Tuesday, 10 April 2012



Space Pictures This Week: Cosmic Flower, Inside-Out Star
By National Geographic, 6 April 2012.

1. Blooming Iris
Nebula picture: the reflection nebula NGC 7023, also called the Iris nebulaImage courtesy T. A. Rector/UAA, H. Schweiker/WIYN, and NOAO/NSF.

Spring flowers are blooming - even in space. This recently released picture shows NGC 7023, also called the Iris nebula for its floral appearance, as seen from Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

The cosmic flower is actually what's known as a reflection nebula. The interstellar cloud of dust and gas glows not because its material is being heated, but because it's reflecting light from nearby stars.

For instance, the bright glow in the middle of the nebula comes from a hot, massive star that gives off blue light, which then gets scattered by dust, lending the nebula its distinctive colour.

2. Artistic Aurora
Aurora picture: northern lights over NorwayPhotograph by Tommy Eliassen, My Shot.

Northern lights paint the sky in a picture taken from Norway in 2011 and recently submitted to National Geographic's My Shot.

The late October sky show had been triggered by an intense geomagnetic storm that spawned auroras across the Northern Hemisphere - including blood-red auroras seen in the U.S. South (pictures).

3. Eight-Bit Supernova
Supernova picture: x-ray image of Cassiopeia AImage courtesy U. Hwang and J. Laming, CXC/NASA.

Looking straight out of a classic video game, a new "element map" of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A shows where the different layers of the original star ended up three hundred years after the explosion.

Made with data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the new map suggests that the stellar explosion somehow turned the star inside out. For instance, most of the remnant's pure iron - an element thought to have been made near the dying star's core - is now found at the object's outer edges.

4. Firing Thrusters
Space station picture: a robotic cargo ship docking with the ISSPhotograph courtesy Don Pettit, NASA via ESA.

Bright light from a spacecraft's thrusters mirror the pools of city lights on Earth in a picture taken from the International Space Station on March 28. Astronaut Don Pettit captured the image as the Automated Transfer Vehicle Edoardo Amaldi approached the station for docking.

While docked to the ISS, the ATV's thrusters will be fired again in a series of "reboost" manoeuvres to keep the station in an ideal orbit. The thrusters can also be used as needed for moving the station to avoid collisions with space debris.

5. Supernova Factory
Galaxy picture: the spiral galaxy NGC 6946Image courtesy T. A. Rector/UAA, H. Schweiker/WIYN, and NOAO/NSF.

Stars glitter in the spiral arms of the galaxy NGC 6946, seen in a recently released picture from Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

Over the past century, eight supernovae have been identified in the arms of this galaxy, according to Kitt Peak, making NGC 6946 one of the most prolific known galaxies for stellar explosions.

6. On the Ball
Titan picture: natural-color view of Saturn's largest moonImage courtesy Caltech/SSI/NASA.

Saturn's largest moon Titan seems to hover in space like a ball caught mid-bounce in a recently released picture from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Titan is the only moon in our solar system with a significant atmosphere. It's also the only object, other than Earth, with stable bodies of liquid on its surface - in Titan's case, lakes of liquid methane.

Top image – Left: Blood-red aurora. Right: Spiral galaxy M95.

[Source: National Geographic. Edited. Top image added.]

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