This sprinkle of cosmic glitter is a blue compact dwarf galaxy known as Markarian 209. Galaxies of this type are blue-hued, compact in size, gas-rich, and low in heavy elements. They are often used by astronomers to study star formation, as their conditions are similar to those thought to exist in the early Universe.

Markarian 209 in particular has been studied extensively. It is filled with diffuse gas and peppered with star-forming regions towards its core. This image captures it undergoing a particularly dramatic burst of star formation, visible as the lighter blue cloudy region towards the top right of the galaxy. This clump is filled with very young and hot newborn stars.

This galaxy was initially thought to be a young galaxy undergoing its very first episode of star formation, but later research showed that Markarian 209 is actually very old, with an almost continuous history of forming new stars. It is thought to have never had a dormant period — a period during which no stars were formed — lasting longer than 100 million years.

The dominant population of stars in Markarian 209 is still quite young, in stellar terms, with ages of under 3 million years. For comparison, the sun is some 4.6 billion years old, and is roughly halfway through its expected lifespan.

The observations used to make this image were taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, and span the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared parts of the spectrum. A scattering of other bright galaxies can be seen across the frame, including the bright golden oval that could, due to a trick of perspective, be mistaken as part of Markarian 209 but is in fact a background galaxy.

European Space Agency

ESA/Hubble & NASA Acknowledgement: Nick Rose
By nasa.gov

75th Anniversary of NASA Ames

December 22, 2014

December 20, 2014 marks NASA Ames Research Center’s 75th Anniversary. The center was established in 1939 as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and was named for the chair of the NACA, Joseph S. Ames. It was located at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, now at the heart of Silicon Valley. The Laboratory was renamed the NASA Ames Research Center with the formation of NASA in 1958.

This June 2, 1943 photograph shows the construction of the Ames full-scale 40- by 80-foot wind tunnel, with a side view of the entrance cone and a blimp in the background.

Image Credit: NASA
By nasa.gov

City lights shine brighter during the holidays when compared with the rest of the year, as shown using a new analysis of daily data from the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. Dark green pixels are areas where lights are 50 percent brighter, or more, during December.

This new analysis of holiday lights uses an advanced algorithm, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that filters out moonlight, clouds and airborne particles in order to isolate city lights on a daily basis. The data from this algorithm provide high-quality satellite information on light output across the globe, allowing scientists to track when – and how brightly – people illuminate the night. A daily global dynamic dataset of nighttime lights is a new way for researchers to understand the broad societal forces impacting energy decisions and to look at how people use cities, from an energy perspective.

> Full Story: NOAA/NASA Satellite Sees Holiday Lights Brighten Cities

Image Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen
By nasa.gov

Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico

December 22, 2014

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry W. Virts took this photograph of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast at sunset and posted it to social media on Dec. 14, 2014.

The space station and its crew orbit Earth from an altitude of 220 miles, traveling at a speed of approximately 17,500 miles per hour. Because the station completes each trip around the globe in about 92 minutes, the crew experiences 16 sunrises and sunsets each day.

Image Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
By nasa.gov

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is continuing its traverse southward on the western rim of Endeavour Crater during the fall of 2014, stopping to investigate targets of scientific interest along way.  This view is from Opportunity’s front hazard avoidance camera on Nov. 26, 2014, during the 3,854th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars. This camera is mounted low on the rover and has a wide-angle lens.

The scene includes Opportunity’s robotic arm, called the “instrument deployment device,” at upper left. Portions of the pale bedrock exposed on the ground in front of the rover are within the arm’s reach. Researchers used instruments on the arm to examine a target called “Calera” on this patch of bedrock.  The wheel tracks in the scene are from the drive — in reverse — to this location, a drive of 32.5 feet (9.9 meters) on Sol 3846 (Nov. 18, 2014).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
By nasa.gov

NASA’s Super Guppy aircraft, designed to transport extremely large cargo, rests after making a special delivery to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The aircraft measures more than 48 feet to the top of its tail and has a wingspan of more than 156 feet with a 25-foot diameter cargo bay – the aircraft features a hinged nose that opens 110 degrees.

A representative test article of a futuristic hybrid wing body aircraft will be unloaded from the Super Guppy on Friday, Dec. 12 at Langley Research Center. The large test article, representing the uniquely shaped fuselage cross-section, is made out of a low-weight, damage-tolerant, stitched composite structural concept called Pultruded Rod Stitched Efficient Unitized Structure, or PRSEUS. Langley’s Combined Loads Test System will subject the revolutionary carbon-fiber architecture test article to conditions that simulate loads typically encountered in flight.

Image Credit: NASA
By nasa.gov

Late spring and summer weather brings blooms of color to the Atlantic Ocean off of South America, at least from a satellite view. The Patagonian Shelf Break is a biologically rich patch of ocean where airborne dust from the land, iron-rich currents from the south, and upwelling currents from the depths provide a bounty of nutrients for the grass of the sea—phytoplankton. In turn, those floating sunlight harvesters become food for some of the richest fisheries in the world.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP captured this view of phytoplankton-rich waters off of Argentina on Dec. 2, 2014. Scientists in NASA’s Ocean Color Group used three wavelengths (671, 551, and 443 nanometers) of visible and near-infrared light to highlight different plankton communities in the water. Bands of color not only reveal the location of plankton, but also the dynamic eddies and currents that carry them.

> More Information

Image Credit: Norman Kuring, NASA’s Ocean Color Group, using VIIRS data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership
By nasa.gov

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore took this photograph of the Great Lakes and central U.S. on Dec. 7, 2014, and posted it to social media.

This week on the station, the Expedition 42 crew has been busy with medical science and spacesuit work while preparing for the arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon commercial cargo craft, scheduled to launch on Dec. 16 on a two day trip to the station before it is captured by the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Harmony node.

Image Credit: NASA/Barry Wilmore
By nasa.gov

This evenly layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit not far from where flowing water entered a lake.

The scene combines multiple frames taken with Mastcam’s right-eye camera on Aug. 7, 2014, during the 712th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars. It shows an outcrop at the edge of “Hidden Valley,” seen from the valley floor.  This view spans about 5 feet (1.5 meters) across in the foreground.  The color has been approximately white-balanced to resemble how the scene would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth. Figure A is a version with a superimposed scale bar of 50 centimeters (about 20 inches).

This is an example of a thick-laminated, evenly-stratified rock type that forms stratigraphically beneath cross-bedded sandstones regarded as ancient river deposits.  These rocks are interpreted to record sedimentation in a lake, as part of or in front of a delta, where plumes of river sediment settled out of the water column and onto the lake floor. 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover.  Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the rover’s Mastcam. For more information about Curiosity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.    

> Unannotated image

> Related: NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds Clues to How Water Helped Shape Martian Landscape

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
By nasa.gov

Orion Recovery

December 22, 2014

(Dec. 5, 2014) — NASA’s Orion spacecraft awaits the U.S. Navy’s USS Anchorage for a ride home. Orion launched into space on a two-orbit, 4.5-hour test flight at 7:05 am EST on Dec. 5, and safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, where a combined team from NASA, the Navy and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin retrieved it for return to shore on board the Anchorage. It is expected to be off loaded at Naval Base San Diego on Monday.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy
By nasa.gov