Herschel Space Observatory. via NASA http://ift.tt/2xMXJBn

It's Planting Season on the International Space Station

It's planting season on the International Space Station! NASA astronaut Joe Acaba prepared the Veggie facility for three different kinds of lettuce seeds as part of the VEG-03-D investigation. This is the first time seeds from multiple kinds of plants are being grown in the facility all at the same time. via NASA http://ift.tt/2yVNLLC

Ice Ring around Nearby Star Fomalhaut

Why is there a large ice ring around Fomalhaut? This interesting star -- easily visible in the night sky -- lies only about 25 light-years away and is known to be orbited by at least one planet, Dagon, as well as several inner dust disks. More intriguing, perhaps, is an outer ring, first discovered about 20 years ago, that has an unusually sharp inner boundary. The featured recent image by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) shows this outer ring with complete and unprecedented detail -- in pink -- superposed on a Hubble image of the Fomalhaut system in blue. A leading theory holds that this ring resulted from numerous violent collisions involving icy comets and planetesimals, the component objects of planets, while the ring boundaries are caused by the gravity of yet unseen planets. If correct, any interior planets in the Fomalhaut system are likely being continually pelted by large meteors and comets -- an onslaught last seen in our own planetary system four billion years ago in an episode called the Late Heavy Bombardment. via NASA http://ift.tt/2kgOZO3

Goodbye to the Dark Side

Stunning views like this image of Saturn's night side are only possible thanks to our robotic emissaries like Cassini. via NASA http://ift.tt/2hHltR0

Two Comets and a Star Cluster

Two unusual spots are on the move near the famous Pleiades star cluster. Shifting only a small amount per night, these spots are actually comets in our nearby Solar System that by chance wandered into the field of the light-years distant stars. On the far left is comet C/2017 O1 ASAS-SN, a multi-kilometer block of evaporating ice sporting a bright coma of surrounding gas dominated by green-glowing carbon. Comet ASAS-SN1 shows a slight tail to its lower right. Near the frame center is comet C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS, also a giant block of evaporating ice, but sporting a rather long tail to its right. On the upper right is the Pleiades, an open cluster dominated by bright blue stars illuminating nearby reflecting dust. This exposure, taken about two weeks ago, is so deep that the filamentary interstellar dust can be traced across the entire field. The Pleiades is visible to the unaided eye, but it should require binoculars to see the comets. via NASA http://ift.tt/2g1lL1o

▶ Kung Fu Panda sends Giants into the offseason in style with walk-off HR against Padres (ESPN)

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Final: Giants 5 Padres 4. WP: SF H Strickland (4-3) LP: SD P Maton (3-2) (ESPN)

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