Sabtu, 14 Mei 2011

Space Pictures This Week: Vibrant Lagoon, Mock Mars

Swirling Lagoon
Image courtesy Universidad de La Serena and ICATE-CONICET
Seen through binoculars or small telescopes, the Lagoon nebula is a ghostly blur tinged with pink tucked inside the constellation Sagittarius. But with the powerful gaze of the Gemini South telescope in Chile, astronomers have created a dramatic new view of this stellar nursery.
Released this week, the false-color picture shows the nebula in vibrant hues thanks to a combination of data from several light filters. The dense cloud of dust and gas is a birthplace for medium- and low-mass stars, most of which are embedded in thick cocoons of material. The bluish points of light in the frame are young stars in the background.

Mock Mars Mission
Photograph courtesy P. Santek, ÖWF/ESA
Spain's Andalucia region stood in for Mars during recent field tests of a prototype rover and space suit designed for a human mission to the red planet.
In development for the European Space Agency, the Eurobot rover carries interchangeable tools and a suite of instruments. It can operate on its own or work as a lab assistant for astronauts—even providing human explorers with rides.
The Aouda.X space suit mockup features full air circulation with carbon dioxide removal, medical monitoring, and radio equipment. (See pictures: "Space Suit Evolution Since First NASA Flight.")

Virgin Feathers
Photograph courtesy Virgin Galactic/Clay Center Observatory
In a milestone moment for Virgin Galactic, the commercial spaceflight firm successfully tested its SpaceShipTwo vehicle in "feathered" flight mode for the first time this week.
Like the space shuttles, the commercial craft is designed to reenter Earth's atmosphere by gliding. But SpaceShipTwo sports a unique design that lets the craft rotate its tail section upward to be at a 65-degree angle to the fuselage. This configuration creates shuttlecock-like drag, slowing the craft while reducing heat from friction.

Shuttle Waterfall
Photograph courtesy Bill Ingalls, NASA
Water pours from a 290-foot-high (88-meter-high) tower at Launch Pad 39A on April 28 during preparations for the planned launch of the space shuttle Endeavour. The tower stores 300,000 gallons (a million liters) of water, which gets released during a shuttle launch to muffle sound.
The spacecraft was meant to lift off for the International Space Station on April 29. But electrical problems in one of the shuttle's auxiliary power units forced NASA to scrub the launch and postpone until mid-May.

Russian Eruption
Image courtesy EO-1/NASA
Russia's Bezymianny Volcano covers the icy landscape in ash in a false-color picture taken by a NASA satellite on April 22. The volcano started erupting on April 14, spewing ash as high as 25,000 feet (7,600 meters).
In the image, ash and bare rock appear gray while snow and ice are tinged with blue. A red "hot spot" shows where fresh lava is likely emerging from the volcano's dome, and a larger region to the southeast marks an active lava flow.

Glittering Meathook
Image courtesy ESA/NASA
It's a galaxy fit for a slasher flick: NGC 2442, aka the Meathook galaxy, glitters with stars in a newly released picture from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
NGC 2442 sits in the constellation Volans, the Flying Fish. Seen in its entirety, the galaxy's asymmetric spiral arms give it a double hook shape, inspiring the nickname. This image is a closeup of the galaxy's central region and the more compact of its two arms.

Argentine Floodplain
Photograph courtesy NASA
Muddy channels seem to get tangled around the wider stretch of the Paraná River, the second largest river in South America, in an astronaut picture taken April 9. The frame shows an 18-mile (29-kilometer) stretch of the river downstream of the small city of Goya, Argentina.
In general, as riverbeds shift due to natural processes, they leave remnants of their paths, which appear as lakes and eventually fill with mud. The meandering channels in this picture illustrate the historic positions of the Paraná and its tributaries.

Elderly Globule
Image courtesy ESA/NASA
Seen in a recent picture from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the globular cluster M5 is revealing a few young stragglers among its elderly population of stars.
Most of the stars in this cluster of millions—one of the oldest globular clusters in the Milky Way—formed more than 12 billion years ago. But this composite picture shows several young-looking blue stars in the mix.
Astronomers think the youngsters were born during stellar collisions or are older stars that maintain the appearance of youth via the transfer of mass between binary pairs.

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