Did you know that stellar explosions and their remains -- “supernova remnants” -- are a source of chemical elements essential for life here on Earth? A new Chandra X-ray Observatory image captures the location of several vital elements like silicon (red), sulfur (yellow), calcium (green) and iron (purple), located on Cassiopeia A -- a supernova remnant ~11,000 light years from Earth.
Chandra’s sharp X-ray vision allows astronomers to gather detailed information about the elements that objects like Cas A produce. For example, they are not only able to identify many of the elements that are present, but how much of each are being expelled into interstellar space.
Oxygen is the most abundant element in the human body (about 65% by mass), calcium helps form and maintain healthy bones and teeth, and iron is a vital part of red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body. All of the oxygen in the Solar System comes from exploding massive stars. About half of the calcium and about 40% of the iron also come from these explosions, with the balance of these elements being supplied by explosions of smaller mass, white dwarf stars.
Don’t be fooled! The cosmic swirl of stars in this Hubble Space Telescope (@NASAHubble ) image may seem tranquil and unassuming, but this spiral galaxy actually displays some explosive tendencies.
In October of 2011, a cataclysmic burst of high-energy gamma-ray radiation — known as a gamma-ray burst — was detected coming from the region of sky containing this galaxy. Astronomers believe that the galaxy was the host of the burst, given that the chance of a coincidental alignment between the two is roughly 1 in 10 million. At a distance of around 185 million light-years from Earth, it was the second-closest gamma-ray burst ever detected.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Heads-up, Earthlings! The annual Geminid meteor shower has arrived, peaking overnight Dec. 13-14. It's a good time to bundle up! Then, go outside and let the universe blow your mind!
The Geminids are active every December, when Earth passes through a massive trail of dusty debris shed by a weird, rocky object named 3200 Phaethon. The dust and grit burn up when they run into Earth's atmosphere in a flurry of "shooting stars." The Geminids can be seen with the naked eye under clear, dark skies over most of the world, though the best view is from the Northern Hemisphere. Observers will see fewer Geminids in the Southern Hemisphere, where the radiant doesn't climb very high over the horizon.
Skywatching is easy. Just get away from bright lights and look up in any direction! Give your eyes time to adjust to the dark. Meteors appear all over the sky.
Video credit: NASA
As massive wildfires continue to rage in southern California, our satellites, people in space and aircraft are keeping an eye on the blazes from above. This data and imagery not only gives us a better view of the activity, but also helps first responders plan their course of action.
A prolonged spell of dry weather primed the area for major fires. Powerful Santa Ana winds fanned the flames and forecasters with the LA office of the National Weather Service warned that the region is in the midst of its strongest and longest Santa Ana wind event of the year. These winds are hot, dry and ferocious. They can whip a small brush fire into a raging inferno in just hours.
Astronaut Randy Bresnik (@AstroKomrade ) shared these images from the International Space Station (@ISS ) over the last two days showing the smoke plumes from space, saying "Thank you to all the first responders, firefighters, and citizens willing to help fight these California wildfires." Image credits: NASA/@AstroKomrade#wildfire#nasa#iss#spacestation#astropics#earth#california#fire#cafires#photooftheday#picoftheday#smoke#thomasfire#santaana#space
A spectacular spacecraft departure. At 8:11 a.m. EST this morning, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo vehicle was released from the International Space Station (@iss ). Cygnus is currently filled with more than 6,200 pounds of trash and other items that will burn up over the Pacific Ocean as the spacecraft re-enters Earth’s atmosphere on Dec. 18. Today, before its re-entry later this month, Cygnus will deploy 14 CubeSats to conduct science.
Cygnus arrived at the space station on Nov. 14 and delivered almost 7,400 pounds of science and supplies to the crew onboard. These experiments included studies in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.
The six people living and working in space had a front row seat from the International Space Station (@iss ) during yesterday’s #supermoon . This image, captured by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik (@AstroKomrade ) shows off their unique vantage point from 250 miles above our home planet.
A supermoon occurs when the Moon’s orbit is closest to Earth at the same time it is full. Two other supermoons will take the celestial stage on Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018. To learn more about our Moon, explore historic landing sites and discover its wondrous features, visit moon.nasa.gov.
Space station supermoon. This composite image made from six frames shows the International Space Station (@iss ), with a crew of six onboard, as it transits the Moon at roughly five miles per second on Dec. 2. The microgravity laboratory orbits our planet at 17,500 mph and is home to important science and research that will not only benefit life here on Earth, but will help us venture deeper into the solar system than ever before.
This Moon also happens to be a supermoon, which is when a full Moon is also at or near its closest point in its orbit around Earth.
Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky
Jupiter, you’re bluetiful 💙! Churning swirls of Jupiter’s clouds are seen in striking shades of blue in this new view taken by our Juno spacecraft (@NASAJuno ). The color-enhanced image was taken when the spacecraft was only 11,747 miles from the tops of the planet’s clouds.
This color-enhanced image, which captures a cloud system in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere, was taken on Oct. 24 when Juno was performing its ninth close flyby of the gas giant planet.
Because of the Juno-Jupiter-Sun angle when the spacecraft captured this image, the higher-altitude clouds can be seen casting shadows on their surroundings. The behavior is most easily observable in the whitest regions in the image, but also in a few isolated spots in both the bottom and right areas of the image.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/ Seán Doran
An office with a view…this video, captured by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, shows off the spectacular view during a recent spacewalk. He posted the footage on social media saying: “Sometimes on a #spacewalk , you just have to take a moment to enjoy the beauty of our planet Earth.
This Go-Pro footage is from our spacewalk where Joe Acaba and I refurbished the Canadarm2 robotic arm and the Dextre robotic arm extension.” Currently, six humans are living and working on the International Space Station (@iss ), which orbits our planet at 17,500 mph. Located 250 miles above Earth, the crew conducts important science and research that will help send us deeper into the solar system than ever before.
Don’t worry, that’s not a shoebox being ejected from the International Space Station (@iss ). But…it is a shoebox-sized satellite that will study space weather and was designed to show how reliable CubeSats can be.
Small satellites like these provide a cost-effective and reliable method of gathering highly robust science. Dellingr, named after the mythological Norse god of the dawn, was designed to not only demonstrate the vigor of its design, but also gather high-quality data about the Sun’s influence on Earth’s upper atmosphere using a suite of miniaturized instruments and components.
Credit: Nanoracks/Larry Kepko