In the water at right are astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee (foreground). In raft near the spacecraft is astronaut Gus Grissom.

In this June 1966 photo, the Apollo 1 crew practices water egress procedures with a full scale boilerplate model of the spacecraft. In the water at right are astronauts Ed White and Roger Chaffee (foreground). In raft near the spacecraft is astronaut Gus Grissom. NASA swimmers are in the water to assist in the practice session that took place at Ellington AFB, near the then-Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston. On Jan. 27, 1967, tragedy struck on the launch pad at Cape Kennedy during a preflight test for Apollo 204 (AS-204). The mission was to be the first crewed flight of Apollo, and was scheduled to launch Feb. 21, 1967. Astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives when a fire swept through the command module on Jan. 27, 1967, during a launch rehearsal.

In the spring of 1967, NASA's Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight, Dr. George E. Mueller, announced that the mission originally scheduled for Grissom, White, and Chaffee would be known as Apollo 1, and said that the first Saturn V launch, scheduled for November 1967, would be known as Apollo 4. The eventual launch of AS-204 became known as the Apollo 5 mission. No missions or flights were ever designated Apollo 2 or 3.

Each January NASA pauses to honor members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery, including the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. In 2022, the Day of Remembrance will be observed on Jan. 27. This year’s NASA Day of Remembrance also marks 55 years since the Apollo 1 tragedy.


Image Credit: NASA


South of the large star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula, lies bright blue reflection nebula NGC 1999. At the edge of the Orion molecular cloud complex some 1,500 light-years distant, NGC 1999's illumination is provided by the embedded variable star V380 Orionis. The nebula is marked with a dark sideways T-shape at center right in this telescopic vista that spans about two full moons on the sky. Its dark shape was once assumed to be an obscuring dust cloud seen in silhouette. But infrared data suggest the shape is likely a hole blown through the nebula itself by energetic young stars. In fact, this region abounds with energetic young stars producing jets and outflows with luminous shock waves. Cataloged as Herbig-Haro (HH) objects, named for astronomers George Herbig and Guillermo Haro, the shocks have intense reddish hues. HH1 and HH2 are just below and right of NGC 1999. HH222, also known as the Waterfall nebula, looks like a red gash near top right in the frame. To create the shocks stellar jets push through the surrounding material at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second.

US rivers

Much like the sky, rivers are rarely painted one color. Rivers around the world appear in shades of yellow, green, blue, and brown—and subtle changes in the environment can alter their colors.

New research shows the dominant color has changed in about one-third of large rivers in the continental United States over the past 35 years.

The figure above shows data from a map of river color for the contiguous United States. The rivers are colored as they would approximately appear to the human eye. The map was built from 234,727 images collected by Landsat satellites between 1984 and 2018. The dataset includes 67,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) of waterways of at least 200 feet (60 meters) wide.

While is not unusual for rivers to change colors over time due to fluctuations in flow, concentrations of sediments, and the amount of dissolved organic matter or algae in the water, scientists have found that the most extreme changes often occur near man-made reservoirs. Around 56 percent of rivers were dominantly yellow over the course of the investigation, and 38 percent were dominantly green.

Want more? Read Amazing Earth: Satellite Images from 2021

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using data courtesy of Gardner, J., et al. (2020).


Why is the sky near Antares and Rho Ophiuchi so dusty yet colorful? The colors result from a mixture of objects and processes. Fine dust -- illuminated from the front by starlight -- produces blue reflection nebulae. Gaseous clouds whose atoms are excited by ultraviolet starlight produce reddish emission nebulae. Backlit dust clouds block starlight and so appear dark. Antares, a red supergiant and one of the brighter stars in the night sky, lights up the yellow-red clouds on the lower right of the featured image. The Rho Ophiuchi star system lies at the center of the blue reflection nebula on the top left. The distant globular cluster of stars M4 is visible above and to the right of Antares. These star clouds are even more colorful than humans can see, emitting light across the electromagnetic spectrum.

This image of Venus is a composite of data from NASA's Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter.

Venus hides a wealth of information that could help us better understand Earth and exoplanets, or those planets outside our solar system. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is designing mission concepts to survive the planet's extreme temperatures and atmospheric pressure. This image is a composite of data from NASA's Magellan spacecraft and Pioneer Venus Orbiter.

Venus is Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor. The two new Discovery Program missions to study our neighbor aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world when it has so many other characteristics similar to ours – and may have been the first habitable world in the solar system, complete with an ocean and Earth-like climate.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Seen from ice moon Tethys, rings and shadows would display fantastic views of the Saturnian system. Haven't dropped in on Tethys lately? Then this gorgeous ringscape from the Cassini spacecraft will have to do for now. Caught in sunlight just below and left of picture center in 2005, Tethys itself is about 1,000 kilometers in diameter and orbits not quite five saturn-radii from the center of the gas giant planet. At that distance (around 300,000 kilometers) it is well outside Saturn's main bright rings, but Tethys is still one of five major moons that find themselves within the boundaries of the faint and tenuous outer E ring. Discovered in the 1980s, two very small moons Telesto and Calypso are locked in stable along Tethys' orbit. Telesto precedes and Calypso follows Tethys as the trio circles Saturn.

On Monday, January's Full Moon rose as the Sun set. Spotted near the eastern horizon, its warm hues are seen in this photo taken near Cagliari, capital city of the Italian island of Sardinia. Of course the familiar patterns of light and dark across the Moon's nearside are created by bright rugged highlands and dark smooth lunar maria. Traditionally the patterns are seen as pareidolia, giving the visual illusion of a human face like the Man in the Moon, or familiar animal like the Moon rabbit. But for a moment the swarming murmuration, also known as a flock of starlings, frozen in the snapshot's field of view lends another pareidolic element to the scene. Some see the graceful figure of a dancer enchanted by moonlight.

Laser guide stars and adaptive optics sharpened this stunning ground-based image of stellar jets from the Gemini South Observatory, Chilean Andes, planet Earth. These twin outflows of MHO 2147 are from a young star in formation. It lies toward the central Milky Way and the boundary of the constellations Sagittarius and Ophiuchus at an estimated distance of some 10,000 light-years. At center, the star itself is obscured by a dense region of cold dust. But the infrared image still traces the sinuous jets across a frame that would span about 5 light-years at the system's estimated distance. Driven outward by the young rotating star, the apparent wandering direction of the jets is likely due to precession. Part of a multiple star system, the young star's rotational axis would slowly precess or wobble like a top under the gravitation influence of its nearby companions.

Hot, young stars and cosmic pillars of gas and dust seem to crowd into NGC 7822. At the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, the glowing star forming region lies about 3,000 light-years away. Within the nebula, bright edges and dark shapes stand out in this colorful telescopic skyscape. The image includes data from narrowband filters, mapping emission from atomic oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur into blue, green, and red hues. The emission line and color combination has become well-known as the Hubble palette. The atomic emission is powered by energetic radiation from the central hot stars. Their powerful winds and radiation sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes and clear out a characteristic cavity light-years across the center of the natal cloud. Stars could still be forming inside the pillars by gravitational collapse but as the pillars are eroded away, any forming stars will ultimately be cutoff from their reservoir of star stuff. This field of view spans about 40 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 7822.

This is a sky filled with glowing icons. On the far left is the familiar constellation of Orion, divided by its iconic three-aligned belt stars and featuring the famous Orion Nebula, both partly encircled by Barnard's Loop. Just left of center in the featured image is the brightest star in the night: Sirius. Arching across the image center is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. On the far right, near the top, are the two brightest satellite galaxies of the Milky Way: the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). Also on the far right -- just above the cloudy horizon -- is the constellation of Crux, complete with the four stars that make the iconic Southern Cross. The featured image is a composite of 18 consecutive exposures taken by the same camera and from the same location in eastern Australia during the last days of last year. In the foreground, picturesque basalt columns of the Bombo Quarry part to reveal the vast Pacific Ocean.

Sometimes the dark dust of interstellar space has an angular elegance. Such is the case toward the far-south constellation of Chamaeleon. Normally too faint to see, dark dust is best known for blocking visible light from stars and galaxies behind it. In this four-hour exposure, however, the dust is seen mostly in light of its own, with its strong red and near-infrared colors giving creating a brown hue. Contrastingly blue, the bright star Beta Chamaeleontis is visible just to the right of center, with the dust that surrounds it preferentially reflecting blue light from its primarily blue-white color. All of the pictured stars and dust occur in our own Milky Way Galaxy with -- but one notable exception: the white spot just below Beta Chamaeleontis is the galaxy IC 3104 which lies far in the distance. Interstellar dust is mostly created in the cool atmospheres of giant stars and dispersed into space by stellar light, stellar winds, and stellar explosions such as supernovas.

What type of cloud is that? This retreating cumulonimbus cloud, more commonly called a thundercloud, is somewhat unusual as it contains the unusual bumpiness of a mammatus cloud on the near end, while simultaneously producing falling rain on the far end. Taken in mid-2013 in southern Alberta, Canada, the cloud is moving to the east, into the distance, as the sun sets in the west, behind the camera. In the featured image, graphic sunset colors cross the sky to give the already photogenic cloud striking orange and pink hues. A darkening blue sky covers the background. Further in the distance, a rising, waxing, gibbous moon is visible on the far right.

Looping through the Jovian system in the late 1990s, the Galileo spacecraft recorded stunning views of Europa and uncovered evidence that the moon's icy surface likely hides a deep, global ocean. Galileo's Europa image data has been remastered here, with improved calibrations to produce a color image approximating what the human eye might see. Europa's long curving fractures hint at the subsurface liquid water. The tidal flexing the large moon experiences in its elliptical orbit around Jupiter supplies the energy to keep the ocean liquid. But more tantalizing is the possibility that even in the absence of sunlight that process could also supply the energy to support life, making Europa one of the best places to look for life beyond Earth. What kind of life could thrive in a deep, dark, subsurface ocean? Consider planet Earth's own extreme shrimp.

Western Australia on May 12, 2013

This image, captured by the Landsat 8 satellite, shows the view over Western Australia on May 12, 2013. The image shows rich sediment and nutrient patterns in a tropical estuary area and complex patterns and conditions in vegetated areas. 

The image is enhanced and involved masking, separately enhancing and then reassembling water and land portions of the image. The water patterns are the result of an RGB display of Landsat-8’s red, blue, and ultra-blue bands. Land is shown using short-wavelength-infrared, near-infrared and green. 

Image Credit: NASA/USGS Landsat; Geoscience Australia


It's easy to get lost following the intricate, looping, twisting filaments in this detailed image of supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240 it goes by the popular nickname, the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. This composite includes image data taken through narrow-band filters where reddish emission from ionized hydrogen atoms and doubly ionized oxygen atoms in faint blue-green hues trace the shocked, glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But the expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star's core.

Scores of baby stars shrouded by dust are revealed in this infrared image of the star-forming region NGC 2174

Scores of baby stars shrouded by dust are revealed in this infrared image of the star-forming region NGC 2174, as seen by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Some of the clouds in the region resemble the face of a monkey in visible-light images, hence the nebula's nickname: the "Monkey Head." However, in infrared images such as this, the monkey disappears. That's because different clouds are highlighted in infrared and visible-light images.

Found in the northern reaches of the constellation Orion, NGC 2174 is located around 6,400 light-years away. Columns of dust, slightly to the right of center in the image, are being carved out of the dust by radiation and stellar winds from the hottest young stars recently born in the area.

Spitzer’s infrared view provides us with a preview of the next clusters of stars that will be born in the coming millennia. The reddish spots of light scattered through the darker filaments are infant stars swaddled by blankets of warm dust. The warm dust glows brightly at infrared wavelengths. Eventually, these stars will pop out of their dusty envelopes and their light will carve away at the dust clouds surrounding them.

In this image first published in 2015, infrared wavelengths have been assigned visible colors we see with our eyes. Light with a wavelength of 3.5 microns is shown in blue, 8.0 microns is green, and 24 microns in red. The greens show the organic molecules in the dust clouds, illuminated by starlight. Reds are caused by the thermal radiation emitted from the very hottest areas of dust.

Areas around the edges that were not observed by Spitzer have been filled in using infrared observations from NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


What does Comet Leonard look like up close? Although we can't go there, imaging the comet's coma and inner tails through a small telescope gives us a good idea. As the name implies, the ion tail is made of ionized gas -- gas energized by ultraviolet light from the Sun and pushed outward by the solar wind. The solar wind is quite structured and sculpted by the Sun's complex and ever changing magnetic field. The effect of the variable solar wind combined with different gas jets venting from the comet's nucleus accounts for the tail's complex structure. Following the wind, structure in Comet Leonard's tail can be seen to move outward from the Sun even alter its wavy appearance over time. The blue color of the ion tail is dominated by recombining carbon monoxide molecules, while the green color of the coma surrounding the head of the comet is created mostly by a slight amount of recombining diatomic carbon molecules. Diatomic carbon is destroyed by sunlight in about 50 hours -- which is why its green glow does not make it far into the ion tail. The featured imagae was taken on January 2 from Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Comet Leonard, presently best viewed from Earth's Southern Hemisphere, has rounded the Sun and is now headed out of the Solar System.

Bright central region of the Milky Way (bottom-center), yellow wisps of Hubble Infrared data (top third), blue X-ray Chandra data (center, bottom), green Alma data, and red VLA radio data (bottom)

Our Milky Way's central black hole has a leak. This supermassive black hole looks like it still has the vestiges of a blowtorch-like jet dating back several thousand years. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope hasn't photographed the phantom jet but has helped find circumstantial evidence that it is still pushing feebly into a huge hydrogen cloud and then splattering, like the narrow stream from a hose aimed into a pile of sand.

This composite image is of X-rays, molecular gas, and warm ionized gas near the galactic center. The orange-colored features are of glowing hydrogen gas. One such feature, at the top tip of the jet is interpreted as a hydrogen cloud that has been hit by the outflowing jet. The jet scatters off the cloud into tendrils that flow northward. Farther down near the black hole are X-ray observations of superheated gas colored blue and molecular gas in green. These data are evidence that the black hole occasionally accretes stars or gas clouds, and ejects some of the superheated material along its spin axis.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and Gerald Cecil (UNC-Chapel Hill); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)


You may have seen Orion's belt before -- but not like this. The three bright stars across this image are, from left to right, Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak: the iconic belt stars of Orion. The rest of the stars in the frame have been digitally removed to highlight the surrounding clouds of glowing gas and dark dust. Some of these clouds have intriguing shapes, including the Horsehead and Flame Nebulas, both near Alnitak on the lower right. This deep image, taken last month from the Marathon Skypark and Observatory in Marathon, Texas, USA, spans about 5 degrees, required about 20 hours of exposure, and was processed to reveal the gas and dust that we would really see if we were much closer. The famous Orion Nebula is off to the upper right of this colorful field. The entire region lies only about 1,500 light-years distant and so is one of the closest and best studied star formation nurseries known.

Tonight: APOD Editor to Present the Best Space Images of 2021

Sidney Poitier's Visit to JPL

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has had many famous and interesting visitors over the years, from fellow scientists, to film industry stars, to musicians, to reporters, and many more. One notable visit was from legendary actor and diplomat, Sidney Poitier. One of the first Black actors to win an Academy Award, which he did for Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (1963), Poitier visited JPL in March 1979.

Pictured here with then-JPL center director Dr. Bruce Murray and others, Poitier got to view and learn about the Voyager model, among other JPL highlights on his tour of the Lab.

Later in life, Poitier was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, became the Bahamian ambassador to Japan, won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, and received the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Life Achievement Award, along with countless other accolades. Poitier passed away on Jan. 7, 2022, at the age of 94.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL


Named for a forgotten constellation, the Quadrantid Meteor Shower puts on an annual show for planet Earth's northern hemisphere skygazers. The shower's radiant on the sky lies within the old, astronomically obsolete constellation Quadrans Muralis. That location is not far from the Big Dipper, at the boundaries of the modern constellations Bootes and Draco. In fact north star Polaris is just below center in this frame and the Big Dipper asterism (known to some as the Plough) is above it, with the meteor shower radiant to the right. Pointing back toward the radiant, Quadrantid meteors streak through the night in the panoramic skyscape, a composite of images taken in the hours around the shower's peak on January 4, 2022. Arrayed in the foreground are radio telescopes of the Chinese Spectral Radioheliograph, Mingantu Observing Station, Inner Mongolia, China. A likely source of the dust stream that produces Quadrantid meteors was identified in 2003 as an asteroid.

Status Updates: Deploying the James Webb Space Telescope