Space Image of the Day - 2013

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NASA's Orion Spacecraft Heads Cross Country



A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft gears up to take a long road trip. Starting from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., the mockup will take a four-week journey across the nation to Naval Base San Diego in California. There, the test article will be used to support NASA’s Underway Recovery Test in February 2014. The test will simulate the recovery of Orion during its first mission, Exploration Flight Test – 1 (EFT-1), scheduled for September 2014. The uncrewed EFT-1 mission will take Orion to an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface, reentering the atmosphere at a speed of over 20,000 miles per hour before landing in the Pacific Ocean. During the recovery test in San Diego, the spacecraft will be set adrift in open and unstable waters, providing NASA and the Navy the opportunity to recover the capsule into the well deck of the USS San Diego. While deployed, the team will seek out various sea states in which to practice the capsule recovery procedure in an effort to build their knowledge base of how the capsule recovery differs in calm and rough seas and what are the true physical limits. NASA and the Navy practiced recovery in calm seas during a Stationary Recovery Test in August where the spacecraft was set adrift in the waters of Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia and recovered into the docked well deck of the USS Arlington. The Orion mockup will travel through Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and then reach its final destination in California. > Follow @NASA_Orion for updates on where the capsule is or is headed > Once spotted, share your pictures using the hashtag #SpotOrion Image Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Crab Nebula, as Seen by Herschel and Hubble



This image shows a composite view of the Crab nebula, an iconic supernova remnant in our Milky Way galaxy, as viewed by the Herschel Space Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. Herschel is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with important NASA contributions, and Hubble is a NASA mission with important ESA contributions. A wispy and filamentary cloud of gas and dust, the Crab nebula is the remnant of a supernova explosion that was observed by Chinese astronomers in the year 1054. The image combines Hubble's view of the nebula at visible wavelengths, obtained using three different filters sensitive to the emission from oxygen and sulphur ions and is shown here in blue. Herschel's far-infrared image reveals the emission from dust in the nebula and is shown here in red. While studying the dust content of the Crab nebula with Herschel, a team of astronomers have detected emission lines from argon hydride, a molecular ion containing the noble gas argon. This is the first detection of a noble-gas based compound in space. The Herschel image is based on data taken with the Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) instrument at a wavelength of 70 microns; the Hubble image is based on archival data from the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). Image credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant Team; NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University) (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Spotlight on Webb Telescope Test



Dressed in a clean room suit, NASA photographer Desiree Stover shines a light on the Space Environment Simulator's Integration Frame inside the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Shortly after, the chamber was closed up and engineers used this frame to enclose and help cryogenic (cold) test the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module. > More on the Webb Telescope (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Orbital-1 Mission Preps for Launch



An Orbital Science Corporation Antares rocket is seen on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2013 as it is rolled out to launch Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, VA. The Antares is scheduled to launch a Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station on Thursday, Dec. 19 at 9:19 p.m. EST. The Orbital-1 mission is Orbital Sciences' first contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Among the cargo aboard Cygnus set to launch to the space station are science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and other hardware. Weather permitting, it may be widely visible along the east coast of the United States. > Map of Orbital-1 Launch Viewing Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Artists at Work



Saturn's moons create art on the canvas of Saturn's rings with gravity as their tool. Here Prometheus is seen sculpting the F ring while Daphnis (too small to discern in this image) raises waves on the edges of the Keeler gap. Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers across) is just above image center while Daphnis (5 miles, or 8 kilometers across), although too small to see in its location in the Keeler gap just to the right of center, can be located by the waves it creates on the edges of the gap. Prometheus and stars have been brightened by a factor of 2 relative to the rest of the image to enhance their visibility. There are 20 stars visible in this image. This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 53 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 25, 2013. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.2 million miles (1.9 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 111 degrees. Image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel. 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 . Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Solar Dynamics Observatory Shows Sun's Rainbow of Wavelengths



This still image was taken from a new NASA movie of the sun based on data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, showing the wide range of wavelengths – invisible to the naked eye – that the telescope can view. SDO converts the wavelengths into an image humans can see, and the light is colorized into a rainbow of colors. Yellow light of 5800 Angstroms, for example, generally emanates from material of about 10,000 degrees F (5700 degrees C), which represents the surface of the sun. Extreme ultraviolet light of 94 Angstroms, which is typically colorized in green in SDO images, comes from atoms that are about 11 million degrees F (6,300,000 degrees C) and is a good wavelength for looking at solar flares, which can reach such high temperatures. By examining pictures of the sun in a variety of wavelengths – as is done not only by SDO, but also by NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and the European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory -- scientists can track how particles and heat move through the sun's atmosphere. > Read more > Video: Jewel Box Sun Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Goldstone's Antenna Tracks Spacecraft



Late night in the desert: Goldstone's 230-foot (70-meter) antenna tracks spacecraft day and night. This photograph was taken on Jan. 11, 2012. The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, located in the Mojave Desert in California, is one of three complexes that comprise NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN). The DSN provides radio communications for all of NASA's interplanetary spacecraft and is also utilized for radio astronomy and radar observations of the solar system and the universe. DSN, the world's largest and most powerful communications system for "talking to" spacecraft, will reach a milestone on Dec. 24: the 50th anniversary of its official creation. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Deep Space Network for NASA. More information about the Deep Space Network is online at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/dsn50. More information about NASA's Space Communications and Navigation program is at: www.spacecomm.nasa.gov. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Astronauts Prepare for Spacewalks



Expedition 38 crew member Mike Hopkins checks out the spacesuit he will wear outside the International Space Station on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. He and fellow astronaut Rick Mastracchio will conduct a series of spacewalks to replace an ammonia pump that is part of the station's coolant system. This will be Hopkins' first spacewalk, while Mastracchio has had six previous ones on STS-118 and STS-131. > More Information on Planned Spacewalks (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Astronauts Complete First in Series of Spacewalks



On Sunday, Dec. 22, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins tweeted this photo of Saturday's spacewalk, saying, "Wow... can't believe that is me yesterday. Wish I could find the words to describe the experience, truly amazing." Expedition 38 Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins wrapped up a 5-hour, 28-minute spacewalk outside the International Space Station at 12:29 p.m. EST Saturday, completing the first in a series of excursions aimed at replacing a degraded ammonia pump module associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops that keeps both internal and external equipment cool. A second spacewalk to install a replacement pump module is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 7:10 a.m. EST, with NASA TV coverage beginning at 6:15 a.m. EST. > Read More > @AstroIllini (Mike Hopkins) on Twitter > @AstroRM (Rick Mastracchio) on Twitter Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Forty-Fifth Anniversary of 'Earthrise' Image



Forty-five years ago, in December of 1968, the Apollo 8 crew flew from the Earth to the Moon and back again. Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were launched atop a Saturn V rocket on Dec. 21, circled the Moon ten times in their command module, and returned to Earth on Dec. 27. The Apollo 8 mission's impressive list of firsts includes: the first humans to journey to the Earth's Moon, the first to fly using the Saturn V rocket, and the first to photograph the Earth from deep space. As the Apollo 8 command module rounded the far side of the Moon on Dec. 24, the crew could look toward the lunar horizon and see the Earth appear to rise, due to their spacecraft's orbital motion. Their famous picture of a distant blue Earth above the Moon's limb was a marvelous gift to the world. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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OCO-2 Observatory Conducts Environmental Tests



NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 spacecraft is moved into a thermal vacuum chamber at Orbital Sciences Corporation's Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Gilbert, Ariz., for a series of environmental tests. The tests confirmed the integrity of the observatory's electrical connections and subjected the OCO-2 instrument and spacecraft to the extreme hot, cold and airless environment they will encounter once in orbit. The observatory's solar array panels were removed prior to the test. OCO-2 is NASA's first mission dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide and is the latest mission in NASA's study of the global carbon cycle. Carbon dioxide is the most significant human-produced greenhouse gas and the principal human-produced driver of climate change. The mission will uniformly sample the atmosphere above Earth's land and ocean, collecting between 100,000 and 200,000 measurements of carbon dioxide concentration over Earth's sunlit hemisphere every day for at least two years. It will do so with the accuracy, resolution and coverage needed to provide the first complete picture of the regional-scale geographic distribution and seasonal variations of both human and natural sources of carbon dioxide emissions as well as the places where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored. Image Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation/NASA/JPL-Caltech (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Astronaut Mike Hopkins on Dec. 24 Spacewalk



On Dec. 24, 2013, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, Expedition 38 Flight Engineer, participates in the second of two spacewalks, spread over a four-day period, which were designed to allow the crew to change out a degraded pump module on the exterior of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station. He was joined on both spacewalks by NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, whose image shows up in Hopkins' helmet visor. The pump module controls the flow of ammonia through cooling loops and radiators outside the space station, and, combined with water-based cooling loops inside the station, removes excess heat into the vacuum of space. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Hubble Eyes Galaxy as Flat as a Pancake



Located some 25 million light-years away, this new Hubble image shows spiral galaxy ESO 373-8. Together with at least seven of its galactic neighbors, this galaxy is a member of the NGC 2997 group. We see it side-on as a thin, glittering streak across the sky, with all its contents neatly aligned in the same plane. We see so many galaxies like this — flat, stretched-out pancakes — that our brains barely process their shape. But let us stop and ask: Why are galaxies stretched out and aligned like this? Try spinning around in your chair with your legs and arms out. Slowly pull your legs and arms inwards, and tuck them in against your body. Notice anything? You should have started spinning faster. This effect is due to conservation of angular momentum, and it’s true for galaxies, too. This galaxy began life as a humungous ball of slowly rotating gas. Collapsing in upon itself, it spun faster and faster until, like pizza dough spinning and stretching in the air, a disc started to form. Anything that bobbed up and down through this disk was pulled back in line with this motion, creating a streamlined shape. Angular momentum is always conserved — from a spinning galactic disk 25 million light-years away from us, to any astronomer, or astronomer-wannabe, spinning in an office chair. Image Credit: NASA/Hubble (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Quiet Corona and Upper Transition Region of the Sun



This image, taken on Dec. 31, 2013 by the AIA instrument on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory at 171 Angstrom, shows the current conditions of the quiet corona and upper transition region of the Sun. Image Credit: NASA/SDO (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 
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