Thursday, 19 July 2012


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Space Pictures This Week: Martian Dunes, Titan Vortex, More
By Kastalia Medrano,
National Geographic News, 17 July 2012.

1. Island in the Sun

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A birds-eye view of France's Mont-Saint-Michel comes courtesy of the Pléiades satellite, which snapped the island on May 3.

Until the end of the 19th century, no bridge spanned the expanse between Mont-Saint-Michel and the mainland, so the tiny islet was accessible only at low tide.

The image, recently released by the European Space Agency, shows where water meets mud flats, with multiple channels interwoven into the mud.

The Pléiades project will soon comprise two separate satellites: the veteran Pléiades 1A, launched in December 2011, and its identical twin Pléiades 1B, slated for launch later this year.

2. Opaque Nebula

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Some 1,400 light-years from Earth, the VdB 152 nebula, or gas-and-dust cloud, glows at one end of a Bok module - a dark, frigid nebula so thick with dust that it's nearly opaque, as shown in this image released July 10.

The delicate red strands to the right of the ghostly cloud are all that remain of a supernova, which may or may not collide with the nebula in years to come.

3. Time Warp

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Photograph by Babak A. Tafreshi, TWAN

Star trails - the results of a long exposure and Earth's rotation - illuminate petroglyphs in Iran's Teimareh valley in a picture recently submitted to the astronomy-education project The World at Night (TWAN).

Estimated to be at least 6,000 years old, the etchings of hunters and their prey are among some 20,000 carvings in the valley - many of them so far unstudied.

4. Martian Dunes

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Resembling something between a Star Wars landscape and a Pac-Man screen, this northern polar dune field on Mars was captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE, camera.

Released July 11, the picture shows so-called barchan dunes, features up to 300 feet (90 meters) wide that are created by the movement of loose sand.

5. Coming Home

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Soyuz TMA-03M's docking port opens on July 1 as the Russian spacecraft separates from the International Space Station after a six-month stay.

Carrying a team of three cosmonauts, Soyuz touched down safely in Kazakhstan just hours after this photograph was taken.

6. Feeling Blue

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Set in the Perseus constellation, the nebula VdB 24 glows blue in an image published July 10 by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

Nestled at the nebula's base, the star XY Per illuminates VdB 24 as the brown haze known as nebula LDN 1442 looms at left.

7. Polar Vortex

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The sepia tone of this hazy photo of Saturn's moon Titan is no camera distortion. On June 27 NASA's Cassini craft captured true-colour, unusually crisp imagery of the swirling gaseous mass known as Titan's south pole vortex.

The moon's south pole - currently more easily photographed than the north pole - is now shifting into darkness as Saturn's seasons slowly change.

Top image: Rosette Nebula (left) and Mars's Bacolor Crater (right)

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

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