Epic Space Photos of the Week (July 6-12)
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, Expedition 36 flight engineer, used a digital still camera to snap a photo of his helmet visor during a session of extravehicular activity (EVA) on the International Space Station's exterior. This was Parmitano's first career EVA.
During the six-hour, seven-minute spacewalk, Parmitano and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy (out of frame) prepared the space station for a new Russian module and performed additional installations on the station's backbone. Parmitano is shown here secured to the Canadarm2 robotic arm mobile foot restraint.
NOAA/NASA GOES Project
This GOES satellite image on July 10 shows tropical storm Chantal as it works its way through the Caribbean. Chantal's heavy rains continue to pour onto Haiti and the Dominican Republic, however, forcing evacuations of thousands from flood-prone regions.
NASA (Apollo photo), Corbis (R2-D2 photo), Ian O'Neill/Discovery News (edit)
According to moon dust researchers, the optimal rover shape for lunar roving is that of a domed roof... just like Star Wars' lovable robot R2-D2. So we Photoshopped R2 into an Apollo photograph! (It was a slow news day in the Discovery News office, apparently.)
And she's off! After months of studying a geologically interesting area in Gale Crater called "Yellowknife Bay," NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has begun its epic trek to Mount Sharp -- the 3.4 mile (5.5 kilometer) high mountain in the middle of the crater's basin. But don't get too excited, it could take the one-ton rover a year to make the journey.
NASA/JPL-Calech/Univ. of Ariz.
This recent observation of a formation on Mars was taken by the HiRISE camera on board NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The circular raised formation was likely once the bottom of a compressed impact crater, but over the eons, the surrounding landscape has been eroded away, leaving a circular mountain range of hardened material.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This NASA Cassini Solstice mission observation is of the shepherd moon Pan orbiting Saturn inside the Encke gap. The A ring surrounding the gap displays wave features created by interactions between the ring particles and Saturnian moons.
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
The newly-named Belgica Rupes is a 764 kilometer (474 mile) long cliff on the surfcae of the solar system's innermost planet Mercury. As imaged by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft that is in orbit around the planet, some of the smaller, newer craters obscure the scarp line, while the older craters were clearly disrupted by the formation of Belgica Rupes.
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
It may just look like a bunch of pixels, but that bright blob is Pluto, and that smaller blob? That's Pluto's largest moon Charon. This observation is important as it's the first time that NASA's New Horizons mission's long-range camera has been able to resolve Pluto and Charon as two distinct objects. Even more exciting is that we are going to get a very intimate look at the Pluto system in two years time when the spacecraft carries out its historic Pluto flyby.
NASA/McComas et al.
Yes, as predicted, the solar system has a tail. Although astronomers have known for some time that other stars carve out an "astrophere" in interstellar space, this is the first time that we've been able to observe our own. Shown here is a plot of the distribution of neutral particles emanating from the outermost region of our sun's heliosphere, revealing the shape of the solar system's magnetic tail.
X-ray: NASA/CXC/IAA-CSIC/N.Ruiz et al, Optical: NASA/STScI
This so-called planetary nebula forms the famous Eskimo Nebula, as imaged in beautiful detail by the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.
New observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter array (ALMA) in the Chilean Atacama desert have given astronomers the best view yet of a monster star in the process of forming within a dark cloud. The material is 500 times more massive than our sun, so when it's fully formed, it will likely at least 100 more massive than the sun and shining very brightly.