Monday, May 31, 2010

On Guard

Friday, May 28, 2010

ISS Transits the Sun

Thilo Kranz, a staff member at DLR, the German Space Agency, took this image of the transit of the International Space Station ISS with Space Shuttle Atlantis during the STS-132 mission.

Kranz photographed "the ISS as it passed across the solar disk in just 0.51 seconds ... At this time, preparations for undocking of space shuttle Atlantis during its final mission, STS-132, were ongoing. You can see the still docked shuttle in the 11 o'clock position. Also, you may recognise the solar panels and the large radiators. In the full resolution version of this image, you can also see the Soyuz capsule. Close to the centre of the sun, a group of sunspots is visible."

Visit the DLR News Blog for more information.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Homecoming for Atlantis

Space shuttle Atlantis' main gear touched down on Runway 33 at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:48 a.m. EDT, completing a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. On board were Commander Ken Ham, pilot Tony Antonelli, Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Steve Bowen and Piers Sellers. The six-member STS-132 crew carried the Russian-built Mini Research Module-1 to the International Space Station. STS-132 is the last planned flight for Atlantis.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Blackness of Space

Spacewalker Michael Good, barely visible in his white spacesuit against the station, participated in the STS-132 mission's third and final spacewalk. During the six-hour, 46-minute spacewalk, Good and fellow NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman completed the installation of the final two new batteries for the B side of the port 6 solar array.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another View

Astronauts Michael Good (left) and Garrett Reisman look through the aft flight deck windows of space shuttle Atlantis during the mission’s third aspacewalk. During the spacewalk, Good and Reisman completed the installation of the final two of the six new batteries for the B side of the port 6 solar array. In addition, the astronauts installed a backup ammonia jumper cable between the port 4 and 5 trusses of the station and transferred a power and data grapple fixture from the shuttle to the station.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Earth's Horizon

Earth's horizon and the blackness of space provide the backdrop for Atlantis' aft section while it was docked with the International Space Station during the STS-132 mission.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Docked at the Station

This image features the Atlantis' cabin and forward cargo bay and a section of the International Space Station while the two spacecraft remain docked, photographed during the STS-132 mission's first spacewalk.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Poised for Success

 Poised for Success
Anchored to the Canadarm2 mobile foot restraint, Garrett Reisman performed construction and maintenance activities outside the station during the STS-132 mission's first spacewalk. During the seven-hour, 25-minute spacewalk, Reisman and NASA astronaut Steve Bowen installed a second antenna for high-speed Ku-band transmissions and added a spare parts platform to Dextre, a two-armed extension for the station’s robotic arm.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reisman's Self-Portrait

NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman takes a self-portrait visor while participating in the first of three spacewalks scheduled for the Atlantis crew and their Expedition 23 hosts. Though three spacewalks will involve only three astronauts (two on each occasion) who actually leave the shirt-sleave environments of the two docked spacecraft, all twelve astronauts and cosmonauts have roles in supporting the work. Part of the space station and the blue and white Earth are among the objects seen in his visor. Fellow spacewalker Steve Bowen, mission specialist, is out of frame.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Atlantis Performs a Back Flip

The Expedition 23 crew snapped this imageof the underside of Atlantis' crew cabin, during a survey of the approaching space shuttle prior to docking with the International Space Station.

Monday, May 17, 2010

STS-132 Lifts Off

Space shuttle Atlantis soars to orbit from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the STS-132 mission to the International Space Station at 2:20 p.m. EDT on May 14. The third of five shuttle missions planned for 2010, this was the last planned launch for Atlantis.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Atlantis Lifts Off

Space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the STS-132 mission to the International Space Station at 2:20 p.m. EDT on May 14. The third of five shuttle missions planned for 2010, this was the last planned launch for Atlantis. The Russian-built Mini Research Module-1, also known as Rassvet, or "dawn," will be delivered and it will provide additional storage space and a new docking port for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. The laboratory will be attached to the bottom port of the station's Zarya module. The mission's three spacewalks will focus on storing spare components outside the station, including six batteries, a communications antenna and parts for the Canadian Dextre robotic arm.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Runaway Star

 Runaway Star
A heavy runaway star is rushing away from a nearby stellar nursery at more than 250,000 miles an hour, a speed at which one could travel to the our moon and back in two hours. This is the most extreme case of a very massive star that has been kicked out of its home by a group of even heftier siblings.

The homeless star is on the outskirts of the 30 Doradus Nebula, a raucous stellar breeding ground in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. The stellar nusery is seen at the center of this image. The finding bolsters evidence that the most massive stars in the local universe reside in 30 Doradus, making it a unique laboratory for studying heavyweight stars. Also called the Tarantula Nebula, 30 Doradus is roughly 170,000 light-years from Earth.

Tantalizing clues from three observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope's newly installed Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), and some old- fashioned detective work, suggest that the star may have traveled about 375 light-years from its suspected home, a giant star cluster called R136. Nestled in the core of 30 Doradus, R136 contains several stars topping 100 solar masses each.

Visit Hubble Catches Heavyweight Runaway Star for more information.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

American, Indonesian Students Link Hands Via Distance Learning

A dozen Indonesian students gathered at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta (at left in the split-screen video monitor) had the opportunity to query their American high school counterparts on their interests, experiences and culture during the interactive video linkup recently at NASA Dryden's Aerospace Exploration Gallery in Palmdale, Calif.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Menkhib and the California Nebula

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, features one of the bright stars in the constellation Perseus, named Menkhib (at upper left near the red dust cloud), surrounded by the large star-forming California Nebula, running diagonally through the image.

Menkhib is one of the hottest stars visible in the night sky; its surface temperature is about 37,000 Kelvin (about 66,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or more than six times hotter than the sun). Because of its high temperature, it appears blue-white to the human eye. It has about 40 times the mass of our sun and gives off 330,000 times the amount of light. Menkhib is a runaway star, and the fast stellar wind it blows is piling up in front of it to create a shock wave. This shock wave is heating up dust, which WISE sees as the red cloud in the upper left of the image.

Menkhib and the California Nebula are about 1,800 light-years away from Earth and are located within the same spur of the Orion spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy as Earth.

All four infrared detectors aboard WISE were used to make this image.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hellas Planitia

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter covers a small portion of the northwest quadrant of Hellas Planitia on Mars. With a diameter of about 1,400 miles and a depth reaching the lowest elevations on Mars, Hellas is one of the largest impact craters in the solar system.

The area has a number of unusual features, which are thought to be quite old because of the high crater density. The crater inside Hellas has been filled with material, which may be related to volcanic activity on the basin's northwestern rim. It also might be related to the presence water and water ice. However, there is evidence elsewhere that the ground here is rich with ice.

HiRISE will be used to investigate this in more detail when the basin is free from atmospheric dust.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Infrared

On Sat., April 17, 2010, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) instrument aboard NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) spacecraft obtained this false-color infrared image of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano. A strong thermal source (denoted in red) is visible at the base of the Eyjafjallajökull plume. Above and to the right, strong thermal emission is also seen from the lava flows located at Fimmvorduhals between March 20 and April 13, 2010, where lava first reached the surface, generating impressive lava fountains and lava flows. As the Fimmvorduhals episode was in a location with no ice cap, there was little of the violent interaction between lava and water that took place at Eyjafjallajökull and that generated the massive volcanic plume. To the east of Fimmvorduhals is the Myrdalsjökull ice cap, beneath which slumbers the mighty Katla volcano. Katla has erupted 20 times in recorded history, with the last eruption occurring in 1918.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Assembly Line of Stars

The constellation Vulpecula is a veritable entire assembly line of newborn stars. The diffuse glow reveals the widespread cold reservoir of raw material that our Milky Way galaxy has in stock for building stars.

Large-scale turbulence from the giant colliding galactic flows causes this material to condense into the web of filaments seen in this image. As the stellar material becomes colder and denser, gravitational forces take over and fragment these filaments into chains of stellar embryos that can finally collapse to form baby stars.

These scientific results from the European Space Agency's Herschel infrared space observatory are revealing previously hidden details of star formation. New images show thousands of distant galaxies furiously building stars and beautiful star-forming clouds draped across the Milky Way. One image captures an ‘impossible’ star in the act of formation.

Presented on May 6, 2010, during a major scientific symposium held at ESA, the results challenge old ideas of star birth, and open new roads for future research.

Herschel’s observation of the star-forming cloud RCW 120 also revealed an embryonic star which may become one of the biggest and brightest stars in our galaxy within the next few hundred thousand years. The star already contains eight to ten times the mass of our sun and is still surrounded by an additional 2,000 solar masses of gas and dust from which it can feed.

More on the new results and images from ESA's Herschel, visit

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Freedom 7

On May 5, 1961, at 9:34am EST NASA astronaut Alan Shepard launched about his Mercury Redstone spacecraft, nicknamed Freedom 7, to become the first American in space. In this image, fellow astronaut Gus Grissom wishes a suited Alan Shepard a safe flight just before insertion into the craft.

The flight lasted 15 minutes, 28 seconds and traveled a distance of 303 statute miles.