Reflections on the 1970s

The 1970s are sometimes ignored by astronomers, like this beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae in Orion – NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 – usually overlooked in favor of the substantial glow from the nearby stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along Orion’s sword just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these reflection nebulae are also associated with Orion’s giant molecular cloud about 1,500 light-years … Read More →

[NASA] Hubble Sweeps a Messy Star Factory

This sprinkle of cosmic glitter is a blue compact dwarf galaxy known as Markarian 209. Galaxies of this type are blue-hued, compact in size, gas-rich, and low in heavy elements. They are often used by astronomers to study star formation, as their conditions are similar to those thought to exist in the early Universe. Markarian 209 in particular has been studied extensively. It is filled with diffuse gas and peppered … Read More →

NGC 7331 and Beyond

Big, beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 7331 is often touted as an analog to our own Milky Way. About 50 million light-years distant in the northern constellation Pegasus, NGC 7331 was recognized early on as a spiral nebula and is actually one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier’s famous 18th century catalog. Since the galaxy’s disk is inclined to our line-of-sight, long telescopic exposures often result in an … Read More →

[NASA] 75th Anniversary of NASA Ames

December 20, 2014 marks NASA Ames Research Center’s 75th Anniversary. The center was established in 1939 as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and was named for the chair of the NACA, Joseph S. Ames. It was located at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, now at the heart of Silicon Valley. The Laboratory was renamed the NASA Ames Research Center with the formation of NASA in … Read More →

Geminid Fireball over Mount Balang

This was a sky to remember. While viewing the Geminids meteor shower a few days ago, a bright fireball was captured over Mt. Balang, China with particularly picturesque surroundings. In the foreground, a sea of light clouds slowly floated between dark mountain peaks. In the background, the constellation of Orion shone brightly, with the familiar three stars of Orion’s belt visible near the image top right. Sirius, the brightest star … Read More →

[NASA] City Lights Shine Brighter During the Holidays

City lights shine brighter during the holidays when compared with the rest of the year, as shown using a new analysis of daily data from the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite. Dark green pixels are areas where lights are 50 percent brighter, or more, during December. This new analysis of holiday lights uses an advanced algorithm, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that … Read More →

W5: Pillars of Star Formation

How do stars form? Images of the star forming region W5 like those in the infrared by NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite provide clear clues with indications that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars. The … Read More →

[NASA] Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico

From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry W. Virts took this photograph of the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. Gulf Coast at sunset and posted it to social media on Dec. 14, 2014. The space station and its crew orbit Earth from an altitude of 220 miles, traveling at a speed of approximately 17,500 miles per hour. Because the station completes each trip around the globe in … Read More →

The Potsdam Gravity Potato

Why do some places on Earth have higher gravity than others? Sometimes the reason is unknown. To help better understand the Earth’s surface, sensitive measurements by the orbiting satellites GRACE and CHAMP were used to create a map of Earth’s gravitational field. Since a center for studying this data is in Potsdam, Germany, and since the result makes the Earth look somewhat like a potato, the resulting geoid has been … Read More →

[NASA] Opportunity Pausing at a Bright Outcrop on Endeavour Rim, Sol 3854

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is continuing its traverse southward on the western rim of Endeavour Crater during the fall of 2014, stopping to investigate targets of scientific interest along way.  This view is from Opportunity’s front hazard avoidance camera on Nov. 26, 2014, during the 3,854th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars. This camera is mounted low on the rover and has a wide-angle lens. … Read More →