Space Image of the Day - 2013

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Mars-Bound MAVEN at the Launch Pad



Two days before the scheduled launch tp Mars, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft rolled out of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Night Before Launch of Mars-Bound MAVEN Spacecraft



A full moon rises behind the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft onboard at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Nov. 17, 2013. MAVEN is the second mission under NASA's Mars Scout Program. It will take critical measurements of the Martian upper atmosphere to help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet's history. MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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MAVEN Ready for Launch



At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41 a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket stands ready to boost the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, spacecraft on a 10-month journey to the Red Planet. MAVEN is being prepared for its scheduled launch today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Positioned in an orbit above the Red Planet, MAVEN will study the upper atmosphere of Mars in unprecedented detail. Image Credit: NASA/Jim Grossman (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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MAVEN Spacecraft Launches to Mars



NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 1:28 p.m. EST on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The trip to Mars takes 10 months, and MAVEN will go into orbit around Mars in September 2014. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Taking Flight at Cape Canaveral



The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s Mars-bound spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Celebrating Fifteen Years of the International Space Station



Astronaut James H. Newman waves during a spacewalk preparing for release of the first combined elements of the International Space Station. The Russian-built Zarya module, with its solar array panel visible here, was launched into orbit fifteen years ago on Nov. 20, 1998. Two weeks later, on Dec. 4, 1998, NASA's space shuttle Endeavour launched Unity, the first U.S. piece of the complex. Endeavour's forward section is reflected in Newman's helmet visor in this image. During three spacewalks on the STS-88 mission, the two space modules built on opposite sides of the planet were joined together in space, making the space station truly international. Since that first meeting of Zarya and Unity, the space station grew piece by piece with additions from each of the international partners built across three continents and leading to the largest and most complex spacecraft ever constructed. The space station, now four times larger than Mir and five times larger than Skylab, represents a collaboration between NASA, Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, representing 15 countries in all. In support of station assembly and maintenance, station and shuttle crews have conducted 174 spacewalks totaling almost 1,100 hours – the equivalent to nearly 46 days of spacewalks to build and maintain the complex. The station, with a mass of almost a million pounds and the size of a football field, is second only to the moon as the brightest object in the night sky. Over the years, a great deal of research has been done on the space laboratory, which has already yielded tremendous results toward various fields. The science of the space station has provided benefits to humankind in areas such as human health, Earth observation and education. Many more results and benefits for both space exploration and life on Earth are expected in the coming years. > Celebrating 15 Years Since the Sunrise Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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A Portrait of Global Winds



High-resolution global atmospheric modeling provides a unique tool to study the role of weather within Earth’s climate system. NASA’s Goddard Earth Observing System Model (GEOS-5) is capable of simulating worldwide weather at resolutions as fine as 3.5 kilometers. This visualization shows global winds from a GEOS-5 simulation using 10-kilometer resolution. Surface winds (0 to 40 meters/second) are shown in white and trace features including Atlantic and Pacific cyclones. Upper-level winds (250 hectopascals) are colored by speed (0 to 175 meters/second), with red indicating faster. This simulation ran on the Discover supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation. The complete 2-year “Nature Run” simulation—a computer model representation of Earth's atmosphere from basic inputs including observed sea-surface temperatures and surface emissions from biomass burning, volcanoes and anthropogenic sources—produces its own unique weather patterns including precipitation, aerosols and hurricanes. A follow-on Nature Run is simulating Earth’s atmosphere at 7 kilometers for 2 years and 3.5 kilometers for 3 months. Image Credit: William Putman/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Related: NASA will showcase more than 30 of the agency's exciting computational achievements at SC13, the international supercomputing conference, Nov. 17-22, 2013 in Denver. (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Cubesats Released From Space Station



ISS038-E-003872 (19 Nov. 2013) --- Three nanosatellites, known as Cubesats, are deployed from a Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD) attached to the Kibo laboratory’s robotic arm at 7:10 a.m. (EST) on Nov. 19, 2013. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, Expedition 38 flight engineer, monitored the satellite deployment while operating the Japanese robotic arm from inside Kibo. The Cubesats were delivered to the International Space Station Aug. 9, aboard Japan’s fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle, Kounotori-4. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Hubble Sees Anemic Spiral NGC 4921



How far away is spiral galaxy NGC 4921? Although presently estimated to be about 310 million light years distant, a more precise determination could be coupled with its known recession speed to help humanity better calibrate the expansion rate of the entire visible universe. Toward this goal, several images were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in order to help identify key stellar distance markers known as Cepheid variable stars. Since NGC 4921 is a member of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies, refining its distance would also allow a better distance determination to one of the largest nearby clusters in the local universe. The magnificent spiral NGC 4921 has been informally dubbed anemic because of its low rate of star formation and low surface brightness. Visible in the above image are, from the center, a bright nucleus, a bright central bar, a prominent ring of dark dust, blue clusters of recently formed stars, several smaller companion galaxies, unrelated galaxies in the far distant universe, and unrelated stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Lighting the Paths Across the U.S.



Thanksgiving is a time for family, for feasting, and for gratitude in the United States. It is also a time when the nation’s transportation network is clogged with travelers. According to the American Automobile Association, an estimated 43.4 million Americans will travel 50 miles (80 kilometers) or more during Thanksgiving week, with the average round trip being 600 miles (1,000 kilometers). More than 90 percent of them will use cars or trucks, while the rest will ride planes or trains. The United States has more roads—4.1 million miles (6.6 million kilometers)—than any other nation in the world, and roughly 40 percent more than second-ranked India. About 47,000 of those U.S. miles are part of the Interstate Highway System, established by President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. The country also has 127,000 miles (204,000 kilometers) of railroad tracks and about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) of navigable rivers and canals (not including the Great Lakes). The imprint of that transportation web becomes easier to see at night. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership) satellite acquired two nighttime images early on Oct. 1, 2013, for this natural-light, mosaic view of the continental United States. The VIIRS instrument uses a “day-night band” of wavelengths that is sensitive to low light levels and manmade light sources. The images were collected just three days before the new moon, so reflected light from space and the atmosphere was relatively low. It was also a rare night when most of the nation was cloud-free. > Read More Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using Suomi NPP VIIRS and DMSP OLS data provided courtesy of Chris Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center) Caption: Mike Carlowicz (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Comet ISON Streams Toward the Sun



In the early hours of Nov. 27, 2013, Comet ISON entered the field of view of the European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. In this picture, called a coronagraph, the bright light of the sun itself is blocked so the structures around it are visible. The comet is seen in the lower right; a giant cloud of solar material, called a coronal mass ejection or CME, is seen billowing out under the sun. Comet ISON, which began its trip from the Oort cloud region of our solar system, will reach its closest approach to the sun on Thanksgiving Day, skimming just 730,000 miles above the sun's surface. NASA is tracking Comet ISON's journey and hosting events to discuss what the public worldwide may see as the comet traverses the sun. For the latest news and information, visit www.nasa.gov/ison. Image Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Black Holes Have Simple Feeding Habits



At the center of spiral galaxy M81 is a supermassive black hole about 70 million times more massive than our sun. A study using data from Chandra and ground-based telescopes, combined with detailed theoretical models, shows that the supermassive black hole in M81 feeds just like stellar mass black holes, with masses of only about ten times that of the sun. This discovery supports Einstein's relativity theory that states black holes of all sizes have similar properties. Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Wisconsin/D.Pooley & CfA/A.Zezas; Optical: NASA/ESA/CfA/A.Zezas; UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA/J.Huchra et al.; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Sunlit Edge of Saturn's Largest Moon, Titan



The sunlit edge of Titan's south polar vortex stands out distinctly against the darkness of the moon's unilluminated hazy atmosphere. The Cassini spacecraft images of the vortex led scientists to conclude that its clouds form at a much higher altitude -- where sunlight can still reach -- than the surrounding haze. Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers across) is Saturn's largest moon. This view looks toward the trailing hemisphere of Titan. North on Titan is up and rotated 32 degrees to the left. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 14, 2013 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 808,000 miles (1.3 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 82 degrees. Image scale is 5 miles (8 kilometers) per pixel. > View a color image of the south polar vortex on Titan Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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View of the Transantarctic Mountains



This image of the Transantarctic Mountains was taken from the NASA P-3 airborne laboratory on Nov. 27, 2013, near the end of the 2013 IceBridge Antarctic campaign. NASA’s Operation IceBridge images Earth's polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system. IceBridge utilizes a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of innovative science instruments ever assembled to characterize annual changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets. In addition, IceBridge collects critical data used to predict the response of earth’s polar ice to climate change and resulting sea-level rise. IceBridge also helps bridge the gap in polar observations between NASA's ICESat satellite missions. > About IceBridge Image Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Forty Years Ago, Pioneer 10's Closest Approach to Jupiter



On Dec. 4, 1973, NASA's Pioneer 10 spacecraft sent back images of Jupiter of ever-increasing size. The most dramatic moment was after closest approach and after the spacecraft was hidden behind Jupiter. Here, images gradually build up into a very distorted crescent-shaped Jupiter. "Sunrise on Jupiter," a team member said. The giant planet crescent gradually decreased in size as the spacecraft sped away out of the Jovian system. Launched on Mar. 2, 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Pioneer 10 passed within 81,000 miles of the cloudtops during its closest encounter with Jupiter. This historic event marked humans' first approach to Jupiter and opened the way for exploration of the outer solar system - for Voyager to tour the outer planets, for Ulysses to break out of the ecliptic, for Galileo to investigate Jupiter and its satellites, and for Cassini to go to Saturn and probe Titan. During its Jupiter encounter, Pioneer 10 imaged the planet and its moons, and took measurements of Jupiter's magnetosphere, radiation belts, magnetic field, atmosphere, and interior. These measurements of the intense radiation environment near Jupiter were crucial in designing the Voyager and Galileo spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Orion Heat Shield Transported Aboard Super Guppy Plane



