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NGC 6960: The Witch’s Broom Nebula August 28, 2008

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit & Copyright:

Adam Block, Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, Univ. Arizona

Explanation:

Ten thousand years ago, before the dawn of recorded human history, a new light must suddenly have appeared in the night sky and faded after a few weeks. Today we know this light was an exploding star and record the colorful expanding cloud as the Veil Nebula. Pictured above is the west end of the Veil Nebula known technically as NGC 6960 but less formally as the Witch‘s Broom Nebula. The expanding debris cloud gains its colors by sweeping up and exciting existing nearby gas. The supernova remnant lies about 1400 light-years away towards the constellation of Cygnus. This Witch’s Broom actually spans over three times the angular size of the full Moon. The bright star 52 Cygni is visible with the unaided eye from a dark location but unrelated to the ancient supernova.

Earth’s Shadow August 27, 2008

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit & Copyright:

Anthony Ayiomamitis (TWAN)

Explanation:

The dark, inner shadow of planet Earth is called the umbra. Shaped like a cone extending into space, the umbra has a circular cross section that can be most easily seen during a lunar eclipse. For example, last Saturday the Full Moon slid across the northern edge of the umbra. Entertaining moon watchers throughout Earth’s eastern hemisphere, the lunar passage created a deep but partial lunar eclipse. This composite image uses successive pictures recorded during the eclipse from Athens, Greece to trace out a large part of the umbra’s curved edge. The result nicely illustrates the relative size of the umbra’s cross section at the distance of the Moon, as well as the Moon’s path through the Earth’s shadow.

Mineralogical Diversity in Nili Fossae (PSP_009138_2025) August 26, 2008

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Mineralogical Diversity in Nili Fossae

Credit:

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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Explanation:

There is evidence of phyllosilicate material (clays) throughout this region, named Nili Fossae. The evidence comes from the OMEGA experiment on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft and CRISM on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, infrared spectrometers that can identify minerals on the surface of Mars.

In the Nili Fossae region, the spectrometers have found remarkable diversity in surface composition. Because of the evidence for clays and other interesting geology, Nili Fossae is also being considered as a landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory rover.

HiRISE has targeted several places where OMEGA and CRISM show extreme diversity, with this being one example. In this specific area, low-calcium pyroxene (LCP) materials are adjacent to these clays. The cracked terrain regions evident at the highest resolution provide clues to the sequence of events which occurred in Nili Fossae.

August Moons August 26, 2008

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit & Copyright:

Dennis Mammana (left), Laurent Laveder, TWAN

Explanation:

This August was eclipse season. The month’s first New Moon and Full Moon were both seen in darkened skies during a solar and lunar eclipse. Blocking the Sun, the left panel’s New Moon was captured during the total solar eclipse of August 1 from the path of totality overlooking Novosibirsk (Siberia) Reservoir, locally known as the Ob Sea. A lovely solar corona and bright inner planets Mercury and Venus emerged during the total eclipse phase, while the flickering view screens of eclipse watchers’ digital cameras dotted the landscape. On the right, the Full Moon grazed Earth’s shadow nearly 15 days later in a partial lunar eclipse. That serene view was recorded during an early evening stroll along the shores of the Odet River near the city of Quimper in western France. For planet Earth there are about two seasons each year during which the orientation of the Moon’s orbit is favorable for solar and lunar eclipses. The next eclipse season begins in January 2009 with an annular solar eclipse.

Fresh Double-Layered Ejecta Crater (PSP_009160_2350) August 25, 2008

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Fresh Double-Layered Ejecta Crater

Credit:

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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Explanation:

This scene features a high latitude, northern hemisphere crater with double-layered ejecta. The sharp rim and lack of small superposed craters indicates that this crater is relatively young.

The semi-circular feature that parallels the crater rim is a terrace that probably formed as part of the crater wall collapsed into the center. The circular mound in the center likely formed at the same time as the crater itself. Large craters on Mars can have central peaks; this crater looks like it was on the cusp of having one. The linear features surrounding the crater on its ejecta are striations that formed during the impact as material and wind exploded out from the center.

At the bottom of the scene is a very distinct ejecta flow lobe (lobate ejecta). Lobate ejecta is thought to form when an impact occurs on a surface with lots of volatiles—ices that quickly turn to gas when they are heated. The gases help make the ejecta flow like a fluid.

Active Galaxy NGC 1275 August 25, 2008

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See Explanation. Moving the cursor over the image will bring up an alternate version. Clicking on the image will bring up the highest resolution version available.

Credit:

NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA);
A. Fabian (IoA, Cambridge U.), L. Frattare (STScI), CXC, G. Taylor, NRAO,VLA

Explanation:

Active galaxy NGC 1275 is the central, dominant member of the large and relatively nearby Perseus Cluster of Galaxies. A prodigious source of x-rays and radio emission, NGC 1275 accretes matter as entire galaxies fall into it, ultimately feeding a supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core. This stunning visible light image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows galactic debris and filaments of glowing gas, some up to 20,000 light-years long. The filaments persist in NGC 1275, even though the turmoil of galactic collisions should destroy them. What keeps the filaments together? Recent work indicates that the structures, pushed out from the galaxy’s center by the black hole’s activity, are held together by magnetic fields. To add x-ray data from the Chandra Observatory and radio data from the Very Large Array to the Hubble image, just slide your cursor over the picture. In the resulting composite, x-rays highlight the shells of hot gas surrounding the center of the galaxy, with radio emission filling giant bubble-shaped cavities. Also known as Perseus A, NGC 1275 spans over 100,000 light years and lies about 230 million light years away.

Spitzer Reveals Stellar ‘Family Tree’ August 24, 2008

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http://ipac.jpl.nasa.gov/media_images/ssc2008-15a1_small.jpg

Credit:

NASA/JPL-Caltech/L. Allen & X. Koenig (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

Additional Images:

Screen-Resolution (360×450) : JPEG (176 KB)
Medium-Resolution (720×900) : JPEG (372 KB)
High-Resolution (2400×3000) : JPEG (2 MB) | Mac TIFF (8.3 MB) | PC TIFF (8.3 MB)


Explanation:

Generations of stars can be seen in this new infrared portrait from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. In this wispy star-forming region, called W5, the oldest stars can be seen as blue dots in the centers of the two hollow cavities (other blue dots are background and foreground stars not associated with the region). Younger stars line the rims of the cavities, and some can be seen as pink dots at the tips of the elephant-trunk-like pillars. The white knotty areas are where the youngest stars are forming. Red shows heated dust that pervades the region’s cavities, while green highlights dense clouds.

W5 spans an area of sky equivalent to four full moons and is about 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. The Spitzer picture was taken over a period of 24 hours.

Like other massive star-forming regions, such as Orion and Carina, W5 contains large cavities that were carved out by radiation and winds from the region’s most massive stars. According to the theory of triggered star-formation, the carving out of these cavities pushes gas together, causing it to ignite into successive generations of new stars.

This image contains some of the best evidence yet for the triggered star-formation theory. Scientists analyzing the photo have been able to show that the ages of the stars become progressively and systematically younger with distance from the center of the cavities.

This is a three-color composite showing infrared observations from two Spitzer instruments. Blue represents 3.6-micron light and green shows light of 8 microns, both captured by Spitzer’s infrared array camera. Red is 24-micron light detected by Spitzer’s multiband imaging photometer.

Grand Spiral Galaxy NGC 1232 August 24, 2008

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit:

FORS1, 8.2-meter VLT Antu, ESO

Explanation:

Galaxies are fascinating not only for what is visible, but for what is invisible. Grand spiral galaxy NGC 1232, captured in detail by one of the new Very Large Telescopes, is a good example. The visible is dominated by millions of bright stars and dark dust, caught up in a gravitational swirl of spiral arms rotating about the center. Open clusters containing bright blue stars can be seen sprinkled along these spiral arms, while dark lanes of dense interstellar dust can be seen sprinkled between them. Less visible, but detectable, are billions of dim normal stars and vast tracts of interstellar gas, together wielding such high mass that they dominate the dynamics of the inner galaxy. Invisible are even greater amounts of matter in a form we don’t yet know – pervasive dark matter needed to explain the motions of the visible in the outer galaxy. What’s out there?

Great Southern Land August 19, 2008

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Saturn's moon Enceladus
Description:

This sweeping mosaic of Saturn’s moon Enceladus provides broad regional context for the ultra-sharp, close-up views NASA’s Cassini spacecraft acquired minutes earlier, during its flyby on Aug. 11, 2008. See PIA11114 and PIA11113 for the higher resolution views.

This false-color mosaic combines Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) narrow-angle camera images obtained through ultraviolet, green, and near-infrared camera filters. Areas that are greenish in appearance are believed to represent deposits of coarser grained ice and solid boulders that are too small to be seen at this scale, but which are visible in the higher resolution views, while whitish deposits represent finer grained ice. The mosaic shows that coarse-grained and solid ice are concentrated along valley floors and walls, as well as along the upraised flanks of the “tiger stripe” fractures, which may be covered with plume fallout that landed not far from the sources. Elsewhere on Enceladus, this coarse water ice is concentrated within outcrops along cliff faces and at the top of ridges. The sinuous boundary of scarps and ridges that encircles the south polar terrain at about 55 degrees south latitude is conspicuous. Much of the coarse-grained or solid ice along this boundary may be blocky rubble that has crumbled off of cliff faces as a result of ongoing seismic activity. This mosaic complements the imaging coverage acquired during Cassini’s July 2005 flyby of Enceladus by showing portions of the moon’s south polar region and tiger stripes, or sulci, that were in darkness during that flyby (PIA06247).

The reversed lighting conditions over the polar region (compared to the July 2005 images) highlight features, such as fractures and ridges, that are barely visible in the July 2005 views, and vice versa. The four most prominent sulci (from top to bottom: Damascus, Baghdad, Alexandria and Cairo) appear as generally horizontal fractures near lower right, and they extend into the moon’s night side. The mosaic is an orthographic projection centered at 63.0 degrees south latitude, 281.3 degrees west longitude, and has an image scale of 60 meters (196 feet) per pixel. The original images ranged in resolution from 28 to 154 meters (92 to 505 feet) per pixel and were taken at distances ranging from 5,064 to 25,949 kilometers (3,140 to 15,468 miles) from Enceladus.

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://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org.

Credit:

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Additional Image:

High resolution JPEG (7.9Mb)

Arctic Eclipse August 18, 2008

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Aug 1, 2008 solar eclipse
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Description:

NASA’s Terra satellite was rounding the top of the globe, making its way from the eastern tip of Siberia and across the Arctic Ocean towards northern Norway and northwest Russia, when it captured this unique view of a total solar eclipse on Aug. 1, 2008.

In the area shown in the image, the sun was completely obscured for about two minutes. As Earth rotated, the shadow moved southeast across the surface. At the same time, the satellite crossed the Arctic with its path nearly perpendicular to the eclipse.

Image Credit:

NASA

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