February 1, 2010—Two sets of human-made islands lie off the coast of Dubai in a new astronaut's-eye view of the United Arab Emirates metropolis.
The Palm Jumeirah (left) required more than 1.7 billion cubic feet (50 million cubic meters) of dredged sand to create the palm tree-shaped island. The 300 islands that make up "the World" meanwhile, required 11.3 billion cubic feet (320 million cubic meters) of sand, along with 37 million tons of rock for the surrounding 16.7-mile-long (27-kilometer-long) breakwater.
The recently released snapshot, taken from aboard the International Space Station, also caught the spiky shadow of the world's tallest building, the 2,600-foot-high (800-meter-high) Burj Khalifa, near the lower right edge of the frame.
Photograph courtesy Johnson Space Center via NASA Earth Observatory
Asteroid Collision Debris
February 2, 2010—"X" marks the spot where an unusual trail of gas and dust billows across the main asteroid belt—between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter—in a new picture from the Hubble Space Telescope.
In addition to the perplexing X-shaped pattern revealed by Hubble, the core of the object appears to be just outside the halo of dust at the object's head. This strengthens the case that the object is not a comet, since astronomers have never seen a comet with its core outside its halo.
January 27, 2010—Gas and dust whorl around a stellar embryo as jets of material pour from the poles in an artist's rendering of the massive protostar W33A.
Using an infrared instrument on the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, astronomers peered through the dense natal cloud surrounding W33A to see if stars much more massive than our sun form any differently than their less massive counterparts.
What they found is that the process for making heavyweight stars is "reassuringly familiar, like a nice cup of tea," according to team member Melvin Hoare of the U.K.'s University of Leeds.
Image by Lynette Cook, Gemini Observatory
Most Distant Black Hole
January 27, 2010—The most distant stellar-mass black hole yet found strips material from a massive companion star in an artist's conception.
Extremely bright x-rays spotted in 2007 coming from the spiral galaxy NGC 300 first tipped off astronomers that there might be a black hole lurking inside. Now, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, researchers have confirmed the black hole's presence and weighed the object at 15 times the mass of the sun.
The new data also showed that the black hole is feeding off its larger companion, an older star that will probably become a black hole itself in less than a million years, the scientists say.
Although Spirit has been working for more than six years on what was meant to be a 90-day mission, the rover became almost completely stuck in a small crater filled with soft sand in May 2009.
Last week NASA decided to halt efforts to free Spirit and instead use its tools to conduct a new set of science experiments that benefit from the rover staying put—assuming that the aging craft survives the oncoming Martian winter.