More than halfway across the universe, an enormous blue star nicknamed Icarus is the farthest individual star ever seen. Normally, it would be much too faint to view, even with the world’s largest telescopes. But through a quirk of nature that tremendously amplifies the star’s feeble glow, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope were able to pinpoint this faraway star and set a new distance record. They also used Icarus to test one theory of dark matter, and to probe the make-up of a foreground galaxy cluster.
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Up above the clouds, Earth’s atmosphere gives way to space. This interface is called the ionosphere. Changes in the ionosphere – in reaction to space weather above and Earth’s weather below -- can disrupt communications and GPS signals and could potentially harm astronauts. So it is important to understand the region fully.
Starting next year, scientists will get their first look deep below the surface of Mars. That's when NASA will send the first robotic lander dedicated to exploring the planet's subsurface. InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, will study marsquakes to learn about the Martian crust, mantle and core.
Enveloping our planet and protecting us from the fury of the Sun is a giant bubble of magnetism called the magnetosphere. It deflects most of the solar material sweeping towards us from our star at 1 million miles per hour or more. Without the magnetosphere, the relentless action of these solar particles could strip the Earth of its protective layers, which shield us from the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It’s clear that this magnetic bubble was key to helping Earth develop into a habitable planet.
It can happen in a flash — airborne science, that is. Two hundred microseconds, to be exact. With lasers shot from the belly of a King Air B200 aircraft. That’s right, scientists are shooting lasers at atmospheric gases — not to zap them out of existence, but to measure them.
On the outskirts of our galaxy, a cosmic tug-of-war is unfolding—and only NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope can see who’s winning. The players are two dwarf galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud, both of which orbit our own Milky Way Galaxy. But as they go around the Milky Way, they are also orbiting each other. Each one tugs at the other, and one of them has pulled out a huge cloud of gas from its companion.
A new app developed by NASA JPL called Spacecraft AR uses the latest augmented reality technology to put virtual 3-D models of NASA's robotic space explorers into any environment with a flat surface.
For a beautiful sky show, go for a sunset walk on March 18th. You’ll need an unobstructed view of the western horizon for the evening’s treat so climb a hill, see if you can catch a glimpse from the top of a parking garage or perch on a balcony.
NASA has powered on its latest space payload to continue long-term measurements of the Sun's incoming energy. Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1), installed on the International Space Station, became fully operational with all instruments collecting science data as of this March.
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory launch into space. The Crab Nebula was one of the first objects that Chandra examined with its sharp X-ray vision, and it has been a frequent target of the telescope ever since.