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We did it! Our Cassini spacecraft successfully dove through the gap between Saturn and its rings – an area previously unexplored by any spacecraft!
These unprocessed images show features in Saturn’s atmosphere from closer than ever before! These views were captured by our Cassini spacecraft during its first Grand Finale dive between the planet and its rings on April 26, 2017.
As Cassini dove through the gap, it came within about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers) of Saturn’s cloud tops (where the air pressure is 1 bar – comparable to the atmospheric pressure of Earth at sea level) and within about 200 miles (300 kilometers) of the innermost visible edge of the rings.
[Illustration] 'Iceball' planet discovered! Scientists have discovered a new planet with the mass of Earth, orbiting its star at the same distance that we orbit our sun. The planet is likely far too cold to be habitable for life as we know it, however, because its star is so faint. But the discovery adds to scientists' understanding of the types of planetary systems that exist beyond our own. This 'iceball' planet is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing, a technique that facilitates the discovery of distant objects by using background stars as flashlights. When a star crosses precisely in front of a bright star in the background, the gravity of the foreground star focuses the light of the background star, making it appear brighter. A planet orbiting the foreground object may cause an additional blip in the star's brightness. In this case, the blip only lasted a few hours. This technique has found the most distant known exoplanets from Earth, and can detect low-mass planets that are substantially farther from their stars than Earth is from our sun.
Cosmic Bubbles: This entrancing image shows a few of the tenuous threads that comprise a faint and wispy shell of gas located 5,200 light-years away. This large bubble-like structure wrapped around an extremely large, bright type of star known as a Wolf-Rayet Star - this particular star is called EZ Canis Majoris. These type of stars are among the brightest and most massive stars in the universe, tens of times more massive than our own sun, and they represent the extremes of stellar evolution. Thick winds continually poured off the progenitors of such stars, flooding their surroundings and draining the outer layers of the Wolf-Rayet stars. The fast wind of a Wolf-Rayet star therefore sweeps up the surrounding material to form bubbles of gas.
Beautiful as these cosmic bubbles are, they are fleeting. The same stars that form them will also cause their death, eclipsing and subsuming them in violent supernova explosions.
Congrats, Peggy! Flight Director Brian Smith, Capcom astronaut Jessica Meir along with astronaut Jeff Williams monitor activities in Mission Control as President Donald Trump, First Daughter Ivanka Trump and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins make a special Earth-to-space call from the Oval Office to personally congratulate NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson for her record-breaking stay aboard the International Space Station (@ISS). Whitson officially set the U.S. record for most cumulative days in space. She is the first woman to command the space station twice, and holds the record for most spacewalks conducted by a female astronaut.
Cascading Loops: An active region that had just rotated into view blasted out a coronal mass ejection, which was immediately followed by a bright series of post-coronal loops seeking to reorganize that region's magnetic field (April 19, 2017). We have observed this phenomenon numerous times, but this one was one of the longest and clearest sequences we have seen in years. The bright loops are actually charged particles spinning along the magnetic field lines. The action was captured in a combination of two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light over a period of about 20 hours.
Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA
For us here at NASA, Earth Day is every day! With a fleet of spacecraft orbiting our home planet collecting data on everything from the air we breathe to natural disasters that impact our lives, Earth is always in focus. Join us as we celebrate our home with beautiful views from our unique vantage point of space.
Behold, two spiral galaxies! Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to take a portrait of a stunning pair of spiral galaxies. This starry pair offers a glimpse of what our Milky Way galaxy would look like to an outside observer. These galaxies look quite different because we see them angled at different positions on the sky. They are actually very similar in terms of their structure and contents.` Both galaxies are approximately 55 million light-years away and reside in a cluster of nearly 2,000 galaxies.
A typical spiral galaxy has arms of young stars that wind outward from its center. The bright arms are regions of intense star formation. Such galaxies have a central bulge and are surrounded by a faint halo of stars. Many spiral galaxies also have bars that extend from the central bulge to the arms.
NASA astronaut Jack Fischer (@astro2fish) and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos launched into orbit to begin their four and a half month mission on the International Space Station. After a six-hour flight, their Soyuz arrived at the International Space Station (@ISS) at 9:18 a.m. EDT Thursday, where the two new crew members joined Commander Peggy Whitson of NASA and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency). The crew members will conduct approximately 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.
