Nasa Image of the Day
The Fault in Our Mars

The Fault in Our Mars

This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of northern Meridiani Planum shows faults that have disrupted layered deposits.

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Sky View Cafe
Sky View Cafe

Sky View Café is a Java applet that lets you use your web browser to see many types of astronomical information, in both graphical and numerical form. You can see which stars and planets will be out tonight in the sky above your home town, see how the next solar or lunar eclipse will look from London, or find out when the Moon rose over Sydney on your birthday ten years ago. Sky View Café includes star charts, a 3-D orrery, displays of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, an astronomical event calendar, an ephemeris generator, and many other features. Enter Sky View Café now!

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The Sky Tonight Astronomy News
Günther Hasinger appointed as ESA Director of Science - Read more >
Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:00:00 +0100


The Council of the European Space Agency announced the appointment of Günther Hasinger as the next Director of Science. He will succeed Alvaro Giménez, who has served in the position since 2011.




Mars upside down - Read more >
Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:00:00 +0100


Which way is up in space? Planets are usually shown with the north pole at the top and the south pole at the bottom. In this remarkable image taken by ESA’s Mars Express, the Red Planet is seen with north at the bottom, and the equator at the top.




Two tales of one galaxy - Read more >
Wed, 13 Dec 2017 14:50:00 +0100


Explore the stars in our galactic neighbour, the Large Magellanic Cloud, as viewed by ESA’s Gaia satellite



Hubble's Celestial Snow Globe
Tue, 12 Dec 2017 13:00:00 ESTHubble Image

A Hubble Space Telescope View of Globular Cluster M79

It's beginning to look a lot like the holiday season in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of a blizzard of stars, which resembles a swirling snowstorm in a snow globe. The stars are residents of the globular star cluster Messier 79, or M79, located 41,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Lepus. The cluster is also known as NGC 1904.



Hot stellar bubble - Read more >
Mon, 11 Dec 2017 09:11:00 +0100


Space Science Image of the Week: A massive star nearing the end of its life creates a dynamic bubble in space



Hot and cold - Read more >
Fri, 08 Dec 2017 10:55:00 +0100


BepiColombo module withstands extreme temperatures in final space simulation



Fracture swarms on Mars - Read more >
Thu, 16 Nov 2017 11:00:00 +0100


These striking features on Mars were caused by the planet’s crust stretching apart in response to ancient volcanic activity.




Herschel discovers galaxy merger in the very early Universe - Read more >
Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:00:00 +0100


What seemed at first like a rare instance of a huge, ancient galaxy revealed itself to be an even rarer pair of extremely massive galaxies, seen on the brink of merging when the Universe was only a billion years old.




NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Early Science Observations Revealed
Mon, 13 Nov 2017 10:00:00 ESTHubble Image

First Publicly Available Science Observations for Webb Announced

The Space Telescope Science Institute is announcing some of the first science programs NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will conduct following its launch and commissioning. These specific observations are part of a program of Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD-ERS), which will provide the scientific community with immediate access to Webb data. These data will help inform proposals for observations in the second year of Webb operations. The 13 ERS programs will address a broad variety of science areas, from black hole growth and the assembly of galaxies to star formation and the study of exoplanets.



Webb’s first space targets chosen - Read more >
Mon, 13 Nov 2017 16:00:00 +0100


Gas giant Jupiter, organic molecules in star-forming clouds and baby galaxies in the distant Universe are among the first targets for which data will be immediately available from the James Webb Space Telescope once it begins casting its powerful gaze on the Universe in 2019.




Hubble Movie Shows Movement of Light Echo Around Exploded Star
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:00:00 ESTHubble Image

Light from Supernova Bouncing Off Giant Dust Cloud

Voices reverberating off mountains and the sound of footsteps bouncing off walls are examples of an echo. Echoes happen when sound waves ricochet off surfaces and return to the listener.

Space has its own version of an echo. It’s not made with sound but with light, and occurs when light bounces off dust clouds.

The Hubble telescope has just captured one of these cosmic echoes, called a “light echo,” in the nearby starburst galaxy M82, located 11.4 million light-years away. A movie assembled from more than two years’ worth of Hubble images reveals an expanding shell of light from a supernova explosion sweeping through interstellar space three years after the stellar blast was discovered. The “echoing” light looks like a ripple expanding on a pond. The supernova, called SN 2014J, was discovered on Jan. 21, 2014.

