Space Image of the Day - 2014

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NASA's Orion Spacecraft Prepared for Launch



NASA’s Orion spacecraft, mounted atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, is visible inside the Mobile Service Tower where the vehicle is undergoing launch preparations, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 37, Florida. Orion is NASA’s new spacecraft built to carry humans, designed to allow us to journey to destinations never before visited by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Mobile Service Tower Rolled Back for Orion Flight Test



A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop is seen after the Mobile Service Tower was finished rolling back early on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 37, Florida. The next launch opportunity for the Orion flight test is 7:05 a.m. EST on Friday, Dec. 5. The spacecraft will orbit Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean. No one will be aboard Orion for this flight test, but the spacecraft is designed to allow us to journey to destinations never before visited by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Launch of Orion



The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 37 at at 7:05 a.m. EST, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Florida. The Orion spacecraft will orbit Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean. No one is aboard Orion for this flight test, but the spacecraft is designed to allow us to journey to destinations never before visited by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Orion Recovery



(Dec. 5, 2014) --- NASA's Orion spacecraft awaits the U.S. Navy's USS Anchorage for a ride home. Orion launched into space on a two-orbit, 4.5-test flight at 7:05 am EST on Dec. 5, and safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, where a combined team from NASA, the Navy and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin retrieved it for return to shore on board the Anchorage. It is expected to be off loaded at Naval Base San Diego on Monday. Photo credit: U.S. Navy (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Sedimentary Signs of a Martian Lakebed



This evenly layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit not far from where flowing water entered a lake. The scene combines multiple frames taken with Mastcam's right-eye camera on Aug. 7, 2014, during the 712th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. It shows an outcrop at the edge of "Hidden Valley," seen from the valley floor. This view spans about 5 feet (1.5 meters) across in the foreground. The color has been approximately white-balanced to resemble how the scene would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth. Figure A is a version with a superimposed scale bar of 50 centimeters (about 20 inches). This is an example of a thick-laminated, evenly-stratified rock type that forms stratigraphically beneath cross-bedded sandstones regarded as ancient river deposits. These rocks are interpreted to record sedimentation in a lake, as part of or in front of a delta, where plumes of river sediment settled out of the water column and onto the lake floor. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's Curiosity rover. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the rover's Mastcam. For more information about Curiosity, visit https://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl. > Unannotated image > Related: NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Clues to How Water Helped Shape Martian Landscape Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Great Lakes and Central U.S. Viewed From the International Space Station



From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore took this photograph of the Great Lakes and central U.S. on Dec. 7, 2014, and posted it to social media. This week on the station, the Expedition 42 crew has been busy with medical science and spacesuit work while preparing for the arrival of SpaceX's Dragon commercial cargo craft, scheduled to launch on Dec. 16 on a two day trip to the station before it is captured by the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Harmony node. Image Credit: NASA/Barry Wilmore (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Colorful and Plankton-full Patagonian Waters



Late spring and summer weather brings blooms of color to the Atlantic Ocean off of South America, at least from a satellite view. The Patagonian Shelf Break is a biologically rich patch of ocean where airborne dust from the land, iron-rich currents from the south, and upwelling currents from the depths provide a bounty of nutrients for the grass of the sea—phytoplankton. In turn, those floating sunlight harvesters become food for some of the richest fisheries in the world. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP captured this view of phytoplankton-rich waters off of Argentina on Dec. 2, 2014. Scientists in NASA’s Ocean Color Group used three wavelengths (671, 551, and 443 nanometers) of visible and near-infrared light to highlight different plankton communities in the water. Bands of color not only reveal the location of plankton, but also the dynamic eddies and currents that carry them. > More Information Image Credit: Norman Kuring, NASA’s Ocean Color Group, using VIIRS data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Super Guppy Spends a Restful Night in the NASA Langley Hangar



