Category: space

50 Years Ago Apollo 11 Launches Into History : At 9:32 a.m. EDT, July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Florida on a mission to the Moon. (via NASA)

Artist Russ Arasmith’s Visions of Apollo : Artist Russ Arasmith’s vision of Apollo was a potent vision of the program that shows in the works he created. (via NASA)

The Space Station Crosses a Spotless Sun : That’s no sunspot. It’s the International Space Station (ISS) caught passing in front of the Sun. Sunspots, individually, have a dark central umbra, a lighter surrounding penumbra, and no solar panels. By contrast, the ISS is a complex and multi-spired mechanism, one of the largest and most sophisticated machines ever created by humanity. Also, sunspots occur on the Sun, whereas the ISS orbits the Earth. Transiting the Sun is not very unusual for the ISS, which orbits the Earth about every 90 minutes, but getting one’s timing and equipment just right for a great image is rare. Strangely, besides that fake spot, in this recent two-image composite, the Sun lacked any real sunspots. The featured picture combines two images – one capturing the space station transiting the Sun – and another taken consecutively capturing details of the Sun’s surface. Sunspots have been rare on the Sun since the dawn of the current Solar Minimum, a period of low solar activity. For reasons not yet fully understood, the number of sunspots occurring during both the previous and current solar minima have been unusually low. via NASA

Hubble Peers at Galactic Cherry Blossoms : The galaxy NGC 1156 resembles a delicate cherry blossom tree flowering in springtime in this Hubble image. The many bright “blooms” within the galaxy are in fact stellar nurseries — regions where new stars are springing to life. (via NASA)

Delivering Saturn Test Hardware to Marshall in July 1964 : In July 1964, the first Saturn V S-IVB, or third stage test hardware, was delivered to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (via NASA)

Growing VEGGIEs in Space : Leafy greens are growing in space! (via NASA)

4000 Exoplanets : Over 4000 planets are now known to exist outside our Solar System. Known as exoplanets, this milestone was passed last month, as recorded by NASA’s Exoplanet Archive. The featured video highlights these exoplanets in sound and light, starting chronologically from the first confirmed detection in 1992. The entire night sky is first shown compressed with the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy making a giant U. Exoplanets detected by slight jiggles in their parents-star’s colors (radial velocity) appear in pink, while those detected by slight dips in their parent star’s brightness (transit) are shown in purple. Further, those exoplanets imaged directly appear in orange, while those detected by gravitationally magnifying the light of a background star (microlensing) are shown in green. The faster a planet orbits its parent star, the higher the accompanying tone played. The retired Kepler satellite has discovered about half of these first 4000 exoplanets in just one region of the sky, while the new TESS mission is on track to find even more, all over the sky, orbiting the brightest nearby stars. Finding exoplanets not only helps humanity to better understand the potential prevalence of life elsewhere in the universe, but also how our Earth and Solar System were formed. via NASA

Jupiter Abyss : NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this view of an area within a Jovian jet stream showing a vortex that has an intensely dark center. (via NASA)

Birds During a Total Solar Eclipse : What do birds do during a total solar eclipse? Darkness descends more quickly in a total eclipse than during sunset, but returns just as quickly – and perhaps unexpectedly to the avians – just a few minutes later. Stories about the unusual behavior of birds during eclipses have been told for centuries, but bird reactions were recorded and studied systematically by citizen scientists participating in an eBird project during the total solar eclipse that crossed the USA in 2017 August. Although some unusual behaviors were observed, many observers noted birds acting like it was dusk and either landing or flying low to the ground. Radar confirmed a significant decrease in high-flying birds and insects during and just after totality. Conversely, several sightings of normally nocturnal birds were reported. Pictured, a flock of birds in La Serena, Chile flew through the air together during the total solar eclipse that crossed South America last week. The photographer captured the scene in frames from an eclipse video. The next total solar eclipse in 2020 December will also cross South America, while in 2024 April a total solar eclipse will cross North America from Mexico through New England, USA. via NASA

Total Solar Eclipse Darkens the South Pacific : On July 2, 2019, skywatchers in the beach city of La Serena, Chile, looked up at 4:38 p.m. local time to see a black circle in the sky. (via NASA)