Saturn’s sponge-like moon Hyperion

The subject of this image bears a remarkable resemblance to a porous sea sponge, floating in the inky black surroundings of the deep sea.

Indeed, the cold, hostile and lonely environment of deep water is not too far removed from deep space, the actual setting for this image in which one of Saturn’s outer moons, Hyperion, can be seen in incredible detail. This image was taken by Cassini when the spacecraft performed a flyby of the small moon on 26 September 2005.

During the flyby, Cassini got more than it bargained for as Hyperion unleashed a burst of charged particles towards the spacecraft, effectively delivering a giant 200-volt electric shock. It appears that Hyperion’s surface becomes electrostatically charged as it is bathed in charged particles – both those constantly streaming out into space from the Sun and those trapped within the magnetic field of the moon’s host planet, Saturn.

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Explore Asteroid Vesta in 2D, 3D view by NASA

Vesta Trek: A Digital Model of Asteroid Vesta
Explanation: You can explore asteroid Vesta. Recently, NASA's robotic spaceship Dawn visited Vesta, the second largest object in our Solar System's main asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. During a year-long stopover, Dawn's cameras photographed Vesta's entire surface, documenting all of the minor planet's major mountains and craters. These images have now been combined into a digital model that allows anyone with a full-featured browser to fly all around Vesta, virtually, and even zoom in on interesting surface features, by just dragging and clicking. If desired, the initially flat 2D map can be wrapped into a nearly spherical object by clicking on the 3D icon at the bottom. Dawn departed Vesta in 2012 and is now just beginning to photograph and explore the mysteries of the largest object in the asteroid belt: dwarf-planet Ceres.

Click this link to explore VESTA

Flight to Star Cluster Westerlund 2

This visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective on Hubble's 25th anniversary image of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars. Note that the visualization is intended to be a scientifically reasonable interpretation and that distances within the model are significantly compressed. Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (Viz3D Team, STScI), and J. Anderson (STScI) Acknowledgment: The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), the Westerlund 2 Science Team, and ESO.

Watch this video..!!

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NASA Latest Images

Ring Galaxy AM 0644-741 from Hubble
Image Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (AURA / STScI), J. Higdon (Cornell) ESA, NASA
Explanation: How could a galaxy become shaped like a ring? The rim of the blue galaxy pictured on the right is an immense ring-like structure 150,000 light years in diameter composed of newly formed, extremely bright, massive stars. That galaxy, AM 0644-741, is known as a ring galaxy and was caused by an immense galaxy collision. When galaxies collide, they pass through each other -- their individual stars rarely come into contact. The ring-like shape is the result of the gravitational disruption caused by an entire small intruder galaxy passing through a large one. When this happens, interstellar gas and dust become condensed, causing a wave of star formation to move out from the impact point like a ripple across the surface of a pond. The intruder galaxy is just outside of the frame taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. This featured image was taken to commemorate the anniversary of Hubble's launch in 1990. Ring galaxy AM 0644-741 lies about 300 million light years away.

Meteor in the Milky Way
Image Credit & Copyright: Marko Korosec
Explanation: Earth's April showers include the Lyrid Meteor Shower, observed for more than 2,000 years when the planet makes its annual passage through the dust stream of long-period Comet Thatcher. A grain of that comet's dust, moving 48 kilometers per second at an altitude of 100 kilometers or so, is swept up in this night sky view from the early hours of April 21. Flashing toward the southeastern horizon, the meteor's brilliant streak crosses the central region of the rising Milky Way. Its trail points back toward the shower's radiant in the constellation Lyra, high in the northern springtime sky and off the top of the frame. The yellowish hue of giant star Antares shines to the right of the Milky Way's bulge. Higher still is bright planet Saturn, near the right edge. Seen from Istra, Croatia, the Lyrid meteor's greenish glow reflects in the waters of the Adriatic Sea.

Colorful Star Clouds in Cygnus
Image Credit & Copyright: André van der Hoeven
Explanation: Stars can form in colorful surroundings. Featured here is a star forming region rich in glowing gas and dark dust toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus), near the bright star Sadr. This region, which spans about 50 light years, is part of the Gamma Cygni nebula which lies about 1,800 light years distant. Toward the right of the image is Barnard 344, a dark and twisted dust cloud rich in cool molecular gas. A dramatic wall of dust and red-glowing hydrogen gas forms a line down the picture center. While the glowing red gas is indicative of small emission nebulas, the blue tinted areas are reflection nebulas -- starlight reflecting from usually dark dust grains. The Gamma Cygni nebula will likely not last the next billion years, as most of the bright young stars will explode, most of the dust will be destroyed, and most of the gas will drift away.

