ISS041-E-009477 (13 Sept. 2014) — One of the Expedition 41 crew members aboard the Earth-orbiting International Space Station on Sept. 13, 2014 captured this image of a starry sky. The white panel at left belonging to the ATV-5 spacecraft, which is docked with the orbital outpost, obstructs the view of Scorpius. The red star Antares is directly to the left of the bottom of the second ATV panel from the top. The two stars that are close together and on the lower left of the photo comprise Shaula, the tip of the scorpion’s tail. The open cluster close to Shaula is M7. The hardware at bottom right is part of one of the station’s solar panels.

Image Credit: NASA
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This red plane is a DHC-3 Otter, the plane flown in NASA’s Operation IceBridge-Alaska surveys of mountain glaciers in Alaska.

Over the past few decades, average global temperatures have been on the rise, and this warming is happening two to three times faster in the Arctic. As the region’s summer comes to a close, NASA is hard at work studying how rising temperatures are affecting the Arctic.

NASA researchers this summer and fall are carrying out three Alaska-based airborne research campaigns aimed at measuring greenhouse gas concentrations near Earth’s surface, monitoring Alaskan glaciers, and collecting data on Arctic sea ice and clouds. Observations from these NASA campaigns will give researchers a better understanding of how the Arctic is responding to rising temperatures.

The Arctic Radiation – IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment, or ARISE, is a new NASA airborne campaign to collect data on thinning sea ice and measure cloud and atmospheric properties in the Arctic. The campaign was designed to address questions about the relationship between retreating sea ice and the Arctic climate.

 Image Credit: NASA/Chris Larsen, University of Alaska-Fairbanks
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Powerful, Pulsating Core of Star

September 21, 2014

The blue dot in this image marks the spot of an energetic pulsar — the magnetic, spinning core of star that blew up in a supernova explosion. NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, discovered the pulsar by identifying its telltale pulse — a rotating beam of X-rays, that like a cosmic lighthouse, intersects Earth every 0.2 seconds.

The pulsar, called PSR J1640-4631, lies in our inner Milky Way galaxy about 42,000 light-years away. It was originally identified by as an intense source of gamma rays by the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) in Namibia. NuSTAR helped pin down the source of the gamma rays to a pulsar.

The other pink dots in this picture show low-energy X-rays detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

In this image, NuSTAR data is blue and shows high-energy X-rays with 3 to 79 kiloelectron volts; Chandra data is pink and shows X-rays with 0.5 to 10 kiloeletron volts.

The background image shows infrared light and was captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO
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NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this image of Florida to Louisiana just before dawn, taken from the International Space Station, and posted it to social media on Friday, Sept. 12. Wiseman, Commander Max Suraev and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst began their first full workweek Monday as a three-person crew aboard the space station, while the three additional flight engineers who will round out the Expedition 41 crew spent the day training for next week’s launch to the orbiting complex.

Image Credit: NASA
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Crescent Mimas

September 21, 2014

A thin sliver of Mimas is illuminated, the long shadows showing off its many craters, indicators of the moon’s violent history.

The most famous evidence of a collision on Mimas (246 miles, or 396 kilometers across) is the crater Herschel that gives Mimas its Death Star-like appearance. See PIA12568 for more on Herschel.

This view looks toward the anti-Saturn hemisphere of Mimas. North on Mimas is up and rotated 40 degrees to the right. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on May 20, 2013.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 100,000 miles (200,000 kilometers) from Mimas and at a Sun-Mimas-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 130 degrees. Image scale is 4,000 feet (1 kilometer) 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
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The largest spacecraft welding tool in the world, the Vertical Assembly Center, officially is open for business at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The 170-foot-tall, 78-foot-wide giant completes a world-class welding toolkit that will be used to build the core stage of America’s next great rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS).

SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for deep space missions, including to an asteroid and eventually Mars. The core stage, towering more than 200 feet tall (61 meters) with a diameter of 27.6 feet (8.4 meters), will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the rocket’s RS-25 engines.

The Vertical Assembly Center is part of a family of state-of-the-art tools designed to weld the core stage of SLS. It will join domes, rings and barrels to complete the tanks or dry structure assemblies. It also will be used to perform evaluations on the completed welds. Boeing is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, including avionics.

> Release: NASA Unveils World’s Largest Spacecraft Welding Tool for Space Launch System

Image Credit: NASA
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Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA rests in a chair outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after he and Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), landed in their Soyuz TMA-12M capsule in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
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Ground support personnel are seen at the landing site after the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft landed with Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson of NASA, and Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev returned to Earth after more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 39 and 40 crews.Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
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The destructive results of a powerful supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate tapestry of X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.

The image shows the remains of a supernova that would have been witnessed on Earth about 3,700 years ago. The remnant is called Puppis A, and is around 7,000 light years away and about 10 light years across. This image provides the most complete and detailed X-ray view of Puppis A ever obtained, made by combining a mosaic of different Chandra and XMM-Newton observations. Low-energy X-rays are shown in red, medium-energy X-rays are in green and high energy X-rays are colored blue.

These observations act as a probe of the gas surrounding Puppis A, known as the interstellar medium. The complex appearance of the remnant shows that Puppis A is expanding into an interstellar medium that probably has a knotty structure.

Supernova explosions forge the heavy elements that can provide the raw material from which future generations of stars and planets will form. Studying how supernova remnants expand into the galaxy and interact with other material provides critical clues into our own origins.

A paper describing these results was published in the July 2013 issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics and is available online. The first author is Gloria Dubner from the Instituto de Astronomía y Física del Espacio in Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Image credit: NASA/CXC/IAFE/G.Dubner et al & ESA/XMM-Newton

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› Chandra on Flickr
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Flying Through an Aurora

September 21, 2014

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst posted this photograph taken from the International Space Station to social media on Aug. 29, 2014, writing, “words can’t describe how it feels flying through an #aurora. I wouldn’t even know where to begin….”

Crewmembers on the space station photograph the Earth from their unique point of view located 200 miles above the surface. Photographs record how the planet is changing over time, from human-caused changes like urban growth and reservoir construction, to natural dynamic events such as hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions. Crewmembers have been photographing Earth from space since the early Mercury missions beginning in 1961. The continuous images taken from the space station ensure this record remains unbroken.

On Tuesday, Sept. 9 aboard the space station, cosmonaut Max Suraev of Roscosmos takes the helm when Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson hands over control during a Change of Command Ceremony at 5:15 p.m. EDT. Suraev will lead Expedition 41 and stay in orbit until November with Gerst and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman. Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov, Swanson and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev will complete their mission Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 7:01 p.m. when they undock in their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft from the Poisk docking compartment for a parachute-assisted landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan a little less than 3.5 hours later.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Alexander Gerst
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