During the roughly six-hour test flight, the Enterprise stayed attached to the Virgin Galactic mothership, the craft designed to carry the passenger vehicle toward suborbital heights. But two crew members used the trip to run through a battery of system tests in preparation for future solo flights.
The observatory's Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager shows areas of blue and orange, indicating where the magnetic field has opposite charges. The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument provided data on the sun's UV light.
The juxtaposition clearly shows that the UV arcs emerge from regions where the magnetic field is stronger, according to NASA.
Image courtesy SDO/NASA
The bright, young star IRAS 13481-6124 (seen at upper left, with a greenish tint) dominates a star-forming region captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in an archival image released this week.
The picture helped astronomers get a detailed look at the dusty cocoon encircling this big baby star, which is about 20 times the mass of our sun and five times its radius. Studies of the star and its natal cloud offer the first direct evidence that massive stars are born in the same way as their smaller kin.
Image courtesy NASA
A camera to be attached to the underside of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, seen in a photo released July 19, will give space fans an "unprecedented sense of riding a spacecraft" to Mars, according to the NASA website.
The downward-pointing Mars Descent Imager, or MARDI, will start recording high-resolution, full-color video about two minutes before the rover's anticipated landing in August 2012. (See Mars pictures.)
The first shots should show the heat shield falling away from beneath the rover as the spacecraft comes screaming through the Martian atmosphere. Successive, by-the-second images will take more detailed footage—perhaps ending with a dust swirl as the rover touches down. (Read more about NASA's plans to broadcast the Curiosity landing.)
Image courtesy NASA
Fan-like structures near the bright core of Saturn's F-ring show how the small moon Prometheus makes snowballs in space, a process revealed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.
In the mosaic picture, released July 20, dark channels mark the passage of the shepherd moon (more about Saturn's many types of moons). The gravitational pull of Prometheus sloshes ring material around, creating the wavy structure and triggering formation of objects as large as 12 miles (20 kilometers) wide. Brighter features are the clumps of icy ring material.