NASA's Super Guppy aircraft, designed to transport extremely large cargo, rests after making a special delivery to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The aircraft measures more than 48 feet to the top of its tail and has a wingspan of more than 156 feet with a 25-foot diameter cargo bay – the aircraft features a hinged nose that opens 110 degrees. A representative test article of a futuristic hybrid wing body aircraft will be unloaded from the Super Guppy on Friday, Dec. 12 at Langley Research Center. The large test article, representing the uniquely shaped fuselage cross-section, is made out of a low-weight, damage-tolerant, stitched composite structural concept called Pultruded Rod Stitched Efficient Unitized Structure, or PRSEUS. Langley's Combined Loads Test System will subject the revolutionary carbon-fiber architecture test article to conditions that simulate loads typically encountered in flight. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Opportunity Pausing at a Bright Outcrop on Endeavour Rim, Sol 3854



NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is continuing its traverse southward on the western rim of Endeavour Crater during the fall of 2014, stopping to investigate targets of scientific interest along way. This view is from Opportunity's front hazard avoidance camera on Nov. 26, 2014, during the 3,854th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars. This camera is mounted low on the rover and has a wide-angle lens. The scene includes Opportunity's robotic arm, called the "instrument deployment device," at upper left. Portions of the pale bedrock exposed on the ground in front of the rover are within the arm's reach. Researchers used instruments on the arm to examine a target called "Calera" on this patch of bedrock. The wheel tracks in the scene are from the drive -- in reverse -- to this location, a drive of 32.5 feet (9.9 meters) on Sol 3846 (Nov. 18, 2014). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico



From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry W. Virts took this photograph of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast at sunset and posted it to social media on Dec. 14, 2014. The space station and its crew orbit Earth from an altitude of 220 miles, traveling at a speed of approximately 17,500 miles per hour. Because the station completes each trip around the globe in about 92 minutes, the crew experiences 16 sunrises and sunsets each day. Image Credit: NASA/Terry Virts (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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City Lights Shine Brighter During the Holidays



City lights shine brighter during the holidays when compared with the rest of the year, as shown using a new analysis of daily data from the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. Dark green pixels are areas where lights are 50 percent brighter, or more, during December. This new analysis of holiday lights uses an advanced algorithm, developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that filters out moonlight, clouds and airborne particles in order to isolate city lights on a daily basis. The data from this algorithm provide high-quality satellite information on light output across the globe, allowing scientists to track when – and how brightly – people illuminate the night. A daily global dynamic dataset of nighttime lights is a new way for researchers to understand the broad societal forces impacting energy decisions and to look at how people use cities, from an energy perspective. > Full Story: NOAA/NASA Satellite Sees Holiday Lights Brighten Cities Image Credit: NASA's Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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75th Anniversary of NASA Ames



December 20, 2014 marks NASA Ames Research Center's 75th Anniversary. The center was established in 1939 as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and was named for the chair of the NACA, Joseph S. Ames. It was located at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, now at the heart of Silicon Valley. The Laboratory was renamed the NASA Ames Research Center with the formation of NASA in 1958. This June 2, 1943 photograph shows the construction of the Ames full-scale 40- by 80-foot wind tunnel, with a side view of the entrance cone and a blimp in the background. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Hubble Sweeps a Messy Star Factory



This sprinkle of cosmic glitter is a blue compact dwarf galaxy known as Markarian 209. Galaxies of this type are blue-hued, compact in size, gas-rich, and low in heavy elements. They are often used by astronomers to study star formation, as their conditions are similar to those thought to exist in the early Universe. Markarian 209 in particular has been studied extensively. It is filled with diffuse gas and peppered with star-forming regions towards its core. This image captures it undergoing a particularly dramatic burst of star formation, visible as the lighter blue cloudy region towards the top right of the galaxy. This clump is filled with very young and hot newborn stars. This galaxy was initially thought to be a young galaxy undergoing its very first episode of star formation, but later research showed that Markarian 209 is actually very old, with an almost continuous history of forming new stars. It is thought to have never had a dormant period — a period during which no stars were formed — lasting longer than 100 million years. The dominant population of stars in Markarian 209 is still quite young, in stellar terms, with ages of under 3 million years. For comparison, the sun is some 4.6 billion years old, and is roughly halfway through its expected lifespan. The observations used to make this image were taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, and span the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared parts of the spectrum. A scattering of other bright galaxies can be seen across the frame, including the bright golden oval that could, due to a trick of perspective, be mistaken as part of Markarian 209 but is in fact a background galaxy. European Space Agency ESA/Hubble & NASA Acknowledgement: Nick Rose (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Holiday Lights on the Sun: Imagery of a Solar Flare



The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 7:28 p.m. EST on Dec. 19, 2014. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This flare is classified as an X1.8-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc. > Video: Holiday Lights on the Sun Image Credit: NASA/SDO (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Frosty Slopes on Mars



This image of an area on the surface of Mars, approximately 1.5 by 3 kilometers in size, shows frosted gullies on a south-facing slope within a crater. At this time of year, only south-facing slopes retain the frost, while the north-facing slopes have melted. Gullies are not the only active geologic process going on here. A small crater is visible at the bottom of the slope. The image was acquired on Nov. 30, 2014, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, one of six instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. > More information and image products Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona Caption: Livio Tornabene, Ryan Hopkins, Kayle Hansen and Eric Pilles (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Hubble Sees the Beautiful Side of Galaxy IC 335



This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy IC 335 in front of a backdrop of distant galaxies. IC 335 is part of a galaxy group containing three other galaxies, and located in the Fornax Galaxy Cluster 60 million light-years away. As seen in this image, the disk of IC 335 appears edge-on from the vantage point of Earth. This makes it harder for astronomers to classify it, as most of the characteristics of a galaxy’s morphology — the arms of a spiral or the bar across the center — are only visible on its face. Still, the 45 000 light-year-long galaxy could be classified as an S0 type. These lenticular galaxies are an intermediate state in galaxy morphological classification schemes between true spiral and elliptical galaxies. They have a thin stellar disk and a bulge, like spiral galaxies, but in contrast to typical spiral galaxies they have used up most of the interstellar medium. Only a few new stars can be created out of the material that is left and the star formation rate is very low. Hence, the population of stars in S0 galaxies consists mainly of aging stars, very similar to the star population in elliptical galaxies. As S0 galaxies have only ill-defined spiral arms they are easily mistaken for elliptical galaxies if they are seen inclined face-on or edge-on as IC 335 here. And indeed, despite the morphological differences between S0 and elliptical class galaxies, they share some common characteristics, like typical sizes and spectral features. Both classes are also deemed "early-type" galaxies, because they are evolving passively. However, while elliptical galaxies may be passively evolving when we observe them, they have usually had violent interactions with other galaxies in their past. In contrast, S0 galaxies are either aging and fading spiral galaxies, which never had any interactions with other galaxies, or they are the aging result of a single merger between two spiral galaxies in the past. The exact nature of these galaxies is still a matter of debate. European Space Agency Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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View of the Alps From Space



Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) took this photograph of the Alps from the International Space Station, and posted it to social media on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. She wrote, "I'm biased, but aren't the Alps from space spectacular? What a foggy day on the Po plane, though! #Italy" Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Space Simulation Chamber Prepared for Testing Webb Telescope



This photo was captured from outside the enormous mouth of NASA's giant thermal vacuum chamber, called Chamber A, at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Previously used for manned spaceflight missions, this historic chamber is now filled with engineers and technicians preparing a lift system that will be used to hold the James Webb Space Telescope during testing. The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. > Related: Amazing View of Engineers Preparing NASA's Gigantic Space Simulation Chamber for Massive Test Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Hubble Sees an Ancient Globular Cluster



This image captures the stunning NGC 6535, a globular cluster 22,000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens (The Serpent) that measures one light-year across. Globular clusters are tightly bound groups of stars which orbit galaxies. The large mass in the rich stellar centre of the globular cluster pulls the stars inward to form a ball of stars. The word globulus, from which these clusters take their name, is Latin for small sphere. Globular clusters are generally very ancient objects formed around the same time as their host galaxy. To date, no new star formation has been observed within a globular cluster, which explains the abundance of aging yellow stars in this image, most of them containing very few heavy elements. NGC 6535 was first discovered in 1852 by English astronomer John Russell Hind. The cluster would have appeared to Hind as a small, faint smudge through his telescope. Now, over 160 years later, instruments like the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on the NASA/ European Space Agency (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope allow us to marvel at the cluster and its contents in greater detail. European Space Agency Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Gilles Chapdelaine (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 
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