Stars die and reborn…They get so hot that the nuclei of the atoms fuse together deep within them to make the oxygen we breathe, the carbon in our muscles, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood. All was cooked in the fiery hearts of long vanished stars…The cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.

Carl Sagan

The Swirling Core of the Crab Nebula : At the core of the Crab Nebula lies a city-sized, magnetized neutron star spinning 30 times a second. Known as the Crab Pulsar, it’s actually the rightmost of two bright stars, just below a central swirl in this stunning Hubble snapshot of the nebula’s core. Some three light-years across, the spectacular picture frames the glowing gas, cavities and swirling filaments bathed in an eerie blue light. The blue glow is visible radiation given off by electrons spiraling in a strong magnetic field at nearly the speed of light. Like a cosmic dynamo the pulsar powers the emission from the nebula, driving a shock wave through surrounding material and accelerating the spiraling electrons. With more mass than the Sun and the density of an atomic nucleus, the spinning pulsar is the collapsed core of a massive star that exploded. The Crab Nebula is the expanding remnant of the star’s outer layers. The supernova explosion was witnessed on planet Earth in the year 1054. via NASA

Jeff Williams: Record Breaker

Astronaut becomes U.S. record holder for most cumulative time in space!

The Olympics are over, but Americans are STILL breaking records. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams just broke Scott Kelly’s record of 520 cumulative days spent in space. When Williams returns to Earth on Sept. 5, he will have racked up 534 days in space. To celebrate this amazing achievement, here are some of the best images taken during his four spaceflights.

STS-101 Atlantis:

During May 2000, Williams made his first spacewalk during space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-101 mission. On this 10-day mission, Williams’ first spacewalk lasted nearly seven hours. He is pictured here outside the space station.

Expedition 13:

Williams experienced his first long-duration mission in 2006, when he served as flight engineer for Expedition 13 space station mission. During his time in orbit, he performed two spacewalks, saw the arrival of two space shuttle missions and resumed construction of the orbiting laboratory during his six-month tour. While on one of those spacewalks, Williams took this selfie.

Expedition 21/22:

Williams returned to space for another six-month mission in 2009 as a flight engineer on Expedition 21 and commander of Expedition 22. During that time, he hosted the crews of two space shuttle missions. The U.S.-built Tranquility module and cupola were installed on station. Here is an image of the then newly installed cupola.

Expedition 47/48:

This time around, Williams has been onboard the space station since March 2016, where he served as flight engineer for Expedition 47 and now commands Expedition 48. With over 7,000 retweets on Williams’ photo of an aurora from space, his Twitter followers were clearly impressed with his photography skills.

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Breaking News: August 24,

The closest potentially habitable planet to our solar system has been found!

In a discovery that has been years in the making, researchers have confirmed the existence of a rocky planet named Proxima b orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun, according to a new study. It is the closest exoplanet to us in the universe.

Given the fact that Proxima b is within the habitable zone of its star, means liquid water should exist on the surface, it may also be the closest possible home for life outside of our solar system,. Because of its location, the researchers hope it provides an opportunity for possible “robotic exploration in the near future. 

This artist’s impression above shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b. It is not only nice for having it in our neighborhood, but it’s a dream come true for astronomers if we think about follow-up observation.“Proxima Centauri coexists with a binary star in Alpha Centauri, a well-studied star system that serves as a neighbor to our sun. Proxima b is a mere 4.2 light-years away from our solar system.

Low Arctic sea ice levels are the “new normal,” according to NASA

The current low amount of ice in the Arctic Ocean would have sent shockwaves across the science community decades ago. But according to NASA scientists, climate change means these low ice levels are just “the new normal.” The amount of ice melt in the Arctic Ocean and surrounding bodies of water has been all over the board this year, and there’s a disturbing fact about the ice that’s being ignored.

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What An Earth-Like World Around Proxima Centauri Would (And Wouldn’t) Mean

“Whether this planet exists or not — and it’s important to be skeptical, as there was a planet reported around Alpha Centauri B a few years ago that went away with more data — it’s important to remember that ‘Earth-like’ is a far cry from being anything at all like the actual Earth. By these criteria, Venus or Mars would be ‘Earth-like’ too, but you wouldn’t stake your hopes of becoming an interstellar species on either of those. As great as finding a new, rocky world in the potentially habitable zone around the nearest star to the Sun would be, it’s a long way from our ultimate dream of an Earth 2.0.”

Later tonight, the European Southern Observatory is expected to make an announcement, and the smart money is on the discovery of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our Sun. As incredibly exciting as this news is, however, it’s important to keep in mind that “Earth-like,” to an astronomer, means something very different than what we think of as “actually like Earth.” The only information we can glean from our present observations is the planet’s mass, size and orbit around a star. This is enough to tell us some of its properties, including a few ways (like tidal locking) that are quite different from Earth, but questions about its atmosphere, surface temperature, magnetic field and much more remain unanswered.

Come learn what the discovery of a new planet around our closest star would and wouldn’t tell us!

Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and PencilNASA chief Charles Bolden recalls the historic trajectory of the “human computer” who played a key role in the Apollo 11 moon landing, and as a female African-American in the 1960s, shattered stereotypes in the process.

When I was growing up, in segregated South Carolina, African-American role models in national life were few and far between. Later, when my fellow flight students and I, in training at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi, clustered around a small television watching the Apollo 11 moon landing, little did I know that one of the key figures responsible for its success was an unassuming black woman from West Virginia: Katherine Johnson. Hidden Figuresis both an upcoming book and an upcoming movie about her incredible life, and, as the title suggests, Katherine worked behind the scenes but with incredible impact.

When Katherine began at NASA, she and her cohorts were known as “human computers,” and if you talk to her or read quotes from throughout her long career, you can see that precision, that humming mind, constantly at work. She is a human computer, indeed, but one with a quick wit, a quiet ambition, and a confidence in her talents that rose above her era and her surroundings.

“In math, you’re either right or you’re wrong,” she said. Her succinct words belie a deep curiosity about the world and dedication to her discipline, despite the prejudices of her time against both women and African-Americans. It was her duty to calculate orbital trajectories and flight times relative to the position of the moon—you know, simple things. In this day and age, when we increasingly rely on technology, it’s hard to believe that John Glenn himself tasked Katherine to double-check the results of the computer calculations before his historic orbital flight, the first by an American. The numbers of the human computer and the machine matched.

With a slide rule and a pencil, Katherine advanced the cause of human rights and the frontier of human achievement at the same time. Having graduated from high school at 14 and college at 18 at a time when African-Americans often did not go beyond the eighth grade, she used her amazing facility with geometry to calculate Alan Shepard’s flight path and took the Apollo 11 crew to the moon to orbit it, land on it, and return safely to Earth.

I was so proud of Katherine as I sat with hundreds of other guests in the East Room of the White House and watched as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama last year. Katherine’s great mind and amazing talents advanced our freedoms at the most basic level—the freedom to pursue the biggest dreams we can possibly imagine and to step into any room in the country and take a seat at the table because our expertise and excellence deserve it. Katherine, now 97, took her seat without fanfare. As far as not being equal was concerned, she said, “I didn’t have time for that. My dad taught us ‘you are as good as anybody in this town, but you’re no better.’ ” I’d posit that Katherine was better—not only at math but also at applying her talents with the precision and beauty possible only in mathematics. She achieved the perfect parabola—casting herself to the stars and believing she could chart the journey home.