Space can be a wondrous place, and we’ve got the pictures to prove it! Take a look at our favorite pictures from space here, and if you’re wondering what happened today in space history don’t miss our On This Day in Space video show (opens in new tab) here!
Astronomer discovers tiny asteroid shortly before it hits Earth
Thursday, February 9, 2023: This is the first photo of a 3-foot-wide (1 meter) asteroid that burned up in Earth’s atmosphere only a few hours after it was discovered.
The space rock was discovered by Hungarian astronomer Krisztián Sárneczky during a routine “near-Earth asteroid hunt” on Sunday (Feb. 12). Sárneczky, who is one of the world’s most prolific asteroid hunters, first spotted the rock at about 10 pm local time and at first had no clue he was looking at an Earth-bound rock.
“At that time, the calculations did not show that it was an imminent impactor,” Sárneczky told Space.com in an email. “It wasn’t going fast across the sky at all, as it was heading right towards us, and it was faint. It was only when I observed it again half an hour later and measured its coordinates that the calculations showed that it was coming towards Earth.”
A measurement made by astronomers in Croatia confirmed that the previously unknown asteroid was indeed on a collision course with Earth. The rock, named Sar 2667 in Sárneczky’s honor, indeed, dove into Earth’s atmosphere about four hours after its discovery and burned up above the English Channel between France and the U.K., producing a spectacular fireball that was captured by many meteor and web cameras.
Sar 2667 is only the 7th space rock on record discovered before hitting our planet. The asteroid was already the ninth discovered in February by Sárneczky and his colleagues from the Piszkéstető observatory, which is located some 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Budapest in the Mátra Mountain. The asteroid arrived two days short of the tenth anniversary of the Chelyabinsk meteorite impact, which in 2013 caused a shockwave that shattered windows on thousands of buildings in the city of Chelyabinsk in southern Russia. – Tereza Pultarova
Earthquake creates giant cracks in Earth’s crust
Friday, February 9, 2023: The devastating Kahramanmaras earthquake that hit a region on the borders between Turkey and Syria on Monday (Feb. 6) has produced two more than 120-mile-long (200 kilometers) ruptures in Earth’s crust that can be seen from space.
The earthquake, which came in two waves, the first peaking at 7.8 Richter scale magnitude, the second nine hours later slightly milder at 7.5, has killed over 20,000 people in the impoverished region heavily affected by the Syrian war.
This image, captured by the European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-1 and released by the U.K. Centre for the Observation & Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes & Tectonics (COMET) on Friday, Feb. 10, reveals two long ruptures created by the quakes spanning a distance of more than 120 miles (200 km) each. – Tereza Pultarova
Europe’s Jupiter explorer Juice heads to spaceport ahead of launch
Thursday, February 9, 2023: Europe’s Jupiter exploring spacecraft Juice has left Airbus’ factory in Toulouse, France, today, and is heading to French Guiana ahead of its launch in April.
Juice (for JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) was packed into a safety container and loaded onto an Antonov aircraft, which transported it across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe’s spaceport in Kourou.
Juice, which will explore the potentially life-bearing moons of Jupiter, is scheduled for launch in mid-April aboard Europe’s heavy-lifter Ariane 5. – Tereza Pultarova
Astrophotographer captures stunning February full moon aligned with ancient monument
Wednesday, February 8, 2023: Astrophotographer Josh Dury captured this spectacular image of the February full moon rising behind the Glastonbury Tor, one of the U.K.’s best known spiritual sites.
Glastonbury Tor is a hill in Somerset, southwestern England near the town of Glastonbury, which is the site of the popular music festival. The enigmatic building, behind which the giant lunar disk appears in Dury’s image, is the 15th century St, Michael’s Tower, the only surviving element of a medieval church.
Glastonbury Tor is frequently featured in the tales of King Arthur, and it has even been suggested that the mythical warrior, who may have lived in the 6th century A.D., could be buried there.
The February full moon, also known as the Snow Moon, was at its fullest on the night of Feb. 5.-6. – Tereza Pultarova
Astrophotographer catches an enormous plasma loop erupting from sun’s surface
Tuesday, February 7, 2023: A U.S. astrophotographer captured this awe-inspiring image of a giant loop of plasma arching above the sun’s surface.
The loop, or prominence, as solar experts call it, is enormous. At 53,000 miles (86,000 kilometers) high and with a span of 162,000 miles (160,000 km), the mesmerizing feature is more than 20 times wider and more than four times higher than Earth. It appeared on the sun‘s surface on Saturday, Feb. 4, when it attracted the attention of Arizona-based astrophotographer and NASA astronomy ambassador Mark Johnston when he was scrolling through the feeds from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.
“Prominences are very dynamic and can last from an hour to a week or more, depending upon their nature,” Johnston told Space.com in an email. “Prominences occur where strong magnetic field lines erupt out of the sun and then arc back to the surface. The plasma (ionized hydrogen) you see moving from left to right is following the magnetic field lines. Typically you’ll find a sunspot at the points where the magnetic field lines erupt and return.”
Johnston captured the sequence from his home in Scottsdale using his hydrogen alpha telescope, a type of solar telescope that enables astronomers to view light emissions from a type of energetic hydrogen ions, which appear in deep hues of red.
Hydrogen Alpha allows astronomers to see the chromosphere, the middle layer of the sun’s atmosphere, where filaments and solar flares form.
“I attach my telescope to a solar video camera, which captures 85 frames per second,” Johnston said. “It’s important when imaging the sun to keep your exposures at 10 milliseconds or less to ensure there is no movement within each frame.”
For more of Mark Johnston’s astrophotography, visit his website (opens in new tab) or follow him on Instagram @azastroguy (opens in new tab). — Tereza Pultarova
Weather satellite sees a heart form in the clouds above the Atlantic Ocean
Monday, February 6, 2023: The GOES East weather forecasting satellite of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spotted this unusual heart-shaped cloud form above the southern Atlantic Ocean.
The giant heart in the clouds appeared off the coast of Uruguay and Brazil this morning, Monday, Feb. 6. GOES East took the video sequence from an altitude of 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. – Tereza Pultarova
Rare green comet shines above Stonehenge during close Earth approach
Friday, February 3, 2023: Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) glows above Stonehenge in southern England during its closest approach to Earth in 50,000 years.
The comet, last seen from Earth long before the iconic 5,000-year-old stone circle was erected, has thrilled astrophotographers all over the world. This particular image was taken by Josh Dury, an astrophotographer from Bath, southwest England. Dury, who’s been taking images of the night sky since the age of seven, told Space.com that taking the stunning portrait of C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was “one of the most challenging” astrophotography projects he had ever undertaken.
“With thick freezing fog rolling in over Salisbury plain [where the stone circle is located], my camera equipment was freezing up and there were only short interludes of clear skies,” Dury wrote in an email to Space.com. “Luckily the comet was visible for a period of time where I was able to capture this image, really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The comet will now start slowly retreating in the direction of Mars and dim gradually. It will remain visible to amateur astronomers with backyard telescopes throughout the first half of February. It will then head deeper into the outer solar system and toward the Oort Cloud, where it came from. Astronomers are not certain whether C/2022 E3 (ZTF) ever visits Earth again. But even if it does, we won’t be around to see it. – Tereza Pultarova
First-ever microgravity experiment using a drone
Thursday, February 2, 2023: British start-up Gravitilab has performed a first microgravity experiment with its customized quadcopter and specially designed microgravity capsule.
The remotely controlled drone carried the capsule into an altitude of 2,000 feet (600 meters). After its release, the capsule hurtled toward Earth in a freefall, creating a few seconds of simulated weightlessness inside.
The company says its drone system, called LOUIS, can provide up to 20-second-long microgravity flights, up to ten times longer than what drop towers can offer. Companies from many industries including pharmaceuticals, materials and aerospace are interested in conducting research and experiments in microgravity conditions. However, access to the International Space Station is expensive and limited, and so are Earth-based opportunities such as parabolic flights.
Gravitilab’s system is the first microgravity research facility using unmanned aerial technology. – Tereza Pultarova
Elon Musk shares photo of Starship engine bay ahead of major test
Wednesday, February 1, 2023: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared a photo of the Starship engine bay at the company’s test site in southern Texas taken ahead of a planned static firing test of the engine’s first stage.
“Just leaving the engine bay of Starship,” Musk said in a Tweet (opens in new tab).
The tech mogul previously hinted that Starship may attempt its debut orbital flight later this month. Prior to that, SpaceX has to complete a static firing test involving all 33 Raptor engines of the rocket’s Booster 7 first stage.
Once operational, the 395-foot-tall (120 meters) Starship will be the largest rocket in the world, taller than even NASA’s Space Launch System moon rocket, which sent the Artemis 1 mission around the moon last year. – Tereza Pultarova
Trio of spacecraft observes giant collision in distant universe
Tuesday, January 31, 2023: Three enormous galaxy clusters are caught in the middle of a collision in this image consisting of observations made by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.
A new galaxy cluster is emerging from this collision some 780 million light-years from Earth, known as Abell 2256. In addition to X-ray observations from Chandra and XMM-Newton, the image also contains data from three Earth-based radio telescopes and one optical telescope.
Each of the telescopes provides a unique view into the processes that are underway in this giant structure that contains hundreds or thousands of individual galaxies. The X-ray component measured by Chandra and XMM reveals the location of the superhot gas filling this cluster. In this image, the gas, with temperatures of several million degrees Fahrenheit, is shown as the central bright bluish cloud.
The three radio telescopes involved, the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India, the Low Frequency Array in the Netherlands, and the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico, spot material emitted from supermassive black holes at the centers of individual galaxies. In this image, these radio emissions are shown as bright blots of light coming from the red-colored regions. The radio telescopes also see a vast mass of cosmic filaments depicted as the large red cloud.
Infrared and optical observations by the Pan-STARRs telescope in Hawaii are shown as dots of white and pale yellow. – Tereza Pultarova
Scary shark nebula floats above an Egyption observatory
Monday, January 30, 2023: An Egyptian astrophotographer captured this awe inspiring image of the scary Shark nebula in the constellation of Cephus lurking above Egypt’s Kottamia Observatory.
“This has been the hardest object I’ve ever captured,” Weal Omar, the author of the image and keen astrophotographer, told Space.com in an email. “It’s a real challenge for anyone who loves astrophotography.”
The Shark nebula is a giant cloud of thin interstellar dust and gas some 650 light-years away from Earth. Although the monstrous nebula has 15 light-years across and appears in the sky as large as 10 moons stuck next to each other, the Shark is notoriously difficult to photograph due to the wispy nature of the cloud.
This image is a composition of several shots taken on three separate nights in a remote area near the Kottamia Astronomical Observatory, the largest telescope in the Arab world, which is located some 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Egypt’s capital Cairo.
“It was such scary night,” Omar wrote in the email. “I heard different night animal sounds during the session, I was so scared that I even thought it was alien sounds.” – Tereza Pultarova
A close-up image of the iceberg that broke off an Antarctic ice shelf this week
Friday, January 27, 2023: This detailed image shows the gap opening between the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica and the iceberg that split from it on Saturday (Jan. 21).
The high-resolution image was taken by satellites of the U.S. Earth-observation company Planet on Tuesday (Jan. 24). The calving of the iceberg has nothing to do with climate change, according to experts, and was a result of natural processes that had been underway for over a decade. The iceberg split along a crack known as Chasm-1 that scientists had monitored since 2012. The new fragment, which is now slowly being carried away by the Antarctic Coastal Current, is about 600 square miles (1,550 square kilometers) in size, about as big as the London metropolitan area or little larger than Houston.
The Brunt Ice Shelf hosts the British Halley VI Research Station, which had to be moved in 2016 away from the crumbling ice block. – Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX destacks Starship ahead of booster fire test
Thursday, January 25, 2023: SpaceX has destacked its Starship megarocket after an important pre-launch test in order to perform further separate testing on the vehicle’s two stages at its Starbase facility in South Texas.
“Launch and catch tower destacked Ship 24 from Booster 7 on the orbital pad today ahead of the Booster’s static fire test,” SpaceX said in a Tweet.
Ship 24 is the name of this particular Starship upper stage, while Booster 7 is the first stage of the 395-foot-tall (120 meters) vehicle. The company will now perform a static fire test on Booster 7, which will involve firing all the stage’s 33 Raptor engines for the first time.
To date, Booster 7 has static-fired a maximum of 14 of its 33 Raptors simultaneously. Ship 24 lit up all six of its Raptors last September. SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk previously said the giant rocket, which dwarfs even NASA’s Space Launch System moon rocket, may perform its debut orbital flight as early as next month. – Tereza Pultarova
Newly discovered asteroid seen approaching Earth
Wednesday, January 25, 2023: A newly discovered asteroid that will pass very close to Earth on Friday has been photographed by an Italian astronomer as it makes its approach.
The space rock, called 2023 BU, is only about 13 to 30 feet (4 to 9 meters) wide, and was discovered last Saturday (Jan. 21) by prolific Crimea-based astronomer and telescope builder Gennadiy Borisov (the same man who discovered the first interstellar comet, which now bears his name, Borisov, in 2018)
The asteroid will pass only 2,240 miles (3,600 kilometers) from Earth’s surface on Friday (Jan. 27), becoming the 4th closest asteroid ever observed apart from those that actually struck the planet, according to the Virtual Telescope website (opens in new tab). For comparison, satellites of the global navigation system GPS orbit 12,500 miles (20,200 km) above Earth, about four times farther away.
This image, however, was taken when the asteroid was still quite far, about 360,000 miles (580,000 km) away from us, which is 124,000 miles (200,000 km) farther away than the orbit of the moon.
Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi took the image on Tuesday (Jan. 24) using his robotic Elena telescope located just outside of Rome. – Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX’s Starship on launchpad during major test
Tuesday, January 24, 2023: SpaceX’s Starship megarocket is sitting on a launchpad at the company’s Starbase facility in South Texas during a major test ahead of its debut flight.
During the test, the 395-foot-tall (120 meters) Starship, which is taller than NASA’s Space Launch System moon rocket, has gone through most of the procedures it will perform on launch day including loading liquid oxygen and liquid methane propellant into the vehicle’s Super Heavy first stage and Starship upper stage.
SpaceX said on Twitter (opens in new tab) it will now “destack” the rocket’s stages in order to perform a static fire test with the Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor engines. – Tereza Pultarova
Watch the Gulf Stream whirl across the Atlantic Ocean
Monday, January 20, 2023: The Gulf Stream whirls through the Atlantic Ocean in this image sequence based on data from European Earth-observation satellites as it transports warm water from the Caribbean toward western Europe.
The animation shows the evolution of the Gulf Stream in December 2022 and January 2023. The Gulf Stream plays an important role in European climate, warming it up considerably compared to what it would be like without it.
Scientists worry that climate change could disrupt the Gulf Stream in the future, plunging northwestern Europe into a mini ice age. Existing data already suggest that the warming steam is slowing down and potentially nearing the point of collapse. – Tereza Pultarova
Catastrophic flooding in California seen from space
Friday, January 20, 2023: Satellites of U.S. Earth observation company Planet have documented the extent of the catastrophic floods and landslides that hit California following a series of devastating storms earlier this month.
In this image, taken on Jan. 1, fields around the city of Elk Grove, near Sacramento, are seen submerged in dirty brown water in the aftermath of record-breaking downpours. Similar images have come from other parts of the sunny state, which usually struggles with drought. The storms and ensuing floods and landslides have killed at least 22 people across California. – Tereza Pultarova
Austrian astrophotographer captures Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) losing its tail
Thursday, January 19, 2023: An image taken by an Austrian comet hunter reveals a disconnection in Comet’s C/2022 E3 (ZTF) tail that may have been caused by turbulent space weather.
Seasoned astrophotographer Michael Jäger took this image on Tuesday (Jan. 17) after driving 500 miles (800 kilometers) from Austria to Bavaria in Germany to get a clear view of the sky.
“The journey was not in vain,” Jäger told Space.com in an email. He added that when it comes to comets, an astrophotographer can waste no time as these icy balls change rapidly when they reach the warmer regions in the inner solar system.
This particular image reveals what astronomers call a disconnection event, essentially a weakening in the comet’s trademark tail, which makes it look as if the tail was breaking off.
According to SpaceWeather.com (opens in new tab), this disruption in the tail is likely caused by turbulent space weather, namely the stronger than usual solar wind that has been released during a recent coronal mass ejection (CME). CMEs are bursts of highly energetic particles emitted from the sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, that travel across the solar system, interfering with the atmospheres of planets and other bodies.
C/2022 E3 (ZTF), which was discovered by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory in California in March 2022, is making its first close approach to Earth in about 50,000 years. The comet will soon become visible to the naked eye, experts say, and will reach its closest distance to Earth on Feb.1, zooming past our planet at about one quarter the sun-Earth distance.
Jäger, who has photographed more than 1,100 comets since he took up astrophotography four decades ago, is certain to take more awe-inspiring images, which you can find on his Twitter account. – Tereza Pultarova
Earth-sized sunspot photographed in strange hydrogen light
Wednesday, January 18, 2023: A British astrophotographer has taken this image of a larger than Earth sunspot that has been battering our planet with solar flares in the past few days.
The sunspot, named AR 13190, is so large that it can be seen without a telescope, with the naked eye just with the help of sun-observing eclipse glasses (don’t look at the sun’s disk with unprotected eyes).
The image, taken by retired molecular biologist and life-long astronomy enthusiast Kevin Earp and shared on his Twitter (opens in new tab) account on Tuesday (Jan 17), shows the star at the center of our solar system in a specific part of the light spectrum that is emitted by energetic hydrogen atoms in the sun’s chromosphere, the lower layer of the sun’s atmosphere.
“This image was taken with a 100mm refractor and Daystar Quark [filter] to capture the light of hydrogen-alpha, which is not visible to the unaided eye,” Earp told Space.com in an email.
In his tweet he added that taking the image was rather difficult due to the low position of the sun in the sky in this part of the year in the U.K, where he is observing from.
“Seeing in h-alpha was awful today with the #sun being so low, but I managed to catch the largest spot currently on the disk,” he said, adding that “Earth could fit comfortably inside the dark umbra [the dark area of the spot], at a toasty 3,700 degrees Celsius [6,692 degrees Fahrenheit]”. – Tereza Pultarova
The other greenhouse effect
Tuesday, January 17, 2023: A satellite image by U.S. Earth observation company Planet shows the Spanish Almería region covered with vegetable greenhouses. Nearly all of the ground in this 100 square-mile (260 square kilometers) area is now buried underneath plastic foil, which reflects incoming sun rays so efficiently that the region has actually cooled down in the recent decades in spite of the progress of climate change. Could this be a solution to our planet’s global warming problems?
The traditionally agricultural Almería has seen its greenhouse city grow since the late 1980s as local farmers sought to increase the yields of tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons and other produce. Spanish researchers found years ago that the sun-reflecting properties of the foil used to make the greenhouses cooled down the area by more than 0.5 degree Fahrenheit (0.3 degree Celsius). That’s quite notable, considering the fact that the rest of Spain, together with the rest of Europe, is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world. Does it mean we need more greenhouses in Europe? -Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launches for its fifth mission
Monday, January 16, 2023: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket has lifted off for its fifth mission in history from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday (Jan. 15), lofting into orbit a secret payload by the U.S. military.
The mission, called USSF-67, was propelled into space by three modified Falcon 9 first stage boosters, two of which later successfully landed at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, across the Banana River lagoon from Kennedy.
The third booster fell into the Atlantic Ocean as planned as it used too much of its fuel to perform a safe landing. – Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX’s megarocket Starship seen from space
Friday, January 13, 2022: Satellites of European aerospace firm Airbus photographed SpaceX’s megarocket Starship after it had been stacked on a launch pad at the company’s Boca Chica test site in South Texas.
