What is our universe made of? To help find out, ESA launched the Planck satellite from 2009 to 2013 to map, in unprecedented detail, slight temperature differences on the oldest optical surface known -- the background sky when our universe first became transparent to light. Visible in all directions, this cosmic microwave background is a complex tapestry that could only show the hot and cold patterns observed were the universe to be composed of specific types of energy that evolved in specific ways. The final results, reported last week, confirm again that most of our universe is mostly composed of mysterious and unfamiliar dark energy, and that even most of the remaining matter energy is strangely dark. Additionally, the "final" 2018 Planck data impressively peg the age of the universe at about 13.8 billion years and the local expansion rate -- called the Hubble constant -- at 67.4 (+/- 0.5) km/sec/Mpc. Oddly, this early-universe determined Hubble constant is slightly lower than that determined by other methods in the late-universe, creating a tension that is causing much discussion and speculation.


A noontime rest for a full-fledged assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif. plant of Douglas Aircraft Company

Have you seen a panorama from another world lately? Assembled from high-resolution scans of the original film frames, this one sweeps across the magnificent desolation of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon's Sea of Tranquility. The images were taken by Neil Armstrong looking out his window of the Eagle Lunar Module shortly after the July 20, 1969 landing. The frame at the far left (AS11-37-5449) is the first picture taken by a person on another world. Toward the south, thruster nozzles can be seen in the foreground on the left, while at the right, the shadow of the Eagle is visible to the west. For scale, the large, shallow crater on the right has a diameter of about 12 meters. Frames taken from the Lunar Module windows about an hour and a half after landing, before walking on the lunar surface, were intended to initially document the landing site in case an early departure was necessary.

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Heteropoda venatoria, Giant crab spider, is a species of spider in the family Sparassidae, the huntsman spiders.

Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface

Forty-nine years ago on July 20, 1969, humanity stepped foot on another celestial body and into history. Mission Commander Neil Armstrong documented the lunar mission and snapped this image of Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, as he carried the Passive Seismic Experiments Package (in his left hand) and the Laser Ranging Retroreflector (in his right) to the deployment area. These two experiments made up the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package. This photograph was taken at Tranquility Base in our Moon's Mare Tranquillitatis, or Sea of Tranquility.

Original film magazine was labeled S. Film Type: Ektachrome EF SO168 color film on a 2.7-mil Estar polyester base taken with a 60mm lens. Sun angle is sedium. Tilt direction is South (S).

Image Credit: NASA

Source: www.nasa.gov

The recognizable stars of the Teapot asterism in the constellation Sagittarius posed with the Milky Way over Death Valley, planet Earth on this quiet, dark night. The surreal scene was appropriately captured from Teakettle Junction, marked by the wooden sign adorned with terrestrial teapots and kettles on the rugged road to Racetrack Playa. Shining against the luminous starlight of the central Milky Way is bright planet Saturn, just above the star at the celestial teapot's peak. But the brightest celestial beacon, high above the southern horizon, is an orange tinted Mars at upper left in the frame.


The hydroplane boat, Ellstrom Elam Plus, at the 2006 Madison Regatta

Testing Satellite Servicing Technologies

Satellites are crucial to our everyday lives, but cost hundreds of millions of dollars to manufacture and launch. Currently, they are simply decommissioned when they run out of fuel. However, there is a better way: satellite servicing, which can make spaceflight more sustainable, affordable and resilient. NASA's satellite servicing technologies are opening up a new world where space robots diagnose, maintain and extend a spacecraft’s life.

At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, a 10 by 16-foot robot tests satellite servicing capabilities on Earth before they’re put to use in space. Sitting on top of the six-legged hexapod is a partial mock-up of a satellite. Mounted to a panel close by is an advanced robotic arm. Together, these robots practice a calculated dance. As the hexapod moves, it mimics microgravity as the robotic arm reaches out to grab the satellite.

At NASA, we're working to prove the combination of technologies necessary to robotically refuel a satellite in orbit that was not designed to be serviced. The same technologies developed for the Restore-L project will advance in-orbit repair, upgrade and assembly capabilities.

The ground demonstrations take place in Goddard's Robotic Operations Center. The hexapod robot was built for NASA by Mikrolar, a New Hampshire-based company.

Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Rebecca Roth

Source: www.nasa.gov

Cerealia Facula, also known as the brightest spot on Ceres, is shown in this stunning mosaic close-up view. The high-resolution image data was recorded by the Dawn spacecraft, in a looping orbit, from altitudes as low as 34 kilometers (21 miles) above the dwarf planet's surface. Cerealia Facula is about 15 kilometers wide, found in the center of 90 kilometer diameter Occator crater. Like the other bright spots (faculae) scattered around Ceres, Cerealia Facula is not ice, but an exposed salty residue with a reflectivity like dirty snow. The residue is thought to be mostly sodium carbonate and ammonium chloride from a slushy brine within or below the dwarf planet's crust. Driven by advanced ion propulsion on an 11-year mission, Dawn explored main-belt asteriod Vesta before traveling on to Ceres. But sometime between this August and October, the interplanetary spacecraft is expected to finally run out of fuel for its hydrazine thrusters, with the subsequent loss of control of its orientation, losing power and the ability to communicate with Earth. Meanwhile Dawn will continue to explore Ceres in unprecedented detail, and ultimately retire in its orbit around the small world.

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The Temple of Garni (lit. "pagan temple of Garni") is a classical Hellenistic temple in Garni, Armenia. It is perhaps the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia and was probably built by king Tiridates I in the first century AD as a temple to the sun god Mihr. According to some scholars it was not a temple but a tomb and thus survived the universal destruction of pagan structures. It collapsed in a 1679 earthquake and reconstructed between 1969 and 1975.


The parachute system for Orion, America’s spacecraft that will carry humans to deep space, deployed as planned after being dropped from an altitude of 6.6 miles on July 12, at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona. Data from the successful seventh drop in a series of eight qualification tests will help NASA engineers certify Orion’s parachutes for missions with astronauts.

This was the final test using a special dart-shaped test article. The last test in the series, scheduled for September, will use a capsule-shaped test article representative of the spacecraft NASA will use on Orion’s upcoming missions, including the first crewed mission, Exploration Mission-2.

To demonstrate the system’s robustness, this test evaluated parachute deployment under conditions that exceeded the requirements for a system carrying crew. Engineers dropped the dart-shaped test article from an altitude that allowed it to generate enough speed to simulate almost twice as much force on the main chutes as would be expected under normal conditions. Orion’s full parachute system includes 11 parachutes — three forward-bay cover parachutes, two drogue parachutes, three pilot parachutes, and three main parachutes that will reduce the capsule’s speed after reentry in support of a safe landing in the ocean.

When deployed, each of Orion’s three main parachutes expands to 116 feet in diameter and contains enough fabric to cover 80 yards of a football field, but is carried aboard Orion in containers the size of a large suitcase. For storage, the parachutes are compacted with hydraulic presses at forces of up to 80,000 pounds, baked for two days and vacuumed sealed.  Once packed, they have a density of about 40 pounds per cubic foot, which is roughly the same as wood from an oak tree.

Credit: NASA

Source: www.nasa.gov
Gemini X Lifts Off!

This time exposure photograph is of the Gemini X spacecraft, which launched from Launch Complex 19 in Cape Canaveral on July 18, 1966 with astronauts John Young and Michael Collins on board.

Image Credit: NASA

Source: www.nasa.gov

What is creating these dark streaks on Mars? No one is sure. Candidates include dust avalanches, evaporating dry ice sleds, and liquid water flows. What is clear is that the streaks occur through light surface dust and expose a deeper dark layer. Similar streaks have been photographed on Mars for years and are one of the few surface features that change their appearance seasonally. Particularly interesting here is that larger streaks split into smaller streaks further down the slope. The featured image was taken by the HiRISE camera on board the Mars-orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) several months ago. Currently, a global dust storm is encompassing much of Mars.

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Panoramic view of the Mezcala Bridge on Highway 95 in Mexico

Chukchi Sea

Regardless of the amount of winter ice cover, the waters off of the Alaskan coast usually come alive each spring with blooms of phytoplankton. These blooms can form striking patterns of blue and green seawater, such as those visible in this image of the Chukchi Sea acquired on June 18, 2018, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8.

Blooms are a common occurrence this time of year. But the regularity of the blooms and their simple beauty belie the complexity of this ecosystem.

Two main water masses flow from the Bering Strait and enter the southern Chukchi. One type, known as “Bering Sea Water,” is cool, salty, and rich in nutrients. This water fuels most of the phytoplankton growth, primarily diatoms, which are likely the main reason for the colorful green waters pictured here. (Sediments could also be contributing to the bright green areas.)

The second mass of seawater is known as “Alaskan Coastal Water,” which is warmer, less salty, and nutrient-poor. Diatom growth is usually lower in these waters, but coccolithophores can do well here. Some areas pictured here could contain this type of plankton, known to impart a milky turquoise hue to the water with their plates of calcium carbonate armor.

While experts expect blooms to consistently show up in these waters from year to year, the size is less consistent, and the reason is not clear.

Image Credit: NASA/U. S. Geological Survey/Norman Kuring/Kathryn Hansen

Source: www.nasa.gov

What's that spot next to the Moon? Venus. Two days ago, the crescent Moon slowly drifted past Venus, appearing within just two degrees at its closest. This conjunction, though, was just one of several photographic adventures for our Moon this month (moon-th), because, for one, a partial solar eclipse occurred just a few days before, on July 12. Currently, the Moon appears to be brightening, as seen from the Earth, as the fraction of its face illuminated by the Sun continues to increase. In a few days, the Moon will appear more than half full, and therefore be in its gibbous phase. Next week the face of the Moon that always faces the Earth will become, as viewed from the Earth, completely illuminated by the Sun. Even this full phase will bring an adventure, though, as a total eclipse of this Thunder Moon will occur on July 27. Don't worry about our Luna getting tired, though, because she'll be new again next month (moon-th) -- August 11 to be exact -- just as she causes another partial eclipse of the Sun. Pictured, Venus and the Moon were captured from Cannon Beach above a rock formation off the Oregon (USA) coast known as the Needles. About an hour after this image was taken, the spin of the Earth caused both Venus and the Moon to set.

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Two SBB RABDe 500 "ICN" tilting trains on the Jura foot railway line, at Twann, with Lake Biel in the back

Infrared View of NGC 4993

Launched nearly 15 years ago on August 25, 2003, the Spitzer Space Telescope is the final mission in NASA's Great Observatories Program - a family of four space-based observatories, each observing the universe in a different kind of light. The other missions in the program include the visible-light Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Over the years, Spitzer, which makes observations in the infrared spectrum, has made a plethora of discoveries, including this detection of the faint afterglow of the explosive merger of two neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993 on September 29, 2017. The event, labeled GW170817, was initially detected nearly simultaneously in gravitational waves and gamma rays, but subsequent observations by many dozens of telescopes have monitored its afterglow across the entire spectrum of light. Spitzer's observation came late in the game, just over six weeks after the event was first seen, but this played an important role in helping astronomers understand how many of the heaviest elements in the periodic table are created in explosive neutron star mergers.

The telescope was named after Lyman Spitzer, Jr. (1914-1997), one of the 20th century's great astrophysicists, who made major contributions in the areas of stellar dynamics, plasma physics, thermonuclear fusion, and space astronomy. He was laos the first person to propose the idea of placing a large telescope in space and was instrumental in the development of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Source: www.nasa.gov

With equipment frozen deep into ice beneath Earth's South Pole, humanity appears to have discovered a neutrino from far across the universe. If confirmed, this would mark the first clear detection of cosmologically-distant neutrinos and the dawn of an observed association between energetic neutrinos and cosmic rays created by powerful jets emanating from blazing quasars (blazars). Once the Antarctican IceCube detector measured an energetic neutrino in 2017 September, many of humanity's premier observatories sprang into action to try to identify a counterpart in light. And they did. An erupting counterpart was pinpointed by high energy observatories including AGILE, Fermi, HAWC, H.E.S.S., INTEGRAL, NuSTAR, Swift, and VERITAS, which found that gamma-ray blazar TXS 0506+056 was in the right direction and with gamma-rays from a flare arriving nearly coincidental in time with the neutrino. Even though this and other position and time coincidences are statistically strong, astronomers will await other similar neutrino - blazar light associations to be absolutely sure. Pictured here is an artist's drawing of a particle jet emanating from a black hole at the center of a blazar.

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Mute swans (Cygnus olor) and their cygnets in Oxfordshire. Today sees the first day of Royal Swan Upping on the River Thames when swans are ringed. Ownership of swans in the Thames is shared by The Crown, the Vintners' Company and the Dyers' Company.

There is much more to the familiar Ring Nebula (M57), however, than can be seen through a small telescope. The easily visible central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from three different large telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. This remarkable composite image includes narrowband hydrogen image, visible light emission, and infrared light emission. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. The Ring Nebula is about 2,000 light-years away toward the musical constellation Lyra.

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