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2011년 5월 20일 금요일

미국의 우주 개발의 역사와 은하계 사진: America's space development history and astronomical photograph

우리가 살고 있는 공간은 발로 언제나 딛고 있는 땅과 머리 위의 하늘로 되어 있다. 눈을 들어 쳐다보는 하늘은 언제나 푸르고 아름다운 모양으로 끊임없이 움직이고 변하고 있다. 밤의 별과 달 그리고 은하계를 볼 때는 신비감과 함께 아련한 과거가 떠오르기도 하는 로맨틱한 기분도 든다. 우리가 존재하고 있는 태양계와 그너머 끊없이 펼쳐진 우주에 대한 인간의 호기심은 오늘도 계속되며 신비의 베일을 벗기고 있다. 1961년 달에 첫 발을 내디딘 후 올해로 꼭 50년이 되었다. 과학의 발달이 계속되어 언젠가는 인간이 우주에서 살며 생을 보내는 세대도 오지 않을까 하는 생각도 해 보게 된다.

이 분야에 첨단을 달리며 연구를 거듭하고 있는 NASA의우주 과학자들이 발표한 사진들이 주위에 있어 우리에게 놀라운 세계를 소개하고 동시에 호기심을 유발하고 있다.
1.SPACE SHUTTLE의 역사

Endeavour was the last space shuttle to join NASA's fleet: It was built to replace the shuttle Challenger, which was lost in an explosion shortly after launch in 1986. This view shows Endeavour perched atop a modified Boeing 747 on May 2, 1991, beginning the ferry flight from Palmdale, Calif. - where the shuttle was built - to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Endeavour lifts off from Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 7, 1992, beginning its first mission. The STS-49 mission's primary task was the repair of the Intelsat VI telecommunications satellite. Endeavour was the only shuttle to make its maiden flight from Pad 39B.

Endeavour astronauts Richard Hieb, Thomas Akers and Pierre Thuot hold onto the 4.5-ton Intelsat VI satellite after making a six-handed "capture" on May 13, 1992. The satellite failed to rise above low Earth orbit when it was launched in 1990. During Endeavour's maiden mission, astronauts retrieved the satellite, attached it to a new upper-stage booster and relaunched it to its intended geosynchronous orbit. This mission marked the first time that three people from the same spacecraft walked in space at the same time

Endeavour astronauts Jan Davis, left, and Mae Jemison prepare to deploy the lower body negative pressure apparatus on Sept. 15, 1992. Scientific research was the main focus of this Spacelab-J mission, also known as STS-47. The mission's crew included the first African-American woman to fly in space (Mae Jemison) and the only husband-and-wife team to go into space together (Jan Davis and Mark Lee).

Astronauts flew on Endeavour to take on the first Hubble servicing mission in December 1993. In this picture, spacewalkers Story Musgrave and Jeffrey Hoffman perform an orbital ballet. The coastline of western Australia is visible below. The complex and highly successful repair mission allowed Hubble, which was launched with a defective mirror, to see into the universe with unprecedented clarity.

Endeavour spacewalker Jim Newman holds onto the International Space Station's Unity connecting module as he removes covers and works on connecting cables on Dec. 7, 1998. The STS-88 flight marked the shuttle fleet's first space station assembly mission.

The shuttle Endeavour sits on its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 11, 2007. "Endeavor" is spelled incorrectly on the banner. The shuttle was named after the HMS Endeavour, the British sailing ship that carried Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery from 1768 to 1771. That's why Endeavour reflects the British spelling of the word

The crew members of Endeavour's STS-118 crew pose for their official portrait on Aug. 8, 2007. From left are Rick Mastracchio, Barbara Morgan, pilot Charles Hobaugh, mission commander Scott Kelly, Tracy Caldwell, Canadian astronaut Dave Williams and Alvin Drew. During this flight, Morgan became the first educator astronaut to go into orbit. In 1986, she was the backup for Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire teacher who died in the Challenger explosion.
NASA Working on Space Taxi
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The shuttle Challenger is delivered to its launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center atop a mobile crawler-transporter.

An orange fireball marks the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

This picture, released by the presidential commission that investigated the Challenger tragedy, shows fragments of the orbiter flying away from the explosion on Jan. 28, 1986, 78 seconds after liftoff. The top arrow shows the orbiter's left wing. The center arrow shows the orbiter's main engine; and the bottom arrow shows the orbiter's forward fuselage. Investigators suggested that some of Challenger's crew members may have survived the explosion itself but died in the fall down to Earth.

President Ronald Reagan, center, is surrounded by members of his senior staff on Feb. 3, 1986, as he watches a TV replay of the Challenger shuttle explosion at the White House. From left are Larry Speakes, deputy White House press secretary; presidential assistant Dennis Thomas; special assistant Jim Kuhn; Reagan; White House communications director Patrick Buchanan; and chief of staff Donald Regan.

The remains of the shuttle Challenger's seven crew members are transferred from seven hearses to a MAC C-141 transport plane at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility, for transport to Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Endeavour spacewalker Rick Mastracchio relocates communications equipment on the International Space Station during an outing on Aug. 15, 2007

A giant bolt of lightning hits Endeavour's Florida launch pad on July 10, 2009. Technical problems and severe weather forced five delays in Endeavour's STS-127 launch.

The space shuttle Endeavour rises from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A on July 15, 2009, on the STS-127 mission's sixth launch attempt.

The space shuttle Endeavour is photographed from the International Space Station soon after its departure on July 28, 2009. A Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station is visible in the foreground

Astronaut George Zamka, Endeavour's commander for the STS-130 mission, peeks out a window of the International Space Station's newly installed Cupola observation deck on Feb. 19, 2010. The Cupola provides an unparalleled view of Earth below

As astronauts orbit over the western Pacific Ocean, they don't see land for long stretches of time. Then coral reefs and atolls appear and the astronauts tend to reach for the camera, noted Evans. "They see these little jewels in the ocean and they can capture them in great detail," she said.Nukuoro Atoll in the Caroline Islands northeast of Papua New Guinea was photographed on May 31, 2006. The 42 patches of vegetation on the island face the dominant easterly winds. About 900 people live in the settlements on the inland side of the forest patches. Space station images of coral reefs, Evans noted, are used by conservationists to monitor the health of these habitats.

Solar eclipse enthusiasts will travel to the ends of the Earth to watch the moon momentarily blot the sun from the sky. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station caught this view of the moon's shadow sweeping across Turkey, northern Cyprus, and the Mediterranean Sea during the total solar eclipse of March 29, 2006

Some crew members, according to Evans, are fascinated by aurora – the nighttime lights in the skies that occur when oxygen and nitrogen atoms are bombarded by charged solar particles. They "and spend a good deal of time learning how to take photographs of the aurora that are meaningful." Expedition Six crew member Donald Petit took several pictures of aurora in January and February of 2003, including this one of a green aurora over the night side of Earth just after sunset

The external fuel tank for Endeavour's final mission, STS-134, is transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2010. STS-134's main payload is the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an international physics experiment

The sun rises as photographers gather on a hill to take pictures shortly after the shuttle Endeavour's arrival at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A on March 11, 2011.

A NASA poster pays tribute to Endeavour and its space missions over the past two decades. The shuttle is shown rising to orbit, with patches for each of its missions laid out in a spiral. The HMS Endeavour, which inspired the spaceship's name, is shown at lower right. At upper left, pictures of Endeavour are framed in the windows of the Cupola. The background image depicts the nebula NGC 602 as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, which was first serviced by Endeavour in 1993


Remembering America's First Austronaut

Fifty years ago, America's astronauts were celebrities. The cover of Life magazine's issue for March 3, 1961, featured Mercury astronauts John Glenn, Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard.


Relive NASA's First Human Spaceflight
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Inside the suiting trailer, astronaut Alan Shepard is dressed in his pressure suit and seated in a reclining chair while a technician checks communications equipment in his helmet.

Alan Shepard's spacesuit was a full-body pressure suit originally developed by the B.F. Goodrich Co. and the U.S. Navy for wear by high-altitude fighter pilots. The suit's aluminized nylon exterior provides the classic silver look.

The Redstone rocket rises from its Florida launch pad on May 5, 1961, with America's first astronaut, Alan Shepard, inside the Mercury capsule on top. "You're on your way, Jose," fellow astronaut Deke Slayton called out from Mission Control. The nickname was a reference to comedian Bill Dana's fictitious astronaut character, Jose Jimenez.

Astronaut Alan Shepard was the first American to see Earth from an altitude ranging as high as 116 miles. "On the periscope, what a beautiful view," he radioed. "Cloud cover over Florida. Three to four tenths near the eastern coast. Obscured up to Hatteras."

After a little more than 15 minutes of flight, Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 capsule splashed down in the Atlantic, about 300 miles east of the Cape Canaveral launch pad. A Marine helicopter came to Shepard's rescue.

Alan Shepard arrives at Grand Bahamas Island and is greeted by fellow Mercury astronauts Deke Slayton (left) and Gus Grissom (far right). Air Force Col. Keith Lindell walks between Shepard and Grissom.

President John F. Kennedy congratulates Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard during a Rose Garden ceremony on May 8, 1961, at the White House. Vice President Lyndon Johnson, NASA Administrator James Webb and several NASA astronauts are in the background. Less than a month later, Kennedy addressed Congress on his plan to put an American on the moon by the end of the decade.

After the spaceflight, astronaut Alan Shepard and his wife Louise ride in celebratory motorcade with Vice President Lyndon Johnson seated between them in the back seat.

The centerpiece of the Graduates in Space exhibit at the U.S. Naval Academy Visitors Center in Annapolis, Md. is the Freedom 7 space capsule, flown into space in 1961 by Naval Academy graduate Alan B. Shepard, Jr.(Class of 1945).

