Curiosity Takes One Final Postcard Image of a Picturesque Valley Before Moving on to its Next Destination

A "postcard" from Mars Curiosity rover combines two images at two different times of day with a color overlay to show the different views. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech
A "postcard" view from Mars Curiosity rover. It combines images from two different times of day with a color overlay to show how the view changes. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars rover Curiosity continues to make its way up the slopes of Mount Sharp on Mars. On April 8th, its navigation cameras snapped a pair of images—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. They show distinctly different lighting angles during a crisp Martian winter day. The images got combined with a color overlay to produce a fantastic “postcard” from the Red Planet.

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Astronomers Have Figured Out Clever Tricks to Reduce the Impact of Satellite Trails

A long-exposure image of the Orion Nebula with a total exposure time of 208 minutes showing satellite trails in mid-December 2019. Credit: A. H. Abolfath
A long-exposure image of the Orion Nebula with a total exposure time of 208 minutes showing satellite trails in mid-December 2019. Credit: A. H. Abolfath

A clear sky is a prerequisite for most astronomers imaging the cosmos. However, with the proliferation of satellite trails, astronomers see a lot more streaks in their images. That’s particularly true for people using professional ground-based and orbiting telescopes. When Hubble Space Telescope opened its eye on the sky, there were less than 500 satellites orbiting our planet. Now, there are nearly 8,000 of them, leaving their mark across the sky.

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Parker Solar Probe Flies Close Enough to the Sun to See the Source of the Fast Solar Wind

NASA's Parker Solar Probe studies the fast solar wind and its origins on the Sun. Credit: NASA
NASA's Parker Solar Probe studies the fast solar wind and its origins on the Sun. Credit: NASA

Where does the solar wind come from? That’s a question solar physicists have wanted an answer to for decades. Now, the Parker Solar Probe is showing them exactly where this stream of particles exits our star on a journey out through interplanetary space.

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Triggered Star Birth in the Nessie Nebula

A three-color composite of a portion of the Nessie Nebula that shows infrared observations from two Spitzer instruments. The bright red circular region in the center is the site of triggered star formation. Courtesy NASA/JPL.
A three-color composite of a portion of the Nessie Nebula that shows infrared observations from two Spitzer instruments. The bright red circular region in the lower center is the site of triggered star formation. Courtesy NASA/JPL.

Star formation is one of the oldest processes in the Universe. In the Milky Way and most other galaxies, it unfolds in cold, dark creches of gas and dust. Astronomers study sites of star formation to understand the process. Even though they know much about it, some aspects remain mysterious. That’s particularly true for the “Nessie Nebula” in the constellation Vulpecula. An international team led by astronomer James Jackson studies the nebula and its embedded star-birth regions. They found that it experienced a domino effect called “triggered star formation.”

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There Are Hundreds of Mysterious Filaments at the Center of the Milky Way

A radio image of the central portions of the Milky Way galaxy composited with a view of the MeerKAT radio observatory. Radio bubbles and associated vertical magnetized filaments can be seen. Courtesy: MeerKAT/SARAO/Oxford University/Heywood
A radio image of the central portions of the Milky Way galaxy composited with a view of the MeerKAT radio observatory. Radio bubbles and associated vertical magnetized filaments can be seen. Courtesy: MeerKAT/SARAO/Oxford University/Heywood

Several million years ago, the core of our galaxy experienced a powerful event. It blew out a huge bi-lobed bubble that blasted through the interstellar medium in two directions. Whatever it was, it released huge amounts of energy from the central supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short).

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You Can Detect Tsunamis as They Push the Atmosphere Around

The Tonga Hunga volcanic eruption sent a tsunami across the Pacific. Air pressure disturbances from the tsunami distorted GPS signals. GOES imagery courtesy NOAA,NESDIS.
The Tonga Hunga volcanic eruption as seen by a GOES satellite. Credit: NOAA,NESDIS.

Anyone who’s ever lived along a coastline or been at sea knows the effects of tsunamis. And, they appreciate all the early warning they can get if one’s on the way. Now, NASA’s GNSS Upper Atmospheric Real-time Disaster and Alert Network (GUARDIAN) is using global navigation systems to measure the effect these ocean disturbances have on our atmosphere. The system’s measurements could provide a very effective early warning tool for people to get to higher ground in the path of a tsunami.

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ESA is Testing How Iron Burns in Weightlessness

ESA tested a process called discrete burning, using iron powder mixed with oxygen while in microgravity. The result is a possible way to create sustainable fuels on Earth and in space. Courtesy ESA.
ESA tested a process called discrete burning, using iron powder mixed with oxygen while in microgravity. The result is a possible way to create sustainable fuels on Earth and in space. Courtesy ESA and photo by TU/e, Bart van Overbeeke

What happens when you burn iron in space? The European Space Agency is torching iron powder in microgravity, to find out. They aren’t doing it for the fun of it, but to understand something called “discrete burning.” It turns out that this process might enable more efficient iron-burning furnaces right here on Earth. It could eventually join other renewable energy sources as a way to combat the release of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

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HAKUTO-R’s Software Got Confused at the Last Minute, Causing it to Crash into the Moon

LROC narrow-angle-cameras mosaic of the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 Lunar Lander impact site. The blue cross marks the impact site near Atlas crater. Courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
LROC narrow-angle-cameras mosaic of the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 Lunar Lander impact site. The blue cross marks the impact site Courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

On April 26, 2023, people around the world watched as the HAKUTO-R lander made its final approach for a landing on the Moon. It had been “on the road” since December 11, 2022, and completed eight Mission 1 milestones. Numbers 9 and 10 would have been landing and establishing a base on the Moon. As we all know, it reached the lunar surface, but not the way the ispace team expected. NASA images confirmed its final resting place.

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The Tonga Eruption Was So Powerful it Disrupted Satellites Half a World Away

The Tonga eruption in 2022 sent tons of ash and water into the air and sent an atmospheric pressure wave that helped create an equatorial plasma bubble that disrupted satellite communications that depend on the ionosphere. Courtesy of Himawari-8 satellite.
The Tonga eruption in 2022 sent ash and water into the air and created an atmospheric pressure wave that helped create an equatorial plasma bubble that disrupted satellite communications that depend on the ionosphere. Courtesy of Himawari-8 satellite.

Remember the huge Tonga eruption in the South Pacific in January 2022? This underwater volcano sent tons of ash into the air. It also blew 146 teragrams of water into our atmosphere and the effect of the explosion reached space. It also made life very difficult for people on Tonga, wiping out their communications and sending tsunamis across the South Pacific.

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Astronomers Watched a Fast Radio Burst Go Right Through a Star’s Atmosphere

The Green Bank Telescope was able to observe the directional changes of waves from the fast radio burst FRB20190520B as viewed through the lens of a massive star’s atmosphere. Image credit: NSF/GBO/P.Vosteen.
The Green Bank Telescope was able to observe the directional changes of waves from the fast radio burst FRB 20190520B as viewed through the lens of a massive star’s atmosphere. Image credit: NSF/GBO/P.Vosteen.

The universe is filled with things that go flash in the night. That includes fast radio bursts (FRBs). These are brilliant, powerful blips of radio emissions from distant and mysterious sources. Astronomers studying one called FRB 20190520B noticed something fascinating about its signals. They get polarized as they travel outward from the source.

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