Archive for Outer Space

NASA releases incredible closeup images of Saturn’s moon Dione




This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturn’s icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the mission’s final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

NASA has released a series of stunning images taken during the Cassini spacecraft’s last close flyby of Saturn’s moon Dione.

Related: Space Station astronaut takes stunning aurora photo

The images show a pockmarked landscape looming below the spacecraft.  Cassini passed 295 miles above Dione’s surface at 2:33 p.m. ET on Aug. 17, its fifth close encounter with Saturn’s icy moon. The spacecraft, which has been exploring Saturn and its moons since 2004, made its closest-ever Dione flyby in Dec. 2011 when it passed within 60 miles of the moon’s surface.

“I am moved, as I know everyone else is, looking at these exquisite images of Dione’s surface and crescent, and knowing that they are the last we will see of this far-off world for a very long time to come,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado, in a statement on the NASA website. “Right down to the last, Cassini has faithfully delivered another extraordinary set of riches. How lucky we have been.”

Only a handful of close flybys of Saturn’s large, icy moons remain for the spacecraft, according to NASA. Cassini is scheduled to make three approaches to the geologically active moon Enceladus on Oct. 14 and 28, and Dec. 19, passing just 30 miles from its surface on Oct. 28. “Cassini will make its deepest-ever dive through the moon’s plume of icy spray at this time, collecting valuable data about what’s going on beneath the surface,” explained NASA.

Related: Can tech turn the moon into the world’s biggest billboard?

After December there are a handful of distant flybys planned for Saturn’s large, icy moons at ranges of less than about 30,000 miles, the space agency said. “Cassini will, however, make nearly two dozen passes by a menagerie of Saturn’s small, irregularly shaped moons — including Daphnis, Telesto, Epimetheus and Aegaeon — at similar distances during this time,” it added. “These passes will provide some of Cassini’s best-ever views of the little moons.”

The Dione pictures are the latest in a series of a stunning space images. One-year astronaut Scott Kelly took an incredible aurora picture from the International Space Station last week and India’s Mars orbiter recently captured beautiful 3D images of the red planet.

The Cassini-Huygens mission concludes in late 2017, with the spacecraft repeatedly diving through the space between Saturn and its rings during its final year.


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Rocky Mountains YMCA captures video of real-life ‘Bambi’ and ‘Thumper’


It’s one of those videos meant to make everyone give out a collective “aww.” Like a scene from Disney’s “Bambi” come to life, a young deer and a rabbit were filmed playing with one another in the yard of the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. The YMCA captured the inter-species friends – who have now been appropriately nicknamed “Bambi” and “Thumper” – on video, which has since gone viral.

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Apollo 14 astronaut claims peace-loving aliens prevented ‘nuclear war’ on Earth



Edgar Mitchell (NASA)

From “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” to “E.T.,” pop culture is filled with stories about friendly, curious extraterrestrials visiting Earth to learn more about mankind. For Apollo 14 veteran Edgar Mitchell that plotline is less fiction than it is reality. The sixth man to walk the surface of the moon told Mirror online that he believes peace-keeping aliens visited our planet to prevent a nuclear war between Russia and the United States.

The idea sounds far-fetched, but Mitchell claims that military insiders viewed strange flying crafts cruising over U.S. missile bases and the White Sands facility in New Mexico, the site of the first-ever nuclear bomb detonation in 1945.

“They wanted to know about our military capabilities,” he said. “My own experience talking to people has made it clear the ETs had been attempting to keep us from going to war and help create peace on Earth.”

Mitchell, who grew up near the famous Roswell site in New Mexico, said that he has heard from various Air Force officers who claim UFOs were a regular site during the Cold War.

“They told me UFOs were frequently seen overhead and often disabled their missiles,” he added. “Other officers from bases on the Pacific coast told me their (test) missiles were frequently shot down by alien spacecraft.”

Some are understandably skeptical about this theory that diplomatic aliens have traveled the cosmos to disarm U.S. military weapons.

“Given that the Universe is around 14 billion years old, if we’re being visited, it’s unlikely we’re dealing with a civilization just a few hundred years ahead of us, so stories of aliens managing to disrupt a few of our weapons tests are far-fetched,” Nick Pope, former Ministry of Defense UFO researcher, told Mirror online. “Chances are they’d be millions of years ahead of us and could do anything they wanted to.”

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Astronomers just confirmed the universe is dying


Astronomers just confirmed the universe is dying

“The Universe will decline from here on in, sliding gently into old age. The Universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze,” says Driver. (AP Photo/NASA)

How does one confirm that the universe is slowly dying? For starters, you use “as many space and ground-based telescopes as we could get our hands on.” That according to Simon Driver, a principal investigator with the Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) project.

Driver explains that the group used those telescopes—including powerful ones from NASA and the European Space Agency and at the Paranal Observatory in Chile—to measure the energy generated by more than 200,000 galaxies.

It’s a measurement unprecedented in its precision, and a press release explains that this “most comprehensive assessment” shows that the energy produced in that corner of the universe has been halved over 2 billion years.

Each of those 200,000 galaxies had its energy output measured across 21 wavelengths, spanning from the ultraviolet to the infrared. Energy production is flagging across all wavelengths.

“The Universe is slowly dying,” as the release puts it. That’s actually not the first time such a statement has been uttered: Scientists have been aware of the fading for nearly two decades, but it’s the all-wavelength determination that makes this data—presented by the GAMA project yesterday at an international astronomical meeting in Hawaii—noteworthy.

“This pretty much closes the case,” Ohio State University astronomer John Beacom tells NPR. “Yes, it’s coming to an end.” He paints the universe as becoming “a bleaker and bleaker place to live.” But take solace in the fact that the lights won’t go out for a few billion years more.

(NASA has scored a photo of the moon unlike any you’ve seen before.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: How Astronomers Confirmed the Universe Is Dying

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Strange ‘figure’ spotted by Mars Curiosity Rover



 (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The truth is out there … maybe. A mysterious woman-like shape in a picture taken by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is creating buzz on social media.

In a post entitled “Alien Woman on Mars Watching Rover From Hill” the UFO Sightings Daily website said that the shape “looks like a woman partly cloaked.”

Related: From a million miles away, stunning NASA images show the moon crossing Earth’s face

Mashable is somewhat more circumspect in its analysis of the image. “Perhaps it’s a cloaked ghost Martian woman, perhaps it’s a statue left over from a once great society, perhaps it’s a piece of dirt,” it said. (For the record, we agree with the “piece of dirt” assessment).

What do you think? Here’s a link to the image, which was posted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


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Blue Moon full moon rises tonight: What to expect



The full moon, captured by astrophotographer Jennifer Rose Lane on Jan. 5, 2015, in Chapmanville, West Virginia. Tonight (July 31) there will be a Blue Moon in the sky. (Jennifer Rose Lane)

There’s a “Blue Moon” in the sky tonight — but that doesn’t mean the lunar surface will turn indigo.

Tonight’s (July 31) moon will be a gorgeous sight, but it won’t look different than any other full moon. The term Blue Moon has come to refer to the second full moon in a given month (since full moons come around about every 29 days, most months only contain one). So set your sights skyward tonight, but don’t expect a change in the moon’s regular hue. NASA explained the July 31 Blue Moon in a video released earlier this week.

However, there are rare occasions when the moon can appear to turn blue. According to the Science@NASA blog, observers have reported the moon having a bluish tint following volcanic eruptions. These explosions send particulates (like ash and smoke) into the air that scatter red light, but let blue light through, creating a natural blue filter and giving the moon a sapphire complexion. [Amazing Blue Moon Photos by Stargazers]

“Back in 1883, for example, people saw blue moons almost every night after the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa exploded with the force of a 100-megaton nuclear bomb,”  according to the Science@NASA statement. “People also saw blue-colored moons in 1983 after the eruption of the El Chichón volcano in Mexico. And there are reports of blue moons caused by Mount St. Helens in 1980 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991.”

Particulates created by forest fires can also create a blue filter in the sky, according to NASA.

“A famous example is the giant muskeg fire of Sept. 1953 in Alberta, Canada,” NASA officials explained in the statement. “Clouds of smoke containing micron-sized oil droplets produced lavender suns and blue moons all the way from North American to England. At this time of year, summer wildfires often produce smoke with an abundance of micron-sized particles — just the right size to turn the moon truly blue.”

The meaning of the term Blue Moon changed some time during the 20th century. According to the Maine Farmers’ Almanac, it once referred to the third full moon in a season that had four (once again, a three-month season typically has only three full moons). But the meaning changed, perhaps because of an article in Sky and Telescope magazine, which mistakenly used blue moon to refer to the second Blue Moon in a single month.

While the moon usually appears full for an entire day or longer, a full moon is actually an instantaneous event. Today’s full moon took place at exactly 6:43 a.m. EDT (1043 GMT), but you can enjoy the view of the Blue Moon through the night.

Editor’s note: If you capture an amazing view of the Blue Moon full moon of July 31 and would like to share it with for a story or gallery, send images and comments in to managing editor Tariq Malik at

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NASA Baffled by Red Arcs on Saturn Moon



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By Brownie Marie,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2015 4:20 PM CDT

(NEWSER) – Scientists are baffled after sighting several large, reddish arcs across the surface of one of Saturn’s moons. The markings on Tethys are a few miles wide and several hundred miles long, per NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The images were taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, and while photos it took in 2004 hint at the red features, they “really popped” in images sent this April, per Cassini scientist Paul Schenk. The photo is a color-enhanced one, and the result of bringing together images “taken using clear, green, infrared, and ultraviolet spectral filters,” reports Saturn has a 29-year orbit, and as the planet gradually moved into its northern hemisphere summer in recent years, “northern latitudes have become increasingly well illuminated,” per NASA.