50 Years Later: Alan Shepard went on to walk on the moon as commander of the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, and passed away in 1998 at the age of 74. On May 4, 2011, a stamp set commemorating the 50th anniversary of Shepard's Mercury flight as well as the Messenger mission to Mercury was unveiled at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Among the special guests at the ceremony was Alan Shepard's daughter, Julie Shepard Jenkins.


2.Classic Hubble Hits



The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 20th birthday and we have some images taken by the iconic space observatory over the past two decades. Arp 148, shown here, is the staggering aftermath of an encounter between two galaxies, resulting in a ring-shaped galaxy and a long-tailed companion. This image is part of a collection of 59 images of merging galaxies taken by Hubble and released on its 18th anniversary

This image shows a Hubble view of Arp 272, a remarkable collision between two spiral galaxies, NGC 6050 and IC 1179. The galaxy cluster is part of the Great Wall of clusters and superclusters, the largest known structure in the Universe. The two spiral galaxies are linked by their swirling arms.

This is the sharpest image yet from the Hubble Space Telescope of the merging Antennae galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope trained its eye on one of the universe's most stately and photogenic galaxies, the Sombrero galaxy with the space telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys , in May-June 2003 . The image of the galaxy's hallmark brilliant white, bulbous core is encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy

This dramatic image offers a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming. The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula.

In the left image, the Cartwheel Galaxy looks like a wagon wheel in space. A more detailed image of the galaxy"s hub shows bright, comet-like clouds circling at nearly 700,000 mph.

HH 32 is an excellent example of a "Herbig-Haro object," which is formed when young stars eject jets of material back into interstellar space. The jets plow into the surrounding nebula, producing strong shock waves that heat the gas and cause it to glow in different colors.

This celestial object, with the scientific name MyCn18, looks like an eerie green eye staring out from two intersecting rings. But it's actually an intricately shaped "hourglass" nebula with a star at its center.

Temperature differences within interstellar clouds of gas and dust can result in structures reminiscent of Earth's tornadoes. Here are some twisters in the heart of the Lagoon Nebula.

The small spiral galaxy NGC 7742 is probably powered by a black hole residing in its core. The core of NGC 7742 is the large yellow "yolk" in the center of this fried-egg image.

A false-color image shows infrared light reflected from the planet Saturn. The different hues help scientists discern different levels of the planet's thick atmosphere. Two of Saturn's moons - Dione and Tethys - are visible as specks on the image

A curtain of glowing gas is wrapped around Jupiter's north pole like a lasso in a Hubble Space Telescope image captured in 1998. The curtain of light, called an aurora, is produced when high-energy electrons race along the planet's magnetic field and into the upper atmosphere. The electrons excite atmospheric gases, causing them to glow. A similar aurora crowns Earth's polar regions


3.Beautiful Space



To celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope's deployment into space, astronomers pointed Hubble's eye at an especially photogenic pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is distorted into a roselike shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, UGC 1813. This image, released April 20, is a composite of image data gathered by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

A beautiful view of a star in its death throes is featured in a gallery of images sent back by the Hubble Space Telescope after its final shuttle servicing mission in May 2009. The planetary nebula NGC 6302, better known as the Butterfly Nebula or the Bug Nebula, is about 3,800 light-years away in the constellation Scorpius. The features that look like dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, blasted away from a dying star bigger than the sun. This picture was taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.
Hubble’s latest, greatest views revealed
Astronomers unveiled the latest batch of Hubble's greatest hits on Wednesday, all taken since the space telescope was upgraded in May during NASA's final shuttle servicing mission.


A clash involving members of the famous galaxy group known as Stephan's Quintet reveals an assortment of stars across a wide color range, from young, blue stars to aging, red stars. The new image of the grouping was taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. It's a bit of a misnomer to call this group a "quintet." Studies have shown that the galaxy NGC 7320, at upper left, is actually in the foreground, about seven times closer to Earth than the rest of the group.

Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 captured this panoramic view of a colorful assortment of 100,000 stars residing in the crowded core of the globular cluster Omega Centauri. The full cluster, which lies about 16,000 light-years from Earth, boasts nearly 10 million stars. The stars in Omega Centauri are between 10 billion and 12 billion years old

The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217, which lies 6 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, shines bright in the first image of a celestial object taken with Hubble's newly repaired Advanced Camera for Surveys. The camera was restored to operation in May during the shuttle Atlantis' final Hubble servicing mission. This image was assembled from data acquired on June 13 and July 8 during testing and calibration of the camera

Spectators at Moscow's Victory Park watch fireworks set off to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's historic spaceflight on April 12. The date, which marks the first-ever human flight into space, is celebrated annually in Russia as Cosmonautics Day and in the rest of the world as Yuri's Night.

This image of the nebula NGC 3582, released April 13, was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile. The nebula's giant loops of gas bear a striking resemblance to solar prominences. These loops are thought to have been ejected by dying stars, but new stars are also being born within this stellar nursery. These energetic youngsters emit intense ultraviolet radiation that makes the gas in the nebula glow, producing the fiery display shown here

The Milky Way galaxy sparkles in a clear spot of sky above as a Saharan sandstorm sweeps past Mount Teide in the Canary Islands. Norwegian photographer Terje Sorgjerd captured the sight during a visit to the Spanish archipelago.


Magnificent View of Milky Way
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Time Lapse Cloud and Sky over the Canary Island
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A mosaic image from Europe's Mars Express orbiter, released April 1, shows side-by-side volcanoes in the Tharsis region of Mars. Ceraunius Tholus, at left, is 80 miles across and rises nearly three and a half miles above its surroundings. Its neighbor, Uranius Tholus, is nearly 40 miles across and three miles high. Icy clouds can be seen drifting past Ceraunius Tholus' summit on one part of the picture, but the clouds dissipated before the orbiter could gather the data for the lower portion of the image

The Hubble Space Telescope focuses on the full disk of Mars, with a head-on view of a dark feature known as Syrtis Major. Hubble astronomers could make out features as small as 12 miles wide.

The Pathfinder probe focuses on Twin Peaks, two hills of modest height on the Martian horizon. Each peak rises about 100 feet above the surrounding rock-littered terrain.

A Martian sunset reverses the colors you'd expect on Earth: Most of the sky is colored by reddish dust hanging in the atmosphere, but the scattering of light creates a blue halo around the sun itself.

Mars' highest mountain, an inactive volcano dubbed Olympus Mons, rises as high as three Everests and covers roughly the same area as the state of Arizona. Mars Global Surveyor took this wide-angle view.

A 360-degree panorama shows a stretched-out view of NASA's Spirit rover and its surroundings on the summit of Husband Hill, within Mars' Gusev Crater. The imagery for the panorama was acquired in August, and the picture was released on Dec. 5

The Opportunity rover looks at its own heat shield, which was jettisoned during the spacecraft's descent back in January 2004, on Dec. 22, 2004. The main structure from the heat shield is at left, with additional debris and the scar left by the shield's impact to the right. The shadow of the rover's observation mast is visible in the foreground.

NASA engineers stand by a conical shell that will help protect the Curiosity rover, a robot the size of a car, from the searing temperatures of atmospheric entry when it lands on Mars next year. This picture of the rover preparations was taken at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on April 4. Curiosity is due for launch in November

Workers prepare a Russian Soyuz rocket on April 1 for the launch of a crew capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station. The launch went off successfully on April 5.

Abell 383, the giant cluster of elliptical galaxies in the center of this Hubble image, contains so much dark matter that its gravity bends light. The cluster's gravitational field thus acts as a "magnifying glass" for more distant galaxies. Astronomers reported on April 12 that the gravitational lens is producing a magnified view of a galaxy so far away that we see it as it was less than a billion years after the big bang

This is one of the first color images captured by NASA's Messenger probe after entering orbit around Mercury. The picture, looking toward Mercury's horizon, was acquired as the spacecraft was flying northward along the first orbit during which its dual-camera system was turned on. Bright rays from Hokusai Crater can be seen running north to south

Greenish northern lights ripple through the sky above the wing of a commercial airliner during a night flight from San Francisco to Paris.

A new Virgin America A320 jet, aptly named "My Other Ride Is a Spaceship," flies in tandem with the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane and its mothership over the Golden Gate Bridge on April 6. The aircraft landed at San Francisco International Airport, becoming the first planes to arrive at the new $388 million, 640,000-square-foot Terminal 2. SpaceShipTwo is expected to begin rocket-powered suborbital test flights sometime in the next year - not from San Francisco, but from the Mojave Air and Space Port near Los Angeles

Illuminated by colored lights, the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane is attached to its WhiteKnightTwo mothership during its rollout on Dec. 7 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
Branson: Space Flights 12-15 Months Away
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Virgin Group employees sit in the cabin of a prototype Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo spacecraft at London's Science Museum in February 2007. SpaceShipTwo is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots to the edge of outer space for a few minutes of weightlessness and an out-of-this-world view. The fare is $200,000 per passenger.

Windows dot the interior of the SpaceShipTwo passenger cabin, as seen during an early stage of the rocket plane's construction. The design is aimed at making sure each of the six passengers has a view of the curving Earth and the black sky of space from a height of 62 miles (100 kilometers).

An infrared image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, reveals a giant nebula around the star Lambda Orionis, inflating the "head" of the constellation Orion to huge proportions. The bright blue star in the lower left corner of the April 14 image is Betelgeuse. In visible light, the supergiant star shines red, but it takes on a bluish appearance in WISE's color-coded infrared view

The full moon rises red near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on March 19. This full moon was known as the "Super-moon," since it occurred while the moon was at its closest proximity to Earth. The last time that the moon was so big and close during its full phase was in 1993.

This image from the Hubble Space Telescope, released March 15, provides a stunning up-close view of part of the Tarantula Nebula. This star-forming region is in the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our Milky Way's satellite galaxies. The Tarantula Nebula is the most luminous nebula of its type in the local Universe.

The galaxies NGC 6872 and IC 4970 spin around each other in a gravitational dance that even astronomers compare to a tango. The Sydney Girls High School Astronomy Club won this year's competition to produce scientifically useful and aesthetically pleasing images using the Gemini Observatory. In the essay accompanying their entry, the students said the picture serves "to illustrate the situation faced by the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy in millions of years." That's right, folks ... our galaxy is on course to mix it up with the galaxy next door someday.
The Great Crab Nebula Superflare
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When Neutron Stars Collide
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With the aid of scuba divers, spacesuit-clad astronaut trainees take part in drills in a pool at Russia's Star City cosmonaut training center outside Moscow on Feb. 18. Underwater training simulates conditions of weightlessness and is a part of space crew training.

 photo provided by NASA on Feb. 10 shows a Spitzer Space Telescope view of the North America Nebula in visible light and infrared wavelengths. The shape of North America can be seen in vivid shades of blue toward the left side of the image. That light comes from hot gas in the nebula. Reddish colors represent strong infrared emissions.

When an M-3.6-class flare occurred near the edge of the sun, it blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period on Feb. 24. The event was captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Some of the material blew out into space, and other portions fell back to the surface
A Huge Solar Filament Erupts
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The International Space Station's robotic arm is extended toward a Japanese cargo ship known as Kounotori 2. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says the transport vehicle was brought in for docking on Jan. 27. The vehicle carried nearly six tons of food, water, clothing and experimental equipment for the station's astronauts.

The northern lights are seen in the sky above the village of Ersfjordbotn near Tromso in northern Norway, early on the night on Feb. 21. Such auroral displays are caused by the interaction between electrically charged particles from the sun and gas molecules in the upper atmosphere of the Earth, about 60 miles up.
Flowing Aurora Over Norway
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This enhanced-color image shows Holden Crater on Mars, one of the four candidates being considered as a landing site for NASA's Curiosity rover. The rover is due for launch later this year. The high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, known as HiRISE, has taken color imagery of all four sites so that scientists can decide which site is most promising. This view of Holden Crater was released on Feb. 16.

This composite image, released Feb. 9, shows Arp 147, a pair of interacting galaxies located about 430 million light years from Earth. X-ray observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in pink, and visible-light readings from the Hubble Space Telescope are shown in red, green and blue. Scientists say the pink bursts in the ring-shaped galaxies are emissions from black holes.

Victoria Crater, seen here in a picture acquired by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and released Aug. 12, was explored by NASA's Opportunity rover for more than two Earth years. In high-resolution versions of this oblique image, the rover's tracks can be seen along the left rim of the crater. Sand dunes create a weird pattern on the crater's floor.

A lightning bolt strikes through a rainbow during a thunderstorm over Sheridan, Wyo., on June 15, 2005.

Lightning strikes west of the Space Needle in Seattle, Wash., on Aug. 4, 1999.
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The 32nd shuttle mission to the International Space Station, STS-130, left planet Earth on February 8. Its early morning launch to orbit from Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A followed the long, graceful, eastward arc seen in this 2 minute time exposure. Well composed, the dramatic picture also shows the arc's watery reflection from the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, in Ponte Vedra, Florida, about 115 miles north of the launch site. In the celestial background a waning crescent Moon and stars left their own short trails against the still dark sky. The brightest star trail near the moon was made by red supergiant Antares, alpha star of the constellation Scorpius.

The Orion Nebula, just 1,350 light-years from Earth, glows in shades of blue and violet in an image captured by the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla facility in Chile. This view of the nebula, featured by the ESO on Jan. 19, offers astronomers a close-up view of a massive star-forming region in our celestial backyard. Infant stars are wrapped in the clouds of gas and dust

This is a true-color panorama view of Santa Maria Crater on Mars, as seen by NASA's Opportunity rover. The rover team celebrated seven years of operation for Opportunity on Jan. 25 (Jan. 24 Pacific time). Opportunity's twin, Spirit, is stuck in a sandtrap on the other side of the Red Planet and may have fallen victim to the Martian winter. Opportunity, however, is still in good condition and on its way to an even bigger crater called Endeavour.

This infrared image, captured by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, shows a cluster of newborn stars enclosed in a cocoon of dust and gas in the constellation Camelopardalis. This is the constellation where 10-year-old Kathryn Aurora Gray spotted a

Two European space observatories teamed up to produce this image of the Andromeda Galaxy, which was released on Jan. 7. The Herschel space telescope focused on rings of star formation in infrared light, shown here in shades of red and orange. The XMM-Newton probe registered the X-ray em

The Hubble Space Telescope's visible-light image of the Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as M51, highlights the attributes of a typical spiral galaxy, including graceful, curving arms, pink star-forming regions, and brilliant blue strands of star clusters.

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows a dazzling star cluster in the well-known Eagle Nebula. The NGC 6611 cluster, which is 6,500 light-years from Earth, formed about 5.5 million years ago. It is a very young cluster, containing many hot, blue stars whose fierce ultraviolet glow makes the surrounding Eagle Nebula glow brightly. The open star cluster and the associated nebula together are also known as Messier 16. This stunner was the European Hubble team's "Picture of the Week" for Jan. 3.


4.NASA's Astronomy Picture


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Would the Rosette Nebula by any other name look as sweet? The bland New General Catalog designation of NGC 2237 doesn't appear to diminish the appearance of this flowery emission nebula. Inside the nebula lies an open cluster of bright young stars designated NGC 2244. These stars formed about four million years ago from the nebular material and their stellar winds are clearing a hole in the nebula's center, insulated by a layer of dust and hot gas. Ultraviolet lightfrom the hot cluster stars causes the surrounding nebula to glow. The Rosette Nebula spans about 100 light-years across, lies about 5000 light-years away, and can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros).
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On Valentine's Day (ET) the Sun unleashed one of its most powerful explosions, an X-class flare. The blast was the largest so far in the new solar cycle. Erupting from active region AR1158 in the Sun's southern hemisphere, the flare is captured here in this extreme ultraviolet image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The intense burst of electromagnetic radiation momentarily overwhelmed pixels in SDO's detectors causing the bright vertical blemish. This X-class flare was also accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME), a massive cloud of charged particles traveling outward at nearly 900 kilometers per second. Skywatchers at high latitudes should be alert for aurorae tonight.
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Moon and Venus over Switzerland
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Six worlds orbit Kepler-11, a sunlike star 2,000 light-years distant in the constellation Cygnus. The new discovery is based on data from NASA'splanet hunting Kepler spacecraft. Compared to our Solar System in this illustration, five of Kepler-11's planets orbit closer to their parent star than the Mercury-Sun distance, with orbital periods ranging from 10 to 47 days. All six are larger than Earth and are likely composed of mixtures of rocky material and gas. Their presence, sizes, and masses have been determined by carefully watching the planets dim the light of Kepler-11 while transiting or crossing in front of the star itself. In fact, in August 2010, Kepler's telescope and camera recorded a simultaneous transit of three of the planets in the system. As announced yesterday, using the transit technique the Kepler mission has now identified over 1200 exoplanet candidates in a field of view that covers only about 1/400th of the sky. The tantalizing result suggests there are many undiscovered planets orbiting the stars in our galaxy.
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Milky way over Switzerland
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Red Snow Moon over Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
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 Supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is a comfortable 11,000 light-years away. Light from the Cas A supernova, the death explosion of a massive star, first reached Earth just 330 years ago. The expanding debris cloud spans about 15 light-years in this composite X-ray/optical image, while the bright source near the center is a neutron star (inset illustration) the incredibly dense, collapsed remains of the stellar core. Still hot enough to emit X-rays, Cas A's neutron star is cooling. In fact, 10 years of observations with the orbiting Chandra X-ray observatory find that the neutron star is cooling rapidly, so rapidly that researchers suspect a large part of the neutron star's core is forming a frictionless neutron superfluid. The Chandra results represent the first observational evidence for this bizarre state of neutron matter.
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Have you ever seen a "star" drifting slowly overhead, but not known what it was? Sometimes even pointing it out to friends or family will only lead to ashrug. What you are seeing, most likely, is a spacecraft in low Earth orbit reflecting back sunlight as it circles the Earth once every 90 minutes or so. Two of thebrighter spacecraft in the present day sky are the International Space Station (ISS), and, when it is up, a NASA space shuttle. As relative orientations change, the brightness of reflections may also change, sometimes suddenly. Another source of bright drifting objects, Iridium communication satellites, may even appear to flare up to become brighter than any other sky object for a few seconds. Pictured above, two bright points of light separated by only a few degrees drifted together across the sky above Lory State Park, Colorado, USA last week, just after sunset. These lights were were the ISS and the space shuttle Discovery, which had undocked from the ISS a few hours earlier. Given a digital fusion of many separate camera exposures and a wide angle perspective, the pair appears above as streaks in front of point-like stars. Web sites now exist that can help you identify unknown "drifters" and even predict the time of the next pass of the ISS visible from your location
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Boston Moonrise
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Intense auroral activity flooded the night with shimmering colors on February 24, captured here from a lodge near the city of Yellowknife in northern Canada. The stunning sequence (left to right) of three all-sky exposures, taken at 30 second intervals, shows rapid changes in dancing curtains of northern lights against a starry background. What makes the northern lights dance? Measurements by NASA's fleet of THEMIS spacecraft indicate that these explosions of auroral activity are driven by sudden releases of energy in the Earth's magnetosphere called magnetic reconnection events. The reconnection events release energy when magnetic field lines snap like rubber bands, driving charged particles into the upper atmosphere. Stretching into space, these reconnection events occur in the magnetosphere on the Earth's night side at a distance about 1/3 of the way to the Moon
Time Lapse Auroras over Norway
