SMAP Takes to the Skies

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard is seen in this long exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 2, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) via NASA http://ift.tt/1Abg9qy
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Hubble’s View of the Polar Ring of Arp 230

This image shows Arp 230, also known as IC 51, observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Arp 230 is a galaxy of an uncommon or peculiar shape, and is therefore part of the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies produced by Halton Arp. Its irregular shape is thought to be the result of a violent collision with another galaxy sometime in the past. The collision could also be held responsible for the formation of the galaxy’s polar ring.

The outer ring surrounding the galaxy consists of gas and stars and rotates over the poles of the galaxy. It is thought that the orbit of the smaller of the two galaxies that created Arp 230 was perpendicular to the disk of the second, larger galaxy when they collided. In the process of merging the smaller galaxy would have been ripped apart and may have formed the polar ring structure astronomers can observe today.

Arp 230 is quite small for a lenticular galaxy, so the two original galaxies forming it must both have been smaller than the Milky Way.  A lenticular galaxy is a galaxy with a prominent central bulge and a disk, but no clear spiral arms.  They are classified as intermediate between an elliptical galaxy and a spiral galaxy.

European Space Agency

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Flickr user Det58 via NASA http://ift.tt/1yLHxoB

Delta II Rocket With Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission Onboard

A worker is seen preparing the launch gantry to be rolled back from the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard, at the Space Launch Complex 2, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Now scheduled to launch early Friday morning, SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls via NASA http://ift.tt/1Kbxxvx

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Ready for Jan. 29 Launch

The sun sets behind Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) with the Delta II rocket and the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory protected by the service structure on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls via NASA http://ift.tt/1zyp1a3

Sounding Rockets Launch Into an Aurora

The interaction of solar winds and Earth’s atmosphere produces northern lights, or auroras, that dance across the night sky and mesmerize the casual observer. However, to scientists this interaction is more than a light display. It produces many questions about the role it plays in Earth’s meteorological processes and the impact on the planet’s atmosphere.

To help answer some of these questions, NASA suborbital sounding rockets carrying university-developed experiments — the Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment (M-TeX) and Mesospheric Inversion-layer Stratified Turbulence (MIST) — were launched into auroras from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. The experiments explore the Earth’s atmosphere’s response to auroral, radiation belt and solar energetic particles and associated effects on nitric oxide and ozone.

This composite shot of all four sounding rockets for the M-TeX and MIST experiments is made up of 30 second exposures. The rocket salvo began at 4:13 a.m. EST, Jan. 26, 2015. A fifth rocket carrying the Auroral Spatial Structures Probe remains ready on the launch pad. The launch window for this experiment runs through Jan. 27.

Image Credit: NASA/Jamie Adkins

> More: M-TeX and MIST Experiments Launched from Alaska via NASA http://ift.tt/1yL9zFf

Rocky Mountain National Park Viewed From the International Space Station

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Rocky Mountain National Park on Jan. 26, 2015, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry Virts posted this photograph, taken from the International Space Station, to Twitter. Virts wrote, “Majestic peaks and trails! Happy 100th anniversary @RockyNPS So much beauty to behold in our @NatlParkService.”

Image Credit: NASA/Terry Virts via NASA http://ift.tt/1JtMz0Y

Chandra Celebrates the International Year of Light

The year of 2015 has been declared the International Year of Light (IYL) by the United Nations. Organizations, institutions, and individuals involved in the science and applications of light will be joining together for this yearlong celebration to help spread the word about the wonders of light.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory explores the universe in X-rays, a high-energy form of light.  By studying X-ray data and comparing them with observations in other types of light, scientists can develop a better understanding of objects likes stars and galaxies that generate temperatures of millions of degrees and produce X-rays.

To recognize the start of IYL, the Chandra X-ray Center is releasing a set of images that combine data from telescopes tuned to different wavelengths of light. From a distant galaxy to the relatively nearby debris field of an exploded star, these images demonstrate the myriad ways that information about the universe is communicated to us through light.

In this image, an expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0 is left behind after a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. Multimillion degree gas is seen in X-rays from Chandra, in blue. The outer edge of the explosion (red) and stars in the field of view are seen in visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope.

> More: Chandra Celebrates the International Year of Light

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO via NASA http://ift.tt/1zDbHk1

Greenland’s Leidy Glacier

Located in the northwest corner of Greenland, Leidy Glacier is fed by ice from the Academy Glacier (upstream and inland). As Leidy approaches the sea, it is diverted around the tip of an island that separates the Olriks Fjord to the south and Academy Cove to the north. The resulting crisscross pattern is simply the result of ice flowing along the path of least resistance.

This view of the region pictured above was acquired August 7, 2012, by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite. In April 2012, the feature caught the attention of a NASA pilot, who snapped this picture from the cockpit of a high-flying ER-2 aircraft during a research flight over the Greenland ice cap.

More information.

Image Credit: NASA/Terra via NASA http://ift.tt/1xDQdxZ

In the Vortex of Power

John Wargo, lead technician at NASA Glenn’s Propulsion System Laboratory (PSL) is performing an inspection on the inlet ducting, upstream of the Honeywell ALF 502 engine that was recently used for the NASA Engine Icing Validation test.

This test allows engine manufacturers to simulate flying through the upper atmosphere where large amounts of icing particles can be ingested and cause flame outs or a loss of engine power on aircraft. This test was the first of its kind in the world and was highly successful in validating PSL’s new capability. No other engine test facility has this capability.

Glenn is working with industry to address this aviation issue by establishing a capability that will allow engines to be operated at the same temperature and pressure conditions experienced in flight, with ice particles being ingested into full scale engines to simulate flight through a deep convective cloud.

The information gained through performing these tests will also be used to establish test methods and techniques for the study of engine icing in new and existing commercial engines, and to develop data required for advanced computer codes that can be specifically applied to assess an engine’s susceptibility to icing in terms of its safety, performance and operability.

Image Credit: NASA
Bridget R. Caswell (Wyle Information Systems, LLC) via NASA http://ift.tt/19lM75u