Total Solar Eclipse over Svalbard
Image Credit & Copyright: Thanakrit Santikunaporn
Explanation: Going, going, gone. That was the feeling in Svalbard, Norway last month during a total eclipse of the Sun by the Moon. In the featured image, the eclipse was captured every three minutes and then digitally merged with a foreground frame taken from the same location. Visible in the foreground are numerous gawking eclipse seekers, some deploying pretty sophisticated cameras. As the Moon and Sun moved together across the sky -- nearly horizontally from this far north -- an increasing fraction of the Sun appears covered by the Moon. In the central frame, the Moon's complete blockage of the disk of the Sun makes the immediate surroundings appear like night during the day. The exception is the Moon itself, which now appears surrounded by the expansive corona of the Sun. Of course, about 2.5 minutes later, the surface of the Sun began to reappear. The next total eclipse of the Sun will occur in 2016 March and be visible from Southeast Asia.

The Great Crater Hokusai
Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ. APL, Arizona State Univ., CIW
Explanation: One of the largest young craters on Mercury, 114 kilometer (71 mile) diameter Hokusai crater's bright rays are known to extend across much of the planet. But this mosaic of oblique views focuses on Hokusai close up, its sunlit central peaks, terraced crater walls, and frozen sea of impact melt on the crater's floor. The images were captured by the MESSENGER spacecraft. The first to orbit Mercury, since 2011 MESSENGER has conducted scientific explorations, including extensive imaging of the Solar System's innermost planet. Now running out of propellant and unable to counter orbital perturbations caused by the Sun's gravity, MESSENGER is predicted to impact the surface of Mercury on April 30.

M46 Plus Two
Image Credit & Copyright: Denis Priou
Explanation: Galactic or open star clusters are young. These swarms of stars are born together near the plane of the Milky Way, but their numbers steadily dwindle as cluster members are ejected by galactic tides and gravitational interactions. In fact, this bright open cluster, known as M46, is around 300 million years young. It still contains a few hundred stars within a span of 30 light-years or so. Located about 5,000 light-years away toward the constellation Puppis, M46 also seems to contain contradictions to its youthful status. In this pretty starscape, the colorful, circular patch above and right of the center of M46 is the planetary nebula NGC 2438. Fainter still, a second planetary nebula, PK231+4.1, is identified by the box at the right and enlarged in the inset. Planetary nebulae are a brief, final phase in the life of a sun-like star a billion years old or more, whose central reservoir of hydrogen fuel has been exhausted. NGC 2438 is estimated to be only 3,000 light-years distant, though, and moves at a different speed than M46 cluster members. Along with its fainter cohort, planetary nebula NGC 2438 is likely only by chance appearing near our line-of-sight to the young stars of M46.

One-Armed Spiral Galaxy NGC 4725
Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh
Explanation: While most spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, have two or more spiral arms, NGC 4725 has only one. In this sharp color composite image, the solo spira mirabilis seems to wind from a prominent ring of bluish, newborn star clusters and red tinted star forming regions. The odd galaxy also sports obscuring dust lanes a yellowish central bar structure composed of an older population of stars. NGC 4725 is over 100 thousand light-years across and lies 41 million light-years away in the well-groomed constellation Coma Berenices. Computer simulations of the formation of single spiral arms suggest that they can be either leading or trailing arms with respect to a galaxy's overall rotation. Also included in the frame, sporting a noticably more traditional spiral galaxy look, is a more distant background galaxy.

Mystic Mountain Dust Pillars
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA; Processing & Copyright: David Forteza
Explanation: It's stars versus dust in the Carina Nebula and the stars are winning. More precisely, the energetic light and winds from massive newly formed stars are evaporating and dispersing the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed. Located in the Carina Nebula and known informally as Mystic Mountain, these pillar's appearance is dominated by the dark dust even though it is composed mostly of clear hydrogen gas. Dust pillars such as these are actually much thinner than air and only appear as mountains due to relatively small amounts of opaque interstellar dust. About 7,500 light-years distant, the featured image was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, digitally reprocessed by an industrious amateur, and highlights an interior region of Carina which spans about three light years. Within a few million years, the stars will likely win out completely and the entire dust mountain will be destroyed.

