After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) and its sensitive instruments, emerged unscathed from the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The Webb telescope’s images will reveal the first galaxies forming 13.5 billion years ago. The telescope will also pierce through interstellar dust clouds to capture stars and planets forming in our own galaxy. At the telescope’s final destination in space, one million miles away from Earth, it will operate at incredibly cold temperatures of -387 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40 degrees Kelvin. This is 260 degrees Fahrenheit colder than any place on the Earth’s surface has ever been. To create temperatures that cold on Earth, the team uses the massive thermal vacuum chamber at Goddard called the Space Environment Simulator, or SES, that duplicates the vacuum and extreme temperatures of space. This 40-foot-tall, 27-foot-diameter cylindrical chamber eliminates the tiniest trace of air with vacuum pumps and uses liquid nitrogen and even colder liquid helium to drop the temperature simulating the space environment.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

> More: NASA Webb’s Heart Survives Deep Freeze Test

Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
By nasa.gov

The brightly glowing plumes seen in this image are reminiscent of an underwater scene, with turquoise-tinted currents and nebulous strands reaching out into the surroundings.

However, this is no ocean. This image actually shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small nearby galaxy that orbits our galaxy, the Milky Way, and appears as a blurred blob in our skies. The NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope has peeked many times into this galaxy, releasing stunning images of the whirling clouds of gas and sparkling stars (opo9944a, heic1301, potw1408a).

This image shows part of the Tarantula Nebula’s outskirts. This famously beautiful nebula, located within the LMC, is a frequent target for Hubble (heic1206, heic1402). 

In most images of the LMC the color is completely different to that seen here. This is because, in this new image, a different set of filters was used. The customary R filter, which selects the red light, was replaced by a filter letting through the near-infrared light. In traditional images, the hydrogen gas appears pink because it shines most brightly in the red. Here however, other less prominent emission lines dominate in the blue and green filters.

This data is part of the Archival Pure Parallel Project (APPP), a project that gathered together and processed over 1,000 images taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, obtained in parallel with other Hubble instruments. Much of the data in the project could be used to study a wide range of astronomical topics, including gravitational lensing and cosmic shear, exploring distant star-forming galaxies, supplementing observations in other wavelength ranges with optical data, and examining star populations from stellar heavyweights all the way down to solar-mass stars.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA: acknowledgement: Josh Barrington
Text: European Space Agency
By nasa.gov

The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Oct. 19, 2014, peaking at 1:01 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which is always observing the sun, captured this image of the event in extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 131 Angstroms – a wavelength that can see the intense heat of a flare and that is typically colorized in teal.

This flare is classified as an X1.1-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 flare is twice as intense as an X1, and an X3 is three times as intense.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

> More: NASA’s SDO Observes an X-class Solar Flare

Image Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory
By nasa.gov

This image of Hurricane Gonzalo was taken from the International Space Station by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst on Oct. 16, 2014. In addition to the crew Earth observations from the space station, NASA and NOAA satellites have been providing continuous coverage of Hurricane Gonzalo as it moves toward Bermuda.

> NASA Hurricane: Gonzalo (Atlantic Ocean)

Image Credit: Alexander Gerst/ESA/NASA
By nasa.gov

In May 2014, two new studies concluded that a section of the land-based West Antarctic ice sheet had reached a point of inevitable collapse. Meanwhile, fresh observations from September 2014 showed sea ice around Antarctica had reached its greatest extent since the late 1970s.

To better understand such dynamic and dramatic differences in the region’s land and sea ice, researchers are travelling south to Antarctica this month for the sixth campaign of NASA’s Operation IceBridge. The airborne campaign, which also flies each year over Greenland, makes annual surveys of the ice with instrumented research aircraft.

Instruments range from lasers that map the elevation of the ice surface, radars that “see” below it, and downward looking cameras to provide a natural-color perspective. The Digital Mapping System (DMS) camera acquired the above photo during the mission’s first science flight on October 16, 2009. At the time of the image, the DC-8 aircraft was flying at an altitude of 515 meters (1,700 feet) over heavily compacted first-year sea ice along the edge of the Amundsen Sea.

Since that first flight, much has been gleaned from IceBridge data. For example, images from an IceBridge flight in October 2011 revealed a massive crack running about 29 kilometers (18 miles) across the floating tongue of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier. The crack ultimately led to a 725-square-kilometer (280-square-mile) iceberg.

