Here’s What Happens When NASA Engineers Carve Their Pumpkins

Every workplace should have this much fun! A group of engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory held their sixth annual pumpkin carving contest, and this year’s entries did not disappoint. Using a combination of engineering savvy and creative license, the JPL engineers carved up several different types of themed pumpkins, including a cow abduction by aliens, a geyser-spewing Europa, unique depictions of several different space missions and much more.

Halloween is actually a special holiday at JPL because October 31, 1936 was the beginning of JPL’s history, when several grad students studying at Caltech and some amateur rocket enthusiasts drove out to a dry canyon tested out a liquid rocket engine. To celebrate JPL’s 80th anniversiary, here’s a link to a gallery of images pairs that shows vintage views from JPL’s history with images that show what the lab looks like today.

In addition, JPL held a Halloween costume contest that really was out of this world. See all the fun below:

This pumpkin was turned into a spooky alien abduction scene:

Abduction by pumpkin

A pale pumpkin Europa, complete with geysers. Behind it, Juno orbits Jupiter.

Juno and Europa

Wheee! A Halloween carnival:

Halloween carnival

JPL’s Starshade was turned into a chainsaw massacre.

Just a scratch

The pictures of the costume contest are courtesy JPL mechanical engineer Aaron Yazzie’s Twitter feed:

Halloween Astrophoto: The Witch Head Nebula

Boo! Here’s a great shot of the Witch Head nebula, so named because it resembles the profile of a wicked witch. This nebula’s ‘official’ name is IC 2118, and it is just a cloud of interstellar gas and dust — nothing to be afraid of! The eerie shape is sculpted in part by radiation from the supergiant star Rigel, the brightest star of Orion. In fact, Rigel illuminates the nebula by reflecting off the dust grains, making it glow. Inside the nebula, young stars are being born.  This image was taken by a former NASA scientist/engineer Fred Herrmann of the Owl Mountain Observatory near Huntsville, Alabama — ftherrmann2012 on Flickr. You can see an infrared image of this same nebula taken by the WISE spacecraft.

You can see more great images on Universe Today’s Flickr group page (click here to access, or see the new “Photos” tab at the top of our page) and feel free join the group and upload any astronomical images you have taken.

 

Happy Halloween from all of us here at Universe Today!

The Witch Head nebula is estimated to be hundreds of light-years away in the constellation of Orion. This image was taken by the WISE spacecraft. Credit: NASA.
The Witch Head nebula is estimated to be hundreds of light-years away in the constellation of Orion. This image was taken by the WISE spacecraft. Credit: NASA.

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Astrophoto: Spooky Fingers Reach Out into Space

Dark shadows and dust in VdB 4. Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

It’s the Case of the Phantom Phalanges! Spooky fingers reach up from the dark realms of space in this new image from Adam Block of the Mount Lemmon Sky Center. The image shows a ghostly view of VdB 4, which is a reflection nebula associated with a young open star cluster NGC 225, often called the Sailboat Cluster. Click here to see the entire field of view — which includes a dark area that looks like a spooky Halloween spider. This image was taken in October, 2012 with the 32-inch Schulman Telescope (RCOS) at Mount Lemmon, using a SBIG STX16803 CCD Camera. Thanks to Adam Block for sharing this eerie image!

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Space-O-Lanterns: 7 Minutes of Terror/Dragon Edition

Need some inspiration for carving your Halloween pumpkin? Look no further. Last year we featured some amazing feats of Halloween pumpkin carving, and this year the field is just as impressive. And what could be scarier than seven minutes of terror and Dragons? This year many carvers went with a Mars Science Laboratory theme, as did Will Gater, who brandished his carving knife in this outstanding re-creation of Curiosity being lowered by the Skycrane.

See more, below:

Liz Warren (@spasmunkey) carved an eery view of Curiosity on Mars.

Curiosity lasering a rock “for science!” said carver and planetary scientist Dr. Sarah Horst (@PlanetDr)

Someone at Johnson Space Center (@NASA-Johnson) is pretty handy with a pumpkin carving knife and deftly paid tribute to SpaceX’s recent success with the Dragon capsule visiting the International Space Station and safely returning cargo and experiments.

And here’s a timelapse video of a pumpkin artist creating a tribute to the recent Red Bull Stratos jump from the stratosphere:

Spooky Halloween Aurora

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Did you see ghosts and goblins last night for Halloween? Jason Ahrns of Chatanika, Alaska saw a dark shadow of a spooky ghost in the middle of a green aurora stream during his observing run on October 31, 2011. He used a Nikon D5000 to snap this eerie image.

See more from Jason at his Flickr page.

Want to get your astrophoto featured on Universe Today? Join our Flickr group, post in our Forum or send us your images by email (this means you’re giving us permission to post them). Please explain what’s in the picture, when you took it, the equipment you used, etc.

Incredible ‘Space-O-Lanterns’

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When it comes to Halloween, there are some very creative people out there. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them, but I’ve been enjoying some incredible space-themed Jack-O-Lanterns that people on Twitter have been sharing. Above is an amazing re-creation of the Moon by astronomer and science writer Will Gater (@willgater) which shows the maria, craters and the rays from Tycho crater.

Below, a group of Space Tweeps got together and had a “Space-o-lantern” carving party: take a look!

'Gargarkin': Yuri Gargarin in Jack-o-lantern form by Rachel Hobson

Here’s Yuri Gagarin in intricate detail in the “Gargarkin” created by Rachel Hobson, @avgjanecrafter on Twitter. See more at Rachel’s blog, Average Jane Crafter

The STS-130 mission patch as a Jack-O-Lantern by Liz Warren.

Liz Warren (@spasmunkey) specializes in space-o-lanterns of various space shuttle mission patches. Above in the STS-130 patch and below is STS-120.

STS-120 Space-O-Lantern, carved by Liz Warren.
Saturn Space-O-Lantern by Jen Scheer.

And here’s a planetary pumpkin from Jen Scheer (@flyingjenny).

These creative Space Tweeps declared the First Ever World-Wide Space-O-Lantern Carving Day on October 28, 2011, and you can see more at their Flickr page. Create your own Space-O-Lanterns and upload to the group!