The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the United States’ largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.
They are also home to some of the most amazing images, visualizations and videos NASA has to offer! Please do yourself a favour and check out their incredible Flickr page which has thousands of images with wonderfully detailed descriptions.
Below is a collection of 15 mind-blowing featured images from NASA. Enjoy!
1. Huge Eruptive Prominence Seen on Sun
The STEREO (Ahead) spacecraft caught this spectacular eruptive prominence in extreme UV light as it blasted away from the Sun (Apr. 12-13, 2010). This was certainly among the largest prominence eruptions seen by either the STEREO or SOHO missions. The length of the prominence appears to stretch almost halfway across the sun, about 500,000 miles. Prominences are cooler clouds of plasma that hover above the Sun’s surface, tethered by magnetic forces. They are notoriously unstable and commonly erupt as this one did in a dramatic fashion. [Source]
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2. The Crab Nebula
This is a mosaic image, one of the largest ever taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of the Crab Nebula, a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star’s supernova explosion. Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded this violent event nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans.
The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen. The rapidly spinning neutron star embedded in the center of the nebula is the dynamo powering the nebula’s eerie interior bluish glow. The blue light comes from electrons whirling at nearly the speed of light around magnetic field lines from the neutron star. The neutron star, like a lighthouse, ejects twin beams of radiation that appear to pulse 30 times a second due to the neutron star’s rotation. A neutron star is the crushed ultra-dense core of the exploded star.
The Crab Nebula derived its name from its appearance in a drawing made by Irish astronomer Lord Rosse in 1844, using a 36-inch telescope. When viewed by Hubble, as well as by large ground-based telescopes such as the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, the Crab Nebula takes on a more detailed appearance that yields clues into the spectacular demise of a star, 6,500 light-years away.
The newly composed image was assembled from 24 individual Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 exposures taken in October 1999, January 2000, and December 2000. The colors in the image indicate the different elements that were expelled during the explosion. Blue in the filaments in the outer part of the nebula represents neutral oxygen, green is singly-ionized sulfur, and red indicates doubly-ionized oxygen. Source
3. Planet Earth
This spectacular “blue marble” image is the most detailed true-color image of the entire Earth to date. Using a collection of satellite-based observations, scientists and visualizers stitched together months of observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, true-color mosaic of every square kilometer (.386 square mile) of our planet.
Much of the information contained in this image came from a single remote-sensing device-NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS. Flying over 700 km above the Earth onboard the Terra satellite, MODIS provides an integrated tool for observing a variety of terrestrial, oceanic, and atmospheric features of the Earth. The land and coastal ocean portions of these images are based on surface observations collected from June through September 2001 and combined, or composited, every eight days to compensate for clouds that might block the sensor’s view of the surface on any single day.
Two different types of ocean data were used in these images: shallow water true color data, and global ocean color (or chlorophyll) data. Topographic shading is based on the GTOPO 30 elevation dataset compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey’s EROS Data Center. MODIS observations of polar sea ice were combined with observations of Antarctica made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s AVHRR sensor—the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer. The cloud image is a composite of two days of imagery collected in visible light wavelengths and a third day of thermal infra-red imagery over the poles. Global city lights, derived from 9 months of observations from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, are superimposed on a darkened land surface map. [Source]
4. Typhoon Nabi
(3 September 2005) — Typhoon Nabi is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 11 crewmember on the International Space Station, as it swirls in the Pacific Ocean, heading toward southern Korea and Japan. At the time this image was taken Typhoon Nabi was ~23N 133E with sustained winds ~100 knots, gusting to 120 knots. [Source]
5. Manam Volcano, Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea’s Manam Volcano released a thin, faint plume on June 16, 2010, as clouds clustered at the volcano’s summit. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite took this picture the same day. Rivulets of brown rock interrupt the carpet of green vegetation on the volcano’s slopes. Opaque white clouds partially obscure the satellite’s view of Manam. The clouds may result from water vapor from the volcano, but may also have formed independent of volcanic activity. The volcanic plume appears as a thin, blue-gray veil extending toward the northwest over the Bismarck Sea.
Located 13 kilometers (8 miles) off the coast of mainland Papua New Guinea, Manam forms an island 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide. It is a stratovolcano. The volcano has two summit craters, and although both are active, most historical eruptions have arisen from the southern crater.
NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Michon Scott. Instrument: EO-1 – ALI [Source]
6. Phytoplankton Bloom in the Barents Sea
In this natural-color image from August 31, 2010, the ocean’s canvas swirls with turquoise, teal, navy, and green, the abstract art of the natural world. The colors were painted by a massive phytoplankton bloom made up of millions of tiny, light-reflecting organisms growing in the sunlit surface waters of the Barents Sea. Such blooms peak every August in the Barents Sea.
