The Snows of Churyumov Gerasimenko


You couldn't really be caught in this blizzard while standing by a cliff on Churyumov-Gerasimenko, also known as comet 67P. Orbiting the comet in June of 2016 the Rosetta spacecraft's narrow angle camera did record streaks of dust and ice particles though, as they drifted across the field of view near the camera and above the comet's surface. Still, some of the bright specks in the scene are likely due to a rain of energetic charged particles or cosmic rays hitting the camera, and the dense background of stars in the direction of the constellation Canis Major. Click on this single frame to play and the background stars are easy to spot as they trail from top to bottom in an animated gif (7.7MB). The 33 frames of the time compressed animation span about 25 minutes of real time. The stunning gif was constructed from consecutive images taken while Rosetta cruised some 13 kilometers from the comet's nucleus.

The Blue Horsehead Nebula in Infrared


The Blue Horsehead Nebula looks quite different in infrared light. In visible light, the reflecting dust of the nebula appears blue and shaped like a horse's head. In infrared light, however, a complex labyrinth of filaments, caverns, and cocoons of glowing dust and gas emerges, making it hard to even identify the equine icon. The featured image of the nebula was created in three infrared colors (R=22, G=12, B=4.6 microns) from data taken by NASA's orbiting Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. The nebula is cataloged as IC 4592 and spans about 40 light years, lying about 400 light years away toward the constellation Scorpius along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. IC 4592 is fainter but covers an angularly greater region than the better known Horsehead Nebula of Orion. The star that predominantly illuminates and heats the dust is Nu Scorpii, visible as the yellow star left of center.

Meteor Over Crater Lake


Did you see it? One of the more common questions during a meteor shower occurs because the time it takes for a meteor to flash is typically less than the time it takes for a head to turn. Possibly, though, the glory of seeing bright meteors shoot across and knowing that they were once small granules on another world might make it all worthwhile, even if your observing partner(s) could not share in every particular experience. Peaking late tonight, a dark sky should enable the Lyrids meteor shower to exhibit as many as 20 visible meteors per hour from some locations. In the featured composite of nine exposures taken during the 2012 shower, a bright Lyrid meteor streaks above picturesque Crater Lake in Oregon, USA. Snow covers the foreground, while the majestic central band of our home galaxy arches well behind the serene lake. Other meteor showers this year -- and every year -- include the Perseids in mid-August and the Leonids in mid-November.

TESS Launch Close Up


NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) began its search for planets orbiting other stars by leaving planet Earth on April 18. The exoplanet hunter rode to orbit on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 is so designated for its 9 Merlin first stage engines seen in this sound-activated camera close-up from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In the coming weeks, TESS will use a series of thruster burns to boost it into a high-Earth, highly elliptical orbit. A lunar gravity assist maneuver will allow it to reach a previously untried stable orbit with half the orbital period of the Moon and a maximum distance from Earth of about 373,000 kilometers (232,000 miles). From there, TESS will carry out a two year survey to search for planets around the brightest and closest stars in the sky.

NGC 7635: The Bubble Nebula


Blown by the wind from a massive star, this interstellar apparition has a surprisingly familiar shape. Cataloged as NGC 7635, it is also known simply as The Bubble Nebula. Although it looks delicate, the 7 light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Above and left of the Bubble's center is a hot, O-type star, several hundred thousand times more luminous and some 45 times more massive than the Sun. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud. The intriguing Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex lie a mere 7,100 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia. This sharp, tantalizing view of the cosmic bubble is a composite of Hubble Space Telescope image data from 2016, reprocessed to present the nebula's intense narrowband emission in an approximate true color scheme.

The Snows of Churyumov Gerasimenko

You couldn't really be caught in this blizzard while standing by a cliff on Churyumov-Gerasimenko, also known as comet 67P. Orbiting th...