Space Image of the Day - 2014

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Composite Cryotank Loaded into Test Stand at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center



Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, recently began the first in a series of tests of one of the largest composite cryotanks ever built. The 18-foot-diameter (5.5-meter) cylinder-shaped tank was lowered into a structural test stand at the Marshall Center. To check tank and test stand operations, the first tests are being conducted at ambient temperature with gaseous nitrogen. Future tests this summer will be with liquid hydrogen cooled to super cold, or cryogenic, temperatures. The orange ends of the tank are made of metal and attach to the test stand so that structural loads can be applied similarly to those the tank would experience during a rocket launch. The composite cryotank is part of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program and Space Technology Mission Directorate, which are innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA's future missions. NASA focused on this technology because composite tanks promise a 30-percent weight reduction and a 25-percent cost savings over the best metal tanks used today. The tank was manufactured with new materials and processes at the Boeing Developmental Center in Tukwila, Washington. Image Credit: NASA/MSFC Media Contacts: Tracy McMahan Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. 256-544-0034 tracy.mcmahan@nasa.gov (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Most Colorful View of Universe Captured by Hubble Space Telescope



Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have assembled a comprehensive picture of the evolving universe – among the most colorful deep space images ever captured by the 24-year-old telescope. Researchers say the image, in new study called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, provides the missing link in star formation. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 image is a composite of separate exposures taken in 2003 to 2012 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3. > News release Image Credit: NASA/ESA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Giant Landform on Mars



Sandy landforms formed by the wind, or aeolian bedforms, are classified by the wavelength--or length--between crests. On Mars, we can observe four classes of bedforms (in order of increasing wavelengths): ripples, transverse aeolian ridges (known as TARs), dunes, and what are called “draa.” All of these are visible in this Juventae Chasma image. Ripples are the smallest bedforms (less than 20 meters) and can only be observed in high-resolution images commonly superposed on many surfaces. TARs are slightly larger bedforms (wavelengths approximately 20 to 70 meters), which are often light in tone relative to their surroundings. Dark-toned dunes (wavelengths 100 meters to 1 kilometer) are a common landform and many are active today. What geologists call “draa” is the highest-order bedform with largest wavelengths (greater than 1 kilometer), and is relatively uncommon on Mars. Here, this giant draa possesses steep faces or slip faces several hundreds of meters tall and has lower-order superposed bedforms, such as ripples and dunes. A bedform this size likely formed over thousands of Mars years, probably longer. This image was acquired by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 6, 2014. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. > More information and image products Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona Caption: Matthew Chojnacki (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Grand Swirls from NASA's Hubble



This new Hubble image shows NGC 1566, a beautiful galaxy located approximately 40 million light-years away in the constellation of Dorado (The Dolphinfish). NGC 1566 is an intermediate spiral galaxy, meaning that while it does not have a well-defined bar-shaped region of stars at its center — like barred spirals — it is not quite an unbarred spiral either. The small but extremely bright nucleus of NGC 1566 is clearly visible in this image, a telltale sign of its membership of the Seyfert class of galaxies. The centers of such galaxies are very active and luminous, emitting strong bursts of radiation and potentially harboring supermassive black holes that are many millions of times the mass of the sun. NGC 1566 is not just any Seyfert galaxy; it is the second brightest Seyfert galaxy known. It is also the brightest and most dominant member of the Dorado Group, a loose concentration of galaxies that together comprise one of the richest galaxy groups of the southern hemisphere. This image highlights the beauty and awe-inspiring nature of this unique galaxy group, with NGC 1566 glittering and glowing, its bright nucleus framed by swirling and symmetrical lavender arms. This image was taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in the near-infrared part of the spectrum. A version of the image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by Flickr user Det58. Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Flickr user Det58 (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Gored of the Rings