The edge of Jupiter: This enhanced color Jupiter image, taken by the JunoCam imager on our Juno spacecraft, showcases several interesting features on the apparent edge (limb) of the planet. Prior to Juno's fifth flyby over Jupiter's mysterious cloud tops, members of the public voted on which targets JunoCam should image. This picture captures not only a fascinating variety of textures in Jupiter's atmosphere, it also features three specific points of interest: "String of Pearls," "Between the Pearls," and "An Interesting Band Point." Also visible is what's known as the STB Spectre, a feature in Jupiter's South Temperate Belt where multiple atmospheric conditions appear to collide.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Bjorn Jonsson
Arrhythmic beating of a black hole heart: At the center of the Centaurus galaxy cluster, there is a large elliptical galaxy called NGC 4696. Deeper still, there is a supermassive black hole buried within the core of this galaxy. New data from our Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes has revealed details about this giant black hole.
LIFTOFF! United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, carrying Orbital ATK’s #Cygnus cargo vehicle, left Earth at 11:11 a.m. EDT to deliver supplies and research to the International Space Station. Carrying over 7,600 pounds of science gear and crew supplies, it will arrive for docking early Saturday morning.
Highlights from the new experiments will include studies on cancer-fighting drugs, crystal growth and atmospheric reentry.
Credit: NASA #nasa#space#launch#cargo#orbitalatk#ulalaunch#science#spacestation#cygnus#rocket
'Twas the night before launch... NASA commercial cargo provider Orbital ATK is on track for its seventh commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for 11:11 a.m. EDT Tuesday at the start of a 30-minute launch window. Launching on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft will carry more than 7,600 pounds of science research, crew supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory in support of the crew members.
NASA TV launch coverage will begin at 10 a.m. EDT on air and streaming at https://www.nasa.gov/live. NASA TV’s YouTube channel will debut full, 360 coverage of the launch at http://youtube.com/nasatelevision
Watercolor world! When imaged at infrared wavelengths that pierce the planet's upper haze layer, the high-speed winds of Saturn's atmosphere produce watercolor-like patterns. With no solid surface creating atmospheric drag, winds on Saturn can reach speeds of more than 1,100 miles per hour (1,800 kilometers per hour) -- some of the fastest in the solar system.
The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 2, 2016, with a combination of spectral filters which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 728 nanometers.
A Mesa in Noctis Labyrinthus: This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a small mesa, one of several surrounded by sand dunes in Noctis Labyrinthyus, an extensively fractured region on the western end of Valles Marineris on Mars.
Heavily eroded, with clusters of boulders and sand dunes on its surface, this layered mesa is probably comprised of sedimentary deposits that are being exhumed as it erodes. The layers themselves are visible as faint bands along the lower left edge of the mesa.
[Artist Concept] With two suns in its sky, Luke Skywalker's home planet Tatooine in "Star Wars" looks like a parched, sandy desert world. In real life, thanks to observatories such as NASA's Kepler space telescope, we know that two-star systems can indeed support planets, although planets discovered so far around double-star systems are large and gaseous. Scientists wondered: If an Earth-size planet were orbiting two suns, could it support life?
It turns out, such a planet could be quite hospitable if located at the right distance from its two stars, and wouldn't necessarily even have deserts. In a particular range of distances from two sun-like host stars, a planet covered in water would remain habitable and retain its water for a long time, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications.
This artist's concept shows a hypothetical planet covered in water around the binary star system of Kepler-35A and B.
"A classic that I never get tired of: the orange solar panel in front of the blue–white background and the curvature of Earth" wrote astronaut Thomas Pesquet (@thom_astro) of the European Space Agency (@europeanspaceagency) from aboard the International Space Station (@ISS). The space station serves as the world's leading laboratory for conducting cutting-edge microgravity research, and is the primary platform for technology development and testing in space to enable human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars. Credit: NASA/ESA #nasa#space#iss#spacestation#astronauts#esa#earth#Proxima#europe
We once thought oceans made our planet unique, but we’re now coming to realize that #OceanWorlds are all around us. Today we announced discoveries about two moons inside our solar system.
Saturn's moon Enceladus & Jupiter's moon Europa have been identified as #OceanWorlds with "some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment," based upon new findings from our Cassini spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope.
This illustration shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth.
New full-hemisphere views of Earth at night! Our scientists released a new global maps of Earth at night, providing the clearest yet composite view of the patterns of human settlement across our planet. This composite image, one of three new full-hemisphere views, provides a view of the Americas at night. The clouds and sun glint - added here for aesthetic effect - are derived from MODIS instrument land surface and cloud cover products. In the years since the 2011 launch of the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, we've been analyzing night lights data and developing new software and algorithms to make night lights imagery clearer, more accurate and readily available. They are now on the verge of providing daily, high-definition views of Earth at night, and are targeting the release of such data to the science community later this year.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Touchdown! A Soyuz spacecraft is seen as it lands with astronaut Shane Kimbrough (@Astro_Kimbrough) of NASA and Russian Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Monday, April 10, 2017. Kimbrough, Ryzhikov, and Borisenko are returning after 173 days in space onboard the International Space Station (@ISS). While living and working aboard the space station, the crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the world-class orbiting laboratory. For example, the Microgravity Expanded Stem Cells investigation had crew members observe cell growth and other characteristics in microgravity. Results from this investigation could lead to the treatment of diseases and injury in space, and provide a way to improve stem cell production for medical therapies on Earth.
'Good night Earth from Space Station – headed back your way tomorrow!' wrote astronaut Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) when he posted this image from aboard the International Space Station (@ISS). Kimbrough and two Russian cosmonauts will undock their Soyuz spacecraft from the space station at 4 a.m. EDT Monday and land in Kazakhstan at 7:20 a.m. (5:20 p.m. Kazakhstan time). Their return will wrap up 173 days in space for the crew members since their launch last October.
In this image taken March 24, 2017, comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák is shown moving through a field of faint galaxies in the bowl of the Big Dipper. On April 1, the comet passed by Earth at a distance of about 13 million miles (0.14 astronomical units), or 55 times the distance from Earth to the moon; that is a much closer approach than usual for this Jupiter-family comet.
Credits: image copyright Chris Schur, used with permission
'Europe at night is one of the most spectacular views. Here we were travelling along the Adriatic towards the Middle East,' wrote astronaut Thomas Pesquet (@thom_astro) of the European Space Agency (@europeanspaceagency) from aboard the International Space Station (@ISS). The space station serves as the world's leading laboratory for conducting cutting-edge microgravity research, and is the primary platform for technology development and testing in space to enable human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.
Dazzling close-up portrait of Jupiter! On April 3, as Jupiter made its nearest approach to Earth in a year, our Hubble Space Telescope viewed the solar system's largest planet in all of its up-close glory. At a distance of 415 million miles (668 million kilometers) from Earth, Jupiter offered spectacular views of its colorful, roiling atmosphere, the legendary Great Red Spot, and it smaller companion at farther southern latitudes dubbed "Red Spot Jr." The giant planet is now at "opposition," positioned directly opposite the sun from the Earth. This means that the sun, Earth and Jupiter line up, with Earth sitting between the sun and the gas giant. Opposition also marks Jupiter's closest point to us, and the planet appears brighter in the night sky than at any other time in the year.
Hubble reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter's clouds as arranged into bands of different latitudes, known as tropical regions. These bands are produced by air flowing in different directions at various latitudes. Lighter colored areas, called zones, are high-pressure where the atmosphere rises. Darker low-pressure regions where air falls are called belts. The Great Red Spot is a long-lived storm roughly the diameter of Earth. Much smaller storms appear as white or brown-colored ovals. Such storms can last as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries.
Interment of John Glenn: A horse drawn caisson carries former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn to his final resting place during the interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery today, April 6, in Virginia. Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth on Feb. 20, 1962, in a five-hour flight aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft. In 1998, he broke another record by returning to space at the age of 77 on the Space Shuttle Discovery.
Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot stated: "As we say our final goodbye today to a great American and NASA pioneer, we send our deepest sympathies to the family of John Glenn, and our heartfelt condolences to his devoted wife Annie on what would have been their 74th wedding anniversary. Senator Glenn was more than an astronaut - he was the hero we needed in a rapidly changing world and an icon of our American spirit. We will never forget him, and future generations will continue to live out his legacy as we venture farther into the solar system. God speed, Senator Glenn. Our deepest gratitude, and everlasting respect and affection go with you." John Glenn: 1921-2016
Sliver of Saturn: Although only a sliver of Saturn's sunlit face is visible in this view, the mighty gas giant planet still dominates the view. From this vantage point just beneath the ring plane, the dense B ring becomes dark and essentially opaque, letting almost no light pass through. But some light reflected by the planet passes through the less dense A ring, which appears above the B ring in this photo. The C ring, silhouetted just below the B ring, lets almost all of Saturn's reflected light pass right through it, as if it were barely there at all. The F ring appears as a bright arc in this image, which is visible against both the backdrop of Saturn and the dark sky.
This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 7 degrees below the ring plane. The image was taken in green light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 18, 2017. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 630,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 38 miles (61 kilometers) per pixel.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute (@NSAJPL)
Aboard the International Space Station (@ISS), astronaut Thomas Pesquet (@thom_astro) of the European Space Agency (@europeanspaceagency) snapped this photo and wrote, 'The view at night recently has been simply magnificent: few clouds, intense #aurora. I can't look away from the windows.' The dancing lights of the aurora provide stunning views, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun. Aurora are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs.
What's in a name? Sometimes the stuff of poetry or even mythology. Sometimes not. The names of these two galaxies fall into the latter category. The Hubble Space Telescope spotted NGC 4424 and LEDA 213992.
What's up in the night sky this April? Jupiter, king of the planets is visible all night long, and the Lyrids meteor shower peaks on April 22. Check it out... Credit: NASA/JPL
Aboard the International Space Station (@ISS), astronaut Thomas Pesquet (@thom_astro) of the European Space Agency (@europeanspaceagency) snapped this photo and wrote, 'File under desktop #wallpapers: the blue gradients of a sunrise.' Credit: NASA/ESA
Wispy remains of a supernova explosion hide a possible 'survivor.' Of all the varieties of exploding stars, the ones called Type Ia are perhaps the most intriguing. Their predictable brightness lets astronomers measure the expansion of the universe, which led to the discovery of dark energy. Yet the cause of these supernovae remains a mystery. Do they happen when two white dwarf stars collide? Or does a single white dwarf gorge on gases stolen from a companion star until bursting? If the second theory is true, the normal star should survive. Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to search the gauzy remains of a Type Ia supernova in a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. They found a sun-like star that showed signs of being associated with the supernova. Further investigations will be needed to learn if this star is truly the culprit behind a white dwarf's fiery demise.
This supernova remnant is located 160,000 light-years from Earth. The actual supernova remnant is the irregular shaped dust cloud, at the upper center of the image. The gas in the lower half of the image and the dense concentration of stars in the lower left are the outskirts of a star cluster.
Image credit: NASA, ESA and H.-Y. Chu (Academia Sinica, Taipei)
Spacewalk complete and new astronaut record set! Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson of NASA successfully reconnected cables and electrical connections on an adapter-3 that will provide the pressurized interface between the station and the second of two international docking adapters to be delivered to the complex to support the dockings of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft in the future. The duo were also tasked with installing four thermal protection shields on the Tranquility module of the International Space Station (@ISS). Having completed her eighth spacewalk, Whitson now holds the record for the most spacewalks and accumulated time spacewalking by a female astronaut. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 1,243 hours and 42 minutes outside the station during 199 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory.
Splitting of the Dunes: The mound in the center of this Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) image appears to have blocked the path of the dunes as they marched south (north is to the left in this image) across the scene. Many of these transverse dunes have slipfaces that face south, although in some cases, it's hard to tell for certain. Smaller dunes run perpendicular to some of the larger-scale dunes, probably indicating a shift in wind directions in this area.
Although it might be hard to tell, this group of dunes is very near the central pit of a 35-kilometer-wide impact crater. Data from other instruments indicate the presence of clay-like materials in the rock exposed in the central pit.
'Incredible view out of the Space Station windows this morning - Northern Lights #aurora,' wrote astronaut Shane Kimbrough (@astro_kimbrough) for aboard the International Space Station (@ISS). The dancing lights of the aurora provide stunning views, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun. Aurora are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs.