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Hubble picture of the day
Institute Astronomers Share Prize for Discovery of Accelerating Universe
16 Dec 2014

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It's the stuff of a science fiction movie: a mysterious form of energy that is pulling the universe apart at an ever-faster rate. Astronomers around the world are befuddled and are marshaling the world's most powerful telescopes in their search for clues to understanding what this "dark force" could be. Who knows how the story will end?




RedOrbit Images Of The Day - Earth

Hubble Sweeps a Messy Star Factory
20 Dec 2014
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 with star-forming regions towards its core. This image captures it undergoing a particularly dramatic burst of star formation, visible as the lighter blue cloudy region towards the top right of the galaxy. This clump is filled with very young and hot newborn stars. This galaxy was initially thought to be a young galaxy undergoing its very first episode of star formation, but later research showed that Markarian 209 is actually very old, with an almost continuous history of forming new stars. It is thought to have never had a dormant period ? a period during which no stars were formed ? lasting longer than 100 million years. The dominant population of stars in Markarian 209 is still quite young, in stellar terms, with ages of under 3 million years. For comparison, the Sun is some 4.6 billion years old, and is roughly halfway through its expected lifespan. The observations used to make this image were taken using Hubble?s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, and span the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared parts of the spectrum. A scattering of other bright galaxies can be seen across the frame, including the bright golden oval that could, due to a trick of perspective, be mistaken as part of Markarian 209 but is in fact a background galaxy. (Credit: Nick Rose/ESA)



RedOrbit Images Of The Day - Mars

Supercool Clouds
20 Dec 2014
Supercool Clouds
In elementary school, students learn that water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). That is true most of the time, but there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, water with very few impurities (such as dust or pollution particles, fungal spores, bacteria) can be chilled to much cooler temperatures and still remain liquid?a process known as supercooling.
Supercooling may sound exotic, but it occurs pretty routinely in Earth?s atmosphere. Altocumulus clouds, a common type of mid-altitude cloud, are mostly composed of water droplets supercooled to a temperature of about -15 degrees C. Altocumulus clouds with supercooled tops cover about 8 percent of Earth?s surface at any given time.
Supercooled water droplets play a key role in the formation of hole-punch and canal clouds, the distinctive clouds shown in these satellite images. Hole-punch clouds usually appear as circular gaps in decks of altocumulus clouds; canal clouds look similar but the gaps are longer and thinner. The natural-color (top) image shows hole-punch and canal clouds off the coast of Florida, as observed on December 12, 2014, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA?s Terra satellite.
Both types of cloud form when aircraft fly through cloud decks rich with supercooled water droplets and produce aerodynamic contrails. Air expands and cools as it moves around the wings and past the propeller, a process known as adiabatic cooling. Air temperatures over jet wings often cool by as much as 20 degrees Celsius, pushing supercooled water droplets to the point of freezing.
As ice crystals form, they absorb nearby water droplets. Since ice crystals are relatively heavy, they tend to sink. This triggers tiny bursts of snow or rain that leave gaps in the cloud cover.
The second image was made from infrared and visible light, a combination that makes it possible to distinguish between water and ice clouds. Ice clouds appear cyan; water clouds are white. Notice that the hole-punch and canal clouds consist of an ice cloud surrounded by a halo of clear sky where the water has frozen and fallen away.
Whether a cloud formation becomes a hole-punch or canal depends on the thickness of the cloud layer, the air temperature, and the degree of horizontal wind shear. Both descending and ascending aircraft?including jets and propeller planes?can trigger hole-punch and canal clouds. The nearest major airports in the images above include Miami International, Fort Lauderdale International, Grand Bahama International, and Palm Beach International. (Credit: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response)



RedOrbit Images Of The Day - Universe

The Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA-III)
20 Dec 2014
The Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA-III)
The Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA-III), pictured here, successfully launched at 11:27 a.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 17, and was the first of three major flights planned for NASA\'s 2014-2015 Antarctic Scientific Balloon Campaign. (Credit: NASA/Balloon Program Office)



NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day

Supercool Clouds
20 Dec 2014

Supercool Clouds
Hole-punch and canal clouds form when aircraft pass through altocumulus clouds that are rich with supercooled water droplets.





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News Photos
News and Features - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Gecko Grippers Get a Microgravity Test Flight
19 Dec 2014

This is an image of a gecko foot.

Gecko-inspired grippers might one day help service satellites and collect orbital debris.





Horsehead of a Different Color
19 Dec 2014

Horsehead Nebula Disappears in Infrared Light

The famous Horsehead nebula takes on a ghostly appearance in this newly released image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.





ESA Top Multimedia

The magnetic field along the Galactic plane
15 Dec 2014

While the pastel tones and fine texture of this image may bring to mind brush strokes on an artist?s canvas, they are in fact a visualisation of data from ESA?s Planck satellite. The image portrays the interaction between interstellar dust in the Milky Way and the structure of our Galaxy?s magnetic field.
Between 2009 and 2013, Planck scanned the sky to detect the most ancient light in the history of the Universe ? the cosmic microwave background. It also detected significant foreground emission from diffuse material in our Galaxy which, although a nuisance for cosmological studies, is extremely important for studying the birth of stars and other phenomena in the Milky Way.

Among the foreground sources at the wavelengths probed by Planck is cosmic dust, a minor but crucial component of the interstellar medium that pervades the Galaxy. Mainly gas, it is the raw material for stars to form.

Interstellar clouds of gas and dust are also threaded by the Galaxy?s magnetic field, and dust grains tend to align their longest axis at right angles to the direction of the field. As a result, the light emitted by dust grains is partly ?polarised? ? it vibrates in a preferred direction ? and, as such, could be caught by the polarisation-sensitive detectors on Planck.

Scientists in the Planck collaboration are using the polarised emission of interstellar dust to reconstruct the Galaxy?s magnetic field and study its role in the build-up of structure in the Milky Way, leading to star formation.

In this image, the colour scale represents the total intensity of dust emission, revealing the structure of interstellar clouds in the Milky Way. The texture is based on measurements of the direction of the polarised light emitted by the dust, which in turn indicates the orientation of the magnetic field.

This image shows the intricate link between the magnetic field and the structure of the interstellar medium along the plane of the Milky Way. In particular, the arrangement of the magnetic field is more ordered along the Galactic plane, where it follows the spiral structure of the Milky Way. Small clouds are seen just above and below the plane, where the magnetic field structure becomes less regular.

From these and other similar observations, Planck scientists found that filamentary interstellar clouds are preferentially aligned with the direction of the ambient magnetic field, highlighting the strong role played by magnetism in galaxy evolution.

The emission from dust is computed from a combination of Planck observations at 353, 545 and 857 GHz, whereas the direction of the magnetic field is based on Planck polarisation data at 353 GHz.



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