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Bright Layered Deposits January 16, 2010

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Mars

Description:

Martian landforms have been shaped by winds, water, lava flow, seasonal icing and other forces over millennia. This view shows color variations in bright layered deposits on a plateau near Juventae Chasma in the Valles Marineris region of Mars. A brown mantle covers portions of the bright deposits. Researchers have found that these bright layered deposits contain opaline silica and iron sulfates.

Image Credit:

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

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Thunderstorm off the Caribbean coast of Panama January 16, 2010

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Thunderstorm off the Caribbean coast of Panama


Description:

This TerraSAR-X image shows a thunderstorm cell with unusually heavy rainfall off the Caribbean coast of Panama, visible across in the upper half of this image as a blurred area. The scene recorded here extends over an area of about 18 by 64 kilometres and was generated in dual-polarisation mode, a method that substantially increases the information content of an image.

The colours are created by superimposing two separate images (red and green) of the same area taken simultaneously in this mode using two signals having different polarisation settings, together with a third image (blue) which is calculated from the difference between the original images. Now, the different reflection mechanisms become visible – the green colouration indicates a surface reflection, where the radar signal is being reflected straight back to the antenna. Red tones indicate a double reflection, and there is virtually no indication of this in the scene depicted here, since it occurs primarily in urban areas. Blue tones can be seen in the area of the thunderstorm cell, and are designated as ‘volume scatter’ because the signal is reflected back to the radar antenna by a multiplicity of individual raindrops and hailstones.

Credit:

DLR

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The Flame Nebula in Infrared January 16, 2010

Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credit & Copyright:

ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA; Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

Explanation:

What lights up the Flame Nebula? Fifteen hundred light years away towards the constellation of Orion lies a nebula which, from its glow and dark dust lanes, appears, on the left, like a billowing fire. But fire, the rapid acquisition of oxygen, is not what makes this Flame glow. Rather the bright star Alnitak, the easternmost star in the Belt of Orion visible just above the nebula, shines energetic light into the Flame that knocks electrons away from the great clouds of hydrogen gas that reside there. Much of the glow results when the electrons and ionized hydrogen recombine. The above false-color picture of the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) was taken in infrared light, where a young star cluster becomes visible. The Flame Nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a star-forming region that includes the famous Horsehead Nebula, visible above on the far right.

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NASA’s WISE Eye Spies First Glimpse of the Starry Sky January 9, 2010

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Infrared snapshot of a region in the constellation Carina near the Milky Way taken shortly after NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) ejected its cover.

Image credit:

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Description:

This infrared snapshot of a region in the constellation Carina near the Milky Way was taken shortly after NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) ejected its cover. The “first-light” picture shows thousands of stars and covers an area three times the size of the moon. WISE will take more than a million similar pictures covering the whole sky.

The image was captured as the spacecraft stared in a fixed direction, in order to help calibrate its pointing system. The mission’s survey will be done while the satellite continuously scans the sky, and an internal scan mirror counteracts the motion to create freeze-frame images. The team is working now to match the motions of the spacecraft and the scan mirror precisely.

This eight-second exposure shows infrared light from three of WISE’s four wavelength bands: Blue, green and red correspond to 3.4, 4.6, and 12 microns, respectively.

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North Polar Layered Deposits in Head Scarp of Chasma Boreale January 9, 2010

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North Polar Layered Deposits in Head Scarp of Chasma Boreale

Credit:

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona, Ken Herkenhoff

Description:

This false-color subimage shows the north polar layered deposits at top and darker materials at bottom exposed in a scarp at the head of Chasma Boreale, a large canyon eroded into the layered deposits.

The polar layered deposits appear red because of dust mixed within them, but are ice-rich as indicated by previous observations. The water ice in the layered deposits is probably responsible for the pattern of fractures seen near the top of the scarp.

The darker material below the layered deposits may have been deposited as sand dunes, as indicated by the cross-bedding (truncation of curved lines) seen near the middle of the scarp. It appears that brighter, ice-rich layers were deposited between the dark dunes in places.

Exposures such as these are useful in understanding the recent climate variations that are likely recorded in the polar layered deposits.

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Alluvial Fans in Mojave Crater: Did It Rain on Mars? January 8, 2010

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Alluvial Fans in Mojave Crater: Did It Rain on Mars?

Credit:

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona, Alfred McEwen

Description:

Aptly-named Mojave Crater in the Xanthe Terra region has alluvial fans that look remarkably similar to landforms in the Mojave Desert of southeastern California and portions of Nevada and Arizona.

Alluvial fans are fan-shaped deposits of water-transported material (alluvium). They typically form at the base of hills or mountains where there is a marked break, or flattening of slope.

