observing earth

Celebrating 17 Years of NASA’s ‘Little Earth Satellite That Could’

The satellite was little— the size of a small refrigerator; it was only supposed to last one year and constructed and operated on a shoestring budget — yet it persisted.

After 17 years of operation, more than 1,500 research papers generated and 180,000 images captured, one of NASA’s pathfinder Earth satellites for testing new satellite technologies and concepts comes to an end on March 30, 2017. The Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite will be powered off on that date but will not enter Earth’s atmosphere until 2056. 

“The Earth Observing-1 satellite is like The Little Engine That Could,” said Betsy Middleton, project scientist for the satellite at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 

To celebrate the mission, we’re highlighting some of EO-1’s notable contributions to scientific research, spaceflight advancements and society. 

Scientists Learn More About Earth in Fine Detail

This animation shifts between an image showing flooding that occurred at the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers on January 12, 2016, captured by ALI and the rivers at normal levels on February 14, 2015 taken by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8. Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory  

EO-1 carried the Advanced Land Imager that improved observations of forest cover, crops, coastal waters and small particles in the air known as aerosols. These improvements allowed researchers to identify smaller features on a local scale such as floods and landslides, which were especially useful for disaster support. 

On the night of Sept. 6, 2014, EO-1’s Hyperion observed the ongoing eruption at Holuhraun, Iceland as shown in the above image. Partially covered by clouds, this scene shows the extent of the lava flows that had been erupting.

EO-1’s other key instrument Hyperion provided an even greater level of detail in measuring the chemical constituents of Earth’s surface— akin to going from a black and white television of the 1940s to the high-definition color televisions of today. Hyperion’s level of sophistication doesn’t just show that plants are present, but can actually differentiate between corn, sorghum and many other species and ecosystems. Scientists and forest managers used these data, for instance, to explore remote terrain or to take stock of smoke and other chemical constituents during volcanic eruptions, and how they change through time.  

Crowdsourced Satellite Images of Disasters   

EO-1 was one of the first satellites to capture the scene after the World Trade Center attacks (pictured above) and the flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. EO-1 also observed the toxic sludge in western Hungary in October 2010 and a large methane leak in southern California in October 2015. All of these scenes, which EO-1 provided quick, high-quality satellite imagery of the event, were covered in major news outlets. All of these scenes were also captured because of user requests. EO-1 had the capability of being user-driven, meaning the public could submit a request to the team for where they wanted the satellite to gather data along its fixed orbits. 

This image shows toxic sludge (red-orange streak) running west from an aluminum oxide plant in western Hungary after a wall broke allowing the sludge to spill from the factory on October 4, 2010. This image was taken by EO-1’s Advanced Land Imager on October 9, 2010. Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory

 Artificial Intelligence Enables More Efficient Satellite Collaboration

This image of volcanic activity on Antarctica’s Mount Erebus on May 7, 2004 was taken by EO-1’s Advanced Land Imager after sensing thermal emissions from the volcano. The satellite gave itself new orders to take another image several hours later. Credit: Earth Observatory

EO-1 was among the first satellites to be programmed with a form of artificial intelligence software, allowing the satellite to make decisions based on the data it collects. For instance, if a scientist commanded EO-1 to take a picture of an erupting volcano, the software could decide to automatically take a follow-up image the next time it passed overhead. The Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment software was developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and was uploaded to EO-1 three years after it launched. 

This image of Nassau Bahamas was taken by EO-1’s Advanced Land Imager on Oct 8, 2016, shortly after Hurricane Matthew hit. European, Japanese, Canadian, and Italian Space Agency members of the international coalition Committee on Earth Observation Satellites used their respective satellites to take images over the Caribbean islands and the U.S. Southeast coastline during Hurricane Matthew. Images were used to make flood maps in response to requests from disaster management agencies in Haiti, Dominican Republic, St. Martin, Bahamas, and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The artificial intelligence software also allows a group of satellites and ground sensors to communicate and coordinate with one another with no manual prompting. Called a “sensor web”, if a satellite viewed an interesting scene, it could alert other satellites on the network to collect data during their passes over the same area. Together, they more quickly observe and downlink data from the scene than waiting for human orders. NASA’s SensorWeb software reduces the wait time for data from weeks to days or hours, which is especially helpful for emergency responders. 

Laying the Foundation for ‘Formation Flying’

This animation shows the Rodeo-Chediski fire on July 7, 2002, that were taken one minute apart by Landsat 7 (burned areas in red) and EO-1 (burned areas in purple). This precision formation flying allowed EO-1 to directly compare the data and performance from its land imager and the Landsat 7 ETM+. EO-1’s most important technology goal was to test ALI for future Landsat satellites, which was accomplished on Landsat 8. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

EO-1 was a pioneer in precision “formation flying” that kept it orbiting Earth exactly one minute behind the Landsat 7 satellite, already in orbit. Before EO-1, no satellite had flown that close to another satellite in the same orbit. EO-1 used formation flying to do a side-by-side comparison of its onboard ALI with Landsat 7’s operational imager to compare the products from the two imagers. Today, many satellites that measure different characteristics of Earth, including the five satellites in NASA’s A Train, are positioned within seconds to minutes of one another to make observations on the surface near-simultaneously.

For more information on EO-1’s major accomplishments, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/celebrating-17-years-of-nasa-s-little-earth-satellite-that-could

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com/.

An alien race has been observing humankind using undercover informants living a normal life to witness and partake in the human experience. An interview is about to be conducted with a lead sociologist and spy who has been observing earth life for 20+ years.

For NASA, Earth Day is Every Day!

With a fleet of spacecraft orbiting our home planet collecting data on everything from the air we breathe to natural disasters that impact our lives, Earth is always in focus. Join us as we celebrate our home with beautiful views from our unique vantage point of space.

On December 17, 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 snapped this iconic image of planet Earth. Dubbed the Blue Marble, this image was taken as Apollo 17 rocketed toward the moon. 

On the way to the moon or from the surface of Mars, our spacecraft have photographed the beauty of Earth from many vantage points. In this image, the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars captured this view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon. The image combines two separate exposures taken on November 20, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. 

In this image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on our Cassini spacecraft captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame.

Our Suomi-NPP satellite also observed the Earth at night. Earth’s “night lights” often have a gee-whiz curiosity for the public , but have also served as a tool for fundamental research for nearly 25 years. They have provided a broad, beautiful picture, showing how humans have shaped the planet and lit up the darkness. 

You can be mesmerized by the constant swirls in these visualizations of ocean currents. The swirling flows of tens of thousands of ocean currents were captured using the largest computations of their kind ever undertaken, using high-end computing resources at our Ames Research Center. 

We’ve all seen iconic photographs of Earth shot by astronauts. But even satellites and robotic spacecraft often get in on the act. The above image, called “Pale Blue Dot,” was taken Voyager 1 in February 1990 from a distance of 4 billion miles.

Our satellites do more than take pretty pictures of Earth. They do everything from measure rainfall to observe weather patterns. The ten satellites in the Global Precipitation Measurement Constellation have provided unprecedented information about rain and snow fall across the entire Earth. This visualization shows the constellation in action, taking precipitation measurements underneath the satellite orbits. 

In an homage to Apollo 17′s “Blue Marble” image, Suomi-NPP, a joint NASA-NOAA Earth-observing satellite, made this composite image, by making a number of swaths of Earth’s surface on January 4, 2012. 

What’s your favorite aspect of planet Earth? These kids have their own ideas. You can even “adopt” parts of the planet. Which one of the 64,000 locations will you get? 

Our home planet is constantly changing, which is why our fleet of Earth-observing satellites continuously monitor the globe, recording every moment of what they see. Luckily for us, many of the views are not only deeply informative but also awe-inspiring. 

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

anonymous asked:

I've always thought it'd be wild if humanity ever entered an irl sci fi future scenario and met another alien race, let's call them the Quacksians, because like, all previous sci fi would be invalidated and all future sci fi would have to include the Quacksians because that's the new baseline reality(and would Quacksians show up in future fantasy fiction alongside humans?). Then I realized that's what happened to a lot of stories when the moon turned out barren. Funny how these things happen.

