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 https://ift.tt/326jqJe

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 https://ift.tt/37DuONK

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 https://ift.tt/2u2NbxV

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 https://ift.tt/2Sua1rG

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 https://ift.tt/31XTOhq

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 https://ift.tt/3bC7F1x

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 https://ift.tt/38rKipw

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 https://ift.tt/2SH190H

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 https://ift.tt/2SkOxNY

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 https://ift.tt/37nJDDY

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 https://ift.tt/2ULvIFo

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 https://ift.tt/2SB80sB

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 https://ift.tt/39pRIJM

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 https://ift.tt/37eSgkf

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 https://ift.tt/2OGmExD

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 https://ift.tt/2vmPwE5

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 https://ift.tt/2ScMtY9

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 https://ift.tt/2HbtpDe

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 https://ift.tt/2SsmSJF

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 https://ift.tt/388ae9l

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 https://ift.tt/2H0rvVY

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 https://ift.tt/2ugniep

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 https://ift.tt/2ty7tiB

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 https://ift.tt/2H0eGLz

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 https://ift.tt/2RYKSFl

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 https://ift.tt/2UknGTH

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 https://ift.tt/2SkztP0

Deborah Johnson: A Career in the Service of Space Exploration


Deborah Johnson has worked for NASA since 1978. via NASA https://ift.tt/2UpKFwv

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 https://ift.tt/2Uk5YPX

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 https://ift.tt/391spOc