“Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 travelled past Jupiter and Saturn and is now more than 11.66 billion miles (18.67 billion kilometers) from the sun, becoming the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space.” NG
From the altogether fantastic NASA Art Program, iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz's portrait of astronaut Eileen Collins – the first female pilot (Discovery, 1995) and first female commander (Columbia, 1999) of a space shuttle program.
Earth and Moon from Saturn
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
The only home we’ve ever known.
Alien ‘deep blue’ planet discovered
Poster showing a comparison of images from planetary surfaces ordered by increasing complexity of the surface processes. Image shows the surfaces of Asteroid Itokawa, the Moon, Venus, Mars, Titan, and Earth.
The Orion nebula is featured in this sweeping image from Nasa’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The constellation of Orion is prominent in the evening sky throughout the world from about December through to April of each year. See more images from a month in space
Tattered Remnants of a Star
10,000 light-years away in the constellation of Cassiopeia, a massive star went supernova, collapsing under the weight of its own gravity and blowing its outer layers into space, causing its own explosive demise. Shattered fragments are all that remain of the star—a huge swirls of debris and stellar ejecta called Cassiopeia A. It contains gases of 10 million degrees Celsius, created when the supernova flung out materials that smashed into surrounding dust and gas at speeds of 16 million km/hour. Cas A is actually the strongest radio source in the sky beyond our solar system, and the images above show the remnants in both optical and X-ray wavelengths, capturing the complex, intricate structure of the debris, fascinating in its utter destruction. The false colours indicate chemical compositions: bright green filaments are rich in oxygen, red and purple are sulphur, and blue are hydrogen and nitrogen. The light of Cas A first reached Earth just 340 years ago, so it’s one of the youngest and freshest such remnants we know of in the Milky Way. Studying it will help us understand the evolution of the universe. But it still holds some mysteries—take a closer look at the last image, and note the small turquoise dot right in the centre. Astronomers believe this is a neutron star—an ultra-dense star created during the supernova. Years of observation have shown unexpected rapid cooling of the star, which is thought to be caused by superfluids in its dense core. Superfluids are extremely bizarre but super cool, and you can read more about them from NASA.
NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits our planet every 95 minutes, building up increasingly deeper views of the universe with every circuit. This image compresses eight individual frames, from a movie showing 51 months of position and exposure data by Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT), into a single snapshot. The pattern reflects numerous motions of the spacecraft, including its orbit around Earth, the precession of its orbital plane, the manner in which the LAT nods north and south on alternate orbits, and more.
The LAT sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing the highest-energy form of light — gamma rays — from sources across the universe. These range from supermassive black holes billions of light-years away to intriguing objects in our own galaxy, such as X-ray binaries, supernova remnants and pulsars.
Hubble Views a Dwarf Galaxy - The constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear) is home to Messier 101, the Pinwheel Galaxy. Messier 101 is one of the biggest and brightest spiral galaxies in the night sky. Like the Milky Way, Messier 101 is not alone, with smaller dwarf galaxies in its neighborhood. NGC 5477, one of these dwarf galaxies in the Messier 101 group, is the subject of this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Without obvious structure, but with visible signs of ongoing star birth, NGC 5477 looks much like an typical dwarf irregular galaxy. The bright nebulae that extend across much of the galaxy are clouds of glowing hydrogen gas in which new stars are forming. These glow pinkish red in real life, although the selection of green and infrared filters through which this image was taken makes them appear almost white. The observations were taken as part of a project to measure accurate distances to a range of galaxies within about 30 million light-years from Earth, by studying the brightness of red giant stars. Credit: NASA
Saturn’s B ring is spread out in all its glory in this image from Cassini. Scientists are trying to better understand the origin and nature of the various structures seen in the B ring.
Saturn’s B ring is the densest and most massive of all the rings. The C ring is also visible inside the B ring and the A ring puts on an appearance beyond the Cassini Division near the top and bottom of the image.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 7 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on July 22, 2012.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 201,000 miles (324,000 kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 134 degrees. Image scale is 10 miles (16 kilometers) per pixel.
This new global view of Earth’s city lights is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite.
The data was acquired over nine days in April 2012 and 13 days in October 2012. It took 312 orbits to get a clear shot of every parcel of Earth’s land surface and islands. This new data was then mapped over existing Blue Marble imagery of Earth to provide a realistic view of the planet.
The image was made possible by the satellite’s “day-night band” of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe dim signals such as city lights, gas flares, auroras, wildfires and reflected moonlight.
The day-night band observed Hurricane Sandy, illuminated by moonlight, making landfall over New Jersey on the evening of Oct. 29. Night images showed the widespread power outages that left millions in darkness in the wake of the storm.
A new, colorful collection of galaxy specimens has been released by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, mission. It showcases galaxies of several types, from elegant grand design spirals to more patchy flocculent spirals. Some of the galaxies have roundish centers, while others have elongated central bars. The orientation of the galaxies varies as well, with some seeming to peer straight back at us in the face-on configuration while others point to the side, appearing edge-on.
