A high-resolution closeup of Saturn's moon Mimas shows mysterious color differences around the huge Herschel crater. The combined picture, released March 29, 2010, is based on several shots taken by NASA's Cassini orbiter during its closest ever flyby of the tiny moon in February.
To the human eye, Mimas would likely be a uniform gray. The colors in this picture are exaggerated, based on data from visible, infrared, ultraviolet, and green filters on Cassini's cameras. The result shows bluish material in and around the 80-mile-wide (128-kilometer-wide) crater contrasted against older, greenish terrain. Astronomers are unsure why these color differences exist.
The cycle of life brings even huge stars to dust, as highlighted by a newly released picture of the supernova remnant G54.1 0.3. The bright white pulsar at the center of this picture—unveiled March 29, 2010—is all that remains of the core of a massive star that died in a violent supernova explosion.
Data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory show material that was expelled by the dying star being heated by the pulsar's high-energy winds (blue). Infrared images from the Spitzer Space Telescope (yellow, red, and green) expose a surrounding shell of dust and gas that's being lit up as the material streams through a nearby star cluster.
Image courtesy NASA/CXC/SAO/T.Temim et al. (x-ray), NASA/JPL-Caltech (IR)
Rover's First Choice
Proving that you can teach an old rover new tricks, NASA recently unveiled this image--the first taken autonomously by the Mars rover Opportunity.
On March 29, 2010, rover mission specialists announced results from new software uploaded last winter, which allows Opportunity to select its own research targets. Using preset criteria and pictures taken by the probe's navigation camera, the rover can pick out objectssuch as this football-size, oddly shaped rock near the Concepción craterand photograph them.
The new software could save a lot of valuable time, as it lets the aging rover avoid the 20-minute communications delay incurred when taking orders from Earth.
Image courtesy JPL-Caltech, NASA
Glowing like a hot-pink gumdrop, the Owl Nebula shines in a new picture taken by the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The 6,000-year-old object is a planetary nebula, the billowing remains of a dead sunlike star.
For a contest to determine Gemini's next imaging target, high school student Émilie Storer of Quebec, Canada, wrote the winning essay, about the Owl Nebula, a prominent object visible in the northern sky. The prize was to have Gemini astronomers make this high-resolution picture, released March 25, 2010. Experts say the image could offer new insight into the little-studied nebula.
Image courtesy Émilie Storer, André-Nicolas Chené, and Travis Rector
No, NASA did not send the nose of a retired space shuttle into the void. This oddly shaped object is Saturn's moon Calypso, brought to light in a new high-resolution picture released March 26, 2010.
The Cassini spacecraft snapped this shot in February as it swooped past Calypso, which trails behind the larger moon Tethys in roughly the same orbit around Saturn. Another moon, Telesto, orbits in front of Tethys, creating a grouping unique to the Saturnian system known as trojan moons.