Magnetic fields emerging from below the surface of the sun influence the solar wind—a stream of particles that blows continuously from the sun’s atmosphere through the solar system. Researchers at NASA and its university partners are using high-fidelity computer simulations to learn how these magnetic fields emerge, heat the sun’s outer atmosphere and produce sunspots and flares.

This visualization shows magnetic field loops in a portion of the sun, with colors representing magnetic field strength from weak (blue) to strong (red). The simulation was run on the Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. 

The knowledge gained through simulation results like this one help researchers better understand the sun, its variations, and its interactions with Earth and the solar system.

Image Credit: Robert Stein, Michigan State University; Timothy Sandstrom, NASA/Ames

> Related: NASA showcased more than 35 of the agency’s exciting computational achievements at SC14, the international supercomputing conference, Nov. 16-21, 2014, in New Orleans.

Europa’s Stunning Surface

November 26, 2014

The puzzling, fascinating surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa looms large in this newly-reprocessed color view, made from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. This is the color view of Europa from Galileo that shows the largest portion of the moon’s surface at the highest resolution.

The view was previously released as a mosaic with lower resolution and strongly enhanced color (see PIA02590). To create this new version, the images were assembled into a realistic color view of the surface that approximates how Europa would appear to the human eye.

The scene shows the stunning diversity of Europa’s surface geology. Long, linear cracks and ridges crisscross the surface, interrupted by regions of disrupted terrain where the surface ice crust has been broken up and re-frozen into new patterns.

Color variations across the surface are associated with differences in geologic feature type and location. For example, areas that appear blue or white contain relatively pure water ice, while reddish and brownish areas include non-ice components in higher concentrations. The polar regions, visible at the left and right of this view, are noticeably bluer than the more equatorial latitudes, which look more white. This color variation is thought to be due to differences in ice grain size in the two locations. 

Images taken through near-infrared, green and violet filters have been combined to produce this view. The images have been corrected for light scattered outside of the image, to provide a color correction that is calibrated by wavelength. Gaps in the images have been filled with simulated color based on the color of nearby surface areas with similar terrain types.

This global color view consists of images acquired by the Galileo Solid-State Imaging (SSI) experiment on the spacecraft’s first and fourteenth orbits through the Jupiter system, in 1995 and 1998, respectively. Image scale is 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) per pixel. North on Europa is at right.

The Galileo mission was managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. 

Additional information about Galileo and its discoveries is available on the Galileo mission home page at More information about Europa is available at

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

The Soyuz TMA-15M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 as seen in this long exposure carrying Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA, and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station. 

Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

The Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft is rolled out to the launch pad by train on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  Launch of the Soyuz rocket is scheduled for Nov. 24 and will carry Expedition 42 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA , and Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station.

Image Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

On Nov. 20, 2004, NASA’s Swift spacecraft lifted off aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., beginning its mission to study gamma-ray bursts and identify their origins. Gamma-ray bursts are the most luminous explosions in the cosmos. Most are thought to be triggered when the core of a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel, collapses under its own weight, and forms a black hole. The black hole then drives jets of particles that drill all the way through the collapsing star and erupt into space at nearly the speed of light.

Astronomers at NASA and Pennsylvania State University used Swift to create the most detailed ultraviolet light surveys ever of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the two closest major galaxies. Nearly a million ultraviolet sources appear in this mosaic of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which was assembled from 2,200 images taken by Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) and released on June 3, 2013. The 160-megapixel image required a cumulative exposure of 5.4 days. The image includes light from 1,600 to 3,300 angstroms — UV wavelengths largely blocked by Earth’s atmosphere — and has an angular resolution of 2.5 arcseconds at full size. The Large Magellanic Cloud is about 14,000 light-years across.

Viewing in the ultraviolet allows astronomers to suppress the light of normal stars like the sun, which are not very bright at such higher energies, and provides a clearer picture of the hottest stars and star-formation regions. No telescope other than UVOT can produce such high-resolution wide-field multicolor surveys in the ultraviolet.

Pennsylvania State University manages the Swift Mission Operations Center, which controls Swift’s science and flight operations. Goddard manages Swift, which was launched in November 2004. The satellite is operated in collaboration with Penn State, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Va. International collaborators are in the United Kingdom and Italy, and the mission includes contributions from Germany and Japan.

