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Photo Feature

Stellar Nursery in the Rosette Nebula

May 4th, 2010

This image from the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory shows the cloud associated with the Rosette Nebula, a stellar nursery about 5,000 light-years from Earth in the Monoceros, or Unicorn, constellation. Herschel collects the infrared light given out by dust. The bright smudges are dusty cocoons containing massive embryonic stars, which will grow up to 10 times the mass of our sun. The small spots near the center of the image are lower mass stellar embryos. The Rosette Nebula itself, and its massive cluster of stars, is located to the right of the picture. This image is a three-color composite showing infrared wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green), and 250 microns (red). It was made with observations from Herschel’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver instruments. Herschel is an ESA cornerstone mission, with science instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with participation by NASA. For more information on this image, visit ESA’s Herschel Program site. Image Credit: ESA/PACS & SPIRE Consortium/HOBYS Key Programme Consortia

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Photo Feature

Guenter Wendt and the Apollo 11 Crew

May 3rd, 2010

Within the White Room atop the gantry on Launch Complex 39 Pad A, the Apollo 11 astronauts egress from the Apollo spacecraft after participation in the Countdown Demonstration Test. In the foreground of the photograph is Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Pad leader Guenter Wendt talks with Neil Armstrong. Astronaut Michael Collins stands to the left of Armstrong. Image Credit: NASA

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Photo Feature

Double Trouble in Twin Black Holes

April 30th, 2010

This image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the central region of the starburst galaxy M82 and contains two bright X-ray sources of special interest. New studies with Chandra and ESA’s XMM-Newton show that these two sources may be intermediate-mass black holes, with masses in between those of the stellar-mass and supermassive variety. These “survivor” black holes avoided falling into the center of the galaxy and could be examples of the seeds required for the growth of supermassive black holes in galaxies, including the one in the Milky Way. This is the first case where good evidence for more than one mid-sized black hole exists in a single galaxy. The evidence comes from how their X-ray emission varies over time and analysis of their X-ray brightness and spectra, i.e., the distribution of X-rays with energy. These results are interesting because they may help address the mystery of how supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies form. M82 is located about 12 million light years from Earth and is the nearest place to us where the conditions are similar to those in the early Universe, with lots of stars forming. Multiple observations of M82 have been made with Chandra beginning soon after launch. The Chandra data shown here were not used in the new research because the X-ray sources are so bright that some distortion is introduced into the X-ray spectra. To combat this, the pointing of Chandra is changed so that images of the sources are deliberately blurred, producing fewer counts in each pixel. Image credit: NASA/CXC/Tsinghua Univ./H. Feng et al.

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Photo Feature

Building Planets

April 29th, 2010

This artist’s animation illustrates a massive asteroid belt in orbit around a star the same age and size as our Sun. Asteroids are chunks of rock from “failed” planets, which never managed to coalesce into full-sized planets. Asteroid belts can be thought of as construction sites that accompany the building of rocky planets. Announced on April 28, 2010, scientists using NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility have detected water-ice and carbon-based organic compounds on the surface of an asteroid. The cold hard facts of the discovery of the frosty mixture on one of the asteroid belt’s largest occupants, suggests that some asteroids, along with their celestial brethren, comets, were the water carriers for a primordial Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Photo Feature

Upgrading the Station

April 11th, 2010

During the STS-131 mission’s first spacewalk, which lasted about 6.5 hours, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio helped move a new 1,700-pound ammonia tank from space shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay to a temporary parking place on the station, retrieved an experiment from the Japanese Kibo Laboratory exposed facility and replaced a Rate Gyro Assembly on one of the truss segments. Image Credit: NASA

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A View of the Main Engines

April 9th, 2010

The Expedition 23 crew photographed this view of the aft portion of space shuttle Discovery, including the three main engines, during a survey of the approaching vehicle prior to docking with the International Space Station. As part of the survey and part of every mission’s activities, the STS-131 Discovery crew performed a back flip as part of the rendezvous pitch maneuver. The image was photographed with a digital still camera, using a 400mm lens at a distance of about 600 feet, or 180 meters. Image Credit: NASA

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