Like cream poured into coffee, oil swirls in the Gulf of Mexico not far from the Louisiana coast, as seen in a recently released picture taken by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi last Tuesday. Low clouds hover over the Gulf at bottom left.
Just beyond the "California coast" lies one of the hottest stars visible to the naked eye.
A new picture from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, telescope, shows the California Nebula, a star-forming cloud of dust and gas about a hundred light-years long. At the top of a red dust cloud to the upper left of the nebula lies Menkhib, a star with a surface temperature six times hotter than the sun's.
Menkhib is a runaway star, one that was ejected from its home cluster and is now speeding through the nebula's dust and gas. The red cloud is a part of the nebula that's being heated by a shock wave in front of the fast-moving star. (Related: "Hubble Telescope Catches Superfast Runaway Star.")
Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Orion's Abort System Test
A crowd of onlookers gathers at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Thursday to watch a test of the abort system for the Orion crew capsule, a survivor of NASA's newly cancelled Constellation program for taking humans into space.
Like the Apollo capsules before it, Orion was designed to be launched into space on top of a massive rocket (video: "NASA's Ares I-X Rocket Launches"). If anything goes wrong after a launch, the abort system is intended to lift the crew capsule off the rocket and get the crew to a safe distance for landing.
During the test, the abort system's rocket motors launched the capsule just over a mile (1.6 kilometers) into the air before a parachute deployed and allowed the craft to drift back to Earth.
Although NASA's current plan calls for Orion to be built, the capsule is now intended to serve only as an emergency "life raft" for astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Photograph courtesy Reed P. Elli, NASA
NASA's STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) recently caught sight of a solar eruption with a twist. The largest of three eruptions seen between April 30 and May 2 produced a loop of plasma, or charged gas, with a pronounced twisting motion.
A reservoir of raw material hidden within the constellation Vulpecula, the Fox, turns out to be an assembly line for stars, as seen in a new picture from the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory.
Galactic turbulence has caused this cold cloud of gas and dust within the Milky Way to condense into wispy filaments that serve as stellar "incubators." As the web gets denser and gravitational forces increase, the filaments will eventually break apart into discrete "embryos" that will in turn collapse, forming infant stars.