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The Big Bang left a permanent scar in the cosmic background, 5 billion light-years from Earth

The events surrounding the Big Bang were so cataclysmic that they left an indelible imprint on the fabric of the cosmos. We can detect these scars today by observing the oldest light in the universe. As it was created nearly 14 billion years ago, this light — which exists now as weak microwave radiation and is thus named the cosmic microwave background (CMB) — permeates the entire cosmos, filling it with detectable photons.

The CMB can be used to probe the cosmos via something known as the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich (SZ) effect, which was first observed over 30 years ago. We detect the CMB here on Earth when its constituent microwave photons travel to us through space. On their journey to us, they can pass through galaxy clusters that contain high-energy electrons. These electrons give the photons a tiny boost of energy. Detecting these boosted photons through our telescopes is challenging but important — they can help astronomers to understand some of the fundamental properties of the universe, such as the location and distribution of dense galaxy clusters.

The NASA/ESA (European Space Agency) Hubble Space Telescope observed one of most massive known galaxy clusters, RX J1347.5–1145, seen in this Picture of the Week, as part of the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH). This observation of the cluster, 5 billion light-years from Earth, helped the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile to study the cosmic microwave background using the thermal Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect. The observations made with ALMA are visible as the blue-purple hues.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, T. Kitayama (Toho University, Japan)/ESA/Hubble & NASA #nasagoddard #science #space

Fires both wild and prescribed dot the landscape of the southeastern portion of the United States. Wildfires are those that occur naturally with lightning strikes or are set by careless humans. Prescribed fires are those deliberately set by land management authorities to take out underlying brush and dead grass so that in the event of a wildfire there is not sufficient fuel for that fire to spread too far. The Southern Area Coordination Center for fire management has this information on its report for February 21, 2017. • Fires that have broken out recently (known as Initial Attack Activity): 198 fires for 2,292 acres
• Ongoing Uncontained Large Fires: 3 fires for 5,947 acres
• Other Fires reported through alternate channels: 56 fires for 1,400 acres • Prescribed Fire Activity: State and/or Federal Lands – 1,974 prescribed fires for 38,533 acres in AL, FL & GA

The bulk of the fires seen in the image taken by the Aqua satellite using the onboard MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instrument on February 16, 2017 appear to be prescribed fires. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red and when combined with smoke are indicative of fire.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/MODIS #nasagoddard #earth #science #fire #wildlife

Earth Eclipses the Sun

Twice a year, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, has an eclipse season — a weeks-long period in which Earth blocks SDO’s view of the sun for part of each day. This footage captured by SDO on Feb. 15, 2017, shows one such eclipse. Earth’s edge appears fuzzy, rather than crisp, because the sun’s light is able to shine through Earth’s atmosphere in some places. These images were captured in wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light, which is typically invisible to our eyes, but is colorized here in gold.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO #nasagoddard #sun #earth #space #science

NASA Launches Rocket Into Active Auroras

A test rocket is launched the night of Feb. 17 from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. Test rockets are launched as part of the countdown to test out the radar tracking systems. NASA is launching five sounding rockets from the Poker Range into active auroras to explore the Earth's magnetic environment and its impact on Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere. The launch window for the four remaining rockets runs through March 3.
Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach #nasagoddard #rocket #space #aurora #science

Check out galaxy NGC 7640 in the Andromeda constellation. (Andromeda is one of the 88 modern constellations, not to be confused with our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy.) NGC 7640 is a barred spiral type, recognizable by spiral arms which fan out not from a circular core, but from an elongated bar cutting through the galaxy’s center. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is also a barred spiral. NGC 7640 might not look much like a spiral in this image, but this is due to the orientation of the galaxy with respect to Earth.
There is evidence that NGC 7640 has experienced some kind of interaction in its past. Galaxies contain vast amounts of mass, and therefore affect one another via gravity. Sometimes these interactions can be mild, and sometimes hugely dramatic, with two or more colliding and merging into a new, bigger galaxy. Understanding the history of a galaxy, and what interactions it has experienced, helps astronomers to improve their understanding of how galaxies — and the stars within them — form.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA #nasagoddard #hubble #space #galaxy

NASA rocket to display artificial clouds in space

A NASA sounding rocket to be launched from the Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska, between February 13 and March 3, 2017, will form white artificial clouds during its brief, 10-minute flight.

