A worker is seen preparing the launch gantry to be rolled back from the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard, at the Space Launch Complex 2, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Now scheduled to launch early Friday morning, SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and his wife, Alexis, lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns as part of NASA’s Day of Remembrance, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery.  The wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration.  Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
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The sun sets behind Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) with the Delta II rocket and the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory protected by the service structure on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
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The interaction of solar winds and Earth’s atmosphere produces northern lights, or auroras, that dance across the night sky and mesmerize the casual observer. However, to scientists this interaction is more than a light display. It produces many questions about the role it plays in Earth’s meteorological processes and the impact on the planet’s atmosphere.

To help answer some of these questions, NASA suborbital sounding rockets carrying university-developed experiments — the Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment (M-TeX) and Mesospheric Inversion-layer Stratified Turbulence (MIST) — were launched into auroras from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. The experiments explore the Earth’s atmosphere’s response to auroral, radiation belt and solar energetic particles and associated effects on nitric oxide and ozone.

This composite shot of all four sounding rockets for the M-TeX and MIST experiments is made up of 30 second exposures. The rocket salvo began at 4:13 a.m. EST, Jan. 26, 2015. A fifth rocket carrying the Auroral Spatial Structures Probe remains ready on the launch pad. The launch window for this experiment runs through Jan. 27.

Image Credit: NASA/Jamie Adkins

> More: M-TeX and MIST Experiments Launched from Alaska
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Marking the 100th anniversary of the Rocky Mountain National Park on Jan. 26, 2015, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry Virts posted this photograph, taken from the International Space Station, to Twitter. Virts wrote, “Majestic peaks and trails! Happy 100th anniversary @RockyNPS So much beauty to behold in our @NatlParkService.”

Image Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
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The year of 2015 has been declared the International Year of Light (IYL) by the United Nations. Organizations, institutions, and individuals involved in the science and applications of light will be joining together for this yearlong celebration to help spread the word about the wonders of light.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory explores the universe in X-rays, a high-energy form of light.  By studying X-ray data and comparing them with observations in other types of light, scientists can develop a better understanding of objects likes stars and galaxies that generate temperatures of millions of degrees and produce X-rays.

To recognize the start of IYL, the Chandra X-ray Center is releasing a set of images that combine data from telescopes tuned to different wavelengths of light. From a distant galaxy to the relatively nearby debris field of an exploded star, these images demonstrate the myriad ways that information about the universe is communicated to us through light.

In this image, an expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0 is left behind after a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. Multimillion degree gas is seen in X-rays from Chandra, in blue. The outer edge of the explosion (red) and stars in the field of view are seen in visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope.

> More: Chandra Celebrates the International Year of Light

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO
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Greenland’s Leidy Glacier

January 30, 2015

Located in the northwest corner of Greenland, Leidy Glacier is fed by ice from the Academy Glacier (upstream and inland). As Leidy approaches the sea, it is diverted around the tip of an island that separates the Olriks Fjord to the south and Academy Cove to the north. The resulting crisscross pattern is simply the result of ice flowing along the path of least resistance.

This view of the region pictured above was acquired August 7, 2012, by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite. In April 2012, the feature caught the attention of a NASA pilot, who snapped this picture from the cockpit of a high-flying ER-2 aircraft during a research flight over the Greenland ice cap.

More information.

Image Credit: NASA/Terra
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NASA astronaut Scott Kelly stands as he is recognized by President Barack Obama, while First Lady Michelle Obama (lower left corner) and other guests applaud. The President recognized Kelly during the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 20, 2015. This March, Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will launch to the International Space Station and become the first crewmembers to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory for a year-long mission. While living on the International Space Station, Kelly, Kornienko and the rest of the crew will carry out hundreds of research experiments and work on cutting-edge technology development that will inspire students here at home in science, technology, engineering and math. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
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This July 20, 1969 photograph of the interior view of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module shows astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. during the lunar landing mission. The picture was taken by astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, prior to the landing.

Buzz Aldrin was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on Jan. 20, 1930. Aldrin became an astronaut during the selection of the third group by NASA in October 1963. On Nov. 11, 1966 he orbited aboard the Gemini XII spacecraft, a 4-day 59-revolution flight that successfully ended the Gemini program. During Project Gemini, Aldrin became one of the key figures working on the problem of rendezvous of spacecraft in Earth or lunar orbit, and docking them together for spaceflight. Aldrin was chosen as a member of the three-person Apollo 11 crew that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, fulfilling the mandate of President John F. Kennedy to send Americans to the moon before the end of the decade. Aldrin was the second American to set foot on the lunar surface.

Image Credit: NASA
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Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is one of more than 32 comets imaged by NASA’s NEOWISE mission from December 2013 to December 2014. This image of comet Lovejoy combines a series of observations made in November 2013, when comet Lovejoy was 1.7 astronomical units from the sun. (An astronomical unit is the distance between Earth and the sun.)

The image spans half of one degree. It shows the comet moving in a mostly west and slightly south direction. (North is 26 degrees to the right of up in the image, and west is 26 degrees downward from directly right.) The red color is caused by the strong signal in the NEOWISE 4.6-micron wavelength detector, owing to a combination of gas and dust in the comet’s coma.

Comet Lovejoy is the brightest comet in Earth’s sky in early 2015. A chart of its location in the sky during dates in January 2015 is at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19103 .

For more information about NEOWISE (the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer), see http://neowise.ipac.caltech.edu/.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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