Sunrise at the Soyuz Launch Pad

September 24, 2014

The sun rises as the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Sept. 23, 2014. Launch of the Soyuz rocket is scheduled for Sept. 25 at 4:25 p.m. EDT (Sept. 26 at 2:25 a.m. Kazakh time) and will carry Expedition 41 Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore of NASA, and Flight Engineer Elena Serova of Roscosmos into orbit to begin their five and a half month mission on the International Space Station.

Image Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The Odd Trio

September 24, 2014

The Cassini spacecraft captures a rare family photo of three of Saturn’s moons that couldn’t be more different from each other! As the largest of the three, Tethys (image center) is round and has a variety of terrains across its surface. Meanwhile, Hyperion (to the upper-left of Tethys) is the “wild one” with a chaotic spin and Prometheus (lower-left) is a tiny moon that busies itself sculpting the F ring.

To learn more about the surface of Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across), see PIA17164. More on the chaotic spin of Hyperion (168 miles, or 270 kilometers across) can be found at PIA07683. And discover more about the role of Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers across) in shaping the F ring in PIA12786.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 1 degree above the ringplane. 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 1.2 million miles (1.9 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 and . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at .

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

On Aug. 24, 2014, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 8:16 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the flare, which erupted on the left side of the sun. 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. This flare is classified as an M5 flare. M-class flares are ten times less powerful than the most intense flares, called X-class flares.
Image Credit: NASA/SDO

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft lifts off on the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 1:52 a.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, carrying about 5,000 pounds of NASA science investigations and cargo are on their way to the International Space Station.The mission is the company’s fourth cargo delivery flight to the space station.

One of the new Earth science investigations heading to the orbital laboratory is the International Space Station-Rapid Scatterometer. ISS-RapidScat monitors ocean winds from the vantage point of the space station. This information will be useful for weather forecasting and hurricane monitoring. Dragon also will deliver the first-ever 3-D printer in space, biomedical hardware and other biological research including a new plant study.

Dragon is scheduled to be grappled at 7:04 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, by Expedition 41 Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, using the space station’s robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft. Dragon is scheduled to depart the space station in mid-October for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja California, bringing from the space station almost 3,200 pounds of science, hardware and crew supplies.

Credit: NASA/Sandy Joseph and Kevin O’Connell

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first glimpse of Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. This picture of Neptune was produced from the last whole planet images taken through the green and orange filters on the Voyager 2 narrow angle camera. The images were taken on Aug. 20, 1989, at a range of 4.4 million miles from the planet, 4 days and 20 hours before closest approach on Aug. 25. The picture shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge; on the west limb the fast moving bright feature called “Scooter” and the little dark spot are visible. These clouds were seen to persist for as long as Voyager’s cameras could resolve them. North of these, a bright cloud band similar to the south polar streak may be seen.
In the summer of 2015, another NASA mission to the farthest zone of the solar system, New Horizons, will make a historic first close-up study of Pluto. Although a fast flyby, New Horizons’ Pluto encounter on July 14, 2015, will not be a replay of Voyager but more of a sequel and a reboot, with a new and more technologically advanced spacecraft and, more importantly, a new cast of characters. Those characters are Pluto and its family of five known moons, all of which will be seen up close for the first time next summer.
Image Credit: NASA

Members of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) team celebrate at the Lockheed Martin operations center in Littleton, Colorado, Sunday night, after getting confirmation that the spacecraft entered Mars’ orbit.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars, and will soon begin taking measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.

Credit: Lockheed Martin

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

Inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians dressed in clean-room suits have installed a back shell tile panel onto the Orion crew module and are checking the fit next to the middle back shell tile panel. Preparations are underway for Exploration Flight Test-1, or EFT-1.
Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The first unpiloted test flight of the Orion is scheduled to launch later this year atop a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to an altitude of 3,600 miles above the Earth’s surface. The two-orbit, four-hour flight test will help engineers evaluate the systems critical to crew safety including the heat shield, parachute system and launch abort system.
> Engineers and Technicians Install Protective Shell on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft
Image Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis

Supernova Seen In Two Lights

September 24, 2014

The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.
The bubbly cloud is an irregular shock wave, generated by a supernova that would have been witnessed on Earth 3,700 years ago. The remnant itself, called Puppis A, is around 7,000 light-years away, and the shock wave is about 10 light-years across.
The pastel hues in this image reveal that the infrared and X-ray structures trace each other closely. Warm dust particles are responsible for most of the infrared light wavelengths, assigned red and green colors in this view. Material heated by the supernova’s shock wave emits X-rays, which are colored blue. Regions where the infrared and X-ray emissions blend together take on brighter, more pastel tones.
The shock wave appears to light up as it slams into surrounding clouds of dust and gas that fill the interstellar space in this region.
From the infrared glow, astronomers have found a total quantity of dust in the region equal to about a quarter of the mass of our sun. Data collected from Spitzer’s infrared spectrograph reveal how the shock wave is breaking apart the fragile dust grains that fill the surrounding space.
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.
Infrared data from Spitzer’s multiband imaging photometer (MIPS) at wavelengths of 24 and 70 microns are rendered in green and red. X-ray data from XMM-Newton spanning an energy range of 0.3 to 8 kiloelectron volts are shown in blue.

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