The heat shield for NASA's Orion spacecraft was loaded onto a Super Guppy plane in Manchester, N.H. on Dec. 4, for transport to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The heat shield, the largest of its kind ever built, is being unloaded Thursday, Dec. 5, and is scheduled for installation on Orion in March 2014. The heat shield will be used in September 2014 during Exploration Flight Test-1, a two-orbit flight that will take an uncrewed Orion capsule to an altitude of 3,600 miles. The returning capsule is expected to encounter temperatures of almost 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it travels through Earth's atmosphere at up to 20,000 mph, faster than any spacecraft in the last 40 years. Data gathered during the flight will influence decisions about design improvements on the heat shield and other Orion systems, authenticate existing computer models, and innovative new approaches to space systems and development. It also will reduce overall mission risks and costs for future Orion missions, which include exploring an asteroid and Mars. > Read More Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Fifteen Years Ago, International Space Station Assembly Begins



On Dec. 6, 1998, the crew of space shuttle mission STS-88 began construction of the International Space Station, attaching the U.S.-built Unity node and the Russian-built Zarya module together in orbit. The crew carried a large-format IMAX® camera, used to take this image of Unity lifted out of Endeavour's payload bay to position it upright for connection to Zarya. Zarya, launched on Nov. 20, 1998, was the first piece of the International Space Station. Also known as the Functional Cargo Block (FGB), it would provide a nucleus of orientation control, communications and electrical power while the station waited for its other elements. Two weeks later, on Dec. 4, 1998, NASA's space shuttle Endeavour launched Unity, the first U.S. piece of the complex, during the STS-88 mission. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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A Stellar Nursery



Illuminated by the light of nearby stars, the nebula M-78 exhibits a ghostly appearance in this 10-minute exposure taken with a 6" refractor at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Located in the constellation of Orion -- some1,600 light years from Earth -- this reflection nebula is known to contain more than 40 very young stars still in the process of formation. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO/Bill Cooke (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Yellowknife Bay Formation on Mars



This mosaic of images from Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) shows geological members of the Yellowknife Bay formation. The scene has the Sheepbed mudstone in the foreground and rises up through Gillespie Lake member to the Point Lake outcrop. These rocks record superimposed ancient lake and stream deposits that offered past environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Rocks here were exposed about 70 million years ago by removal of overlying layers due to erosion by the wind. The scene is a portion of a 111-image mosaic acquired during the 137th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Dec. 24, 2012). The foothills of Mount Sharp are visible in the distance, upper left, southwest of camera position. Related: > Annotated View of Yellowknife Bay Formation, With Drilling Sites > NASA Rover Results Include First Age Measurement on Mars and Help for Human Exploration Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Cloud Towers



In a view from high altitude, height can be a difficult thing to gauge. The highest of clouds can appear to sit on a flat plane, as if they were at the same elevation as the ocean or land surface. In this image, however, texture, shape and shadows lend definition to mushrooming thunderheads over the Indonesian island of Flores. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image on the afternoon of Dec. 2, 2013. The towering clouds are so well defined that it is easy to visualize the rapidly rising air that is fueling them. “This looks like a classic example of island convection that is enhanced by topography,” says NASA scientist Joseph Munchak. During the day, sunlight heats the land more quickly than it heats the ocean. The warm air over land rises, creating an area of low pressure that pulls in cool air from the ocean. The result is a sea breeze. On this Indonesia island, the sea breeze from the Flores Sea on the north blows inland and clashes with the sea breeze blowing inland from the Savu Sea in the south. When the two breezes meet in the center of Flores, they push the air up. The rising air cools and condenses into a line of clouds. Sea breeze convection is not the only force at work here. On Flores, cloud formation has help from the shape of the land. A line of tall volcanoes runs down the spine of the island, and their steep slopes also force air to rise. So, moist ocean air blows inland, hits the mountains and volcanoes and rises with the slope. Above the mountains, the rising air meets the rising sea breeze from the other side, and the upward motion is reinforced. The combination of the two forces pushes air high into the atmosphere, resulting in large towering clouds of the sort that usually produce thunderstorms. In fact, a weather station on Flores reported rain and thunderstorms on December 2. This type of convection is strongest in the early afternoon, says Munchak, just about the time when Aqua MODIS acquired the image. The clouds were just beginning to form when Terra MODIS passed over earlier in the day. > Read more Image Credit: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC Caption: Holli Riebeek (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 
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