A light echo occurs because light from the stellar blast travels different distances to arrive at Earth. Some light comes to Earth directly from the supernova blast. Other light is delayed because it travels indirectly. In this case, the light is bouncing off a huge dust cloud that extends 300 to 1,600 light-years around the supernova and is being reflected toward Earth.

So far, astronomers have spotted only 15 light echoes around supernovae outside our Milky Way galaxy. Light echo detections from supernovae are rarely seen because they must be nearby for a telescope to resolve them.



Heating ocean moon Enceladus for billions of years - Read more >
Mon, 06 Nov 2017 17:00:00 +0100


Enough heat to power hydrothermal activity inside Saturn’s ocean moon Enceladus for billions of years could be generated through tidal friction if the moon has a highly porous core, a new study finds, working in favour of the moon as a potentially habitable world. 




Hubble Sees Nearby Asteroids Photobombing Distant Galaxies
Thu, 02 Nov 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Asteroid Trails Streak Across This Deep-Space View of Thousands of Galaxies

Photobombing asteroids from our solar system have snuck their way into this deep image of the universe taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. These asteroids are right around the corner in astronomical terms, residing roughly 160 million miles from Earth. Yet they’ve horned their way into this picture of thousands of galaxies scattered across space and time at inconceivably farther distances.



Launch your design with Cheops - Read more >
Thu, 02 Nov 2017 16:30:00 +0100


ESA is offering graphic designers and artists a unique opportunity to feature their work on the rocket carrying the Cheops satellite.




Surprisingly erratic X-ray auroras discovered at Jupiter - Read more >
Mon, 30 Oct 2017 17:00:00 +0100


ESA and NASA space telescopes have revealed that, unlike Earth’s polar lights, the intense auroras seen at Jupiter’s poles unexpectedly behave independently of one another. 




Hubble Observes Exoplanet that Snows Sunscreen
Thu, 26 Oct 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Nighttime Titanium Dioxide Snow Leaves Dayside Cloud-Free and Cooler

Travelers to the nightside of exoplanet Kepler-13Ab should pack an umbrella because they will be pelted with precipitation. But it's not the kind of watery precipitation that falls on Earth. On this alien world, the precipitation is in the form of sunscreen.

Ironically, the sunscreen (titanium dioxide) is not needed on this side of the planet because it never receives any sunlight. But bottling up some sunlight protection is a good idea if travelers plan on visiting the sizzling hot, permanent dayside, which always faces its star. Visitors won't find any desperately needed sunscreen on this part of the planet.

Astronomers didn't detect the titanium dioxide directly. They used Hubble to find that the atmospheric temperature grows increasingly colder with altitude on the dayside of Kepler-13Ab, which was contrary to what they had expected. On this super-hot dayside, titanium dioxide should exist as a gas, called titanium oxide. If titanium oxide were present in the daytime atmosphere, it would absorb light and heat the upper atmosphere. Instead, high winds carry the titanium oxide around to the permanently dark side of the planet where it condenses to form clouds and precipitation, and rains down as titanium dioxide. The planet's crushing gravity pulls all the titanium dioxide so far down it can't be recycled back into the upper atmosphere on the daytime side.

The Hubble observations represent the first time astronomers have detected this precipitation process, called a "cold trap," on an exoplanet.

Kepler-13Ab is one of the hottest known planets, with a dayside temperature of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Kepler-13 system resides 1,730 light-years from Earth.



Rosetta finds comet plume powered from below - Read more >
Thu, 26 Oct 2017 11:00:00 +0200


Last year, a fountain of dust was spotted streaming from Rosetta’s comet, prompting the question: how was it powered? Scientists now suggest the outburst was driven from inside the comet, perhaps released from ancient gas vents or pockets of hidden ice.




Webcam on Mars Express surveys high-altitude clouds - Read more >
Tue, 17 Oct 2017 11:00:00 +0200


An unprecedented catalogue of more than 21 000 images taken by a webcam on ESA’s Mars Express is proving its worth as a science instrument, providing a global survey of unusual high-altitude cloud features on the Red Planet.




Integral sees blast travelling with gravitational waves - Read more >
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:00:00 +0200


ESA’s Integral satellite recently played a crucial role in discovering the flash of gamma rays linked to the gravitational waves released by the collision of two neutron stars.




NASA Missions Catch First Light From a Gravitational-Wave Event
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Neutron Star Collision Cooks Up Exotic Elements, Gravitational Waves

When some people get in the kitchen, they create a delicious meal but leave behind a chaotic mess of splattered food and dirty dishes. Cosmic cookery can be just as messy. While a star can create chemical elements as heavy as iron within its core, anything heavier needs a more powerful source like a stellar explosion or the collision of two neutron stars.