Infrared light has been translated into colors we see with our eyes, such that the shortest wavelengths are blue and the longest are red. The oldest stars appear blue, while pockets of newly formed stars have yellow or reddish hues. Below is more information about each member of WISE’s galaxy collection. The order is from top left to right; middle left to right; and bottom left to right. Click on the name for high resolution individual images.
The Whirpool Galaxy, or Messier 51 (M51)
Known by astronomers as M51, this beauty is a grand design spiral, which are galaxies with well-defined spiral arms. Its smaller companion, a dwarf galaxy called NGC 5195, is thought to have helped define and shape the arms due to its gravitational “dance” with its larger partner. M51 is also known as “The Lord Ross galaxy,” after the astronomer who was the first to study its spiral structure in the 1840s. It is located 25 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici, and is 81,000 light-years across.
Bode’s Galaxy, or Messier 81 (M81)
M81 is another grand design spiral galaxy, with pronounced arms spiraling into its core. WISE highlights areas where gas and dust have been compressed in the arms, leading to the formation of new stars. This compression has been enhanced by the galaxy’s interaction with its partner galaxy, Messier 82 (not pictured here). That galaxy is bursting with new stars, and is therefore known as a “starburst.” M81 is 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, and 94,000 light-years across.
Southern Pinwheel Galaxy, or Messier 83 (M83)
At about 55,500 light-years across, M83 is s a bit more than half the size of our Milky Way Galaxy, but it has a similar overall structure. Like the Milky Way, most of M83’s stars, dust, and gas lie in a thin disk decorated with grand spiral arms. This galaxy is classified as a barred spiral because, in addition to a central bulge of stars, it has a central bar-shaped region of stars. It is 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra.
NGC 628, or Messier 74 (M74)
Some astronomers call the grand design spiral Messier 74 the “perfect spiral,” for its exceptional symmetry. It is suspected to have a black hole at its center, with a mass equal to 10,000 suns. It is one of only a handful of known black holes with masses intermediate between the relatively smaller ones that form from collapsing stars and the supermassive black holes millions of times more massive than the sun. Supermassive black holes are more typically found at the centers of galaxies. Messier 74 is located between 24.5 and 36 million light-years away in the constellation Pisces, and is 100,000 light-years across.
This barred spiral has a dense inner ring that surrounds a bright, central core. The ring is actually two spiral arms that are closed in on each other. In contrast to its well-defined center, this galaxy’s arms are patchy, or flocculent. It is inclined about 43 degrees away from an edge-on orientation, and has a diameter of 135,000 light-years. NGC 1398 is 65 million light-years away in the Fornax constellation, and is part of the Fornax cluster of galaxies.
This fuzzy-looking galaxy is a flocculent, or patchy, spiral. It is largely veiled by gas and dust at visible-light wavelengths, but when viewed with WISE, its arms are clearly revealed. In 2004, NGC 2403 was host to one of the largest supernova in recent decades — SN 2004dj was first observed in 2004 in Japan and was visible for 8 months. NGC 2403 is located 11.4 million-light years away in the constellation Camelopardalis, and is about 73,000 light-years across.
Splinter or Knife Edge galaxy, or NGC 5907
This galaxy’s face is angled about 90 degrees from our view, so it appears edge-on and thin as a splinter, or knife. It was discovered by the astronomer William Herschel in 1788. There is a large complex of stellar streams surrounding the galaxy, which can’t be seen in the WISE image. These are the torn-up shreds of smaller galaxies that were consumed. The faint green hue seen in the WISE composite is due to the “halo” of old stars that encircles the central region of the galaxy. The Splinter galaxy is about 53 million light-years away in the constellation Draco, and is nearly 200,000 light-years across.
Barnard’s Galaxy, IC 4895 or NGC 6822
Barnard’s galaxy is known as a dwarf for its small size — it has only about one percent of the mass of the Milky Way. The galaxy’s irregular shape is dominated by a central bar of stars, whose appearance resembles that of the nearby satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. It is therefore given a classification of “Magellanic type.” The prominent yellow blobs seen against the blue stellar background are sites of recent star formation. Barnard’s galaxy is 1.6 million light-years away in the Sagittarius constellation, and is about 7,000 light-years across.
Hidden Galaxy, or IC342
Sometimes called the Hidden galaxy, this spiral beauty is shrouded behind our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Stargazers and professional astronomers have a hard time seeing the galaxy through the Milky Way’s bright band of stars, dust and gas. WISE’s infrared vision cuts through this veil, offering a crisp view. The nucleus is very bright at infrared wavelengths, due to a burst of new stars forming there. The Hidden galaxy is located about 10 million light-years away in the constellation Camelopardalis, and is 62,000 light-years across.
The colors used in all of these image represent specific wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and cyan represent 3.4- and 4.6-micron light, mainly emitted by hot stars. Green and red represent 12- and 22-micron wavelengths, primarily light emitted from warm dust.
JPL manages the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State Univ. / Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter