February 9, 2010—The space shuttle Endeavour glides past Earth's atmosphere, as seen in an astronaut's picture taken aboard the International Space Station.
The unique photograph shows the shuttle against Earth's limb, or apparent edge, and captures the layers of the atmosphere in various hues. The shot was taken just before the shuttle docked with the space station at 12:06 p.m. ET to begin Endeavour's current, 13-day mission.
The nebula is a favorite target for sky-watchers, since it's easy to find in the "sword" of the constellation Orion, the hunter. But in visible light the nebula appears as just a cloud of gas lighted by internal star birth. VISTA, with its infrared eye, can see through the cloud to capture the action in unprecedented detail.
Solar Dynamics Observatory Launches
February 11, 2010—The fiery boosters of an Atlas V rocket create a trail of exhaust in the morning sky over Florida as the rocket carries NASA's new Solar Dynamics Observatory into the heavens.
The space telescope will be the latest tool in NASA's arsenal to study the sun, from its turbulent interior to its vast upper atmosphere. Scientists hope a better understanding of our stormy star will someday make it possible to predict dangerous space weather, which can harm astronauts and even knock out power grids on Earth.
February 11, 2010—The hourglass shape of the nebula known as Sharpless 2-106 gets a rosy hue in a new composite picture taken with the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The nebula is thought to house a newborn high-mass star, which is obscured deep inside the dense cloud of dust.
New filters on the Gemini telescope are allowing scientists to study the nebula by combining single-color pictures taken in visible light. Each color is linked to a type of gas—violet for helium, blue for sulfur, green for oxygen, and red for hydrogen.
Soufrière Hills Dome Collapse
February 11, 2010—Dark clouds of ash billow over the Caribbean island of Montserrat following a partial dome collapse of the Soufrière Hills volcano, as seen by NASA's Aqua satellite. The plume reached 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) into the sky during the hour-long event.
Volcanoes can form lava domes when thick, relatively cool magma oozes from a crater and solidifies in layers, eventually creating a rounded dome. While this slow growth is not explosive, some lava domes retain gases that can build up enough pressure to trigger an explosion.
The recent event on Monstserrat, a British overseas territory, sent avalanches of hot ash and debris, known as pyroclastic flows, streaming down the volcano's sides.