Now Playing Tracks


The First Image of Earth Taken From Space Was Taken By a German Missile

The grainy, barely legible image above was taken on October 24, 1946, from an altitude of 65 miles above the surface of New Mexico. It was captured by a 35-millimeter motion picture camera as that camera was propelled skyward on a German V-2 missile. It is, officially, the first photo of Earth to be taken from space.

Read more. [Image: White Sands Missile Range/Applied Physics Laboratory]

Scene of a Martian Landing

The four main pieces of hardware that arrived on Mars with NASA’s Curiosity rover were spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image about 24 hours after landing. The large, reduced-scale image points out the strewn hardware: the heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. Relatively dark areas in all four spots are from disturbances of the bright dust on Mars, revealing the darker material below the surface dust. 

Around the rover, this disturbance was from the sky crane thrusters, and forms a bilaterally symmetrical pattern. The darkened radial jets from the sky crane are downrange from the point of oblique impact, much like the oblique impacts of asteroids. In fact, they make an arrow pointing to Curiosity. 

This image was acquired from a special 41-degree roll of MRO, larger than the normal 30-degree limit. It rolled towards the west and towards the sun, which increases visible scattering by atmospheric dust as well as the amount of atmosphere the orbiter has to look through, thereby reducing the contrast of surface features. Future images will show the hardware in greater detail. Our view is tilted about 45 degrees from the surface (more than the 41-degree roll due to planetary curvature), like a view out of an airplane window. Tilt the images 90 degrees clockwise to see the surface better from this perspective. The views are primarily of the shadowed side of the rover and other objects. 

The image scale is 39 centimeters (15.3 inches) per pixel. 

Complete HiRISE image products are available at:

HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the orbiter’s HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. 

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona


Weird Exoplanetary System Dances To the Beat

If there’s one thing to be said for the Kepler mission, it’s certainly turning up some very strange new worlds.

Recently, the mission has spotted a Tatooine-like exoplanet; it’s found evidence for a “phantom” world; spied a tightly-packed six-pack and even found an exoplanet darker than coal.

Now, a sun-like star — called Kepler-18 — has been spotted with a super-Earth and two Neptune-like worlds orbiting it.

Read more


Dark energy is here to stay. This year’s Nobel Prize in Physicswas given to a trio of astronomers who made an extraordinary discovery in 1998: that the universe not only is expanding, but it’s doing so at an accelerated rate. Nobel Prize winner physicist Frank Wilczek called this ”the most fundamentally mysterious thing in basic science.” It’s an understatement to say that when the accelerated universe was first announced, the physics and astronomy community were completely baffled. To a large extent, we still are, 13 years later. I’d like to use the blog today to put their discovery into context, exploring why dark energy is so bizarre.

—Marcelo Gleiser in 13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Space Telescopes Reveal Secrets of Turbulent Black Hole
A fleet of spacecraft including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered unprecedented details in the surroundings of a supermassive black hole. Observations reveal huge bullets of gas being driven away from the gravitational monster and a corona of very hot gas hovering above the disk of matter that is falling into the black hole.

Reusability is key to the dramatic cost savings that will enable advancements in human exploration of space. The Dragon spacecraft is a fully reusable and SpaceX is working toward the goal of delivering the world’s first fully reusable launch vehicle. Check out the animation below for a sneak peek at SpaceX’s exciting plans for the future.


We make Tumblr themes