The Cats Eye Nebula from Hubble : To some, it may look like a cats eye. The alluring Cats Eye nebula, however, lies three thousand light-years from Earth across interstellar space. A classic planetary nebula, the Cats Eye represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebulas dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this digitally sharpened Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into this Cats Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution in about 5 billion years. via NASA


Taming the sound from a Shuttle using water.

What purpose would a water tank have in the proximity of a space shuttle launch? 

Well, believe it or not, it is used to suppress the acoustical energy (sound and rocket exhaust reflected from the flame trench and Mobile Launcher Platform during launch.

Underlying Principle.

NASA came up with an ingenious way to suppress the sound- Bubbles!

Bubbles are excellent at absorbing the sound. They absorb the sound energy and as a consequence of which get heated up. NASA exploited this and sprayed water molecules in the air surrounding the Mobile Launcher Platform. This reduced the sound from the firing of the rockets by almost a half!

The Sound Suppression System.

The Sound Suppression System includes an elevated water tank with a capacity of 300,000 gallons (1,135,620 liters). The tank is 290 feet (88 meters) high and is located adjacent to each pad. 

The water releases just prior to the ignition of the Shuttle engines, and flows through 7-foot-diameter (2.1-meter) pipes for about 20 seconds. Water pours from 16 nozzles atop the flame deflectors and from outlets in the main engines exhaust hole in the Mobile Launcher Platform, starting at T minus 6.6 seconds. 

A rainbird nozzle in action

By the time the solid rocket boosters ignite, a torrent of water will be flowing onto the Mobile Launcher Platform from six large quench nozzles, or “rainbirds,” mounted on its surface. 

The peak rate of flow from all sources is 900,000 gallons (3,406,860 liters) of water per minute at 9 seconds after liftoff.

Exquisite, isn’t it? 


This is a new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Lagoon Nebula. The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust. The bright star located in the dark clouds at the center of this image is known as Herschel 36. This star is responsible for sculpting the surrounding cloud, stripping away material and influencing its shape. 


(Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Trauger)


Unusual Red Arcs Spotted on Icy Saturn Moon

Like graffiti sprayed by an unknown artist, unexplained arc-shaped, reddish streaks are visible on the surface of Saturn’s icy moon Tethys in new, enhanced-color images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

The red arcs are narrow, curved lines on the moon’s surface, and are among the most unusual color features on Saturn’s moons to be revealed by Cassini’s cameras.

Continue Reading.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 July 30 

Milky Way over Uluru 

The central regions of our Milky Way Galaxy rise above Uluru/Ayers Rock in this striking night skyscape. Recorded on July 13, a faint airglow along the horizon shows off central Australia’s most recognizable landform in silhouette. Of course the Milky Way’s own cosmic dust clouds appear in silhouette too, dark rifts along the galaxy’s faint congeries of stars. Above the central bulge, rivers of cosmic dust converge on a bright yellowish supergiant star Antares. Left of Antares, wandering Saturn shines in the night.

Scientist Spotlight: Alice Bowman aka MOM (Mission Operations Manager) for NASA’s New Horizons Pluto mission out of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD. 

Seeing a mission from inception through creation then 3 billion miles away for a rendezvous with a foreign celestial object is quite a compliment to ones’ resume. For Alice Bowman - supervisor of the Space Department’s Space Missions Operations Group at APL - it was all in a decade’s work.

In the above image photographed at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on July 11, 2015 (three days before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto), we see 25% of the New Horizons’ #PlutoFlyBy team. It’s worth noting who all of these spectacular #womeninscience are. Kneeling from left to right: Amy Shira Teitel, Cindy Conrad, Sarah Hamilton, Allisa Earle, Leslie Young, Melissa Jones, Katie Bechtold, Becca Sepan, Kelsi Singer, Amanda Zangari, Coralie Jackman, Helen Hart. Standing, from left to right: Fran Bagenal, Ann Harch, Jillian Redfern, Tiffany Finley, Heather Elliot, Nicole Martin, Yanping Guo, Cathy Olkin, Valerie Mallder, Rayna Tedford, Silvia Protopapa, Martha Kusterer, Kim Ennico, Ann Verbiscer, Bonnie Buratti, Sarah Bucior, Veronica Bray, Emma Birath, Carly Howett, Alice Bowman. Not pictured: Priya Dharmavaram, Sarah Flanigan, Debi Rose, Sheila Zurvalec, Adriana Ocampo, Jo-Anne Kierzkowsk Sheila Zurvaleci. Credits: SwRI/JHUAPL

As calculations are performed, trajectory accounted for, and data examined, Alice Bowman is the last to receive spacecraft commands before they are sent on a 4.5 hr (light speed time) journey to New Horizons. The significance of Bowman’s role in leading the charge as a pivotal figure in the mission: she’s the first female Mission Operations Manager in the history of NASA. In fact, the New Horizons team may have the most women in NASA’s history as well. 

(Above) Photo of Alice taken during the New Horizons (final) hibernation wake-up on December 6, 2014. Bowman said, “It looks like I was either asking for a different configuration or asking about the telemetry I was seeing on the displays.” Image Credit: SwRI/JHUAPL

Kimberly Ennico, an astrophysicist on the New Horizons mission who calibrates its space instruments, comments on the gender-gap in science

We’re not equal. I’m sorry to say we’re not there yet. I think when we get to the point in which we don’t need to call attention to whether you’re a woman or a man, that’s when we have succeeded.

Well said. And in several interviews conducted with New Horizons’ team members, it’s repeatedly clear that the “gender diversity” amongst them is hardly recognized until someone comes along and points it out. As Alice Bowman states: 

This isn’t remarkable—it’s just how it is.

Indeed, it’s all about the science, as it should be, and we applaud the efforts of NASA, APL, and respective contractors who made the #PlutoFlyBy an extraordinary success and worldwide participatory event. Leslie Young, a deputy scientist on the team who serves as the encounter planning leader on the science team reiterates this further

Girls will be inspired to be scientists and boys will grow up to be ‘gender blind,’ seeing women in science as the norm.

So here’s to Alice “MOM” Bowman for her dedication and inspiring heroism in the field of planetary science and space exploration. All over the world, there are young people who will remember this historic feat of human ingenuity and regard New Horizons’ MOM for their interest and passion for science. 

Recommended‘Everything Was New and Pretty Wondrous’ (HuffPost)

Related: ‘Ponderlust Ep. 19 – We Heart Pluto’ & Ep. 15 – #DearPluto


An other wordly glacier

Our rivers of flowing ice are made up of frozen flowing water, but in this amazing image snapped by NASA’s New Horizons probe as it streamed at high speed past Pluto reveals how nature can produce similar patterns in very different circumstances and using different elements. On Pluto, the bedrock is made of water ice, while the flowing matter moving around obstacles and filling depressions in the image is nitrogen (which at Earth temperature makes up most of our atmosphere) with a whiff perhaps of methane. The style of flow between these two elements found at opposite ends of our solar system in widely different temperature zones is very similar, illustrating how the laws of physics give different materials varying consistencies and responses to stress in very diverse environments, but that many essential patterns in nature remain the same.


Image credit:

Ticket Price? $74 Million Dollars;  Space Nerd Cred? Priceless.

NSDD 181 Shuttle Pricing for Foreign and Commercial Users, 7/30/1985

From the series: National Security Decision Directives (NSDDs), 1/20/1981 - 1/20/1989

On July 30, 1985 President Ronald Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive Number 181, which allowed for the sale of flight capacity on the Space Shuttles to foreign and commercial users.  The minimum acceptable price would be $74 million dollars.