SpaceX Demo-1: 'Go' for Launch

Two days remain until the planned liftoff of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket—the first launch of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and space system designed for humans. via NASA

Sharpest Ultima Thule

On January 1, New Horizons swooped to within 3,500 kilometers of the Kuiper Belt world known as Ultima Thule. That's about 3 times closer than its July 2015 closest approach to Pluto. The spacecraft's unprecedented feat of navigational precision, supported by data from ground and space-based observing campaigns, was accomplished 6.6 billion kilometers (over 6 light-hours) from planet Earth. Six and a half minutes before closest approach to Ultima Thule it captured the nine frames used in this composite image. The most detailed picture possible of the farthest object ever explored, the image has a resolution of about 33 meters per pixel, revealing intriguing bright surface features and dark shadows near the terminator. A primitive Solar System object, Ultima Thule's two lobes combine to span just 30 kilometers. The larger lobe, referred to as Ultima, is recently understood to be flattened like a fluffy pancake, while the smaller, Thule, has a shape that resembles a dented walnut. via NASA

Curiosity Drives Over a New Kind of Terrain

The Curiosity Mars Rover took this image with its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Feb. 10, 2019 (Sol 2316). via NASA

Earnest C. Smith in the Astrionics Laboratory in 1964

Earnest C. Smith in the Astrionics Laboratory in 1964. via NASA

Simulation TNG50: A Galaxy Cluster Forms

How do clusters of galaxies form? Since our universe moves too slowly to watch, faster-moving computer simulations are created to help find out. A recent effort is TNG50 from IllustrisTNG, an upgrade of the famous Illustris Simulation. The first part of the featured video tracks cosmic gas (mostly hydrogen) as it evolves into galaxies and galaxy clusters from the early universe to today, with brighter colors marking faster moving gas. As the universe matures, gas falls into gravitational wells, galaxies forms, galaxies spin, galaxies collide and merge, all while black holes form in galaxy centers and expel surrounding gas at high speeds. The second half of the video switches to tracking stars, showing a galaxy cluster coming together complete with tidal tails and stellar streams. The outflow from black holes in TNG50 is surprisingly complex and details are being compared with our real universe. Studying how gas coalesced in the early universe helps humanity better understand how our Earth, Sun, and Solar System originally formed. via NASA

Alvin Drew Works on the International Space Station

NASA astronaut Alvin Drew participated in the STS-133 mission's first spacewalk. via NASA

Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra

What are those red filaments in the sky? It is a rarely seen form of lightning confirmed only about 30 years ago: red sprites. Recent research has shown that following a powerful positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike, red sprites may start as 100-meter balls of ionized air that shoot down from about 80-km high at 10 percent the speed of light and are quickly followed by a group of upward streaking ionized balls. The featured image, taken just over a week ago in Kununurra, Western Australia, captured some red sprites while shooting a time-lapse sequence of a distant lightning storm. Pictured, green trees cover the foreground, dark mountains are seen on the horizon, ominous storm clouds hover over the distant land, while red sprites appear in front of stars far in the distance. Red sprites take only a fraction of a second to occur and are best seen when powerful thunderstorms are visible from the side. via NASA

The Expanding Echoes of Supernova 1987A

Can you find supernova 1987A? It isn't hard -- it occurred at the center of the expanding bullseye pattern. Although this stellar detonation was first seen in 1987, light from SN 1987A continued to bounce off clumps of interstellar dust and be reflected to us even many years later. Light echoes recorded between 1988 and 1992 by the Anglo Australian Telescope (AAT) in Australia are shown moving out from the position of the supernova in the featured time-lapse sequence. These images were composed by subtracting an LMC image taken before the supernova light arrived from later LMC images that included the supernova echo. Other prominent light echo sequences include those taken by the EROS2 and SuperMACHO sky monitoring projects. Studies of expanding light echo rings around other supernovas have enabled more accurate determinations of the location, date, and symmetry of these tremendous stellar explosions. Yesterday marked the 32nd anniversary of SN 1987A: the last recoded supernova in or around our Milky Way Galaxy, and the last to be visible to the unaided eye. via NASA

The Stars of the Triangulum Galaxy

Like grains of sand on a cosmic beach, stars of the Triangulum Galaxy are resolved in this sharp mosaic from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The inner region of the galaxy spanning over 17,000 light-years is covered at extreme resolution, the second largest image ever released by Hubble. At its center is the bright, densely packed galactic core surrounded by a loose array of dark dust lanes mixed with the stars in the galactic plane. Also known as M33, the face-on spiral galaxy lies 3 million light-years away in the small northern constellation Triangulum. Over 50,000 light-years in diameter, the Triangulum Galaxy is the third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. Of course, to fully appreciate the Triangulum's stars, star clusters, and bright nebulae captured in this Hubble mosaic, you'll need to use a zoom tool. via NASA

Hubble Peers into the Vast Distance

This picture showcases a gravitational lensing system called SDSS J0928+2031. via NASA

NGC 4565: Galaxy on Edge

Magnificent spiral galaxy NGC 4565 is viewed edge-on from planet Earth. Also known as the Needle Galaxy for its narrow profile, bright NGC 4565 is a stop on many telescopic tours of the northern sky, in the faint but well-groomed constellation Coma Berenices. This sharp, colorful image reveals the galaxy's bulging central core cut by obscuring dust lanes that lace NGC 4565's thin galactic plane. An assortment of other background galaxies is included in the pretty field of view, with neighboring galaxy NGC 4562 at the upper right. NGC 4565 itself lies about 40 million light-years distant and spans some 100,000 light-years. Easily spotted with small telescopes, sky enthusiasts consider NGC 4565 to be a prominent celestial masterpiece Messier missed. via NASA

Good Morning From the Space Station!

Good morning to our beautiful world, said astronaut Anne McClain from aboard the Space Station on Feb. 21, 2019. via NASA

Reflections on vdB 9

Centered in a well-composed celestial still life, pretty, blue vdB 9 is the 9th object in Sidney van den Bergh's 1966 catalog of reflection nebulae. It shares this telescopic field of view, about twice the size of a full moon on the sky, with stars and dark, obscuring dust clouds in the northerly constellation Cassiopeia. Cosmic dust is preferentially reflecting blue starlight from embedded, hot star SU Cassiopeiae, giving vdB 9 the characteristic bluish tint associated with a classical reflection nebula. SU Cas is a Cepheid variable star, though even at its brightest it is just too faint to be seen with the unaided eye. Still Cepheids play an important role in determining distances in our galaxy and beyond. At the star's well-known distance of 1,540 light-years, this cosmic canvas would be about 24 light-years across. via NASA

Countdown to Calving at Antarctica's Brunt Ice Shelf

Cracks growing across Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf are poised to release an iceberg with an area about twice size of New York City. It is not yet clear how the remaining ice shelf will respond following the break, posing an uncertain future for scientific infrastructure and a human presence on the shelf that was first established in 1955. via NASA

Eat. Breathe. Do Science. Sleep Later.

Eat. Breathe. Do ccience. Sleep later. That's the motto of Derrick Pitts, NASA Solar System Ambassador. via NASA

Comet Iwamoto Before Spiral Galaxy NGC 2903

It isn't every night that a comet passes a galaxy. Last Thursday, though, binocular comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) moved nearly in front of a spiral galaxy of approximately the same brightness: NGC 2903. Comet Iwamoto was discovered late last year and orbits the Sun in a long ellipse. It last visited the inner Solar System during the Middle Ages, around the year 648. The comet reached its closest point to the Sun -- between Earth and Mars -- on February 6, and its closest point to Earth a few days ago, on February 13. The featured time-lapse video condenses almost three hours into about ten seconds, and was captured last week from Switzerland. At that time Comet Iwamoto, sporting a green coma, was about 10 light minutes distant, while spiral galaxy NGC 2903 remained about 30 million light years away. Two satellites zip diagonally through the field about a third of the way through the video. Typically, a few comets each year become as bright as Comet Iwamoto. via NASA

Shadow of a Martian Robot

What if you saw your shadow on Mars and it wasn't human? Then you might be the Opportunity rover currently exploring Mars. Opportunity explored the red planet from 2004 to 2018, finding evidence of ancient water, and sending breathtaking images across the inner Solar System. Pictured here in 2004, Opportunity looks opposite the Sun into Endurance Crater and sees its own shadow. Two wheels are visible on the lower left and right, while the floor and walls of the unusual crater are visible in the background. Caught in a dust storm in 2018, last week NASA stopped try contact Opportunity and declare the ground-breaking mission, originally planned for only 92 days, complete. via NASA