SpaceX is currently preparing for the debut orbital flight of the 395 feet (120 meters) tall rocket, which is taller than NASA’s Space Launch System that launched the Orion spaceship for the Artemis 1 uncrewed test-flight in November.
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Starship, comprising the Ship 24 upper-stage spacecraft atop the Booster 7 first stage, could blast off for its first-ever space trip as early as late February. – Tereza Pultarova
Snoopy finally exits Orion after moon-trip
Thursday, January 12, 2022: Snoopy, the zero-gravity indicator toy astronaut, has finally been freed from its transport case after its ground-breaking trip to the moon and back aboard the Artemis I mission’s Orion spacecraft.
This image, captured on Jan. 5, shows the beagle shortly after it has been unloaded from Orion by ground support teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Snoopy wasn’t selected for the 25-day test flight, which lifted off on Nov. 16, by accident. The character, first introduced in 1950, has links to Apollo-era spacecraft. The lunar module of the Apollo 10 mission (which served as a rehearsal for the first lunar landing) was named Snoopy after the dog.
During the Artemis 1 mission, the Snoopy toy traveled 1.4 million miles aboard Orion as the spacecraft broke the record for the farthest distance from Earth achieved by a human-rated spaceship. The previous record was held by Apollo 13, which, however, only got that far as part of a rescue operation after an onboard explosion shortly after launch scuppered the mission’s original plan to land on the moon. – Tereza Pultarova
James Webb Space Telescope reveals unexpected star formation in dwarf galaxy on Milky Way’s edge
Wednesday, January 11, 2022: The James Webb Space Telescope has found evidence of star formation in a tiny galaxy in the Milky Way’s outskirts.
Webb pointed its powerful NIRCam instrument at the dwarf galaxy, the so-called Small Magellanic Cloud, which orbits our galactic home 200,000 light-years away from Earth, and found pockets of star formation that have never been seen before. The image reveals new structures that appear to feed the nascent stars. – Tereza Pultarova
Virgin Orbit’s Boeing 777 Cosmic Girl readies for its first U.K. mission
Monday, January 10, 2022: Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl Boeing 777 readies for its first mission from the U.K. at Spaceport Cornwall.
The plane is set to take off with Launcher One under its wing for the first orbital mission from British soil. The mission, called Start Me Up is a historic moment for the U.K., which is now set to become the first country in Western Europe with the capability to launch satellites to orbit. – Tereza Pultarova
Nicole Mann enjoys space station views
Thursday, January 5, 2022: NASA astronaut and Expedition 68 Flight Engineer Nicole Mann is enjoying some relaxing time inside the International Space Station’s cupola in this image released by NASA on Monday (Jan. 2).
The Cupola, attached to the U.S. Tranquility module, is a dome consisting of seven windows that allow astronauts to observe Earth as well as the depths of the universe. The Cupola is probably the favorite spot on the space station for most astronauts as it provides them with a unique overview of our home planet. In this image, Mann displays the U.S. flag inside the cupola in the window next to her. – Tereza Pultarova
America’s new weather sat takes over from predecessor amid superstorm
Wednesday, January 5, 2022: The GOES 18 satellite of the U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration (NOAA) has taken over from its predecessor GOES 17 while observing a massive storm swirling above the Pacific Ocean.
The image sequence in true colors captures the storm, which brought torrential rains to California by funneling moisture from Hawai’i.
In this video sequence, GOES18 imagery begins at 1800 GMT (the timecode is visible in the lower right corner of the video).
GOES18 launched in March 2022, but it took up till now to get the spacecraft to its correct position in the geostationary orbit at 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, from where the craft has a constant view of the western U.S. and the Pacific Ocean.
The storm triggered a widespread evacuation operation due to the risk of flash floods and landslides especially in areas ravaged last summer by wildfires. – Tereza Pultarova
Massive eruption explodes from the sun
Wednesday, January 4, 2022: A massive eruption of magnetized particles burst from the sun on Tuesday (Jan.3), accompanied by a powerful six-hour-long solar flare.
The eruption, a so-called coronal mass ejection (CME), emerged from a sunspot on the far side of the sun, and will not hit Earth, experts say. CMEs are clouds of highly charged particles from the sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona. If directed at Earth, they reach the planet within a few days. Interactions of the charged solar particles with Earth’s magnetic field trigger beautiful aurora displays but also cause all sorts of problems such as power blackouts, GPS disruptions and satellite malfunctions. Solar flares, on the other hand, are bright flashes of light that arrive at the planet within eight minutes and can briefly disrupt radio communications.
While the Tuesday CME, captured in this video sequence by NASA/ European Space Agency’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), will miss Earth, the sunspot that produced it will likely emerge from behind the sun’s eastern edge within the next two days, possible causing some rough space weather conditions in the coming weeks. – Tereza Pultarova
Record-breaking January heatwave threatens Europe’s glaciers
Tuesday, January 3, 2022: A record-breaking New-Year’s heatwave has swept across Europe in the first days of 2023.
With temperatures at levels usually seen in late spring, the unusual heatwave is threatening the continent’s precious mountain glaciers that are already on the brink of collapse due to climate change.
This image, taken by Europe’s Sentinel-2 satellite, shows the town of Altdorf in the Swiss Alps, where daytime temperatures hit 67 degrees F (19.2 degrees Celsius) on Jan. 1 and stayed above 60 degrees F (16 degrees C) throughout the night. For Altdorf, which is nestled between snow-capped 9,800-foot-tall (3,000 meters) Alpine mountain ranges, it was the warmest New Year’s Day since 1864.
The warm spell comes after a summer of disastrous glacier thawing across the Swiss Alps which saw 6.2% of the mountain ice disappear. Experts usually consider a 2% annual ice loss rate as severe, according to the Conversation (opens in new tab).
New Year’s Day temperature records were broken across many other central and western European countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic. – Tereza Pultarova
Monday, January 2: The two volcanic peaks of the island of Hawaii are covered in snow in this serene photo from the International Space Station.
At top is the dormant volcano Mauna Kea while the more active Mauna Loa volcano clearly stands out at the bottom. This image was taken by an astronaut on the space station as it sailed 258 miles above Hawaii on Dec. 27, 2022. – Tariq Malik
A Space Station holiday
Friday, December 30: Traveling for the holidays can be a challenge, but what if you’re traveling at 17,400 mph above Earth? Clearly, the Christmas and New Year’s holiday spirit is not lost in space in this photo taken by Expedition 68 astronauts on the International Space Station.
This photo shows the astronauts inside the Cupola of the station, an observation “deck” with seven massive windows through which the Earth shines a brilliant blue in the distance. Here, the astronauts are dressed in their Christmas finery, complete with mock Christmas sweater and Santa hats! The astronauts actually celebrate two Christmases on the space station, the Dec. 25 holiday and Russian Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 6.
Pictured here are, from NASA, “Expedition 68 Flight Engineers (from left) Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann, and Frank Rubio, all from NASA, and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).” – Tariq Malik
Starry silent night
Thursday, December 27: This stunning view shows the Gemini North telescope (second from left) and five other observatories atop the volcano Mauna Kea in Hawaii, with a long-exposure capturing the trails left by the stars as they moved across the night sky.
Gemini North is part of the International Gemini Observatory operated by the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab. It and the other observatories shown here are based at Mauna Kea because of the volcano summit’s height (2.6 miles above sea level) which offers a view above most tropical clouds and humidity, allowing for sharper views and less atmospheric distortion during observations.– Tariq Malik
Astronaut spots home for Christmas
Wednesday, December 27: Astronaut Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency snapped this image of Tokyo, Japan on Dec. 25, 2022, a view of his home country for Christmas.
“[We] passed over Japan a little while ago on Christmas night,” Wakata wrote (opens in new tab) on Twitter while sharing the photo on Christmas, according to a Google translation from Japanese. “The area around Tokyo was also very bright and shining. It’s a little bit more this year. Let’s do our best again this week!”
Wakata is one of seven crewmembers on the space station representing Japan, the United States and Russia. The astronauts see 16 sunrises and sunsets a day as they orbit the Earth. — Tariq Malik
Nebula? No, a SpaceX rocket!
Tuesday, December 27: What looks like an eerie cloud in deep space is actually something much closer to home: a SpaceX rocket.
This photo shows the spectacular exhaust plume of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it launched a Japanese lander to the moon on Dec. 11, 2022. The mission launched from SpaceX’s pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 2:38 a.m. EST, creating a dazzling nighttime scene for observers.
This view was captured as the second stage of the rocket was powering toward space, its exhaust creating ripples of wispy trails in the upper regions of Earth’s atmosphere. The first stage returned to Earth to make a successful landing. – Tariq Malik
‘Fried eggs’ on Mars?
Monday, Dec. 26: These strange, dark “fried egg” features on Mars are just one oddity created during winter on the Red Planet.
This image, taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows a mix of terrain around a round crater-like feature on Mars, including sweeping dunes and hills. But most striking are the dark features to the right of the crater that scientists have nicknamed “fried eggs.”
The features occur near the end of winter on Mars, when the ice begins to thaw and sublimate into atmosphere. That sublimation, where the ice turns directly to gas instead of melting into liquid first, can create the “fried egg” features as well as other strange sights like “Dalmatian spots (opens in new tab),” “spiders (opens in new tab)” and “Swiss cheese (opens in new tab)” on Mars. – Tariq Malik
NASA astronauts install new solar array
Friday, December 23, 2022: NASA astronaut Josh Cassada is seen in this image during a space walk on Thursday (Dec. 22) as the International Space Station flew above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Namibia.
Cassada and his colleague Frank Rubio installed a new roll-out solar array during the 7 hour and 8 minute spacewalk, which ended at 3:27 p.m. EST (2027 GMT).
The solar array will help increase the space station power generation capability by up to 30% to 215 kilowatts. – Tereza Pultarova
Mars’ ice-covered South Pole
Thursday, December 22, 2022: A new image from Europe’s Mars Express orbiter reveals ice-covered ridges sprinkled with dust near the Red Planet’s South Pole.
The European Space Agency (ESA) released the image on Dec. 22, but the photo was actually taken in May when spring thawing set in in Mars’ southern hemisphere. The image captures a crater in the Ultimi Scopuli region where layers of ice interweave with dunes of red Martian regolith.
The image was taken by the High Resolution Stereo Imaging camera onboard the Mars Express. – Tereza Pultarova
Northern hemisphere’s shortest day of the year is here
Wednesday, December 21, 2022: A weather satellite takes a photo of Earth on the shortest day of the year on the Northern Hemisphere.
The image, taken by the GOES East satellite of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the planet as it approaches the winter solstice, the start of the astronomical winter. The winter solstice is the moment when the Earth’s north pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun, resulting in the shortest day on the Northern and longest day in the Southern Hemisphere.
The 2021 Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice occurs on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 4:48 EST (2148 GMT).
The axis of the Earth is tilted by 23,5 degrees toward the plane in which the planet orbits the sun. As a result of this tilt, the sun’s rays reach the planet at a varying angle throughout the year, causing the differing lengths of the day and night at different latitudes. From tomorrow onward, the length of the day in the Northern Hemisphere will slowly start to creep up again. On Monday, March 20, the day and night will have the same duration all over the world. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA’s Insight lander’s farewell photo
Tuesday, December 20, 2022: NASA’s InSight Marsquake detecting lander InSight may have sent its last ever photo from the red planet’s surface.
NASA released this image on Monday (Dec. 19), saying that no communication has been received from the lander since Thursday (Dec. 15). InSight’s death has been expected for many months now as the lander has been struggling with lack of energy due to its solar panels being covered with a thick layer of Martian dust.
InSight, which touched down on Mars in 2018, was built to monitor tectonic activity on the planet for one Martian year (about two Earth years). The mission has exceeded its designed lifetime and kept going for over four years. Still, the scientific community seems to grieve the lander’s “passing” as the announcement on Twitter elicited an avalanche of emotional memes. – Tereza Pultarova
Ice-berg protecting giant Antarctic glacier from sliding into the sea is melting fast
Monday, December 19, 2022: Iceberg B-22A, which protects the so-called Doomsday Glacier in Antarctica from sliding into the sea, has been quickly breaking apart in recent months, satellite images reveal.
This time lapse sequence taken by the European Sentinel-3 satellite between Nov. 30 and Dec. 17, shows a steady stream of icy bits drifting away from the iceberg, which broke off from the tongue of the Doomsday Glacier (officially known as the Thwaites Ice Shelf) in 2002.
The Thwaites Ice Shelf is one of the largest glaciers in West Antarctica but also one of the most rapidly thawing.
The B-22A iceberg has played an important role in protecting the Thwaites Ice Shelf against warmer sea water, which would speed up its melting. Scientists worry that a disintegration of the Thwaites Ice Shelf would lead to a significant acceleration of global sea level rise. – Tereza Pultarova
This is where Perseverance will stash its Mars samples
Friday, December 16, 2022: NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance is scouting the location where it will stash its precious Mars samples for a future retrieval mission that will deliver them to Earth.
The photo was taken by Perseverance‘s Mastcam-Z camera on Dec. 14, the rover’s 646th Martian day, or sole, on the planet.
The colors of the image were digitally enhanced for a better viewer experience and don’t represent the actual colors of the scene as it would appear to a human eye, NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab).
The location, where this extra-terrestrial sample depot is being built, is called Three Forks, and over the course of the next month, Perseverance is expected to deposit a total of 10 sample tubes there. Each of these tubes holds a fragment of Jezero Crater, a site that could harbor traces of past Martian life which Perseverance has been exploring since its landing on the Red Planet in February 2021. – Tereza Pultarova
Coolant leaks from Russian crew spacecraft docked to space station
Thursday, December 15, 2022: Frozen flakes of coolant spraying from the Russian Soyuz crew capsule that is currently docked to the International Space Station can be seen in this video sequence captured by an onboard camera.
The leak occurred on Thursday (Dec. 14) and only stopped when all the coolant escaped from the spacecraft’s tanks. The incident is considered a serious safety issue as Soyuz is an escape vehicle for astronauts and cosmonauts if anything goes wrong at the space station.
Several astronauts commented on the situation on Twitter expressing concern.
“Serious coolant leak from the Russian Soyuz crew capsule docked to the Space Station. Not good, lots of fast decision-making going on,” Canadian astronaut Chris Hatfield tweeted (opens in new tab).
His NASA colleague Scott Kelly said (opens in new tab): “Coolant leak on Russian Soyuz docked to the ISS. Serious situation.”
The affected spacecraft brought to the space station cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio in September. Prokopyev and Petelin were just preparing for a spacewalk when the leak started.
It is not clear yet, what the accident means for the current space station crew. In addition to the three crew members who traveled to the orbital outpost on the affected Soyuz, three NASA astronauts and one Japanese astronaut that arrived on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are also currently onboard. The Soyuz was supposed to take Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio back to Earth in March. – Tereza Pultarova
Weather satellite sees European rocket blast off with its ‘brother’ aboard
Wednesday, December 14, 2022: This image is not a piece of modern art but a photograph of cloud-covered central America taken by a weather forecasting satellite. The tiny bright streak toward the bottom of the image is a trail of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket shooting toward the sky with three satellites aboard.
The image was taken by the GOES-16 weather satellite of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Ariane 5 rocket, which can be seen blasting off the launch pad in the image, was carrying Europe’s new-generation weather satellite Meteosat Third Generation, which will soon join GOES-16 in the geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. The satellite will help European meteorologists considerably improve their weather forecasts and better predict extreme weather events, such as summer storms, that hit the continent more frequently and with greater force than in the past because of progressing climate change. – Tereza Pultarova
Ariane 5 ready to launch Europe’s new high-tech weather satellite
Tuesday, December 13, 2022: Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket has been rolled out to the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana, ahead of its launch that will deliver a new cutting-edge weather satellite into orbit.
If all goes to plan, the rocket will lift-off on Tuesday 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT) and lift Europe’s new Meteosat Third Generation satellite (MTG-1) into geostationary orbit.
MTG-1 is the first in a planned fleet of three spacecraft that will replace Europe’s aging family of geostationary weather spacecraft. The new satellites will constantly monitor the entire European and African continent as well as parts of Asia and the Middle East, and will enable European weather forecasters to better predict severe weather events. – Tereza Pultarova
Friday, December 9, 2022: NASA’s Orion spaceship was retrieved from the Pacific Ocean on Sunday (Dec. 11) shortly after it splashed down off the coast of California after its triumphant debut lunar round trip.
The capsule, which flew uncrewed to the moon and back as part of the Artemis 1 mission, was recovered by the USS Portland transport dock ship from the waters of Baja California and is currently being transported to San Diego, from where it will continue to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a truck.
The capsule will be subjected to extensive tests after its 25-day spaceflight to help NASA prepare for the Artemis 2 mission, which will take a human crew for a similar lunar round trip in 2024 or 2025.
The Artemis 1 mission launched atop NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on Nov. 16 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The capsule suffered only a few minor technical problems during its journey, which allowed it to break the record for the farthest distance from Earth ever achieved by a human-rated spacecraft. – Tereza Pultarova
Snoopy enjoying weightless fun inside Orion space capsule
Friday, December 9, 2022: Snoopy the dog, clad in an orange space suit, can be seen in this image sequence floating weightlessly inside the Orion space capsule.
Snoopy is one of five crew members of the current Artemis 1 mission, which is testing the Orion spaceship prior to a future flight with humans. Commander Moonikin Campos, a figurine fitted with sensors to measure parameters of the space environment inside the capsule, sits in his seat wearing a similar orange space suit as Snoopy. Also in the capsule are two dummy torsos called Helga and Zohar, and a Shaun the Sheep toy. The crew has an artificially intelligent assistant, the Callisto demonstration (in the middle of the control panel), which combines features of Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa and the Webex video-conferencing software.
Orion is finishing its ground-breaking lunar roundtrip and will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California on Sunday (Dec. 11). The capsule has performed with only minor glitches during its debut flight so we can likely expect the crewed Artemis 2 mission about two years from now. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronomers track Orion as it begins journey back home
Thursday, December 8, 2022: The Italy-based virtual telescope managed to photograph the Orion spaceship as it commenced its journey back home.
Orion was about 237,000 miles (382,000 kilometers) away from Earth, about as far as the moon, when the image was taken on Wednesday (Dec. 7). The imaging operation was further complicated by the fact that the moon was full at that time and shining brightly only 28 degrees away from the spacecraft.
Orion appears as a tiny little dot at the center of the image, highlighted with an arrow, while the stars dotting the surrounding universe appear as short lines. The telescope tracked the moving capsule during a 60-second period, which is why the capsule appears like a dot while the static stars look like lines.
The telescope, located near Rome, Italy, previously photographed Orion on Nov. 27, when the capsule was approaching its farthest distance from Earth. – Tereza Pultarova
50 years since Apollo 17
Wednesday, December 7, 2022: 50 years ago today, the final Apollo mission, Apollo 17, launched to the moon. The crew, commander Gene Cernan, lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt, and command module pilot Ronald Evan, took the above image of Earth while speeding away from the planet on their way to its natural satellite.
The Apollo 17 mission culminated with Cernan and Schmitt descending onto the moon’s surface in humankind’s final lunar landing to date.
According to the original caption released with the photograph, the Apollo 17 mission followed a unique trajectory, which enabled astronauts for the first time to directly view and photograph Earth’s South Pole. — Tereza Pultarova
Moonikin Campos rests inside Orion capsule during lunar round-trip
Tuesday, December 6, 2022: NASA’s dummy Moonikin Campos is resting inside the Orion spaceship during the Artemis 1 lunar roundtrip in a new image released by NASA.
The doll, strapped into the commander seat of the Orion crew capsule, is wearing a real space suit designed for future moon-bound astronauts. Named after NASA electrical engineer Arturo Campos who played a key role in rescuing the troubled Artemis 13 mission in 1970, the mannequin is fitted with dozens of sensors designed to assess the effects of the deep space environment on the human body. Unlike astronauts working on the International Space Station, who are protected by Earth’s magnetic field, space travelers on lunar round trips will be subject to much higher levels of cosmic radiation, which can be harmful to their health.
The image, captured by an onboard camera inside Orion, also reveals the Callisto technology demonstration developed by Lockheed Martin in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco, which is essentially a space-grade combination of the Alexa digital assistant and the Webex video-conferencing tool.
Moonikin Campos’ other companions are two dummy torsos named Helga and Zohar, which are making additional measurements of the environment, and two plush toys, Snoopy and Shaun the Sheep. – Tereza Pultarova
Indonesian volcano spouts lava one year after deadly eruption
Monday, December 5, 2022: The Landsat 9 satellite captured an eruption of the Semeru volcano on Indonesia’s Java island on Sunday, Dec. 4.
Landsat 9 is a joint mission by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. The spacecraft, which orbits Earth at the altitude of 440 miles (705 kilometers), spotted the thick plume of volcanic ash rising from the volcano shortly after local authorities raised the warning status to the highest level.
The volcano, one of the most active in the region, started spurting lava at 2:46 am local time, Monday, Dec.5 (2:46 pm EST, on Sunday, Dec.4) . No injuries have been reported so far, according to news reports, but authorities ordered about 2,000 people to evacuate from a 5 mile wide (8 km) zone around the volcano. The eruption began exactly a year after the tragic eruption of December 2021, which killed dozens of people in nearby villages.
Experts estimate that the ash plume from the eruption could have reached altitudes of about 9 miles (15 km). – Tereza Pultarova
New view of Pillars of Creation combines images from two Webb’s instruments
Friday, December 2, 2022: By combining images of the iconic Pillars of Creation taken by the two main cameras on the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists created a new view of the imposing dust structure that reveals its complexity in unprecedented detail.
The new image is a composite of previously released photographs taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). NIRCam detects the shorter wavelengths of the near infrared light emitted by objects in the universe and is a specialist in finding stars and warmer, denser dust accumulations where stars form. MIRI scans the universe in the longer, mid-infrared wavelengths and excels at detecting cosmic dust.
Images obtained by these two instruments were previously released separately, with the one taken by NIRCam studded with stars, while MIRI’s image was a ghostlike cloud of gray.
Adding NIRCam’s view to that of MIRI enlivens the deadness of the dusty Pillars with the sparkle of hundreds of stars, big and small. Newborn stars can be seen as tiny reddish dots scattered in the thickest, darkest parts of the dust cloud.
Pillars of Creation, first imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope in the mid-1990s, are one of the nearest star-forming regions to Earth. Located in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500 light-years away, the Pillars serve as a cosmological lab that will help Webb unravel the processes of star creation in a way impossible before. – Tereza Pultarova
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Thursday, 1 December: This dramatic image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope displays a galactic merger of cosmic proportions known to astronomers as II ZW 96.
II ZW 96 lies approximately 500 million light-years from Earth and is located in the constellation Delphinus.
The two bright cores of each galaxy are clearly visible in this image but the swirling arms of each galaxy have been twisted out of shape by the collision. – Daisy Dobrijevic
Mauna Loa eruption spotted from space
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Wednesday, November 30: This view of Mauna Loa by a Maxar Technologies satellite on Nov 28, 2022, shows the dramatic scenes unfolding during Mauna Loa’s eruption. Here, the lava flows move along the Northeast Rift Zone on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, began erupting on Sunday (Nov. 27), the first eruption in almost 40 years. The volcano last erupted in 1984 when it sent a lava flow barreling toward the city of Hilo.
Mauna Loa occupies more than half of Hawaii’s Big Island and rises 13,679 feet (4,169 meters) above the Pacific Ocean, according to USGS (opens in new tab). It has erupted 33 times since the first well-documented eruption in 1843. – Daisy Dobrijevic
Related: Dozens of earthquakes swarm Hawaii as the world’s largest volcano erupts
Moon photobombs Shenzhou 15 launch
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Tuesday, November 29: This incredible image was captured during the launch of the fourth crew to China’s Tiangong space station. Here, a Long March 2F rocket topped with the Shenzhou 15 spacecraft lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 10:08 a.m. EST (1508 GMT; 11:08 p.m. local time).
Crew members Fei Junlong (the mission commander), Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu are now headed for Tiangong, a day after they were unveiled as the crew for the six-month-long Shenzhou 15 mission.
Related: China launches 3 astronauts to Tiangong space station for 1st crew handover
Orion’s incredible views of Earth and the moon
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Monday, November 28, 2022: NASA’s Orion spacecraft captured this amazing view of Earth and the moon today (Nov. 28) as it approaches its maximum distance from Earth.
Orion is currently performing an uncrewed test flight as part of the Artemis 1 mission. The capsule is fitted with 16 monitoring cameras that not only capture stunning views like this one but also help ground controllers inspect the spacecraft and check the mission is going to plan. Artemis 1 is the first stage of a series of missions designed to send back to the moon as part of the Artemis program. – Daisy Dobrijevic
You can keep up to date with the latest mission news with our Artemis 1 live updates blog.
Record-breaking snowfall covers Buffalo
Friday, November 25, 2022: European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-2 watched from orbit as a record-breaking amount of snow blanketed the city of Buffalo in the north of the U.S.
The unprecedented snowfall, which buried the streets of Buffalo in 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow within 48 hours, was a result of the so-called Lake Effect, a weather phenomenon that occurs in the area south of the Great Lakes on the border between the U.S. and Canada.
The Lake Effect happens when cold dry air from the Canadian inland sweeps across the lakes, sucking in moisture. Once the air is saturated with humidity, the clouds dump the water in the form of snow on the areas south of the lakes.
According to the World Economic Forum, the Lake Effect is getting more intense as a result of climate change. Sentinel-2 took this image on Tuesday (Nov. 22) while locals struggled to clear the snow off streets. – Tereza Pultarova
See you on the far side of the moon
Thursday, November 24, 2022: NASA’s Orion spacecraft captured this image of the far side of the moon using its optical navigation camera during its close approach to the moon’s surface earlier this week.
The image was taken on Monday (Nov. 21), five days after Orion set off for its debut uncrewed lunar trip from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Humans can only get a glimpse of the far side of the moon through space probes as it never faces our planet. During the Monday flyby, Orion approached the moon to a distance of only 80 miles (130 kilometers). NASA shared the image on its Flickr account on Thursday (Nov. 24). – Tereza Pultarova
Europe’s new astronauts
Wednesday, November 23, 2022: 17 finalists of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) astronaut selection on stage in Paris at the end of the agency’s ministerial conference on Wednesday, Nov. 23.
ESA chose five new astronaut trainees and a paraastronaut out of the 17 finalists with the rest joining what the agency calls a reserve pool. While the five new astronauts will commence their training immediately, ESA might call upon one of the reservists in the future in case it needs extra man-power in space.
The new astronaut class includes two women: aerospace engineer and helicopter test pilot Sophie Adenot of France and British astrophysicist Rosemary Coogan. Paralympic sprinter and trauma surgeon John McFall is the parastronaut who will help ESA evaluated whether people with certain types of disabilities can safely participate in space flight. Belgian neuroscientist Raphaël Liégeois, Spanish aerospace engineer Pablo Álvarez Fernández and Swiss emergency surgeon and paratrooper Marco Alain Sieber are also joining the team. – Tereza Pultarova
Orion continues epic journey
Tuesday, November 22, 2022: NASA’s Orion capsule took this selfie with the crescent moon on the sixth day of its epic journey around Earth’s natural satellite.
Orion, which is now performing an uncrewed test flight as part of the Artemis 1 mission, is fitted with 16 monitoring cameras on its structure and in its interior. Ground controllers are using these cameras not only to share stunning views from the milestone flight with the mission followers, but also to inspect the spacecraft, which in the future will take a human crew on a similar trip.
Orion is currently heading to enter the distant retrograde orbit around the moon, an elliptical orbit that will take it as far as 40,000 miles (64,000 km) away from the lunar surface. During its time in this orbit, Orion will break a record for the farthest distance from Earth achieved by a human-rated spacecraft. The existing record was established by the Apollo 13 mission, which, however, got so far as part of an emergency rescue operation after an explosion impaired the spacecraft’s systems. – Tereza Pultarova
Moon and Earth in one view as Orion nears closest approach
Monday, November 21, 2022: NASA’s Orion spaceship took this stunning photo of Earth and the moon ahead of its closest pass at the planet’s natural satellite on Monday morning.
The uncrewed capsule was lofted to space for its Artemis 1 mission by NASA’s Space Launch System mega rocket on Wednesday (Nov. 16) to test technologies needed for humankind’s return to the moon. Orion’s cruise has been smooth so far. The capsule made its closest approach at 7:44 a.m. EST (1244 GMT), skimming just 80 miles (130 kilometers) above the lunar surface.
Later on Monday, Orion will fire its engines in order to enter the distant retrograde orbit around the moon, an elliptical orbit, which will take it as far as 40,000 miles (64,000 km) from the lunar surface. The capsule will return to Earth on Dec. 11. – Tereza Pultarova
Orion snaps blue marble in black and white
Friday, November 18, 2022: NASA’s Orion space capsule continues on its way to the moon, snapping stunning images as it flies. This beautiful black and white portrait of our planet was taken by the capsule’s optical navigation camera, which is used to determine the spacecraft’s position in space.
Orion was lofted to space by the giant Space Launch System rocket on Wednesday (Nov. 16) early in the morning. The capsule separated from the mega-booster shortly thereafter and performed two engine burns since, putting itself firmly on the trajectory to Earth’s natural companion.
Orion will make its closest approach to the moon on Monday (Nov. 21), passing only 60 miles (100 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. The capsule will then spend about a week in the moon’s orbit before heading back to Earth. Orion is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California on Dec. 11. – Tereza Pultarova
Orion leaving behind its blue marble
Thursday, November 16, 2022: The moon-bound Orion spaceship has taken this stunning sequence of images of the receding Earth in the first hours after it commenced its ground-breaking journey from the Kennedy Space Center.
The capsule, built jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), launched on its Artemis 1 mission on Wednesday (Nov. 16) early in the morning. The purpose of this uncrewed trip to Earth’s natural satellite is to prove the technology is fit to carry humans. Orion will make the closest approach to the moon on Monday (Nov. 21), passing just 60 miles (97 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. The capsule will then spend about a week orbiting the moon before commencing its journey back home.
Orion is expected to splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California on Dec. 11. Throughout its journey, Orion will be sending home images taken by 16 cameras mounted on its structure. – Tereza Pultarova
Wednesday, November 16, 2022: A trail of curling exhaust fumes left behind by NASA’s Space Launch System moon rocket after it left its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida was captured by Space.com’s collaborator Josh Dinner.
Josh captured the image shortly after the 322-foot-tall (100 meters) rocket cleared the pad at 1:47 a.m. EST (0647 GMT) on Wednesday, Nov. 16. The lift off followed a short delay caused by an issue with an ethernet switch at a radar monitoring site and a brief hydrogen fuel leak.
The rocket boosted an uncrewed Orion spaceship for the groundbreaking Artemis 1 mission to the moon and back, which will pave the way for humankind’s return to the moon later this decade.
In a post-launch press conference, NASA admitted it detected some minor technical glitches during the milestone launch, but overall, all went as planned, to the delight of the Artemis 1 team and NASA leadership, as well as enthusiastic onlookers in Florida and all over the world. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA’s moon rocket standing tall after battering by Hurricane Nicole
Tuesday, November 15, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket is standing tall in the moonlight after being battered by Hurricane Nicole last week ahead of its planned debut launch. The photo was taken by NASA photographer Bill Ingalls on Monday, Nov. 14.
NASA chose not to roll SLS with the Orion capsule atop back to the assembly building ahead of Hurricane Nicole’s landfall on Thursday, leaving it on Launch Pad 39 B to weather the storm.
Nicole battered the rocket with wind gusts of more than 80 mph (130 km/h), but subsequent inspections revealed only relatively minor damage on the rocket and the capsule. The storm stripped off some of the insulating caulking on Orion, which smooths out a slight gap in the exterior of the spacecraft. NASA engineers, however, concluded that the problem is not a showstopper for the upcoming launch. If all goes to plan, SLS will lift off at 1:04 a.m. EST (0604 GMT), sending the uncrewed Orion for a lunar round trip. The mission, the first of the NASA-led Artemis program, will pave the way for humans’ return to the moon in the coming years. – Tereza Pultarova
Solar snake slithers across the sun
Monday, November 14, 2022: The European Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured an odd snake-like filament crawl across the sun’s surface just before a massive plasma eruption.
The filament, which originated in a sunspot, a cooler region on the sun‘s surface where the star’s magnetic field is twisted, took three hours to slither across the sun’s disk at a speed of 105 m per second (170 km/s), the European Space Agency (ESA), which operates the spacecraft, wrote in a statement (opens in new tab).
In the time lapse sequence reconstructed from images captured by Solar Orbiter‘s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager the “snake”glides across the disk within a second.
Because the odd occurrence was followed by a coronal mass ejection (CME), an eruption of hot plasma from the sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, scientists think the two phenomena might be connected. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA’s inflatable Mars-landing shield after test space flight
Friday, November 11, 2022: NASA’s experimental inflatable Mars landing shield LOFTID is seen in this photo after being retrieved from the ocean following its test descent through Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday (Nov. 10).
The LOFTID team also recovered a data module that was ejected from the flying saucer-like shield before splashdown, and which stores data recorded during the demonstration.
LOFTID, which could pave the way for technology that could allow landing larger spacecraft on Mars, launched to space on Thursday morning aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket as a secondary payload with the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2).
While for JPSS-2, the launch marked the beginning of a years-long climate monitoring mission, LOFTID headed straight back to Earth. Unlike previously used heat shields, LOFTID, thanks to its malleable nature, can be squeezed inside a rocket fairing even if its diameter exceeds that of the fairing. Thanks to its larger size, it can then slow down heavier spacecraft during the descent through a planet’s atmosphere. – Tereza Pultarova
Inflatable Mars landing shield completes space-flight test
Thursday, November 10, 2022: A flying saucer-like inflatable shield has completed a descent from Earth’s orbit and splashed down into the ocean, demonstrating what a future Mars landing technology may look like.
The LOFTID experiment (for Low-Earth Orbit Flight Test of an Inflatable Decelerator) launched into space on Thursday (Nov. 10) early in the morning as a secondary payload on the United Launch Aliance’s Atlas V rocket, which also lofted the climate monitoring Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2).
Unlike JPSS-2, which is set to embark on a years-long mission, LOFTID headed straight back to Earth, unfolding into its full size and slowing down in the atmosphere through air drag.
In the future, similar shields may enable landing larger payloads on other planets, as their size is not limited by the width of the payload fairing of the launching rocket. NASA is now evaluating data from the test to see how the novel shield performed. – Tereza Pultarova
Cygnus cargo vehicle reaches space station despite solar panel malfunction
Wednesday, November 9, 2022: The Cygnus cargo spacecraft SS Sally Ride reached the International Space Station despite failing to deploy one of its two solar panels shortly after launch.
The spacecraft, carrying a record-breaking 4.1 tons (3.7 metric tons) of scientific experiments and supplies, arrived at the orbital outpost on Wednesday (Nov. 9) early morning. NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, assisted by her colleague Josh Cassada, captured the capsule with the space station’s robotic arm at 5:20 a.m. EST (1020 GMT) before attaching it to the Earth-facing port of the station’s Unity module.
SS Sally Ride, built by U.S. aerospace giant Northrop Grumman launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, on Monday (Nov. 7) at 5:32 a.m. EST (1032 GMT) atop an Antares rocket. Eight minutes later, the capsule separated from the rocket’s upper stage as planned but failed to deploy one of its solar panels, raising concerns about its ability to reach the space station. The spacecraft made it to its destination despite the setback as scheduled. – Tereza Pultarova
Tropical storm Nicole swirls above the Caribbean
Tuesday, November 8, 2022: Storm Nicole swirls above the Caribbean as it approaches Florida, forcing NASA to consider emergency scenarios for its upcoming Artemis 1 test flight to the moon.
The storm, seen in this video sequence captured by the GOES-17 satellite of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), formed early on Monday (Nov. 7) morning.
Meteorologists expect the storm to strengthen over the coming days and hit Florida’s east coast as a Category 1 Hurricane on Thursday morning. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where the agency’s Space Launch System moon rocket currently sits on a launch pad prepared for its scheduled debut flight, is in the zone expected to be affected by Nicole. NASA has not yet decided whether to roll the rocket back into the assembly building. The Artemis 1 mission, which is the first step in NASA’s plans to put humans back on the surface of the moon, has already been delayed twice due to technical problems. – Tereza Pultarova
Japanese weather satellite observes moon rise from beyond Earth
Monday, November 7, 2022: The odd shape emerging above Earth is actually the moon rising this morning as seen by the Japanese weather forecasting satellite Himawari.
The satellite took the image from its perch in the geostationary orbit 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth where satellites appear fixed with respect to the planet’s surface.
The odd shape of the rising moon is caused by the refraction of light in Earth’s atmosphere, Simon Proud, a scientist at the U.K. National Center for Earth Observation, who shared the image on his Twitter accoun (opens in new tab)t, told Space.com.
“The path of the light is getting bent as it travels through the atmosphere. Just like when you look at a straw in a glass of water,” said Proud. – Tereza Pultarova
Moon rocket returns to launch pad
Friday, November 4, 2022: NASA’s moon-bound Space Launch System rocket is back on launch pad 39B ahead of its debut test launch which will send the uncrewed Artemis 1. mission for a lunar roundtrip.
Engineers rolled out the rocket from the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday, Nov. 4, with lift-off currently scheduled for Nov. 14. The test flight will see an empty Orion capsule fly to the moon and back to verify technical systems ahead of the first flight with astronauts, which may take place in 2024.
The debut flight, which will pave the way for humankind’s return to the moon, has been delayed several times due to ongoing problems with leaking hydrogen. – Tereza Pultarova
Chinese rocket debris spotted by satellite
Thursday, November 3, 2022: The core stage of China’s giant Long March 5B rocket that launched the final module of the country’s space station on Oct. 31 has been photographed hurtling back to Earth by an Earth-observing satellite.
The 23-ton (21 metric tons) rocket stage was caught by cameras on board a nano-satellite operated by Australian start-up HEO Robotics amid an outcry of criticism of China’s reckless treatment of the space junk problem.
Neither China nor all the world’s experts currently analyzing the rocket’s orbit know where it’s going to crash over the weekend. China has previously been slammed for irresponsible behavior as similar out-of-control rocket returns took place following previous launches of its space station modules.
HEO Robotics shared the image on its social media channels on Thursday (Nov. 3), saying: “Our space-to-space imagery and intelligence will continue to support strategic decision-making and accountability efforts by making space transparent.” – Tereza Pultarova
Moon rocket readies for rollout ahead of next debut launch attempt
Wednesday, November 2, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System rocket with the Orion capsule atop readies for its rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center ahead of its planned debut launch later this month.
NASA said it will move the 322-foot-tall (100 meters) rocket onto Pad 39B later this week. The launch, which will propel the uncrewed Orion capsule for a test flight around the moon and back, is currently scheduled for Nov. 14.
Part of the Artemis I mission, the test flight will prove that the rocket and the capsule are fit to carry human astronauts as part of NASA’s renewed push to establish a permanent human presence on Earth’s natural satellite.
NASA previously scrapped launch attempts in August and September due to ongoing problems with hydrogen leaks. – Tereza Pultarova
Falcon Heavy side booster returns to Earth after a successful launch
Tuesday, November 1, 2022: One of the side boosters of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket that lofted a classified U.S. military satellite into orbit on Tuesday (Nov. 1) has been photographed during its return to Earth.
The Tuesday launch was only the fourth for Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket currently in service, and first since 2019. The flight also represented the 50th SpaceX mission of 2022 overall, as the company’s lighter, workhorse rocket Falcon 9 has been lifting off on a weekly basis this year.
The launch of Heavy went without a hitch with both of the rocket’s side boosters returning to Earth smoothly and landing at neighboring launch pads at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket’s central stage didn’t soft land this time as all of its fuel was needed to directly insert the secret USSF-44 satellite into the geostationary orbit 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface. – Tereza Pultarova
Amateur astrophotographer snaps a stunning photo of distant nebula
Monday, October 31, 2022: This stunning image of a dusty region in the Milky Way galaxy known as the Heart Nebula wasn’t taken by any famous space telescope but by an amateur astrophotographer in Cairo, Egypt.
Wael Omar created this image of the nebula, which is located some 7,500 light-years away from Earth, from the roof of his house in Cairo. To overcome the city’s air-pollution and light pollution, both of which obstruct the view of the cosmos, he collected 50 hours of observations over a 10-day period, which he then processed into this stunning image.
The Heart Nebula was discovered by astronomer William Herschel in 1787. Although very faint, the nebula, made of ionized hydrogen gas, is rather large, spanning an area four times the size of the full moon. The nebula is located within the famous W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia. For more of Wael’ stunning images, visit his Instagram page @waelomar_astrophotography. – Tereza Pultarova
Brand new Mars crater exposes subsurface ice
Friday, October 28, 2022: A fresh new crater on Mars created by a meteoroid strike on Christmas Eve 2021 has been photographed by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, revealing layers of surprise subsurface ice.
The space rock impact that created the crater sent powerful shockwaves through Mars’ crust that were immediately picked up by NASA’s InSight lander, which monitors the planet’s seismic activity.
From the strength of the shockwaves, scientists understood that the rock that triggered the earthquake must have left behind a crater. They were eventually able to find the new crater in images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. A 492-foot-wide (150 meters) and 70-foot-deep (21 meters) hole was gaping in the surface with material ejected by the impact scattered as far as 23 miles (37 kilometers) away.
Scientists say this was the largest crater they have ever observed to form on any body in the solar system nearly in real time. The powerful impact exposed blocks of water ice underneath the surface, which surprised scientists as the impact took place in one of the warmest areas near the red planet’s equator. – Tereza Pultarova
The highest resolution movie of the solar corona
Thursday, October 27, 2022: The Europe-led Solar Orbiter spacecraft took the highest-resolution movie ever of the upper layer of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, during its recent close approach to the sun.
The video sequence, taken with Solar Orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), reveals the corona in a tranquil almost motionless state. The video was taken on Oct.13 when Solar Orbiter was at only 29% of the sun-Earth distance from the star. Each pixel in the movie covers an area 65 miles wide (105 kilometers), which means that 17 Earths would fit across the image.
The corona, over a million degrees Celsius hot, is a source of the solar wind and coronal mass ejections, bursts of plasma that affect space weather around Earth. To see the corona this quiet is a bit surprising as the sun’s activity has been picking up lately as the sun nears the peak of its current cycle of activity which will take place in 2025. – Tereza Pultarova
Moon casts shadows over Scandinavia during solar eclipse
Wednesday, October 26, 2022: Europe’s Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-3 captured the brief moment when the moon cast a vast shadow over Scandinavia in Northern Europe during the solar eclipse on Oct. 25.
The eclipse was only partial with a little over 50% of the sun’s disc hidden behind the moon as viewed from Norway. Sentinel-3 flew over the area at 10:12 GMT, just as the eclipse was nearing its maximum. The satellite took the image from its orbit at the altitude of about 500 miles (800 kilometers).
Eastern parts of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions offered even better conditions for observing the Oct. 25 eclipse. In western Siberia, particularly in the Russian city of Nizhnevertovsk, over 86% of the sun’s disk was obscured during the peak of the eclipse. – Tereza Pultarova
Moon’s shadow crossing Earth during solar eclipse
Tuesday, October 25, 2022: The moon’s shadow skimming the face of Earth during the partial solar eclipse on October 25 in a video sequence captured by the European Meteosat weather-forecasting satellite.
The video was processed by Earth-observation scientist Simon Proud of the U.K.’s space science laboratory RAL Space.
“Look near the top of the video, especially on the right hand side: Can you see the moving dark area? That’s the shadow!” Proud said in a Tweet, sharing the sequence.
Meteosat is a geostationary satellite that sits in a fixed spot relative to Earth’s surface at an altitude of 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers). From this vantage point, the satellite, built to observe the movement of cloud system above the planet, captured a complementary view to the celestial spectacle observed from Earth.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth. Depending on the level of alignment between the three bodies, the eclipse can be either total or partial. The eclipse of Oct. 25 reached a maximum near the North Pole where the moon briefly covered 82% of the sun’s visible disk. The eclipse was the second and final solar eclipse of 2022. The next solar eclipse will be a total one for parts of the Southern Hemisphere including Australia and will occur in April 2023. – Tereza Pultarova
Stars being born inside Pillars of Creation
Monday, October 24, 2022: The red dots in this zoomed-in segment of the James Webb Space Telescope’s photo of the famous Pillars of Creation are newborn stars only a few hundred thousand years old.
The Pillars of Creation, part of the Eagle Nebula in the constellation Serpens, are one of the closest star-forming regions to Earth. The Hubble Space Telescope has imaged the spectacular clouds of cosmic dust several times since 1995, but could never penetrate the cloud’s surface. The James Webb Space Telescope, with its heat-detecting infrared vision, has now revealed what is happening inside the Pillars, allowing astronomers to observe star formation in detail and on a large sample of emerging stars. – Tereza Pultarova
Veteran X-ray telescope captures powerful gamma ray burst
Friday, October 21, 2022: Europe’s veteran XMM-Newton space telescope, which detects high energy X-ray radiation emitted by objects in the universe, observed the immediate aftermath of the gamma ray burst of the century.
According to the European Space Agency (opens in new tab) (ESA), which released the image on Friday (Oct. 21), operators pointed XMM-Newton in the direction of the constellation Sagitta, from where the gamma ray burst emerged on Sunday (Oct.9), shortly after the flash was first detected.
The telescope, launched in 1999, then took spectacular images of the energetic rays scattering off interstellar dust as they raced through our galaxy at nearly the speed of light.
Astronomers said the gamma ray burst, officially named GRB 221009A, was one of the strongest ever detected and also one of the nearest. ESA said that many of its spacecraft detected the aftermath of the event, which was so powerful that it ionized Earth’s atmosphere, briefly disrupting long wave radio communication on Earth. – Tereza Pultarova
Hubble catches a galaxy cannibalizing another
Thursday, October 20, 2022: The Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of two strangely interacting galaxies, one of which appears to be sucking out stars from the other.
The two galaxies in question are NGC 2799 (on the left), which is being stretched by the gravitational pull of the larger NGC 2798 galaxy (on the right).
A thin bridge of stars is visible in the image leading from the smaller galaxy to the heart of the larger one.
These two galaxies will likely merge completely in the future, the European Space Agency said in a statement (opens in new tab). But this process is likely going to take hundreds of millions of years. Although the idea of a galactic collision sounds intimidating, stars in both galaxies usually survive such encounters as the vast amount of free space between the balls of matter ensures that they safely avoid each other during the process. – Tereza Pultarova
The James Webb Space Telescope re-images Hubble’s iconic Pillars of Creation
Wednesday, October 19, 2022: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has taken a look at the Pillars of Creation, an object of one of the most iconic images of its predecessor Hubble.
Using its infrared super-vision, Webb peered deeper into the nebula than Hubble ever could, revealing stars being born inside the dense clouds of gas and dust that form the spectacular columns that are part of the Eagle Nebula located in the constellation Serpens some 7,000 light years from Earth.
The image, taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) is virtually sprinkled with sparkles of various sizes and luminosity levels, many of which are nascent stars just springing into life out of the coalescing dust in the Pillar’s clouds. – Tereza Pultarova
Martian pebbles photographed by NASA’s Perseverance rover
Tuesday, October 18, 2022: NASA’s Perseverance rover took an up-close view of Jezero Crater surface covered with sand and regularly shaped pebbles.
The rover took the image using its SHERLOC WATSON camera located at the end of its robotic arm on Sunday, Oct.16, its 589th sol on the red planet. The rover has recently experienced technical problems when collecting its 14th rock sample. The rover was able to collect drill the promising rock, but failed to seal the test tube. The samples the rover collects will be brought to Earth by a return mission in the early 2030s. – Tereza Pultarova
Cosmic dust set aflame by the most powerful explosion ever observed
Monday, October 17, 2022: Rings of cosmic dust set alight by extremely energetic radiation from a record-breaking gamma ray burst glow in this image captured by NASA’s Swift X-ray telescope.
The gamma ray burst GRB 221009A flashed from a galaxy over 2 billion light-years away on Oct. 9 in what has been the most energetic such event ever observed. Gamma ray bursts are the most energetic explosions known to occur in the universe, second only to the Big Bang. They are believed to be a result of supernova explosions of dying supermassive stars. Just as the star collapses into a new-born black hole, it unleashes a beam of light that brightens up the universe for a brief period of time of a few seconds to a couple of minutes.
Telescopes all over the world are now aiming at spot in the sky were GRB 221009A came from, hoping to gather enough data to shed more light on these formidable explosions. – Tereza Pultarova
Crew-4 leaves International Space Station
Friday, October 14, 2022: Four astronauts of the International Space Station’s Crew-4 have left the orbital outpost today in a SpaceX Dragon capsule named Freedom.
The capsule undocked from the space station at 12:05 p.m. EDT (1605 GMT). On board were NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins and the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti, who spent five and a half months in space. Their departure was twice delayed because of bad weather in Florida. The capsule will splashed down near Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday (Oct. 15), NASA officials said.
The quartet of astronauts was replaced by Crew-5 who arrived on Oct.6. — Tereza Pultarova
Mars orbiter takes a stunning shot of Martian moon with Jupiter
Thursday, October 13, 2022: The European Mars Express spacecraft took a stunning sequence of images capturing the Martian moon Deimos with Jupiter and its four main moons.
The High Resolution Stereo Camera aboard the spacecraft captured the sequence consisting of 80 images in February, but the European Space Agency, which operates the spacecraft, only released it on Oct. 13.
The rugged Martian moon Deimos crosses the spacecraft’s view in the sequence with Jovian moons Europe, Ganymede, the gas giant planet Jupiter, and the moons Io and Callisto aligned in the background from left to right.
Mars Express was 460 million miles (745 million kilometers) away from Jupiter when it took the images. – Tereza Pultarova
Solar Orbiter speeds toward the sun
Wednesday, October 12, 2022: The Europe-led Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured this video sequence with one of its high-res cameras as it sped toward the star at the center of our solar system ahead of its close approach, the perihelion, on Oct.12.
The sequence shows the sun’s surface sparkling with activity in its gaseous atmosphere as it evolved between Sept. 20 and Oct. 10. Solar Orbiter makes regular close passes at the sun at about one third of the sun-Earth distance (within the orbit of the planet Mercury). Only NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has ever dared closer to the star, but that spacecraft doesn’t carry a sun-facing camera, as its optics wouldn’t survive in the hellish environment the probe encounters.
Together, these two spacecraft make leaps in our understanding of the behavior of our life-giving star. – Tereza Pultarova
Robots help with experiments on International Space Station
Tuesday, October 11, 2022: NASA’s Astrobee robots are assisting astronauts in conducting experiments aboard the International Space Station.
The Astrobee robots are free-flying robots developed to help astronauts with routine tasks so that the humans can spend more time doing the fun stuff. According to NASA, the cube-shaped robots can take inventories and document experiments using their built-in cameras or even move cargo through the space station.
In this image, shared on Twitter (opens in new tab) by European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the Astrobees are helping to test software designed to optimize spacecraft docking and undocking. – Tereza Pultarova
Webb captured the birth of a distant solar system
Monday, October 10, 2022: The James Webb Space Telescope captured the birth of a distant solar system in a famous star-birthing nebula.
The small U.F.O-like speck in the middle of the image is a young star, only about 1 million years old, surrounded by a protoplanetary disk from which planets are expected to spring to life. The cloud of dust and gas from which the star emerged is the famous Orion Nebula, a well-known star-forming region some 1,344 light years away from Earth located in the constellation Orion.
The James Webb Space Telescope, with its infrared super-vision can peek through the clouds of gas and dust right into the heart of such star-forming regions. – Tereza Pultarova
Europa gets a psychedelic treatment in a new image from Juno’s close flyby
Friday, October 7, 2022: An image of Jupiter’s ocean-bearing moon Europa taken during a recent flyby by NASA’s Juno probe received a psychedelic treatment revealing the mysterious world in unexpected colors.
The picture was taken by Juno’s JunoCam camera during the pass on Sept. 29 and was processed by citizen scientist Fernando Garcia Navarro. Navarro’s unorthodox treatment lent the rather plain white and brownish moon a psychedelic look, creating a bridge between science and art. – Tereza Pultarova
Europe’s delayed Ariane 6 rocket completes upper stage test
Thursday, October 6, 2022: The European rocket-maker ArianeGroup has successfully tested the upper stage of its new, delayed, heavy-lift rocket Ariane 6.
The upper-stage, which can be repeatedly ignited, completed its first hot-fire test at a rocket research laboratory in Lampoldshausen, Germany, on Wednesday (Oct. 5). During the test, engineers simulated conditions the stage will experience in flight. The upper stage, responsible for injecting customer payloads into correct orbits, is the part of the rocket that operates for the longest time. Further tests have to be performed before the rocket can get a green light for its debut flight, which was originally scheduled for 2020. – Tereza Pultarova
Falcon 9 clears launch pad with Crew-5 atop
Wednesday, October 5, 2022: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon Crew Endurance capsule atop is clearing the launch pad in this photo taken during Crew-5’s launch to the International Space Station.
The rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39 A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:00pm EDT (1600 GMT) on Wednesday (Oct. 5). The capsule will take NASA astronauts John Cassada and Nicole Mann, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos’ cosmonaut Anna Kikina to the International Space Station. Kikina is the first Russian to fly to the International Space Station aboard the Dragon spacecraft. The capsule is expected to dock at the orbital outpost on Thursday (Oct. 6) at 4:57pm EDT (20:57 GMT). – Tereza Pultarova
Crew 5 prepares for launch to space station
Tuesday, October 4, 2022: Two NASA astronauts, a Japanese space farer and a Russian cosmonaut have practiced for their launch to the International Space Station today in a final dress rehearsal test.
The quartet makes up Crew 5, which will travel to the orbital outpost tomorrow aboard a SpaceX Dragon Crew capsule. NASA’s John Cassada and Nicole Mann will be joined by Koichi Wakata of Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency and Roscosmos’ cosmonaut Anna Kikina. Kikina is the first Russian to fly to the International Space Station aboard the Dragon spacecraft. The launch comes a day after reports of a Russian nuclear convoy seen heading toward the borders of the invaded Ukraine appeared in the news. The launch is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 12:00 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39 A at the Kennedy Space Center. – Tereza Pultarova
DART’s death witness LICIACube snaps a photo of Earth with the moon
Monday, October 3, 2022: The tiny cubesat that traveled with NASA’s DART mission to the Didymos binary asteroid system to witness DART’s collision with the rock snapped a picture of Earth and the moon.
The picture, released by the LICIACube team on Twitter on Sunday (Oct. 2), was taken just before DART smashed into the asteroid Dimorphos on Monday (Sept. 26).
LICIACube’s purpose was to witness DART’s encounter with the 525-foot-wide (160 meters) asteroid moonlet Dimorphos and inspect the aftermath of the experiment, which marked the first ever attempt to alter the orbit of a celestial body. Dimorphos orbits a larger, 2,560-foot-wide (780 m) rock called Didymos, and it was the orbit of the moonlet around the parent asteroid that the DART mission intended to change. Astronomers are now observing the system to determine whether DART succeeded. The technique might one day be used to deflect a stray rock on a collision course with Earth. – Tereza Pultarova
The closest views of Europa in more than 20 years
Friday, September 30, 2022: NASA’s Jupiter explorer Juno has made a close flyby of the giant planet’s ice-covered moon Europa, providing the most detailed views of this strange world in more than twenty years.
This image, taken as the probe approached the moon, was shared by NASA (opens in new tab) on Twitter on Thursday, September 29, shortly after the closest pass, which took place at 5:36 a.m. EDT (0936 GMT).
During the flyby, Juno zipped at a distance of only 219 miles (352 kilometers) from Europa’s surface, the third closest pass at the moon performed by any spacecraft. The last time scientists could get such an up-close glimpse of Europa, which is one of the likeliest places in the solar system to harbor primitive life, was in January 2000 when NASA’s Galileo probe zoomed 218 miles (351 km) above Europa’s surface. –Tereza Pultarova
Lights off in Florida after hurricane Ian’s rampage
Thursday, September 28, 2022: Satellites captured darkened Florida after devastating Hurricane Ian cut power to millions of homes.
The image on the left, taken on the night of Sept. 29 by the NOAA 20 satellite operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reveals the scale of the power outages that hit Florida after Ian swept across the state on Wednesday afternoon and into the night. The comparison image on the right was taken four days earlier.
The storm made landfall as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane on the southwestern coast near Tampa earlier on Wednesday, and although it weakened into a ‘mere’ tropical storm shortly thereafter, it caused wide reaching destruction that rescue teams are only beginning to assess.
Weather forecasters warn that Ian may strengthen again as it moves northward over South Carolina, bringing torrential rains and powerful winds. – Tereza Pultarova
Hurricane Ian swirls over Gulf of Mexico ahead of Florida landfall
Wednesday, September 28, 2022: The strengthening Hurricane Ian swirls above the Gulf of Mexico in a video sequence taken by NOAA’s GOES 16 satellite as it approaches Florida as a threatening Category 3 storm, forcing people to leave their homes to escape flooding and destructive winds.
Ian emerged over the Caribbean Sea over the weekend as a tropical storm and quickly grew into a hurricane before it reached Cuba on Tuesday (Sept. 27), unleashing heavy rains and sustained winds of 120 mph (192 km/h).
Ian, still gaining power over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, will become a Category 4 hurricane before making landfall in Florida on Wednesday (Sept. 28) night. The storm is then expected to carve a path along the U.S. East coast, ripping through the southern states of Georgia and South Carolina. – Tereza Pultarova
Cubesat witness reveals DART asteroid impact
Tuesday, September 27, 2022: The Italian LICIACube cubesat, which traveled to the binary asteroid Didymos aboard NASA’s asteroid-smashing DART mission, captured these images of DART’s collision with its target space rock.
“Here are the first images taken by #LICIACube of #DARTmission impact on asteroid #Dimorphos,” the LICIACube team tweeted on Tuesday (Sept. 27). “Now weeks and months of hard work are starting for scientists and technicians involved in this mission, so stay tuned because we will have a lot to tell!”
LICIACube is a 31-pound (14 kilograms) spacecraft whose sole purpose is to witness first-hand the impact and the direct aftermath of the ground-breaking DART mission. DART, for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, successfully self-destructed on Monday (Sept. 26), by slamming into the 525-foot-wide (160 m) asteroid moonlet Dimorphos in an attempt to change its orbit around the 2,560-foot-wide (780 m) parent space rock Didymos. The experiment will help NASA develop technology that could one day prevent a devastating asteroid strike on Earth. – Tereza Pultarova
Last photo of asteroid Didymos before DART impact
Monday, September 26, 2022: This may be the last picture of asteroid Didymos before its encounter with NASA’s asteroid-smashing probe DART.
The dot of light in this image, captured by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile on the night of September 25/26, is in fact two asteroids combined — Didymos and its smaller moonlet Dimorphos which will be the ultimate target of the collision with DART.
The VLT, one of the most powerful optical telescopes in the world, will play an important role in the observations of the DART impact aftermath. Astronomers hope the telescope will be able to provide data about the composition and motion of the material ejected from Dimorphos upon the DART crash, and make some measurements of the structure of the asteroid’s surface and interior, ESO said in a statement (opens in new tab). – Tereza Pultarova
Hubble Space Telescope observes a young exploding star
Friday, September 23, 2022: The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a star surrounded by a shroud of gas created by a recent explosion.
The star, called IRAS 05506+2414, is quite young and located some 9,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. The clouds of swirling material that surround the star were stirred up by some sort of an explosion that disrupted the young star system, NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab). The material in those clouds flows away from the star at mind-boggling speeds of 217 miles per second (350 km per second). Hubble took this image with its Wide Field Camera 3. – Tereza Pultarova
Hurricane Fiona grows into a Category 4 storm
Thursday, September 22, 2022: Hurricane Fiona, seen in this image from the European Sentinel 3 satellite, has grown into a mighty Category 4 hurricane, while it moved toward Bermuda which it is expected to skirt later today.
Fiona is the first major hurricane of the 2022 Atlantic season, which had an unusually slow start with no major storms forming above the Atlantic Ocean in the entire month of August for the first time in 25 years.
Fiona, which will stay at a safe distance from the U.S. east coast, unleashed torrential rains and powerful winds on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic earlier this week, causing widespread power blackouts. The hurricane will make landfall on the eastern coast of Canada this weekend as a category 2 hurricane. – Tereza Pultarova
Webb captures distant Neptune in a galaxy-studded sky
Wednesday, September 21, 2022: The James Webb Space telescope captured the solar system’s most distant planet Neptune on the backdrop of a galaxy-studded sky.
The ice giant is hard to image and hasn’t been observed with such clarity since the flyby of NASA’s deep space mission Voyager in 1989. The planet, more than 2.7 billion miles (4.3 billion kilometers) away from Earth, is the closest object in the image, seen on the backdrop of galaxies that are billions of light-years away. – Tereza Pultarova
A striking image
Tuesday, September 20, 2022: On Sept. 12, lightning came quite close to the Artemis 1 rocket out on the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But the lightning didn’t come from a bright blue sky, of course. This image combines NASA’s footage of the strike with a “clear day frame” filter that substitutes the stormy sky with a view of the rocket under calmer weather. -Meghan Bartels
A glimpse of Greece
Monday, September 19, 2022: European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shared an image of Greece’s Santorini island as seen from space. “Greece is the birthplace of countless myths, of philosophy, democracy & the Olympic Games!” she wrote in a tweet (opens in new tab) accompanying a dozen different images of the nation, including mainland locations like Thessaloniki, “enchanting islands” like Samothrace, and a night view of the capital city of Athens.
“I love the intricate patterns of Greece’ coastlines, the tongues of land protruding into the seas, the cities nested in the bays, like Thessaloniki,” she wrote in another tweet (opens in new tab). -Meghan Bartels
The ‘Queen’s’ queue seen from space
Friday, September 16, 2022: The vast amount of people queuing in central London to see the coffin of the deceased British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, can be seen in this image taken on Friday (Sept. 16) by satellites of the U.S. Earth observation firm Maxar Technologies.
The image shows the Westminster Bridge over the river Thames and the area around the iconic Houses of Parliament, where the Queen is lying in state.
According to media reports, the queue reached a length of over 5 miles (8 kilometers) on Friday afternoon, and new arrivals are currently not allowed to join. The mourners have to wait for more than 12 hours to see the Queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall, which will be open round the clock until Monday morning. – Tereza Pultarova
Ancient stones emerge amid punishing drought in Spain
Thursday, September 15, 2022: An ancient monument dubbed the Spanish Stonehenge has emerged from an artificial lake for only the fourth time since the 1960s as a historic drought drained water from the reservoir.
This image of the 5,000-year-old Dolmen of Guadalperal stone circle under the stunning band of the Milky Way adorning the night sky was captured by Portuguese astrophotographer Sérgio Conceição after water levels in the the Valdecañas reservoir in the Extremadura region in western Spain dropped to only 28% of the capacity in July this year.
Conceição told Space.com that it took six hours to reach the monument for the night time shoot via a foot trail, carrying all his photographic equipment.
The monument, consisting of 150 upright granite stones, emerged amid the worst drought on the Iberian Peninsula in 1,200 years, according to Reuters. – Tereza Pultarova
Hubble sees galaxy with massive black hole at its center
Wednesday, September 14, 2022: With the attention of the world’s space aficionados fixed on the endless stream of mind-blowing images beamed to Earth by the James Webb Space Telescope, the older Hubble Space Telescope might feel a little forgotten. But the 32-year-old astronomy workhorse reminds us all that it still has it, most recently with this new image of a spiral galaxy some 189 million light-years away.
The galaxy in the image is called NGC 1961, and astronomers think it has a very active super massive black hole at its center that constantly spouts highly energetic beams of material into the intergalactic space.
NGC 1961, located in the constellation Camelopardalis (near Ursa Minor), is a little less complex than our galaxy, the Milky Way, as its center doesn’t feature a prominent bar of thickly packed stars, gas and dust. – Tereza Pultarova
Full moon rises above ancient castle
Tuesday, September 13, 2022: The harvest moon of 2022 rises above an ancient Portugal castle on the evening of September 10 in this image taken by a local astrophotographer.
The harvest moon, as the September full moon is called, shines bright above the Terena Castle, in the municipality of Alandroal in central Portugal, which dates back to the 13 century.
The image was captured at 10:26 p.m. local by astrophotographer Sérgio Conceição using a Canon EOS R camera with a 300mm lens. – Tereza Pultarova
Wildfires in American West seen from space
Monday, September 12, 2022: Wildfires raging on the North American west coast have been spotted by the European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-3 this weekend.
Massive plumes of smoke rise from multiple regions where fires have erupted in the past days. In the states of Oregon and Washington, 390 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) of land have burnt so far and thousands of residents had to be evacuated. The Cedar Creek Fire, one of the largest in the region, can be seen in the image on the right. – Tereza Pultarova
Trails of Starlink satellites spoil observations of a distant star
Friday, September 9, 2022: Trails of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites spoil this image of the star Albireo some 434 light-years from Earth as astronomers caution the growing number of low-Earth-orbit satellites will make observations more difficult.
The image, captured by astronomer Rafael Schmall, was released by the European Southern Observatory on Twitter (opens in new tab) on Friday, Sept. 9. The observatory, which operates some of the largest telescopes in the world, has recently released a new report (opens in new tab), which looks at the impact of mega-constellations such as Starlink on astronomical research.
ESO says wide-field surveys (such as ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, VISTA, in Chile) will experience the worst effects. Up to 50% of twilight observations made by these survey telescopes can be impacted by unwanted satellite trails, ESO said. – Tereza Pultarova
Smoke trails in the wake of Ariane 5’s record-breaking launch
Thursday, September 8, 2022: This image shows a trail of smoke left behind by the European Ariane 5 rocket after its launch from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Wednesday (Sept. 7).
Ariane 5, Europe’s reliable heavy-lift workhorse booster, blasted off from Kourou on Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. EDT (2145 GMT) into the dusk sky, painting colorful trails above the tropical landscape.
The launch, only the second for Ariane 5 this year, lofted into the geostationary transfer orbit the Eutelsat Konnect VHTS telecommunication satellite, which, with a mass of 7 tons (6.4 metric tons) and a length of 29 feet (8.8 m), is the largest ever telecommunications satellite launched by Ariane 5.
According to the launch operator Arianespace, Ariane 5, first flown successfully in 1998, only has three more launches to go before retiring. The rocket will be replaced by the newer, but considerably delayed Ariane 6. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellites capture sunken bulk carrier in Gibraltar bay
Wednesday, September 7, 2022: A European Earth-observing satellite captured this image of a partially sunken bulk carrier that collided off the coast of Gibraltar with a gas tanker last week.
The accident, which took place on Tuesday August 30, caused a leak of fuel from the damaged bulk carrier and forced the local port to close. Fuel had to be removed from the carrier before rescue operations could commence. The carrier is still stranded in the sea more than a week later. This image was taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites on Monday (Sept. 5) – Tereza Pultarova
Michigan-based photographer captures stunning images of STEVE
Tuesday, September 6, 2022: Michigan-based photographer Isaac Diener captured this stunning image of the Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement (STEVE), an unusual form of aurora borealis, on September 5 on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan.
Diener, who has been photographing auroras for about seven years, said this was only the second time he had seen STEVE “that defined overhead.”
“You can’t predict when it’s gonna happen,” Diener told Space.com in an email. “It appears out of nowhere.”
He added he used the same equipment and settings for his shots of STEVE as he uses to take images of the more common aurora borealis.
“I use a Fujifilm XT-3. And the lens I use is a 16mm lens,” Diener said. “Settings I used on those STEVE pics are Aperture 1.4, 12 seconds, ISO 800.” – Tereza Pultarova
First hurricane of this year’s Atlantic season seen from space
Monday, September 5, 2022: The European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel 3 photographed hurricane Danielle, which formed in the Atlantic Ocean after an unusually quiet period.
For the first time in 25 years, no tropical storm arose from the Atlantic Ocean in the month of August, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Danielle, which broke the quiet spell when it formed from moisture above the central Atlantic on Thursday (Sept. 1), is not threatening the U.S. coast as Atlantic hurricanes usually do, but is instead tracking eastwards toward Europe.
AccuWeather predicts that Danielle, currently a category 1 hurricane will weaken and disintegrate before reaching the south of the U.K. and the western coast of France this weekend. Sentinel 3 took this image on Sunday (Sept. 4). – Tereza Pultarova
Artemis 1 ready for the second go
Friday, September 2, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System rocket waiting on the launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of its second attempt to lift off for its debut moon trip.
The rocket’s first launch attempt was scrubbed shortly before lift-off on Monday (Aug. 29) due to an engine cooling issue. The launch is now scheduled to take place on Saturday (Sept. 3) at 2:17 p.m. EDT (1817 GMT). The rocket will send the uncrewed Orion space capsule for a 42-day-long trip to the moon and back to test critical technologies before a mission with astronauts can take place in 2024. – Tereza Pultarova
Monster Typhoon Hinnamnor threatens Japan
Thursday, September 1, 2022: A mega-typhoon that formed in the Eastern Pacific Ocean brings destructive winds and flooding into southern Japan and South Korea.
The typhoon, named Hinnamnor, is the most powerful tropical storm of the 2022 typhoon season. In this image, taken by the European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel 3 on Wednesday (Aug. 31), the typhoon covers a large portion of the 745-mile-wide (1,200 kilometers) shot.
Forecasters predict wind gusts of up to 185 mph (300 km/h), threatening widespread damage to infrastructure, according to AccuWeather.
The northern summer of 2022 has been full of extremes with record drought and heat waves plaguing most of Europe and extreme floods ripping through Pakistan and parts of the U.S. The Atlantic hurricane season, on the other hand, has been extremely quiet, producing no hurricanes in the month of August, a first in 25 years, according to Bloomberg.– Tereza Pultarova
Jupiter’s clouds revealed in true colors in new Juno image
Wednesday, August 31, 2022: This new image captured by NASA’s Juno Jupiter explorer reveals features in the turbulent atmosphere of the solar system’s largest planet in the same colors a human observer would see them.
Juno took the image on July 5, 2022, during its 43rd close flyby of Jupiter using its JunoCam instrument. The spacecraft was at a distance of 3,300 miles (5,300 kilometers) from the tops of the gas giant’s clouds when the image was taken, zipping by at 130,000 mph (209,000 kilometers per hour).
Citizen scientist Björn Jónsson processed the raw data from Juno to create two images. The image on the left hand side shows the view as it would appear to a human observer in Juno’s position. In the image on the right, Jónsson digitally enhanced color saturation and contrast, allowing the intricate structure of the planet’s atmosphere to come to the fore. – Tereza Pultarova
Devastating floods in Pakistan
Tuesday, August 30, 2022: Devastating floods hit Pakistan after weeks of heavy rains.
This image compares the extent of Hamal Lake in central Pakistan near the city of Larkana in mid-July and on August 29. Both images were captured by the European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-2, which is part of the Copernicus program.
More than two million people have been affected by the floods and thousands displaced. – Tereza Pultarova
Early hours of launch day
Monday, Aug. 29, 2022: All eyes turned to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for today’s scheduled launch of the Artemis 1 SLS megarocket, a crucial test flight in NASA’s plans to return humans to the moon. Fueling began early in the morning, in advance of a two-hour launch window that opened at 8:33 a.m. EDT (1233 GMT). Find continuing coverage of the launch attempt at our live updates page. — Meghan Bartels
Countdown to lift-off!
Friday, August 26, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System moon rocket photographed by an Earth-observing satellite of U.S. company Maxar Technologies as it sits on the launch pad waiting for its debut uncrewed flight, which is scheduled for Monday (Aug. 29).
The image was taken on Thursday (Aug. 25) as the satellite passed south of Cuba, about 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) away from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Looking back at a steep angle, the spacecraft captured the 322-foot-tall (111 meters) rocket peeking through clouds. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronaut fly jets to salute upcoming moon mission
Thursday, August 25, 2022: The jets in this image are piloted by several NASA astronauts who executed this spectacular formation flight to salute NASA’s upcoming moon mission Artemis 1.
The monstrous Space Launch System rocket that will propel an uncrewed Orion capsule for a debut test flight to the moon and back on Monday (Aug. 29), can be seen sitting on its launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida below the four jets.
Astronaut candidates Nichole “Vapor” Ayers and Jack Hathaway were among the pilots of the formation flight. – Tereza Pultarova
Svalbard melting fast amid record-breaking heatwave
Wednesday, August 24, 2022: The Svalbard archipelago has experienced an unprecedented heatwave this summer, which led to extreme glacial melting in this nordic region.
A comparison of images captured by the European Earth-observing Sentinel-2 satellite shows the difference between the extent of the ice cap on Svalbard’s southern island Edgeøya in August 2021 and August 2022. The image reveals that the surface layers of ice and snow disappeared completely in some regions this year, revealing the older ice layers, which are now melting rapidly.
According to the Laboratory of Climatology and Topoclimatology of the Liege University in Belgium, temperatures in Svalbard this summer were 3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 3 degrees Celsius) above long-term averages. – Tereza Pultarova
Artemis I ready to go!
Tuesday, August 23, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on launchpad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after passing its Flight Readiness Review for its debut moon flight next week.
The rocket is now set to lift off on Monday (Aug. 29) at 8:33 a.m. EDT (12:33 GMT). It will propel an uncrewed Orion spaceship on a test flight as part of the Artemis I. mission. If successful, the mission will pave the way for a human return to the moon in 2024 and a landing one year later. – Tereza Pultarova
Amazing auroras entertain astronauts aboard the International Space Station
Monday, Aug. 22, 2022: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shared incredible images of auroras seen from the International Space Station.
In a tweet posted Sunday, Aug. 21, Cristoforetti wrote (opens in new tab) “The sun has been really active lately. Last week we saw the most stunning auroras I have ever experienced in over 300 days in space!”
In the image, the space station can be seen silhouetted against spiraling bright green auroras dancing across the Earth’s upper atmosphere. A high number of sunspots on the sun’s surface have been generating solar flares and coronal mass ejections in recent months, suggesting the sun is entering a more active phase of its regular 11-year-cycle. — Brett Tingley
Hubble reveals scintillating globular cluster on the Milky Way’s heart
Friday, Aug. 19, 2022: The Hubble Space Telescope photographed a glittering stellar cluster at the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way, which could help astronomers unravel some of the mysteries of the galaxy’s past.
The globular cluster called NGC 6540 is located about 17,000 light-years away from Earth toward the center of the Milky Way and consists of thousands of stars packed tightly by their gravitational attraction.
The cluster, which can be found in the night sky in the constellation Sagittarius, could help astronomers learn more about the Milky Way’s past. Globular clusters are very old and by measuring their ages, shapes and structures, astronomers get a glimpse of how galaxies evolve. – Tereza Pultarova
Stunning auroras brighten up view from space station
Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022: With the increased activity of the sun over the past week, astronauts on the International Space Station get treated to spectacular views of polar light displays above the planet.
This image, shared on Twitter (opens in new tab) by NASA astronaut Bob Hines on Wednesday (Aug. 17), coincides with the arrival of a coronal mass ejection, a burst of plasma from the sun, which triggered a geomagnetic storm in Earth’s atmosphere.
“Absolutely SPECTACULAR aurora today!!! Thankful for the recent solar activity resulting in these wonderful sights!,” Hines said in his Tweet.
While Earthling’s won’t be able to enjoy such magnificent spectacles, auroras can currently be spotted from areas farther away from the poles than usual. In the U.S., these natural light displays might brighten up the sky as far south as New York, and the northern parts of Europe can get a glimpse too. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA’s moon rocket heading to launch pad
Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System moon rocket photographed on its journey to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of its debut flight later this month.
The rocket, which will send the uncrewed Orion space capsule for an test trip around the moon as part of the Artemis I mission on Aug. 29, left the iconic Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building at about 10 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Aug. 16 (0200 GMT Wednesday, Aug. 17).
The 365-foot-tall (111 meters) rocket travels in an upright position on a giant crawler vehicle that moves at a speed of only 1 to 2 miles an hour (1.6 to 3.2 km/h), making the whole roll-out process last about 11 hours. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA’s moon rocket ready for roll-out ahead of debut flight
Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System rocket captured inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center ahead of its roll out to the launch pad.
The rocket is scheduled to launch an uncrewed Orion space capsule for a round trip to the moon and back on August 29 to test technologies for future human exploration of Earth’s natural satellite. – Tereza Pultarova
A different kind of crater lake
Monday, Aug. 15, 2022: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has one of the best views of our planet from her perch on the International Space Station, and in a tweet posted Thursday (Aug. 11), she shared the view with the people of Chad to celebrate the nation’s independence day.
“We explore space, and sometimes space comes to us,” she wrote (opens in new tab) introducing an image of the Gweni-Fada meteorite impact crater, which she noted is about 9 miles (14 kilometers) across and formed more than 300 million years ago. The view displays the crater’s characteristic circular shape; this crater currently contains a crescent-shaped lake where a river flows into the impact scar. —Meghan Bartels
Betelgeuse recovering after mysterious dimming episode
Friday, Aug. 12, 2022: Betelgeuse underwent a strange dimming event in 2019. Now scientists looking at data from the Hubble Space Telescope and several other observatories believe the red giant star blew its top in 2019, and that Betelgeuse‘s behavior is still somewhat temperamental as a result.
Astronomers put together a timeline of the events showing that the star likely had a huge surface mass ejection. That event made a huge area of Betelgeuse blast off into space. The outburst was 400 billion times more massive than a typical coronal mass ejection that the sun experiences. — Elizabeth Howell
NASA ‘moonikin’ readies for Artemis 1 launch
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022: The German space agency caught a glimpse of a NASA ‘moonikin’ during final preparations for a lunar mission. While DLR was loading some mannequins on board Artemis 1, engineers uploaded an image of the NASA human simulant, who is named after Apollo 13 engineer Arturo Campos.
“Our #LunaTwins have taken their places. This past week, Helga & Zohar have been assembled & installed in the capsule at . Waiting inside to greet them – Commander Moonikin Campos who is also one of the ‘passengers’ on board #Artemis I,” DLR tweeted (opens in new tab).
Artemis 1 aims to launch no earlier than Aug. 29 for a round-the-moon mission that will last more than a month. The mission will use these mannequins to assess the space environment for radiation, shaking and other stresses of spaceflight to make sure the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft are ready to carry humans later in the 2020s. — Elizabeth Howell
SpaceX does a static fire test for Starship rocket
Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022: SpaceX is getting ready for its first orbital flight of Starship. SpaceX conducted a “static fire” test of its Starship Super Heavy Booster 7 on Aug. 9, 2022 at its launching facility in south Texas.
“Team at Starbase completed a single Raptor engine static fire test of Super Heavy Booster 7 on the orbital launch pad,” SpaceX wrote in a tweet describing the test.
SpaceX will need to secure full approval from the Federal Aviation Administration before making the launch, which will be Starship’s first in orbit and the first mission of any sort since 2021. SpaceX hopes to make that journey later in 2022 to prepare Starship for NASA human Artemis program missions to the moon and eventually, human Mars exploration. — Elizabeth Howell
NASA astronauts train with xEMU lunar spacesuit
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022: NASA astronaut Don Pettit shared an image of he and fellow agency astronaut Doug Wheelock, each wearing an xEMU spacesuit prototype. The NASA spacesuit is being assessed at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Pettit wrote, for its ability to support astronaut activities on the moon.
“Learning how to clean our spacesuits before ingressing the lander,” Pettit wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab). “Everyone wore full face respirators. Lunar regolith has health implications to crewed #artemis missions.”
NASA initially planned to use xEMU in support of its Artemis program, which aims to put boots on the surface no earlier than 2025. Earlier this year, however, the agency asked commercial companies to manufacture Artemis spacesuits after the NASA Office of the Inspector General raised concerns about development delays with the xEMU. The companies making lunar spacesuits will have access to xEMU data during development of their own astronaut outfits. — Elizabeth Howell
‘Celestial cloudscape’ shines in Orion Nebula
Monday, Aug. 8, 2022: A new image from the Hubble Space Telescope appears to be peering into the depths of a watercolor cloud. The “celestial cloudscape”, as European Space Agency officials termed it (opens in new tab), is in reality a swirl of gas surrounding a star nursery in the famed Orion Nebula.
Hubble was capturing activity around Herbig Haro (HH) object 505. HH objects are glowing areas around fresh stars, which occur as winds flowing off from these newborns slams swiftly. into regional gas and dust.
“In the case of HH 505, these outflows originate from the star IX Ori, which lies on the outskirts of the Orion Nebula around 1000 light-years from Earth,” Hubble officials added. “The outflows themselves are visible as gracefully curving structures at the top and bottom of this image, and are distorted into sinuous curves by their interaction with the large-scale flow of gas and dust from the core of the Orion Nebula.” – Elizabeth Howell
Water level so low in Europe’s Rhine river that cargo ships may no longer be able to pass
Friday, August 5, 2022: The prolonged spell of hot and dry weather that affects Europe this summer has caused the water level in the river Rhine, one of western Europe’s major waterways, to drop so low that cargo ships may no longer be able to pass.
A comparison of two images captured by the European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-2 a year apart, on Aug.5 2021 and Aug. 3 2022, reveals the severity of the situation near the city of Gendt in the Netherlands.
Measurements taken in Lobith, near the Dutch border with Germany, revealed that the river is near record low levels. Earlier this week, the Dutch government declared the official water shortage situation in the country. – Tereza Pultarova
Thunderstorms seen from space
Thursday, August 4, 2022: Lightnings brightening up the night sky over eastern Africa on the backdrop of the star-studded blackness of the universe can be seen in this image taken from aboard the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Bob Hines, who is a member of the current Crew-4 aboard the orbital outpost, shared the image on his Twitter account on Sunday, July 31.
“Thunderstorms over eastern Africa,” Hines said in the tweet. “The @Space_Station is a wonderful post to observe the beautiful intricacy of our planet!” – Tereza Pultarova
NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins checking science experiments at International Space Station
Wednesday, August 3, 2022: There is no up and down in microgravity. It only depends on the viewpoint. So NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins is really not hanging from the ceiling of the International Space Station while checking science experiments.
Watkins, who arrived at the orbital outpost as part of Crew-4 on board SpaceX’s Dragon capsule Freedom on April 27, shared the image on her Twitter account on Wednesday (Aug. 3).
“Just another day in the life on @Space_Station, doing microscopy on the ceiling,” Watkins said in the tweet. Our Lab module is jam-packed with science, but access to three dimensions opens up a lot more space! Here, I’m checking out how immune cells age in microgravity in support of the Immunosenescence study.”
Watkins is the first black woman on a long-duration mission to the International Space Station. She is also among the candidates for NASA’s future moon mission. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronauts see wildfires raging from International Space Station
Tuesday, August 2, 2022: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have an overview of our planet struggling amid the warming climate.
This image, shared by European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on her Twitter account on Tuesday (Aug. 2), reveals a massive cloud of smoke rising from a wildfire devouring a rye field in western Poland on the final July weekend.
“We spotted a huge wildfire near Nowa Wieś Zbąska, Poland, this weekend,” Cristoforetti said in her tweet. “According to local news it destroyed over 50 hectares [0.2 square miles] of grain. Our thoughts are with the residents and the farmers.”
The fire is only one of many that has ravaged Europe this summer as the continent broiled in a record-breaking heatwave. – Tereza Pultarova
Svalbard melts mid record-breaking temperatures
Monday, August 1, 2022: Ice caps in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard are melting fast this summer as temperatures reach 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) above the historical average.
This image, captured by the European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-2 on July 31, shows a large amount of sediments flowing into the Arctic Sea from the islands, which are among the northernmost inhabited areas of the world.
The rapidly melting snow and ice in areas near the polar circle, contribute to the rising sea levels, a major consequence of progressing climate change. The summer of 2022 is exceptionally warm in Svalbard with temperatures up to 9 degrees F (5 degrees C) above the average levels for 1981 – 2010. — Tereza Pultarova
Jupiter icy moon explorer coming together in NASA’s clean room
Friday, July 28, 2022: NASA’s Europa Clipper mission that will search for traces of life on Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa is being assembled in NASA’s clean room ahead of its planned launch in 2024.
The spacecraft, which will be about the size of a large passenger van, is coming together at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California with components and science instruments “streaming in from across the United States and even Europe,” NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab).
Europa Clipper is expected to launch in October 2024 on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. – Tereza Pultarova
Eyes in space are getting ever sharper
Wednesday, July 27, 2022: The Binhai Railway Station in northern China is revealed in astonishing detail in this image taken from space by a satellite of U.S.-based Earth observation company Maxar Technologies.
Maxar digitally enhances images taken by their satellites with the resolution of 12 inches (30 centimeters) per pixel to create stunningly detailed photographs in which each pixel covers a square of only 6 by 6 inches (15 by 15 cm).
Instead of blurry features in the original images, fine details emerge on the background, increasing the amount of information users, including governments, the military and city planners can derive from each image.
Even though they are hundreds of miles away, these eyes in space are watching us ever more closely. – Tereza Pultarova
Juno sees hurricane’s on Jupiter’s North Pole
Wednesday, July 27, 2022: NASA’s Juno probe snapped these mesmerizing images of powerful storms around the North Pole of Jupiter during its close approach to the planet on July 5.
The storms are over 30 miles (50 kilometers) deep and hundreds of miles wide, NASA said in a statement. Scientists are still trying to understand what drives the formation of these storms in Jupiter‘s atmosphere and gives them their striking colors. Observations have revealed that these cyclones have different colors based on the direction of their spin and their location. NASA asks space enthusiasts and citizen scientists to help them categorize these storms and other atmospheric phenomena captured by Juno as part of the Jovian Vortex Hunter project. – Tereza Pultarova
Wildfire near California’s Yosemite National Park captured from space
Tuesday, July 26, 2022: NASA’s Earth-observing satellite Landsat 9 captured this image of a wildfire that erupted in California’s Yosemite National Park on Friday (July 22).
The image reveals the extent of the burnt area as well as the active fire line where hundreds of firefighters are battling to stop the flames. The blaze, dubbed the Oak Fire, has devoured over 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) of parched forest over the weekend.
The fire, experts believe, was helped by the progressing climate change, which exacerbates California’s droughts, stripping vegetation of moisture in a way unseen before. – Tereza Pultarova
Sunrise brightens up Chinese space station in a video taken from new module
Monday, July 25, 2022: The rays of sun appearing through Earth’s atmosphere on the backdrop of China’s space station were filmed by cameras aboard the new Wentian module that arrived at the orbital outpost on Monday (July 25).
Wentian, launched on Sunday (July 24), joined the Tianhe core module of the Tiangong space station. The structure is still waiting for its third module, called Mengtian, which is expected to launch later this year. The three modules together will form a T-shaped structure that China hopes to operate for up to 15 years. – Tereza Pultarova
First European woman ever performs a spacewalk
Friday, July 22, 2022: Italian Samantha Cristoforetti has become the first European woman to perform a spacewalk.
Cristoforetti, who is a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, spent seven hours in the vacuum of space outside the International Space Station on Thursday, July 21, working with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev to configure the European Robotic Arm installed on the Russian segment of the space station. The pair also hand deployed several small satellites.
The milestone spacewalk took place amid tensions between Russia and its western partners over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Russian space agency Roscosmos released images of the current Russian space station crew posing with flags of the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine where Russian military forces killed thousands of civilians in the past months. – Tereza Pultarova
Details of intricate Martian canyon system revealed in a new image
Thursday, July 21, 2022: The European Mars Express spacecraft captured an image revealing massive ruptures in Martian crust that form part of the 2,500-mile-long (4,000 kilometers) Valles Marineris canyon system.
The image, captured on Apr. 21 but only released by the European Space Agency (ESA) on Jul. 20, shows the Ius and Tithonium Chasmata, or trenches, in the western part of the Valles Marineris. Ius Chasma, on the left, is 522 miles long (840 km), while the Tithonium Chasma, on the right, stretches over 500 miles (805 km). At 4.4 miles deep (7 km), the trenches could nearly swallow Earth’s highest mountain Mount Everest.
Valles Marines is the largest canyon system in the solar system. If put on Earth, it would stretch from the north of Norway all the way to Sicily in the south of Italy. The canyon system is ten times longer, 20 times wider and five times deeper than the U.S. Grand Canyon. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite captures cloudfree Europe amid sweltering heat wave
Wednesday, July 20, 2022: The European weather forecasting satellite Meteosat observed as the nearly cloud-free Europe broiled in a record-breaking July heatwave.
The video, capturing views of Europe from 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) afar during the past two weeks, reveals a high pressure ridge over north-west Africa, funneling hot air into western Europe.
This ridge kept low pressure systems at bay, preventing build up of clouds and rain, the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), which operates the Meteosat satellite, said in a statement. (opens in new tab)
The heatwave broke temperature records in several countries including Portugal, which reached an all time high of 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) and the usually cooler U.K., which for the first time in recorded history saw temperatures exceed 105 degrees F (40 degrees C). – Tereza Pultarova
Wildfire smoke drifting over the sea
Tuesday, July 19, 2022: Smoke from devastating wildfires in southwest France drifts over the Bay of Biscay in this image captured by the European Meteosat weather-forecasting satellite.
The wildfire is one of many blazing through Europe amid a record-breaking heatwave, which has seen temperatures attack 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) even in usually milder climates, such as in the U.K.
According to the European environmental agency Copernicus, over 150 square miles (390 square kilometers) of land have burnt in the past ten days in France, Spain and Portugal alone.
The highest alert for the risk of wildfire breakouts is in place today in Spain, France, Italy and the U.K. – Tereza Pultarova
Hubble captures illusory mirror galaxies through gravitational lens
Monday, July 18, 2022: The mirror galaxy at the center of this image is a mirage caused by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, in which a super-massive object bends light, acting like a magnifying glass.
The image, obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope, captures a galaxy called SGAS J143845+145407, which sits behind a massive object that causes the lensing effect.
Gravitational lensing is nature’s help for astronomers, enabling them to observe stars and galaxies that would otherwise be too distant and faint to see. The image was obtained during a campaign focused on the oldest galaxies in the universe, and scientists hope it will help them piece together how first galaxies emerged in the early universe. – Tereza Pultarova
Europe’s Vega C rocket lifts off for its debut flight into the cloudy South American sky
Friday, July 15, 2022: The European Vega C rocket is captured in this image seconds after lifting off for its debut flight on Wednesday, July 13.
The European Space Agency, which oversaw the development of Vega C, shared the image on its Twitter account, saying: “We love this shot from one of ESA photographer Stephane Corvaja’s remote cams! @vega_sts lit up the rainy gray skies of Kourou earlier this week.”
The rocket, which shot off from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, after a two-hour delay, is an enhanced version of the earlier Vega and can lift larger and heavier payloads compared to its predecessor.
Vega C is expected to play an important role in helping Europe plug the gap in its access to launch services that it struggles with after having ceased cooperation with Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. The French company Arianespace, which manages the European launcher program, used to offer launches on Russia’s Soyuz rockets in addition to the European homegrown Vega and the heavy lift Ariane 5. But Russia terminated the cooperation as a retaliation for sanctions imposed by western countries in response to the situation in Ukraine. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronauts observe the sun peeking through Earth’s atmosphere
Thursday, July 14, 2022: The sun emerges above Earth’s horizon, sending first morning rays through the planet’s atmosphere, in an ethereal snapshot taken from the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren shared the image on his Twitter account on Wednesday, July 13.
“The sun is peeking through the atmosphere!” he said in the tweet.
Lindgren arrived at the space station in April this year as a commander of the Crew-4 mission aboard SpaceX’s Dragon Freedom. Lindgren and his crewmates, NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins and Robert Hines, and the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti will return to Earth later this year. – Tereza Pultarova
Europe’s new Vega C rocket lifts off for maiden flight
Wednesday, July 13, 2022: Europe’s new Vega C rocket lifted off for its debut flight from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, after a two-hour delay.
The rocket, sporting two new engines in its first and second stages and an upgraded reignatable upper stage, delivered into orbit an Italian scientific satellite called LARES-2, which will measure the distortion of space-time caused by the rotation of Earth. The rocket also gave a ride to six cubesats built by a range of European companies. – Tereza Pultarova
James Webb Space Telescope reveals a magnificent view of the Carina Nebula
Tuesday, July 12, 2022: This striking image of the Carina Nebula was captured by the James Webb Space Telescope and revealed during the mission’s first release of scientific-level images to the general public on Tuesday, July 12.
The telescope, which observes the surrounding universe in infrared light, which is essentially heat, can peer through dust and see features that are obscured to optical telescopes, such Webb’s predecessor Hubble.
The image, one of five unveiled during the long-awaited release, reveals a cosmic landscape of dusty mountains and valleys strewn with glittering stars. In this region, fittingly called the Cosmic Cliffs, new stars are just being born, a process that has previously been impossible to observe. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite captures vicious wildfire raging in Utah
Monday, July 11, 2022: The European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-2 captured this image of a disastrous wildfire near Fillmore, Utah.
The Halfway Hillfire broke out on Friday, July 8, reportedly after a group of young men failed to put out a campfire. The fire has since devoured about 12.5 square miles (32.4 square kilometers) of land.
This image was taken when Sentinel-2 flew over the site on Saturday, July 9. – Tereza Pultarova
Debris ejected as OSIRIS-REx probe touches down at asteroid Bennu
Friday, July 8, 2022: A video captured by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission as it touched down on near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 2020 reveals an unexpected response of the space rock’s surface.
The touchdown, during which the probe collected 9 ounces (250 grams) of dust from Bennu, stirred a large amount of dust and gravel and left behind a 26-foot-wide (8 m) crater. The mission team described the aftermath of the impact as “frightening” and completely unexpected as it revealed that the make-up of the asteroid, which has a small probability of hitting Earth in the next two hundred years, is quite different than expected.
The soft and “fluid” composition of the asteroid could make a possible deflection attempt in the future more complicated, scientists said. – Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX flies rocket stage for record-setting 13th time
Thursday, July 7, 2022: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Thursday, July 7, with a first stage flown for the record-breaking 13th time.
The launch, SpaceX’s 50th to date, lofted into low Earth orbit a batch of 53 Starlink internet satellites.
The first stage, which previously launched SpaceX’s first-ever crewed flight, the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station in 2020, successfully landed on a droneship off the Florida coast about 8 minutes after lift-off. – Tereza Pultarova
Heatwave in Paris captures from space
Wednesday, July 6, 2022: An instrument mounted on the International Space Station captured a record-breaking heatwave that struck France’s capital Paris in June.
The ECOSTRESS instrument, operated by NASA, revealed soaring ground temperatures in the city on June 18 as Paris struggled through a scorching day on which air temperatures exceeded the average for this time of the year by up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
The image clearly shows the cooling effect of parks, vegetation and water bodies, which appear in green and blue hues amid the redness of the boiling developed areas. – Tereza Pultarova
Rocket Lab celebrates CAPSTONE send-off
Tuesday, July 5, 2022: Rocket Lab ground controllers celebrate the successful dispatch of NASA’s CAPSTONE cubesat on its historical cruise to the moon.
The microwave-sized satellite separated from the Rocket Lab-built Photon spacecraft bus on Monday (July 4), after completing an engine burn that set it on a course toward Earth’s natural satellite.
“That feeling when you send a satellite into deep space for @NASA, unlocking a new interplanetary exploration capability with the Photon spacecraft you helped to design and build,” Rocket Lab said on Twitter.
Rocket Lab launched CAPSTONE on its Electron rocket from New Zealand on June 28. The mission is the first beyond Earth’s orbit for the company, which is known for launching small satellites into low orbits around our planet. – Tereza Pultarova
Posing on Etna like on the moon
Monday, July 4, 2022: A pair of lunar robots designed by German engineers took this selfie to conclude a successful exercise of autonomous operations on the moon-like slopes of Italy’s Mount Etna.
The robots practiced teamwork as they navigated the challenging terrain near the volcano’s smoking crater on their own. The robots completed a set of tasks including the collection of samples and analysis of their chemical compositions. They even distributed radio antennas across the volcanic dunes to set up a radio astronomy observatory, pretending it was the far side of the moon.
The robots were built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). – Tereza Pultarova
Training for the moon
Friday, July 1, 2022: An experimental moon exploration robot called Scout is being tested in the moon-like terrain of Italy’s Etna volcano.
The robot, developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) was built to navigate in areas that are difficult to access. In this video, it can be seen moving with confidence on the volcanic soil, which is similar in texture to lunar regolith. – Tereza Pultarova
RocketLab’s moonbound rocket leaves a stunning trail after launch
Thursday, June 30, 2022: RocketLab’s Electron rocket lifted off from New Zealand’s Māhia Peninsula on Tuesday (June 28) with a pioneering moon-bound satellite aboard, leaving a stunning trail in its wake.
The CAPSTONE mission, operated by NASA, is expected to reach the moon’s orbit in November this year. The small satellite will test the stability of the orbit NASA plans to use for its Gateway lunar space station. The launch was RocketLab’s first aiming for deep space. The company is known for launching small satellites into low Earth orbit. – Tereza Pultarova
The faintest ever asteroid observed by Very Large Telescope
Wednesday, June 29, 2022: The Very Large Telescope in Chile managed to track an extremely faint asteroid to help rule out its projected collision with Earth.
The asteroid, dubbed 2021 QM1, was discovered in August last year. Initial observations indicated it was bound to slam into our planet in 2052. The asteroid then disappeared for several months in the glare of the sun as it approached the star. When it reemerged in the darker sky again, it was too far away for most ground-based telescopes to see. But the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, one of the most powerful optical telescopes in the world, rose to the challenge and detected the asteroid when it had a magnitude of 27 (the sun, by far the brightest object in the sky, has a magnitude of minus 27). On top of that, astronomers had to find the super-faint space rock on the backdrop of the star-studded band of the Milky Way. The observations enabled astronomers to finetune the calculation of the space rock’s orbit and confirm it won’t hit Earth in the end. – Tereza Pultarova
Goodbye to Cygnus
Tuesday, June 28, 2022: European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti posing at the hatch between the International Space Station and the Cygnus cargo vehicle, which is expected to depart on Tuesday (June 28).
The image, taken just before the closing of the hatches, reveals the Cygnus interior packed with waste and unwanted items, which the capsule will take with it for a burn-up in Earth’s atmosphere.
