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With a rainbow serving as a backdrop in the sky, space shuttle Atlantis (foreground) sits on Launch Pad A and Endeavour on Launch Pad B in this September 2008 photograph. This was the first time since July 2001 that two shuttles were on the launch pads at the same time at the Kennedy Space Center.


Aurora seen from the Space Station

Ever wondered what auroras look like from space? Astronaut Alexander Gerst, also known as @Astro_Alex, gives us his bird's-eye view from aboard the International Space Station, tweeting that the experience is "[m]ind-blowing, every single time."

The dancing lights of the auroras provide spectacular views on the ground and from space, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the Sun. Auroras are one effect of such energetic particles, which can speed out from the sun both in a steady stream called the solar wind and due to giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections. After a trip toward Earth that can last 2 or 3 days, the solar particles and magnetic fields cause the release of particles already trapped near Earth, which in turn trigger reactions in the upper atmosphere in which oxygen and nitrogen molecules release photons of light. The result: the Northern and Southern lights.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA-A.Gerst


Source: www.nasa.gov

When is the best time to launch a probe to the Sun? The now historic answer -- which is not a joke because this really happened this past weekend -- was at night. Night, not only because NASA's Parker Solar Probe's (PSP) launch window to its planned orbit occurred, in part, at night, but also because most PSP instruments will operate in the shadow of its shield -- in effect creating its own perpetual night near the Sun. Before then, years will pass as the PSP sheds enough orbital energy to approach the Sun, swinging past Venus seven times. Eventually, the PSP is scheduled to pass dangerously close to the Sun, within 9 solar radii, the closest ever. This close, the temperature will be 1,400 degrees Celsius on the day side of the PSP's Sun shield -- hot enough to melt many forms of glass. On the night side, though, it will be near room temperature. A major goal of the PSP's mission to the Sun is to increase humanity's understanding of the Sun's explosions that impact Earth's satellites and power grids. Pictured is the night launch of the PSP aboard the United Launch Alliances' Delta IV Heavy rocket early Sunday morning.


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Iconostasis in the church of the Cocoș Monastery, Romania. The monastery, located in a forest clearing 6 km of Niculițel, was built between 1883 and 1913 and is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos.


Aqua image of Mendocino Complex fire

The largest fire in California's history, the Mendocino Complex, is still spewing clouds of smoke across the state.  Smoke from this fire and other California fires can be seen as far east as parts of Montana and then up into Canada.   

The Mendocino Complex is comprised of two fires, the River Fire and the Ranch Fire. These two fires are being managed in unified command by the CAL FIRE Mendocino Unit and the U.S. Forest Service. The River Fire is located northeast of the community of Hopland, and the Ranch Fire is located northeast of Ukiah, in Lake County and Mendocino County, California. The Ranch Fire is actively burning in the Mendocino National Forest north of Clearlake.  The combined total of acreage that have burned in this complex is 344,890 acres and is currently 68% contained. There have been two injuries but no fatalities with this fire. This fire has destroyed 146 residences and 119 other buildings, and another 1,025 structures are being threatened. The Ranch fire is still continuing to exhibit active fire behavior including:  uphill runs, torching and flanking.  The northwest corner of the Ranch fire remained active overnight until the early morning hours towards Lake Pillsbury. The River Fire had no movement overnight. This portion of the complex is mostly contained.  The Ranch fire portion continues to grow.

The weather still continues to be of concern to firefighters.  The hot temperatures, low humidity, and winds are all factors which can reignite slowing fires, push ongoing fires, and swiftly change the direction of a fire which can put lives at danger in an instant.

There are evacuations in place.  A list of those can be found at the Inciweb site for this incident: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6073/#

NASA's EOSDIS provides the capability to interactively browse over 600 global, full-resolution satellite imagery layers and then download the underlying data. Many of the available imagery layers are updated within three hours of observation, essentially showing the entire Earth as it looks "right now". This natural-color Terra satellite image was collected on August 12, 2018. Actively burning areas, detected by thermal bands, are outlined in red. NASA image courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project.  Caption:  Lynn Jenner with information from Inciweb.


Source: www.nasa.gov

Is there a bridge of gas connecting these two great galaxies? Quite possibly, but it is hard to be sure. M86 on the upper left is a giant elliptical galaxy near the center of the nearby Virgo Cluster of galaxies. Our Milky Way Galaxy is falling toward the Virgo Cluster, located about 50 million light years away. To the lower right of M86 is unusual spiral galaxy NGC 4438, which, together with angular neighbor NGC 4435, are known as the Eyes Galaxies (also Arp 120). Featured here is one of the deeper images yet taken of the region, indicating that red-glowing gas surrounds M86 and seemingly connects it to NGC 4438. The image spans about the size of the full moon. It is also known, however, that cirrus gas in our own Galaxy is superposed in front of the Virgo cluster, and observations of the low speed of this gas seem more consistent with this Milky Way origin hypothesis. A definitive answer may come from future research, which may also resolve how the extended blue arms of NGC 4435 were created.

Open Science: Browse 1,750+ codes in the Astrophysics Source Code Library

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Ruin of the former Carmelite Church in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus.


Parker Solar Probe launch, August 12, 2018

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe on a mission to touch the Sun, on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into a part of the Sun’s atmosphere called the corona. Once there, it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


Source: www.nasa.gov

This shock wave plows through interstellar space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Near the top and moving up in this sharply detailed color composite, thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a cosmic sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge-on. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its elongated appearance suggests its popular name, the Pencil Nebula. The Pencil Nebula is about 5 light-years long and 800 light-years away, but represents only a small part of the Vela supernova remnant. The Vela remnant itself is around 100 light-years in diameter, the expanding debris cloud of a star that was seen to explode about 11,000 years ago. Initially, the shock wave was moving at millions of kilometers per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up surrounding interstellar material. In the featured narrow-band, wide field image, red and blue colors track the characteristic glow of ionized hydrogen and oxygen atoms, respectively.

Growing Galleries: Launch of the Parker Solar Probe and Perseid Meteor Shower 2018

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Toyota Land Cruiser at the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. During the winter, the Salar de Uyuni is mostly dry but a small patch close to the city of Uyuni remains covered with water. This photo was taken at sunrise time.



What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy in 2016, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a sand-sized rock from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy's far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared several times while braking violently upon entering Earth's atmosphere. The green color was created, at least in part, by the meteor's gas glowing as it vaporized. Although the exposure was timed to catch a Perseids meteor, the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked a few weeks earlier. Not coincidentally, the Perseid Meteor Shower peaks again tonight.


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Eligma narcissus is a moth in the Nolidae family.



Mars is also known as The Red Planet, often seen with a reddish tinge in dark night skies. Mars shines brightly at the upper left of this gorgeous morning twilight view from Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia, but the Moon and planet Earth look redder still. Taken on July 27, the totally eclipsed Moon is setting. It looks reddened because the Earth's umbral shadow isn't completely dark. Instead Earth's shadow is suffused with a faint red light from all the planet's sunsets and sunrises seen from the perspective of an eclipsed Moon. The sunsets and sunrises are reddened because Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red, creating the faint bluish twilight sky. Of course, craggy seaside rocks also take on the reddened colors of this Australian sunrise.



Just two weeks ago, dark skies over the desert in northern Iran held this alluring celestial vista. The dramatic digital mosaic finds the Moon and Mars alongside the Milky Way's dusty rifts, stars, and nebulae. Captured through a series of exposures to cover a range in brightness, that night's otherwise Full Moon is immersed in Earth's shadow. It actually appears fainter and redder than the Red Planet itself during the widely watched total lunar eclipse. For cosmic tourists, the skyscape also includes the Lagoon (M8) and Trifid (M20) nebulae and planet Saturn shining against the Milky Way's pale starlight. The Moon isn't quite done with its shadow play, though. Today, the New Moon partially eclipses the Sun for much of northern planet Earth.


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Entrance hall of the regional court of Berlin located in Littenstrasse 12-17 in Berlin-Mitte.


Parker Solar Probe

Packed safely inside the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket payload fairing, NASA's Parker Solar Probe is slated to launch on Saturday, August 11, 2018, at 3:33 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The Parker Solar Probe will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it. The mission will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls


Source: www.nasa.gov

Beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 6744 is nearly 175,000 light-years across, larger than our own Milky Way. It lies some 30 million light-years distant in the southern constellation Pavo and appears as only a faint, extended object in small telescopes. We see the disk of the nearby island universe tilted towards our line of sight. This remarkably detailed galaxy portrait covers an area about the angular size of the full moon. In it, the giant galaxy's elongated yellowish core is dominated by the light from old, cool stars. Beyond the core, grand spiral arms are filled with young blue star clusters and speckled with pinkish star forming regions. An extended arm sweeps past a smaller satellite galaxy at the upper left. NGC 6744's galactic companion is reminiscent of the Milky Way's satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud.

This Weekend: Meteor Showers Expected, Moon bites Sun (again)

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Usain Bolt (Jamaica) during the 100 m heat of the 14th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Moscow, Russia.


Portrait of Mary G. Ross

In 1958, a woman stumped the panelists on the game show “What’s My Line?” When they finally discovered what she did, the show’s host admitted that he, himself, was surprised by her occupation.

Who was Mary G. Ross? She was another 'hidden figure,' a mathematician and engineer whose role in America's space age is largely unknown. Her life's work is celebrated in the August 9, 2018, Google Doodle.

Born in 1908, Ross was a Native American and member of the Cherokee Nation. After earning a master's degree in 1938, she eventually moved to California in 1941, where landed a job as a mathematician at Lockheed, working on the P-38 Lightning fighter plane. She worked her way up the ranks at Lockheed and become the only woman among on the original team at Skunk Works.

As a mathematician and engineer, she wrote a number of professional and theoretical works and was one of the authors of the NASA Planetary Flight Handbook Vol. III, about space travel to Mars and Venus.

Image Credit: “Ad Astra per Astra” Portrait of Mary Golda Ross, by America Meredith, acrylic on canvas, 30" x 40", 2011, from the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian


Source: www.nasa.gov

Mars is also known as The Red Planet, often seen with a reddish tinge in dark night skies. Mars shines brightly at the upper left of this gorgeous morning twilight view from Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia, but the Moon and planet Earth look redder still. Taken on July 27, the totally eclipsed Moon is setting. It looks reddened because the Earth's umbral shadow isn't completely dark. Instead Earth's shadow is suffused with a faint red light from all the planet's sunsets and sunrises seen from the perspective of an eclipsed Moon. The sunsets and sunrises are reddened because Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red, creating the faint bluish twilight sky. Of course, craggy seaside rocks also take on the reddened colors of this Australian sunrise.


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