In 2012, IceBridge data was a key part of a new map of Antarctica called Bedmap2. By combining surface elevation, ice thickness, and bedrock topography, Bedmap2 gives a clearer picture of Antarctica from the ice surface down to the land surface. Discoveries have been made in Greenland, too, including the identification of a 740-kilometer-long (460-mile-long) mega canyon below the ice sheet.

Repeated measurements of land and sea ice from aircraft extend the record of observations once made by NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, which stopped functioning in 2009. In addition to extending the ICESat record, IceBridge also sets the stage for ICESat-2, which is scheduled for launch in 2017.

> NASA’s Earth Observatory: Operation IceBridge Turns Five

Image Credit: IceBridge DMS L0 Raw Imagery courtesy of the Digital Mapping System (DMS) team/NASA DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center
Caption: Kathryn Hansen
By nasa.gov

Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman (right) and Barry Wilmore spent most of the day on Tuesday, Oct. 14 completing preparations for their 6 ½-hour Oct. 15 spacewalk. The two astronauts set up their spacesuits and tools in the equipment lock of the Quest airlock. Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, who is coordinating spacewalk activities from inside the station, joined Wiseman and Wilmore for a review of spacewalk procedures.

During today’s spacewalk, the astronauts will venture out to the starboard truss of the station to remove and replace a power regulator known as a sequential shunt unit, which failed back in mid-May. The two spacewalkers also will move TV and camera equipment in preparation for the relocation of the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module to accommodate the installation of new docking adapters for future commercial crew vehicles.

This photo was taken on Oct. 1, 2014.

Image Credit: NASA
By nasa.gov

Stuck on the Rings

October 23, 2014

Like a drop of dew hanging on a leaf, Tethys appears to be stuck to the A and F rings from this perspective.

Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across), like the ring particles, is composed primarily of ice. The gap in the A ring through which Tethys is visible is the Keeler gap, which is kept clear by the small moon Daphnis (not visible here).

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Tethys. North on Tethys is up and rotated 43 degrees to the right. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 14, 2014.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers) from Tethys and at a Sun-Tethys-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 22 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 http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
By nasa.gov

This magnificent new image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 4206, located about 70 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Virgo.

Captured here are vast streaks of dust, some of which are obscuring the central bulge, which can just be made out in the center of the galaxy. Towards the edges of the galaxy, the scattered clumps, which appear blue in this image, mark areas where stars are being born. The bulge, on the other hand, is composed mostly of much older, redder stars, and very little star formation takes place.

NGC 4206 was imaged as part of a Hubble snapshot survey of nearby edge-on spiral galaxies to measure the effect that the material between the stars — known as the interstellar medium — has on light as it travels through it. Using its Advanced Camera for Surveys, Hubble can reveal information about the dusty material and hydrogen gas in the cold parts of the interstellar medium. Astronomers are then able to map the absorption and scattering of light by the material — an effect known as extinction — which causes objects to appear redder to us, the observers.

NGC 4206 is visible with most moderate amateur telescopes at 13th magnitude. It was discovered by Hanoverian-born British astronomer, William Herschel on April 17, 1784.

European Space Agency

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

On Oct. 9, 2014 at 04:25 UTC (12:25 a.m. EDT), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this view of Super Typhoon Vongfong in the Philippine Sea.

> Two NASA Satellites Get Data on Category 5 Super Typhoon Vongfong

Image Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
By nasa.gov

On Oct. 7, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman (pictured here) and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst completed the first of three spacewalks for the Expedition 41 crew aboard the International Space Station. The spacewalkers worked outside the space station’s Quest airlock for 6 hours and 13 minutes, relocating a failed cooling pump to external stowage and installing gear that provides back up power to external robotics equipment. Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore of NASA operated the Canadian robotic arm, maneuvered Gerst during the course of the spacewalk and served as the spacewalk coordinator.

A second U.S. spacewalk is set for Oct. 15. Wilmore will don a U.S. spacesuit and follow Wiseman outside the Quest airlock for a 6-1/2 hour excursion. Gerst will serve as the spacewalk choreographer. The goal of the excursion is to replace a failed voltage regulator component on the starboard truss of the station. They will also move external camera equipment in advance of a major reconfiguration of station modules next year for the arrival of new docking adapters for commercial crew vehicles.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst
By nasa.gov