As part of its mission to boldly go where no private company has gone before, Virgin Galactic conducted the first "captive carry" test flight of its commercial spaceship, dubbed the V.S.S. Enterprise, on March 22, 2010.
Instead of using huge launch rockets like NASA does for its space shuttles, Virgin Galactic uses a mother ship known as WhiteKnight to carry its spacecraft into the skies. On future flights, the spaceship is to drop away from WhiteKnight in midair and use its own hybrid rockets to reach suborbital heights.
Photograph courtesy Mark Greenberg, Virgin Galactic
The red rose is actually dust being heated by a cluster of stars called Berkeley 59. The green regions along the edges are heated hydrocarbons associated with combustion.
Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Swirling Star Birth
Large, bright clouds of gases and dust swirl in the early galaxy dubbed SMM J2135-0102 in an artist's rendering released March 21, 2010. New data on the ten-billion-year-old galaxy reveal vigorous star formation.
Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Atacama Pathfinder Experiment got an unexpectedly clear glimpse of this "star factory," thanks to a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. This effect causes light from the distant galaxy to be magnified by the gravity of another galaxy cluster between SMM J2135-0102 and Earth.
Most black holes are surrounded by a bright disk of swirling gases, which in turn is rimmed by a darker ring called a dust torus. But in the very early universe, molecules had yet to combine to form dust, so black holes from that time period have only the hot, gassy disks.
Image courtesy R. Hurt, JPL-Caltech, NASA
Bright, massive stars light up a dusty canyon in the heart of the Orion Nebula, as seen in a 3-D computer model used in the production of the new IMAX film Hubble 3D.
Created using Hubble Space Telescope images, the 3-D model allows viewers to drift through the 15-light-year-wide canyon, where stellar winds from massive stars are sculpting gas clouds even as smaller stars give birth to new planetary systems.
Image courtesy G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers, NASA