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Huge ‘structures’ found at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, scientists say

Huge “balloon-like structures” have been spotted in the middle of our Milky Way galaxy, scientists say. © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited The pair of vast bubbles – which stretch for hundreds of light years – are throwing out radio signals and are some of the biggest features ever found at the…

Huge “balloon-like structures” have been spotted in the middle of our Milky Way galaxy, scientists say.





© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited


The pair of vast bubbles – which stretch for hundreds of light years – are throwing out radio signals and are some of the biggest features ever found at the centre of our galaxy.

They are so huge that they dwarf all of the other radio structures around the middle of our galactic neighbourhood.

They were probably born after a huge energetic burst that exploded near the supermassive black hole that floats at the centre of the Milky Way, researchers said.

“The centre of our galaxy is relatively calm when compared to other galaxies with very active central black holes,” said Ian Heywood of the University of Oxford, who is the lead author of an article in the journal Nature describing the discovery.

“Even so, the Milky Way’s central black hole can – from time to time – become uncharacteristically active, flaring up as it periodically devours massive clumps of dust and gas. It’s possible that one such feeding frenzy triggered powerful outbursts that inflated this previously unseen feature.”

The vast structure was spotted by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) MeerKAT telescope, which Professor Heywood and his team used to map the regions found in the middle of our galaxy. They did so by looking for radio emissions at a very specific wavelength – they can be used to find particularly energetic regions in space, looking through the dense clouds that block us from being able to see the middle of the galaxy by looking for light.

Related Slideshow: Spectacular images from space (Provided by Photo Services)

  • Slide 1 of 51: This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, it’s host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life.

  • Slide 2 of 51: This artist's concept of a lake at the north pole of Saturn's moon Titan illustrates raised rims and rampartlike features such as those seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft around the moon's Winnipeg Lacus.

  • Slide 3 of 51: This Picture of the Week shows a dwarf galaxy named UGC 685. Such galaxies are small and contain just a tiny fraction of the number of stars in a galaxy like the Milky Way. Dwarf galaxies often show a hazy structure, an ill-defined shape, and an appearance somewhat akin to a swarm or cloud of stars — and UGC 685 is no exception to this. Classified as an SAm galaxy — a type of unbarred spiral galaxy — it is located about 15 million light-years from Earth.

  • Slide 4 of 51: This 2019 photo of Manhattan, taken by astronaut Nick Hague from aboard the International Space Station, shows Manhattan as it looks today, 18 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Slide 5 of 51: This beautiful image features the Milky Way rising over the Residencia at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, which can be seen atop a mountain in the distance.

  • Slide 6 of 51: On Sept. 4, 2019, a loose chain of tropical cyclones lined up across the Western Hemisphere. At the time of this image (1:10 p.m. EDT) Hurricane Juliette in the East Pacific and Hurricane Dorian in the Atlantic were both category 2 storms.  Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Fernand packed sustained winds of 45 mph and had just recently made landfall over northeastern Mexico. Gabrielle strengthened into a tropical storm on September 4 over the eastern Atlantic, and had sustained winds of 50 mph around the time of this image.

  • Slide 7 of 51: This visible-light image of the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) comes from the Digital Sky Survey and is overlaid with data from NASA's NuSTAR observatory (shown in blue and green). Blue light indicates X-rays captured during the first of two observations by NuSTAR, in May 2017. Green light indicates X-rays seen less than two weeks later in the second observation. This means that the source of the green spot to the lower left of the galactic center began radiating in the time between those two observations. Two bright sources near the top of the image show a combination of blue and green, indicating those sources were visible during both observations. The X-ray data don't have the same spatial resolution as the visible-light image, so the X-ray sources appear larger.

  • Slide 8 of 51: Every spring the sun shines on the side of the stack of layers at the North Pole of Mars known as the north polar layered deposits. The warmth destabilizes the ice and blocks break loose.  When they reach the bottom of the more than 500 meter tall cliff face, the blocks kick up a cloud of dust. The layers beneath are different colors and textures depending on the amount of dust mixed with ice.

  • Slide 9 of 51: A team of astronomers found X-ray bursts repeating about every nine hours originating from the center of a galaxy called GSN 069. Obtained with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton, these data indicate that   the supermassive black hole located there is consuming large amounts of material on a regular schedule.

  • Slide 10 of 51: In this image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 8 September, fires burning in the Yuraygir National Park and Shark Creek area are visible. Fires are also burning to the north and south of the villages of Angourie and Wooloweyah.

  • Slide 11 of 51: By studying the rocks inside impact craters like this one, ESA research fellow Joana S. Oliveira has found that the location of Mercury’s magnetic field has changed over time in surprising ways.

  • Slide 12 of 51: NASA astronaut Christina Koch snapped this image of Hurricane Dorian as the International Space Station during a flyover on Monday, September 2, 2019. The station orbits more than 200 miles above the Earth.

  • Slide 13 of 51: Sixteen years ago, NASA launched its Spitzer Space Telescope into orbit around the Sun. Since the observatory launched on Aug. 25, 2003, it has been lifting the veil on the wonders of the cosmos, from our own solar system to faraway galaxies, using infrared light. Spitzer's primary mission lasted five-and-a-half years and ended when it ran out of the liquid helium coolant necessary to operate two of its three instruments. But its passive-cooling design has allowed part of its third instrument to continue operating for more than 10 additional years. The mission is scheduled to end on Jan. 30, 2020.  This Spitzer image shows the giant star Zeta Ophiuchi and the bow shock, or shock wave, in front of it. Visible only in infrared light, the bow shock is created by winds that flow from the star, making ripples in the surrounding dust. Located roughly 370 light-years from Earth, Zeta Ophiuchi dwarfs our Sun: It is about six times hotter, eight times wider, 20 times more massive and about 80,000 times as bright. Even at its great distance, it would be one of the brightest stars in the sky were it not largely obscured by dust clouds.

  • Slide 14 of 51: The magnificent spiral arms of the nearby galaxy Messier 81 are highlighted in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Located in the northern constellation of Ursa Major (which also includes the Big Dipper), this galaxy is easily visible through binoculars or a small telescope. M81 is located at a distance of 12 million light-years.  M81 was one of the first publicly-released datasets soon after Spitzers launch in August of 2003. On the occasion of Spitzers 16th anniversary this new image revisits this iconic object with extended observations and improved processing.   This Spitzer infrared image is a composite mosaic combining data from the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) at wavelengths of 3.6/4.5 microns (blue/cyan) and 8 microns (green) with data from the Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS) at 24 microns (red).  The 3.6-micron near-infrared data (blue) traces the distribution of stars, although the Spitzer image is virtually unaffected by obscuring dust and reveals a very smooth stellar mass distribution, with the spiral arms relatively subdued.  As one moves to longer wavelengths, the spiral arms become the dominant feature of the galaxy. The 8-micron emission (green) is dominated by infrared light radiated by hot dust that has been heated by nearby luminous stars. Dust in the galaxy is bathed by ultraviolet and visible light from nearby stars. Upon absorbing an ultraviolet or visible-light photon, a dust grain is heated and re-emits the energy at longer infrared wavelengths. The dust particles are composed of silicates (chemically similar to beach sand), carbonaceous grains and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and trace the gas distribution in the galaxy. The well-mixed gas (which is best detected at radio wavelengths) and dust provide a reservoir of raw materials for future star formation.  The 24-micron MIPS data (red) shows emission from warm dust heated by the most luminous young stars. The scattering of compact red spots along the spiral arms show where the dust is warmed to high temperatures near massive stars that are being born in giant H II (ionized hydrogen) regions.

  • Slide 15 of 51: Astronaut Nick Hague, aboard the International Space Station, posted this photograph of Hurricane Dorian to Twitter on Sept. 2, 2019.

  • Slide 16 of 51: Deep Space Antenna 1 is ESA’s first 35-m deep dish, staring out to space to communicate with missions far from home.  Located 140 kilometres north of Perth, Western Australia, close to the village of New Norcia, this giant antenna is in the perfect spot to scan the skies.  “The Wadjarri people from the Murchison region refer to much of the milky way as the emu, as it resembles an emu stretched across the sky,” says Suzy Jackson, Maintenance & Operations Manager for the ground station.  “I’m told that when the emu’s nose reaches the horizon, that’s the best time to collect emu eggs. Having our antenna in the foreground just makes it all the better. I am amazed at how beautiful our workplace here is.”  The New Norcia antenna provides routine support to missions orbiting Mars like Mars Express and Exomars TGO as well as the Gaia space observatory, in the process of making the world's most precise map of the stars in our Milky Way galaxy and BepiColombo on its way to Mercury.

  • Slide 17 of 51: This Picture of the Week from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 5307, a planetary nebula which lies about 10000 light years from Earth. It can be seen in the constellation Centaurus (The Centaur), which can be seen primarily in the southern hemisphere.  A planetary nebula is the final stage of a Sun-like star. As such, planetary nebulae allow us a glimpse into the future of our own Solar System. A star like our Sun will, at the end of its life, transform into a red giant. Stars are sustained by the nuclear fusion that occurs in their core, which creates energy. The nuclear fusion processes constantly try to rip the star apart. Only the gravity of the star prevents this from happening.     At the end of the red giant phase of a star, these forces become unbalanced. Without enough energy created by fusion, the core of the star collapses in on itself, while the surface layers are ejected outward. After that, all that remains of the star is what we see here: glowing outer layers surrounding a white dwarf star, the remnants of the red giant star’s core.     This isn’t the end of this star’s evolution though — those outer layers are still moving and cooling. In just a few thousand years they will have dissipated, and all that will be left to see is the dimly glowing white dwarf.

  • Slide 18 of 51: NGC 3351, also known as Messier 95, was first discovered in 1781 by Pierre Méchain, a French astronomer and surveyor who worked alongside Charles Messier. NGC 3351 is a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral galaxy and it is located in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). New observations of this object have shown stellar feedback in action. Stellar feedback is the process of redistributing energy into the interstellar medium (the space in between the stars) within star-forming galaxies. In this particular galaxy, star formation is occurring in the ring surrounding the galaxy nucleus at such a violent rate that massive bubbles of hot gas can actually be seen being ejected. This ejected gas can then contribute (both positively and negatively) to ongoing star formation within the galaxy.  The data for this observation were taken with ALMA, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope, showing once again that scientific collaboration across multiple facilities can produce some wonderful results.

  • Slide 19 of 51: Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans moved the engine section for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to another part of the facility on Sept. 3 to prepare it for joining to the rest of the rocket’s core stage. The engine section, which comprises the lowest portion of the 212-foot-tall stage, is the last major component to be horizontally integrated to the core stage. The flight hardware will be used for Artemis I, the first lunar mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Crews completed assembly on the engine section on Aug. 29. NASA and Boeing engineers removed the scaffolding surrounding the hardware to use a special tool to properly position the engine section for its attachment to the rest of the stage. The core stage’s two liquid propellant tanks and four RS-25 engines will produce more than 2 million pounds of thrust to send the SLS rocket and Orion on the Artemis lunar missions. The engine section houses the four RS-25 engines and includes vital systems for mounting, controlling and delivering fuel from the propellant tanks to the rocket’s engines.  NASA is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are the backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

  • Slide 20 of 51: NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has captured many spectacular images of cosmic phenomena over its two decades of operations, but perhaps its most iconic is the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. Located about 11,000 light-years from Earth, Cas A (as it’s nicknamed) is the glowing debris field left behind after a massive star exploded. When the star ran out of fuel, it collapsed onto itself and blew up as a supernova, possibly briefly becoming one of the brightest objects in the sky. (Although astronomers think that this happened around the year 1680, there are no verifiable historical records to confirm this.) The shock waves generated by this blast supercharged the stellar wreckage and its environment, making the debris glow brightly in many types of light, particularly X-rays. Shortly after Chandra was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, astronomers directed the observatory to point toward Cas A. It was featured in Chandra's official “First Light” image, released Aug. 26, 1999, and marked a seminal moment not just for the observatory, but for the field of X-ray astronomy. Near the center of the intricate pattern of the expanding debris from the shattered star, the image revealed, for the first time, a dense object called a neutron star that the supernova left behind. Since then, Chandra has repeatedly returned to Cas A to learn more about this important object. A new video shows the evolution of Cas A over time, enabling viewers to watch as incredibly hot gas – about 20 million degrees Fahrenheit – in the remnant expands outward. These X-ray data have been combined with data from another of NASA’s “Great Observatories,” the Hubble Space Telescope, showing delicate filamentary structures of cooler gases with temperatures of about 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Hubble data from a single time period are shown to emphasize the changes in the Chandra data. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/T. Sato et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI

  • Slide 21 of 51: The Northrop Grumman built attitude control motor (ACM) on Orion's launch abort system was successfully tested on August 22, at their facility in Elkton, Maryland. The 30-second trial by fire was the second to last test before it’s qualified for human spaceflight on Artemis 2 -- the first mission with astronauts. During the static test, the ACM produced more than 7,000 pounds of thrust from eight valves, providing enough force to steer Orion and its crew to a safe distance. The launch abort system is designed to transport Orion and its crew to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or ascent. It consists of three solid rocket motors: the abort motor pulls the crew module away from the launch vehicle; the ACM steers and orients the capsule; then the jettison motor ignites to separate the launch abort system from Orion for parachute deployment and a safe crew landing. All three motors will be certified for future crewed flights after qualification tests are completed later this year. The launch abort system was stress tested earlier this year during the successful Ascent Abort-2 test. These achievements brings Orion closer to safe flights with astronauts, paving the way for the first woman and the next man to land on the Moon by 2024.

  • Slide 22 of 51: Comet P46 Wirtanen and a commercial plane over Paranal Observatory

  • Slide 24 of 51: The central part of the Milky Way.

  • Slide 25 of 51: Reaching a major milestone, engineers have successfully connected the two halves of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope for the first time at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo Beach, California. Once it reaches space, Webb will explore the cosmos using infrared light, from planets and moons within our Solar System to the most ancient and distant galaxies. To combine both halves of Webb, engineers carefully lifted the telescope (which includes the mirrors and science instruments) above the already-combined sunshield and spacecraft using a crane. Team members slowly guided the telescope into place, ensuring that all primary points of contact were perfectly aligned and seated properly. The observatory has been mechanically connected; next steps will be to electrically connect the halves, and then test the electrical connections. Later, engineers will fully deploy the intricate five-layer sunshield, which is designed to keep Webb's mirrors and scientific instruments cold by blocking infrared light from the Earth, Moon and Sun. The ability of the sunshield to deploy to its correct shape is critical to mission success. Webb is scheduled for launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in March 2021.

  • Slide 26 of 51: This atmospheric image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a dark, gloomy scene in the constellation of Gemini (the Twins). The subject of this image confused astronomers when it was first studied — rather than being classified as a single object, it was instead recorded as two objects, owing to its symmetrical lobed structure (known as NGC 2371 and NGC 2372, though sometimes referred to together as NGC 2371/2).  These two lobes are visible to the lower left and upper right of the frame, and together form something known as a planetary nebula. Despite the name, such nebulas have nothing to do with planets; NGC 2371/2 formed when a Sun-like star reached the end of its life and blasted off its outer layers, shedding the constituent material and pushing it out into space to leave just a superheated stellar remnant behind. This remnant is visible as the bright star at the center of the frame, sitting neatly between the two lobes. The structure of this region is complex. It is filled with dense knots of gas, fast-moving jets that appear to be changing direction over time, and expanding clouds of material streaming outwards on diametrically opposite sides of the remnant star. Patches of this scene glow brightly as the remnant star emits energetic radiation that excites the gas within these regions, causing it to light up. This scene will continue to change over the next few thousand years. Eventually the knotty lobes will dissipate completely, and the remnant star will cool and dim to form a white dwarf. Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency) Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Wade et al.

  • Slide 27 of 51: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano captured this image of the Bahamas from the International Space Station and shared it on his social media channels saying:

  • Slide 28 of 51: This colourful spread of light specks is in fact a record of extremely powerful phenomena taking place in a galaxy known as Messier 83, or M83. Located some 15 million light-years away, M83 is a barred spiral galaxy, not dissimilar in shape from our own Milky Way, and currently undergoing a spur of star formation, with a handful of new stars being born every year. While the starry pattern of spiral arms is barely visible in this X-ray view obtained by ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory, this kaleidoscopic image tells a different story about the stellar remnants in this galaxy. Most of the dots in this view represent the end points of the life cycle of stars, including remnants of supernova explosions and binary systems featuring compact stellar remnants like neutron stars or black holes that are feeding on matter from a companion star. In particular, the large speck to the lower left of the galaxy’s central region is what astronomers call an ultra-luminous X-ray source, or ULX, a binary system where the compact remnant is accreting mass from its companion at a much higher rate than an ordinary X-ray binary. The highly energetic phenomena that can be observed with X-ray telescopes often undergo regular changes, on time scales of days or even hours, turning the X-ray sky into a spectacular light show. An animated version of this image, based on XMM-Newton data gathered on six occasions – January 2003, January and August 2014, February and August 2015, and January 2016 – is available here. The sources located in the reddish area at the centre of the image correspond to objects located in the inner portions of M83. The majority of sources scattered across the image are located in the outskirts of the galaxy, but a few of those are foreground stars in our own galaxy, and others correspond to more distant galaxies in the background. This RGB image combines nine XMM-Newton observations performed between 2003 and 2016 at energies of 0.2–2 keV (shown in red), 2–4.5 keV (shown in green), and 4.5–12 keV (shown in blue).

  • Slide 29 of 51: This image shows a view of stellar ‘families’ – clusters and co-moving groups of stars in the Milky Way – identified using data from the second data release of ESA’s Gaia mission. Families younger than 30 million years are highlighted in orange, on top of an all-sky view based on Gaia observations. A recent study using data from Gaia’s second data release uncovered nearly 2000 previously unidentified clusters and co-moving groups of stars and determined the ages for hundreds of thousands of stars, making it possible to track stellar ‘siblings’ and uncover their surprising arrangements. The study revealed that the most massive among these familial groups of stars may keep moving together through the galaxy in long, string-like configurations for billions of years after their birth.

  • Slide 30 of 51: An unprecedented amount of fires have broken out in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. In this image, captured on 21 August 2019, the fires and plumes of smoke can clearly be seen.

  • Slide 31 of 51: The bit carousel, which lies at the heart of Sample Caching System of NASA's Mars 2020 mission, is attached to the front end of the rover in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility's High Bay 1 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The carousel contains all of the tools the coring drill uses to sample the Martian surface and is the gateway for the samples to move into the rover for assessment and processing. The image was taken on Aug. 5, 2019.

  • Slide 32 of 51: The secondary mirror – visible in the top right corner of the image – is among the most important pieces of equipment on the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and is essential to the success of the mission.  Folded together with the other observatory components during launch, the secondary mirror will be deployed as part of an intricate choreography that will bring the observatory to life once in space. When deployed, like in this view, it faces Webb’s iconic honeycomb-like pattern of 18 hexagonal, gold-coated primary mirror segments. This primary mirror structure is seen in the lower left of the image in its folded configuration, showing only 12 segments.

  • Slide 33 of 51: The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds in this new image taken on 27 June 2019 by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, when the planet was 644 million kilometres from Earth — its closest distance this year. The image features the planet’s trademark Great Red Spot and a more intense colour palette in the clouds swirling in the planet’s turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years.

  • Slide 34 of 51: Believe it or not, this long, luminous streak, speckled with bright blisters and pockets of material, is a spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. But how could that be?  It turns out that we see this galaxy, named NGC 3432, oriented directly edge-on to us from our vantage point here on Earth. The galaxy’s spiral arms and bright core are hidden, and we instead see the thin strip of its very outer reaches. Dark bands of cosmic dust, patches of varying brightness and pink regions of star formation help with making out the true shape of NGC 3432 — but it’s still somewhat of a challenge! Because observatories such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have seen spiral galaxies at every kind of orientation, astronomers can tell when we happen to have caught one from the side.  The galaxy is located in the constellation of Leo Minor (the Lesser Lion). Other telescopes that have had NGC 3432 in their sights include those of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency) Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Filippenko, R. Jansen

  • Slide 35 of 51: NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory, or SDO, was the first mission to be launched for NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program, and is designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. SDO ​launched on February 11, 2010, on its journey to help us understand the Sun's influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously.  SDO's goal is to understand, driving towards a predictive capability, the solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity's technological systems by determining how the Sun's magnetic field is generated and structured, and how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance.  Each day, SDO images the sun in a variety of wavelengths. Find daily images here.

  • Slide 36 of 51: Décollage champ large en ZL3, le 06-08-2019; An Ariane 5 carrying two telecommunications satellites, Intelsat 39, built by Space Systems/Loral, and EDRS-C, built by OHB System, lifts off from its launchpad in Kourou, at the European Space Center in French Guiana, on August 6, 2019.

