Posts Tagged NASA

Picture Perfect Landing..

The Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko of Russia and Flight Engineers Don Pettit of NASA and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Sunday, July 1, 2012.

Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers returned from more than six months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 30 and 31 crews.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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Station Crew Sees ‘Night-Shining’ Clouds..

In both the Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres polar mesospheric clouds are at the peak of their visibility, during their respective late spring and early summer seasons. Visible from aircraft in flight, the International Space Station and from the ground at twilight, the clouds typically appear as delicate, shining threads against the darkness of space–hence their other names of noctilucent or “night-shining” clouds.

On June 13, 2012, when this image was taken from the space station as it passed over the Tibetan Plateau, polar mesospheric clouds were also visible to aircraft flying over Canada. In addition to the still image above, the station crew took a time-lapse image sequence of polar mesospheric clouds several days earlier on June 5, while passing over western Asia. It is first such sequence of images of the phenomena taken from orbit.

Polar mesospheric clouds form between 47 to 53 miles (76 to 85 kilometers) above Earth’s surface when there is sufficient water vapor at these high altitudes to freeze into ice crystals. The clouds are illuminated by the sun when it is just below the visible horizon, lending them their night-shining properties. In addition to the polar mesospheric clouds trending across the center of the image, lower layers of the atmosphere are also illuminated. The lowest layer of the atmosphere visible in this image–the stratosphere–is indicated by dim orange and red tones near the horizon.

Image Credit: NASA

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Blue Marble 2012 – Arctic View..

Fifteen orbits of the recently launched Suomi NPP satellite provided the VIIRS instrument enough time (and longitude) to gather the pixels for this synthesized view of Earth showing the Arctic, Europe, and Asia.

Suomi NPP orbits the Earth about 14 times each day and observes nearly the entire surface. The NPP satellite continues key data records that are critical for climate change science.

Image Credit: NASA/GSFC

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Uncovering the Veil (Nebula)..

The Veil Nebula, left behind by the explosion of a massive star thousands of years ago, is one of the largest and most spectacular supernova remnants in the sky.

The image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in November 1994 and August 1997.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration; Acknowledgment: J. Hester (Arizona State University)


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Galaxies NGC 4342, NGC 4291..

Supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies NGC 4342 and NGC 4291

New results based on the two objects shown here are challenging the prevailing ideas as to how supermassive black holes grow in the centers of galaxies. NGC 4342 and NGC 4291, the two galaxies in the study, are nearby in cosmic terms at distances of 75 million and 85 million light years respectively. In these composite images, X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are colored blue, while infrared data from the 2MASS project are seen in red.

Astronomers had known from previous observations that these galaxies host black holes with unusually large masses compared to the mass contained in the central bulge of stars. To study the dark matter envelopes contained in each galaxy, Chandra was used to examine their hot gas content, which was found to be widespread in both objects.

By analyzing the distribution of the hot gas, researchers were able to test whether the galaxies had “lost weight” through stars being pulled away during a tidal encounter with another galaxy. Estimates of the pressure of the hot gas, which must balance the gravitational pull of all the matter in the galaxy, showed that massive envelopes of dark matter must exist around each galaxy. Since this tidal stripping would have severely depleted the dark matter, which is more loosely tied to the galaxies than the stars, this process is unlikely to have occurred in either galaxy.

The new results using NGC 4342 and NGC 4291 challenge the long-held idea that black holes at the centers of galaxies always grow in tandem with the bulges of stars that surround them. Rather this study suggests that the two supermassive black holes and their evolution are tied more closely to the amount and distribution of dark matter in each galaxy. In this picture the weights of the black hole and the dark matter envelope in these two galaxies are “normal” and the galaxies are underweight because they formed unusually slowly.

Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/A.Bogdan et al; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

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You are told when you tour NASA on the Florida coast. “Don’t attempt to look up to see the top of this building, you will fall over, if you do”. Guess what I did? Itsa’ DAMN tall buildin’, it is..

Iconic Vehicle Assembly Building Getting Renovated..

NASA Video View Now

Narrator: The landmark Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is getting a renovation so it can remain a fixture of America‘s space program.

After almost five decades stacking and processing Saturn Vs and the space shuttle fleet, the VAB needs improvement on a grand scale to service new launchers expected to debut in the next few years.

The new designs include the Space Launch System, a massive rocket intended to return astronauts to deep space. The building also will be set up to host commercial rockets that are much smaller. 

With that in mind, engineers from the Ground Systems Development and Operations Program have designed flexible systems that can meet the needs of several different kinds of boosters. They also are making provisions for handling spacecraft, including NASA’s Orion, now in development.

But much of the work will focus on replacing wiring, cables and fire protection system piping to meet modern standards and increase reliability.

Already, 70,000 feet of cabling has been pulled out of the building’s cable trays. In all, 50 miles of cables will be removed. Most are bundles of copper wiring that were common in 1965, when the VAB was constructed.

Now, it only requires a couple fiber-optic lines about as wide as a finger to meet the needs of rocket processors.

Seven huge platforms bolted in High Bay 3 to service the Saturn V will be removed to make room for modern structures, each weighing about 90,000 pounds. 

The focus is to upgrade the VAB for a new generation of launchers and missions to allow NASA and its partners to continue to meet national goals of space exploration. 

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Dragon Splashes Down..

SpaceX‘s Dragon capsule sits on a barge after being retrieved from the Pacific Ocean after splashdown.

Dragon splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, May 31, 2012, at 11:42 a.m. EDT a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico, marking a successful end to the first mission by a commercial company to resupply the International Space Station.

Image Credit: Image Courtesy of SpaceX


Dragon on the barge after being retrieved from the Pacific Ocean after splashdown.

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The Pinwheel Galaxy..

This image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, also known as M101, combines data in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays from four of NASA’s space-based telescopes. This multi-spectral view shows that both young and old stars are evenly distributed along M101’s tightly-wound spiral arms. Such composite images allow astronomers to see how features in one part of the spectrum match up with those seen in other parts. It is like seeing with a regular camera, an ultraviolet camera, night-vision goggles and X-ray vision, all at the same time.

The Pinwheel Galaxy is in the constellation of Ursa Major (also known as the Big Dipper). It is about 70 percent larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy, with a diameter of about 170,000 light years, and sits at a distance of 21 million light years from Earth. This means that the light we’re seeing in this image left the Pinwheel Galaxy about 21 million years ago – many millions of years before humans ever walked the Earth.

Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; IR & UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI

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