NGC 6946 (also known as the Fireworks Galaxy, Arp 29, and Caldwell 12) is a medium-sized, face-on spiral galaxy about 22.5 million light years away from Earth located in the constellations Cepheus and Cygnus. At about 20,000 light years wide, it’s one of about a dozen nearby neighbors to the Milky Way. Since its discovery by William Herschel on September 9, 1798, nine supernovas (death explosions of massive stars) have been observed to explode in the arms of this unusually active galaxy. Chandra observations (purple) have, in fact, revealed three of the oldest supernovas ever detected in X-rays, giving more credence to its nickname of the "Fireworks Galaxy."
The Pirate Party of Russia (Russian: Пиратская Партия России, ППР), a grassroots effort to promote e-democracy, freedom of information, and protection of personal privacy, has offered NASA a birthday gift as the space institution marks its 55th birthday this week. While the space agency’s website has been shut down “due to the lapse in federal government funding”, the Pirate Party has offered NASA the use of its dedicated servers to temporarily host the US space agency’s website.
The bright star at the center of this nebula, the object responsible for the nebula’s distorted form, is Eta Carinae, one of the most massive stars in the galaxy. Eta Carinae is around 100 times the mass of our sun and 1 million times brighter. Scientists think it could explode as a supernova at any time.
On March 17, 2013, an object the size of a large boulder, crashed into the surface of the moon. The resulting flash of light was 10 times greater than any recorded direct-moon hit to date and in fact was so bright, it was visible by the naked eye from Earth. Scientists at NASA explained that the object's 56,000 MPH speed and lack of atmosphere on the Moon are the reason the explosion, calculated as the equivalent to five tons of TNT, was so grand. They are estimating that the flash of light was the same intensity as a 4th magnitude star and that the crater it created when it struck the moon's surface measures 65 feet wide.
NASA and ISS may be slowly loosening their tight lips with regards to the normally hush-hush UFO phenomenon. Today, Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut and the commander of Expedition 35 on the International Space Station, tweeted pictures of a huge piece of debris that he captured on film floating near ISS. Upon closer inspection, the object is clearly a saucer-shaped UFO.
Two of the five Saturn V rocket engines that powered NASA's July 19, 1969 Apollo 11 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, has been recovered from the Atlantic ocean floor in an expedition sponsored by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The rockets, which had a shelf life of only 165 seconds, were jettisoned into the waters of the Atlantic and have sat there, undisturbed, for nearly 50 years. The engines were located using sonar and raised 14,000 feet to the surface using remote operated vehicles. Bezos plans to have the engines cleaned up and partially restored (and hopefully placed on display for the public).
The Mars Curiosity Rover has drilled a hole in Mars for the first time yesterday. Curiosity used the drill at the tip of its robotic arm to drill a small .8 inch (2 centimeter) hole into the Martian rock affectionately named “John Klein”. The so-called "mini-drill test" marked the first time Curiosity used both the hammer and rotating action of its Mars drill. The drill pulverized the rock into powder which can then be used in sample-collection tests.
On February 15, 2013 an asteroid about half the size of a football field will pass by the Earth with only 17,200 miles to spare. The asteroid, named 2012 DA14, will pass Earth closer than many man-made satellites. Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL told reporters that this is a record-setting close approach. Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we've never seen an object this big get so close to Earth.
NASA Glenn has been developing the next generation of ion thrusters for future missions. NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project has developed a 7-kilowatt ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. The ion propulsion system's efficient use of fuel and electrical power enable modern spacecraft to travel farther, faster, and cheaper than any other propulsion technology currently available. Ion thrusters are currently used for stationkeeping on communication satellites and for main propulsion on deep space probes. Ion thrusters expel ions to create thrust and can provide higher spacecraft top speeds than any other rocket currently available.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has captured a movie of a collapsed star that's spinning faster than a helicopter rotor and unleashing ultra-fast particles that move at 70 percent of the speed of light. The video gives us a spell-bounding view of the ultra-dense star, named Vela (or PSR B0833-45 or PSR J0835-4510), which is just 12 miles (19 kilometers) wide and located about 1,000 light-years from Earth. Vela spews out a jet of charged particles along its rotation axis as it spins at a rate of more than 11 times each second (faster than a helicopter rotor).