NGC 2359: Thor s Helmet

NGC 2359 is a helmet-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages popularly called Thor's Helmet. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the helmet is more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center inflates a region within the surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. NGC 2359 is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The remarkably detailed image is a mixed cocktail of data from broadband and narrowband filters that captures natural looking stars and the glow of the nebula's filamentary structures. It highlights a blue-green color from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas. via NASA

NASA Glenn Keeps X-57 Cool

NASA is preparing to explore electric-powered flight with the X-57 Maxwell, a unique all-electric aircraft which features 14 propellers along its wing. via NASA

Astronauts Train for the Boeing Crew Flight Test

This preflight image from Feb. 6, 2019, shows NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson during spacewalk preparations and training inside the Space Station Airlock Mockup at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. via NASA

Taking a Look Back at Opportunity's Record-Setting Mission

NASA's record-setting Opportunity rover mission on Mars comes to end. via NASA

The Helix Nebula in Hydrogen and Oxygen

Is the Helix Nebula looking at you? No, not in any biological sense, but it does look quite like an eye. The Helix Nebula is so named because it also appears that you are looking down the axis of a helix. In actuality, it is now understood to have a surprisingly complex geometry, including radial filaments and extended outer loops. The Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293) is one of brightest and closest examples of a planetary nebula, a gas cloud created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The featured picture, taken in the light emitted by oxygen (shown in blue) and hydrogen (shown in red), was created from 74 hours of exposure over three months from a small telescope in a backyard of suburban Melbourne, Australia. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows complex gas knots of unknown origin. via NASA

Robert Curbeam: Building the Space Station, Making History

Robert Curbeam currently holds the record for the most spacewalks during a single spaceflight. via NASA

Plane Crossing a Crescent Moon

No, this is not a good way to get to the Moon. What is pictured is a chance superposition of an airplane and the Moon. The contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the setting Sun preferentially knocks away blue light, giving the reflected trail a bright red hue. Far in the distance, well behind the plane, is a crescent Moon, also slightly reddened. Captured a month ago above Valais, Switzerland, the featured image was taken so soon after sunset that planes in the sky were still in sunlight, as were their contrails. Within minutes, unfortunately, the impromptu sky show ended. The plane crossed the Moon and moved out of sight. The Moon set. The contrail became unilluminated and then dispersed. via NASA

The Red Planet's Layered History

Erosion of the surface reveals several shades of light toned layers, likely sedimentary deposits, as shown in this image taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. via NASA

Comet Iwamoto and the Sombrero Galaxy

Comet Iwamoto (C/2018 Y1), shows off a pretty, greenish coma at the upper left in this telescopic field of view. Taken on February 4 from the Mount John Observatory, University of Canterbury, the 30 minute long total exposure time shows the comet sweeping quickly across a background of stars and distant galaxies in the constellation Virgo. The long exposure and Iwamoto's rapid motion relative to the stars and galaxies results in the noticeable blurred streak tracing the the comet's bright inner coma. In fact, the streaked coma gives the comet a remarkably similar appearance to Messier 104 at lower right, popularly known as the Sombrero Galaxy. The comet, a visitor to the inner Solar System, is a mere 4 light-minutes away though, while majestic Messier 104, a spiral galaxy posing edge-on, is 30 million light-years distant. The first binocular comet of 2019, Iwamoto will pass closest to Earth on February 12. This comet's highly elliptical orbit around the Sun stretches beyond the Kuiper belt with an estimated 1,371 year orbital period. That should bring it back to the inner Solar System in 3390 AD. via NASA

Mary Jackson: A Life of Service and a Love of Science

Mary Jackson began her engineering career in an era in which female engineers of any background were a rarity. via NASA

Moon, Four Planets, and Emu

A luminous Milky Way falls toward the horizon in this deep skyscape, starting at the top of the frame from the stars of the Southern Cross and the dark Coalsack Nebula. Captured in the dark predawn of February 2nd from Central Victoria, Australia, planet Earth, the 26 day old waning crescent Moon still shines brightly near the horizon. The second and third brightest celestial beacons are Venus and Jupiter along the lower part of the Milky Way's central bulge. Almost in line with the brighter planets and Moon, Saturn is the pinprick of light just visible below and right of the lunar glow. Australia's first astronomers saw the elongated, bulging shape of the familiar Milky Way as a great celestial Emu. The Moon and planets could almost be the Emu's eggs on this starry night. via NASA

Vice President Attends NASA Day of Remembrance

Vice President Mike Pence visits the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial after a wreath laying ceremony that was part of NASA's Day of Remembrance, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. via NASA

Apollo Astronaut Buzz Aldrin at the 2019 State of the Union

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes after being introduced at the 2019 State of the Union address. via NASA

Moon and Venus Appulse over a Tree

What's that bright spot near the Moon? Venus. About a week ago, Earth's Moon appeared unusually close to the distant planet Venus, an angular coincidence known as an appulse. Similar to a conjunction, which is a coordinate term, an appulse refers more generally to when two celestial objects appear close together. This Moon and Venus appulse -- once as close as 0.05 degrees -- was captured rising during the early morning behind Koko crater on the island of O'ahu in Hawaii, USA. The Moon was in a crescent phase with its lower left reflecting direct sunlight, while the rest of the Moon is seen because of Earthshine, sunlight first reflected from the Earth. Some leaves and branches of a foreground kiawe tree are seen in silhouette in front of the bright crescent, while others, in front of a darker background, appear white because of forward scattering. Appulses involving the Moon typically occur several times a year: for example the Moon is expected to pass within 0.20 degrees of distant Saturn on March 1. via NASA

Star Formation in the Orion Nebula

The powerful wind from the newly formed star at the heart of the Orion Nebula is creating the bubble and preventing new stars from forming. via NASA

Perijove 16: Passing Jupiter

Watch Juno zoom past Jupiter again. NASA's robotic spacecraft Juno is continuing on its 53-day, highly-elongated orbits around our Solar System's largest planet. The featured video is from perijove 16, the sixteenth time that Juno has passed near Jupiter since it arrived in mid-2016. Each perijove passes near a slightly different part of Jupiter's cloud tops. This color-enhanced video has been digitally composed from 21 JunoCam still images, resulting in a 125-fold time-lapse. The video begins with Jupiter rising as Juno approaches from the north. As Juno reaches its closest view -- from about 3,500 kilometers over Jupiter's cloud tops -- the spacecraft captures the great planet in tremendous detail. Juno passes light zones and dark belt of clouds that circle the planet, as well as numerous swirling circular storms, many of which are larger than hurricanes on Earth. As Juno moves away, the remarkable dolphin-shaped cloud is visible. After the perijove, Jupiter recedes into the distance, now displaying the unusual clouds that appear over Jupiter's south. To get desired science data, Juno swoops so close to Jupiter that its instruments are exposed to very high levels of radiation. via NASA

Victor Glover, One of the Crew of SpaceX's First Flight to Station

When SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off on its first operational mission to the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Victor Glover will be aboard. via NASA

Henize 70: A Superbubble in the LMC

Massive stars profoundly affect their galactic environments. Churning and mixing interstellar clouds of gas and dust, stars -- most notably those upwards of tens of times the mass of our Sun -- leave their mark on the compositions and locations of future generations of stars. Dramatic evidence of this is illustrated in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), by the featured nebula, Henize 70 (also known as N70 and DEM301). Henize 70 is actually a luminous superbubble of interstellar gas about 300 light-years in diameter, blown by winds from hot, massive stars and supernova explosions, with its interior filled with tenuous hot and expanding gas. Because superbubbles can expand through an entire galaxy, they offer humanity a chance to explore the connection between the lifecycles of stars and the evolution of galaxies. via NASA

An Airglow Fan from Lake to Sky

Why would the sky look like a giant fan? Airglow. The featured intermittent green glow appeared to rise from a lake through the arch of our Milky Way Galaxy, as captured during 2015 next to Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA. The unusual pattern was created by atmospheric gravity waves, ripples of alternating air pressure that can grow with height as the air thins, in this case about 90 kilometers up. Unlike auroras powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction. More typically seen near the horizon, airglow keeps the night sky from ever being completely dark. via NASA

Sunrise From Columbia

On Jan. 22, 2003, the crew of Space Shuttle Columbia captured this sunrise from the crew cabin during Flight Day 7. via NASA