A lot of science fiction novels talk about the fiction that exists in the world itself. It’s a good narrative device to show how people in the world itself see something. For example, in Isaac Asimov’s Caves of Steel, there are pulpy novels about the arrogant, rich spacers who visit earth: usually, they involve a beautiful spacer girl who falls in love with the tough earth hero. The point of telling us this is to show us how the residents of earth’s dome cities resent and distrust the spacers and believe they are aloof because of their wealth and arrogance, instead of the more humanizing truth: Spacers can’t mingle in an earth city because they have no immune systems. 

Another one of my favorite examples of this is in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen, where, because real superheroes exist, comic books are all about pirates. I love that because apparently the major figure in comics history, the Stan Lee, Steranko, and Jack Kirby rolled into one of this timeline, is EC horror comic guy Joe Orlando. Orlando was a tremendously gifted artist but he never really “got” superhero books. I wonder if Don Heck, another gifted comic artist, is a more major figure in the Watchmen earth. He was a good artist who was good at Westerns and horror but who was terrible at fantasy elements. 

(Side note: based on the art, for years, I thought Steranko did Watchmen.)

One of the best novels about how science fiction stories actually change scientific development and shape a science fiction world would have to be Alan Steele’s Chronospace (2001) which is about how UFOs are actually time machines. The idea is that time travel would only be possible in space, as that is where wormholes could be safely created. Combine that with the fact that they avoid all contact with us, there’s a good case that UFOs are time traveling observers from earth. When time traveling, our heroes learn that it was scifi that inspired their own time machine.

I’ve often championed this series, but one of the most incredibly ahead of its time series would have to be L. Sprague de Camp’s “Hand of Zei” and Planet Krishna stories from the 1950s, which are both a spoof of the John Carter of Mars planet yarn, and a decent straight example at the same time. And part of the reason I like it is because even though it’s written in the 1950s, it’s genre self aware in a Whedonian style, with wisecracking and people identifying tropes. Yet this was written in the early 1950s!

One of my favorite details is that people sign up for jobs in space exploration because they read Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and wanted to do something romantic and exciting with their lives. 

There they go again

Humans as a whole have each of their own ways to communicate with either short bursts of activity or an unimaginable amount of time sending a message that resonates with another of their ilk.

I am Tznnek of Zenzubir under Sector 737-E and I have been tasked to gather as much data as possible about on Human Gestures in different countries.

I hope this will not prove as disastrous as my colleague sustaining injury from observing leap-beasts in Australia.

Observer’s Log – Earth Cycle #4

The younglings (called “teenagers”, see chapter 10.3 for clarification) perform hand gestures they call “fist bumps” as opposed to a nod or a handshake. Some adolescent males would also participate in leaping at each other (???) in mock-attack and bump their shoulders, chest, and abdomen against each other before baring white dentals in a form of a grin.

Perhaps it is a form of assurance in both of their so-called “masculinity”. Perhaps it is merely a source of fun like most humans said. Regardless, this is a good start. Maybe now I will understand exactly why other life forms fear, idolise and dote on these species.

Just a few days after rolling out of its hangar for the very first time, Deimos-2 captured the Stratolaunch mothership aircraft on the tarmac at the Mojave Air and Spaceport June 2. The aircraft has the largest wingspan of any plane in the world at 384 feet - wider than the International Space Station.

Stratolaunch will carry up to three Pegasus XL rockets in between its twin fuselages before deploying them mid-flight for launch. Stratolaunch Systems will begin ground tests of the vehicle in the coming weeks before aerial flights begin mid-2018.

P/c: Deimos Imaging

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Making every night science movie night with these amazing videos.

1. Pure Beauty 

Our star sprouting coronal loops courtesy of the NASA sun team. See the full video: https://go.nasa.gov/2p47Lt2

2. Where’s the last place you’d expect to find enough ice to bury a city? 

Answer: Mercury, the closest planet to the sun. Watch the video: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/11184

3. The Mars Fleet 

Only Earth has more satellites studying it. Full video: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4414

4. A Star-Studded Cast

Check out NASA’s satellite fleet of Earth observers. See the video: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12586

5. Jupiter in Ultra HD 

Thanks, Hubble Space Telescope! See the video: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12021

6. A Tear Jerker 

Our Cassini spacecraft starts her 4.5-month Grand Finale this week. Full video: https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/resources/7628

7. Faster Than the Speed of Sound

Winds on Neptune travel faster than the speed of sound. Full video: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/11349

8. A Musical Number

This one features the planet Uranus doing pop and lock. Full video: https://youtu.be/CWuWoiHmXUs

9. Up Close and Personal 

Thanks to our New Horizons mission, we’ve been able to get up close and with Pluto. Full video: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/12080

10: The Treasure Trove

TRAPPIST-1 is a treasure trove of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a distant star. Full video: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/details.php?id=1459

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

You know when you date someone for long enough that you end up finishing or saying each other’s sentences?

PHARAH AND MERCY HAVE IDENTICAL LINES ON THEIR OBSERVATION OF EARTH FROM THE HORIZON MAP: “It all looks so peaceful from up here.”

lesbian mind meld confirmed. 

9

The Nearest Supernova Of Our Lifetime Turns 30, And Still Shines

“The supernova light brightened and then dimmed, but the surrounding gas, blown off from the supergiant, remains illuminated by radiation. As shockwaves from the explosion move outwards, they collide with interstellar material, producing brightening rings of material.”

In February of 1987, the first light from a supernova some 168,000 light years away was observed on Earth. It became the closest supernova to be observed since the invention of the telescope. As a result, it’s taught us more about massive star death, ejecta and supernova remnant evolution than any other object in the Universe. Illuminated outer rings showcase ejection events that occurred prior to the final death of the star; continued brightening teach us the rate of expansion of the supernova remnant; the lack of a neutron star at the core teaches us about the power of dust to obscure even radio light from this object. Perhaps most interestingly, neutrinos were observed from this supernova, arriving nearly three hours before the light did, confirming that they move through a star unimpeded, unlike light.

Come get the full story in some amazing pictures, videos and under 200 words of text on today’s Mostly Mute Monday!

all earth signs can have ritualistic obsessions. they operate on habit, not always destructive, but comforting routines. they are strict in terms of their own morality and self efficacy, often reticent to rely on others or admit co-dependence. earthy people are useful people. their sixth sense derives from acute observation 

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Earth is the ultimate ocean planet (that we know of), but it turns out that our solar system has water in some surprising places, with five ocean-bearing moons and potentially several more worlds with their own oceans. 

1. The Original “Alien Ocean”

Our Galileo spacecraft (1989-2003) detected the first evidence of an ocean beyond Earth under the ice of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

2. Lost Oceans

There are signs that Mars and Venus once had oceans, but something catastrophic may have wiped them out. Earth’s natural force field – our magnetosphere – acts like shield against the erosive force of the solar wind.

3. Earth, the Original Ocean World

The search for life beyond Earth relies, in large part, on understanding our home planet. Among the newest Earth ocean explorers us the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System, or CYGNSS–a constellation of microsatellites that will make detailed measurements of wind speeds over Earth’s oceans to help understand hurricanes. The spacecraft have moved into their science operations phase.

4. Sister Ships

It’s fitting the first mission to explore an alien ocean is named in honor of fast-sailing clipper ships of old. Our Europa Clipper spacecraft will seek signs of habitability on Jupiter’s moon Europa.

5. Game Changer

Scientists expected Saturn’s moon Enceladus to be a tiny, solid chunk of ice and rock. But, not long after arriving at Saturn, our Cassini spacecraft made a series of incremental discoveries, eventually confirming that a global subsurface ocean is venting into space, with signs of hydrothermal activity.

6. Why Ocean Worlds Matter

“The question of whether or not life exists beyond Earth, the question of whether or not biology works beyond our home planet, is one of humanity’s oldest and yet unanswered questions. And for the first time in the history of humanity, we have the tools and technology and capability to potentially answer this question. And, we know where to go to find it. Jupiter’s ocean world Europa.” - Kevin Hand, NASA Astrobiologist

7. More Alien Oceans

Scientists think Jupiter’s giant moons Ganymede and Callisto also hide oceans beneath their surfaces. Elsewhere in the solar system, scientists hope to look for hidden oceans on far-flung worlds from Ceres in the main asteroid belt to Pluto in the Kuiper Belt.

8. Cold Faithful(s)?

Thanks to our Cassini orbiter we know the tiny moon Enceladus is venting its ocean into space in a towering, beautiful plume. The Hubble Space Telescope also has seen tantalizing hints of plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Plumes are useful because they provide samples of ocean chemistry for oceans that could be miles below the surface and difficult for spacecraft to reach. It’s like they’re giving out free samples!

9. Titanic Seas and Ocean

Saturn’s moon Titan not only has liquid hydrocarbon seas on its surface. It also shows signs of a global, subsurface saltwater ocean–making the giant moon a place to possibly look for life as we know it and life as we don’t know it … yet.

10. Oceans Beyond

Several of the thousands of planets discovered beyond our solar system orbit their stars in zones where liquid surface water is possible–including Proxima-b, a rocky planet orbiting the star nearest to our own.

BONUS: Adopt a bit of YOUR Ocean World

We invite everyone to help us celebrate Earth Day 2017 by virtually adopting a piece of Earth as seen from space. Your personalized adoption certificate will feature data from our Earth-observing satellites for a randomly assigned location, much of it ocean (it is 70 percent of the Earth’s surface after all!). Print it and share it, then explore other locations with our interactive map and get even more Earth science data from NASA’s Worldview website.

Visit go.nasa.gov/adopt to adopt your piece of the planet today!

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Taking yet another stunning image of a rocket on its launch pad, the Deimos-2 satellite flew over Kennedy Space Center April 29 and captured the NROL-76 Falcon 9 atop LC-39A. The Earth imaging satellite also captured the SES-9 Falcon 9 in February 2016 on SLC-40 and its accompanying droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

With a new fleet of commercial Earth Observation satellites in orbit, photography of launch sites has increased in recent years. WorldView-2 saw its companion satellite, WorldView-4, launch into space mid-flight last November, and Deimos-2 saw the CRS-10 Falcon 9 atop LC-39A in February.

P/C: Deimos Imaging.

Despite its proximity, Venus remains largely mysterious, thanks to its cloudy atmosphere and incredible harsh conditions. A recent study using data from the Japanese satellite Akatsuki revealed an enormous bow-shaped wave in the Venusian atmosphere. The wave appeared at an altitude of about 65 km and stretched more than 10,000 km long, across both the northern and southern hemispheres. Although surface winds on Venus are believed to be small due to its incredibly slow rotation, winds higher in the atmosphere are much faster – so it was strange to observe this wave sitting essentially stationary for five days of observation. 

When the scientists mapped the location of wave relative to the surface, they found it was sitting over the Aphrodite Terra highlands, suggesting that this structure is a gravity wave generated by winds interacting with the topography. Similar, albeit smaller, gravity waves are often observed on Earth near mountains. The finding raises questions about our understanding of Venusian atmospheric dynamics and exactly how disturbances from surface winds could create enormous structures so high in the atmosphere. (Image credit: T. Fukuhara et al.; h/t to SciShow Space)

The hilarious, big-hearted, observant, down to earth, and adorable duo!

SpaceX Sends Super Science to Space Station!

SpaceX is scheduled to launch its Dragon spacecraft PACKED with super cool research and technology to the International Space Station June 1 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. New solar panels, investigations that study neutron stars and even fruit flies are on the cargo list. Let’s take a look at what other bits of science are making their way to the orbiting laboratory 250 miles above the Earth…

New solar panels to test concept for more efficient power source

Solar panels generate power well, but they can be delicate and large when used to power a spacecraft or satellites. This technology demonstration is a solar panel concept that is lighter and stores more compactly for launch than the solar panels currently in use. 

Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) has solar cells on a flexible blanket and a framework that rolls out like a tape measure and snap into place, and could be used to power future space vehicles.  

Investigation to Study Composition of Neutron Stars

Neutron stars, the glowing cinders left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas, contain exotic states of matter that are impossible to replicate in any lab. NICER studies the makeup of these stars, and could provide new insight into their nature and super weird behavior.

