Last Minute Inspection
September 24th, 2012
12:06 PM ET

Last Minute Inspection

"Sept. 24 marks the 82nd birthday of John W. Young, the only astronaut to fly aboard the Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle spacecraft. In this 1965 photo, Young is going through last-minute checks before the mission's March 23 launch. Young was the pilot on this flight, which was commanded by original astronaut Gus Grissom."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Space Shuttle Endeavour
September 18th, 2012
10:36 AM ET

Space Shuttle Endeavour

"Space shuttle Endeavour is seen atop NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Monday, Sept. 17, 2012 in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The SCA, a modified 747 jetliner, will fly Endeavour to Los Angeles where it will be placed on public display at the California Science Center. This is the final ferry flight scheduled in the Space Shuttle Program era."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Expedition 32 Landing
September 17th, 2012
10:29 AM ET

Expedition 32 Landing

"The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 32 Commander Gennady Padalka of Russia, NASA Flight Engineer Joe Acaba and Russian Flight Engineer Sergie Revin in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Monday, September 17, 2012. Padalka, Acaba and Revin returned from five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 31 and 32 crews."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
A Surprisingly Bright Superbubble
August 31st, 2012
01:38 PM ET

A Surprisingly Bright Superbubble

"This composite image shows a superbubble in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way located about 160,000 light years from Earth. Many new stars, some of them very massive, are forming in the star cluster NGC 1929, which is embedded in the nebula N44, so named because it is the 44th nebula in a catalog of such objects in the Magellanic Clouds. The massive stars produce intense radiation, expel matter at high speeds, and race through their evolution to explode as supernovas. The winds and supernova shock waves carve out huge cavities called superbubbles in the surrounding gas. X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue) show hot regions created by these winds and shocks, while infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (red) outline where the dust and cooler gas are found. The optical light from the 2.2-m Max-Planck-ESO telescope (yellow) in Chile shows where ultraviolet radiation from hot, young stars is causing gas in the nebula to glow.

A long-running problem in high-energy astrophysics has been that some superbubbles in the LMC, including N44, give off a lot more X-rays than expected from models of their structure. These models assume that hot, X-ray emitting gas has been produced by winds from massive stars and the remains of several supernovas. A Chandra study published in 2011 showed that there are two extra sources of N44’s X-ray emission not included in these models: supernova shock waves striking the walls of the cavities, and hot material evaporating from the cavity walls. The Chandra observations also show no evidence for an enhancement of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium in the cavities, thus ruling out this possibility as a third explanation for the bright X-ray emission. Only with long observations making full use of the capabilities of Chandra has it now become possible to distinguish between different sources of the X-rays produced by superbubbles."

-Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Colorful Colossuses and Changing Hues
August 30th, 2012
02:58 PM ET

Colorful Colossuses and Changing Hues

"A giant of a moon appears before a giant of a planet undergoing seasonal changes in this natural color view of Titan and Saturn from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, measures 3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers, across and is larger than the planet Mercury. Cassini scientists have been watching the moon's south pole since a vortex appeared in its atmosphere in 2012. See PIA14919 and PIA14920 to learn more about this mass of swirling gas around the pole in the atmosphere of the moon.

As the seasons have changed in the Saturnian system, and spring has come to the north and autumn to the south, the azure blue in the northern Saturnian hemisphere that greeted Cassini upon its arrival in 2004 is now fading. The southern hemisphere, in its approach to winter, is taking on a bluish hue. This change is likely due to the reduced intensity of ultraviolet light and the haze it produces in the hemisphere approaching winter, and the increasing intensity of ultraviolet light and haze production in the hemisphere approaching summer. (The presence of the ring shadow in the winter hemisphere enhances this effect.) The reduction of haze and the consequent clearing of the atmosphere makes for a bluish hue: the increased opportunity for direct scattering of sunlight by the molecules in the air makes the sky blue, as on Earth. The presence of methane, which generally absorbs in the red part of the spectrum, in a now clearer atmosphere also enhances the blue.

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from just above the ring plane.

This mosaic combines six images - two each of red, green and blue spectral filters - to create this natural color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on May 6, 2012, at a distance of approximately 483,000 miles (778,000 kilometers) from Titan. Image scale is 29 miles (46 kilometers) per pixel on Titan.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
August 20th, 2012
11:04 AM ET

"Astronomers using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope caught two clusters full of massive stars that may be in the early stages of merging. The 30 Doradus Nebula is 170,000 light-years from Earth. What at first was thought to be only one cluster in the core of the massive star-forming region 30 Doradus has been found to be a composite of two clusters that differ in age by about one million years.

The entire 30 Doradus complex has been an active star-forming region for 25 million years, and it is currently unknown how much longer this region can continue creating new stars. Smaller systems that merge into larger ones could help to explain the origin of some of the largest known star clusters. The Hubble observations, made with the Wide Field Camera 3, were taken Oct. 20-27, 2009. The blue color is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; and the red from fluorescing hydrogen."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Shuttles Come Nose-to-Nose
August 16th, 2012
03:46 PM ET

Shuttles Come Nose-to-Nose

"NASA's space shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis switched locations today at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and in the process came "nose-to-nose" for the last time in front of Orbiter Processing Facility 3.

Endeavour was moved from Orbiter Processing Facility 2 to the Vehicle Assembly Building where it will be housed temporarily until its targeted departure from Kennedy atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft in mid-September. After a stop at the Los Angeles International Airport, Endeavour will move in mid-October to the California Science Center for permanent public display.

Now in the processing facility after leaving the Vehicle Assembly Building, shuttle Atlantis will undergo preparations for its move to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in November, with a grand opening planned for July 2013."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Canadarm2 and HTV-3
August 16th, 2012
03:44 PM ET

Canadarm2 and HTV-3

"In the grasp of the International Space Station's robotic Canadarm2, the HTV-3 Exposed Pallet is moved for installation on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-3) currently docked to the space station. Earth's horizon and the blackness of space provide the backdrop for the scene."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Curiosity's New Home
August 8th, 2012
03:33 PM ET

Curiosity's New Home

"These are the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's "head" or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground.

The topography of the rim is very mountainous due to erosion. The ground seen in the middle shows low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover's descent stage thrusters.

These are full-resolution images, 1024 by 1024 pixels in size."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen • Mars
John Grunsfeld on the Colbert Report
August 2nd, 2012
11:14 AM ET

John Grunsfeld on the Colbert Report

"John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, was a guest on the Colbert Report on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, where he discussed the upcoming Curiosity Mars rover landing. The landing will occur on Monday morning at 1:31 a.m. EDT."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
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