On Aug. 3, 2004, NASA’s Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft began a seven-year journey, spiraling through the inner solar system to Mercury. One year after launch, the spacecraft zipped around Earth, getting an orbit correction from Earth’s gravity and getting a chance to test its instruments by observing its home planet.
This image is a view of South America and portions of North America and Africa from the Mercury Dual Imaging System’s wide-angle camera aboard MESSENGER. The wide-angle camera records light at eleven different wavelengths, including visible and infrared light. Combining blue, red, and green light results in a true-color image from the observations. The image substitutes infrared light for blue light in the three-band combination. The resulting image is crisper than the natural color version because our atmosphere scatters blue light. Infrared light, however, passes through the atmosphere with relatively little scattering and allows a clearer view. That wavelength substitution makes plants appear red. Why? Plants reflect near-infrared light more strongly than either red or green, and in this band combination, near-infrared is assigned to look red.
Apart from getting a clearer image, the substitution reveals more information than natural color. Healthy plants reflect more near-infrared light than stressed plants, so bright red indicates dense, growing foliage. For this reason, biologists and ecologists occasionally use infrared cameras to photograph forests.
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Caption: Holli Riebeek
John Harris' illustration for the cover of A war of gifts, a novel by Orson Scott Card
First geologic map of Ganymede via @fadesingh
More details: Global Geologic Map of Ganymede by Geoffrey C. Collins, G. Wesley Patterson, James W. Head, Robert T. Pappalardo, Louise M. Prockter, Baerbel K. Lucchitta, and Jonathan P. Kay
This Chandra X-Ray Observatory image of the young star cluster NGC 346 highlights a heart-shaped cloud of 8 million-degree Celsius gas in the central region. Evidence from radio, optical and ultraviolet telescopes suggests that the hot cloud, which is about 100 light years across, is the remnant of a supernova explosion that occurred thousands of years ago.
The progenitor could have been a companion of the massive young star that is responsible for the bright X-ray source at the top center of the image. This young star, HD 5980, one of the most massive known, has been observed to undergo dramatic eruptions during the last decade. An alternative model for the origin of the hot cloud is that eruptions of HD 5980 long ago produced the cloud of hot gas, in a manner similar to the gas cloud observed around the massive star Eta Carinae. Future observations will be needed to decide between the alternatives. Until then, the nature of the heart in the darkness will remain mysterious.
Image Credit: NASA/CXC/U.Liege/Y.Nazé et al.
On Feb. 1, 2014, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata tweeted this view of a crescent moon rising and the cusp of Earth’s atmosphere. Distinct colors are visible because the dominant gases and particles in each layer of the atmosphere act as prisms, filtering out certain colors of light.
Image Credit: NASA
Space is the place for the future of the human race by Miguel Angel Martin
Supernovae are intensely bright objects. They are formed when a star reaches the end of its life with a dramatic explosion, expelling most of its material out into space. The subject of this new Hubble image, spiral galaxy NGC 6984, played host to one of these explosions back in 2012, known as SN 2012im. Now, another star has exploded, forming supernova SN 2013ek — visible in this image as the prominent, star-like bright object just slightly above and to the right of the galaxy’s center.
SN 2012im is known as a Type Ic supernova, while the more recent SN 2013ek is a Type Ib. Both of these types are caused by the core collapse of massive stars that have shed — or lost — their outer layers of hydrogen. Type Ic supernovae are thought to have lost more of their outer envelope than Type Ib, including a layer of helium.
The observations that make up this new image were taken on August 19, 2013, and aimed to pinpoint the location of this new explosion more precisely. It is so close to where SN 2012im was spotted that the two events are thought to be linked; the chance of two completely independent supernovae so close together and of the same class exploding within one year of one another is a very unlikely event. It was initially suggested that SN 2013ek may in fact be SN 2012im flaring up again, but further observations support the idea that they are separate supernovae — although they may be closely related in some as-yet-unknown way.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble
Jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies can transport huge amounts of energy across great distances. 3C353 is a wide, double-lobed source where the galaxy is the tiny point in the center and giant plumes of radiation can be seen in X-rays from Chandra (purple) and radio data from the Very Large Array (orange).
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Tokyo Institute of Technology/J.Kataoka et al, Radio: NRAO/VLA
A witch appears to be screaming out into space in this new image from NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The infrared portrait shows the Witch Head nebula, named after its resemblance to the profile of a wicked witch. Astronomers say the billowy clouds of the nebula, where baby stars are brewing, are being lit up by massive stars. Dust in the cloud is being hit with starlight, causing it to glow with infrared light, which was picked up by WISE’s detectors.
The Witch Head nebula is estimated to be hundreds of light-years away in the Orion constellation, just off the famous hunter’s knee.
WISE was recently “awakened” to hunt for asteroids in a program called NEOWISE. The reactivation came after the spacecraft was put into hibernation in 2011, when it completed two full scans of the sky, as planned.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This ghostly image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the disembodied remains of a dying star, called a planetary nebula. Planetary nebulas are a late stage in a sun-like star’s life, when its outer layers have sloughed off and are lit up by ultraviolet light from the central star. The Ghost of Jupiter, also known as NGC 3242, is located roughly 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Hydra. Spitzer’s infrared view shows off the cooler outer halo of the dying star, colored here in red. Also evident are concentric rings around the object, the result of material being periodically tossed out in the star’s final death throes.
In this image, infrared light at wavelengths of 3.6 microns is rendered in blue, 4.5 microns in green, and 8.0 microns in red.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA