Friday, September 30, 2016
Thursday, September 29, 2016
A dark coronal hole that was facing towards Earth for several days spewed streams of solar wind in our direction (Sept. 18-21, 2016). A coronal hole is a magnetically open region. The magnetic fields have opened up allowing solar wind (comprised of charged particles) to stream into space. Gusts of solar wind can generate beautiful aurora when they reach Earth. The video clip shows the sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light.
Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA.
The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is nestled within a natural basin in China's remote and mountainous southwestern Guizhou province. Nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, the new radio telescope is seen in this photograph taken near the start of its testing phase of operations on September 25. Designed with an active surface for pointing and focusing, its enormous dish antenna is constructed with 4,450 individual triangular-shaped panels. The 500 meter physical diameter of the dish makes FAST the largest filled, single dish radio telescope on planet Earth. FAST will explore the Universe at radio frequencies, detecting emission from hydrogen gas in the Milky Way and distant galaxies, finding faint galactic and extragalactic pulsars, and searching for potential radio signals from extraterrestrials.
NGC 3576: THE STATUE OF LIBERTY NEBULA Image Credit & Copyright: S. Mazlin, J. Harvey, R. Gilbert, & D. Verschatse (SSRO/PROMPT/UNC)
What's happening in the Statue of Liberty nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming and being liberated. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57. This image showcases dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars. A detailed study of NGC 3576, also known as NGC 3582 and NGC 3584, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun's formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth. The featured image was taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
This image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also called Pandora's Cluster, was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The gravity of this galaxy cluster is strong enough that it acts as a lens to magnify images of more distant background galaxies. This technique is called gravitational lensing.
The cluster is also being studied by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory in a collaboration called the Frontier Fields project. Hubble's image of Abell 2744 can be seen here.
In this image, light from Spitzer's infrared channels is colored blue at 3.6 microns and green at 4.5 microns.
JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
For more information about Spitzer, visit:
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Monday, September 26, 2016
GAIA: HERE COMES THE SUN Image Credit: Galaxy Illustration: Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org), Star Data: Gaia Mission, ESA, Antoni Sagristà Sellés (U. Heidelberg) et al.
What would it look like to return home from outside our galaxy? Although designed to answer greater questions, recent data from ESA's robotic Gaia mission is helping to provide a uniquely modern perspective on humanity's place in the universe. Gaia orbits the Sun near the Earth and resolves star's positions so precisely that it can determine a slight shift from its changing vantage point over the course of a year, a shift that is proportionately smaller for more distant stars -- and so determines distance. In the first sequence of the video, an illustration of the Milky Way is shown that soon resolves into a three-dimensional visualization of Gaia star data. A few notable stars are labelled with their common names, while others stars are labelled with numbers from Gaia's catalog. Eventually the viewer arrives at our home star Sol (the Sun), then resolving the reflective glow of its third planet: Earth. The featured video is based on just over 600,000 stars, but Gaia is on track to measure the parallax distances to over one billion stars over its planned five year mission.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Since its launch on Sept. 22, 2006, Hinode, a joint mission of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, has been watching the sun nearly non-stop, providing valuable insight into our star – and others throughout the universe.
“The sun is terrifying and gorgeous, and it’s also the best physics laboratory in our solar system,” said Sabrina Savage, project scientist for Hinode at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “In the past 10 years, Hinode has focused on understanding our sun as a variable star.”
Hinode has captured everything from solar explosions to the delicate motion of solar spicules, allowing scientists to study these phenomena in great detail. As most of Hinode’s instruments are still in good working order, the team behind Hinode hopes to delve even deeper into our nearest star.
“We recently adjusted mission operations to track a single target for several days, instead of jumping around among active regions,” said Savage. “This new paradigm will allow us to get a more complete picture of active region evolution.”
To celebrate Hinode’s first 10 years in orbit, here are 10 highlights from Hinode’s scientific accomplishments of the past decade.
Image of Venus taken by Hinode. Venus is just beginning its journey across the face of the sun.
