Cosmic Exclamation Point
The Dumbbell Nebula, also known as Messier 27, pumps out infrared light in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The nebula was named after its resemblance to a dumbbell when seen in visible light. It was discovered in 1764 by Charles Messier, who included it as the 27th member of his famous catalog of nebulous objects. Although he did not know it at the time, this was the first in a class of objects, now known as planetary nebulae, to make it into the catalog.
Planetary nebulae, historically named for their resemblance to gas-giant planets, are now known to be the remains of stars that once looked a lot like our sun. When sun-like stars die, they puff out their outer gaseous layers, which are heated by the hot core of the dead star, called a white dwarf, and shine with infrared and visible-light colors. Our own sun will blossom into a planetary nebula when it dies in about five billion years.
A portion of the west rim of Endeavour crater sweeps southward in this color view from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. This crater — with a diameter of about 14 miles (22 kilometers) — is more than 25 times wider than any that Opportunity has previously approached during 90 months on Mars. Endeavour crater has been the rover team’s destination for Opportunity since the rover finished exploring Victoria crater in August 2008. Endeavour offers access to older geological deposits than any Opportunity has seen before.
This view combines exposures taken by Opportunity’s panoramic camera on the 2,678th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Aug. 6, 2011) before driving on that sol. The subsequent Sol 2678 drive covered 246 feet (75.26 meters), more than half of the remaining distance to the rim of the crater. Opportunity arrived at the rim during its next drive, on Sol 2681 (Aug. 9, 2011).
The closest of the distant ridges visible along the Endeavour rim is informally named Solander Point, an area that Opportunity may investigate in the future. The rover’s first destination on the rim, called Spirit Point in tribute to Opportunity’s now-inactive twin, is to the left (north) of this scene.
The lighter-toned rocks closer to the rover in this view are similar to the rocks Opportunity has driven over for most of the mission. However, the darker-toned and rougher rocks just beyond that might be a different type for Opportunity to investigate.
The ground in the foreground is covered with iron-rich spherules, nicknamed “blueberries,” which Opportunity has observed frequently since the first days after landing. They are about 0.2 inch (5 millimeters) or more in diameter.
This view combines images taken through three different filters, admitting light with wavelengths centered at 753 nanometers (near infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). This natural color is the rover team’s best estimate of what the scene would look like if humans were there and able to see it. Seams have been eliminated from the sky portion of the mosaic to better simulate the vista a person standing on Mars would see.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU
Opportunity’s View of the Rim of Endeavour
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its panoramic camera to capture this view of Endeavour Crater’s rim after a drive during the rover’s 2,676th Martian day, or sol, of working on Mars (Aug. 4, 2011). The drive covered 396 feet (120.7 meters) and put the rover with about that much distance to go before reaching the chosen arrival site at the rim, called ‘Spirit Point.’
Endeavour Crater has been the rover team’s destination for Opportunity since the rover finished exploring Victoria crater in August 2008. Endeavour, with a diameter of about 14 miles (22 kilometers), offers access to older geological deposits than any Opportunity has seen before. This view looks toward a portion of the rim south of Spirit Point, including terrain that Opportunity may explore in the future.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU
Birds of a Feather
NASA’s modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft briefly flew in formation over the Edwards Air Force Base Test Range on Aug. 2, 2011. The aircraft were scheduled to be in the air on the same day, NASA 911 (plane in the foreground) on a flight crew proficiency flight, and NASA 905 (rear) on a functional check flight following maintenance operations. Since both aircraft were scheduled to be in the air at the same time, SCA pilot Jeff Moultrie of Johnson Space Center’s Aircraft Operations Directorate took the opportunity to have both SCA’s fly in formation for about 20 minutes while NASA photographer Carla Thomas captured still and video imagery from a NASA Dryden F/A-18. In addition to Moultrie, NASA 905′s check flight crew included pilot Arthur “Ace” Beall and flight engineer Henry Taylor while NASA 911 was flown by Larry LaRose, Steve Malarchick and Bob Zimmerman from NASA Johnson and Frank Batteas and Bill Brockett from NASA Dryden.
Image Credit: NASA/Carla Thomas
Cosmonauts Conduct Spacewalk
Cosmonauts Sergei Volkov and Alexander Samokutyaev (out of frame), attired in Russian Orlan spacesuits, conducted a spacewalk on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, on the Russian segment of the International Space Station. During the six-hour, 23-minute spacewalk, the Expedition 28 flight engineers moved a cargo boom from one airlock to another, installed a prototype laser communications system and deployed an amateur radio micro-satellite.
Image Credit: NASA
This Is What the Moon Looks Like From Space
On Sunday, July 31, 2011, when Expedition 28 astronaut Ron Garan aboard the International Space Station looked out his window, this is what he saw: the moon. And, he saw it 16 times. Said Garan, “We had simultaneous sunsets and moonsets.” For Garan and the rest of the station crew, this extraordinary event is a daily occurrence. Since the station orbits the Earth every 90 minutes, each day the crew experiences this about 16 times a day, (: τυχεράκηδες!).
Image Credit: NASA
Another Take on Supersonic
Our ability to fly at supersonic speeds over land in civil aircraft depends on our ability to reduce the level of sonic booms. NASA has been exploring a variety of options for quieting the boom, starting with design concepts and moving through wind tunnel tests to flight tests of new technologies. This rendering of a possible future civil supersonic transport shows a vehicle that is shaped to reduce the sonic shockwave signature and also to reduce drag.
Image credit: NASA/Lockheed Martin
Close-up View of ‘Snowman’ Craters
A set of three craters, nicknamed “Snowman,” are seen in this image of the northern hemisphere of Vesta. This image was obtained by the framing camera on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on July 24, 2011 from a distance of about 3,200 miles (5,200 kilometers).
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Rock Layers in Gale Crater
This oblique view of the lower mound in Gale Crater shows layers of rock that preserve a record of environments on Mars. Here, orbiting instruments have detected signatures of both clay minerals and sulfate salts, with more clay minerals apparent in the foreground of this image and fewer in higher layers. This change in mineralogy may reflect a change in the ancient environment in Gale Crater.
Mars scientists have several important hypotheses about how these minerals may reflect changes in the amount of water on the surface of Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, will use its full suite of instruments to study these minerals to provide insights into these ancient Martian environments. These rocks are also a prime target in the search for organic molecules since these past environments may have been habitable — able to support microbial life. Scientists will study how organic molecules, if present, vary with mineralogical variations in the layers to understand how they formed and what influences their preservation.
The smaller hills in this view may provide clues to the modern water cycle on Mars. They contain sulfate salts that have water in them, and as temperatures warm into summer, some of that water may be released to the atmosphere. As temperatures cool, they may absorb water from the atmosphere. The Mars Science Laboratory team will investigate how water is exchanged between these minerals and the atmosphere, helping us understand Mars’ modern climate. The hills are particularly useful for this investigation because different parts of the hills are exposed to different amounts of sunlight and thus to different temperatures. Curiosity will be able to compare the water in these contrasting areas as part of its investigations.
This three-dimensional perspective view was created using visible-light imaging by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. Three-dimensional information was derived by stereo analysis of image pairs. The vertical dimension is not exaggerated. Color information is derived from color imaging of portions of the scene by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.
The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is being prepared for launch on Nov. 25, 2011. In a prime mission lasting one Martian year — nearly two Earth years — after landing, researchers will use the rover’s tools to study whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Testing NASA’s Next Deep Space Vehicle
“5…4…3…2…1…release.” With that countdown, the Apollo-like test article that is a base model for the agency’s future Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, took flight swinging across the sky — nearing 50 mph (80.5 kph) — at NASA Langley’s Landing and Impact Research Facility.
Image Credit: NASA/Sean Smith
Driving on the Moon
Apollo 15 lunar module pilot Jim Irwin loaded the lunar rover with tools and equipment in preparation for the first lunar spacewalk at the Hadley-Apennine landing site. The Lunar Module ‘Falcon’ appears on the left in this image. The undeployed Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector lies atop Falcon’s Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly.
Apollo 15 launched 40 years ago today on July 26, 1971, from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
Image Credit: NASA
Completing the Mission
After completing the STS-135 mission, space shuttle Atlantis is rolled over to the Orbiter Processing Facility shortly after landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility. Atlantis and the STS-135 crew completed a 13-day mission to the International Space Station and the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program, early Thursday morning, July 21, 2011, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Overall, Atlantis spent 307 days in space and traveled nearly 126 million miles during its 33 flights. Atlantis, the fourth orbiter built, launched on its first mission on Oct. 3, 1985.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Aurora Australis From Space
his image is of Atlantis and its Orbital Boom Sensor System robot arm extension backdropped against Earth’s horizon and a greenish phenomenon associated with Aurora Australis. One of the station’s solar array panels appears at upper left. Because of the exposure time needed for this type of photography, some of the stars in the background are blurred.
Image Credit: NASA
A Star-Formation Laboratory
First Family Views Shuttle Atlantis
The Water Planet
Nile River Delta (: και η Κρήτη) at Night
Hurricane Earl: The Astronaut View
Majestic Disk of Stars
The Hubble Space Telescope revealed this majestic disk of stars and dust lanes in this view of the spiral galaxy NGC 2841.
A bright cusp of starlight marks the galaxy’s center. Spiraling outward are dust lanes that are silhouetted against the population of whitish middle-aged stars. Much younger blue stars trace the spiral arms.
Notably missing are pinkish emission nebulae indicative of new star birth. It is likely that the radiation and supersonic winds from fiery, super-hot, young blue stars cleared out the remaining gas (which glows pink), and hence shut down further star formation in the regions in which they were born. NGC 2841 currently has a relatively low star formation rate compared to other spirals that are ablaze with emission nebulae.
NGC 2841 lies 46 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). This image was taken in 2010 through four different filters on Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Wavelengths range from ultraviolet light through visible light to near-infrared light.
NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration; Acknowledgment: M. Crockett and S. Kaviraj (Oxford University, UK), R. O’Connell (University of Virginia), B. Whitmore (STScI), and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee