ESO Photo Ambassador Babak Tafreshi snapped this remarkable image of the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), set against the splendour of the Milky Way. The richness of the sky in this picture attests to the unsurpassed conditions for astronomy on the 5000-metre-high Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region.
This view shows the constellations of Carina and Vela. The dark, wispy dust clouds of the Milky Way streak from middle top left to middle bottom right. The bright orange star in the upper left is Suhail in Vela, while the similarly orange star in the upper middle is Avior, in Carina.
Of the three bright blue stars that form an “L” near these stars, the left two belong to Vela, and the right one to Carina. And exactly in the centre of the image below these stars gleams the pink glow of the Carina Nebula.
Beautiful images from the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites are used by people all over the world every day. But MODIS is about more than just pretty pictures — the instrument’s contributions to science include a better understanding of the Earth’s cloud cover, aerosols, phytoplankton levels, and land cover.
New IBEX data show heliosphere’s long-theorized bow shock does not exist
New results from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) reveal that the bow shock, widely accepted by researchers to precede the heliosphere as it plows through tenuous gas and dust in interstellar space (similar to the sonic boom made by a jet breaking the sound barrier), does not exist.
The latest refinements in relative speed and local interstellar magnetic field strength prevent the heliosphere, the magnetic “bubble” that cocoons Earth and the other planets, from developing a bow shock. The bow shock would consist of ionized gas or plasma that abruptly and discontinuously changes in density in the region of space that lies straight ahead of the heliosphere.
For about a quarter-century, researchers believed that the heliosphere moved through the interstellar medium at a speed fast enough to form a bow shock. IBEX data have shown that the heliosphere actually moves through the local interstellar cloud at about 84,000 km/h, roughly 11,000 km/h slower than previously thought — slow enough to create more of a bow “wave” than a shock.
While bow shocks certainly exist ahead of many other stars, we’re finding that our Sun’s interaction doesn’t reach the critical threshold to form a shock, so a wave is a more accurate depiction of what’s happening ahead of our heliosphere — much like the wave made by the bow of a boat as it glides through the water.
Above: The heliosphere is the region of space dominated by the Sun that cocoons Earth and the other planets. Inflated by the million-mile-per-hour solar wind, the bubble-shaped heliosphere pushes its way through the galaxy.
The Faulkes Telescope Project (FTP) consists two robotic 2-metre class telescopes located in Hawaii (Faulkes Telescope North in Hawaii) and Australia (Faulkes Telescope South in Australia). The project provides access to 1,500 hours of observing time, which is dedicated to education and public outreach, mainly in the UK, but also for smaller, selected projects in Europe and the US.
Users must register for an account and, providing they meet the criteria for an account, the account details will be emailed out to the registered user. Students and teachers can then go online and book time on the telescope and run their own 29 minute long real-time observational session on one of the telescopes, remotely controlling it over the internet.
These telescopes are the largest robotic telescopes in the world available for UK schools to control in real time. the FTP runs many student observing projects such as supernovae observations, asteroid observations, the Lifecycle of Stars project and Hickson Compact Group of Galaxies project.
Above: The 2-meter Faulkes North Telescope at Haleakalā, Hawaii, USA. [via ESA]
Exo: A Visualization of Kepler’s Exoplanet Candidates
Exo is a visualization tool for exploring the nearly 2,300 exoplanet candidates that have been so far identified by NASA’s Kepler mission. This video shows a prototype of Exo running in a spacial, gestural environment. Full release of Exo for the web, tablet, and the future, coming soon.
The third special episode of this series presents ESO’s flagship facility: the Very Large Telescope (VLT). In this episode we discover the state-of-the-art technology behind this telescope, which has provided astronomers with an unequalled view of the Universe.
This video shows a simple activity with clay that demonstrates the stages of fusion within the core of a star. Depending on its mass, a star can fuse and create many different elements before it finally runs out of fuel.
How much water is there on, in, and above the Earth?
This picture shows the size of a sphere that would contain all of Earth’s water in comparison to the size of the Earth. The blue sphere sitting on the United States, reaching from about Salt Lake City, Utah to Topeka, Kansas, has a diameter of about 860 miles (about 1,385 kilometers) , with a volume of about 332,500,000 cubic miles (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers). The sphere includes all the water in the oceans, seas, ice caps, lakes and rivers as well as groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.
The photo above shows a bright green aurora commanding the night sky over Point Barrow, Alaska as observed on March 9, 2012 with the camera facing northeast. Intense solar storms (solar flares) the first week of March ignited these striking northern lights.
High-speed particles (solar wind) generated by solar flares are guided along magnetic field lines as they near the Earth. These particles excite electrons primarily in oxygen and nitrogen atoms of the upper atmosphere above the poles. Oxygen emits most strongly in the green portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. In this case it’s mostly the oxygen atoms that have been excited.
That’s the Moon, not the Sun, rising over sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
Jupiter’s icy moons are the focus of Europe’s next large science mission: Jupiter Icy moons Explorer (JUICE). It will be launched in 2022 from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on an Ariane 5, arriving at Jupiter in 2030 to spend at least three years making detailed observations.
Jupiter’s diverse Galilean moons – volcanic Io, icy Europa and rock-ice Ganymede and Callisto – make the jovian system a miniature Solar System in its own right. With Europa, Ganymede and Callisto all thought to host internal oceans, the mission will study the moons as potential habitats for life.
JUICE will continuously observe Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere, and the interaction of the Galilean moons with the gas giant planet. It will visit Callisto, the most heavily cratered object in the Solar System, and will twice fly by Europa to make the first measurements of the thickness of its icy crust and identify candidate sites for future in situ exploration.
The spacecraft will finally enter orbit around Ganymede in 2032, where it will study the icy surface and internal structure of the moon, including its subsurface ocean. Ganymede is the only moon in the Solar System known to generate its own magnetic field, and JUICE will observe the unique magnetic and plasma interactions with Jupiter’s magnetosphere in detail.
Jupiter is the archetype for the giant planets of the Solar System and for many giant planets being found around other stars. JUICE will give planetary scientists better insight into how gas giants and their orbiting worlds form, and their potential for hosting life.
NASA takes aim at wide audiences with a bold, inventive short film built from some of the biggest data sets ever captured by the space agency. Combined with arresting time lapse footage of the natural world and a moody, energetic score, “Pursuit of Light” presents an exciting take on daring NASA science in the 21st century.
Several critical items related to NASA’s next-generation James Webb Space Telescope currently are being tested in the thermal vacuum test chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
This image shows the Optical Telescope Element Simulator, or OSIM, wrapped in a silver blanket on a platform, being lowered into the Space Environment Simulator vacuum chamber via crane to be tested to withstand the cold temperatures of space.