February 13, 2016

Solar Dynamics Observatory: Year 6

Solar Dynamics Observatory SDO Year 6

This image is a composite of 23 separate images spanning the period of January 11, 2015 to January 21, 2016. It uses the SDO AIA wavelength of 171 angstroms and reveals the zones on the Sun where active regions are most common during this part of the solar cycle.

The Sun is always changing and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is always watching. Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO keeps a 24-hour eye on the entire disk of the Sun, with a prime view of the graceful dance of solar material coursing through the Sun's atmosphere, the corona. SDO's sixth year in orbit was no exception. This video shows that entire sixth year--from Jan. 1, 2015 to Jan. 28, 2016 as one time-lapse sequence. At full quality, this video is ultra-high definition 3840x2160 and 59.94 frames per second. Each frame represents 1 hour.

SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the Sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths. The images shown here are based on a wavelength of 171 angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range and shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin (about 1 million degrees F.) In this wavelength it is easy to see the Sun's 25-day rotation.

During the course of the video, the Sun subtly increases and decreases in apparent size. This is because the distance between the SDO spacecraft and the Sun varies over time. The image is, however, remarkably consistent and stable despite the fact that SDO orbits Earth at 6,876 mph and the Earth orbits the Sun at 67,062 miles per hour.

Scientists study these images to better understand the complex electromagnetic system causing the constant movement on the Sun, which can ultimately have an effect closer to Earth, too: Flares and another type of solar explosion called coronal mass ejections can sometimes disrupt technology in space. Moreover, studying our closest star is one way of learning about other stars in the galaxy.

Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/S. Wiessinger
Explanation from: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/details.cgi?aid=12144

LHA 120-N11 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Large Magellanic Cloud

Nearly 200,000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. Vast clouds of gas within it slowly collapse to form new stars. In turn, these light up the gas clouds in a riot of colors, visible in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is ablaze with star-forming regions. From the Tarantula Nebula, the brightest stellar nursery in our cosmic neighborhood, to LHA 120-N 11, part of which is featured in this Hubble image, the small and irregular galaxy is scattered with glowing nebulae, the most noticeable sign that new stars are being born.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA/Hubble
Explanation from: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2434.html

Lightning over Colorado

Lightning over Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA
September 14, 2013

Image Credit & Copyright: Allen Lefever

February 12, 2016

Aurora over Skagsanden Beach

Aurora Norway

Skagsanden Beach, Flakstad, Lofoten, Norway
March 2015

Image Credit & Copyright: Dustin Wong

Star-Forming Region LH 95

Star-Forming Region LH 95

Swirls of gas and dust reside in this ethereal-looking region of star formation imaged by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This majestic view, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), reveals a region where low-mass, infant stars and their much more massive stellar neighbors reside. A shroud of blue haze gently lingers amid the stars.

Known as LH 95, this is just one of the hundreds of star-forming systems, called associations, located in the LMC some 160,000 light-years distant. Earlier ground-based observations of such systems had only allowed astronomers to study the bright blue giant stars present in these regions. With Hubble's resolution, the low-mass stars can now be analyzed, which will allow for a more accurate calculation of their ages and masses.

This detailed view of the star-forming association LH 95 was taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and provides an extraordinarily rich sample of newly formed low-mass stars. The LMC is a galaxy with relatively small amounts of elements heavier than hydrogen, giving astronomers an insight into star formation in environments different than our Milky Way.

The largest stars within LH 95 - those with at least three times the mass of the Sun - generate strong stellar winds and high levels of ultraviolet radiation that heat the surrounding interstellar gas. The result is a bluish nebula of glowing hydrogen that continues to expand out into the molecular cloud that originally collapsed to form these massive stars.

Some dense parts of this star-forming region are intact despite the stellar winds, and can still be seen as dark dusty filaments in the picture. Such dust lanes absorb parts of the blue light from the stars behind them, making them appear redder. Other parts of the molecular cloud have already contracted to turn into glowing groups of infant stars, the fainter of which have a high tendency to cluster. This deep Hubble image also reveals several large spiral and distant galaxies decorating the background of LH 95.

This image of LH 95 is a composite of two filters that localize visible (V) and infrared (I) light. Because of the color assignments chosen, ionized hydrogen, which is visible within the V filter, appears bluish. The choice of color assignment helps to distinguish hot bright blue stars from cooler, less luminous red stars.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Explanation from: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2006/55/image/a/

Earth and Moon seen from the International Space Station

Earth and Moon seen from the International Space Station

ISS, Orbit of the Earth
September 2014

Image Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst
earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon earth and moon

Gravitational Waves

Gravitational Waves
An artist's impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced the detection of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a pair of ground-based observatories in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana.

Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in his general theory of relativity a century ago, and scientists have been attempting to detect them for 50 years. Einstein pictured these waves as ripples in the fabric of space-time produced by massive, accelerating bodies, such as black holes orbiting each other. Scientists are interested in observing and characterizing these waves to learn more about the sources producing them and about gravity itself.

The LIGO detections represent a much-awaited first step toward opening a whole new branch of astrophysics. Nearly everything we know about the universe comes from detecting and analyzing light in all its forms across the electromagnetic spectrum – radio, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays. The study of gravitational waves opens a new window on the universe, one that scientists expect will provide key information that will complement what we can learn through electromagnetic radiation.

Just as in other areas of astronomy, astronomers need both ground-based and space-based observatories to take full advantage of this new window. LIGO is sensitive to gravitational waves within the range of 10 to 1,000 cycles per second (10 to 1,000 Hz). A space-based system would be able to detect waves at much lower frequencies, from 0.0001 to 0.1 Hz, and detect different types of sources. NASA is working closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a concept for a space-based gravitational wave observatory

ESA is currently leading the LISA Pathfinder mission, launched last December and now in its commissioning phase, to demonstrate technologies that could be used for a future space-based gravitational wave observatory. NASA contributed its ST-7 Disturbance Reduction System to the payload as part of that demonstration.

NASA missions are searching the sky for fleeting X-ray and gamma-ray signals from LIGO events. Detecting the light emitted by a gravitational wave source would enable a much deeper understanding of the event than through either technique alone. .

Image Credit: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL
Explanation from: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/nsf-s-ligo-has-detected-gravitational-waves

February 11, 2016

The Centre of the Lagoon Nebula

Centre of the Lagoon Nebula

Some of the most breathtaking views in the Universe are created by nebulae — hot, glowing clouds of gas. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the center of the Lagoon Nebula, an object with a deceptively tranquil name, in the constellation of Sagittarius. The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, churning funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Trauger
Explanation from: http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/stormy-seas-in-sagittarius

Lightning Storm and the Milky Way Galaxy

Milky Way and Lightning

A phenomenal natural light show of a lightning storm emanating from the underside of ominous storm clouds, juxtaposed with the gleaming stars of the Milky Way above

Image Credit & Copyright: Julie Fletcher
Explanation by: Royal Observatory Greenwich

2014 Super Typhoon Vongfong seen from the International Space Station

Super Typhoon Vongfong EyeSuper Typhoon VongfongSuper Typhoon Vongfong from ISS

  • The eye of Super Typhoon Vongfong is 80 km across.

When Super Typhoon Vongfong grew to a category 5 storm on October 7, it became the fourth storm of 2014 to reach the top wind-scale classification. It also became the largest storm anywhere on Earth so far in 2014. The name Vongfong means wasp in Cantonese.

By October 9, the typhoon had weakened somewhat. But the storm also turned north and appeared to be on track to sting Japan by the weekend. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image of Vongfong at 1:25 p.m. Japan time (0425 Universal Time) on October 9. By 0600 Universal Time that day, the storm churned the Philippine Sea with maximum sustained winds of 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour.

Large, well-defined features in the eye and eyewall are common in storms of this magnitude, noted research meteorologist Scott Braun of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Meteorologist and blogger Jeff Masters reported on October 9 that the storm had developed two concentric eye walls. That means the inner eye wall would likely collapse and be replaced by the outer eye wall—a process expected to cause further weakening. Still, forecasts called for a daunting storm to approach Okinawa and southwest Japan by October 11.

The storm follows less than one week after Super Typhoon Phanfone charged ashore in Japan's Shizuoka Prefecture. The copious wind and rain spurred sediment plumes that were visible from space.

Research shows that between 1971 and 2000, there was an annual average of 26.7 typhoons that developed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea. Of those, an average of 10.8 reached within 300 kilometers of Japan and 2.6 made landfall each year.

Typhoon season in the Western and Central Pacific begins June 1 and runs through November.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst
Explanation from: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84525

February 10, 2016

London at Night seen from the International Space Station

London at Night from Space
London at Night

ISS, Orbit of the Earth
30 January, 2016

Image Credit: ESA/NASA/Tim Peake

NGC 4639 with Massive Black Hole seen by Hubble Space Telescope

galaxy massive black hole

NGC 4639 is a beautiful example of a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral. It lies over 70 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo and is one of about 1,500 galaxies that make up the Virgo Cluster.

In this image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, one can clearly see the bar running through the bright, round core of the galaxy. Bars are found in around two-thirds of spiral galaxies, and are thought to be a natural phase in their evolution.

The galaxy’s spiral arms are sprinkled with bright regions of active star formation. Each of these tiny jewels is actually several hundred light-years across and contains hundreds or thousands of newly formed stars. But NGC 4639 also conceals a dark secret in its core — a massive black hole that is consuming the surrounding gas.

This is known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN), and is revealed by characteristic features in the spectrum of light from the galaxy and by X-rays produced close to the black hole as the hot gas plunges towards it.

Most galaxies are thought to contain a black hole at the center. NGC 4639 is in fact a very weak example of an AGN, demonstrating that AGNs exist over a large range of activity, from galaxies like NGC 4639 to distant quasars, where the parent galaxy is almost completely dominated by the emissions from the AGN.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Explanation from: http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/goddard/hubble-sees-elegant-spiral-hiding-a-hungry-monster

Largest stars in the Universe: UY Scuti

UY Scuti is one of the biggest known stars, has a radius of approximately 1 708 ± 120 solar radii or a diameter of 2.4 billion km (2 400 000 000 km) and 25 to 40 Solar mass

Distance from the Sun to UY Scuti is approximately 9 500 light-years

Comparison: Earth - Sun - UY Scuti (Radius)

Comparison: Earth - Sun - UY Scuti (Radius)

UY Scuti pictured from the Rutherford Observatory

UY Scuti

UY Scuti compared to the Sun

Largest star in the UniverseUY Scuti compared to the Sun

February 9, 2016


Jupiter voyager 2 picture

This processed color image of Jupiter was produced in 1990 by the U.S. Geological Survey from a Voyager 2 image captured in 1979. The colors have been enhanced to bring out detail. Zones of light-colored, ascending clouds alternate with bands of dark, descending clouds. The clouds travel around the planet in alternating eastward and westward belts at speeds of up to 540 kilometers per hour. Tremendous storms as big as Earthly continents surge around the planet. The Great Red Spot (oval shape toward the lower-left) is an enormous anticyclonic storm that drifts along its belt, eventually circling the entire planet.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS
Explanation from: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA00343

Solar Prominence seen by SOHO's EIT

Solar Prominence

Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) image of a huge, handle-shaped prominence taken on September 14, 1999 taken in the 304 angstrom wavelength - Prominences are huge clouds of relatively cool dense plasma suspended in the Sun's hot, thin corona. At times, they can erupt, escaping the Sun's atmosphere. Emission in this spectral line shows the upper chromosphere at a temperature of about 60,000 degrees K. Every feature in the image traces magnetic field structure. The hottest areas appear almost white, while the darker red areas indicate cooler temperatures.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO
Explanation from: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA03149

Lava, Ash and Lightning above Calbuco Volcano

Calbuco Volcano Lightning eruption

Frutillar, Chile
April 23, 2015

Image Credit: Martin Bernetti

February 8, 2016

Airglow and the Milky Way Galaxy seen over Bryce Canyon National Park

Airglow over Bryce Canyon National Park

Tropic Reservoir, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA

Image Credit & Copyright: Dave Lane

NGC 613: Hubble Sees a Spiral Galaxy’s Brights and Darks

Spiral Galaxy: NGC 613

Ribbons of dust festoon the galaxy NGC 613 in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. NGC 613 is classified as a barred spiral galaxy for the bar-shaped band of stars and dust crossing its intensely glowing center.

About two-thirds of spiral galaxies show a characteristic bar shape like NGC 613 — our own galaxy appears to have one of these bars through its midline as well.

NGC 613 lies 65 million light-years away in the constellation of The Sculptor. It was first noted by the English astronomer William Herschel in 1798 and later by John Louis Emil Dreyer, a Danish–Irish astronomer, who recorded the object in his 1888 New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars — hence the letters "NGC."

NGC 613's core looks bright and uniformly white in this image as a result of the combined light shining from the high concentration of stars packed into the core, but lurking at the center of this brilliance lies a dark secret.

As with nearly all spiral galaxies, a monstrous black hole resides at the heart of NGC 613. Its mass is estimated at about 10 times that of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole and it is consuming stars, gas and dust. As this matter descends into the black hole's maw it radiates away energy and spews out radio waves. However, when looking at the galaxy in the optical and infrared wavelengths used to take this image, there is no trace of the dark heart.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA and S. Smartt, Robert Gendler
Explanation from: https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/goddard/hubble-sees-a-spiral-galaxy-s-brights-and-darks

Aurora Australis, Southern Cross, Milky Way Galaxy and Large Magellanic Cloud Galaxy seen over Binalong Bay

Aurora Australis, Southern Cross, Milky Way Galaxy and Large Magellanic Cloud Galaxy over Binalong Bay

Binalong Bay, Tasmania, Australia
September 19, 2014

Image Credit & Copyright: Troy Casswell

February 7, 2016

Full Moon over the Alps

Full Moon over the Alps

The majestic sight of the full moon setting behind the rose-tinted Alps. Taken in the silent surroundings of Superga hill in Turin, Italy, mere minutes before sunrise

Superga Hill in Turin, Italy
January 6, 2015

Image Credit & Copyright: Stefano de Rosa
Explanation by: Royal Observatory Greenwich

Aurora over Lyngenfjord

Aurora over Lyngenfjord

Lyngenfjord, Norway

Image Credit & Copyright: Jan R. Olsen

Milky Way, Meteor and Ariane 5 rocket seen over Doi Inthanon National Park

The Milky Way Galaxy, Meteor and Ariane 5 Rocket over Thailand

Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand
February 8, 2014

Image Credit & Copyright: Matipon Tangmatitham