The variations in color are caused by different species and concentrations of phytoplankton. The bright blue colors are probably from coccolithophores, a type of phytoplankton that is coated in a chalky shell that reflects light, turning the ocean a milky turquoise. Coccolithophores dominate the Barents Sea in August. Shades of green are likely from diatoms, another type of phytoplankton. Diatoms usually dominate the Barents Sea earlier in the year, giving way to coccolithophores in the late summer. However, field measurements of previous August blooms have also turned up high concentrations of diatoms.
The Barents Sea is a shallow sea sandwiched between the coastline of northern Russia and Scandinavia and the islands of Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Novaya Zemlya. Within the shallow basin, currents carrying warm, salty water from the Atlantic collide with currents carrying cold, fresher water from the Arctic. During the winter, strong winds drive the currents and mix the waters. When winter’s sea ice retreats and light returns in the spring, diatoms thrive, typically peaking in a large bloom in late May.
The shift between diatoms and coccolithophores occurs as the Barents Sea changes during the summer months. Throughout summer, perpetual light falls on the waters, gradually warming the surface. Eventually, the ocean stratifies into layers, with warm water sitting on top of cooler water. The diatoms deplete most of the nutrients in the surface waters and stop growing. Coccolithophores, on the other hand, do well in warm, nutrient-depleted water with a lot of light. In the Barents Sea, these conditions are strongest in August.
The shifting conditions and corresponding change in species lead to strikingly beautiful multicolored blooms such as this one. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image. [Source]
7. The Tarantula Nebula
A blue-hot star, 90 times more massive than our Sun, is hurtling across space fast enough to make a round trip from Earth to the Moon in merely two hours. Though the speed is not a record-breaker, it is unique to find a homeless star that has traveled so far from its nest. The only way the star could have been ejected from the star cluster where it was born is through a tussle with a rogue star that entered the binary system where the star lived, which ejected the star through a dynamical game of stellar pinball.
This is strong circumstantial evidence for stars as massive as 150 times our Sun’s mass living in the cluster. Only a very massive star would have the gravitational energy to eject something weighing 90 solar masses. The runaway star is on the outskirts of the 30 Doradus nebula, a raucous stellar breeding ground in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. The finding bolsters evidence that the most massive stars in the local universe reside in 30 Doradus, making it a unique laboratory for studying heavyweight stars. 30 Doradus, also called the Tarantula Nebula, is roughly 170,000 light-years from Earth. [Source]
8. Saturn’s Death Star/Pac-Man Moon
The highest-resolution-yet temperature map and images of Saturn’s icy moon Mimas obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveal surprising patterns on the surface of the small moon, including unexpected hot regions that resemble “Pac-Man” eating a dot, and striking bands of light and dark in crater walls.
The left portion of this image shows Mimas in visible light, an image that has drawn comparisons to the “Star Wars” Death Star. The right portion shows the new temperature map, which resembles 1980s video game icon “Pac Man.” [Source]
9. Detail of the Kamchatka Peninsula
Detail view of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. This is a false-color satellite image, acquired by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on March 10, 2010.
10. Iceberg Collision at Mertz Glacier Tongue, Antarctica
At 94 kilometers (58 miles) by 39 kilometers (24 miles) in size, the B-09B iceberg is comparable to the state of Rhode Island, which is wider but not quite so long. After lingering near the Mertz Glacier in Eastern Antarctica for several years, the massive iceberg collided with the glacier tongue on February 12 or 13, breaking it away from the rest of the glacier. The former glacier tongue formed a new iceberg nearly as large as B-09B. These images, all from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite, show the iceberg and glacier tongue immediately before and after the collision.
The iceberg formed from the Mertz Glacier Tongue is 78 kilometers (48 miles) long by 39 kilometers (24 miles) wide and has a mass of 700-800 billion tons, reported BBC News. The glacier tongue had previously contributed to keeping a section of the ocean free of ice, a condition known as a polynya. The polynya provided a significant feeding site for wildlife like penguins. The shorter tongue may not protect the area from sea ice, reducing or even eliminating the polynya and the access to food it provided. [Source]
11. The Messier 66 Spiral Galaxy
Hubble has snapped a spectacular view of M 66, the largest “player” of the Leo Triplet, and a galaxy with an unusual anatomy: it displays asymmetric spiral arms and an apparently displaced core. The peculiar anatomy is most likely caused by the gravitational pull of the other two members of the trio.
The unusual spiral galaxy, Messier 66, is located at a distance of about 35 million light-years in the constellation of Leo. Together with Messier 65 and NGC 3628, Messier 66 is the member of the Leo Triplet, a trio of interacting spiral galaxies, part of the larger Messier 66 group. Messier 66 wins in size over its fellow triplets — it is about 100 000 light-years across.
This is a composite of images obtained through the following filters: 814W (near infrared), 555W (green) and H-alpha (showing the glowing of the hydrogen gas). They have been combined so to represent the real colours of the galaxy. [Source]
12. The Great Lakes, No Clouds
Late August 2010 provided a rare satellite view of a cloudless summer day over the entire Great Lakes region. North Americans trying to sneak in a Labor Day weekend getaway on the lakes were hoping for more of the same.
The Great Lakes comprise the largest collective body of fresh water on the planet, containing roughly 18 percent of Earth’s supply. Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water. The region around the Great Lakes basin is home to more than 10 percent of the population of the United States and 25 percent of the population of Canada.
The image was gathered by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite at 1:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time (18:30 UTC) on August 28. Open water appears blue or nearly black. The pale blue and green swirls near the coasts are likely caused by algae or phytoplankton blooms, or by calcium carbonate (chalk) from the lake floor. The sweltering summer temperatures have produced an unprecedented bloom of toxic blue-green algae in western Lake Erie, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. [Source]
13. Two Colliding Galaxies
A beautiful new image of two colliding galaxies has been released by NASA’s Great Observatories. The Antennae galaxies, located about 62 million light-years from Earth, are shown in this composite image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (gold and brown), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (red). The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like “arms,” seen in wide-angle views of the system. These features were produced by tidal forces generated in the collision.
The collision, which began more than 100 million years ago and is still occurring, has triggered the formation of millions of stars in clouds of dusts and gas in the galaxies. The most massive of these young stars have already sped through their evolution in a few million years and exploded as supernovas.
The X-ray image from Chandra shows huge clouds of hot, interstellar gas that have been injected with rich deposits of elements from supernova explosions. This enriched gas, which includes elements such as oxygen, iron, magnesium, and silicon, will be incorporated into new generations of stars and planets. The bright, point-like sources in the image are produced by material falling onto black holes and neutron stars that are remnants of the massive stars. Some of these black holes may have masses that are almost one hundred times that of the Sun.
The Spitzer data show infrared light from warm dust clouds that have been heated by newborn stars, with the brightest clouds lying in the overlapping region between the two galaxies. The Hubble data reveal old stars and star-forming regions in gold and white, while filaments of dust appear in brown. Many of the fainter objects in the optical image are clusters containing thousands of stars.
The Chandra image was taken in December 1999. The Spitzer image was taken in December 2003. The Hubble image was taken in July 2004, and February 2005. [Source]
14. Permanent Light on Earth’s Surface
This image of Earth’s city lights was created with data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS). Originally designed to view clouds by moonlight, the OLS is also used to map the locations of permanent lights on the Earth’s surface.
The brightest areas of the Earth are the most urbanized, but not necessarily the most populated. (Compare western Europe with China and India.) Cities tend to grow along coastlines and transportation networks. Even without the underlying map, the outlines of many continents would still be visible. The United States interstate highway system appears as a lattice connecting the brighter dots of city centers. In Russia, the Trans-Siberian railroad is a thin line stretching from Moscow through the center of Asia to Vladivostok. The Nile River, from the Aswan Dam to the Mediterranean Sea, is another bright thread through an otherwise dark region.
Even more than 100 years after the invention of the electric light, some regions remain thinly populated and unlit. Antarctica is entirely dark. The interior jungles of Africa and South America are mostly dark, but lights are beginning to appear there. Deserts in Africa, Arabia, Australia, Mongolia, and the United States are poorly lit as well (except along the coast), along with the boreal forests of Canada and Russia, and the great mountains of the Himalaya. [Source]
15. Earth: The Water Planet
Viewed from space, the most striking feature of our planet is the water. In both liquid and frozen form, it covers 75% of the Earth’s surface. It fills the sky with clouds. Water is practically everywhere on Earth, from inside the rocky crust to inside our cells.
This detailed, photo-like view of Earth is based largely on observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. It is one of many images of our watery world featured in a new story examining water in all of its forms and functions. Here is an excerpt: “In all, the Earth’s water content is about 1.39 billion cubic kilometers (331 million cubic miles), with the bulk of it, about 96.5%, being in the global oceans. As for the rest, approximately 1.7% is stored in the polar icecaps, glaciers, and permanent snow, and another 1.7% is stored in groundwater, lakes, rivers, streams, and soil.
Only a thousandth of 1% of the water on Earth exists as water vapor in the atmosphere. Despite its small amount, this water vapor has a huge influence on the planet. Water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas, and it is a major driver of the Earth’s weather and climate as it travels around the globe, transporting heat with it.
For human needs, the amount of freshwater for drinking and agriculture is particularly important. Freshwater exists in lakes, rivers, groundwater, and frozen as snow and ice. Estimates of groundwater are particularly difficult to make, and they vary widely. Groundwater may constitute anywhere from approximately 22 to 30% of fresh water, with ice accounting for most of the remaining 78 to 70%.” [Source]
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