The rocket is one of five being launched January through March, each carrying instruments to explore the aurora and its interactions with Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explain that electric fields drive the ionosphere, which, in turn, are predicted to set up enhanced neutral winds within an aurora arc. This experiment seeks to understand the height-dependent processes that create localized neutral jets within the aurora.

For this mission, two 56-foot long Black Brant IX rockets will be launched nearly simultaneously. One rocket is expected to fly to an apogee of about 107 miles while the other is targeted for 201 miles apogee. Only the lower altitude rocket will form the white luminescent clouds during its flight.
#nasagoddard #rocket #science

For the first time, scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have witnessed a massive object with the makeup of a comet being ripped apart and scattered in the atmosphere of a white dwarf, the burned-out remains of a compact star. The object has a chemical composition similar to Halley’s Comet, but it is 100,000 times more massive and has a much higher amount of water. It is also rich in the elements essential for life, including nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and sulfur.

These findings are evidence for a belt of comet-like bodies orbiting the white dwarf, similar to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt. These icy bodies apparently survived the star’s evolution as it became a bloated red giant and then collapsed to a small, dense white dwarf.

Caption: This artist's concept shows a massive, comet-like object falling toward a white dwarf. New Hubble Space Telescope findings are evidence for a belt of comet-like bodies orbiting the white dwarf, similar to our solar system's Kuiper Belt. The findings also suggest the presence of one or more unseen surviving planets around the white dwarf, which may have perturbed the belt to hurl icy objects into the burned-out star.

Credits: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI)

“We like to say that Archean Earth is the most alien planet we have geochemical data for,” For astronomers trying to understand which distant planets might have habitable conditions, the role of atmospheric haze has been hazy. To help sort it out, a team of researchers has been looking to Earth – specifically Earth during the Archean era, an epic 1-1/2-billion-year period early in our planet’s history.

Caption: When haze built up in the atmosphere of Archean Earth, the young planet might have looked like this artist's interpretation - a pale orange dot. A team led by Goddard scientists thinks the haze was self-limiting, cooling the surface by about 36 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Kelvins) – not enough to cause runaway glaciation. The team’s modeling suggests that atmospheric haze might be helpful for identifying earthlike exoplanets that could be habitable. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Francis Reddy #nasagoddard #planet #science #space

A Cut in the Clouds

Like a ship carving its way through the sea, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands parted the clouds. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image on February 2, 2017. The ripples in the clouds are known as gravity waves.

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response #nasagoddard

NASA goes to the Super Bowl!

Take a look at how NASA sees all the Super Bowl Championship Cities from space.

Enjoy the game and good luck to both teams!

More: #nasagoddard #SuperBowl ##SuperBowlSunday

Hubble sniffs out a brilliant star death in a “rotten egg” nebula

The Calabash Nebula, pictured here — which has the technical name OH 231.8+04.2 — is a spectacular example of the death of a low-mass star like the sun. This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the star going through a rapid transformation from a red giant to a planetary nebula, during which it blows its outer layers of gas and dust out into the surrounding space. The recently ejected material is spat out in opposite directions with immense speed — the gas shown in yellow is moving close to one million kilometers per hour (621,371 miles per hour). Astronomers rarely capture a star in this phase of its evolution because it occurs within the blink of an eye — in astronomical terms. Over the next thousand years the nebula is expected to evolve into a fully-fledged planetary nebula.

The nebula is also known as the Rotten Egg Nebula because it contains a lot of sulphur, an element that, when combined with other elements, smells like a rotten egg — but luckily, it resides over 5,000 light-years away in the constellation of Puppis.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt #nasagoddard #space #Hubble

The Polar Night Nitric Oxide or PolarNOx experiment from Virginia Tech is launched aboard a NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket at 8:45 a.m. EST, Jan. 27, from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. PolarNOx is measuring nitric oxide in the polar night sky. Nitric oxide in the polar night sky is created by auroras. Under appropriate conditions it can be transported to the stratosphere where it may destroy ozone resulting in possible changes in stratospheric temperature and wind and may even impact the circulation at Earth’s surface.
Credit: NASA/Wallops/Jamie Adkins #rocket #science