Prometheus is caught in the act of creating gores and streamers in the F ring. Scientists believe that Prometheus and its partner-moon Pandora are responsible for much of the structure in the F ring. The orbit of Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers across) regularly brings it into the F ring. When this happens, it creates gores, or channels, in the ring where it entered. Prometheus then draws ring material with it as it exits the ring, leaving streamers in its wake. This process creates the pattern of structures seen in this image. This process is described in detail, along with a movie of Prometheus creating one of the streamer/channel features, in PIA08397. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 8.6 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 11, 2014. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.3 million miles (2.1 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 147 degrees. Image scale is 8 miles (13 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 https://www.nasa.gov/cassini and 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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Orion Comes Together



The Orion crew module for Exploration Flight Test-1 is shown in the Final Assembly and System Testing (FAST) Cell, positioned over the service module just prior to mating the two sections together. The FAST cell is where the integrated crew and service modules are put through their final system tests prior to rolling out of the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Technicians are in position to assist with the final alignment steps once the crew module is nearly in contact with the service module. In December, Orion will launch 3,600 miles into space in a four-hour flight to test the systems that will be critical for survival in future human missions to deep space. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Inside the International Space Station's Destiny Laboratory



This view in the International Space Station, photographed by an Expedition 40 crew member, shows how it looks inside the space station while the crew is asleep. The dots near the hatch point to a Soyuz spacecraft docked to the station in case the crew was to encounter an emergency. This view is looking into the Destiny Laboratory from Node 1 (Unity) with Node 2 (Harmony) in the background. Destiny is the primary research laboratory for U.S. payloads, supporting a wide range of experiments and studies. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo as seen from the International Space Station



As fans around the world tune in to World Cup 2014, a few fans out of this world will be watching, too. United States astronauts Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson and German astronaut Alexander Gerst will be cheering on their teams from some 230 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station. Here, Wiseman captures an image of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo as the International Space Station orbits the Earth. Sao Paulo is the farthest cluster of lights on the right side and Rio de Janeiro is closer to the middle of the picture. There are three World Cup 2014 stadium cities in one picture: Arena de Sao Paulo, Estadio Mineirao (Belo Horizonte), and Estadio Do Maracana (Rio de Janeiro). > More from NASA on the World Cup 2014 Image Credit: NASA/Reid Wiseman (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Hubble Eyes Golden Rings of Star Formation



Taking center stage in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a galaxy known as NGC 3081, set against an assortment of glittering galaxies in the distance. Located in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Serpent), NGC 3081 is located over 86 million light-years from us. It is known as a type II Seyfert galaxy, characterized by its dazzling nucleus. NGC 3081 is seen here nearly face-on. Compared to other spiral galaxies, it looks a little different. The galaxy's barred spiral center is surrounded by a bright loop known as a resonance ring. This ring is full of bright clusters and bursts of new star formation, and frames the supermassive black hole thought to be lurking within NGC 3081 — which glows brightly as it hungrily gobbles up in-falling material. These rings form in particular locations known as resonances, where gravitational effects throughout a galaxy cause gas to pile up and accumulate in certain positions. These can be caused by the presence of a "bar" within the galaxy, as with NGC 3081, or by interactions with other nearby objects. It is not unusual for rings like this to be seen in barred galaxies, as the bars are very effective at gathering gas into these resonance regions, causing pile-ups which lead to active and very well-organized star formation. Hubble snapped this magnificent face-on image of the galaxy using the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. This image is made up of a combination of ultraviolet, optical, and infrared observations, allowing distinctive features of the galaxy to be observed across a wide range of wavelengths. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; acknowledgement: R. Buta (University of Alabama) Text credit: European Space Agency (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Spurting Plasma



A stream of plasma burst out from the sun, but since it lacked enough force to break away, most of it fell back into the sun (May 27, 2014). The video, seen in a combination of two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light, covers a little over two hours. This eruption was minor and such events occur almost every day on the sun and suggest the kind of dynamic activity being driven by powerful magnetic forces near the sun's surface. › View 'Spurting Plasma' video Image credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Astronauts Watch the World Cup Aboard the International Space Station



NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Steve Swanson and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst take a break to watch ten minutes of live World Cup matches between science experiments while living and working aboard the International Space Station. At the start of the World Cup, the crew sent down a special message to wish good luck to all the players and teams as they compete in World Cup 2014 in Brazil until the final match July 13. The astronauts have trained for years to work together as a unified crew, but the U.S. astronauts and their German crewmate are feeling a little friendly competition: their home countries will play against each other for a chance to advance out of Group G of the World Cup matches. USA and Germany face off on June 26 at Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil. Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's View of Tycho Central Peak



Today, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) celebrates its fifth anniversary in space. LRO launched from Florida on June 18, 2009. After a four-day journey, the orbiter successfully entered lunar orbit on June 23. In the succeeding five years, LRO has continued to shape our view of our nearest celestial neighbor. LRO data has shown us the tracks and equipment left behind from the Apollo astronauts, created the most precise map of the lunar surface, discovered the coldest known temperatures in the solar system, mapped the distribution of hydrogen and possibly water mixed in the lunar soil, identified craters and many other exciting science discoveries In honor of the fifth anniversary, the LRO project kicked off the Moon as Art Campaign. The public was asked to select a favorite orbiter image of the moon for the cover of a special image collection. After two weeks of voting, the public has selected this image of Tycho Central Peak as its favorite moon image. The stunningly beautiful Tycho Central Peak rests inside an impact crater and has a boulder over 100 meters wide (about 328 feet) at its summit. It showcases a breathtaking view of the lunar landscape. Tycho crater's central peak complex, shown here, is about 9.3 miles (15 km) wide, left to right (southeast to northwest in this view). A very popular target with amateur astronomers, Tycho is about 51 miles (82 km) in diameter. The central peak's summit is 1.24 miles (2 km) above the crater floor. > Read more: NASA LRO's Moon As Art Collection Is Revealed Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Storm Cell Over the Southern Appalachian Mountains



This storm cell photo was taken from NASA's high-altitude ER-2 aircraft on May 23, 2014, during a study aimed at gaining a better understanding of precipitation over mountainous terrain. The Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment, or IPHEx, field campaign is part of the ground validation effort for the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, an international satellite mission led by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. GPM's Core Observatory launched Feb. 27, 2014, to provide next-generation observations of rain and snow worldwide every three hours. But to get accurate measurements from space, scientists have to understand what is happening on the ground. For the six-week IPHEx field campaign over the southern Appalachian mountains, the NASA team and their partners at Duke University and NOAA's Hydrometeorological Test Bed set up ground stations with rain gauges and ground radar throughout western North Carolina. In addition to the ground sites, they also collected data sets from satellites and two aircraft. The NASA ER-2 aircraft that deployed to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia, was able to fly when rain was in the air. The ER-2's cruising altitude of 65,000 feet kept it well above the storm systems it was observing, allowing it to act as a proxy-satellite. The aircraft carried a suite of instruments, including three that took measurements similar to those taken by GPM's Core Observatory. > Read more > Earth Right Now Image Credit: NASA / Stu Broce (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Phytoplankton Bloom Off the Coast of Iceland



A spring bloom of phytoplankton lingered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Iceland in early June, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on June 5. At that time, swirling jewel tones of a vast bloom were visible between banks of white clouds. According to the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, phytoplankton blooms around Iceland usually occur in early spring and fall. The spring bloom is driven by longer daylight and the warming of surface layers. This leads to stratification of the waters, and allows the phytoplankton to stay in the surface layer and reproduce. By summer the huge numbers of phytoplankton in the blooms decreases nutrients, and the numbers of the organisms begins to plummet. Image Credit: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Hubble Sees a Dwarf Galaxy Shaped by a Grand Design



The subject of this Hubble image is NGC 5474, a dwarf galaxy located 21 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). This beautiful image was taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The term "dwarf galaxy" may sound diminutive, but don't let that fool you — NGC 5474 contains several billion stars! However, when compared to the Milky Way with its hundreds of billions of stars, NGC 5474 does indeed seem relatively small. NGC 5474 itself is part of the Messier 101 Group. The brightest galaxy within this group is the well-known spiral Pinwheel Galaxy (also known as Messier 101). This galaxy's prominent, well-defined arms classify it as a "grand design galaxy," along with other spirals Messier 81 and Messier 74. Also within this group are Messier 101's galactic neighbors. It is possible that gravitational interactions with these companion galaxies have had some influence on providing Messier 101 with its striking shape. Similar interactions with Messier 101 may have caused the distortions visible in NGC 5474. Both the Messier 101 Group and our own Local Group reside within the Virgo Supercluster, making NGC 5474 something of a neighbor in galactic terms. European Space Agency Image Credit: ESA/NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Orion's Belt Rises Through the Atmosphere



On June 23, 2014, Expedition 40 Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman captured this image which connects Earth to the International Space Station and to the stars. Among the "stellar" scene is part of the constellation Orion, near the center of the frame. The U.S. laboratory or Destiny is seen in the upper right. > Reid Wiseman (@Astro_Reid) on Twitter Image Credit: NASA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Curiosity Self-Portrait at 'Windjana' Drilling Site



NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called "Windjana." The camera is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), which previously recorded portraits of Curiosity at two other important sites during the mission: "Rock Nest" (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16468) and "John Klein" (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16937). Winjana is within a science waypoint site called "The Kimberley," where sandstone layers with different degrees of resistance to wind erosion are exposed close together. The view does not include the rover's arm. It does include the hole in Windjana produced by the hammering drill on Curiosity's arm collecting a sample of rock powder from the interior of the rock. The hole is surrounded by grayish cuttings on top of the rock ledge to the left of the rover. The Mast Camera (Mastcam) atop the rover's remote sensing mast is pointed at the drill hole. A Mastcam image of the drill hole from that perspective is at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/?rawid=0626MR0026780000401608E01_DXXX&s=626. The hole is 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter. The rover's wheels are 20 inches (0.5 meter) in diameter. Most of the component frames of this mosaic view were taken during the 613th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (April 27, 2014). Frames showing Windjana after completion of the drilling were taken on Sol 627 (May 12, 2014). The hole was drilled on Sol 621 (May 5, 2014). MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's Curiosity rover. > NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover Marks First Martian Year with Mission Successes Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Test Version of Orion Spacecraft Touches Down in the Arizona Desert



A test version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft descends under its three main parachutes above the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Arizona on June 25, 2014, in the agency’s most difficult test of the parachutes system’s performance. NASA is preparing Orion for its first trip to space in December, a two-hour, four-orbit flight that will send an uncrewed spacecraft more than 3,600 miles into space before returning it to Earth to test the performance of many of the spacecraft’s critical systems needed to carry crew to deep space destinations in the future. > Parachutes for NASA's Orion Spacecraft Hit No Snags in Most Difficult Test Image Credit: NASA/Rad Sinyak (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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Watching the World Cup Aboard the International Space Station



On Thursday, June 26, the Expedition 40 crew aboard the International Space Station got a chance to catch up on the action at the 2014 World Cup games in Brazil as the U.S. team took on Germany. U.S. astronaut Reid Wiseman called down to Mission Control during lunch and requested that the game be linked up the station so the crew could follow along. With Germany winning Thursday’s match, U.S. astronauts Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman considered how seriously they wanted to take a friendly challenge made with their German crewmate, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst. In an interview earlier this week, Gerst explained, "If the U.S. wins, these guys are going to draw a little U.S. flag on my head, but I think if Germany wins these guys should have to shave their heads. Either way I’m looking forward to the game. It’s going to be fun." After the match, Gerst posted this photo to Twitter, saying "Mission accomplished" and thanking the German and U.S. soccer teams for a fun evening in space. > Friendly Rivalry Pits U.S. vs. German Astronauts on Space Station Image Credit: NASA/ESA (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 

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NASA's OCO-2 Satellite on the Launch Pad



The launch gantry surrounding the Delta II rocket with the second Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite onboard is seen in this black and white infrared view of Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The satellite will measure the global distribution of carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth’s climate. OCO-2 is set for a July 1, 2014,launch. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) (More at NASA Picture of The Day)
 
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