The Butterfly Nebula from Hubble  : The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earths night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up of the dying stars nebula was recorded in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescopes Wide Field Camera 3, and is presented here in reprocessed colors. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot stars dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion . via NASA

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Later today, a Russian rocket is scheduled to carry a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut to the International Space Station, where they will live for a full year, twice as long as people usually stay.

No American has lived in space for longer than 215 days. Only a few people have ever gone on space trips lasting a year or more โ€” the longest was 437 daysโ€”and they’re all Russian cosmonauts. The last year-plus stay in space occurred nearly two decades ago.

What’s more, NASA’s upcoming mission offers scientists a unique opportunity to study the effect of spaceflight on the human body. That’s because the astronaut making the trip, Scott Kelly, has an identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, who’s a retired NASA astronaut.

NASA To Study A Twin In Space And His Brother On Earth

Photo Credit:ย NASA/Bill Ingalls

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ESA Astronaut Sam Cristoforetti aboard the ISS: โ€œOf all the lights from UK to Scandinavia… which ones are yours? #spacevineโ€ March 10th, 2015.

Source: Sam Cristoforetti/ESA

Liftoff! US, Russia Launch Historic One-Year Space Mission

An American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut launched into space Friday to attempt something their two countries have never done together before: a one-year mission on the International Space Station that could help one day send humans to Mars.

The epic one-year space mission launched NASA’s Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko into orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz space capsule at 3:42 p.m. EDT (1942 GMT) today (March 27) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where it was early Saturday morning local time. Also flying on the Soyuz is cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, a crewmember who will live and work aboard the orbiting outpost for about six months, the usual length of time people spend on the station.

“A year in space starts now,” NASA spokesperson Dan Huot said at launch. You can check out a video of the history-making launch as well. [The One-Year Space Mission: Full Coverage]

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