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© Image: NASA The International Space Station
NASA executives announced that the space agency will open up parts of the International Space Station to more commercial opportunities It also allows those companies to use resources on the ISS for commercial purposes, even making use of NASA astronauts ’ time and expertise (but not
NASA is proposing launching private astronaut missions at the International Space Station as early as 2020, the agency announced Friday. The missions can be up to 30 days each. The private astronauts will take a NASA -approved commercial space vehicle to the space station , and they
Today, NASA executives announced that the space agency will open up the parts of the International Space Station to more commercial opportunities — allowing companies unprecedented use of the space station’s facilities, including filming commercials or movies against the backdrop of space. NASA is also calling on the private space industry to send in ideas for habitats and modules that can be attached to the space station semi-permanently.
A new interim directive from NASA allows private companies to buy time and space on the ISS for producing, marketing, or testing their products. It also allows those companies to use resources on the ISS for commercial purposes, even making use of NASA astronauts’ time and expertise (but not their likeness). If companies want, they can even send their own astronauts to the ISS, starting as early as 2020, but all of these activities come with a hefty price tag.
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NASA is opening the International Space Station for commercial business so U.S. industry innovation and ingenuity can accelerate a thriving commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.
NASA is opening the space station to ,000-a-night visits. A tourist who paid Russia million to get there a decade ago says it's a 'seismic shift.' One big change in NASA 's five-part vision is to enable " private astronauts to conduct approved commercial and marketing activities on the space
Related: Inside the International Space Station (Photos)
The International Space Station (ISS) is a habitable artificial satellite that is the largest structure humans have ever put into space. Revolving around the Earth at an average altitude of 248 miles (400 kilometers), it’s made up of several modules, with the first component launched into orbit in 1998. Let’s take a look at the inside and outside of the magnificent ISS.
(Pictured) ISS, seen with the Earth as the backdrop, shortly after the Space Shuttle Atlantis undocked from the orbital outpost on Sept. 17, 2006, after completing six days of joint operations with the station crew.
NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio, STS-131 mission specialist, participates in the mission's first spacewalk on April 9, 2010, as construction and maintenance continue on ISS.
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The US space agency has announced its section of the space station is open for business , available for leasing to private astronauts and commercial A “mission,” lasting no more than 30 days, will reportedly cost over million. While NASA will only send up two private missions per year, the
" NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we've never done before," NASA chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in New York. Officials added that they were keen to have the private sector become more involved in space
This is a composite of a series of images photographed from a mounted camera on the ISS, from approximately 240 miles above the Earth. A total of 18 images photographed by the astronaut-monitored stationary camera were combined to create the composite.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly captured this photo of an aurora from the ISS on June 23, 2015.
NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, Expedition 34 commander, watches a water bubble float freely between him and the camera, showing his image refracted, in the Unity node of the ISS on July 30, 2015.
Photographed by an Expedition 40 crew member, the image shows how it looks like inside the space station while the crew is asleep. The dots near the hatch point to a Soyuz spacecraft docked to the station in case the crew was to encounter an emergency. This view is looking into the Destiny Laboratory from Node 1 (Unity) with Node 2 (Harmony) in the background. Destiny is the primary research laboratory for U.S. payloads, supporting a wide range of experiments and studies.
NASA opens space station to tourists - for £27,500 a night
Private astronauts will be able to travel to the International Space Station starting next year, NASA has announced. The US space agency said the commercial spaceflights will last up to 30 days, and those taken into orbit will perform duties that "fall into approved commercial and marketing activities". The estimated cost of a round-trip is $58m (£45,500,000), with each night's accommodation coming in at about $35,000 (£27,500). If there is enough demand, NASA said there will be two privately funded trips a year.
NASA wants to open the International Space Station up to more commercial activity. NASA is interested in expanding its astronauts ' options in low-Earth orbit. The space agency just announced that it 's looking to book a seat aboard a privately organized mission to the International Space
NASA plans to open the International Space Station to commercial business , including tourism. Becoming a NASA astronaut is far harder than getting into Harvard, but soon, ordinary people — at NASA is not transforming into a space travel agency. Private companies will have to pay it about
Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Tim Peake of the European Space Agency (ESA) took this photograph on April 6, 2016, as the ISS flew over Madagascar, showing three of the five spacecraft currently docked to the station. Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo craft (L) was bolted into place on the Earth-facing port of the station's Unity module on March 26, 2016.
Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo craft (L) is seen from the Cupola module windows on Oct. 23, 2016. The main robotic work station for controlling the Canadarm2 robotic arm is located inside the Cupola and was used to capture Cygnus upon its arrival.
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, Expedition 36 flight engineer, pictured near food packages floating freely in the Unity node on June 24, 2013.
Parmitano strikes a pose as he floats freely in the Kibo laboratory on July 17, 2013.
At the robotics workstation in the ISS’ Cupola, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Expedition 36 flight engineer, participates in an onboard training activity in preparation for docking of the Japanese "Kounotori" H2 Transfer Vehicle-4 (HTV-4).
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“Welcome to the International Space Station ," Christopher Cassidy, the NASA astronaut who is current commander of the space station As a result, the space station is currently short-staffed with only three astronauts aboard — Mr. Cassidy and two Russians, Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin
Axiom Space did not release details on how much the company will pay SpaceX to fly its Last year, NASA opened a path for commercial trips to the space station , saying it would charge Earlier this year, NASA announced that Axiom Space will add a private module to the space station to push
Parmitano plays a guitar in the Unity node on Aug. 24, 2013, as Russian cosmonaut and flight engineer Alexander Misurkin looks on.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, Expedition 36 flight engineer, poses for a photo while floating freely in the Kibo laboratory on Sept. 9, 2013.
The Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD), in the grasp of the Kibo laboratory robotic arm, is photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on the ISS as it deploys a set of NanoRacks CubeSats on Feb. 11, 2014. The CubeSats program contains a variety of experiments such as Earth observations and advanced electronics testing.
NASA astronaut Terry Virts watches the sunrise on Earth on Nov. 26, 2014, as he looks through the cupola window while checking the "dosimeter." The cupola allows the crew 360 degree vision around the station for both photos and operating the Canada arm to pull spacecraft up to the station ports.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Kimiya Yui captured this photograph from the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) window on the ISS on Dec. 6, 2015.
Newly arrived Expedition 48 crew members, (L-R) Takuya Onishi of JAXA, Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos and Kate Rubins of NASA, adjust to station life on July 9, 2016.
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NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson floats through the Unity module on Nov. 28, 2016.
The crews of Space Shuttle Atlantis and the ISS successfully installed the U.S. Destiny Laboratory onto the station on Feb. 10, 2001. In this photo, Destiny is moved by the shuttle's remote manipulator system robot arm from its stowage position in the cargo bay of Atlantis.
NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, appears to touch the sun during a spacewalk along with JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide (visible in the reflection on Williams' helmet visor).
NASA astronaut and mission specialist Stephen K. Robinson is anchored to a foot restraint on the ISS' Canadarm2 robotic arm during his space walk on Aug. 3, 2005.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Expedition 41 flight engineer, uses a camera to take a photo of his helmet visor during a session of extravehicular activity outside the ISS on Oct. 7, 2014.
NASA astronaut Alan Poindexter floats near the windows in the cupola while Space Shuttle Discovery remains docked with the station on April 12, 2010.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during a spacewalk on Oct. 7, 2014.
A picture of the ISS, taken by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking on Oct. 4, 2018.
It’s a significant turn for NASA, which has long been antagonistic toward commercializing the ISS. While Russia is more open to ads and branding on the ISS (as it was with the Mir space station), and has sent tourists to the ISS before, NASA has strictly prohibited the use of its side of the International Space Station for commercial purposes. Up until now, any company wishing to send products to the ISS had to show that there was some educational component to the undertaking or that it revolved around some kind of technology demonstration. No purely commercial projects are allowed to be sent to the ISS, and NASA astronauts are even prohibited from working on experiments if there’s the possibility the research will be used to make a profit.
Jupiter and its largest moons are visible with just your binoculars in June
For space lovers around the world, the month of June is set to be stellar: Jupiter will be clearly visible, and those wanting to catch a glimpse of its moons will only need a pair of binoculars. NASA has said that Jupiter "is at its biggest and brightest this month," and can be observed in detail with only a minimum of equipment. "The solar system's largest planet is a brilliant jewel to the naked eye, but looks fantastic through binoculars or a small telescope, which will allow you to spot the four largest moons" the space agency posted on its website.
But in August, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine formed a committee to look into ways of opening up the space agency to commercialization, arguing that doing so could provide new sources of revenue and name recognition for NASA. “Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to a spacecraft or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said to a group of advisors for NASA in August. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: is it possible? And the answer is I don’t know, but we need somebody to give us advice on whether or not it is.”
Related: History of the International Space Station (Photos)
Nov. 20, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the first International Space Station (ISS) module. But decades before the Zarya module lifted off in 1998, NASA Langley researchers started work on the concept. Research work for space stations has been a part of Langley’s portfolio from its early days as a NASA Center.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, many thought that America’s next space project would be the establishment of a crewed space station. It was believed at the time that space flights to other destinations would originate from this station. Langley researchers worked with Goodyear Aircraft Corporation on a 24-foot diameter inflatable ring or torus. Langley built several models of this configuration, including a full-sized version that was displayed for a December 1961 visit by then NASA Administrator James Webb.
After intense public support and interest in NASA's space program after the moon landing, NASA had proposed a "space station" that could house people living and working in space. In 1969, the Space Base concept (artist's conception shown here) was born. The Marshall-McDonnel Douglas approach envisioned the use of two common modules as the core configuration of a 12-man space station. But, in order to keep costs down, NASA would need to develop a reusable vehicle to go between Earth and the space station. This vehicle would become toe Space Shuttle.
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President Richard M. Nixon and Dr. James C. Fletcher, NASA Administrator, discussed the proposed Space Shuttle vehicle in San Clemente, California, on Jan. 5, 1972. The President announced that day that the United States should proceed at once with the development of an entirely new type of space transportation system designed to help transform the space frontier into familiar territory.
Skyab was launched in 1973. It was not intended as a long-term space station and was abandoned in 1974. It famously fell to Earth in 1979.
The Space Shuttle Columbia was first launched on April 12, 1981. The Space Shuttle would be integral to any future space station, as this was the reusable vehicle that could be used to transport supplies and crews to the station.
In his 1984 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan called for NASA to build a "permanently manned" international space station within the next ten years: "A space station will permit quantum leaps in our research in science, communications, and in metals and lifesaving medicines which could be manufactured only in space. We want our friends to help us meet these challenges and share in their benefits. NASA will invite other countries to participate so we can strengthen peace, build prosperity, and expand freedom for all who share our goals."
In response to Reagan's directive to build a space station, NASA adopted a phased approach to station development. This approach provided an initial capability at reduced costs, to be followed by an enhanced Space Station capability in the future. This illustration depicts the Dual Keel Space Station, a configuration with enhanced capabilities.
The Space Station Freedom was one of the first serious attempts that NASA undertook. With President George H.W. Bush saying he wanted to take astronauts to Mars, this station was meant to be both a space laboratory and a launching pad of sorts for missions returning people to the moon as well as Mars.
Costs for the space station Freedom escalated and the redesigned "Alpha" (artist's concept shown here) was ordered by President Bill Clinton. This version also included parts of Russia's Mir 2 space station to help lower costs. This prototype eventually became the International Space Station we know today.
The first segment of the ISS, Russia's Zarya module, was launched on Nov. 20, 1998. The next segment, United States' Unity module, launched on Dec. 4, 1998. These two modules formed the foundation of the International Space Station.
(Pictured) International Space Station with connected Zarya and Unity modules.
This image from December 1998 shows the crew of Space Shuttle Mission STS-88 beginning construction of the International Space Station, joining the U.S.-built Unity node to the Russian-built Zarya module.
On Nov. 2, 2000, American astronaut Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev became the first crew to live and work on the International Space Station. From the moment the hatch of their Soyuz spacecraft opened and they entered the fledgling space station, there have been people living and working in orbit on the ISS 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
On Feb. 10, 2001, the crews of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station installed the U.S. Destiny Laboratory onto the station. The lab added 3,800 cubic feet of volume to the station, increasing the on-board living space. It also became the primary research lab.
In a marketing stunt, Pizza Hut paid a Russian firm over one million dollars to ship smaller sized versions of their pizzas to the crew on the space station. American astronauts were not allowed to eat the pizza because they weren't allowed to take part in commercial ventures.
U.S. multimillionaire Dennis Tito became the first "space tourist" after paying the Russian spacecraft program to train and be launched to the ISS by a Russian spacecraft. He spent seven days in space aboard the space station. NASA refused to participate.
Astronaut Sunita L. Williams, Expedition 14 flight engineer, circled Earth almost three times as she participated in the Boston Marathon from space. She is seen here with her feet off the station treadmill on which she ultimately ran about six miles per hour while flying more than five miles each second. Williams' official completion time was four hours, 23 minutes and 10 seconds as she completed the race at 2:24 p.m.
The European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory module became part of the ISS on Feb. 7, 2008.
Japan added the experiment module Kibo laboratory on March 11, 2008.
The first science-fiction movie filmed in space was filmed aboard the space station by space tourist Richard Garriott in Oct. 2008. He reportedly paid space tourism firm Space Adventures $30 million for his ticket to the station.
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian to be commander of the space station in 2012. He became a social media phenomenon with his savvy online presence that highlighted his natural gift for storytelling and charisma. His version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" didn't hurt either.
In the International Space Station’s Columbus laboratory, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy performs an ultrasound on European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano. Medical researchers have observed that crew members grow up to three percent taller during their long-duration missions aboard the station and return to their normal height when back on Earth. The Spinal Ultrasound investigation seeks to understand the mechanism and impact of this change while advancing medical imaging technology by testing a smaller and more-portable ultrasound device aboard the station.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly was selected for a year-long mission to see how such a long time in space affected the human body. He entered the space station on March 27, 2015 and returned home on Feb. 29, 2016.
On Jan. 16, 2016, Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly shared photographs of a blooming zinnia flower in the Veggie plant growth system aboard the International Space Station. This flowering crop experiment began on Nov. 16, 2015, when NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren activated the Veggie system and its rooting "pillows" containing zinnia seeds. The challenging process of growing the zinnias provided an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity, and for astronauts to practice doing what they’ll be tasked with on a deep space mission: autonomous gardening.
On Sept. 2, 2017, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson broke Sunita Williams' record by living and working on the space station for 665 days.
As of November 2018, more than 205 space walks have been conducted from the space station.
(Pictured) NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel during the STS-134 mission's third space walk.
The International Space Station could likely be decommissioned as early as 2025, though nothing is confirmed.
Additionally, NASA leadership has made it clear that the space agency wants to eventually transition control of the International Space Station and its region of space, low Earth orbit, to the private sector someday. That way, NASA can pursue much more ambitious missions, like the agency’s goals of building a new space station around the Moon and sending humans back to the lunar surface. In 2018, the president’s budget request called on ending direct funding for the ISS by 2025 and ceding operations of the orbiting lab to private companies. The White House is no longer pursuing that deadline of 2025 due to pushback from lawmakers, but NASA is still looking to jumpstart the private space industry’s takeover of low Earth orbit.
To help achieve this, NASA commissioned 12 companies to study ways of establishing a heavy commercial presence in this region of space. Each company detailed ideas for new private space habitats that could either be attached to the ISS or fly free in low Earth orbit. Such platforms could serve as “destinations” for research and even private visitors, according to NASA, generating revenue and opening up entirely new business models. NASA did admit that the barrier to entry is still high, since transporting people and cargo to space is quite expensive. But the space agency is still moving forward with commercialization based on what these studies found.
Related: Spectacular photos from space (Photos)
This artist's illustration depicts a coronal mass ejection, or CME, which involves a large-scale expulsion of material, and has frequently been observed on our Sun. A new study using the Chandra X-ray Observatory detected a CME from a star other than our own for the first time, providing a novel insight into these powerful phenomena.
Dragon on Mission
The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft on its 17th contracted mission to resupply mission to the International Space Station is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm moments before being released.
Ariane 5 Launchers
Some of ESA’s biggest science missions only got off the ground – literally – thanks to the mighty Ariane 5, one of the most reliable launchers that gives access to space from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
ESA has been using the Ariane family of launch vehicles right back since Ariane 1, which launched the comet-chaser Giotto, ESA’s first deep space mission, in 1985. Pictured from left: An Ariane 5 flight takes XMM-Newton into space in December 1999; SMART-1, Europe’s first mission to the Moon, gets its ride to space in 2003; Rosetta begins its 10-year journey through the Solar System starting with a boost into space on an Ariane 5; Herschel and Planck shared a ride on the same launcher in 2009; and epiColombo launches in 2018 on the 101st Ariane 5 launch.
Europe’s next generation launchers, including Ariane 6, will provide new opportunities for ESA’s upcoming science missions to fulfil their scientific goals from their various viewpoints in our Solar System.
The unique capabilities of the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope have enabled it to obtain the sharpest images of a double asteroid as it flew by Earth on 25 May. While this double asteroid was not itself a threatening object, scientists used the opportunity to rehearse the response to a hazardous Near-Earth Object (NEO), proving that ESO’s front-line technology could be critical in planetary defence. The left-hand image shows SPHERE observations of Asteroid 1999 KW4. The angular resolution in this image is equivalent to picking out a single building in New York — from Paris.
An artist's impression of the asteroid pair is shown on the right.
These twin briefcase-sized nanosatellites will move around each other before performing an automated docking in orbit.
The RACE (Rendezvous Autonomous CubeSats Experiment) is ESA’s latest in-orbit demonstration CubeSat mission. CubeSats are low-cost satellites increasingly used to demonstrate promising new technologies and approaches in space, as well as for educational, scientific and commercial applications.
Sunset on Mars
NASA's InSight lander used the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) on the end of its robotic arm to image this sunset on Mars on April 25, 2019, the 145th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. This was taken around 6:30 p.m. Mars local time. This color-corrected version more accurately shows the image as the human eye would see it.
This mosaic was stitched together using images from the Navigation Camera, or Navcam, on NASA's Opportunity rover. The scene shows the rover's tracks made in Perseverance Valley between Sols 5,000 and 5,030.
Preparing for Launch
Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test vehicle rolled out from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Abort System Facility to Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and teams completed their first launch rehearsal, and flight test readiness review on June 4, in preparation for its planned July 2 launch.
Heart of a Lonesome Galaxy
Isolated for billions of years, a galaxy with more dark matter packed into its core than expected has been identified by astronomers using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Bucking the Trend
This luminous orb is the galaxy NGC 4621, better known as Messier 59. The galaxy was listed in the famous catalogue of deep-sky objects compiled by French comet-hunter Charles Messier in 1779. However, German astronomer Johann Gottfried Koehler is credited with discovering the galaxy just days before Messier added it to his collection. Modern observations show that Messier 59 is an elliptical galaxy, one of the three main kinds of galaxies along with spirals and irregulars.
A Busy Sky
This stunning long-exposure photograph by ESO Photo Ambassador Petr Horálek captures the hive of activity that is ESO’s La Silla Observatory, the distant glow of roads and settlements in the Chilean Atacama Desert, and the unmissable faint green radiance of airglow (produced by light in Earth’s upper atmosphere).The mythical Seven Sisters of the Pleiades open star cluster can be seen above distant mountain peaks; above them, the dazzling constellation of Orion (The Hunter) dominates the view.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. Captured on 30 January 2019, this false-color image was processed in a way that makes vegetation appear red.
In this image made from video provided by NASA, Expedition 59 Commander Oleg Kononenko, center, participates in a spacewalk outside the International Space Station with Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin, obscured, on May 29.
The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin the spacewalk at 11:42 a.m. EDT. They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 5:43 p.m.
During the spacewalk, the duo completed the planned tasks, including installing a handrail on the Russian segment of the complex, retrieving science experiments from the Poisk module’s hull; removing and jettisoning the plasma wave experiment hardware; and conducting maintenance work on the orbiting laboratory, such as cleaning the window of the Poisk hatch.
The spacewalk was the 217th in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades and the fourth outside the station this year.
Curiosity's Three-Frame Mosaic of Clouds
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover imaged these drifting clouds on May 17, 2019, the 2,410th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, using its black-and-white Navigation Cameras (Navcams).
These are likely water-ice clouds about 19 miles (31 kilometers) above the surface. They are also "noctilucent" clouds, meaning they are so high that they are still illuminated by the Sun, even when it's night at Mars' surface. Scientists can watch when light leaves the clouds and use this information to infer their altitude.
Binary Stars Ejected from Fornax Cluster
This image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the region around NGC 1399 and NGC 1404, two of the largest galaxies in the Fornax galaxy cluster. Located at a distance of about 60 million light years, Fornax is one of the closest galaxy clusters to Earth. This relative proximity allows astronomers to study the Fornax cluster in greater detail than most other galaxy clusters. A new study is an example of what can be achieved when telescopes like Chandra study the Fornax cluster for long periods of time. By combining 15 days' worth of Chandra observing of Fornax spread out between 1999 and 2015, astronomers discovered that pairs of stars had been expelled the galaxies in the cluster.
In addition to these banished X-ray binaries, the researchers found about 150 other sources located outside the boundaries of the galaxies observed by Chandra. One possible explanation for these sources is that they reside in the halos, or far outer reaches, of the Fornax cluster’s central galaxy, where they were formed. Another option is that they are X-ray binaries that were pulled away from a galaxy by the gravitational force of a nearby galaxy during a flyby, or X-ray binaries left behind as part of the remnants of a galaxy stripped of most of its stars by a galactic collision. Such interactions are expected to be relatively common in a crowded region like the one in the Fornax cluster.
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover took this selfie on May 12, 2019 (the 2,405th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). To the lower-left of the rover are its two recent drill holes, at targets called "Aberlady" and "Kilmarie."
These are Curiosity's 20th and 21st drill sites.
The selfie is composed of 57 individual images taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), a camera on the end of the rover's robotic arm. The images are stitched together into a panorama, and the robotic arm is digitally removed. MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego.
Mars Sample Return
Artist's impression of ESA's Earth Return Orbiter.
Bringing samples from Mars is the logical next step for robotic exploration and it will require multiple missions that will be more challenging and more advanced than any robotic missions before. Accomplishments in robotic exploration in recent years have increased confidence in success – multiple launches will be necessary to deliver samples from Mars.
ESA is working with NASA to explore mission concepts for an international Mars Sample Return campaign between 2020 and 2030. Three launches will be necessary to accomplish landing, collecting, storing and finding samples and delivering them to Earth. NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will explore the surface and rigorously document and store a set of samples in canisters in strategic areas to be retrieved later for flight to Earth.
How to Travel at (Nearly) the Speed of Light
One hundred years ago, on May 29, 1919, measurements of a solar eclipse offered proof for Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Even before that, Einstein had developed the theory of special relativity, which revolutionized the way we understand light. To this day, it provides guidance on understanding how particles move through space — a key area of research to keep spacecraft and astronauts safe from radiation.
The theory of special relativity showed that particles of light, photons, travel through a vacuum at a constant pace of 670,616,629 miles per hour — a speed that’s immensely difficult to achieve and impossible to surpass in that environment. Yet all across space, from black holes to our near-Earth environment, particles are, in fact, being accelerated to incredible speeds, some even reaching 99.9% the speed of light.
Scientists suspect magnetic reconnection is one way that particles are accelerated to nearly light speed. This illustration depicts the magnetic fields around Earth, which snap and realign, causing charged particles to be flung away at high speeds.
With ESA's Space19+ Ministerial Council meeting set for November, a new satellite mission called TRUTHS will be added to the list to be financed in the Earth Observation Earth Watch program.
The TRUTHS mission aims to establish an SI-traceable space-based climate and calibration observing system to improve confidence in climate-change forecasts – a kind of ‘standards laboratory in space’. It would carry a hyperspectral imager to provide benchmark measurements of both incoming solar radiation and outgoing reflected radiation with an unprecedented accuracy.
Captured on April 14 2018 by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite, this image shows western Pakistan and an important wetland area. The Indus Delta consists of creeks, swamps, marshes and the seventh largest mangrove forest in the world. However, owing to major irrigation works and dams built on the river, as well as low rainfall, the amount of silt discharged into the sea has reduced, affecting the mangrove and local community significantly.
Two Merging Black Holes
Black holes are among the most fascinating objects in the Universe. Enclosing huge amounts of matter in relatively small regions, these compact objects have enormous densities that give rise to some of the strongest gravitational fields in the cosmos, so strong that nothing can escape – not even light.
This artistic impression shows two black holes that are spiralling toward each other and will eventually coalesce. A black hole merger was first detected in 2015 by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which detected the gravitational waves – fluctuations in the fabric of spacetime – created by the giant collision.
On the Verge
NGC 4485 has been involved in a dramatic gravitational interplay with its larger galactic neighbour NGC 4490 — out of frame to the bottom right in this image. This ruined the original, ordered spiral structure of the galaxy and transformed it into an irregular one. The interaction also created a stream of material about 25 000 light-years long, connecting the two galaxies.
The stream, visible to the right of the galaxy is made up of bright knots and huge pockets of gassy regions, as well as enormous regions of star formation in which young, massive, blue stars are born. Below NGC 4485 one can see a bright, orange background galaxy: CXOU J123033.6+414057.
Strings by Starlight
In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, staff at ESO’s Paranal Observatory were treated to a unique performance by the world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. On 1 May 2019, the celebrated musician visited Paranal to see the astronomical centre, home of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), and experience its dazzling skies first-hand. To the delight of the staff, he gave a special concert for which he requested completely dark skies. He is pictured here during the starlit performance, with the majestic band of the Milky Way and the Magellanic clouds overhead, making for a uniquely atmospheric setting.
From Day Into Night
NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch @AstroChristina posted this image of Earth taken from aboard the International Space Station. She said: "A couple times a year, theInternational Space Stationorbit happens to align over the day/night shadow line on Earth. We are continuously in sunlight, never passing into Earth’s shadow from the Sun, and the Earth below us is always in dawn or dusk. Beautiful time to cloud watch. #nofilter"
Crater Dunes - False Color
Today's false color image shows an unnamed crater in Acidalia Planitia. The dark blue feature on the crater floor is a mound of sand. The sand is tall enough to cast a shadow, with the sun is coming from the left (west). The texture on the surface of the sand are dune features created by wind action. The THEMIS VIS camera contains 5 filters. The data from different filters can be combined in multiple ways to create a false color image. These false color images may reveal subtle variations of the surface not easily identified in a single band image.
Curiosity's Proposed Path Up Mount Sharp
This animation shows a proposed route for NASA's Curiosity rover, which is climbing lower Mount Sharp on Mars. The annotated version of the map labels different regions that scientists working with the rover would like to explore in coming years. A flyover video explains them in more detail.
Data used in creating this map came from several instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), including the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) and the Context Camera (CTX). The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) instrument on the European Space Agency's Mars Express also contributed data.
Settling Into Old Age
NGC 3384, visible in this image, has many of the features characteristic of so-called elliptical galaxies. Such galaxies glow diffusely, are rounded in shape, display few visible features, and rarely show signs of recent star formation. Instead, they are dominated by old, ageing, and red-hued stars. This stands in contrast to the sprightliness of spiral galaxies such as our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which possess significant populations of young, blue stars in spiral arms swirling around a bright core.
However, NGC 3384 also displays a hint of disc-like structure towards its centre, in the form of a central ‘bar’ of stars cutting through its centre. NGC 3384 is located approximately 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). This image was taken using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.
Time to Launch
The Indian Space Research Organisation's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C46) launches on board India's radar imaging earth observation satellite RISAT-2B from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, in Andhra Pradesh, India on May 22.
Jupiter's Magnetic Field
This animation illustrates Jupiter's magnetic field at a single moment in time. The Great Blue Spot, an-invisible-to-the-eye concentration of magnetic field near the equator, stands out as a particularly strong feature. The gray lines (called field lines) show the field's direction in space, and the deepness of the color corresponds to the strength of the magnetic field (with dark red and dark blue for regions with strongly positive and strongly negative fields, respectively).
Ponds resulting from thawing permafrost in the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 27 August 2018. In Earth’s cold regions, much of the sub-surface ground is frozen. Permafrost is frozen soil, rock or sediment – sometimes hundreds of metres thick. To be classified as permafrost, the ground has to have been frozen for at least two years, but much of the sub-surface ground in the polar regions has been frozen since the last ice age. Permafrost holds carbon-based remains of vegetation and animals that froze before they could decompose.
Focusing on New Technology
Each day, weather satellites take hundreds of thousands of atmospheric soundings to gather data for forecasting. The groundbreaking idea of using this method dates to the late 1950's, when Earth-observing satellites were a brand-new technology.
Scientist Lewis Kaplan, who worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, developed a way to calculate temperature in the atmosphere for weather forecasting: by measuring the vibration of molecules at different altitudes.
Fast forward 60 years, and the ideas that Kaplan laid out in his landmark 1959 paper entitled, “Inference of Atmospheric Structure from Remote Radiation Measurements," remain at the heart of atmospheric sounding, the process by which instruments called sounders probe the sky vertically for details on temperature, moisture and water vapor, revealing subtle changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA and NOAA have led the way in developing the technology for the sounders.
This image is an artist's rendering of NASA's Nimbus-3 spacecraft. Launched in 1969, it was the third in a series of meteorological satellites. the image updated in May 2019.
Young Star Cluster
Why does star cluster Trumpler 14 have so many bright stars? Because it is so young. Many cluster stars have formed only in the past 5 million years and are so hot they emit detectable X-rays. In older star clusters, most stars this young have already died -- typically exploding in a supernova -- leaving behind stars that are fainter and redder.
Trumpler 14 spans about 40 light years and lies about 9,000 light years away on the edge of the famous Carina Nebula. A discerning eye can spot two unusual objects in this detailed 2006 image of Trumpler 14 by the Hubble Space Telescope. First, a dark cloud just left of center may be a planetary system trying to form before being destroyed by the energetic winds of Trumpler 14's massive stars. Second is the arc at the bottom left, which one hypothesis holds is the supersonic shock wave of a fast star ejected 100,000 years ago from a completely different star cluster.
Moon Above Earth's Limb
The International Space Station crew photographed the waxing crescent moon just above Earth's limb and the bluish hue of the atmosphere at the beginning of an orbital sunrise. A portion of one of the Space Station's solar arrays is seen in the left foreground as the orbital complex flew 256 miles above the Sea of Japan.
The Changing Surface of Mars
HiRISE commonly takes images of recent craters on Mars, which are usually found by the MRO Context Camera where they disturb surface dust. An impact site in this area was first imaged in December 2017. A year and a half later, the scene looks totally different! Dust has eroded from the surface, probably due to the planet-encircling dust storm from 2018. The dark spots around the fresh craters have vanished because they only affected the dust that has since disappeared. See if you can find the craters in the new image by comparing with the old one.
The Earth's Limb During a Starry Night Pass
An Expedition 47 crewmember photographed the Earth’s limb during a starry night pass. One of the International Space Station’s solar arrays is seen in the right foreground as the orbital complex flew 258 miles above the Indian Ocean in between Indonesia and Australia.
The Moon's Mare Frigoris
New surface features of the Moon have been discovered in a region called Mare Frigoris, outlined here in teal. This image is a mosaic composed of many images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
Three Views of Phobos
These are three different views of the Martian moon Phobos, as seen by NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter using its infrared camera, Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS). Each color represents a different temperature range. The annotated version of this image labels each of these views with the dates when they were imaged by THEMIS. The two views on the left were taken while Phobos was in a half-moon phase, which is better for studying surface textures. The third, on the far-right, was taken in a full-moon phase, which is better for studying material composition.
A scale bar on the annotated image ranges from 150 to 300 degrees Kelvin, or -190 degrees Fahrenheit (-123 degrees Celsius) to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
Earth's Evil Twin
Appearances can be deceiving. This thick, cloud-rich atmosphere rains sulphuric acid and below lie not oceans but a baked and barren lava-strewn surface. Welcome to Venus. The second planet from the Sun is often coined Earth’s ‘evil twin’ on account of it being almost the same size but instead plagued with a poisonous atmosphere of carbon dioxide and a sweltering 470ºC surface. Its high pressure and temperature is hot enough to melt lead and destroy the spacecraft that dare to land on it.
Thanks to its dense atmosphere, it is even hotter than planet Mercury, which orbits closer to the Sun. ESA’s Venus Express studied the planet from orbit between 2006 and 2014, providing the most in-depth studies of its atmospheric circulation to date. This false-colour image was taken in ultraviolet light with the Venus Monitoring Camera on 23 July 2007. It shows a view of the southern hemisphere from equator (right) to the pole (left) from a distance of 35 000 km from the surface of the planet. Scientists think that Venus once looked a lot like Earth, but underwent an irreversible climate change that is often used as an extreme example of what happens in a runaway greenhouse effect.
Dust Devil Frenzy
This remarkable image was taken in the Terra Sabaea region of Mars, west of Augakuh Vallis, by the Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) onboard the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. This mysterious pattern sits on the crest of a ridge, and is thought to be the result of dust devil activity – essentially the convergence of hundreds or maybe even thousands of smaller martian tornadoes.
This image is a color-composite representation where features that are bluer compared to the average color of Mars are shown in bright blue hues. In actual color, the streaks would appear dark red. Dust devils churn up the surface material, exposing fresher material below. The reason why the streaks are so concentrated on the ridges is not known at present, but a relationship to orographic lift as masses of carbon dioxide air flow uphill and converge with other air masses is one possibility. The image was taken on 8 February 2019 and is centred at 26.36ºN/56.96ºE. North is up.
Milky Way, Launch and Landing
The Milky Way doesn't look quite this colorful and bright to the eye, but a rocket launch does. So a separate deep exposure with a sensitive digital camera was used in this composite skyscape to bring out our galaxy's central crowded starfields and cosmic dust clouds. In the scene from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a nine minute long exposure begun about 20 minutes after the Miky Way image recorded a rocket launch and landing.
The Falcon 9 rocket, named for the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars fame, appropriately launched a Dragon resupply ship to the International Space Station in the early morning hours of May the 4th. The plume and flare at the peak of the launch arc mark the rocket's first stage boost back burn. Two shorter diagonal streaks are the rocket engines bringing the Falcon 9 stage back to an offshore landing on autonomous drone ship Of course I Still Love You.
Anemic Spiral Galaxy
How far away is spiral galaxy NGC 4921? It's surpringly important to know. Although presently estimated to be about 300 million light years distant, a more precise determination could be coupled with its known recession speed to help humanity better calibrate the expansion rate of the entire visible universe. Toward this goal, several images were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in order to help identify key stellar distance markers known as Cepheid variable stars.
Since NGC 4921 is a member of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies, refining its distance would also allow a better distance determination to one of the largest nearby clusters in the local universe. The magnificent spiral NGC 4921 has been informally dubbed anemic because of its low rate of star formation and low surface brightness. Visible in the featured image are, from the center, a bright nucleus, a bright central bar, a prominent ring of dark dust, blue clusters of recently formed stars, several smaller companion galaxies, unrelated galaxies in the far distant universe, and unrelated stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.
This image is of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 mission. It was taken by instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which regularly takes images of potential landing sites for future missions. On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates.
Distant and Ancient
Dotted across the sky in the constellation of Pictor (The Painter’s Easel) is the galaxy cluster highlighted here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope: SPT-CL J0615-5746, or SPT0615 for short. First discovered by the South Pole Telescope less than a decade ago, SPT0615 is exceptional among the myriad clusters so far catalogued in our map of the Universe — it is the highest-redshift cluster for which a full, strong lens model is published. SPT0615 is a massive cluster of galaxies, one of the farthest observed to cause gravitational lensing.
Gravitational lensing occurs when light from a background object is deflected around mass between the object and the observer. Among the identified background objects, there is SPT0615-JD, a galaxy that is thought to have emerged just 500 million years after the Big Bang. This puts it among the very earliest structures to form in the Universe. It is also the farthest galaxy ever imaged by means of gravitational lensing.
Birth of the Hunter
The constellation of Orion (The Hunter) is one of the most recognizable collections of stars in the night sky. We have noted Orion’s prominent stars for tens of thousands of years at least, and likely far longer. Chinese astronomers called it 参宿 or Shēn, literally “three stars”, for its three bright dots (which form the Hunter’s belt). The ancient Egyptians regarded it as the gods Sah and Sopdet, manifestations of Osiris and Isis, respectively, whereas Greek astronomers saw a brave hunter — the eponymous Orion — with his sword above his head, ready to strike. Mythology aside, Orion is a fascinating patch of sky.
This image, from ESO's Very Large Telescope, shows a reflection nebula nestled at the heart of the constellation — NGC 2023. Located close to the well-known Horsehead and Flame Nebulae, NGC 2023 lurks about 1500 light-years away from Earth, and is one of the largest reflection nebulae in the sky. Reflection nebulae are clouds of interstellar dust that reflect the light from nearby or internal sources, like fog around a car headlight. NGC 2023 is illuminated by a massive young star named HD 37903. The star is extremely hot — several times hotter than the Sun — and its bright blue-white light causes NGC 2023’s milky glow.
This series of images shows carbon dioxide ice sublimating (going directly from a solid to a gas) inside a pit at Mars' south pole. As ice is lost from the steep walls of pits like this, it reforms on nearby flat surfaces. Each frame of the animation was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The images used in this animation were taken between 2007 and 2013. The walls of the pit are about 656 feet (200 meters) across.
The University of Arizona in Tucson operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
A Field of Galaxies
This deep-field view of the sky, taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, is dominated by galaxies - including some very faint, very distant ones - circled in red. The bottom right inset shows one of those distant galaxies, made visible thanks to a long-duration observation by Spitzer. The wide-field view also includes data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
Storm in the Teacup Quasar
This image shows a quasar nicknamed the Teacup due to its shape. A quasar is an active galaxy that is powered by material falling into its central supermassive black hole. They are extremely luminous objects located at great distances from Earth. The Teacup is 1.1 billion light years away and was thought to be a dying quasar until recent X-ray observations shed new light on it.
Dragon Takes Off
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes off loaded with a Dragon cargo craft during a resupply mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 4.
A SpaceX shipment arrives at the International Space Station on May 6. The Dragon capsule reached the orbiting complex delivering 5,500 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of equipment and experiments.
Stunning Spiral Galaxy
Few of the universe’s residents are as iconic as the spiral galaxy. These limelight-hogging celestial objects combine whirling, pinwheeling arms with scatterings of sparkling stars, glowing bursts of gas, and dark, weaving lanes of cosmic dust, creating truly awesome scenes — especially when viewed through a telescope such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In fact, this image from Hubble frames a perfect spiral specimen: the stunning NGC 2903.
NGC 2903 is located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (the Lion), and was studied as part of a Hubble survey of the central regions of roughly 145 nearby disk galaxies. This study aimed to help astronomers better understand the relationship between the black holes that lurk at the cores of galaxies like these, and the rugby-ball-shaped bulge of stars, gas and dust at the galaxy’s center — such as that seen in this image.
Surveying the Sky
Gaia, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), surveys the sky from Earth orbit to create the largest, most precise, three-dimensional map of our Galaxy. One year ago, the Gaia mission produced its much-awaited second data release, which included high-precision measurements — positions, distance and proper motions — of more than one billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. This catalogue has enabled transformational studies in many fields of astronomy, addressing the structure, origin and evolution the Milky Way and generating more than 1700 scientific publications since its launch in 2013.
This image shows an artist's impression of the Gaia spacecraft, with the Milky Way in the background.
This May 1 photo provided by NASA shows a satellite view of Cyclone Fani moving through the Bay of Bengal.
Sunset on Mars
NASA's InSight lander used the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) on the end of its robotic arm to image this sunset on Mars on April 25, the 145th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Viking 1 lander became the first mission to send back such images when it captured a sunset on Aug. 21, 1976; Viking 2 captured a sunrise on June 14, 1978. Since then, both sunrises and sunsets have been recorded by the Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, among other missions.
This sparkling burst of stars is Messier 75. It is a globular cluster: a spherical collection of stars bound together by gravity. Clusters like this orbit around galaxies and typically reside in their outer and less-crowded areas, gathering to form dense communities in the galactic suburbs. Messier 75 lies in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), around 67,000 light-years away from Earth.
While scanning the sky to chart a billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, ESA’s Gaia satellite is also sensitive to celestial bodies closer to home, and regularly observes asteroids in our Solar System. This view shows the orbits of more than 14,000 known asteroids (with the Sun at the centre of the image) based on information from Gaia’s second data release, which was made public in 2018.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over Australia’s northeast state of Queensland, where a large amount of sediment is visible gushing into the Coral Sea, close to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. In early 2019, many areas in Queensland received more than their annual rainfall in less than a week. The downpour led to millions of dollars’ worth of damage, including homes being destroyed and the loss of almost 500,000 cattle. This image was captured a few days after the torrential rain, and shows the muddy waters flowing from the Burdekin River into the Coral Sea.
Frozen Southern Tip of Hudson Bay
The crew aboard the International Space Station snapped this image of the Hudson Bay's frozen southern tip, which lies in between Ontario and Quebec, as the Space Station orbited 258 miles above Canada.
Opportunity's Final Route
This final traverse map for NASA's Opportunity rover shows where the rover was located within Perseverance Valley on June 10, 2018, the last date it made contact with its engineering team. Visible in this map is a yellow traverse route beginning at Opportunity's landing site, Eagle Crater, and ranging 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers) to its final resting spot on the rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover was descending down into the crater in Perseverance Valley when the dust storm ended its mission
Southern Crab Nebula
This incredible image of the hourglass-shaped Southern Crab Nebula was taken to mark the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s 29th anniversary in space. The nebula, created by a binary star system, is one of the many objects that Hubble has demystified throughout its productive life.
Seen from afar, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is usually likened to a duck in shape, but in this enchanting close-up view its profile resembles that of a cat’s face seen side-on.
The two ‘ears’ of the cat make up the twin peaks either side of the ‘C. Alexander Gate’ – named for US Rosetta Project Scientist Claudia Alexander who passed away in July 2015. These impressive cliffs lie at the border between the Serqet and Anuket regions on the comet’s head. The image was taken on 6 October 2014.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over one of the most remote islands in the world: Easter Island, famed for its monolithic stone statues.
NASA's InSight lander took this series of images on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, capturing the moment when Phobos, one of Mars' moons, crossed in front of the Sun and darkened the ground around the lander. These images were taken by InSight's Instrument Context Camera (ICC), located under the lander's deck.
An image of a cluster of ALMA antennas on remote Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Atacama Desert. Although each dish may appear to be a separate telescope, in fact they work together as one large instrument through a technique known as interferometry. This creates a virtual telescope far larger than would be possible to construct as a single dish. Like a powerful set of binoculars ALMA allows researchers to probe the cool universe, from the most distant galaxies to the building blocks of life.
Landslides in Mars' Cerberus Fossae
Cerberus Fossae is a steep-sided set of troughs cutting volcanic plains to the east of Elysium Mons. Steep slopes on Mars have active landslides (also called "mass wasting"), and here we see evidence for two types of activity.
First, the light bluish boulders on the slope appear to originate at a layer of bedrock (also light blue) near the top of the section. Second, the dark thin lines are recurring slope lineae, probably also due to mass wasting, but composed of finer-grained materials.
This image was captured by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Behold the Southern Lights!
As the International Space Station orbited 265 miles above the southern Indian Ocean about halfway between Madagascar and Antarctica, the crew snapped this image of the Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights.
The four Unit Telescopes (UT) of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) are pictured in this fisheye lens photo of the Paranal observatory. Paranal has about 300 clear nights per year, offering excellent viewing conditions for astronomers to study the sky.
Testing Satellite Marker Designs
Akin to landing lights for aircraft, ESA is developing infrared and phosphorescent markers for satellites, to help future space servicing vehicles rendezvous and dock with their targets.
Developed by Hungarian company Admatis as part of an ESA Clean Space project, these markers would offer robotic space servicing vehicles a steady target to home in on, providing critical information on the line of sight, distance and pointing direction of their target satellite.
Comet or Cluster?
Most globular clusters are almost perfectly spherical collections of stars — but Messier 62 breaks the mould. The 12-billion-year-old cluster is distorted, and stretches out on one side to form a comet-like shape with a bright head and extended tail. As one of the closest globular clusters to the centre of our galaxy, Messier 62 is likely affected by strong tidal forces that displace many of its stars, resulting in this unusual shape.
Mars 2020 Components in High Bay
This image shows major components of NASA's Mars 2020 mission in the High Bay 1 clean room in JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility. In the center of Figure 1 is the Mars 2020 spacecraft stack attached to the Spacecraft Assembly Rotation Fixture (SCARF).
The Antares rocket lifts off from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., on April 17. The rocket has cargo for the International Space Station.
Comet C/2018 Y1 Iwamoto
Comet C/2018 Y1 Iwamoto as imaged in multiple exposures of infrared light by the NEOWISE space telescope. The infrared images were taken on Feb. 25, 2019, when the comet was about 56 million miles, or 90 million kilometers, from Earth. C/2018 Y1 Iwamoto is a long-period comet originally from the Oort Cloud and coming in near the Sun for the first time in over 1,000 years.
Appearing as a string of red dots, this comet can be seen in a series of exposures captured by the spacecraft. Infrared light detected by the 3.4-micron channel is mapped to blue and green, while light from the 4.6-micron channel is mapped to red. In this image, stars show up as blue because they are hotter, whereas the cooler dust around the comet - with a temperature near the freezing point of water - glows red.
Understanding the Egg Nebula
The Egg Nebula is a preplanetary nebula, created by a dying star in the process of becoming a planetary nebula. Planetary nebulas have nothing to do with planets – the name arose when 18th century astronomers spotted them in their telescopes and thought they looked like planets. Instead, they are the remnants of material expelled by Sun-like stars in the later stages of their lives.
The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission takes us over the busy maritime traffic passing through the English Channel. The two identical Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites carry radar instruments, which can see through clouds and rain, and in the dark, to image Earth’s surface below. Here, hundreds of radar images spanning 2016 to 2018 over the same area have been, compressed into a single image.
The sea surface reflects the radar signal away from the satellite, making water appear dark in the image. This contrasts metal objects, in this case ships, which appear as bright dots in the dark water. Boats that passed the English Channel in 2016 appear in blue, those from 2017 appear in green, and those from 2018 appear in red. Owing to its narrowness, as well as its strategic connection of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, the Channel is very busy with east-west ship traffic. Because of the volume of vessels passing through daily, a two-lane scheme is used, in order to avoid collisions. The two lanes can easily be detected in the image.
Many vessels crossing at the narrowest part of the English Channel can be seen in the far right of the image. Connecting Dover in England to Calais in northern France, the Strait of Dover is another major route, with over 400 vessels crossing every day. The shortest distance across the Channel is just 33 km, making it possible to see the opposite coastline on a clear day. The cities of London and Paris, other towns and buildings and even wind turbines in the English Channel are visible in white owing to the strong reflection of the radar signal.
People watch as the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on April 11, in Titusville, Florida. The rocket is carrying a communications satellite built by Lockheed Martin into orbit.
Curiosity's First Clay Unit Drill Hole
The Mast Camera, or Mastcam, on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this set of images before and after it drilled a rock nicknamed "Aberlady," on Saturday, April 6, 2019 (the 2,370th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). The rock and others nearby appear to have moved when the drill was retracted. This was the first time Curiosity has drilled in the long-awaited "clay-bearing unit."
The scene is presented with a color adjustment that approximates white balancing to resemble how the rocks and sand would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.
Containing an incredible half a million stars, the eight-billion-year-old Messier 3 is one of the largest and brightest globular clusters ever discovered. However, what makes Messier 3 extra special is its unusually large population of variable stars — stars that fluctuate in brightness over time. New variable stars continue to be discovered in this sparkling stellar nest to this day, but so far we know of 274, the highest number found in any globular cluster by far. At least 170 of these are of a special variety called RR Lyrae variables, which pulse with a period directly related to their intrinsic brightness.
First Image of a Black Hole
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) -- a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration -- was designed to capture images of a black hole. On April 10, 2019, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers revealed that they have succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow. This breakthrough was announced in a series of six papers published in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The image reveals the black hole at the center of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. This black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun.
A sun halo shines from the sky above ESO's Paranal Observatory. In the lower right corner the light is reflected from one of the four Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), ESO's flagship telescope. The VLT is the world's most advanced optical instrument, and the world's most productive ground-based facility, enabling it to take advantage of the 300 clear nights Paranal has per year. As demonstrated in this photograph, however, breathtaking phenomena are not only visible during the night.
Photon Paths Around a Black Hole
This artist’s impression depicts the paths of photons in the vicinity of a black hole. The gravitational bending and capture of light by the event horizon is the cause of the shadow captured by the Event Horizon Telescope.
Anatomy of a Black Hole
This artist’s impression depicts a rapidly spinning supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disc. This thin disc of rotating material consists of the leftovers of a Sun-like star which was ripped apart by the tidal forces of the black hole. The black hole is labelled, showing the anatomy of this fascinating object.
Largest of Its Kind
Star clusters are commonly featured in cosmic photoshoots, and are also well-loved by the keen eye of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. These large gatherings of celestial gems are striking sights — and the subject of this Picture of the Week, Messier 2, is certainly no exception. Messier 2 is located in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water-Bearer), about 55 000 light-years away. It is a globular cluster, a spherical group of stars all tightly bound together by gravity. With a diameter of roughly 175 light-years, a population of 150,000 stars, and an age of 13 billion years, Messier 2 is one of the largest clusters of its kind and one of the oldest associated with the Milky Way.
Weather Drama in Portugal and Spain
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took this picture of Portugal and Spain from the International Space Station on 6 August 2018. Alexander commented on the photo: "Dramatic weather pattern over Portugal today. Looks like a mixture of dust, sand and smoke." The trio’s landing in the Kazakh steppe marked the successful conclusion of over six months in space during which Alexander conducted over 60 European experiments, became the second ever European commander of the International Space Station, welcomed six resupply vehicles, installed the first commercial facility for research in the Columbus laboratory, delivered an important message on climate change for leaders at the COP24 climate change conference, captured real-time footage of a Soyuz launch abort and much, much more. Horizons was Alexander’s second mission to the International Space Station – the first was Blue Dot in 2014.
Black Hole Activity
The core of massive galaxy M87 as viewed in X-rays by ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory. A giant elliptical galaxy, M87 is home to several trillion stars, making it one of the most massive galaxies in the local Universe. About 52 million light years away, it is located at the centre of the Virgo cluster, the nearest cluster of galaxies to the Local Group, to which our own Milky Way galaxy belongs. A supermassive black hole as massive as billions of stars like our Sun sits at the core of M87, accreting material from its surroundings at an extremely intense rate. The black hole’s accretion produces powerful jets that launch energetic particles close to the speed of light outwards into the surrounding cluster environment, as well as inflating giant bubbles that lift cooler gas from the cluster center and form the filamentary structures visible in this image.
Jupiter Poles: Hot From Solar Wind
Sensitive to Jupiter's stratospheric temperatures, these infrared images were recorded by the Cooled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrograph (COMICS) at the Subaru Telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Scientists used red, blue and yellow to infuse this infrared image; regions of the atmosphere that are more yellow and red indicate the hotter areas. This highlights the auroral heating that occurs at Jupiter's poles, where energy from the solar wind and magnetosphere are deposited. This image was captured on Jan. 12, 2017. This work was supported by a NASA Keck PI Data Award, administered by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute.
High on the Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), together with its international partners, is operating the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) — a state-of-the-art telescope to study light from some of the coldest objects in the Universe. This light has wavelengths of around a millimetre, between infrared light and radio waves, and is therefore known as millimetre and submillimetre radiation. ALMA comprises 66 high-precision antennas, spread over distances of up to 16 kilometres, and is the largest ground-based astronomical project in existence. This panorama shows ALMA antennas underneath the arching Milky Way. ALMA plays a key role in the Event Horizon Telescope, a planet-scale array of eight ground-based telescopes designed to capture images of a black hole.
Wisps Surrounding the Horsehead Nebula
The famous Horsehead Nebula in Orion is not alone. A deep exposure shows that the dark familiar shaped indentation, visible just below center, is part of a vast complex of absorbing dust and glowing gas. To bring out details of the Horsehead's pasture, an amateur astronomer used a backyard telescope in Austria to accumulate and artistically combine 7.5 hours of images in the light of Hydrogen (red), Oxygen (green), and Sulfur (blue). The resulting spectacular picture details an intricate tapestry of gaseous wisps and dust-laden filaments that were created and sculpted over eons by stellar winds and ancient supernovas. The Flame Nebula is visible just to the left of the Horsehead, while the bright star on the upper left is Alnilam, the central star in Orion's Belt. The Horsehead Nebula lies 1,500 light years distant towards the constellation of Orion.
Asteroid 6478 Gault
The asteroid 6478 Gault is seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, showing two narrow, comet-like tails of debris that tell us that the asteroid is slowly undergoing self-destruction. The bright streaks surrounding the asteroid are background stars. The Gault asteroid is located 214 million miles from the Sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Nick Hague Completes 215th Spacewalk
Astronaut Nick Hague performs a spacewalk on March 29, 2019.
What looks like a red butterfly in space is in reality a nursery for hundreds of baby stars, revealed in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Officially named W40, the butterfly is a nebula - a giant cloud of gas and dust in space where new stars may form. The butterfly's two "wings" are giant bubbles of hot, interstellar gas blowing from the hottest, most massive stars in this region. The material that forms W40's wings was ejected from a dense cluster of stars that lies between the wings in the image.
GRAVITY Instrument Breaks New Ground
The GRAVITY instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) has made the first direct observation of an exoplanet using optical interferometry. This method revealed a complex exoplanetary atmosphere with clouds of iron and silicates swirling in a planet-wide storm. The technique presents unique possibilities for characterising many of the exoplanets known today. This artist’s impression shows the observed exoplanet, which goes by the name HR8799e.
Lunar Flashlight from Above (Artist's Concept)
This artist's concept shows a view from above the Lunar Flashlight spacecraft, a six-unit CubeSat designed to search for ice on the Moon's surface using special lasers. The spacecraft uses its near-infrared lasers to shine light into shaded polar regions on the Moon, while an on-board reflectometer measures surface reflection and composition.
Bennu in Stereo
This set of stereoscopic images provides a 3D view of the large, 170-foot (52-meter) boulder that juts from asteroid Bennu’s southern hemisphere and the rocky slopes that surround it. The stereo pair was created by stereo image processing scientists Dr. Brian May, who is also the lead guitarist for the rock band Queen, and Claudia Manzoni. In January, May and Manzoni formally joined NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission science team as collaborators to create stereoscopic data products, which will be used by the team while selecting a sample collection site on B
Nick Hague Completes Spacewalk
NASA astronaut Nick Hague completed the first spacewalk of his career on Friday, March 22, 2019. He and fellow astronaut Anne McClain worked on a set of battery upgrades for six hours and 39 minutes, on the International Space Station’s starboard truss.
Soho’s Equinox Sun
Last Wednesday, all locations on our planet enjoyed roughly the same number of hours of day and night. This event, called an equinox, takes place twice a year – around 20 March and then again around 23 September. On these two occasions along Earth’s yearly orbit around the Sun, sunlight shines directly overhead at the equator. The March equinox marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and of autumn in the southern one, and vice versa for the September equinox. The ESA/NASA SOHO solar observatory enjoys an alternative view of our parent star, staring at the Sun since 1995 from a vantage position – orbiting the first Lagrange point (L1) some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth towards the Sun.
This astonishing image clearly illustrates why astronomical observatories are usually built in remote, and often inhospitable, places. At ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, the sky is so clear and untroubled by man-made sources of light that it appears as if a brightly-coloured celestial firework display is in progress! This photograph, taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Petr Horálek, has been digitally projected to show as much of the sky as possible. This is why the roads leading to ESO’s 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (left) and 3.6-metre telescope (right) appear distorted, and the bright river of light that is the Milky Way seems to curve across the sky, stretching from horizon to horizon.
Vega Lifts Off
On March 21, 2019, Vega flight VV14 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to deliver the Italian Space Agency's Earth observation satellite Prisma into orbit.
A static hot-fire test of the Orion spacecraft's Launch Abort System Attitude Control Motor to help qualify the motor for human spaceflight, to help ensure Orion is ready from liftoff to splashdown for missions to the Moon.
Water on Space Station
ESA astronaut Samanth Cristoforetti with water on the International Space Station during her Futura mission.
Waxing Gibbous Moon
A waxing gibbous Moon is seen above Earth's limb as the International Space Station was orbiting 266 miles above the South Atlantic Ocean.
Speaking of the Moon, from Earth on the night of March 20, the last supermoon of 2019 will be visible in the night sky, coinciding with the spring equinox. What's so special about a supermoon? Indeed, what is a supermoon?
The term “supermoon” was coined in 1979 and is used to describe what astronomers would call a perigean (pear-ih-jee-un) full moon: a full Moon occurring near or at the time when the Moon is at its closest point in its orbit around Earth.
Learn more about supermoons.
“You see the space agency looking at it probably another 10 years of the ISS being in orbit, and saying, ‘Okay, how do we move forward?’” Jeff Manbar, the CEO of Nanoracks, which coordinates shipments and experiments on the ISS, tells The Verge. “Let’s put our toes in the water on purely commercial projects. Let’s begin to allow tourism. And let’s begin to have the first commercial platforms supported by NASA. And so it’s a very important step forward. This is the beginning of a new chapter.”
Related: Space tourism is coming - here's all you need to know (Espresso)
Using the space station will come with some restrictions. Only 175 kilograms per year in commercial cargo can be sent to the ISS, and NASA crew will only dedicate 90 hours a year to commercial activities. Private astronaut missions to the ISS are limited to 30 days, and NASA has released a list of approved commercial activities that the agency will allow onboard. Additionally, using the space station’s facilities will be incredibly expensive. It’ll cost $11,250 per astronaut per day to use the life support systems and toilet, and $22,500 per day for all necessary crew supplies, like food, air, medical supplies, and more. Even power will cost $42 per kilowatt hour.
NOW SEE: Coolest space discoveries (Photos)
Time and again, we have made some of the most amazing discoveries, from the Pillars of Creation to the first asteroid. Let's have a look at some of those discoveries.
NASA revealed on Feb 22, 2017 that its Spitzer Space telescope has found a system of seven earth-sized planets around a single star. Three of these planets are in the habitable zone where water might be found. This is a new record for the greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. The system of planets, called TRAPPIST-1, is around 40 million light years from Earth.
(Pictured) This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system.
In 1609, German astronomer Johannes Kepler discovered that the planets moved around the sun in an elliptical path instead of in circles as it was commonly thought at the time. The revelation helped astronomers predict the motion of the planets more accurately than before.
Pillars of Creation
On April 1, 1995, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured a breathtaking image of space: called the Pillars of Creation, the iconic picture shows three giant gas columns bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive forming stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, or M16. Jeff Hester and Paul Scowen were responsible for this picture, and this popular image has been used in movies, TV shows and on T-shirts, pillows and postage stamps.
An exoplanet is a celestial body that orbits a star other than our sun. As of Feb. 15, 2017, astronomers have identified more than 3,500 such planets in 2,687 planetary systems and 602 multiple planetary systems. In July 2015, NASA’s Kepler space telescope identified the famous exoplanet — Kepler-452b, which is described as Earth's cousin because of its close similarities to our planet.
Although the term was coined by Princeton physicist John Wheeler in 1967, black holes have always been a mystery among space enthusiasts. Considered to be dead stars that collapsed inward from their own weight, a black hole's gravity pull is so strong that not even light can escape. Consequently, they aren't visible and they can only be detected by their effect on nearby matter.
(Pictured) In this picture from NASA/ESA, it illustrates a quasar, or feeding black hole. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) revealed millions of potential black holes in its survey of the sky in 2011.
Named after English astronomer Edmond Halley, who determined the comet's periodicity, the comet is visible from Earth every 76 years. Captured by several interplanetary spacecraft, the comet is believed to be composed of volatile ice and dust. Leaving a trail of blazing light every time it passes over Earth, Halley’s Comet last appeared in 1986 and will be seen next in 2061.
(Pictured) Halley's Comet passes through space as seen from the Ford Observatory, California, U.S. in 1986.
In 1662, German-Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius named this star Mira, which means wonderful in Latin. Lying in the constellation Cetus, the brightness of this star varies for about 11 months. Mira’s changeability pattern was discovered by Frisian astronomer Johannes Holwarda in 1638. In 2007, NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) revealed Mira's luminous tail of gas that's more than a dozen light-years long. This is the material that Mira has shed, leaving it behind as it speeds through the galaxy at some 80 miles per second (130 kms per second).
Discovery of the first asteroid
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Discovered by Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi on Jan. 1, 1801, the celestial body was earlier considered a planet but when more similar objects were found in the belt, it was reclassified as an asteroid. In February 2017, NASA's spacecraft Dawn found evidence of organic material on Ceres.
Discovery of Uranus
Uranus was identified in 1781 by German-British astronomer William Herschel. The gas planet gets its bluish surface color from tiny frozen ammonia crystals. The atmosphere is believed to be hydrogen and helium. To date, NASA's Voyager 2 probe is the only spacecraft to visit the planet.
(Pictured) A Hubble Space Telescope view revealing Uranus surrounded by its four major rings and by its satellites.
Enceladus and its geysers
NASA's Cassini probe spotted geyser-like jets of water vapor and other volatile materials blasting from the south pole of the Saturn's moon Enceladus in 2005. The observation showed that the ice-crusted moon is geologically active, and the discovery that it probably has a subsurface ocean makes it an important target for the search of life elsewhere in the solar system.
(Pictured) In this artist's concept, the Cassini spacecraft makes a close pass by Enceladus to study plumes from geysers.
Great Red Spot of Jupiter
It’s a giant, raging storm which is about three and a half times the size of Earth and is in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere. This most famous feature of the giant gas planet was first seen by English scientist Robert Hooke in 1664. According to a research published in the Nature journal in July 2016, the hurricane is responsible for blasting the planet's upper atmosphere with heat, which is as high as 2,732 °F (1,500 °C).
Rings of Saturn
In 1655, Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens was the first person to observe the disks surrounding Saturn. Composed of billions of particles of ice and rock, the rings are about 167,770 miles (270,000 kms) in diameter but relatively thin — a maximum thickness of about 0.62 miles (1 km). NASA’s Voyager spacecraft found that the planet's rings are made up of ringlets, and sent back data that led to the further discovery of the existence of nine moons of the planet.
(Pictured) Rings of the planet Saturn, taken by Voyager 1 spacecraft at a range of 445,523 miles (717, 000 kms) in 1980.
Water on Mars
Several interplanetary spacecraft in the past have provided abundant evidence of water on Mars, dating back to NASA’s Mariner 9 mission during the 1970s. The robotic rover Opportunity found initial signs in 2004 that rocks at one of the Martian craters were exposed to water at one point of time: it may have been a salty lake or an ocean. Findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in September 2015 provide the strongest evidence that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.
(Pictured) These dark, narrow 328-feet-long (100 meters) streaks, called recurring slope lineae, flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water.
Inside the Everest expedition that built the world’s highest weather station.
Sherpas and scientists faced extreme weather and record crowds as they struggled to install a crucial network of weather sensors.