Neutron stars emit X-ray radiation, enabling the NICER technology to observe and record information about its structure, dynamics and energetics. 

Experiment to Study Effect of New Drug on Bone Loss

When people and animals spend lots of space, they experience bone density loss. In-flight exercise can prevent it from getting worse, but there isn’t a therapy on Earth or in space that can restore bone that is already lost.

The Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for osteoporosis (Rodent Research-5) investigation tests a new drug that can both rebuild bone and block further bone loss, improving health for crew members.

Research to Understand Cardiovascular Changes

Exposure to reduced gravity environments can result in cardiovascular changes such as fluid shifts, changes in total blood volume, heartbeat and heart rhythm irregularities, and diminished aerobic capacity.

The Fruit Fly Lab-02 study will use the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) to better understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart. Fruit flies are effective model organisms, and we don’t mean on the fashion runway. Want to see how 1,000 bottles of fruit flies were prepared to go to space? Check THIS out.

Space Life-Support Investigation

Currently, the life-support systems aboard the space station require special equipment to separate liquids and gases. This technology utilizes rotating and moving parts that, if broken or otherwise compromised, could cause contamination aboard the station. 

The Capillary Structures investigation studies a new method of water recycling and carbon dioxide removal using structures designed in specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures. 

Earth-Observation Tools

Orbiting approximately 250 miles above the Earth’s surface, the space station provides pretty amazing views of the Earth. The Multiple User System for Earth Sensing (MUSES) facility hosts Earth-viewing instruments such as high-resolution digital cameras, hyperspectral imagers, and provides precision pointing and other accommodations.

This investigation can produce data that could be used for maritime domain awareness, agricultural awareness, food security, disaster response, air quality, oil and gas exploration and fire detection. 

Watch the launch live HERE! For all things space station science, follow @ISS_Research on Twitter.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

Element Switch-Up

Aries: so emotional like a water sign, so solid like a earth sign, so social like a air sign.

Taurus: so independent like a fire sign, so nurturing like a water sign, so natural like a air sign.

Gemini: so logical like a earth sign, so daring like a fire sign, so wavering like a water sign.

Cancer: so dependable like a earth sign, so tough like a fire sign, so insightful like a air sign.

Leo: so volatile like a water sign, so steadfast like a earth sign, so charming like a air sign.

Virgo: so intellectual like a air sign, so honest like a fire sign, so understanding like water sign.

Libra: so sensitive like a water sign, so confident like a fire sign, so contemplative like a earth sign. 

Scorpio: so intense like a fire sign, so observant like a earth sign, so dynamic like a air sign.

Sagittarius: so intuitive like a water sign, so self-reliant like a earth sign so versatile like a air sign.

Capricorn: so perceptive like a water sign, so determined like a fire sign, so quick-witted like a air sign. 

Aquarius: so imaginative like a water sign, so thrill seeking like a fire sign, so objective like a earth sign.

Pisces: so adaptable like a air sign, so introspective like a earth sign, so encouraging, like a fire sign.

Resembling festive lights on a holiday wreath, this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the nearby spiral galaxy M74 is an iconic reminder of the impending season. Bright knots of glowing gas light up the spiral arms, indicating a rich environment of star formation.

Messier 74, also called NGC 628, is a stunning example of a “grand-design” spiral galaxy that is viewed by Earth observers nearly face-on. Its perfectly symmetrical spiral arms emanate from the central nucleus and are dotted with clusters of young blue stars and glowing pink regions of ionized hydrogen (hydrogen atoms that have lost their electrons). These regions of star formation show an excess of light at ultraviolet wavelengths. Tracing along the spiral arms are winding dust lanes that also begin very near the galaxy’s nucleus and follow along the length of the spiral arms.

M74 is located roughly 32 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Pisces, the Fish. It is the dominant member of a small group of about half a dozen galaxies, the M74 galaxy group. In its entirety, it is estimated that M74 is home to about 100 billion stars, making it slightly smaller than our Milky Way.

The spiral galaxy was first discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1780. Weeks later it was added to Charles Messier’s famous catalog of deep-sky objects.