“Last night on ISS for Cygnus!” Cristoforetti wrote in a tweet. “Vehicle is fully loaded, hatch is closed, robotic arm has grappled it for unberthing early tomorrow morning. Thanks for bringing us supplies, for the orbit reboost and…. last but not least… for taking our trash!”
Cygnus, developed by American firm Orbital Sciences, which was since acquired by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, is not designed to return to Earth, unlike SpaceX Cargo Dragon capsule.
During its mission, Cygnus performed its first reboost of the International Space Station’s altitude. The maneuver, completed on Saturday (June 25), was only partially successful and raised the station’s altitude by one tenth of a mile, NASA said in a statement. Cygnus previously tested the capability in 2018. – Tereza Pultarova
Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket assembled before tests
Monday, June 27, 2022: The core of Europe’s new heavy-lift Ariane 6 rocket has been assembled at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana ahead of crucial tests that will pave the way for the rocket’s debut flight next year.
Over the past weeks, engineers have connected the rocket’s core and upper stages, which will now be transported to the Ariane 6 Mobile Gantry and lifted into a vertical position ahead of their transfer to the launch pad.
The Ariane 6 rocket will fly in two configurations, with 2 or 4 strap-on boosters depending on the payload needs. The rocket’s debut flight was originally expected to take place in 2020. – Tereza Pultarova
Pioneering mission sends selfie home
Friday, June 24, 2022: The solar-sailing spacecraft LightSail 2 has sent a selfie home as it completes its third year in orbit around Earth.
The mission is testing an innovative technology, which relies solely on the energy of the sun to stay afloat. However, the mission is fighting against an increasing atmospheric drag, which is a result of the intensifying activity of the sun, and will likely fall into the atmosphere within the next few months, the Planetary Society, which operates the mission, said in a statement (opens in new tab).
Mercury dazzles in a new snap by Europe’s BepiColombo probe
Thursday, June 23, 2022: The BepiColombo space probe took its second look at Mercury on Thursday, June 23, during a gravity-assist flyby designed to adjust the spacecraft’s trajectory so that it can enter orbit around the solar system’s innermost planet in 2025.
BepiColombo, a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), launched in 2018 for a seven-year cruise to the scorched little planet.
Mercury is notoriously difficult to reach as any spacecraft traveling in its direction needs to constantly brake against the gravitational pull of the sun. To do that, mission specialists designed a trajectory that takes the spacecraft on a long and winding road, which uses the gravity of other celestial bodies to slow down the spacecraft. BepiColombo has to perform nine flybys overall before it can enter the orbit of Mercury: one at Earth, two at Venus and six at Mercury itself. This image was taken during BepiColombo’s second encounter with Mercury, when the probe passed only about 120 miles (200 km) above the planet’s crater-riddled surface. – Tereza Pultarova
Traces of past flooding spotted on surface of Mars
Wednesday, June 22, 2022: This image captures the Hebrus Valles channels in the northern lowlands of Mars, which were likely created by a catastrophic flooding in the past.
The image, captured by the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) on board of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in late May, shows channels of uniform width suggesting persistent flows eroding the landscape around two impact craters. The features may be a result of volcanic processes that involved fluids flowing over the basalt sediment layers, NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab). – Tereza Pultarova
Satellites watch as NASA’s lunar rocket readies for crucial test
Tuesday, June 21, 2022: Satellites of U.S. Earth observation company Maxar Technologies captured this image of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket as it prepared for a critical pre-launch test.
The image, taken on Saturday (June 18), shows the 350-foot (106 meters) rocket erected on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The rocket, with the Orion crew capsule atop, went through the so-called wet dress rehearsal on Monday (June 20), which saw the technical team run through the complete pre-launch sequence including fuelling and countdown minus only the engine ignition and launch.
The test, which concluded at 7:37 p.m. EDT (2337 GMT), was plagued with technical glitches and the countdown was halted several times due to hydrogen fuel leaks.
SLS is expected to launch the Orion capsule for an uncrewed test flight to the moon and back later this year. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA’s moon rocket ahead of crucial test
Monday, June 20, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System rocket sits prepared on a launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of a major test that will clear the way for the rocket’s first uncrewed test flight.
The space agency’s meteorologists confirmed a favorable weather forecast for the rocket’s fuelling on Monday, which is the first step of the so-called wet dress rehearsal test. During this test, the operation teams will conduct the entire pre-launch procedure including the countdown, minus only the actual lift-off.
For tanking to proceed, there must be less than a 20% chance of lightning within 5 nautical miles (5.8 miles or 9.3 km) of Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the rehearsal is taking place, NASA said in a statement.
Additionally, winds must be lower than 37.5 knots (43.1 mph or 69.5 km/h) and the temperature must be above 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), the agency stated.
NASA has not yet set the date for the uncrewed launch, which will propel the Orion capsule for a lunar round trip to test technical systems ahead of the first flight with humans. – Tereza Pultarova
Mesmerizing auroras shimmer in a video taken from International Space Station
Friday, June 17, 2022: Glorious auroras shimmer in Earth’s atmosphere in a video sequence taken from the International Space Station.
European Space Agency’s astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who is currently aboard the orbital outpost as part of the Crew 4 mission, posted the video on her Twitter channel on Sunday, June 12. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite captures retreat of Patagonian glacier
Thursday, June 16, 2022: A comparison of satellite images from 2018 and 2022 shows the retreat of the Viedma Glacier in Patagonia.
The glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is jointly controlled by Chile and Argentina. The visualization, based on data from the European satellite Sentinel 2, shows how much the glacier’s 1.2-miles-wide (2 kilometers) terminus, its end, which meets the Pacific Ocean, retreated over the past four years. Both images capture the situation in June when winter nears its peak in the Southern Hemisphere. According to NASA, Patagonia’s ice fields are among the fastest melting glacier areas in the world. – Tereza Pultarova
Strawberry Supermoon rises above NASA’s lunar rocket
Wednesday, June 15, 2022: The Strawberry Supermoon rises above Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 14, 2022 where the agency’s moon rocket sits ready for tests.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion crew capsule atop is currently being prepared for the so-called wet dress rehearsal test, during which engineers will go through the entire pre-launch procedure including the countdown.
The rocket is expected to launch Orion on its uncrewed test flight to the moon and back later this year ahead of the first mission with astronauts. – Tereza Pultarova
Milky Way from the International Space Station
Tuesday, June 14, 2022: The band of the Milky Way can be seen stretching across the star-studded blackness of the universe in an image taken from the International Space Station.
The long-exposure photograph, shared by NASA Johnson Space Center (opens in new tab) on Flickr on May 30, was captured while the space station flew over the Pacific island of Vanuatu, northeast of Australia. The glow of Earth’s atmosphere can also be seen in the image. – Tereza Pultarova
How stars move in the Milky Way galaxy
Friday, June 10, 2022: A visualization of data from the galaxy-mapping telescope Gaia reveals the rotation of the Milky Way.
In this image, darker stars move toward Earth, while the brighter ones speed away from us. The visualization is based on measurements of the so-called radial velocities (the speeds of motions towards or away from the observer) of 30 million stars in the Milky Way.
The measurements were released as part of a large data dump on June 13. These measurements enable astronomers not only to map the galaxy as it is today, but also to model its evolution into the past and future. – Tereza Pultarova
A “colorful” crater on Mars reflects varied chemical composition of planet’s surface
Friday, June 10, 2022: An usually colorful crater on the surface of Mars was captured by the European Mars Express probe.
The image, taken on April 25 but only released on June 8, reveals a crater in the Aonia Terra region in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet. The unnamed crater is about 18 miles (30 kilometers) wide and nestled within a landscape scarred by winding channels. These channels likely carried liquid water in the past, some 3.5 to 4 billion years ago, the European Space Agency said in a statement. (opens in new tab)
The hues and colors in the image likely reflect a varied chemical composition of the surface. – Tereza Pultarova
Early June ice flows in Hudson strait
Thursday, June 9, 2022: This beautiful time lapse of ice flows in Hudson Strait off the coast of north-western Canada has been captured by the European Sentinel 3 satellite in early June.
The video captures dynamic ice flows in the strait, which connects Hudson Bay with the Labrador Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ice covering the bay every winter usually starts breaking up when warmer weather arrives in May. The dynamic flow is influenced by the southbound Labrador current and its interaction with outflow from Hudson strait. – Tereza Pultarova
Humanoid robot Justin being controlled by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from aboard International Space Station
Wednesday, June 08, 2022: A humanoid robot called Justin is being controlled by European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from aboard the International Space Station.
Cristoforetti shared the image on her Twitter account on Wednesday (June 8).
“This is Surface Avatar, testing teleoperation of the Justin robot with a slick haptic interface (“force feedback”) and different degrees of robot autonomy,” Cristoforetti said. “Was fun!”
The Justin robot is a project of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The agency has been developing the humanoid robot since 2008. First experiments with remote control from the space station took place in 2018. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronauts watch Etna volcano eruption from space
Tuesday, June 07, 2022: Italy’s volcano Mount Etna has been spewing out lava in the past weeks and astronauts have enjoyed the spectacle from the International Space Station.
Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shared this image of the fuming Etna on her Twitter account on Sunday (June 5).
“Mt. Etna still erupting today, while the sun glint turned the sea into a pool of silver,” Cristoforetti said in the tweet (opens in new tab).
Etna is Europe’s most active volcano, but fortunately, its slow-burning eruptions have killed only 77 people in the past 2,700 years, according to the Royal Geographical Society. (opens in new tab)
The current eruption is no different. No damage to property or evacuations have been reported. – Tereza Pultarova
NASA’s moon rocket heading to launch pad for major test
Colors of the wind
Monday, June 06, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System rocket is being rolled out to the launch pad for another go at the wet dress rehearsal test after a scrapped attempt in April due to fuelling problems.
The rocket, with the Orion capsule on top, began its four-mile journey from the iconic, Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Complex 39B on Monday (June 6) at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT).
The rocket, which is expected to launch the Orion capsule for an unmanned test flight to the moon and back later this year, is set for the next wet dress rehearsal attempt in late June. During the wet dress rehearsal, the engineering teams will simulate the entire pre-launch procedure including fuelling and countdown, minus only the launch itself. – Tereza Pultarova
June 3, 2022: Inspiration4 astronaut Haley Arceneaux showed off the Pride flag in a tweet (opens in new tab) Wednesday (June 1), taken during her three-day mission in September 2021. “Happy Pride Month to all who celebrate and all who support,” Arceneaux wrote. “I took this photo in space as we were passing over a sunset. It’s like the earth was celebrating by showing off these beautiful colors.” The billionaire-backed Inspiration4 was an all-civilian mission aboard the SpaceX Resilience spacecraft that raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Arceneaux’s workplace, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. — Elizabeth Howell
Stacking the space shuttle
Thursday, June 2, 2022: A forthcoming museum launch exhibit will show off how the space shuttle used to look on the launch pad. The California Science Center broke ground Wednesday (June 1) for its Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, the new permanent home (opens in new tab) of NASA’s retired space shuttle, Endeavour. After 10 years of horizontal display, the spacecraft will eventually be repositioned to stand vertically alongside an external tank and twin solid rocket boosters in its liftoff position. Standing underneath the exhibit will simulate what only a few individuals used to see up close, during pad preparations to send Endeavour into space. — Elizabeth Howell
Feeling blue: The difference between Uranus and Neptune’s colors is hazy
Wednesday, June 1, 2022: Now we might know why Neptune is a deeper blue in the face than Uranus. It comes down to a deep atmospheric layer that is full of haze. Neptune tends to recycle methane particles more quickly than Uranus in that middle layer, so the haze builds up on Uranus and turns it whiter. We might get lucky enough to take a closer look in a few decades, since a new government document suggests a Uranus mission should be NASA’s highest-priority large planetary science mission and launch in the 2030s. — Elizabeth Howell
A bright shooting star shines above Red Planet-like rock
Tuesday, May 31, 2022: This image of a tau Herculids meteor looks like it belongs on Mars, but it actually was taken from a ruddy area of Nevada. The shooting star was captured May 30 from the Valley of Fire State Park as Earth ran into numerous shards from comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, or SW3. There was no storm of shooting stars as some had hoped, but many meteor watchers around the world caught bright streakers like this one. — Elizabeth Howell
Stunning South Pole lunar eclipse on the aurora backdrop
Friday, May 27, 2022: This stunning time-lapse photograph shows the May 15 total lunar eclipse above an astronomical observatory at the South Pole on the backdrop of magnificent auroras and the star-studded polar sky.
The picture was taken by Aman Chokshi, a PhD astronomy student at the University of Melbourne, Australia, who is currently spending a year working at the South Pole Telescope in Antarctica, which studies microwave radiation emitted by the cosmos as part of the black-hole watching Event Horizon Telescope network.
“Last Monday we were lucky to see a total lunar eclipse from the South Pole,” Chokshi told Space.com in an email. “The moon gradually dimmed and turned orange. It was crazy to see how the sky dimmed and the millions of stars of our Milky Way galaxy emerged. At the peak of the eclipse, a band of glowing auroras surged across the sky. A truly spectacular evening!”
Chokshi (whom you can see in the picture together with a friend waving into the camera from the edge of the roof of the telescope building), took the images that make up this time lapse over a 5-hour period.
“The background image is a single 20-second exposure with a sigma 24-70 millimeter lens, at f/2.8, iso 3200 on a Sony A7RVI, captured at the peak of the eclipse,” Chokshi said. “The array of moon images were captured with an old sigma 400mm film lens, on a Sony A7S, on a skywatcher star adventurer tracker. The final composite image contains images of the moon every four minutes.”
It took some courage and resourcefulness for Chokshi to take the images. The South Pole, currently nearing the peak of the winter period, is submerged in permanent darkness, and the polar expeditioners have to put up with some of the most extreme weather conditions one can experience on Earth.
“We had a sustained wind of 15-20 knots, which brought the ambient temperature of minus 60 degrees Celsius [minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit] to minus 80 degrees C [minus 112 degrees F] with windchill,” Chokshi said. “Both cameras had to be housed in special heated foam boxes which I made, to prevent them from freezing.”
For more stunning South Pole and astronomy photography, follow Chokshi on Instagram @aman_chokshi
— Tereza Pultarova
Starliner lands safely, concluding a successful delayed test flight
Thursday, May 26, 2022: Boeing’s Starliner space capsule has safely touched down at a missile range in New Mexico, concluding a successful, although more than a year delayed, test flight.
Starliner, which is set to join SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station, spent five days docked at the orbital outpost running through a series of tests.
The capsule launched on May 19 atop United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V Rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The test flight was Boeing’s second uncrewed attempt to demonstrate the performance of the technology, after its first orbital test flight failed to reach the space station in December 2019 due to software glitches. The capsule may perform its first flight with astronauts by the end of this year. – Tereza Pultarova
The last rays of the setting sun seen from International Space Station
Wednesday, May 25, 2022: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this stunning image of the sun setting above south-African Botswana on May 7.
The image captures the very last rays illuminating Earth’s horizon seen from the space station’s vantage point at 263 miles (432 kilometers) above the planet.
Astronauts at the space station get to enjoy stunning views on a regular basis including mesmerizing auroras displays and lunar eclipses. You can explore NASA Johnson Space Center’s Flickr stream (opens in new tab) for more ‘out of this world’ photography. – Tereza Pultarova
InSight Mars lander’s death by dust
Tuesday, May 24, 2022: NASA’s InSight Mars lander is slowly losing its battle against the dust, which has accumulated on its solar panels, preventing the spacecraft from generating the energy it needs to continue science operations.
This animation compares the state of InSight’s solar panels in December 2018, shortly after its arrival to the red planet, and on April 24, 2022, after 1,211th Martian days. In a Twitter post (opens in new tab), NASA described the second image as InSight’s “final selfie”.
Because of the dust cover, it has been increasingly difficult to keep InSight going and it is likely that NASA will kill the mission completely in the very near future.
The robotic arm, which was used to take those images, is expected to be put into a “retirement position” by the end of May, NASA said in a statement (opens in new tab), because the solar panels no longer produce enough electricity to make it move. – Tereza Pultarova
Boeing’s Starliner spaceship docked at International Space Station
Monday, May 23, 2022: After years of delays and one failed attempt, Boeing’s Starliner space taxi has finally reached the International Space Station during its second unmanned orbital test flight.
The capsule, which will share the task of ferrying astronauts to and from the orbital outpost with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, docked at the station on Friday night (May 20) after a 26-hour spaceflight.
This picture was taken by European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti shortly after the docking. Later, NASA astronaut and Cristoforetti’s crew mate Kjell Lindgren commented on the picture (opens in new tab)on Twitter: “It’s been a busy and amazing 3 weeks. So excited to be back in orbit with Exp67 and to welcome Boeing #Starliner to the International Space Station.”
Starliner is expected to remain at the International Space Station until the middle of this week. It will perform a series of orbital tests before returning to Earth when weather permits. – Tereza Pultarova
Boeing’s Starliner on its way to International Space Station
Friday, May 20, 2022: Boeing’s Starliner capsule finally lifted off for its second test flight to the International Space Station after many months of delays.
The capsule, designed to carry astronauts to the orbital outpost, launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 6:54 p.m. EDT (2254 GMT) on Thursday (May 19).
The flight, the Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2), is Boeing’s second uncrewed demonstration after Orbital Flight Test 1, which failed to reach the space station in December 2019.
The mission was originally scheduled for last summer but was postponed due to issues with the capsule’s propulsion system. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronaut’s spine after six months in space
Thursday, May 19, 2022: NASA astronaut Raja Chari shared this image of his spine as he is recovering after six months on the International Space Station.
Chari, who was a member of the Crew-3 mission, which returned to Earth on May 5 on board of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, shared the image on Twitter (opens in new tab) together with other images of him being subject to various tests in order to evaluate the state of this body after his orbital mission.
“Science continues after @NASA_Astronauts return from @Space_Station,” he said. “For months #Crew3 will gather data for human research experiments to compare to in-flight. Our brain & vestibular system are nearly back to normal, but it’ll take months to get muscles & bones back to normal.”
In the absence of gravity, astronauts’ muscles and bones weaken in spite of the rigorous exercise regime that the spacefarers follow. This physical deterioration is one of the biggest obstacles for long-term human presence in space. Studies by NASA (opens in new tab)suggest that it may take more than a year for the bones to regain their former strength. – Tereza Pultarova
Sun’s poles photographed in greatest detail ever
Wednesday, May 18, 2022: The European Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured the closest ever images of the sun’s south pole, an area responsible for the generation of the star’s magnetic field.
The image was taken during Solar Orbiter’s closest pass at the sun on March 26. At that point, the spacecraft, fitted with ten scientific instruments, approached the star at the center of our solar system as close as one third of the sun-Earth distance.
Studying the sun’s poles is one of the main tasks of Solar Orbiter. Polar regions are believed to play a key role in the generation of the sun’s magnetic field, which drives its 11-year-long cycle of activity, the periodic ebb and flow in the generation of sunspots, solar flares and eruptions. – Tereza Pultarova
Saharan dust storm heading to America
Tuesday, May 17, 2022: A massive cloud of dust swept up by winds over the Saharan desert has been photographed by European satellites as it moves over the Atlantic Ocean towards the Caribbean.
The image, taken on May 15 by the Sentinel-3 spacecraft, shows the dust cloud drifting westward from the coast of Senegal and Gambia. The European Copernicus environment monitoring service predicts the cloud will reach the Caribbean within a few days.
This is not the only dust event going on around Africa these days. Massive dust storms have been observed also on the Arabian Peninsula. – Tereza Pultarova
Eclipsed moon above a SpaceX Falcon Heavy monument in California
Monday, May 16, 2022: The fully eclipsed moon photographed above a monument of SpaceX’ Falcon Heavy rocket in Hawthorne, California, during the Flower Moon eclipse on May 15.
The Flower Moon eclipse was the first of 2022 and was best observed from the Americas. Skywatchers in Western Africa and Europe also got to see parts of it. The eclipse, the longest total lunar eclipse in 33 years, started at 10:28 p.m. EDT on Sunday May 15 (0228 GMT on May 16) and reached its peak May 16 at 12:11 a.m. EDT (0411 GMT). The moon spent 85 minutes inside the Earth’s full shadow, the umbra. – Tereza Pultarova
Years-long imaging campaign reveals Milky Way’s central black hole
Friday, May 13, 2022: The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, can be seen in this image taken by the Event Horizon Telescope as part of a ground-breaking campaign.
Scientists have known for decades that there is a strange source of radio waves, known as Sagittarius A*, at the center of our galaxy. Over the years, more and more evidence has been gathered that this source must be a supermassive black hole. Any residual doubt has now been removed when the worldwide Event Horizon Telescope partnership succeeded to take the first ever photograph of this strange source, revealing a characteristic shadowy center surrounded by a glowing disk of material falling into the black hole.
The image of Sagittarius A* is only the second image of a black hole ever taken, the first being that of the much larger black hole at the center of the galaxy M87, which was released in 2019. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite spots panda-shaped power plant in China
Thursday, May 12, 2022: A radar Earth-observing satellite of European aerospace firm Airbus recently captured this image of the Datong Panda Power Plant in China.
The plant, in China’s northern Shanxi province, covers 0.4 square miles (1 square kilometer) and generates 50 Megawatt of solar power, about the annual consumption of 3,600 four-person households. The plant was built in 2017 with support of the United Nations Development Program. – Tereza Pultarova
First made-in-Europe micro launcher unveiled
Wednesday, May 11, 2022: A British rocket company Orbex has unveiled a prototype of its reusable micro-rocket Prime as it prepares for its debut flight later this year.
Prime is the first of Europe’s micro launcher developments to achieve this stage. Designed to take into orbit satellites of up to 440 lbs (200 kilograms), the rocket uses renewable fuel biopropane, which slashes the carbon footprint of each launch by over 90% compared to equivalent rockets relying on fossil fuels.
Orbex will launch its rockets from Space Hub Sutherland, a new spaceport in the north of Scotland. It plans to fly Prime for the first time by early 2023 in what it hopes will be the first vertical launch from U.K. soil. However, other companies are working on their rockets as well and have plans to launch soon. – Tereza Pultarova
Matthias Maurer getting into shape after return to Earth
Tuesday, May 10, 2022: European Space Agency’s (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer is working out at a gym at Europe’s astronaut center in Germany to regain muscle mass after his return to Earth from the International Space Station.
“Back in the gym – the weights all seem heavier than I remember 😆,” Maurer said in a tweet (opens in new tab). “This rehabilitation helps restore my muscles & bones after 177 days in microgravity & engages muscles we need on Earth but don’t use so much in space.”
Maurer splashed down off the coast of Florida together with his Crew-3 team mates NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron on Friday, May 6. – Tereza Pultarova
Partial solar eclipse above Chile’s Atacama Desert
Monday, May 9, 2022: A partial solar eclipse above the Atacama Desert in Chile provided a fascinating spectacle to sky-watchers at the popular astronomy destination.
This photograph was taken by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) photographer Pavel Horálek on April 30 near San Pedro de Atacama above the Moon Valley, a popular tourist spot featuring lunar-like landscapes.
The photo shows a sequence of images capturing the progress of a partial solar eclipse, caused by the moon obscuring a fraction of the sun’s disk. The sequence was taken over a period of 54 minutes just as the sun was about to set, ESO said in a statement.
The dusty glow of the image is caused by volcanic ash from the Hunga Tonga volcano, which erupted in January this year in the Southern Pacific Ocean. The ash, ESO said in the statement, remains suspended in the atmosphere nearly four months after the eruption. – Tereza Pultarova
Crew-4 Dragon capsule splashes down off Florida coast
Friday, May 6, 2022: SpaceX Dragon Endurance capsule carrying Crew-4 astronauts from the International Space Station splashed down off the coast of Florida at 12:43 a.m. EDT (0443 GMT) on Friday, May 6.
NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron were on board of the capsule together with European astronaut Matthias Maurer. The quartet returned to Earth after almost six months in orbit. – Tereza Pultarova
Tornado lighting flashes seen from space
Thursday, May 4, 2022: Thunderstorms that produced devastating tornadoes across Oklahoma and Texas on Wednesday (May 4) provided a spectacular lighting display that was captured by weather satellites monitoring the planet.
This video sequence was taken by the GOES East satellite, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), from its vantage points over 22,000 miles (36 kilometers) above Earth.
On the ground, severe hail storms with hail larger than golf balls were reported in some areas, together with wide-scale power outages and damage to infrastructure caused by strong winds. – Tereza Pultarova
Boeing’s Starliner capsule meets rocket ahead of ISS test launch
Wednesday, May 4, 2022: Boeing’s Starliner space capsule has been transported into the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will be placed atop an Atlas V rocket ahead of a test flight to the International Space Station on May 19.
The heavily delayed test flight will be Boeing’s second attempt to reach the space station. The capsule previously failed to reach the orbital outpost in December 2019.
If successful, the Orbital Flight Test-2 will clear the way for Boeing to join SpaceX in ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. – Tereza Pultarova
Helicopter catches Rocket Lab’s Electron booster in first step toward reusability
Tuesday, May 3, 2022: Rocket Lab has managed to retrieve the first stage of its Electron rocket using a helicopter in a milestone step toward reusability.
The rocket lifted off from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand site with 34 satellites aboard at 6:49 p.m. EDT (2249 GMT) on on Monday (May 2). Its first stage returned to Earth some 15 minutes later, gliding down on a parachute, and was caught by a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter using a hook. The chopper later hauled the booster to a recovery ship, which will transport the hardware back to terra firma for inspection and analysis. – Tereza Pultarova
Shiny! Crew Dragon Endeavour readies for undocking
Monday, May 2, 2022: Crew-3’s ride home is undergoing final checkouts ahead of an expected landing no earlier than Thursday (May 5), weather depending. Matthias Maurer, an astronaut from the European Space Agency, took this snapshot amid final checkouts for the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance. “Soon it’s time to head back to Earth & I’m looking forward to home, but also getting a bit wistful that it’ll soon be time to say goodbye,” Maurer tweeted (opens in new tab) Sunday (May 1). — Elizabeth Howell
The universe through the eyes of the James Webb Space Telescope
Friday, April 29, 2022: NASA has released a batch of images acquired by the James Webb Space Telescope, which is in the final stages of its post-launch commissioning phase.
The images show that the telescope’s instruments are aligned and nearly ready to start delivering the ground-breaking science the telescope was built for. – Tereza Pultarova
Crew-4 celebrates arrival at space station
Thursday, April 28, 2022: European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is receiving a warm welcome from the International Space Station crew as she arrives to begin her rotation together with her Crew-4 mates.
Crew-4 arrived at the orbital outpost on Wednesday (April 27) at around 7:37 p.m. EDT (2337 GMT) after what was described as the quickest ever trip to the space lab.
In addition to Cristoforetti, NASA astronauts NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins were on board of the Dragon Freedom crew capsule, which launched atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday morning from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. – Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX Dragon Freedom capsule ready for Crew-4 launch
Tuesday, April 26, 2022: The SpaceX Dragon Freedom space capsule sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida one day ahead of the launch of the Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station.
The capsule will take to the orbital outpost NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and the European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti. The four will replace Crew-3 astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron (of NASA), and ESA’s Matthias Maurer.
The mission will lift off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) on Wednesday (April 27) at 3:52 a.m. ET (7:52 GMT). – Tereza Pultarova
Axiom private space farers return home
Monday, April 25, 2022: Astronauts of the private Axiom-1 mission to the International Space Station are finally returning home after a delay caused by bad weather at the landing site.
The SpaceX Dragon Endeavor capsule with the four crew-members aboard undocked from the orbital outpost on Sunday (April 24) at 9:10 p.m. EDT (1310 GMT on April 25) after a 16-day stay. The mission, the first privately funded U.S. space tourism mission to the ISS, was originally expected to leave the station on Saturday (April 23).
The capsule is expected to splash down later today off the Florida coast. – Tereza Pultarova
Earth on Earth Day
Friday, April 22, 2022: The European Meteosat weather satellite has captured this image of Earth from its vantage point 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the planet on March 23.
The European Space Agency (ESA), which co-develops the Meteosat satellites for the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), released the image on Friday (April 22) as part of the Earth Day celebrations.
Celebrated since 1970, the Earth Day is becoming an increasingly solemn event as reports of worsening symptoms of climate change keep coming from the global scientific community.
A report released today by the European environment program Copernicus, for example, stated that atmospheric concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide, the two most troubling greenhouse gasses, have reached new record levels in 2021. – Tereza Pultarova
Tonga islands recovering three months after volcanic eruption
Thursday, April 21, 2022: Islands in the Kingdom of Tonga in the southern Pacific Ocean are recovering after a devastating volcanic eruption that rippled through the region in January, satellite images reveal.
The image above compares the situation in Tonga on January 24, ten days after the Hunga Tonga Hunga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano blasted thousands of tonnes of dust and lava into the atmosphere, with the state of the islands on April 14, exactly three months after the eruption.
Both images were captured by the European Earth observation satellite Sentinel 2.
The April image (on the right), reveals that vegetation has regenerated after the eruption, which triggered a devastating tsunami but also deposited volcanic ash across the kingdom.
The volcanic explosion, observed by satellites in real time, was so powerful that the material it ejected was detected at record-breaking altitudes of more than 30 miles (55 kilometers). – Tereza Pultarova
Crew-4 practices for upcoming launch
Wednesday, April 20, 2022: Astronauts of the upcoming Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station practiced for their launch last night during a dress rehearsal test.
Crew-4, with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti, is expected to launch for the orbital outpost on Saturday, April 23.
They will fly aboard a brand new SpaceX Dragon crew capsule, which they named Freedom. Crew-4 will replace Crew-3 (NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA’s Matthias Maurer), who have been on the ISS since November 2021. – Tereza Pultarova
Stuck ship freed after a month-long grounding
Tuesday, April 19, 2022: Satellites of U.S. Earth observation company Planet captured this image of the Ever Forward container ship finally freed after a month-long grounding in the Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Maryland.
The ship, operated by the same company as Ever Given, which infamously blocked the Suez Canal last year, hit the shallow sea floor while sailing from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia, on March 13.
This image, capturing the 1,100-feet (330 meters) long Ever Forward finally unstuck, was taken on April 14 by Planet’s SkySat satellite. It shows crews offloading containers onto barges in an effort to lighten the ship. Fortunately, Ever Forward ran aground in a more open area and did not cause a traffic disruption unlike Ever Given last year. – Tereza Pultarova
Jovian moons shine in composite image
Monday, April 18, 2022 — The Jovian (or Galilean) moons Io, Europa and Ganymede show off their different surface features in a new citizen scientist photo based on data from the NASA Juno mission at Jupiter. Io is a volcanic moon and Europa and Ganymede are both icy moons. The moons will be imaged in more detail during the NASA Europa Clipper and European Space Agency JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) missions that will explore Jupiter’s moons in the 2030s. — Elizabeth Howell
Percy spots its parachute
Friday, April 15, 2022 — A flash of white in the far distance shows the location of NASA Perseverance‘s parachute, which the rover caught while passing by on the way to the delta. It’s a signal of just how far the rover has come since landing on Feb. 18, 2021. “I’ve also spotted a few interesting things along the way,” the Perseverance Twitter account said (opens in new tab) Thursday (April 14) about the image. “Look closely and you’ll see part of the parachute and capsule I rode in on. Definitely wouldn’t be where I am without them!” — Elizabeth Howell
NASA’s moon rocket in the moonlight
Thursday, April 14, 2022: NASA engineers powered up the lunar Space Launch System megarocket overnight as it awaits its final pre-launch test at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA shared the image on Twitter on Thursday (April 14) in the morning, but later said in a blog post that fuelling of the rocket’s core state had to be halted due to out-of-order temperature readings in the liquid oxygen tank.
The rocket is expected to launch for its debut moon-bound flight as part of the Artemis I mission later this year with an uncrewed Orion space capsule atop. The mission will serve as a technology test ahead of planned missions with astronauts. – Tereza Pultarova
Gloomy sunrise on Mars
Wednesday, April 13, 2022: NASA’s InSight Mars lander has taken this image of Martian sunrise on April 10, the lander’s 1,198 sol (Martian day) on Mars.
The rover captured the early morning snapshot using its robotic arm-mounted Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) at about 5:30 am, just as the sun was climbing above the horizon, the lander team said on its website.
“I’ll never tire of sunrise on Mars,” the mission team said on Twitter. “Each morning, that distant dot climbs higher in the sky, giving me energy for another round of listening to the rumbles beneath my feet.”
InSight investigates the geology of Mars including its seismology. The lander has made headlines by detecting Martian earthquakes.– Tereza Pultarova
Hubble spots largest comet ever
Tuesday, April 12, 2022: The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the largest comet ever, a hundred thousand times greater than the average comet in the solar system.
Hubble photographed comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) in January this year at a distance of 2 billion miles (3.2 billion kilometers). At such a distance, scientists couldn’t directly see the comet’s nucleus, but had to process the images to subtract the comet’s bright tail.
They found that Bernardinelli-Bernstein was 85 miles (137 km) across, which is 50 times larger than nuclei found in the vast majority of all known comets. The comet’s mass is around 500 trillion tons (454 million metric tonnes), a hundred thousand times greater than the mass of a typical comet orbiting the sun. – Tereza Pultarova
Hubble peers inside distant galaxy to see how stars form
Monday, April 11, 2022: The Hubble Space Telescope snapped this image of a distant galaxy to see stars arising from clouds of gas.
The galaxy, called Messier 91, or M91, is quite similar to our own Milky Way. Some 55 million light-years away from Earth, M91 is a spiral galaxy with a bar of thickly packed stars, dust and gas running across its center. Inside this bar lurks a supermassive blackhole that astronomers previously managed to weigh using earlier Hubble observations (that measurement, however, was rather rough, giving the black hole’s mass as somewhere between 9.6 and 38 million masses of our sun).
This newly released image captures the galaxy, which is located in the constellation Coma Berenices, in ultraviolet and visible light. – Tereza Pultarova
First American civilian mission to space station launches
Friday, April 8, 2022: NASA administrator Bill Nelson watches as the first American civilian mission to the International Space Station launches atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Axiom 1 mission’s Crew Dragon capsule with four commercial spacefarers aboard will reach the orbital outpost on Saturday (April 9) at 7:45 a.m. EDT (1145 GMT). The four space travelers (former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, real-estate magnate and acrobatic pilot Larry Connor, music and sustainability entrepreneur Mark Pathy, and investor and former Israel Air Force pilot Eytan Stibbe) will stay at the space station for ten days.
They will join the current crew of three NASA astronauts (Raja Chari, Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn), German astronaut Matthias Maurer and three Russian cosmonauts (Sergey Korsakov, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev). – Tereza Pultarova
Milestone missions side by side at NASA’s spaceport
Thursday, April 7, 2022: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket and SpaceX Falcon 9, which will launch the first U.S. civilian mission to the International Space Station later this week, stand ready on their launchpads at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA shared the image on Twitter, saying this was the first time “two different types of rockets & spacecraft made to carry humans are on the sister pads at the same time.”
While SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the Axiom 1 mission to the International Space Station on Friday (April 8). The SLS rocket is currently waiting for its wet dress rehearsal on launchpad 39B. The wet dress rehearsal is the final pre-launch test designed to take the rocket through the entire pre-launch sequence including countdown. The test was halted earlier this week due to problems with the mobile launcher platform. SLS is expected to lift off for the unmanned Artemis I technology demonstration mission later this year. –Tereza Pultarova
Astronomer snaps newly discovered asteroid zooming past Earth
Wednesday, April 6, 2022: An Italian astronomer snapped this image of the 24 to 52 feet (7.2 to16 meters) wide asteroid 2022 GN1 as it zoomed past our planet at about one third of the Earth-moon distance on Wednesday (April 6).
The asteroid, discovered only on Friday (April 1), was never thought to pose any danger to Earth. As predicted, the space rock passed 86,370 miles (139.000 kilometers) from Earth’s surface on Wednesday, enticing observers and astrophotographers.
This image, taken about 75 minutes before the asteroid’s closest approach, is a result of a 30-second exposure taken remotely by a robotic telescope located in Ceccano, Italy, about 55 miles (90 km) from Rome.
Gianluca Masi, who operates the telescope, said in a statement (opens in new tab)that the telescope tracked the moving asteroid, which appears as a small dot at the center of the image, with the surrounding stars appearing like long trails. – Tereza Pultarova
Meteor camera reveals scope of satellite pollution
Tuesday, April 5, 2022: A camera looking for falling stars captured a jumble of satellite trails in one of its worst ever nights of satellite pollution.
The camera, located in North Oxfordshire, England, is operated by the UK Meteor Network. In the image, released on Twitter by the camera’s owner, skywatcher and science communicator Mary McIntyre, star trails can be seen as curved lines and aircraft trails as dotted lines. The rest are streaks left behind by passing satellites. In the hodgepodge, one can find about 25 meteor streaks.
“Overnight on 2nd3rd April 2022 our southwest facing #RaspberryPi #meteorcamera UK0006 based in North Oxfordshire had one of the worst nights we’ve ever seen for #satellitetrails,” McIntyre said in the tweet. “Just horrendous :(“
Meteor cameras survey large portions of the sky in a relatively low resolution, looking for sudden bright streaks caused by space rocks passing through Earth’s atmosphere. The long-exposure shots reveal the tracks of everything else that passes through the sky in the given night.
Satellite trails have become a major concern for astronomers especially since SpaceX started launching its Starlink satellite megaconstellation. The trails obscure the view of distant stars and brighten the night sky, making observations more difficult. The problem affects even some of the most pristine locations such as Chile’s Atacama Desert. – Tereza Pultarova
Lightning strikes support tower as NASA’s moon rocket prepares for test
Monday, April 4, 2022: Four lighting bolts struck the umbilical tower of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on Saturday (April 2) as the powerful booster was being prepared for tests on the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of its debut moon-bound flight later this year. The eerie images were captured on camera by a NASA TV crew.
The 322 feet (98 meters) mega rocket will blast off toward the moon later this year for the uncrewed Artemis I mission, which will serve as a technology demonstration before the first flight with astronauts. The first crewed mission is currently scheduled for 2024.
Three of the strikes, which zapped tower two, were low intensity, NASA said in a statement. The fourth, a higher intensity bolt, struck tower one.
The rocket was rolled out on the launch pad two weeks ago in preparation for its wet dress rehearsal, a final test, during which engineers will fuel the rocket and run it through the entire pre-launch sequence including the countdown.
The engineers, however, decided to halt the tests on Sunday due to problems with fans that maintain pressure in the mobile launcher platform. – Tereza Pultarova
Mesmerizing aurora glows over rural Saskatchewan
Friday, April 1, 2022: This breathtaking view of glowing auroras over the Canadian province of Saskatchewan was captured by nature photographer Jenny Hagan (opens in new tab) on Wednesday (March 30) after two coronal mass ejections triggered a geomagnetic storm that reinvigorated Earth’s polar lights displays.
Jenny, from Eatonia in West Central Saskatchewan, used her Canon 80D camera on a tripod, shooting at 3 second intervals to capture the “lively night sky dancing above me”.
“Sights like these are plentiful here in rural Saskatchewan,” she told Space.com. “The land of the living sky, and the relics of the past offer up great foreground for the wide open views of our sky. Sitting millions of miles away from us, space modules, satellites, and stars contribute to the light that breaks through the dark.”
The mysterious building in the picture is an abandoned 1950s farmhouse near the tiny village of LaPorte, Jenny added. – Tereza Pultarova