Look up in the sky tonight and see Saturn!
This month Saturn is the only prominent evening planet low in the southwest sky. Look for it near the constellation Sagittarius. Above and below Saturn--from a dark sky--you can't miss the summer Milky Way spanning the sky from northeast to southwest!
Grab a pair of binoculars and scan the teapot-shaped Sagittarius, where stars and some brighter clumps appear as steam from the teapot. Those bright clumps are near the center of our galaxy, which is full of gas, dust and stars.
Far, far away…55 million light-years to be exact, lies this galaxy containing a massive star-forming cloud. This large cloud composed of ionized hydrogen is the only massive star-forming complex in the entire galaxy.
Imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope (@nasahubble ), this barred spiral galaxy is famous for containing an especially extensive HII region, a large cloud composed of ionized hydrogen (or HII, pronounced “H=two,” with H being the chemical symbol for hydrogen and the “II” indicating that the atoms have lost an electron to become ionized). This cloud sits at the lower left end of the galaxy’s central “bar” of stars, a structure that cuts through the galactic core and funnels material inwards to maintain the star formation occurring there.
After two decades in space, our Cassini spacecraft has ended its journey of exploration. Having expended almost every bit of the rocket propellant it carried to Saturn, operators deliberately plunged Cassini into the planet to ensure Saturn's moons will remain pristine for future exploration—in particular, the ice-covered, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus, but also Titan, with its intriguing pre-biotic chemistry.
Swipe to explore some of Cassini’s final images that were sent to Earth in the hours before its final plunge. As the spacecraft made its fateful dive into the planet's atmosphere, it sent home additional data in real time. Key measurements came from its mass spectrometer, which sampled Saturn's atmosphere, telling us about its composition until contact was lost.
While it's always sad when a mission comes to an end, Cassini's finale plunge is a truly spectacular end for one of the most scientifically rich voyages yet undertaken in our solar system. To truly reveal the wonders of Saturn, we had to go there.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Get up close and see Jupiter in this new series of enhanced-color images from our Juno spacecraft. It recently performed its eighth flyby of the gas giant planet and captured this sequence of images taken on Sept. 1 from 6:03 p.m. to 6:11 p.m. EDT. At the times the images were taken, the spacecraft ranged from 7,545 to 14,234 miles (12,143 to 22,908 km) from the tops of the clouds of the planet.
Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation. Juno is working to unlock Jupiter's secrets, increasing our understanding of the origin and evolution of the planet. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter can also provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.
Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/ Gerald Eichstädt/Sean Doran
LIFTOFF! NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, left Earth at 5:17 p.m. EDT to head toward the International Space Station (@iss ) for a five-month stay. They will arrive at their new home in space at 10:57 p.m.
There are currently three people living on the space station, soon to be joined by the three crew members that launched today. While living on this unique orbiting platform, they conduct important research and science that will not only help us travel deeper into space, but also benefits life here on Earth.
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Like firecrackers lighting up the sky on New Year’s Eve, the majestic spiral arms of this galaxy are alight with new stars being born. The Hubble Space Telescope (@NASAHubble ) saw this spiral galaxy, NGC 5559, with spiral arms filled with gas and dust sweeping out around the bright galactic bulge. These arms are a rich environment for star formation, dotted with a festive array of colors including the newborn stars glowing blue as a result of their immensely high temperatures.
NGC 5559 was discovered by astronomer William Herschel in 1785 and lies approximately 240 million light-years away in the northern constellation of Boötes (the herdsman). Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Astronaut Randy 'Komrade' Bresnik (@AstroKomrade ) shared this image of Hurricane Irma this evening saying "The tentacles of the bow wave of #Irma clawing its way up Florida." Bresnik is currently living and working in space on the International Space Station (@ISS ). Hurricane Irma formed in the Atlantic Ocean and has affected the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, before impacting the United States. Our fleet of satellites have been continually providing forecasters with data on Hurricane Irma. That includes satellite imagery for Irma, plus trajectory, force and precipitation tracking to inform the National Hurricane Center.
Image Credit: NASA
Explore Saturn's rings like never before with the highest-resolution color images ever taken by our Cassini mission. This image shows a portion of the inner-central part of the planet's B Ring and is a mosaic of two images that show a region that lies between 61,300 and 65,600 miles (98,600 and 105,500 km) from Saturn's center.
This image is a natural color composite, created using images taken with red, green and blue spectral filters. The pale tan color is generally not perceptible with the naked eye in telescope views, especially given that Saturn has a similar hue.
The material responsible for bestowing this color on the rings -- which are mostly water ice and would otherwise appear white -- is a matter of intense debate among ring scientists that will hopefully be settled by new in-situ observations before the end of Cassini's mission.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
We're using our unique vantage point in space to provide observations and data of Hurricane Irma. Satellite imagery from our Aqua satellite and the Suomi NPP satellite have provided different data on the still Category 5 Hurricane Irma as it headed for the Turks and Caicos Islands. We continue to provide satellite imagery for Irma, tracking its trajectory, force and precipitation to inform forecasters at the National Hurricane Center.
As the category 5 storm approaches the Bahamas and Florida in the coming days, it will be passing over waters that are warmer than 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit)—hot enough to sustain a category 5 storm. Warm oceans, along with low wind shear, are two key ingredients that fuel and sustain hurricanes.
Learn more at www.nasa.gov/hurricane
For information on making preparations for Hurricanes, visit the FEMA website at: ready.gov/hurricanes
As part of the Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), our scientists are flying over Alaska and Canada, measuring the elevation of rivers and lakes to study how thawing permafrost affects hydrology in the landscape. This view of one of the great Arctic rivers, the Yukon, meandering through Yukon Flats, Alaska, was taken from our DC-8 “flying laboratory” as part of the Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days and Seasons (ASCENDS) experiment.
Scientists on the Air Surface, Water and Ocean Topography (AirSWOT) mission have been flying over the same location, investigating how water levels in the Arctic landscape change as permafrost thaws. Under typical conditions, the frozen layer of soil keeps water from sinking into the ground and percolating away. As permafrost thaws, the water has new ways to move between rivers and lakes, which can raise or lower the elevation of the bodies of water. These changes in water levels will have effects on Arctic life— plants, animals, and humans—in the near future.
Credit: NASA/Peter Griffith
Today we celebrate the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft and their 40 years in space. These two spacecraft are exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. Launched two weeks apart in 1977, these two spacecraft took some of the very first up-close images we have of the planets in our solar system.
Their primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making a string of discoveries there – such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and intricacies of Saturn’s rings – the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets.
Voyager 1 made the historic entry into interstellar space, the region between the stars, in 2012.
Carried on both spacecraft are an ambitious message, a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.
Swipe to see more about Voyager and some iconic images from this mission!