This Hubble image of M74 is a composite of Advanced Camera for Surveys data taken in 2003 and 2005. The filters used to create the color image isolate light from blue, visible, and infrared portions of the spectrum, as well as emission from ionized hydrogen (known as HII regions).

A small segment of this image used data from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the Gemini Observatory to fill in a region that Hubble did not image.

For additional information, contact:

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-4514
villard@stsci.edu

Keith Noll
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-1828
noll@stsci.edu

Lars Lindberg Christensen
ESA/Hubble, Garching, Germany
011-49-89-320-06-306
lars@eso.org

Object Names: M74, NGC 628

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Acknowledgment: R. Chandar (University of Toledo) and J. Miller (University of Michigan)

Time And Space

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

10 Tools for the Armchair Astronaut, or  How to Explore the Solar System from Home

At this very moment, spacecraft are surveying the solar system, from Mars, to Saturn, to Pluto and beyond. Now you can ride along to see the latest discoveries from deep space. For this week’s edition of 10 Things, we’ve assembled a toolkit of 10 essential resources for the desktop astronaut.  

1. It’s Like Facebook, but for Planets

Or is it more of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Solar System? Whatever one calls it, our planets page offers quick rundowns, as well as in-depth guides, for all the major bodies in the solar system. Explore from the sun all the way to the Oort Cloud.

+ Peruse the planets
+ See how objects in the solar system stack up against each other

2. Keep Your Eyes on This One

If you still haven’t tried Eyes on the Solar System, you’re missing out. This free, downloadable simulation app lets you tour the planets and track the past, current and future positions of spacecraft–all in 3D. Eyes on the Solar System uses real NASA data to help you take a virtual flight across both space and time.

+ Prepare for departure

3. Dateline: Deep Space

With so much exploration underway, discoveries and new insights into the solar system come at a pace that borders on bewildering. NASA is rewriting the textbooks, literally, on a regular basis. Relax, though: there are several easy ways to stay up to date with what’s happening in space.

+ See the latest headlines
+ Stay connected on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
+ Find more top NASA social media accounts

4. Space? There’s an App for That

NASA offers phone and tablet apps for star gazing, pictures, news, 3D tours, satellite tracking, live NASA TV and many other kinds of info.

+ Start downloading
+ See other cool apps

5. A (Very) Long Distance Call

We’re in constant communication with spacecraft all over the solar system. The Deep Space Network is a global network of giant antenna dishes that makes it possible. With this online app, you can learn how it works – and even see which spacecraft are phoning home right now.

+ Deep Space Network (DSN) Now

6. Collect ‘Em All

Spacecraft 3D is an augmented reality (AR) application that lets you learn about and interact with a variety of spacecraft that are used to explore our solar system, study Earth and observe the universe. Print out the AR target and your camera will do the rest, making the spacecraft appear in 3D right in front of you. Learn more about these robotic explorers as they pop up on your desk, in your hand, or on your dog’s head.

+ Download Spacecraft 3D
+ See more cool 3-D resources from NASA

7. Ever Wanted to Drive a Mars Rover?

This site will give you a 3D look at the Mars Curiosity rover, along with some of the terrain it has explored. It will even let you take the controls.

+ Experience Curiosity

8. More E-Ticket Attractions

But wait, there’s more. NASA offers a variety of other fascinating (and free) online experiences, all based on actual data from real missions. Here are a few to explore:

+ Mars Trek
+ Vesta Trek
+ Moon Trek

9. The Universe Is Our Classroom

Studying the solar system makes for a compelling route into learning and teaching science, engineering and math. We have some great places to start.

+ Find resources for teachers
+ Build your own solar system with your classroom

10. Bring It on Home

After you’ve toured the far reaches of the solar system, you can always come home again. When you have spent time studying the harsh conditions on our neighboring planets, the charms of a unique paradise come into sharp focus, the place we call Earth.

+ Watch a real-time video feed from Earth orbit
+ See a daily global view of our planet from a million miles away
+ Hold the earth in your hands with the Earth Now mobile app

Discover more lists of 10 things to know about our solar system HERE.

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