Milky Way over Erupting Volcano
Image Credit & Copyright: Sergio Montúfar
Explanation: The view was worth the trip. Battling high winds, cold temperatures, and low oxygen, the trek to near the top of the volcano Santa Maria in Guatemala -- while carrying sensitive camera equipment -- was lonely and difficult. Once set up, though, the camera captured this breathtaking vista during the early morning hours of February 28. Visible on the ground are six volcanoes of the Central America Volcanic Arc, including Fuego, the Volcano of Fire, which is seen erupting in the distance. Visible in the sky, in separate exposures taken a few minutes later, are many stars much further in the distance, as well as the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy situated horizontally overhead.

Sentinels of the Arctic
Image Credit & Copyright: Niccolò Bonfadini
Explanation: Who guards the north? Judging from the above photograph, possibly giant trees covered in snow and ice. The featured picture was taken a few winters ago in Finnish Lapland where weather can include sub-freezing temperatures and driving snow. Surreal landscapes sometimes result, where common trees become cloaked in white and so appear, to some, as watchful aliens. Far in the distance, behind this uncommon Earthly vista, is a more common sight -- a Belt of Venus that divided a darkened from sunlit sky as the Sun rose behind the photographer. Of course, in the spring, the trees thaw and Lapland looks much different.

NGC 2903: A Missing Jewel in Leo
Image Credit & Copyright: Tony Hallas
Explanation: Barred spiral galaxy NGC 2903 is only some 20 million light-years distant. Popular among amateur astronomers, it shines in the northern spring constellation Leo, near the top of the lion's head. That part of the constellation is sometimes seen as a reversed question mark or sickle. One of the brighter galaxies visible from the northern hemisphere, NGC 2903 is surprisingly missing from Charles Messier's catalog of lustrous celestial sights. This colorful image from a small ground-based telescope shows off the galaxy's gorgeous spiral arms traced by young, blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions. Included are intriguing details of NGC 2903's bright core, a remarkable mix of old and young clusters with immense dust and gas clouds. In fact, NGC 2903 exhibits an exceptional rate of star formation activity near its center, also bright in radio, infrared, ultraviolet, and x-ray bands. Just a little smaller than our own Milky Way, NGC 2903 is about 80,000 light-years across.

Full Moon in Earth's Shadow
Image Credit & Copyright: Rolf Olsen
Explanation: Last week the Full Moon was completely immersed in Earth's dark umbral shadow, just briefly though. The total phase of the April 4, 2015 lunar eclipse lasted less than 5 minutes, the shortest total lunar eclipse of the century. In fact, sliding just within the Earth's umbral shadow's northern edge, the lunar north stayed relatively bright, while a beautiful range of blue and red hues emerged across the rest of the Moon's Earth-facing hemisphere. The reddened light within the shadow that reaches the lunar surface is filtered through the lower atmosphere. Seen from a lunar perspective it comes from all the sunsets and sunrises around the edges of the silhouetted Earth. Close to the shadow's edge, the bluer light is still filtered through Earth's atmosphere, but originates as rays of sunlight pass through layers high in the upper stratosphere. That light is colored by ozone that absorbs red light and transmits bluer hues. In this sharp telescopic view of totality from Auckland, New Zealand, planet Earth, the Moon's north pole has been rotated to the top of the frame.

Source - NASA

How old is the Moon? New study says 4.47 billion years..!!

Analysis of meteorites that reached the Earth long after the cosmic collision which created the Moon indicate the satellite is 4.47 billion years old, according to an article published in the journal Science.

The article described the work of a multi-disciplinary team of specialists from NASA, the University of Arizona and the Institute for the Science of Exploration Targets, or INET.

Scientists have long known that the Moon was formed as a result of a collision between a large proto-planet and the nascent Earth.

But the timing of that event remains a topic for debate, as scientists continue to argue over the age of lunar rocks and soil samples brought back to Earth by the Apollo astronauts.

The team behind the latest research determined that following the collision, kilometre-sized meteorites struck asteroids in the main asteroid belt -- between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter -- at higher than normal speeds.

Subsequent collisions brought fragments of those meteorites to Earth and those fragments have been dated to 4.47 billion years ago.

"This research is helping to refine our time scales for 'what happened when' on other worlds in the Solar System," INET principal investigator Bill Bottke said.