Little is known about the origin, age, and composition of the markings, although researchers have their hypotheses. The red hue could be “exposed ice with chemical impurities, or the result of outgassing from inside Tethys,” NASA explains. “The red arcs must be geologically young because they cut across older features like impact craters,” adds Cassini imaging scientist Paul Helfenstein. The next six months will see Cassini get a last look at the moons Enceladus and Dione, according to Discovery News, which notes the spacecraft will take a “suicidal plunge” on Sept. 15, 2017. NASA will also take higher resolution photos of Tethys’ markings later this year to further study the unusual arcs. (Scientists recently discovered surprises in Saturn’s outer ring.)

An enhanced-color mosaic of Saturn's moon Tethys.
An enhanced-color mosaic of Saturn’s moon Tethys.

NASA camera captures stunning Earth image




A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory has captured its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.

The image, which shows North and Central America, was taken July 6, 2015 by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope. “The image was generated by combining three separate images to create a photographic-quality image,” explained NASA, in a statement.

The agency noted that the central turquoise areas in the image are shallow seas around the Caribbean islands. “This Earth image shows the effects of sunlight scattered by air molecules, giving the image a characteristic bluish tint,” it added

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Smithsonian launches crowdfunding campaign to save Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit from moonwalk


The National Air and Space Museum is launching a crowdfunding campaign to conserve the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore on the moon.

The campaign begins Monday, marking 46 years since Armstrong’s moonwalk in 1969. Conservators say spacesuits were built for short-term use with materials that break down over time.

The museum aims to raise $500,000 on Kickstarter to conserve the spacesuit, build a climate-controlled display case and digitize the spacesuit with 3D scanning.

The Smithsonian formed a partnership with Kickstarter for a series of crowdfunded projects. The spacesuit is the first.

Armstrong’s spacesuit is deteriorating and hasn’t been displayed since 2006. The museum plans to display it for the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s moonwalk. Later, the suit will be a centerpiece in “Destination Moon,” a gallery opening in 2020.

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Stunning NASA image reveals Pluto’s icy plains




In the center left of Pluto’s vast heart-shaped feature lies a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old. (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

NASA has released more stunning images from the New Horizons spacecraft’s historic Pluto Flyby, providing a spectacular view of the dwarf planet’s icy terrain.

Scientists unveiled the first image of a wide plain dubbed “Sputnik Planum” (Sputnik Plain) Friday. Sputnik Planum is located in Pluto’s vast heart-shaped region, which scientists have named “Tombaugh Regio” after the scientist that discovered the dwarf planet.

Related: NASA releases first Pluto flyby images

“This is the frozen plains of Pluto,” explained Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging (GGI) team in a press conference at NASA headquarters in Washington. “We have clearly discovered a vast, craterless plain that has a story to tell.”

Named after the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik Planum has a broken surface of irregularly-shaped segments, roughly 12 miles across, bordered by what appear to be shallow troughs. Some of the troughs contain an unknown dark material.

NASA also noted the clumps of hills that appear to rise above the plain. “We suspect that the hills may have been pushed up from underneath,” said Moore. “Or they are erosion-resistant knobs that are standing out as erosion occurs.”

Elsewhere in the image, Pluto’s surface appears to be etched by fields of small pits that may have formed by a process called sublimation, in which ice turns directly from solid to gas, according to NASA.

Other images released from Tuesday’s flyby include a shot of the dwarf planet’s satellite Nix and a composite portrait of Pluto and its moon Charon.

The New Horizons spacecraft has alsorevealed evidence of carbon monoxide ice on Pluto, scientists said.

With its Pluto flyby successfully completed, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern gave an update on the spacecraft during Friday’s press conference.

“The spacecraft is doing well, we are a little over 2 million miles on the far side of Pluto,” he said.

Scientists have so far received between 1 and 2 percent of New Horizons’ flyby data, a figure that will rise to between 5 and 6 percent next week, and increase during the coming months. “The data is really going to flow in the fall,” said Stern.

It will be October 2016 before all the data from the New Horizons mission is transmitted back to Earth.

NASA released its first closeup imageof an area near Pluto’s equator Wednesday, which contains a range of mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet above the dwarf planet’s icy surface. The agency also unveiled animage of Pluto’s largest moon Charon, which clearly shows a swath of cliffs and troughs stretching about 600 miles across its surface.

Other pictures released this week include an image of Pluto’s outermost moon Hydra and a Charon closeup.

Related: New Horizons spacecraft makes historic Pluto flyby

The spacecraft’s flyby took it within 7,750 miles of Pluto’s surface, roughly the distance between New York and Mumbai.

Confirmation of the successful flyby came late Tuesday, when New Horizons contacted scientists back on Earth, 3 billion miles from Pluto.

Pluto has fascinated astronomers since 1930, when it was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh using the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz. Some of Tombaugh’s ashes are aboard New Horizons.

New Horizons is the first-ever space mission to explore a world so far away from Earth, according to NASA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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