Image Credit: NASA/Swift/S. Immler (Goddard) and M. Siegel (Penn State)

MSH 11-62 Supernova Remnant

November 26, 2014

A long observation with Chandra of the supernova remnant MSH 11-62 reveals an irregular shell of hot gas, shown in red, surrounding an extended nebula of high energy X-rays, shown in blue. Even though scientists have yet to detect any pulsations from the central object within MSH 11-62, the structure around it has many of the same characteristics as other pulsar wind nebulas. The reverse shock and other, secondary shocks within MSH 11-62 appear to have begun to crush the pulsar wind nebula, possibly contributing to its elongated shape. (Note: the orientation of this image has been rotated by 24 degrees so that north is pointed to the upper left.)

Image credit:  NASA/CXC/SAO/P. Slane et al.

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NASA’s green aviation project is one step closer to developing technology that could make future airliners quieter and more fuel-efficient with the successful flight test of a wing surface that can change shape in flight.

This past summer, researchers replaced an airplane’s conventional aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies that form seamless bendable and twistable surfaces. Flight testing will determine whether flexible trailing-edge wing flaps are a viable approach to improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce noise generated during takeoffs and landings.

For the initial Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) flight, shown in this image, the experimental control surfaces were locked at a specified setting. Varied flap settings on subsequent tests will demonstrate the capability of the flexible surfaces under actual flight conditions.

ACTE technology is expected to have far-reaching effects on future aviation. Advanced lightweight materials will reduce wing structural weight and give engineers the ability to aerodynamically tailor the wings to promote improved fuel economy and more efficient operations, while reducing environmental impacts.

> More: NASA Tests Revolutionary Shape Changing Aircraft Flap for the First Time

Image Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich

Mixing Paints

November 26, 2014

Nature is an artist, and this time she seems to have let her paints swirl together a bit.

What the viewer might perceive to be Saturn’s surface is really just the tops of its uppermost cloud layers. Everything we see is the result of fluid dynamics. Astronomers study Saturn’s cloud dynamics in part to test and improve our understanding of fluid flows. Hopefully, what we learn will be useful for understanding our own atmosphere and that of other planetary bodies.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 25 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 23, 2014.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 127 degrees. Image scale is 7 miles (11 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 and . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at .

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A new book released this week highlights how the view from space with Earth-orbiting sensors is being used to protect some of the world’s most interesting, changing, and threatened places. From space, Egmont National Park in New Zealand shows the benefits and limitations of protected areas. In this Landsat 8 image acquired on July 3, 2014, the park, with Mt. Taranaki at its center, was established in 1900. This isolated island of protected forest (dark green areas) is surrounded by once-forested pasturelands (light and brown green).

“Sanctuary: Exploring the World’s Protected Areas from Space,” published by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (Arlington, Virginia) with support from NASA, debuted at the 2014 World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia. In the book’s foreword, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden writes, “NASA and numerous other space agency partners from around the globe have used this view from space to make incredible scientific advances in our understanding of how our planet works. As a result, we can now better gauge the impact of human activity on our environment and measure how and why our atmosphere, oceans, and land are changing. As a former astronaut who has looked upon our beautiful planet from space, I hope that we can advance the use of space-based remote sensing and other geospatial tools to study, understand, and improve the management of the world’s parks and protected areas as well as the precious biodiversity that thrives within their borders.”

Image Credit: NASA/USGS

The Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission is safely on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as these first two images from the lander’s CIVA camera confirm. One of the lander’s three feet can be seen in the foreground. The view is a two-image mosaic taken on Nov. 12, 2014.

The lander separated from the orbiter at 09:03 UTC (1:03 a.m. PST) for touch down on comet 67P seven hours later.

Rosetta and Philae had been riding through space together for more than 10 years. Philae is the first probe to achieve soft landing on a comet, and Rosetta is the first to rendezvous with a comet and follow it around the sun. The information collected by Philae at one location on the surface will complement that collected by the Rosetta orbiter for the entire comet.

Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the U.S. participation in the Rosetta mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.  Rosetta carries three NASA instruments in its 21-instrument payload.

For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit: . For more information about Rosetta, visit .

Copyright: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA