Kate Rubins Works to Upgrade the Space Station

This image, taken on March 5, 2021, shows NASA astronaut Kate Rubins during a spacewalk to install solar array modification kits on the station. via NASA https://ift.tt/3lUvXti

Aurorae and Lightning on Jupiter

Why does so much of Jupiter's lightning occur near its poles? Similar to Earth, Jupiter experiences both aurorae and lightning. Different from Earth, though, Jupiter's lightning usually occurs near its poles -- while much of Earth's lightning occurs near its equator. To help understand the difference, NASA's Juno spacecraft, currently orbiting Jupiter, has observed numerous aurora and lightning events. The featured image, taken by Juno's Stellar Reference Unit camera on 2018 May 24, shows Jupiter's northern auroral oval and several bright dots and streaks. An eye-catching event is shown in the right inset image -- which is a flash of Jupiter's lightning -- one of the closest images of aurora and lightning ever. On Earth (which is much nearer to the Sun than Jupiter), sunlight is bright enough to create, by itself, much stronger atmospheric heating at the equator than the poles, driving turbulence, storms, and lightning. On Jupiter, in contrast, atmospheric heating comes mostly from its interior (as a remnant from its formation), leading to the hypothesis that more intense equatorial sunlight reduces temperature differences between upper atmospheric levels, hence reducing equatorial lightning-creating storms. via NASA https://ift.tt/2NKoSyE

Vision of a Stellar Ending

More than 11,000 years ago, a massive, supergiant star came to the end of its life. via NASA https://ift.tt/3lLvWb4

Mars over Duddo Stone Circle

Why are these large stones here? One the more famous stone circles is the Duddo Five Stones of Northumberland, England. Set in the open near the top of a modest incline, a short hike across empty fields will bring you to unusual human -sized stones that are unlike anything surrounding them. The grooved, pitted, and deeply weathered surfaces of the soft sandstones are consistent with being placed about 4000 years ago -- but placed for reasons now unknown. The featured image -- a composite of two consecutive images taken from the same location -- was captured last October under a starry sky when the Earth was passing near Mars, making the red planet unusually large and bright. Mars remains visible at sunset, although increasingly close to the horizon over the next few months. via NASA https://ift.tt/3lIymH7

Exploring the Earth's Water

NASA has investigated humanity's impact on a number of our home planet's natural resources and recently explored our impact on freshwater resources. via NASA https://ift.tt/3lAAK2Q

From Auriga to Orion

What's up in the sky from Auriga to Orion? Many of the famous stars and nebulas in this region were captured on 34 separate images, taking over 430 hours of exposure, and digitally combined to reveal the featured image. Starting on the far upper left, toward the constellation of Auriga (the Chariot driver), is the picturesque Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405). Continuing down along the bright arc of our Milky Way Galaxy, from left to right crossing the constellations of the Twins and the Bull, notable appearing nebulas include the Tadpole, Simeis 147, Monkey Head, Jellyfish, Cone and Rosette nebulas. In the upper right quadrant of the image, toward the constellation of Orion (the hunter), you can see Sh2-264, the half-circle of Barnard's Loop, and the Horsehead and Orion nebulas. Famous stars in and around Orion include, from left to right, orange Betelgeuse (just right of the image center), blue Bellatrix (just above it), the Orion belt stars of Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak, while bright Rigel appears on the far upper right. This stretch of sky won't be remaining up in the night very long -- it will be setting continually earlier in the evening as mid-year approaches. via NASA https://ift.tt/3s9ZhOJ

The Antikythera Mechanism

No one knew that 2,000 years ago, the technology existed to build such a device. The Antikythera mechanism, pictured, is now widely regarded as the first computer. Found at the bottom of the sea aboard a decaying Greek ship, its complexity prompted decades of study, and even today some of its functions likely remain unknown. X-ray images of the device, however, have confirmed that a main function of its numerous clock-like wheels and gears is to create a portable, hand-cranked, Earth-centered, orrery of the sky, predicting future star and planet locations as well as lunar and solar eclipses. The corroded core of the Antikythera mechanism's largest gear is featured, spanning about 13 centimeters, while the entire mechanism was 33 centimeters high, making it similar in size to a large book. Recently, modern computer modeling of missing components is allowing for the creation of a more complete replica of this surprising ancient machine. via NASA https://ift.tt/3lzJdTI

The Leo Trio

This popular group leaps into the early evening sky around the March equinox and the northern hemisphere spring. Famous as the Leo Triplet, the three magnificent galaxies found in the prominent constellation Leo gather here in one astronomical field of view. Crowd pleasers when imaged with even modest telescopes, they can be introduced individually as NGC 3628 (right), M66 (upper left), and M65 (bottom). All three are large spiral galaxies but tend to look dissimilar, because their galactic disks are tilted at different angles to our line of sight. NGC 3628, also known as the Hamburger Galaxy, is temptingly seen edge-on, with obscuring dust lanes cutting across its puffy galactic plane. The disks of M66 and M65 are both inclined enough to show off their spiral structure. Gravitational interactions between galaxies in the group have left telltale signs, including the tidal tails and warped, inflated disk of NGC 3628 and the drawn out spiral arms of M66. This gorgeous view of the region spans over 1 degree (two full moons) on the sky in a frame that covers over half a million light-years at the trio's estimated distance of 30 million light-years. Of course the spiky foreground stars lie well within our own Milky Way. via NASA https://ift.tt/3c3yQ7N

Saturn's Spring

Spring doesn't just hapen on Earth. Spring also happens on some of our neighboring planets in the solar system. via NASA https://ift.tt/38TcSCb

Central Lagoon in Infrared

Stars fill this infrared view, spanning 4 light-years across the center of the Lagoon Nebula. Visible light images show the glowing gas and obscuring dust clouds that dominate the scene. But this infrared image, constructed from Hubble Space Telescope data, peers closer to the heart of the active star-forming region revealing newborn stars scattered within, against a crowded field of background stars toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This tumultuous stellar nursery's central regions are sculpted and energized by the massive, young Herschel 36, seen as the bright star near center in the field of view. Herschel 36 is actually a multiple system of massive stars. At over 30 times the mass of the Sun and less than 1 million years old, the most massive star in the system should live to a stellar old age of 5 million years. Compare that to the almost 5 billion year old Sun which will evolve into a red giant in only another 5 billion years or so. The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8, lies about 4,000 light-years away within the boundaries of the constellation Sagittarius. via NASA https://ift.tt/3tFHBuJ

March 18, 1978: Space Shuttle Enterprise Arrives for Vibration Testing

On March 18, 1978, space shuttle Enterprise arrived at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center for mated vertical ground vibration testing. via NASA https://ift.tt/2OD9Xac

Stardust in the Perseus Molecular Cloud

Clouds of stardust drift through this deep skyscape, across the Perseus molecular cloud some 850 light-years away. Dusty nebulae reflecting light from embedded young stars stand out in the nearly 2 degree wide telescopic field of view. With a characteristic bluish color reflection nebula NGC 1333 is at center, vdB 13 at top right, with rare yellowish reflection nebula vdB 12 near the top of the frame. Stars are forming in the molecular cloud, though most are obscured at visible wavelengths by the pervasive dust. Still, hints of contrasting red emission from Herbig-Haro objects, the jets and shocked glowing gas emanating from recently formed stars, are evident in NGC 1333. The chaotic environment may be similar to one in which our own Sun formed over 4.5 billion years ago. At the estimated distance of the Perseus molecular cloud, this cosmic scene would span about 40 light-years. via NASA https://ift.tt/3rSXTjj

Ingenuity Helicopter on Mars (Illustration)

An illustration of NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter flying on Mars. via NASA https://ift.tt/3lnCRqF

The Surface of Venus from Venera 13

If you could stand on Venus -- what would you see? Pictured is the view from Venera 13, a robotic Soviet lander which parachuted and air-braked down through the thick Venusian atmosphere in March of 1982. The desolate landscape it saw included flat rocks, vast empty terrain, and a featureless sky above Phoebe Regio near Venus' equator. On the lower left is the spacecraft's penetrometer used to make scientific measurements, while the light piece on the right is part of an ejected lens-cap. Enduring temperatures near 450 degrees Celsius and pressures 75 times that on Earth, the hardened Venera spacecraft lasted only about two hours. Although data from Venera 13 was beamed across the inner Solar System almost 40 years ago, digital processing and merging of Venera's unusual images continues even today. Recent analyses of infrared measurements taken by ESA's orbiting Venus Express spacecraft indicate that active volcanoes may currently exist on Venus. via NASA https://ift.tt/2Oyoi7O

Hubble Shows Us the Future

Sometime in the far distant future, about 4 billion years from now, our Milky Way galaxy will collide with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, as illustrated in this artist rendition. via NASA https://ift.tt/38NuQpJ

IC 1318: The Butterfly Nebula in Gas and Dust

In the constellation of the swan near the nebula of the pelican lies the gas cloud of the butterfly next to a star known as the hen. That star, given the proper name Sadr, is just to the right of the featured frame, but the central Butterfly Nebula, designated IC 1318, is shown in high resolution. The intricate patterns in the bright gas and dark dust are caused by complex interactions between interstellar winds, radiation pressures, magnetic fields, and gravity. The featured telescopic view captures IC 1318's characteristic emission from ionized sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms mapped to the red, green, and blue hues of the popular Hubble Palette. The portion of the Butterfly Nebula pictured spans about 100 light years and lies about 4000 light years away. via NASA https://ift.tt/3czzRmZ

Meteor Fireballs in Light and Sound

Yes, but have you ever heard a meteor? Usually, meteors are too far away to make any audible sound. However, a meteor will briefly create an ionization trail that can reflect a distant radio signal. If the geometry is right, you may momentarily hear -- through your radio -- a distant radio station even over static. In the featured video, the sounds of distant radio transmitters were caught reflecting from large meteor trails by a sensitive radio receiver -- at the same time the bright streaks were captured by an all-sky video camera. In the video, the bright paths taken by four fireballs across the sky near Lamy, New Mexico, USA, are shown first. Next, after each static frame, a real-time video captures each meteor streaking across the sky, now paired with the sound recorded from its radio reflection. Projecting a meteor trail down to the Earth may lead to finding its impact site (if any), while projecting its trail back into the sky may lead to identifying its parent comet or asteroid. via NASA https://ift.tt/3eCPxZi

A Flag Shaped Aurora over Sweden

It appeared, momentarily, like a 50-km tall banded flag. In mid-March of 2015, an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection directed toward a clear magnetic channel to Earth led to one of the more intense geomagnetic storms of recent years. A visual result was wide spread auroras being seen over many countries near Earth's magnetic poles. Captured over Kiruna, Sweden, the image features an unusually straight auroral curtain with the green color emitted low in the Earth's atmosphere, and red many kilometers higher up. It is unclear where the rare purple aurora originates, but it might involve an unusual blue aurora at an even lower altitude than the green, seen superposed with a much higher red. Now past Solar Minimum, colorful nights of auroras over Earth are likely to increase. via NASA https://ift.tt/3vk0QLP

SuperCam Target on Maaz

What's the sound of one laser zapping? There's no need to consult a Zen master to find out, just listen to the first acoustic recording of laser shots on Mars. On Perseverance mission sol 12 (March 2) the SuperCam instrument atop the rover's mast zapped a rock dubbed Ma'az 30 times from a range of about 3.1 meters. Its microphone recorded the soft staccato popping sounds of the rapid series of SuperCam laser zaps. Shockwaves created in the thin martian atmosphere as bits of rock are vaporized by the laser shots make the popping sounds, sounds that offer clues to the physical structure of the target. This SuperCam close-up of the Ma'az target region is 6 centimeters (2.3 inches) across. Ma'az means Mars in the Navajo language. via NASA https://ift.tt/3qRr317

NASA Needs Pi!

NASA uses pi every day! via NASA https://ift.tt/3vfAtGV

Messier 81

One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful Messier 81. Also known as NGC 3031 or Bode's galaxy for its 18th century discoverer, this grand spiral can be found toward the northern constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The sharp, detailed telescopic view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, pinkish starforming regions, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes. Some dust lanes actually run through the galactic disk (left of center), contrary to other prominent spiral features though. The errant dust lanes may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and the nearby galaxy M82 lurking outside of this frame. M81's faint, dwarf irregular satellite galaxy, Holmberg IX, can be seen just below the large spiral. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded a well-determined distance for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years. via NASA https://ift.tt/38utOz2

Japanese Astronaut Soichi Noguchi Works on Station's Solar Arrays

During the March 5, 2021, spacewalk, JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi spent nearly 7 hours working on the space station. via NASA https://ift.tt/3rDwtxV

Zodiacal Light and Mars

Just after sunset on March 7, a faint band of light still reaches above the western horizon in this serene, rural Illinois, night skyscape. Taken from an old farmstead, the luminous glow is zodiacal light, prominent in the west after sunset during planet Earth's northern hemisphere spring. On that clear evening the band of zodiacal light seems to engulf bright yellowish Mars and the Pleiades star cluster. Their close conjunction is in the starry sky above the old barn's roof. Zodiacal light is sunlight scattered by interplanetary dust particles that lie near the Solar System's ecliptic plane. Of course all the Solar System's planets orbit near the plane of the ecliptic, within the band of zodiacal light. But zodiacal light and Mars may have a deeper connection. A recent analysis of serendipitous detections of interplanetary dust by the Juno spacecraft during its Earth to Jupiter voyage suggest Mars is the likely source of the dust that produces zodiacal light. via NASA https://ift.tt/38u50a8

Portrait of a Nebula

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features an impressive portrait of M1-63, an example of a bipolar planetary nebula located in the constellation of Scutum (the Shield). via NASA https://ift.tt/3qwIT9q

NGC 1499: The California Nebula

Could Queen Calafia's mythical island exist in space? Perhaps not, but by chance the outline of this molecular space cloud echoes the outline of the state of California, USA. Our Sun has its home within the Milky Way's Orion Arm, only about 1,000 light-years from the California Nebula. Also known as NGC 1499, the classic emission nebula is around 100 light-years long. On the featured image, the most prominent glow of the California Nebula is the red light characteristic of hydrogen atoms recombining with long lost electrons, stripped away (ionized) by energetic starlight. The star most likely providing the energetic starlight that ionizes much of the nebular gas is the bright, hot, bluish Xi Persei just to the right of the nebula. A regular target for astrophotographers, the California Nebula can be spotted with a wide-field telescope under a dark sky toward the constellation of Perseus, not far from the Pleiades. via NASA https://ift.tt/3l9sFly

Stacking Complete for Twin Space Launch System Rocket Boosters

Stacking is complete for the twin Space Launch System (SLS) solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Artemis I mission. via NASA https://ift.tt/2Of0VQm

Electrical Engineer and NASA Astronaut Joan Higginbotham

At NASA, women – be they scientists, pilots, astronauts and others – help the Agency fulfill its mission. Joan Higginbotham is one of those women. via NASA https://ift.tt/2OfgFCX

Three Tails of Comet NEOWISE

What created the unusual red tail in Comet NEOWISE? Sodium. A spectacular sight back in the summer of 2020, Comet NEOWISE, at times, displayed something more than just a surprisingly striated white dust tail and a pleasingly patchy blue ion tail. Some color sensitive images showed an unusual red tail, and analysis showed much of this third tail's color was emitted by sodium. Gas rich in sodium atoms might have been liberated from Comet NEOWISE's warming nucleus in early July by bright sunlight, electrically charged by ultraviolet sunlight, and then pushed out by the solar wind. The featured image was captured in mid-July from Brittany, France and shows the real colors. Sodium comet tails have been seen before but are rare -- this one disappeared by late July. Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) has since faded, lost all of its bright tails, and now approaches the orbit of Jupiter as it heads back to the outer Solar System, to return only in about 7,000 years. via NASA https://ift.tt/3bn69Cn

Pillars of the Eagle Nebula in Infrared

Newborn stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula. Gravitationally contracting in pillars of dense gas and dust, the intense radiation of these newly-formed bright stars is causing surrounding material to boil away. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in near infrared light, allows the viewer to see through much of the thick dust that makes the pillars opaque in visible light. The giant structures are light years in length and dubbed informally the Pillars of Creation. Associated with the open star cluster M16, the Eagle Nebula lies about 6,500 light years away. The Eagle Nebula is an easy target for small telescopes in a nebula-rich part of the sky toward the split constellation Serpens Cauda (the tail of the snake). via NASA https://ift.tt/3roqTPR

Perseverance Takes a Spin

After arriving at Jezero Crater on Mars, Perseverance went for a spin on March 4. This sharp image from the car-sized rover's Navcam shows tracks left by its wheels in the martian soil. In preparation for operations on the surface of the Red Planet, its first drive lasted about 33 minutes. On a short and successful test drive Perseverance moved forward 4 meters, made a 150 degree turn, backed up for 2.5 meters, and now occupies a different parking space at its newly christened Octavia E. Butler Landing location. Though the total travel distance of the rover's first outing was about 6.5 meters (21 feet), regular commutes of 200 meters or more can be expected in the future. via NASA https://ift.tt/30kIiwG

Hypergiant Star Canis Majoris

This artist's impression of hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris shows the star's vast convection cells and violent ejections. via NASA https://ift.tt/3edfa2Q

A Little Like Mars

The surface of this planet looks a little like Mars. It's really planet Earth though. In a digitally stitched little planet projection, the 360 degree mosaic was captured near San Pedro in the Chilean Atacama desert. Telescopes in domes on the horizon are taking advantage of the region's famously dark, clear nights. Taken in early December, a magnificent Milky Way arcs above the horizon for almost 180 degrees around the little planet with Orion prominent in the southern sky. A familiar constellation upside down for northern hemisphere skygazers, Orion shares that southern December night almost opposite the Large and Small Magellanic clouds. But the Red Planet itself is the brightest yellowish celestial beacon in this little planet sky. via NASA https://ift.tt/3kMUFuR

Hubble: 30 Years and Counting

It's March 2021 and in about another month the Hubble Space Telescope will celebrate 31 years in space observing the universe. via NASA https://ift.tt/2NTSNoo

Mars in Taurus

You can spot Mars in the evening sky tonight. Now home to the Perseverance rover, the Red Planet is presently wandering through the constellation Taurus, close on the sky to the Seven Sisters or Pleiades star cluster. In fact this deep, widefield view of the region captures Mars near its closest conjunction to the Pleiades on March 3. Below center, Mars is the bright yellowish celestial beacon only about 3 degrees from the pretty blue star cluster. Competing with Mars in color and brightness, Aldebaran is the alpha star of Taurus. The red giant star is toward the lower left edge of the frame, a foreground star along the line-of-sight to the more distant Hyades star cluster. Otherwise too faint for your eye to see, the dark, dusty nebulae lie along the edge of the massive Perseus molecular cloud, with the striking reddish glow of NGC 1499, the California Nebula, at the upper right. via NASA https://ift.tt/388u4nb

NASA and the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

Did you know that NASA's Kennedy Space Center shares its home with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge? via NASA https://ift.tt/2MIyHNb

Stars over an Erupting Volcano

Mt. Etna has been erupting for hundreds of thousands of years. Located in Sicily, Italy, the volcano produces lava fountains over one kilometer high. Mt. Etna is not only one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, it is one of the largest, measuring over 50 kilometers at its base and rising nearly 3 kilometers high. Pictured erupting last month, a lava plume shoots upwards, while hot lava flows down the volcano's exterior. Likely satellite trails appear above, while ancient stars dot the sky far in the distance. This volcanic eruption was so strong that nearby airports were closed to keep planes from flying through the dangerous plume. The image foreground and background were captured consecutively by the same camera and from the same location. via NASA https://ift.tt/3b95NPr

Kelly Latimer: Dryden's First Female Research Test Pilot

Kelly J. Latimer was a research pilot in the Flight Crew Branch of NASA's Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center. via NASA https://ift.tt/3uP1e50

Ingenuity: A Mini Helicopter Now on Mars

What if you could fly around Mars? NASA may have achieved that capability last month with the landing of Perseverance, a rover which included a small flight-worthy companion called Ingenuity, nicknamed Ginny. Even though Ginny is small -- a toaster-sized helicopter with four long legs and two even-longer (1.2-meter) rotors, she is the first of her kind -- there has never been anything like her before. After being deployed, possibly in April, the car-sized Perseverance ("Percy") will back away to give Ginny ample room to attempt her unprecedented first flight. In the featured artistic illustration, Ginny's long rotors are depicted giving her the lift she needs to fly into the thin Martian atmosphere and explore the area near Perseverance. Although Ingenuity herself will not fly very far, she is a prototype for all future airborne Solar-System robots that may fly far across not only Mars, but Titan. via NASA https://ift.tt/3q8gZ3k

Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters Sign Installation

On Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters sign is installed ahead of the building naming ceremony. via NASA https://ift.tt/2PeuGRm