Nasa Image of the Day
Specular Spectacular

Specular Spectacular

This near-infrared, color mosaic from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the sun glinting off of Titan's north polar seas. While Cassini has captured, separately, views of the polar seas (see PIA17470) and the sun glinting off of them (see PIA12481 and PIA18433) in the past, this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view. The sunglint, also called a specular reflection, is the bright area near the 11 o'clock position at upper left. This mirror-like reflection, known as the specular point, is in the south of Titan's largest sea, Kraken Mare, just north of an island archipelago separating two separate parts of the sea. This particular sunglint was so bright as to saturate the detector of Cassini's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) instrument, which captures the view. It is also the sunglint seen with the highest observation elevation so far -- the sun was a full 40 degrees above the horizon as seen from Kraken Mare at this time -- much higher than the 22 degrees seen in PIA18433. Because it was so bright, this glint was visible through the haze at much lower wavelengths than before, down to 1.3 microns. The southern portion of Kraken Mare (the area surrounding the specular feature toward upper left) displays a "bathtub ring" -- a bright margin of evaporate deposits -- which indicates that the sea was larger at some point in the past and has become smaller due to evaporation. The deposits are material left behind after the methane & ethane liquid evaporates, somewhat akin to the saline crust on a salt flat. The highest resolution data from this flyby -- the area seen immediately to the right of the sunglint -- cover the labyrinth of channels that connect Kraken Mare to another large sea, Ligeia Mare. Ligeia Mare itself is partially covered in its northern reaches by a bright, arrow-shaped complex of clouds. The clouds are made of liquid methane droplets, and could be actively refilling the lakes with rainfall. The view was acquired during Cassini's August 21, 2014, flyby of Titan, also referred to as "T104" by the Cassini team. The view contains real color information, although it is not the natural color the human eye would see. Here, red in the image corresponds to 5.0 microns, green to 2.0 microns, and blue to 1.3 microns. These wavelengths correspond to atmospheric windows through which Titan's surface is visible. The unaided human eye would see nothing but haze, as in PIA12528. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The VIMS team is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson. More information about Cassini is available at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho

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Astronomy News
Hubble Sees 'Ghost Light' From Dead Galaxies
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

The universe is an infinite sea of galaxies, which are majestic star-cities. When galaxies group together in massive clusters, some of them can be ripped apart by the gravitational tug of other galaxies. It's a giant cosmic mosh pit. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to probe the massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 nicknamed Pandora's Cluster have found forensic evidence of galaxies torn apart long ago. It's in the form of a phantom-like faint glow filling the space between the galaxies. This glow comes from stars scattered into intergalactic space as a result of a galaxy's disintegration.



Here's Looking At You: Spooky Shadow Play Gives Jupiter a Giant Eye
Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

The Hubble Space Telescope treats astronomers to gorgeous close-up views of the eerie outer planets. But it's a bit of a trick when it seems like the planet's looking back at you! In this view, the shadow of the Jovian moon Ganymede swept across the center of the Great Red Spot a giant storm on the planet. This gave Jupiter the uncanny appearance of having a pupil in the center of a 10,000-mile-diameter "eye." Now if it blinks, we may really have to worry!



Chaos in Atlantis basin - Read more >
Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:40:00 +0100


Space Science Image of the Week: ancient Atlantis basin on Mars is full of varied and chaotic geology



Ambition - Read more >
Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:40:00 +0200


How Rosetta is turning science fiction into science fact



Rosetta: the ambition to turn science fiction into science fact - Read more >
Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:35:00 +0200


Imagine: with a wasteland as their canvas, a Master and his young Apprentice set about turning rubble into planets and moons, asteroids and comets. They levitate the worlds above their heads, spinning them in orbit around their symbolic Sun.




Close Encounters: Comet Siding Spring Seen Next to Mars
Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

This is a photo composite of the encounter of Comet Siding Spring with Mars on October 19, 2014. Separate Hubble Space Telescope images of Mars and the comet have been combined together into a single picture. This is a composite image because a single exposure of the stellar background, Comet Siding Spring, and Mars would be problematic because the objects are all moving with respect to each other and the background stars. Hubble can only track one planetary target at a time. Also, Mars is actually 10,000 times brighter than the comet, and the exposure here has been adjusted so that details on the Red Planet can be seen.



Fly over Mars in 3D - Read more >
Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:22:00 +0200


Enjoy a 3D flight over ‘chaotic terrain’ on Mars



Herschel's Comet - Read more >
Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:30:00 +0200


A month before retiring in 2013, Herschel took a look at Comet Siding Spring. The comet is now heading for a close encounter with Mars on Sunday



Hubble Finds Extremely Distant Galaxy through Cosmic Magnifying Glass
Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

Peering through a giant cosmic magnifying glass, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted one of the farthest, faintest, and smallest galaxies ever seen. The diminutive object is estimated to be more than 13 billion light-years away. This new detection is considered one of the most reliable distance measurements of a galaxy that existed in the early universe, said the Hubble researchers. Hubble detected the galaxy due to the lensing power of the mammoth galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora's Cluster. The cluster is so massive that its powerful gravity bends the light from galaxies far behind it, making the background objects appear larger and brighter in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.



Name Rosetta mission’s landing site - Read more >
Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:00:00 +0200


ESA and its Rosetta mission partners are inviting you to suggest a name for the site where lander Philae will touch down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November.




Call for Media: Opportunities to follow Rosetta mission’s historic comet landing - Read more >
Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:00:00 +0200


Members of the media are invited to attend events being held by ESA and the German and French space agencies on the occasion of the first ever attempt at landing on a comet.




NASA's Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission
Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

The Kuiper Belt is a vast disk of icy debris left over from our Sun's formation 4.6 billion years ago. Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) are a unique class of solar-system body that has never been visited by interplanetary spacecraft. They contain well-preserved clues to the origin of our solar system. NASA's New Horizons probe will fly by Pluto in mid-2015 and then continue across the Kuiper Belt on its way toward interstellar space. The Hubble Space Telescope was used to do a deep sky survey to identify KBOs that the New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit on its outbound trajectory. The deep sky survey was successful, and Hubble found targetable KBOs for New Horizons.



ESA confirms the primary landing site for Rosetta - Read more >
Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:00:00 +0200


ESA has given the green light for its Rosetta mission to deliver its lander, Philae, to the primary site on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November, in the first-ever attempt at a soft touchdown on a comet.




Hubble Maps the Temperature and Water Vapor on an Extreme Exoplanet
Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

Located 260 light-years away, exoplanet WASP-43b is no place to call home. It is a world of extremes, where seething winds howl at the speed of sound from a 3,000-degree-Fahrenheit day side, hot enough to melt steel, to a pitch-black night side with plunging temperatures below 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Hubble Space Telescope has been used to make the most detailed global map yet of the thermal glow from this turbulent world. The astronomers were also able to map temperatures at different layers of the world's atmosphere and traced the amount and distribution of water vapor. The Jupiter-sized planet lies so close to its orange dwarf host star that it completes an orbit in just 19 hours. The planet is also gravitationally locked so that it keeps one hemisphere facing the star.



Lutetia’s dark side hosts hidden crater - Read more >
Wed, 08 Oct 2014 11:08:00 +0200


Grooves found on Lutetia, an asteroid encountered by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft, point to the existence of a large impact crater on the unseen side of the rocky world.




Titan’s swirling polar cloud is cold and toxic - Read more >
Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:00:00 +0200


The international Cassini mission has revealed that a giant, toxic cloud is hovering over the south pole of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, after the atmosphere has cooled in a dramatic fashion.




NASA Telescopes Find Clear Skies and Water Vapor on Exo-Neptune
Wed, 24 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

The weather forecast for a planet 120 light-years from Earth is clear skies and steamy water vapor. Finding clear skies on a gaseous world the size of Neptune is a good sign that even smaller, Earth-size planets might have similarly good visibility. This would allow earthbound astronomers to measure the underlying atmospheric composition of an exoplanet. Astronomers using the Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler space telescopes were able to determine that the planet, cataloged HAT-P-11b, has water vapor in its atmosphere. The world is definitely steamy with temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The planet is so hot because it orbits so close to its star, completing one orbit every five days.



Hubble Helps Find Smallest Known Galaxy with a Supermassive Black Hole
Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

Astronomers have found an unlikely object in an improbable place: a monster black hole lurking inside one of the tiniest galaxies known. The dwarf galaxy containing the black hole is the densest galaxy ever seen, cramming 140 million stars within a diameter of about 300 light-years (just 1/500th of our Milky Way galaxy's diameter). However, the black hole inside the galaxy is five times the mass of the black hole at the center of our Milky Way. This suggests that the dwarf galaxy may actually be the stripped remnant of a larger galaxy that was torn apart during a close encounter with a more massive galaxy. The finding implies that there are many other compact galaxies in the universe that contain supermassive black holes.



Hubble Finds Companion Star Hidden for 21 Years in a Supernova's Glare
Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400Hubble Image

For over two decades astronomers have been patiently monitoring the fading glow of a supernova in a nearby galaxy. They've been looking for a suspected companion star that pulled off almost all of the hydrogen from the doomed star that exploded. At last Hubble's ultraviolet-light sensitivity pulled out the blue glow of the star from the cluttered starlight in the disk of the galaxy. This observation confirms the theory that the supernova originated in a double-star system where one star fueled the mass-loss from the aging primary star. The surviving star's brightness and estimated mass provide insight into the conditions that preceded the 1993 explosion.



New iBooks Textbook Helps Visually Impaired Visit the Stars Through Touch and Sound
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 10:30:00 -0400Hubble Image

Children with visual disabilities can experience striking deep-space images in a free, multi-touch iBooks textbook for the iPad entitled "Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn." Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute have teamed up with the SAS Corporation, the National Braille Press, and the National Federation of the Blind to create a book to inspire students of all abilities. Students with visual impairments can access the book using the VoiceOver screen reader that is available on every iPad. The book is available as a free download from Apple's iBooks Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/reach-for-stars-touch-look/id763516126?mt=11.



Hang out with Rosetta - Read more >
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:24:00 +0200


Where will Philae land? Watch a replay of the Rosetta Google+ Hangout held on Tuesday 2 September



Unveiling Venus - Read more >
Fri, 16 May 2014 15:00:00 +0200


Highlights from ESA’s Venus Express, following end of routine science observations after eight years orbiting the veiled planet



Join the adventure - Read more >
Wed, 15 Jan 2014 16:49:00 +0100


Follow news, updates and real-time reporting on ESA's comet mission via the Rosetta blog


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