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comet elenin, photographed by stereo b, august 2011.

based on the trajectory of its brief visit to the inner solar system, comet elenin (c/2010 x1) was once an outer oort cloud object with an orbit of millions of years. perturbed inward (possibly by a passing star) the comet partially disintegrated while passing close to the sun (0.48 au), and is now in a 12,000 year orbit in the scattered disc.

top: 7 frames, composite of 14 images. bottom left & right: both component sequences. all photographed 6-12th august.

image credit: nasa/stereo. animation: ageofdestruction.

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

From images to virtual reality and interactive simulations, NASA offers plenty of ways to explore our solar system – and beyond – in 3-D.

1. Step One: Get the Glasses

Many of the images and interactive features require special glasses with red and blue lenses.

2. Breaking News (Virtual Reality Edition)

Big news from 40 light-years away (235 trillion miles). Our Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, all of them have the potential for water on their surfaces.

No glasses required.

This image was created by combining two images from STEREO B (Feb. 24, 2008) taken about 12 hours apart, during which the sun’s rotation provides sufficient perspective to create a nice 3-D effect.

3. Free-Range 3-D Exploration

Our Eyes on the Solar System app allows free exploration of Earth, our Solar System and thousands of worlds discovered orbiting distant stars. And, you also can explore it all in 3-D!

Under visual controls just check 3-D, pop on your glasses and explore.

4. Your Star in 3-D

The STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission studied the sun in 3-D with twin satellites.

5. National Parks in 3-D

The Earth-orbiting Terra satellite’s Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument provides 3-D views while orbiting Earth, including some great shots of our National Parks.

6. Get in the Pilot’s Seat

Take a look inside the cockpit of our high altitude ER-2 aircraft as it descends for landing at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. This month, scientists used used the aircraft to collect data on coral reef health and volcanic emissions and eruptions. Flying at 65,000 feet, above 95 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, the ER-2 has a unique ability to replicate the data a future satellite could collect. Data from this mission will help in developing a planned NASA satellite mission to study natural hazards and ecosystems called Hyperspectral Infrared Imager, or HyspIRI.

7. Moon Views

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter creates 3-D images from orbit by taking an image of the moon from one angle on one orbit and a different angle on a separate orbit.

This stereo scene looking back at where Curiosity crossed a dune at “Dingo Gap” combines several exposures taken by the Navigation Camera (Navcam) high on the rover’s mast.

8. Martian 3D

Our Mars fleet of rovers and orbiters captures the Red Planet from all angles - often in 3-D.

9. Saturn in 3-D

The Cassini spacecraft’s mission to Saturn is well-known for its stunning images of the planet and its complex system of rings and moons. Now you can see some of them in 3-D.

10. Want More? Do It Yourself!

Put a new dimension to your vacation photos. Our Mars team created this handy how-to guide to making your own eye-popping 3-D images.

BONUS: Printer-Friendly

Why stop with images? The Ames Research Center hosts a vast collection of 3-D printable models ranging from the moon craters to spacecraft.

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

Follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

milky way, photographed by stereo b, 21st-22nd january 2007.

the plane of the galaxy around scorpius. the second brightest object in the image, above the galaxy, is antares. the very brightest, above and left, must be a planet - perhaps mars. the pair of bright stars that just sneak into frame at bottom right are alpha and beta centauri; one of the stars in the alpha centauri star system, proxima centauri, is the closest star to the sun.

18 frames over 22 hours. on january 21st, the spacecraft used a lunar gravity assist to escape the earth-moon system and enter a heliocentric orbit.

image credit: nasa/stereo. animation: ageofdestruction.