Colliding neutron stars can yield gold, plutonium, and a variety of other elements. Theoretically, they also generate gravitational waves as they spiral together at breakneck speed before merging. The first gravitational wave signal from a neutron star merger was detected on August 17. It was accompanied by gamma rays and other light, allowing astronomers to locate a gravitational wave source for the first time.

Hubble photographed the glow from this titanic collision, shining within the galaxy NGC 4993 at a distance of 130 million light-years. Hubble also obtained an infrared spectrum that may yield signs of exotic, radioactive elements. The analysis will continue while astronomers wait for the gravitational wave source to emerge from behind the Sun from Earth’s point of view, where it slipped just days after discovery.



To Mars with ESA and the Guggenheim Bilbao - Read more >
Fri, 06 Oct 2017 15:00:00 +0200


ESA and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, with the BBK Foundation, are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Spanish arts centre with a performance of Chasmata, a journey to Mars through contemporary art, music and architecture. Monday’s concert can be seen online starting at 18:30 GMT (20:30 CEST).




Colourful dunes on wind-swept Mars - Read more >
Thu, 05 Oct 2017 11:00:00 +0200


Dunes are prominent indicators of prevailing winds, as can be seen on this crater floor on Mars, imaged by ESA’s Mars Express on 16 May.




NASA's Hubble Observes the Farthest Active Inbound Comet Yet Seen
Thu, 28 Sep 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

The Comet that Came in from the Cold

A solitary frozen traveler has been journeying for millions of years toward the heart of our planetary system. The wayward vagabond, a city-sized snowball of ice and dust called a comet, was gravitationally kicked out of the Oort Cloud, its frigid home at the outskirts of the solar system. This region is a vast comet storehouse, composed of icy leftover building blocks from the construction of the planets 4.6 billion years ago.

The comet is so small, faint, and far away that it eluded detection. Finally, in May 2017, astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii spotted the solitary intruder at a whopping 1.5 billion miles away — between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. The Hubble Space Telescope was enlisted to take close-up views of the comet, called C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS (K2).

The comet is record-breaking because it is already becoming active under the feeble glow of the distant Sun. Astronomers have never seen an active inbound comet this far out, where sunlight is merely 1/225th its brightness as seen from Earth. Temperatures, correspondingly, are at a minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at such bone-chilling temperatures, a mix of ancient ices on the surface — oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide — is beginning to sublimate and shed as dust. This material balloons into a vast 80,000-mile-wide halo of dust, called a coma, enveloping the solid nucleus.

Astronomers will continue to study K2 as it travels into the inner solar system, making its closest approach to the Sun in 2022.



From stars to galaxies - Read more >
Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:00:00 +0200


Explore stellar nurseries in our Milky Way and other galaxies as viewed through the infrared eye of the Herschel space observatory



Comet or Asteroid? Hubble Discovers that a Unique Object is a Binary
Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

An Asteroid That Split in Two 5,000 Years Ago Is Spouting a Comet Tail

Astronomers categorize the minor bodies in the solar system according to their location and physical composition. Comets are a loose collection of ice and dust that fall in toward the Sun from beyond the orbits of the major planets, and grow long tails of dust and gas along the way. Asteroids are rocky or metallic and are relegated to a zone between Mars and Jupiter. But nature isn't that tidy. The Hubble Space Telescope photographed a pair of asteroids orbiting each other that have a tail of dust, which is definitely a comet-like feature. The odd object, called 2006 VW139/288P, is the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet. Roughly 5,000 years ago, 2006 VW139/288P probably broke into two pieces due to a fast rotation.



Parting views - Read more >
Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:10:00 +0200


Cassini’s last look around Saturn’s neighbourhood before concluding its 13-year journey of discovery



NASA's Hubble Captures Blistering Pitch-Black Planet
Thu, 14 Sep 2017 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Alien world traps most of the visible light falling into its atmosphere

Don't go looking for the proverbial black cat eating licorice in a coal bin on the planet WASP-12b. Twice the size of any planet found in our solar system, the world is as black as fresh asphalt. Unlike other planets in its class, WASP-12b has the unique capability to trap at least 94 percent of the visible starlight falling into its atmosphere.

The temperature of the atmosphere is a seething 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit, which prevents the formation of reflective clouds on the day side. The planet orbits so close to its host that it is tidally locked, which means that it keeps the same side always facing the star.

The exoplanet isn't dining alone. Its host star is also having a feast: gobbling up material swirling off the exoplanet's super-heated atmosphere.

This oddball exoplanet is one of a class of so-called "hot Jupiters" that orbit very close to their host star and are heated to extreme temperatures. WASP-12b circles a Sun-like star 1,400 light-years from Earth.



Hubble Detects Exoplanet with Glowing Water Atmosphere
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Scorching "Hot Jupiter" Has a Stratospheric Layer

Only when we fly in a commercial jet at an altitude of about 33,000 feet do we enter Earth's stratosphere, a cloudless layer of our atmosphere that blocks ultraviolet light. Astronomers were fascinated to find evidence for a stratosphere on a planet orbiting another star. As on Earth, the planet's stratosphere is a layer where temperatures increase with higher altitudes, rather than decrease. However, the planet (WASP-121b) is anything but Earth-like. The Jupiter-sized planet is so close to its parent star that the top of the atmosphere is heated to a blazing 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 degrees Celsius), hot enough to rain molten iron! This new Hubble Space Telescope observation allows astronomers to compare processes in exoplanet atmospheres with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system.



NASA's Hubble Sees Martian Moon Orbiting the Red Planet
Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

The Tiny Moon Phobos Is Photographed During Its Quick Trip Around Mars

While photographing Mars, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured a cameo appearance of the tiny moon Phobos on its trek around the Red Planet. Discovered in 1877, the diminutive, potato-shaped moon is so small that it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures. Phobos orbits Mars in just 7 hours and 39 minutes, which is faster than Mars rotates. The moon’s orbit is very slowly shrinking, meaning it will eventually shatter under Mars’ gravitational pull, or crash into the planet. Hubble took 13 separate exposures over 22 minutes to create a time-lapse video showing the moon’s orbital path.



Hubble Pushed Beyond Limits to Spot Clumps of New Stars in Distant Galaxy
Thu, 06 Jul 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Gravitational lens helps reveal "fireworks" in the early universe

When the universe was young, stars formed at a much higher rate than they do today. By peering across billions of light-years of space, Hubble can study this early era. But at such distances, galaxies shrink to smudges that hide key details. Astronomers have teased out those details in one distant galaxy by combining Hubble’s sharp vision with the natural magnifying power of a gravitational lens. The result is an image 10 times better than what Hubble could achieve on its own, showing dense clusters of brilliant, young stars that resemble cosmic fireworks.



Hubble Captures Massive Dead Disk Galaxy that Challenges Theories of Galaxy Evolution
Wed, 21 Jun 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Young, Dead, Compact, Disk Galaxy Surprises Astronomers, Offers New Clues to How Modern-Day Elliptical Galaxies Formed

Astronomers combined the power of a “natural lens” in space with the capability of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to make a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang. Researchers say that finding such a galaxy so early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve. Astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together. Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk. The galaxy, called MACS 2129-1, is considered “dead” because it is no longer making stars. This new insight is forcing astronomers to rethink their theories of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies. “Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early ‘dead’ galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them,” said study leader Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.



Icy Moons, Galaxy Clusters, and Distant Worlds Among Selected Targets for James Webb Space Telescope
Thu, 15 Jun 2017 14:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Webb Telescope Guaranteed Time Observations Targets Announced

Mission officials for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope announced some of the science targets the telescope will observe following its launch and commissioning. These specific observations are part of a program of Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO), which provides dedicated time to the scientists that helped design and build the telescope’s four instruments. The broad spectrum of initial GTO observations will address all of the science areas Webb is designed to explore, from first light and the assembly of galaxies to the birth of stars and planets. Targets will range from the solar system’s outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and icy Kuiper Belt to exoplanets to distant galaxies in the young universe.



Hubble Astronomers Develop a New Use for a Century-Old Relativity Experiment to Measure a White Dwarf's Mass
Wed, 07 Jun 2017 11:15:00 EDTHubble Image

White dwarf shows how gravity can bend starlight

Albert Einstein reshaped our understanding of the fabric of space. In his general theory of relativity in 1915, he proposed the revolutionary idea that massive objects warp space, due to the effects of gravity. Until that time, Isaac Newton's theory of gravity from two centuries earlier held sway: that space was unchanging. Einstein's theory was experimentally verified four years later when a team led by British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington measured how much the sun's gravity deflected the image of a background star as its light grazed the sun during a solar eclipse. Astronomers had to wait a century, however, to build telescopes powerful enough to detect this gravitational warping phenomenon caused by a star outside our solar system. The amount of deflection is so small only the sharpness of the Hubble Space Telescope could measure it.

Hubble observed the nearby white dwarf star Stein 2051 B as it passed in front of a background star. During the close alignment, the white dwarf's gravity bent the light from the distant star, making it appear offset by about 2 milliarcseconds from its actual position. This deviation is so small that it is equivalent to observing an ant crawl across the surface of a quarter from 1,500 miles away.



Jackpot! Cosmic Magnifying-Glass Effect Captures Universe's Brightest Galaxies
Tue, 06 Jun 2017 15:15:00 EDTHubble Image

Galaxies Shine with the Brilliance of up to 100 Trillion Suns

Astronomers were fascinated in the 1980s with the discovery of nearby dust-enshrouded galaxies that glowed thousands of times brighter than our Milky Way galaxy in infrared light. Dubbed ultra-luminous infrared galaxies, they were star-making factories, churning out a prodigious amount of stars every year. What wasn't initially clear was what powered these giant infrared light bulbs. Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope helped astronomers confirm the source of the galaxies' light output. Many of them reside within "nests" of galaxies engaged in multiple pile-ups of three, four or even five galaxies. The dust is produced by the firestorm of star birth, which glows fiercely in infrared light.

Now Hubble is illuminating the bright galaxies' distant dust-enshrouded cousins. Boosted by natural magnifying lenses in space, Hubble has captured unique close-up views of the universe's brightest infrared galaxies. The galaxies are ablaze with runaway star formation, pumping out more than 10,000 new stars a year. This unusually rapid star birth is occurring at the peak of the universe's star-making boom more than 8 billion years ago. The star-birth frenzy creates lots of dust, which enshrouds the galaxies, making them too faint to detect in visible light. But they glow fiercely in infrared light, shining with the brilliance of 10 trillion to 100 trillion suns.

The galaxy images, magnified through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, reveal a tangled web of misshapen objects punctuated by exotic patterns such as rings and arcs. The odd shapes are due largely to the foreground lensing galaxies' powerful gravity distorting the images of the background galaxies. Two possibilities for the star-making frenzy are galaxy collisions or gas spilling into the galaxies.



Mini-Flares Potentially Jeopardize Habitability of Planets Circling Red Dwarf Stars
Tue, 06 Jun 2017 11:15:00 EDTHubble Image

Solar flares and associated eruptions can trigger auroras on Earth or, more ominously, damage satellites and power grids. Could flares on cool, red dwarf stars cause even more havoc to orbiting planets, even rendering them uninhabitable? To help answer that question, astronomers sought to find out how many flares such stars typically unleash.

A new study of archival ultraviolet observations from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spacecraft detected dozens of flares from red dwarf stars. Some flares were weaker than any previously detected. Since smaller flares tend to occur more frequently, these tiny flares might have big implications for planetary habitability.



Hubble's Tale of Two Exoplanets: Nature vs. Nurture
Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:15:00 EDTHubble Image

Atmospheres of Two Hot Jupiters: Cloudy and Clear

Astronomers once thought that the family of planets that orbit our sun were typical of what would eventually be found around other stars: a grouping of small rocky planets like Earth huddled close to their parent star, and an outer family of monstrous gaseous planets like Jupiter and Saturn.

But ever since the discovery of the first planet around another star (or exoplanet) the universe looks a bit more complicated — if not downright capricious. There is an entire class of exoplanets called "hot Jupiters." They formed like Jupiter did, in the frigid outer reaches of their planetary system, but then changed Zip code! They migrated inward to be so close to their star that temperatures are well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Astronomers would like to understand the weather on these hot Jupiters and must tease out atmospheric conditions by analyzing how starlight filters through a planet's atmosphere. If the spectral fingerprint of water can be found, then astronomers conclude the planet must have relatively clear skies that lets them see deep into the atmosphere. If the spectrum doesn't have any such telltale fingerprints, then the planet is bland-looking with a high cloud deck.

Knowing the atmospheres on these distant worlds yields clues to how they formed and evolved around their parent star. In a unique experiment, astronomers aimed the Hubble Space Telescope at two "cousin" hot Jupiters that are similar in several respects. However, the researchers were surprised to learn that one planet is very cloudy, and the other has clear skies.


This Month's Sky Map
This Month's Sky Map

Take a look at this month's Sky Map to help you explore the wonders of the night sky!

Ideal for all sky watchers including beginners to astronomy.

The Sky Map will help you identify planets, bright stars, constellations and nebulae!
Printable version available too!


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