  • Slide 38 of 51: Colourful and wispy Sharpless 2-296 forms the “wings” of an area of sky known as the Seagull Nebula — named for its resemblance to a gull in flight. This celestial bird contains a fascinating mix of intriguing astronomical objects. Glowing clouds weave amid dark dust lanes and bright stars. The Seagull Nebula — made up of dust, hydrogen, helium and traces of heavier elements — is the hot and energetic birthplace of new stars.

  • Slide 39 of 51: Summertime and the Space Station livin’ is easy.  Like most people this season, the International Space Station is chasing some Sun. Amateur astrophotographer Javier Manteca captured this transit of the Sun on 2 August, at 17:10 CEST from Fuenlabrada in Spain. The International Space Station regularly transits the Sun but often along a very narrow ground path, which makes it hard to record. Once you lock down the best viewing location on Earth, timing is a critical factor: transits of the Sun last only half a second.  Using a DSLR camera attached to a 150/750 telescope recording in full HD at 30 frames per second, Javier was able to capture the 0.8 seconds it took for the Station to pass. The image is made up of those stacked frames. An astronomy fan from a young age, Javier’s passion has grown with him. He takes photographs of any near-Earth event, because “who says that daytime astronomy is boring?” Follow Javier and his photography on Instagram. Meanwhile, on the International Space Station the six-astronaut crew is busy carrying out science experiments, maintain the Station and getting their daily dose of exercise. Summer is a less noticeable in the controlled environment of the Station, but the atmosphere is pleasant. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is finding time to sneak in selfies while working with friends. Back on Earth, summer events are in full swing in the western hemisphere, including next week’s space-themed Stockholm Culture Festival. Held from 13 to 17 August, the mass event welcomes thousands to experience space through popular culture. Alongside a full programme of family-friendly activities promoting space topics – from talks, to book readings, dance events and movie screenings – festival goers will get to connect to space live with an in-flight call to the International Space Station. Luca will share his experiences in orbit with fellow astronauts Tim Peake and Thomas Reiter on stage to host the event. The Culture Festival is also the place to be for the world premiere of the stunning film Space Station Earth, featuring images from space set to music by composer Ilan Eshkeri.

  • Slide 41 of 51: This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows Terra Cimmeria, a region found in the southern highlands of Mars. This oblique perspective view was generated using a digital terrain model and Mars Express data gathered on 11 December 2018 during Mars Express Orbit18904. The ground resolution is approximately 13 metres per pixel and the images are centred at about 171° East and 40° South. This image was created using data from the nadir and colour channels of the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). The nadir channel is aligned perpendicular to the surface of Mars, as if looking straight down at the surface.

  • Slide 42 of 51: iss060e015838 (July 27, 2019) --- The SpaceX Dragon space freighter approaches the International Space Station as both spacecraft were orbiting 265 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Namibia.

  • Slide 43 of 51: This image shows a snippet of the Sun up close, revealing a golden surface marked by a number of dark, blotchy sunspots, curving filaments, and lighter patches known as ‘plages’ – brighter regions often found near sunspots. The width of the image would cover roughly a third of the diameter of the solar disc.  It was captured in 2015 from the site of the European Space Astronomy Center (ESAC) in Madrid, Spain, using a Solarmax 90 H-alpha telescope (9 cm in diameter) and a QHY5-II monochromatic camera. A grayscale 283-second video was initially created of the solar surface, and the best 30% of these 8222 frames were then combined and coloured to produce this image. The part of the Sun shown here is known as the chromosphere (literally ‘sphere of colour’), one of the three main layers comprising our star. This layer sits just above the photosphere, the visible surface of the Sun with which we are most familiar. When viewed using a H-alpha telescope, as seen here, the chromosphere can reveal myriad intriguing features decorating the whole solar disc. Sunspots are not permanent fixtures on the Sun. They exist for days or weeks at a time, and come about as intense magnetic fields become twisted and concentrated in a given place, stifling the flow of energy from the Sun’s interior to the surface. This leaves sunspots cooler than their surroundings, causing their darker appearance, while gas continues to flow both beneath and around these areas of magnetic disruption.  The ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) mission, launched in 1995, has probed deeper into these features, characterised the flows in and around the spots themselves, and found that they form as magnetic fields break through the visible surface of the Sun. The work of missions such as SOHO will be continued by ESA’s upcoming Solar Orbiter, the first medium-class mission selected for ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 Programme.  Solar Orbiter will explore how the Sun creates and manipulates a patch of space known as the heliosphere – a bubble blown by the solar wind, an ongoing stream of charged particles heading out from the Sun into the Solar System. The mission will also clearly image the solar poles for the first time, and track magnetic activity as it builds up and gives rise to powerful flares and eruptions. Planned for launch in February 2020, Solar Orbiter will make significant breakthroughs in our understanding of how our host star works.

  • Slide 44 of 51: The 8.2 metre VLT Unit Ttelescopes at Paranal Observatory use some of the strongest lasers ever created for a laser guide star system. The Laser Guide Star (LGS) is part of the VLT’s Adaptive Optics system. In the middle of the image, we see a nice edge side view of the Milky Way Galaxy. (https://www.eso.org/public/images/ut4interno-CC/)

  • Slide 45 of 51: This photo released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows its Geosynchronous Satellite launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII carrying Chandrayaan-2 lift off from Satish Dhawan Space center in Sriharikota, India, Monday, July 22, 2019. India successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft to the far side of the moon on Monday, a week after aborting the mission due to a technical problem. (Indian Space Research Organization via AP)

  • Slide 46 of 51: The Moon appears more red/orange as it first begins to rise due to scattering of light by Earths atmosphere. When we view the Moon on the horizon, the moonlight has to pass through a greater distance of the atmosphere to our eyes. By this time light on the blue end of the visible spectrum has been scattered away thus we only see the longer wavelengths of visible light, yellow, orange or red. When the Moon is directly overhead (as is pictured here in the last frame), the moonlight has to pass through less of the atmosphere and thus appears as usual. (https://www.eso.org/public/images/_DSC3183b-CC/)

  • Slide 47 of 51: An illustration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) in the Block 1 configuration, which will carry an Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon, on the mobile launcher. SLS is the only rocket that can send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission. (https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/nighttime-view-of-sls-on-mobile-launcher)

  • Slide 48 of 51: This image, based on observations from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, shows the largest mountain on the dwarf planet Ceres.  Dawn was the first mission to orbit an object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and spent time at both large asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres is one of just five recognised dwarf planets in the Solar System (Pluto being another). Dawn entered orbit around this rocky world on 6 March 2015, and studied its icy, cratered, uneven surface until it ran out of fuel in October of 2018.  One of the features spotted by the mission is shown here in this reconstructed perspective view: a mountain named Ahuna Mons. This mountain rises to an elevation of 4000 m at its peak – Europe’s Mont Blanc on Earth would rise slightly above it (as measured from sea level) – and is marked by numerous bright streaks that run down its flanks. Scientists have determined that these marks are actually salt deposits left behind from the formation of Ahuna Mons, when plumes of saltwater and mud rose and erupted from within Ceres, puncturing the surface and creating the mountain seen here. While temperatures on Ceres are far colder than those on Earth, this mechanism is thought to be somewhat similar to the formation of volcanoes by terrestrial magma plumes.  More recently, a study of Dawn data led by ESA research fellow Ottaviano Ruesch and Antonio Genova (Sapienza Università di Roma), published in Nature Geoscience in June, suggests that a briny, muddy ‘slurry’ exists below Ceres’ surface, surging upwards towards and through the crust to create Ahuna Mons. Another recent study, led by Javier Ruiz of Universidad Complutense de Madrid and published in Nature Astronomy in July, also indicates that the dwarf planet has a surprisingly dynamic geology.  Ceres was also the focus of an earlier study by ESA’s Herschel space observatory, which detected water vapour around the dwarf planet. Published in Nature in 2014, the result provided a strong indication that Ceres has ice on or near its surface. Dawn confirmed Ceres’ icy crust via direct observation in 2016, however, the contribution of the ice deposits to Ceres’ exosphere turned out to be much lower than that inferred from the Herschel observations.  The perspective view depicted in this image uses enhanced-colour combined images taken using blue (440 nm), green (750 nm), and infrared (960 nm) filters, with a resolution of 35 m/pixel. Ahuna Mons’ elevation has been exaggerated by a factor of two. The width of the dome is approximately 20 km. The spacecraft’s Framing Camera took the images from Dawn’s low-altitude mapping orbit from an altitude of 385 km in August 2016.

  • Slide 49 of 51: A rocket carrying two satellites lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gansu province on July 25, 2019. - A Chinese startup successfully launched the country's first commercial rocket capable of carrying satellites into orbit on July 25, as the space race between China and the US heats up. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Slide 50 of 51: This artist's concept is a simulation of what seismic waves from a marsquake might look like as they move through different layers of the Martian interior.

  • Slide 51 of 51: There is no asking for a better launch date. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and fellow Expedition 60/61 crew NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov lifted off to the International Space Station on 20 July, the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing.  While others were attending anniversary events or pouring through memorabilia, Luca was strapped in the most reliable spacecraft to ferry humans back and forth to space.  The Soyuz MS-13 lifted off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 18:28 CEST. After orbiting Earth four times in a span of six hours, the Soyuz docked to the Russian Zvezda module at 00:48 CEST on 21 July. After leak checks, the hatch opened at 3:04 CEST.  Luca is no stranger to spaceflight. His first mission to the International Space Station was in 2013 for the Volare mission. In mission Beyond, Luca will stay another six months and conduct a range of science experiments, extravehicular activities or spacewalks, technology demonstrations and education outreach activities.

Water World

This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, its host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life.

With data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, water vapour has been detected in the atmosphere of a super-Earth within the habitable zone by University College London (UCL) researchers in a world first. K2-18b, which is eight times the mass of Earth, is now the only planet orbiting a star outside the Solar System, or exoplanet, known to have both water and temperatures that could support life.

Titan’s Rimmed Lakes

This artist’s concept of a lake at the north pole of Saturn’s moon Titan illustrates raised rims and rampartlike features such as those seen by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft around the moon’s Winnipeg Lacus.

Hubble’s legacy

This picture shows a dwarf galaxy named UGC 685. Such galaxies are small and contain just a tiny fraction of the number of stars in a galaxy like the Milky Way. Dwarf galaxies often show a hazy structure, an ill-defined shape, and an appearance somewhat akin to a swarm or cloud of stars — and UGC 685 is no exception to this. Classified as an SAm galaxy — a type of unbarred spiral galaxy — it is located about 15 million light-years from Earth.

Remembering September 11

This 2019 photo of Manhattan, taken by astronaut Nick Hague from aboard the International Space Station, shows Manhattan as it looks today, 18 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Banishing Light Pollution

This image features the Milky Way rising over the Residencia at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, which can be seen atop a mountain in the distance. This photograph was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Petr Horálek, and is a great demonstration of just how artificial light can pollute its environment — the brightness of the Residencia lights seems almost blinding compared to the stars. Artificial light scatters off the particles in our atmosphere and can drown out the night sky.

Cyclones from Space

On Sept. 4, 2019, a loose chain of tropical cyclones lined up across the Western Hemisphere. At the time of this image (1:10 p.m. EDT) Hurricane Juliette in the East Pacific and Hurricane Dorian in the Atlantic were both category 2 storms. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Fernand packed sustained winds of 45 mph and had just recently made landfall over northeastern Mexico. Gabrielle strengthened into a tropical storm on September 4 over the eastern Atlantic, and had sustained winds of 50 mph around the time of this image.

Mystery in Fireworks Galaxy

This visible-light image of the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) comes from the Digital Sky Survey and is overlaid with data from NASA’s NuSTAR observatory (shown in blue and green). Blue light indicates X-rays captured during the first of two observations by NuSTAR, in May 2017. Green light indicates X-rays seen less than two weeks later in the second observation. This means that the source of the green spot to the lower left of the galactic center began radiating in the time between those two observations. Two bright sources near the top of the image show a combination of blue and green, indicating those sources were visible during both observations. The X-ray data don’t have the same spatial resolution as the visible-light image, so the X-ray sources appear larger.

Avalanche Season on Mars

Every spring the sun shines on the side of the stack of layers at the North Pole of Mars known as the north polar layered deposits. The warmth destabilizes the ice and blocks break loose. When they reach the bottom of the more than 500 meter tall cliff face, the blocks kick up a cloud of dust. The layers beneath are different colors and textures depending on the amount of dust mixed with ice.

Black Hole Has Three Hot Meals a Day

A team of astronomers found X-ray bursts repeating about every nine hours originating from the center of a galaxy called GSN 069. Obtained with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton, these data indicate that the supermassive black hole located there is consuming large amounts of material on a regular schedule.

During the outbursts the X-ray emission becomes about 20 times brighter than during the quiet times. The temperature of gas falling towards the black hole also climbs, from about one million degrees Fahrenheit during the quiet periods to about 2.5 million degrees Fahrenheit during the outbursts. The temperature of the latter is similar to that of gas found around most actively growing supermassive black holes.

Australian bushfires

Australia is tackling multiple bushfires that have broken out across New South Wales and Queensland over the past few days. In this image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 8 September, fires burning in the Yuraygir National Park and Shark Creek area are visible. Fires are also burning to the north and south of the villages of Angourie and Wooloweyah.

Rustaveli crater on Mercury

By studying the rocks inside impact craters like this one, ESA research fellow Joana S. Oliveira has found that the location of Mercury’s magnetic field has changed over time in surprising ways. Just like Earth, Mercury has a liquid metallic core, the motions within generating the magnetic field. On Earth, our magnetic north and south poles drift between about 10 and 60 km per year, with our planet’s magnetic field orientation flipping more than 100 times in the course of its 4.5 billion years.

Hurricane Dorian

NASA astronaut Christina Koch snapped this image of Hurricane Dorian from the International Space Station during a flyover on Monday, September 2, 2019. The station orbits more than 200 miles above the Earth.

Celebrating Spitzer’s Sweet Sixteen

Sixteen years ago, NASA launched its Spitzer Space Telescope into orbit around the Sun. Since the observatory launched on Aug. 25, 2003, it has been lifting the veil on the wonders of the cosmos, from our own solar system to faraway galaxies, using infrared light.This Spitzer image shows the giant star Zeta Ophiuchi and the bow shock, or shock wave, in front of it. Visible only in infrared light, the bow shock is created by winds that flow from the star, making ripples in the surrounding dust. Located roughly 370 light-years from Earth, Zeta Ophiuchi dwarfs our Sun: It is about six times hotter, eight times wider, 20 times more massive and about 80,000 times as bright. Even at its great distance, it would be one of the brightest stars in the sky were it not largely obscured by dust clouds.

Full Infrared View of the M81 Galaxy

The magnificent spiral arms of the nearby galaxy Messier 81 are highlighted in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Located in the northern constellation of Ursa Major (which also includes the Big Dipper), this galaxy is easily visible through binoculars or a small telescope. M81 is located at a distance of 12 million light-years. M81 was one of the first publicly-released datasets soon after Spitzers launch in August of 2003. On the occasion of Spitzers 16th anniversary this new image revisits this iconic object with extended observations and improved processing. 

Hurricane Dorian’s Eye

Astronaut Nick Hague, aboard the International Space Station, posted this photograph of Hurricane Dorian to Twitter on Sept. 2, 2019.

What Are We Looking At?

Deep Space Antenna 1 is ESA’s first 35-m deep dish, staring out to space to communicate with missions far from home. Located 140 kilometres north of Perth, Western Australia, close to the village of New Norcia, this giant antenna is in the perfect spot to scan the skies. “The Wadjarri people from the Murchison region refer to much of the milky way as the emu, as it resembles an emu stretched across the sky,” says Suzy Jackson, Maintenance & Operations Manager for the ground station. “I’m told that when the emu’s nose reaches the horizon, that’s the best time to collect emu eggs. Having our antenna in the foreground just makes it all the better. I am amazed at how beautiful our workplace here is.” 

A Passing Fancy

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 5307, a planetary nebula which lies about 10000 light years from Earth. It can be seen in the constellation Centaurus (The Centaur), which can be seen primarily in the southern hemisphere. A planetary nebula is the final stage of a Sun-like star. As such, planetary nebulae allow us a glimpse into the future of our own Solar System. A star like our Sun will, at the end of its life, transform into a red giant. Stars are sustained by the nuclear fusion that occurs in their core, which creates energy. The nuclear fusion processes constantly try to rip the star apart. 

Caught in the Act

NGC 3351, also known as Messier 95, was first discovered in 1781 by Pierre Méchain, a French astronomer and surveyor who worked alongside Charles Messier. NGC 3351 is a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral galaxy and it is located in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). New observations of this object have shown stellar feedback in action. Stellar feedback is the process of redistributing energy into the interstellar medium (the space in between the stars) within star-forming galaxies. In this particular galaxy, star formation is occurring in the ring surrounding the galaxy nucleus at such a violent rate that massive bubbles of hot gas can actually be seen being ejected. 

Engines Ready

Technicians at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans moved the engine section for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to another part of the facility on Sept. 3 to prepare it for joining to the rest of the rocket’s core stage. The engine section, which comprises the lowest portion of the 212-foot-tall stage, is the last major component to be horizontally integrated to the core stage. The flight hardware will be used for Artemis I, the first lunar mission of SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Crews completed assembly on the engine section on Aug. 29. 

‘First Light’ From Chandra

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has captured many spectacular images of cosmic phenomena over its two decades of operations, but perhaps its most iconic is the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. Located about 11,000 light-years from Earth, Cas A (as it’s nicknamed) is the glowing debris field left behind after a massive star exploded. When the star ran out of fuel, it collapsed onto itself and blew up as a supernova, possibly briefly becoming one of the brightest objects in the sky. (Although astronomers think that this happened around the year 1680, there are no verifiable historical records to confirm this.) The shock waves generated by this blast supercharged the stellar wreckage and its environment, making the debris glow brightly in many types of light, particularly X-rays. Shortly after Chandra was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, astronomers directed the observatory to point toward Cas A.

It was featured in Chandra’s official “First Light” image, released Aug. 26, 1999, and marked a seminal moment not just for the observatory, but for the field of X-ray astronomy.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/T. Sato et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI

Blazing a Safe Trail

The Northrop Grumman built attitude control motor (ACM) on Orion’s launch abort system was successfully tested on August 22, at their facility in Elkton, Maryland. The 30-second trial by fire was the second to last test before it’s qualified for human spaceflight on Artemis 2 — the first mission with astronauts. During the static test, the ACM produced more than 7,000 pounds of thrust from eight valves, providing enough force to steer Orion and its crew to a safe distance.

The launch abort system is designed to transport Orion and its crew to safety in the event of an emergency during launch or ascent. It consists of three solid rocket motors: the abort motor pulls the crew module away from the launch vehicle; the ACM steers and orients the capsule; then the jettison motor ignites to separate the launch abort system from Orion for parachute deployment and a safe crew landing. All three motors will be certified for future crewed flights after qualification tests are completed later this year. The launch abort system was stress tested earlier this year during the successful Ascent Abort-2 test. These achievements brings Orion closer to safe flights with astronauts, paving the way for the first woman and the next man to land on the Moon by 2024.

Comet Capture

Comet 46P/Wirtanen and a commercial plane over Paranal Observatory.

Rolling Stones Rock

This animation illustrates NASA’s InSight lander touching down on Mars, causing a rock to roll 3 feet (1 meter) as the lander touched down on Mars on Nov. 26, 2018. A little bigger than a golf ball, the rock was later nicknamed “Rolling Stones Rock” by the InSight team in honor of The Rolling Stones. A series of 10 or so divots marked the rock’s course after being set in motion by the landing. It’s the farthest NASA has seen a rock roll after landing a spacecraft on another planet.

Though fitting, “Rolling Stones Rock” is not an official designation by the International Astronomical Union, which is responsible to approving the names given to geographical and geological features on other planets.

The rock was imaged by the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) on InSight’s robotic arm, which is not visible here.

Galactic Center

The image show the central part of the Milky Way.

Connecting the Webb

Reaching a major milestone, engineers have successfully connected the two halves of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope for the first time at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo Beach, California. Once it reaches space, Webb will explore the cosmos using infrared light, from planets and moons within our Solar System to the most ancient and distant galaxies. To combine both halves of Webb, engineers carefully lifted the telescope (which includes the mirrors and science instruments) above the already-combined sunshield and spacecraft using a crane.

Team members slowly guided the telescope into place, ensuring that all primary points of contact were perfectly aligned and seated properly. The observatory has been mechanically connected; next steps will be to electrically connect the halves, and then test the electrical connections. Later, engineers will fully deploy the intricate five-layer sunshield, which is designed to keep Webb’s mirrors and scientific instruments cold by blocking infrared light from the Earth, Moon and Sun. The ability of the sunshield to deploy to its correct shape is critical to mission success. Webb is scheduled for launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in March 2021.

Capturing a Dying Star

This atmospheric image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a dark, gloomy scene in the constellation of Gemini (the Twins). The subject of this image confused astronomers when it was first studied — rather than being classified as a single object, it was instead recorded as two objects, owing to its symmetrical lobed structure (known as NGC 2371 and NGC 2372, though sometimes referred to together as NGC 2371/2). These two lobes are visible to the lower left and upper right of the frame, and together form something known as a planetary nebula. Despite the name, such nebulas have nothing to do with planets; NGC 2371/2 formed when a Sun-like star reached the end of its life and blasted off its outer layers, shedding the constituent material and pushing it out into space to leave just a superheated stellar remnant behind.

This remnant is visible as the bright star at the center of the frame, sitting neatly between the two lobes. The structure of this region is complex. It is filled with dense knots of gas, fast-moving jets that appear to be changing direction over time, and expanding clouds of material streaming outwards on diametrically opposite sides of the remnant star. Patches of this scene glow brightly as the remnant star emits energetic radiation that excites the gas within these regions, causing it to light up. This scene will continue to change over the next few thousand years. Eventually the knotty lobes will dissipate completely, and the remnant star will cool and dim to form a white dwarf.

Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency) 

Blue Bahamas

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano captured this image of the Bahamas from the International Space Station and shared it on his social media channels saying: “Bahamas: the colours of a Corto Maltese adventure, the blue of a Hugo Pratt watercolour.

X-raying Stellar Remnants

This colorful spread of light specks is in fact a record of extremely powerful phenomena taking place in a galaxy known as Messier 83, or M83. Located some 15 million light-years away, M83 is a barred spiral galaxy, not dissimilar in shape from our own Milky Way, and currently undergoing a spur of star formation, with a handful of new stars being born every year. While the starry pattern of spiral arms is barely visible in this X-ray view obtained by ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory, this kaleidoscopic image tells a different story about the stellar remnants in this galaxy.

Most of the dots in this view represent the end points of the life cycle of stars, including remnants of supernova explosions and binary systems featuring compact stellar remnants like neutron stars or black holes that are feeding on matter from a companion star. In particular, the large speck to the lower left of the galaxy’s central region is what astronomers call an ultra-luminous X-ray source, or ULX, a binary system where the compact remnant is accreting mass from its companion at a much higher rate than an ordinary X-ray binary.

The sources located in the reddish area at the center of the image correspond to objects located in the inner portions of M83. The majority of sources scattered across the image are located in the outskirts of the galaxy, but a few of those are foreground stars in our own galaxy, and others correspond to more distant galaxies in the background.

This RGB image combines nine XMM-Newton observations performed between 2003 and 2016 at energies of 0.2–2 keV (shown in red), 2–4.5 keV (shown in green), and 4.5–12 keV (shown in blue).

Stellar Families

This image shows a view of stellar ‘families’ – clusters and co-moving groups of stars in the Milky Way – identified using data from the second data release of ESA’s Gaia mission. Families younger than 30 million years are highlighted in orange, on top of an all-sky view based on Gaia observations. A recent study using data from Gaia’s second data release uncovered nearly 2000 previously unidentified clusters and co-moving groups of stars and determined the ages for hundreds of thousands of stars, making it possible to track stellar ‘siblings’ and uncover their surprising arrangements. The study revealed that the most massive among these familial groups of stars may keep moving together through the galaxy in long, string-like configurations for billions of years after their birth.

Wildfires in Brazil

An unprecedented amount of fires have broken out in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. In this image, captured on Aug. 21, the fires and plumes of smoke can clearly be seen.

Cache and Carry

The bit carousel, which lies at the heart of Sample Caching System of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, is attached to the front end of the rover in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The carousel contains all of the tools the coring drill uses to sample the Martian surface and is the gateway for the samples to move into the rover for assessment and processing. The image was taken on Aug. 5, 2019.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

Deployment test of Webb’s secondary mirror

The secondary mirror – visible in the top right corner of the image – is among the most important pieces of equipment on the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and is essential to the success of the mission.

Folded together with the other observatory components during launch, the secondary mirror will be deployed as part of an intricate choreography that will bring the observatory to life once in space. When deployed, like in this view, it faces Webb’s iconic honeycomb-like pattern of 18 hexagonal, gold-coated primary mirror segments. This primary mirror structure is seen in the lower left of the image in its folded configuration, showing only 12 segments.

Once the observatory is in space, light from distant stars and galaxies will first reach its primary mirror, which reflect it into a focused beam towards the secondary mirror. From there, the beam is then sent through the ‘hole’ in the primary mirror structure into the tertiary and fine steering mirrors, and eventually to the four scientific instruments, which sit behind the primary mirror in this view.

Technicians and engineers recently tested a key part of the telescope unfolding choreography by successfully commanding Webb to deploy the support structure that holds its secondary mirror in place. This is a critical milestone in preparing the observatory for its journey to orbit, as the proper deployment and positioning of the telescope’s secondary mirror is critical to perform the mission’s revolutionary science.

New Portrait of Jupiter

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds in this new image taken on June 27, 2019 by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. The image features the planet’s trademark Great Red Spot and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in the planet’s turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years.

Galaxy’s Outer Reaches

Believe it or not, this long, luminous streak, speckled with bright blisters and pockets of material, is a spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. But how could that be?

It turns out that we see this galaxy, named NGC 3432, oriented directly edge-on to us from our vantage point here on Earth. The galaxy’s spiral arms and bright core are hidden, and we instead see the thin strip of its very outer reaches. Dark bands of cosmic dust, patches of varying brightness and pink regions of star formation help with making out the true shape of NGC 3432 — but it’s still somewhat of a challenge! Because observatories such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have seen spiral galaxies at every kind of orientation, astronomers can tell when we happen to have caught one from the side.

The galaxy is located in the constellation of Leo Minor (the Lesser Lion). Other telescopes that have had NGC 3432 in their sights include those of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS).

Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency)

Our Sun Today

NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory was the first mission to be launched for NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) Program, and is designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. SDO ​launched on February 11, 2010, on its journey to help us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously.

SDO’s goal is to understand, driving towards a predictive capability, the solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity’s technological systems by determining how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured, and how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance. Each day, SDO images the sun in a variety of wavelengths. 

Image released on Aug. 6.

Ready to Launch

An Ariane 5 carrying two telecommunications satellites lifts off from its launchpad at the European Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana on Aug. 6.

CubeSats Dance

On June 21, 2019, NASA demonstrated the first coordinated maneuver between two CubeSats in low-Earth orbit as part of NASA’s Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration mission. 

The twin spacecraft, each approximately the size of a tissue box, were orbiting Earth about 5.5 miles apart when they established a radio frequency communications cross-link to “talk” with each other. One spacecraft issued a command to the second to activate its thruster and close the gap between the two. The fuel tanks on both spacecraft are filled with water. During this propulsive maneuver, the water was converted to steam by the thrusters to propel the spacecraft.

“Demonstrations such as this will help advance technologies that will allow for greater and more extended use of small spacecraft in and beyond Earth-orbit,” said Roger Hunter, program manager of the Small Spacecraft Technology program.

The demonstration was designed with a series of safeguards to ensure that only a pre-planned and authorized maneuver could take place. While it was choreographed by human operators on the ground, the demonstration shows it is possible for a series of propulsive maneuvers to be planned with onboard processing and executed cooperatively by a group of small spacecraft.

Cosmic Seagull

Colorful and wispy Sharpless 2-296 forms the “wings” of an area of sky known as the Seagull Nebula — named for its resemblance to a gull in flight. This celestial bird contains a fascinating mix of intriguing astronomical objects. Glowing clouds weave amid dark dust lanes and bright stars. The Seagull Nebula — made up of dust, hydrogen, helium and traces of heavier elements — is the hot and energetic birthplace of new stars.

ISS Transiting the Sun

Amateur astrophotographer Javier Manteca captured this transit of the Sun on Aug. 2, at 17:10 CEST from Fuenlabrada, Spain.

The International Space Station regularly transits the Sun but often along a very narrow ground path, which makes it hard to record. Once you lock down the best viewing location on Earth, timing is a critical factor: transits of the Sun last only half a second. Using a DSLR camera attached to a 150/750 telescope recording in full HD at 30 frames per second, Javier was able to capture the 0.8 seconds it took for the Station to pass. The image is made up of those stacked frames. 

Sideways Galaxy

Galaxy NGC 5866 lies 44 million light-years from Earth and has a diameter of roughly 60,000 light-years — a little more than half the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy. From our viewpoint, NGC 5866 is oriented almost exactly edge-on, yielding most of its structural features invisible. Spitzer detects infrared light, and the red color here corresponds to a wavelength typically emitted by dust. The clean edges of the dust emission from NGC 5866 indicate that there is a very flat ring or disk of dust circling the outer region of the galaxy. Spitzer took this image during its “cold” mission, which ended in 2009. The colors represent three infrared wavelengths captured by the Infrared Array Camera instrument. Blue light corresponds to a wavelength of 3.6 microns, produced mainly by stars; green corresponds to 4.5 microns, and red corresponds to 8 microns. 

Terra Cimmeria

This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows Terra Cimmeria, a region found in the southern highlands of Mars. 

Approaching the ISS

The SpaceX Dragon freighter approaches the International Space Station as both were orbiting 265 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Namibia.

Sphere of Color

This image shows a snippet of the Sun up close, revealing a golden surface marked by a number of dark, blotchy sunspots, curving filaments, and lighter patches known as ‘plages’ – brighter regions often found near sunspots. 

Laser Guide Star

The 8.2 meter VLT Unit Telescopes at Paranal Observatory use some of the strongest lasers ever created for a laser guide star system. In the middle of the image, we see a nice edge side view of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Over the Moon

This photo released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows its Geosynchronous Satellite launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII carrying Chandrayaan-2 lift off from Satish Dhawan Space center in Sriharikota, India on July 22. India successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft to the far side of the moon, a week after aborting the mission due to a technical problem. 

Moonrise

The moon appears more red/orange as it begins to rise due to scattering of light by Earth’s atmosphere. When we view the moon on the horizon, the moonlight has to pass through a greater distance of the atmosphere to our eyes. By this time light on the blue end of the visible spectrum has been scattered away thus we only see the longer wavelengths of visible light, yellow, orange or red. When the Moon is directly overhead (as is pictured here in the last frame), the moonlight has to pass through less of the atmosphere and thus appears as usual.

View of SLS on Mobile Launcher

An illustration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) in the Block 1 configuration, which will carry an Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon, on the mobile launcher. SLS is the only rocket that can send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon on a single mission.

Ahuna Mons on Ceres

This image, based on observations from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, shows the largest mountain on the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn was the first mission to orbit an object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and spent time at both large asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres is one of just five recognized dwarf planets in the Solar System (Pluto being another). Dawn entered orbit around this rocky world on 6 March 2015, and studied its icy, cratered, uneven surface until it ran out of fuel in October of 2018. One of the features spotted by the mission is shown here in this reconstructed perspective view: a mountain named Ahuna Mons.

Space Race

A rocket carrying two satellites lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China’s Gansu province on July 25. A Chinese startup successfully launched the country’s first commercial rocket capable of carrying satellites into orbit as the space race between China and the US heats up.

Seismic Waves Inside Mars

This artist’s concept is a simulation of what seismic waves from a marsquake might look like as they move through different layers of the Martian interior.

Beyond Mission Launch

There is no asking for a better launch date. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and fellow Expedition 60/61 crew NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov lifted off to the International Space Station on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing.

While others were attending anniversary events or pouring through memorabilia, Luca was strapped in the most reliable spacecraft to ferry humans back and forth to space.

The Soyuz MS-13 lifted off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 18:28 CEST.

51/51 SLIDES

Using those techniques to look at the huge bubbles – examining their size and shape, and finding that they appear to be almost identical – the researchers were able to find evidence that they suggest shows they were formed in an intense eruption. That seems to have happened over a short period of time, but was so extreme that it punched through the matter of space.

“The shape and symmetry of what we have observed strongly suggests that a staggeringly powerful event happened a few million years ago very near our galaxy’s central black hole,” said William Cotton, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, and co-author on the paper.

“This eruption was possibly triggered by vast amounts of interstellar gas falling in on the black hole, or a massive burst of star formation which sent shockwaves careening through the galactic centre. In effect, this inflated bubbles in the hot, ionized gas near the galactic centre, energizing it and generating radio waves that we could eventually detect here on Earth.”

The space around our galaxy’s black hole is very different to that everywhere else in the Milky Way, far more turbulent and active than any other part of the galaxy. It is also largely mysterious, since it can be so hard to see – there are huge, long and narrow filaments that have not been spotted elsewhere, and which researchers still do not understand.

The new structures could help illuminate those filaments. Both might have been formed by the same mysterious energetic event.

“The radio bubbles discovered by MeerKAT now shed light on the origin of the filaments,” said Farhad Yusef-Zadeh at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a co-author on the paper. “Almost all of the more than one hundred filaments are confined by the radio bubbles.”

Until now, it was not possible to see the structures because they were behind the glare of bright signals coming from the middle of the galaxy. Scientists were able to use new techniques to look through those dazzling emissions and see the new, towering formations.

“These enormous bubbles have until now been hidden by the glare of extremely bright radio emission from the center of the galaxy,” said Fernando Camilo of SARAO in Cape Town and co-author on the paper.

“Teasing out the bubbles from the background noise was a technical tour de force, only made possible by MeerKAT’s unique characteristics and ideal location. With this unexpected discovery we’re witnessing in the Milky Way a novel manifestation of galaxy-scale outflows of matter and energy, ultimately governed by the central black hole.”

The new research is published today in Nature, and is written by authors from 15 different institutions. It is the first paper to detail research from the MeerKAT’s full array since it was launched last year.

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