Hubble Sees a Mess of Stars : Bursts of pink and red, dark lanes of mottled cosmic dust, and a bright scattering of stars this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows part of a messy barred spiral galaxy known as NGC 428.


Pluto in Combined Color

What is fascinating about Pluto is how young its surface is. We can see some canyons, planes, and mountains in this image - which is an indication of a young surface. This image of Pluto was taken when the New Horizons spacecraft was only 280,000 miles away from the surface. In the image you can see features as small as 1.4 miles! Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced color global view.

Credit: John’s Hopkin’s APL/NASA JPL

Sea Level Rise

For thousands of years, sea level has remained relatively stable. But now, Earth’s seas are rising. Since the beginning of the 20th century, they have risen about eight inches, and more than two inches in the last 20 years alone!

As water warms, it expands and takes up more space. That means that when oceans warm, the sea level rises. This summer, we’ve been researching exactly how global warming has impacted Greenland’s ice sheet. Our ICESat-2 mission will use a laser to measure the height of the planet’s surface. Over time, we will be able to provide a record of elevation change, and estimate how much water has melted into the ocean from land ice change.

So how much ice are we actually losing? Great question, but the answer might shock you. In Greenland alone, 303 gigatons of ice was lost in 2014!

Since we know that ice is melting, we’re working to gain a better understanding of how much and how fast. We’re using everything from planes, probes and boats, to satellites and lasers to determine the impact of global warming on the Earth’s ice.

Follow along for updates and information:

Milky Way and Exploding Meteor : Tonight the Perseid Meteor Shower reaches its maximum. Grains of icy rock will streak across the sky as they evaporate during entry into Earth’s atmosphere. These grains were shed from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids result from the annual crossing of the Earth through Comet Swift-Tuttle’s orbit, and are typically the most active meteor shower of the year. Although it is hard to predict the level of activity in any meteor shower, in a clear dark sky an observer might see a meteor a minute. This year’s Perseids occur just before a new Moon and so the relatively dark sky should make even faint meteors visible. Meteor showers in general are best be seen from a relaxing position, away from lights. Featured here is a meteor caught exploding two weeks ago above Austria next to the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. via NASA


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 ~

Image credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker


this was always supposed to be temporary

this was meant to be a stopgap

for the final time,

we are the country that kissed the moon

Moscow vs. Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota:


it’s like,

we keep ordering expensive takeout

because we haven’t set up the kitchen

but for some reason, the takeout is

hundreds of millions of dollars

there has never been a vehicle like spacecraft

the beauty of an airplane

the capacity of the greatest country on Earth

American soil

then Mars

most recently, Pluto

but it would be difficult to overstate

the moon

we need to build a new generation of

the moon

we should invest in ourselves

we are the country that kissed the moon

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

Voyager 2 was the first (and, so far, only) spacecraft to fly by the planet Neptune and its two satellites: Triton, the largest, and Nereid. The most obvious feature of the planet is its blue color, the result of methane in the atmosphere. Research continues on Neptune’s two largest satellites and the additional six that were discovered by Voyager 2’s investigation.


Did you know that as sea level rises it doesn’t do so evenly? Changes in climate across the globe can make sea level go down at some spots even if the ocean is holding more water. This graphic shows how sea level has gone up across the globe over the past 22 years - yellow areas show that sea levels as a whole are slowly going up, red areas have gone up much faster, while blue areas have actually dropped.

This video explains some of the reasons why these areas are behaving differently.