They typically deposit big rocks near their mouths (close to the mountains) and smaller rocks at greater distances. Alluvial fans form as a result of heavy desert downpours, typically thundershowers. Because deserts are poorly vegetated, heavy and short-lived downpours create a great deal of erosion and nearby deposition.

There are fans inside and around the outsides of Mojave crater on Mars that perfectly match the morphology of alluvial fans on Earth, with the exception of a few small impact craters dotting this Martian landscape.

Channels begin at the apex of topographic ridges, consistent with precipitation as the source of water, rather than groundwater. This remarkable landscape was first discovered from Mars Orbital Camera images. Mars researchers have suggested that impact-induced atmospheric precipitation may have created these unique landscapes.

This HiRISE image at up to 29 cm/pixel scale supports the alluvial fan interpretation, in particular by showing that the sizes of the largest rocks decrease away from the mouths of the fans.

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Inside the Dark Heart of the Eagle January 7, 2010

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17
Credit:

ESA and the SPIRE & PACS consortia, Ph. André (CEA Saclay) for the Gould’s Belt Key Programme Consortia

Description:

A previously unseen stellar nursery comes into view in this Herschel image. Seven hundred newly forming stars are estimated to be crowded into these colourful filaments of dust. The complex is part of a mysterious ring of stars called Gould’s Belt.

This image shows a dark cloud located 1000 light years away in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle. It covers an area 65 light years across and is so shrouded in dust that no previous infrared satellite has been able to see into it. Now thanks to Herschel’s superior sensitivity at the longest wavelengths of infrared, astronomers have their first picture of the interior of this cloud.

It was taken on 24 October 2009 using two of Herschel’s instruments: the Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE). The two bright regions are areas where large newborn stars are causing hydrogen gas to shine.

Embedded within the dusty filaments are 700 condensations of dust and gas that will eventually become stars. Astronomers estimate that about 100 of these are protostars, celestial objects in the final stages of formation. Each one just needs to ignite nuclear fusion in its core to become a true star. The other 600 objects are insufficiently developed to be considered protostars, but these too will eventually become another generation of stars.

This cloud is part of Gould’s Belt, a giant ring of stars that circles the night sky because the solar system just happens to lie near the centre of the belt. For more than a hundred years, astronomers have puzzled over the origin of this ring, which is tilted to the Milky Way by 20 degrees. The first to notice this unexpected alignment, in the mid-nineteenth century, was England’s John Herschel, the son of William, after whom ESA’s Herschel telescope is named. But it was Boston-born Benjamin Gould who brought the ring to wider attention in 1874; hence its name.

Gould’s Belt supplies bright stars to many constellations such as Orion, Scorpius and Crux, and conveniently provides nearby star-forming locations for astronomers to study. Observing these stellar nurseries is a key programme for Herschel, which aims to uncover the demographics of star formation and its origin. In other words, the quantities of stars that can form and the range of masses that such newborn stars can possess. As well as this region of Aquila, Herschel will target fourteen other star-forming regions as part of the Gould’s Belt Key Programme.

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Spitzer’s M101 January 7, 2010

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

NASA, JPL-Caltech, K. Gordon (STScI) et al.

Explanation:

Big, beautiful spiral galaxy M101 is one of the last entries in Charles Messier’s famous catalog, but definitely not one of the least. About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is enormous, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy. M101 was also one of the original spiral nebulae observed by Lord Rosse’s large 19th century telescope, the Leviathan of Parsontown. Recorded at infrared wavelengths by the Spitzer Space telescope, this 21st century view shows starlight in blue hues while the galaxy’s dust clouds are in red. Examining the dust features in the outer rim of the galaxy, astronomers have found that organic molecules present throughout the rest of M101 are lacking. The organic molecules tracked by Spitzer’s instruments are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Of course, PAHs are common components of dust in the Milky Way and on planet Earth are found in soot. PAHs are likely destroyed near the outer edges of M101 by energetic radiation in intense star forming regions. Also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major, about 25 million light-years away.

Dust and the Helix Nebula January 7, 2010

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

NASA, JPL-Caltech, Kate Su (Steward Obs, U. Arizona) et al.

Explanation:

Dust makes this cosmic eye look red. The eerie Spitzer Space Telescope image shows infrared radiation from the well-studied Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) a mere 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The two light-year diameter shroud of dust and gas around a central white dwarf has long been considered an excellent example of a planetary nebula, representing the final stages in the evolution of a sun-like star. But the Spitzer data show the nebula’s central star itself is immersed in a surprisingly bright infrared glow. Models suggest the glow is produced by a dust debris disk. Even though the nebular material was ejected from the star many thousands of years ago, the close-in dust could be generated by collisions in a reservoir of objects analogous to our own solar system’s Kuiper Belt or cometary Oort cloud. Formed in the distant planetary system, the comet-like bodies would have otherwise survived even the dramatic late stages of the star’s evolution.

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