Space Image of the Day - 2013

Robby

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Pathfinding Operations for Orion Spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center



At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Orion ground test vehicle has been lifted high in the air by crane in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The ground test vehicle is being used for pathfinding operations, including simulated manufacturing, assembly and stacking procedures. Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The first unpiloted test flight of Orion, Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 is scheduled to launch in 2014. EFT-1 will be Orion's first mission, which will send an uncrewed spacecraft 3,600 miles into Earth's orbit. As part of the test flight, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of approximately 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. For more information, visit www.nasa.gov/orion. Image Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Kevin

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Pathfinding Operations for Orion Spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center
I'm following the Orion program but I think I'll always have a love for the Shuttle program. With the first launch taking place when I was 11 years old to the last launch in 2011 it was something that was always there, from a kid playing with toy rockets to a married guy living in the suburbs still looking up at the night sky.
 

Robby

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Solar Filament Eruption Creates 'Canyon of Fire'



A magnetic filament of solar material erupted on the sun in late September, breaking the quiet conditions in a spectacular fashion. The 200,000 mile long filament ripped through the sun's atmosphere, the corona, leaving behind what looks like a canyon of fire. The glowing canyon traces the channel where magnetic fields held the filament aloft before the explosion. In reality, the sun is not made of fire, but of something called plasma: particles so hot that their electrons have boiled off, creating a charged gas that is interwoven with magnetic fields. These images were captured on Sept. 29-30, 2013, by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which constantly observes the sun in a variety of wavelengths. > Northern and Southern Aurora Seen from Sept. 30, 2013 CME > NASA Releases Movie of Sun's Canyon of Fire Different wavelengths help capture different aspect of events in the corona. The red images shown in the movie help highlight plasma at temperatures of 90,000° F and are good for observing filaments as they form and erupt. The yellow images, showing temperatures at 1,000,000° F, are useful for observing material coursing along the sun's magnetic field lines, seen in the movie as an arcade of loops across the area of the eruption. The browner images at the beginning of the movie show material at temperatures of 1,800,000° F, and it is here where the canyon of fire imagery is most obvious. By comparing this with the other colors, one sees that the two swirling ribbons moving farther away from each other are, in fact, the footprints of the giant magnetic field loops, which are growing and expanding as the filament pulls them upward. Image Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Sunlit Side of the Planet Mercury



Another day, another beautiful view of Mercury's horizon. In this scene, which was acquired looking from the shadows toward the sunlit side of the planet, a 120-km (75 mi.) impact crater stands out near the center. Emanating from this unnamed crater are striking chains of secondary craters, which gouged linear tracks radially away from the crater. While this crater is not especially fresh (its rays have faded into the background), it does appear to have more prominent secondary crater chains than many of its peers. This image was acquired on Oct. 2, 2013 by the Wide Angle Camera (WAC) of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) aboard NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, as part of the MDIS's limb imaging campaign. Once per week, MDIS captures images of Mercury's limb, with an emphasis on imaging the southern hemisphere limb. These limb images provide information about Mercury's shape and complement measurements of topography made by the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) of Mercury's northern hemisphere. The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first ever to orbit the planet Mercury, and the spacecraft's seven scientific instruments and radio science investigation are unraveling the history and evolution of the solar system's innermost planet. During the first two years of orbital operations, MESSENGER acquired over 150,000 images and extensive other data sets. MESSENGER is capable of continuing orbital operations until early 2015. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Fifteen Years Later: John Glenn's Shuttle Flight



In the launch pad's White Room, STS-95 Payload Specialist John H. Glenn Jr., U.S. Senator from Ohio, has his flight suit checked by closeout crew members before climbing into space shuttle Discovery for his second flight into space, which came 36 years after his Mercury launch. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. Image Credit: NASA, Oct. 29, 1998 (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Ghost of Jupiter Nebula



This ghostly image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the disembodied remains of a dying star, called a planetary nebula. Planetary nebulas are a late stage in a sun-like star's life, when its outer layers have sloughed off and are lit up by ultraviolet light from the central star. The Ghost of Jupiter, also known as NGC 3242, is located roughly 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Hydra. Spitzer's infrared view shows off the cooler outer halo of the dying star, colored here in red. Also evident are concentric rings around the object, the result of material being periodically tossed out in the star's final death throes. In this image, infrared light at wavelengths of 3.6 microns is rendered in blue, 4.5 microns in green, and 8.0 microns in red. > Read more NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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'Witch Head' Brews Baby Stars