This image of Venus was taken during the Venus transit of June 5, 2012, by Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope. In this image, Venus is just beginning its journey across the face of the sun. Its atmosphere is visible as a thin, glowing border on the upper left of the planet. Scientists used images from the Venus transit, taken by Hinode and other sun-watching satellites, to study the atmosphere of Venus.
Hinode observations of 2012 eclipse
These images of the moon eclipsing the sun on May 12, 2012, coincided with a simultaneous annular eclipse visible from parts of the western United States and Southeast Asia. An annular eclipse happens when the moon passes directly in front of the sun at a point in its orbit when it is relatively far from Earth. This extra distance makes the moon appear smaller than the sun in the sky, so it doesn’t block the entire face of the sun, instead leaving a thin glowing band – often known as a ring of fire – around its edge.
The sun's chromosphere
Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope imaged the sun’s chromosphere – a thin layer between the sun’s surface and atmosphere – on Jan. 12, 2007. This image showcases the filament structure of solar material that is pulled and stretched by the sun’s complex and ever-changing magnetic forces.
Animation of Hinode observations of sun
This footage from Hinode’s X-ray Telescope is a composite of nearly two months of images, from Aug. 17, 2013, to Oct. 4, 2013. The bright spots near the center of the disk are active regions, areas of concentrated magnetic field that are prone to eruptions like solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These images were captured near the maximum activity phase of the sun’s 11-year cycle, a period during which active regions are concentrated near the sun’s equator.
Hinode captured this image of Comet Lovejoy – seen here as an orange streak in the lower left of the frame – with its Solar Optical Telescope on Dec. 16, 2011. Comet Lovejoy is a large member of the Kreutz family of comets, a group of comets that often pass extremely close to the sun. Comet Lovejoy is rare in that it survived its trip around the sun, emerging intact on the other side.
Hinode caught this view of a solar explosion on Aug. 1, 2014
Hinode caught this view of a solar explosion on Aug.1, 2014. This explosion was set off by unstable magnetic fields on the sun’s surface. The footage was captured by Hinode’s X-ray Telescope. Though X-rays are typically invisible to our eyes, they are colorized here in orange for easy viewing.
Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope took this close-up of a solar filament on Oct. 19, 2013.
Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope took this close-up of a solar filament on Oct. 19, 2013. Filaments are huge ribbons of relatively cool material that thread through the sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. Scientists used this image and others from Hinode to learn more about how solar material is heated in the corona.
Hinode sunspot and solar flare observation from 2006
What happens to a sunspot during a solar flare? Hinode helped answer that question with this view of a flare taken by its Solar Optical Telescope on Dec. 13, 2006, just a few months after launch. The bright threads of solar materials visible over the sunspots helped scientists deduce how sunspots and solar flares are linked.
Hinode view of sun's limb
Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope captured this footage of the sun’s limb. The thread-like structures – which somewhat resemble grass waving in the wind – are spicules, giant plumes of gas that transfer energy through the sun’s various regions.
Close-up from Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope showing convection cells on the surface of the sunCredits: NASA/JAXA/Hinode
This close-up from Hinode’s Solar Optical Telescope shows convection cells on the surface of the sun. Convection is one way that the sun transports energy from its depths up to the surface, where it’s emitted as light and heat.
By Sarah Frazier
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
This rich starfield spans almost 10 degrees across the sky toward the northern constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus. On the left, heart-shaped cosmic cloud IC 1805 and IC 1848 are popularly known as the Heart and Soul nebulae. Easy to spot on the right are star clusters NGC 869 and NGC 884 also known as h and Chi Perseii, or just the Double Cluster. Heart and Soul, with their own embedded clusters of young stars a million or so years old, are each over 200 light-years across and 6 to 7 thousand light-years away. In fact, they are part of a large, active star forming complex sprawling along the Perseus spiral arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. The Double Cluster is located at about the same distance as the Heart and Soul nebulae. Separated by only a few hundred light-years, h and Chi Perseii are physically close together, and both clusters are estimated to be about 13 million years old. Their proximity and similar stellar ages suggest both clusters are likely a product of the same star-forming region.