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It's been raining on Titan. In fact, it's likely been raining methane on Titan and that's not an April Fools' joke. The almost familiar scene depicted in this artist's vision of the surface of Saturn's largest moon looks across an eroding landscape into a stormy sky. That scenario is consistent with seasonal rain stormstemporarily darkening Titan's surface along the moon's equatorial regions, as seen by instruments onboard the Cassini spacecraft. Of course on frigid Titan, with surface temperatures of about -290 degrees F (-180 degrees C), the cycle of evaporation, cloud formation, and rain involves liquid methane instead of water.Lightning could also be possible in Titan's thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere.
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First flown in 1992, Endeavour, the youngest space shuttle orbiter, is being prepared for its 25th and final trip to low Earth orbit. Seen here from an exciting perspective 400 feet above the floor of Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building, Endeavour (OV-105) is mated to an external tank and solid rocket boosters just prior to roll out to launch pad 39A on March 11. The completed space shuttle stands over 18 stories tall. Intended for an April 19 near sunset launch on STS-134, Endeavour will head for the International Space Station and deliver the AMS cosmic ray experiment. The final flight of Endeavour will be the penultimate planned space shuttle flight.
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The Milkyway over Tenerife
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Planetary Nebula NGC 2438 
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Otherworldly Planet Rise
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On April 12th, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin became the first human in space. His remotely controlled Vostok 1 spacecraftlofted him to an altitude of 200 miles and carried him once around planet Earth. Commenting on the first view from space he reported, "The sky is very dark; the Earth is bluish. Everything is seen very clearly". His view could have resembled this image taken in 2003 from the International Space Station. Alan Shepard, the first US astronaut, would not be launched until almost a month later and then on a comparatively short suborbital flight. Born on March 9, 1934, Gagarin was a military pilot before being chosen for the first group of cosmonauts in 1960. As a result of his historic flight he became an international hero and legend. Killed when his MIG jet crashed during a training flight in 1968, Gagarin was given a hero's funeral, his ashes interred in the Kremlin Wall. Twenty years later, on yet another April 12th, in 1981, NASA launched the first space shuttle.
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What if you could see the huge radio jets of Centaurus A rising? The Cen A radio jets are not only over a million light years long, they occupy an angular area over 200 times greater than the full Moon in Earth's sky. The jets are expelled by a violent black hole millions of times the mass of our Sun embedded deep in the center of nearby active galaxy Cen A. Somehow, the black hole creates the fast moving jets as other matter falls in. In this picture, radio telescopes from the Australian Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) near Narrabri, NSW, Australia, were captured in front of a full Moon, with a radio image of Cen A superposed at its real angular size in the background. The above picture includes the most detailed map yet of any galaxy-class radio jets in the universe, taking several years and over 1,000 hours exposure time to complete. Details in the photo may yield clues as to how radio jets interact with stars and intergalactic dust. The light dots in the image depict not stars, but typically other radio bright galaxies in the even more distant universe.
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Young Stars in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud 
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The Tadpoles of IC 410 
Celestial Trails over Greece
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It is a hurricane twice the size of the Earth. It has been raging at least as long as telescopes could see it, and shows no signs of slowing. It is Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the largest swirling storm system in the Solar System. Like most astronomical phenomena, the Great Red Spot was neither predicted nor immediately understood after its discovery. Still today, details of how and why the Great Red Spot changes its shape, size, and color remain mysterious. A better understanding of the weather on Jupiter may help contribute to the better understanding of weather here on Earth. The above image is a recently completed digital enhancement of an image of Jupiter taken in 1979 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it zoomed by the Solar System's largest planet. At about 117 AU from Earth,Voyager 1 is currently the most distant human made object in the universe and expected to leave the entire solar heliosheath any time now.
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Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies collided. But the stars in the two galaxies, cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, don't collide in the course of the ponderous event, lasting hundreds of millions of years. Instead, their large clouds of molecular gas and dust do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage. Spanning about 500 thousand light-years, this stunning view also reveals new star clusters and matter flung far from the scene of the accident by gravitational tidal forces. Of course, the suggestive visual appearance of the extended arcing structures gives the galaxy pair its popular name - The Antennae
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One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky and similar in size to the Milky Way, big, beautiful spiral M81 lies 11.8 million light-years away in the northern constellation Ursa Major. This deep image of the region reveals details in the bright yellow core, but at the same time follows fainter features along the galaxy's gorgeous blue spiral arms and sweeping dust lanes. It also follows the expansive, arcing feature, known as Arp's loop, that seems to rise from the galaxy's disk at the right. Studied in the 1960s, Arp's loop has been thought to be a tidal tail, material pulled out of M81 by gravitational interaction with its large neighboring galaxy M82. But a recent investigation demonstrates that much of Arp's loop likely lies within our own galaxy. The loop's colors in visible and infrared light match the colors of pervasive clouds of dust, relatively unexplored galactic cirrus only a few hundred light-years above the plane of the Milky Way. Along with the Milky Way's stars, the dust clouds lie in the foreground of this remarkable view. M81's dwarf companion galaxy, Holmberg IX, can be seen just above and left of the large spiral. On the sky, this image spans about 0.5 degrees, about the size of the Full Moon.
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What would you see if you went right up to a black hole? Above is a computer generated image highlighting how strange things would look. The black hole has such strong gravity that light is noticeably bent towards it - causing some very unusual visual distortions. Every star in the normal frame has at least two brightimages - one on each side of the black hole. Near the black hole, you can see the whole sky - light from every direction is bent around and comes back to you. Theoriginal background map was taken from the 2MASS infrared sky survey, with stars from the Henry Draper catalog superposed. Black holes are thought to be the densest state of matter, and there is indirect evidence for their presence in stellar binary systems and the centers of globular clustersgalaxies, and quasars.
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The Dark Tower in Scorpius 
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Is there a monster in IC 1396? Known to some as the Elephant's Trunk Nebula, parts of the glowing gas and dust clouds of this star formation regionmay appear to take on foreboding forms, some nearly human. The entire nebula might even look like a face of a monster. The only real monster here, however, is abright young star too far from Earth to be dangerous. Energetic light from this star is eating away the dust of the dark cometary globule at the top right of the image.Jets and winds of particles emitted from this star are also pushing away ambient gas and dust. Nearly 3,000 light-years distant, the IC 1396 complex is relatively faint and covers a region on the sky with an apparent width of more than 10 full moons. Recently, over 100 young stars have been discovered forming in the nebula
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Well over a thousand galaxies are known members of the Virgo Cluster, the closest large cluster of galaxies to our own local group. In fact, the galaxy cluster is difficult to appreciate all at once because it covers such a large area on the sky. Spanning about 5x3 degrees, this careful mosaic of telescopic images clearly records the central region of the Virgo Cluster through faint foreground dust clouds lingering above the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy. The cluster's dominant giant elliptical galaxy M87, is just below center in the frame. Above M87 is the famous interacting galaxy pair NGC 4438, also known as The Eyes. A closer examination of the image will reveal many Virgo cluster member galaxies as small fuzzy patches. Sliding your cursor over the image will label the larger galaxies usingNGC catalog designations. Galaxies are also shown with Messier catalog numbers, including M84, M86, and prominent colorful spirals M88, M90, and M91. On average, Virgo Cluster galaxies are measured to be about 48 million light-years away. The Virgo Cluster distance has been used to give an important determination of the Hubble Constant and the scale of the Universe. (Editor's Note: Labels courtesy of Astrometry.net.)
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As the Sun rose, a nearly full Moon set in this serene seaside vista captured last Monday from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the foreground, the reddened early morning sunlight illuminates a stretch of South Atlantic coastline. Looking toward the west, a scene that is a familiar one to Rio's Ipanema beach goers, thefavela Vidigal is nestled below the twin peaks of Morro Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers Hill). This well-composed multiple-exposure image recorded the steady progress of the dramatic moonset with a 6.5 minute gap between each frame. Flying from their nests at the break of dawn, all the ocean birds appear only in the last single frame.
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Young Stars in the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud 
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Has a new planet been discovered? What is pictured above is a remarkable 24 hour mosaic surrounding a spot on Sounio, Greece, right here onplanet Earth. Images taken at night compose the top half of the picture, with star trails lasting as long as 11 hours visible. Contrastingly, images taken during the day compose the bottom of the image, with the Sun being captured once every 15 minutes. The image center shows a Little Prince wide angle projection centered on the ground but including gravel, grass, trees, Saint John's church, clouds, crepuscular rays, and even a signature icon of the photographer -- the Temple of Poseidon.Meticulous planning as well as several transition shots and expert digital processing eventually culminated in this image documenting half of the final two days of last year.
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A Total Eclipse at the End of the World 
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Sunrise, Moonrise
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Hugging the horizon, a dark red Moon greeted early morning skygazers in eastern Atlantic regions on December 21, as the total phase of 2010'sSolstice Lunar Eclipse began near moonset. This well composed image of the geocentric celestial event is a composite of multiple exposures following the progression of the eclipse from Tenerife, Canary Islands. Initially reflecting brightly on a sea of clouds and the ocean's surface itself, the Moon sinks deeper into eclipse as it moves from left to right across the sky. Opposite the Sun, the Moon was immersed in the darkest part of Earth's shadow as it approached the western horizon, just before sunrise came to Tenerife.
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One Million Galaxies: Are the nearest galaxies distributed randomly? A plot of over one million of the brightest "extended sources" detected by the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) shows that they are not. The vast majority of these infrared extended sources are galaxies. Visible above is an incredible tapestry of structure thatprovides limits on how the universe formed and evolved. Many galaxies are gravitationally bound together to form clusters, which themselves are loosely bound intosuperclusters, which in turn are sometimes seen to align over even larger scale structures. In contrast, very bright stars inside our own Milky Way Galaxy cause the vertical blue sash.
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Tyrrhenian Sea and Solstice Sky 

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