A witch appears to be screaming out into space in this new image from NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The infrared portrait shows the Witch Head nebula, named after its resemblance to the profile of a wicked witch. Astronomers say the billowy clouds of the nebula, where baby stars are brewing, are being lit up by massive stars. Dust in the cloud is being hit with starlight, causing it to glow with infrared light, which was picked up by WISE's detectors. The Witch Head nebula is estimated to be hundreds of light-years away in the Orion constellation, just off the famous hunter's knee. WISE was recently "awakened" to hunt for asteroids in a program called NEOWISE. The reactivation came after the spacecraft was put into hibernation in 2011, when it completed two full scans of the sky, as planned. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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3C353: Giant Plumes of Radiation



Jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies can transport huge amounts of energy across great distances. 3C353 is a wide, double-lobed source where the galaxy is the tiny point in the center and giant plumes of radiation can be seen in X-rays from Chandra (purple) and radio data from the Very Large Array (orange). Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Tokyo Institute of Technology/J.Kataoka et al, Radio: NRAO/VLA › View large image › View feature › Chandra on Flickr (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Upsala Glacier Retreat



This photograph by an astronaut on the International Space Station highlights the snout of the Upsala Glacier (49.88°S, 73.3°W) on the Argentine side of the North Patagonian Icefield. Ice flow in this glacier comes from the north (right in this rotated image). Dark lines of rocky debris (moraine) within the ice give a sense of the slow ice flow from right to left. A smaller, side glacier joins Upsala at the present-day ice front -- the wall from which masses of ice periodically collapse into Lago (Lake) Argentino. In this image, the 2.7 kilometer-wide ice front casts a thin, dark shadow. The surface of Lago Argentino is whitened by a mass of debris from a recent collapse of the ice wall. Larger icebergs appear as white dots on the lake surface at image left. Remotely sensed data, including astronaut images, have recorded the position of the ice front over the years. A comparison of this October 2013 image with older data (January 2004 and January 2001, as well as October 2009) indicates that the ice front has moved backwards -- upstream -- about 3 kilometers (2 miles). This retreat is believed by scientists to indicate climate warming in this part of South America. The warming not only causes the ice mass to retreat, but also to thin. A study of 63 glaciers by Rignot et al has shown that this is a general trend in Patagonia. The water color in Lago Argentino is related to the glacier flow. The lake receives most of the ice from the glacier and thus receives most of the “rock flour” -- rocks ground to white powder by the ice scraping against the rock floor of the valley. Glacial flour turns the lake a gray-green hue in this image. The darker blue of the smaller lakes (image bottom) indicates that they are receiving much less rock flour. This image was taken on Oct. 2, 2013, with a Nikon D3 digital camera using a 300 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. > View the annotated version of this image at NASA's Earth Observatory website Image Credit: NASA Caption: M. Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs at NASA-Johnson Space Center (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Soyuz Rocket Ready to Launch New Station Crew



The Soyuz TMA-11M rocket, adorned with the logo of the Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee and other related artwork, is seen in this long exposure photograph, as the service structure arms are raised into position at the launch pad on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch of the Soyuz rocket is scheduled for November 7 and will send Expedition 38 Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. The crew will deliver the Olympic torch, and spacewalkers Kotov and Ryazanskiy will carry it outside the station on Saturday. The torch, returning home with Expedition 37, will light the flame at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Expedition 38 Crew With Olympic Torch



Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, left, Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA, right, smile and wave as they hold an Olympic torch that will be flown with them to the International Space Station, during a press conference held Wed., Nov. 6, at the Cosmonaut hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. On Sat., Nov. 9, the Olympic torch will be carried on a spacewalk outside the space station. The torch -- which returns to Earth aboard another Soyuz on Sun., Nov. 10 with Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano and Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin -- will light the flame at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Launch of the Soyuz rocket carrying the Expedition 38 trio is scheduled for 11:14 p.m. EST Wed., Nov. 6 (10:14 a.m. Kazakh time, Nov. 7) and will send Tyurin, Mastracchio and Wakata on a six-month mission aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Expedition 38 Lifts Off



The Soyuz TMA-11M rocket is launched with Expedition 38 Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency onboard, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (Nov. 6 in the U.S.). Tyurin, Mastracchio, and, Wakata will spend the next six months aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Arcing Towards Orbit



In this two-minute exposure, the Soyuz TMA-11M rocket heads from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan towards orbit with Expedition 38 Soyuz Commander Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency onboard. The trio launched Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 (Nov. 6 in the U.S.), bound for a docking at the International Space Station about six hours later. Tyurin, Mastracchio and Wakata will spend the next six months aboard the orbiting laboratory. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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NGC 6946: The 'Fireworks Galaxy'



NGC 6946 is a medium-sized, face-on spiral galaxy about 22 million light years away from Earth. In the past century, eight supernovas have been observed to explode in the arms of this galaxy. Chandra observations (purple) have, in fact, revealed three of the oldest supernovas ever detected in X-rays, giving more credence to its nickname of the "Fireworks Galaxy." This composite image also includes optical data from the Gemini Observatory in red, yellow, and cyan. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al, Optical: AURA/Gemini OBs › View all images › View feature › Chandra on Flickr (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Expedition 37 Lands, Brings Olympic Torch Back to Earth



NASA Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg, left, Expedition 37 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos, center holding the Olympic torch, and European Space Agency Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano sit in chairs outside the Soyuz capsule just minutes after they landed in a remote area outside the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. The Olympic torch was launched with the crew of Expedition 38 to the International Space Station on November 7. It was passed from one module to the next and had its first spacewalk on November 9 with two Russian cosmonauts as part of its international relay. Now back on earth it will continue its journey to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Games. Yurchikhin, Nyberg and Parmitano returned from five and a half months onboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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MAVEN Spacecraft Positioned Atop Atlas V Rocket



NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft, inside a payload fairing, is hoisted to the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41. The move and hoisting operations mark another major milestone for the launch team as everything proceeds on schedule to launch Nov. 18, when the Atlas V will lift MAVEN into space and on to Mars. The two-hour launch window extends from 1:28 to 3:28 p.m. EST. MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. It will orbit the planet in an elliptical orbit that allows it to pass through and sample the entire upper atmosphere on every orbit. The spacecraft will investigate how the loss of Mars' atmosphere to space determined the history of water on the surface. > MAVEN Launch Information Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Hubble Catches Stellar Explosions in NGC 6984



Supernovae are intensely bright objects. They are formed when a star reaches the end of its life with a dramatic explosion, expelling most of its material out into space. The subject of this new Hubble image, spiral galaxy NGC 6984, played host to one of these explosions back in 2012, known as SN 2012im. Now, another star has exploded, forming supernova SN 2013ek — visible in this image as the prominent, star-like bright object just slightly above and to the right of the galaxy's center. SN 2012im is known as a Type Ic supernova, while the more recent SN 2013ek is a Type Ib. Both of these types are caused by the core collapse of massive stars that have shed — or lost — their outer layers of hydrogen. Type Ic supernovae are thought to have lost more of their outer envelope than Type Ib, including a layer of helium. The observations that make up this new image were taken on August 19, 2013, and aimed to pinpoint the location of this new explosion more precisely. It is so close to where SN 2012im was spotted that the two events are thought to be linked; the chance of two completely independent supernovae so close together and of the same class exploding within one year of one another is a very unlikely event. It was initially suggested that SN 2013ek may in fact be SN 2012im flaring up again, but further observations support the idea that they are separate supernovae — although they may be closely related in some as-yet-unknown way. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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Pine Island Glacier 2013: Nov. 10



This MODIS image taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Nov. 10, 2013, shows an iceberg that was part of the Pine Island Glacier and is now separating from the Antarctica continent. What appears to be a connection point on the top left portion of the iceberg is actually ice debris floating in the water. The original rift that formed the iceberg was first observed in October 2011 but as the disconnection was not complete, the “birth” of the iceberg had not yet happened. It is believed the physical separation took place on or about July 10, 2013, however the iceberg persisted in the region, adjacent to the front of the glacier. The iceberg is estimated to be 21 miles by 12 miles (35 km by 20 km) in size, roughly the size of Singapore. A team of scientists from Sheffield and Southampton universities will track it and try to predict its path using satellite data. Image credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

Robby

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'Murray Ridge' on Mars



This scene shows the "Murray Ridge" portion of the western rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars. The ridge is the NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's work area for the rover's sixth Martian winter. The ridge rises about 130 feet (40 meters) above the surrounding plain, between "Solander Point" at the north end of the ridge and "Cape Tribulation," beyond Murray Ridge to the south. This view does not show the entire ridge. The visible ridge line is about 10 meters (33 feet) above the rover's location when the component images were taken. The scene sweeps from east to south. The planar rocks in the foreground at the base of the hill are part of a layer of rocks laid down around the margins of the crater rim. At this location, Opportunity is sitting at the contact between the Meridiani Planum sandstone plains and the rocks of the Endeavour Crater rim. On the upper left, the view is directed about 22 kilometers (14 miles) across the center of Endeavour crater to the eastern rim. Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 and has been investigating parts of Endeavour's western rim since August 2011. The scene combines several images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity during the 3,446th Martian day, or sol, of the mission's work on Mars (Oct. 3, 2013) and the following three sols. On Sol 3451 (Oct. 8, 2013), Opportunity began climbing the ridge. The slope offers outcrops that contain clay minerals detected from orbit and also gives the rover a northward tilt that provides a solar-energy advantage during the Martian southern hemisphere's autumn and winter. The rover team chose to call this feature Murray Ridge in tribute to Bruce Murray (1931-2013), an influential advocate for planetary exploration who was a member of the science teams for NASA's earliest missions to Mars and later served as director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena. This view is presented in approximately true color, merging exposures taken through three of the Pancam's color filters, centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 
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