M1: The Crab Nebula from Hubble : This is the mess that is left when a star explodes. The Crab Nebula, the result of a supernova seen in 1054 AD, is filled with mysterious filaments. The filaments are not only tremendously complex, but appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and a higher speed than expected from a free explosion. The featured image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, is presented in three colors chosen for scientific interest. The Crab Nebula spans about 10 light-years. In the nebula’s very center lies a pulsar: a neutron star as massive as the Sun but with only the size of a small town. The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second. via NASA

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“The shimmering colours visible in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image show off the remarkable complexity of the Twin Jet Nebula. The new image highlights the nebula’s shells and its knots of expanding gas in striking detail. Two iridescent lobes of material stretch outwards from a central star system. Within these lobes two huge jets of gas are streaming from the star system at speeds in excess of one million kilometres per hour.“
Seriously, how amazing space can be!?

Ten Years After Katrina

As we remember the devastation that Hurricane Katrina caused ten years ago, we also look to the improvements made in the past decade in storm prediction and forecasting.

Hurricane Katrina impacted many people, businesses and communities; and even two NASA facilities were hit by the storm. Marshall Space Flight Center and Michoud Assembly Facility were both hit by the harsh storm (seen below).

During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, our satellites were hard at work monitoring and watching the storm from above. Thanks to the higher resolution models we have today, simulations can recreate historical storms, like the below of Hurricane Katrina. Scientists can then study these and learn about past events.

Surprisingly, the United States hasn’t experienced the landfall of a Category 3 hurricane or lager since 2005. This is the longest period of time that has passed without a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. since reliable records began in 1850.

Although we don’t know when a severe storm will form, we do know that advancements in technology can help us better prepare and predict its path. So, on this ten year mark of this devastating storm, we look back to remember what we saw: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/sets/72157656646633089

Comet Dust over Enchanted Rock : Dusty debris from periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle was swept up by planet Earth this week. Vaporized by their passage through the dense atmosphere at 59 kilometers per second, the tiny grains produced a stream of Perseid meteors. A bright, colorful Perseid meteor flash was captured during this 20 second exposure. It made its ephemeral appearance after midnight on August 12, in the moonless skies over the broad granite dome of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, central Texas, USA. Below the Perseid meteor, trees stand in silhouette against scattered lights along the horizon and the faint Milky Way, itself cut by dark clouds of interstellar dust. via NASA

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It is the object to the left of the big tree that’s generating much recent excitement. If you look closely, there you can see Comet PanSTARRS, complete with two tails. During July, this comet increased markedly in brightness and had just passed its closest approach to Earth. The statuesque tree in the center is a Norfolk Island Pine, and to either side of this tree are New Zealand Pohutukaw trees. Over the trees, far in the distance, are bright Venus and an even brighter crescent Moon. If you look even more closely, you can find Jupiter hidden in the branches of the pine. The featured image was taken in Fergusson Park, New Zealand, looking over Tauranga Harbour Inlet.

Image Credit & Copyright: Amit Kamble (Auckland Astronomical Society); Rollover Annotation: Judy Schmidt

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NASA’s New Horizons Team Selects Potential Kuiper Belt Flyby Target

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team.  Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

“Even as the New Horizon’s spacecraft speeds away from Pluto out into the Kuiper Belt, and the data from the exciting encounter with this new world is being streamed back to Earth, we are looking outward to the next destination for this intrepid explorer,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and chief of the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “While discussions whether to approve this extended mission will take place in the larger context of the planetary science portfolio, we expect it to be much less expensive than the prime mission while still providing new and exciting science.”

Read more ~ NASA.gov

Image credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker