FOCUS

09-22-2018
Window Seat over Hudson Bay

On the August 18 night flight from San Francisco to Zurich, a window seat offered this tantalizing view whencurtains of light draped a colorful glow across the sky over Hudson Bay. Constructed by digitally stacking six short exposures made with a hand held camera, the scene records the shimmering aurora borealis or northern lights just as the approaching high altitude sunrise illuminated the northeastern horizon. It also caught the flash of a Perseid meteor streaking beneath the handle stars of the Big Dipper of the north. A few days past the meteor shower's peak, its trail still points across the sky toward Perseus. Beautiful aurorae and shower meteors both occur in Earth's upper atmosphereat altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, far above commercial airline fights. The aurora are caused by energetic charged particles from the magnetosphere, while meteors are trails of comet dust.

Image Credit & CopyrightRalf Rohner


09-21-2018
IrregularGalaxy NGC 55

Irregular galaxy NGC 55 is thought to be similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). But while the LMC is about 180,000 light-years away and is a well known satellite of our own Milky Way Galaxy, NGC 55 is more like 6 million light-years distant and is a member of theSculptor Galaxy Group. Classified as an irregular galaxy, in deep exposures the LMC itself resembles a barred disk galaxy. Spanning about 50,000 light-years, NGC 55 is seen nearly edge-on though, presenting a flattened, narrow profile in contrast with our face-on view of the LMC. Just as large star forming regions create emission nebulae in the LMC, NGC 55 is also seen to beproducing new stars. This highly detailed galaxy portraithighlights a bright core crossed with dust clouds, telltale pinkish star forming regions, and young blue star clusters in NGC 55.

Image Credit & CopyrightMartin Pugh


2018-09-20

New Small Satellite Peers Inside Hurricane Florence

The brightly colored image on the right was taken by TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) as it flew over Hurricane Florence on Sept. 11, 2018. The colors reveal the eye of the storm, surrounded by towering, intense rain bands. The green areas highlight the extent of the rain being produced by the storm, with the most intense rain shown in the yellow and red areas. The image on the left is a visual image of the storm's clouds, taken by NOAA's GOES (Geoweather Operational Environmental Satellite).

Credits: NASA/NOAA/Naval Research Laboratory Monterey/JPL-Caltech

A new experimental weather satellite no bigger than a cereal box got an inside look at Hurricane Florence in a test of technology that could influence the future of storm monitoring from space. The satellite took its first images of Hurricane Florence on Tuesday, Sept. 11, just hours after its instrument was turned on.

TEMPEST-D, which deployed into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station in July, carries a state-of-the-art miniaturized microwave radiometer, an instrument that sees through the thick clouds to reveal the hidden interior of storms, just like a security scanner can see inside luggage at the airport.  

The image taken by TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration) captures Florence over the Atlantic Ocean, revealing the eye of the storm surrounded by towering, intense rain bands. The green areas highlight the extent of the rain being produced by the storm, with the most intense rain shown in yellow and red. The TEMPEST-D data is contrasted with a visible image of Florence that shows the familiar cyclone-shaped clouds of the storm but doesn't reveal what's inside.

TEMPEST-D's mission is to test new, low-cost technology that could be used in the future to gather more weather data and help researchers better understand storms. The level of detail in the small-satellite image is similar to what existing weather satellites produce.

"We were challenged to fit this instrument into such a small satellite without compromising data quality and were delighted to see it work right out of the box," said Sharmila Padmanabhan, who led the instrument development at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Shrinking weather satellites could one day help scientists provide more frequent updates on developing storms.

"TEMPEST-D paves the way for future missions where we can afford to fly many of these miniaturized weather satellites in constellations. Such a deployment would enable us to watch storms as they grow," said Steven Reising, the principal investigator for TEMPEST-D at Colorado State University.

TEMPEST-D is a technology-demonstration mission led by Colorado State University and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in partnership with Blue Canyon Technologies and Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia. The mission is sponsored by NASA's Earth Ventures program and managed by the Earth Science Technology Office. The radiometer instrument was built by JPL and employs high-frequency microwave amplifier technology developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation.

More information about TEMPEST-D is available at:

 https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cubesat/missions/tempest-d.php

09-20-2018
Stars and Dust in Corona Australis

Cosmic dust clouds and young, energetic stars inhabit this telescopic vista, less than 500 light-years away toward the northern boundary of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. The dust clouds effectively block lightfrom more distant background stars in the Milky Way. But the striking complex of reflection nebulae cataloged asNGC 6726, 6727, and IC 4812 produce a characteristic color as blue light from the region's young, hot stars isreflected by the cosmic dust. The dust also obscuresfrom view stars still in the process of formation. At top right, smaller yellowish nebula NGC 6729 bends around young variable star R Coronae Australis. Near it, glowing arcs and loops shocked by outflows from embedded newborn stars are identified as Herbig-Haro objects. On the sky this field of view spans about 1 degree. That corresponds to almost 9 light-years at the estimated distance of the nearby star forming region.

Image Credit & CopyrightJosep Drudis

Hubble Space Telescope


09-19-2018
Cocoon Nebula Deep Field

Inside the Cocoon Nebula is a newly developing cluster of stars. The cosmic Cocoon on the upper right also punctuates a long trail of obscuring interstellar dustclouds to its left. Cataloged as IC 5146, the beautiful nebula is nearly 15 light-years wide, located some 3,300 light years away toward the northern constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). Like other star forming regions, it stands out in red, glowing, hydrogen gas excited by young, hot stars and blue, dust-reflected starlight at the edge of a nearly invisible molecular cloud. In fact, the bright star near the center of this nebula is likely only a few hundred thousand years old, powering the nebular glow as it slowly clears out a cavity in the molecular cloud's star forming dust and gas. This exceptionally deep color viewof the Cocoon Nebula traces tantalizing features within and surrounding the dusty stellar nursery.

Image Credit & Copyright:  Marcel Drechsler (Baerenstein Obs.)


The space station’s unique vantage point makes it an ideal platform for observing and reporting on developing storms. The Tropical Cycloneinvestigation demonstrates the feasibility of studying these powerful storms from space, which would contribute to alerting populations and governments around the world when a dangerous storm is approaching.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency photographed Hurricane Florence as it headed toward the East Coast of the United States. As the orbital lab flew 250 miles above the storm, the crew captured photo and video of Florence.

NASA’s TESS Shares First Science Image in Hunt to Find New Worlds

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) took this snapshot of the Large Magellanic Cloud (right) and the bright star R Doradus (left) with just a single detector of one of its cameras on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The frame is part of a swath of the southern sky TESS captured in its “first light” science image as part of its initial round of data collection.

Credits: NASA/MIT/TESS

More TESS "first light" multimedia