National Geographic News
A photo of a star cluster located in the center of the Flame Nebula.

X-RAY PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/CXC/PSU/K.GETMAN, E.FEIGELSON, M. KUHN & THE MYStIX TEAM; INFARED PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL-CALTECH

Dan Vergano

National Geographic

Published May 9, 2014

This May 7 peek by not one but two NASA space telescopes lays bare secrets hidden in the heart of the Flame Nebula. There a stellar nursery, the star cluster NGC 2024, has older stars (some 1.5 million years old) around its outer edges and younger ones (only about 200,000 years old) at its center.

This discovery, revealed by combining an infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope and an x-ray image from the Chandra telescope, surprised astronomers. They'd expected the cluster's oldest stars to be at its center, cooking up new stars at its edges.

"Our findings are counterintuitive," said study leader Konstantin Getman of Penn State University, in a statement. "It means we need to think harder and come up with more ideas of how stars like our sun are formed."

Flare Blast From Solar Surface

A photo of a solar flare.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/SDO

Bursting from the surface of the sun, a solar flare is seen in all its menacing glory in this May 8 image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.

The medium-strength, M5.2-class flare erupting from the left side of the sun emitted a blast of radiation. If aimed at the Earth, such flares can disrupt GPS and other communication signals.

Twister Leaves Trail of Terror

A photo of the path of destruction from a tornado in Alabama
PHOTOGRAPH BY JESSE ALLEN AND ROBERT SIMMON, NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

The trail of the April 27 tornado that killed 16 people in an Arkansas town is shown in this May 2 picture. Hundreds of homes were destroyed in the tragedy.

The image from NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite shows a brown slash through Mayflower, Arkansas—the path the tornado took as it crossed Interstate 40 before flattening homes near Lake Conway.

Starlight Brightens Cosmic Cloud

A photo of a star cluster.
PHOTOGRAPH BY FRED HERRMANN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC YOUR SHOT

Stellar dust clouds gleam amid distant star clusters in this May 2 Your Shot look from New South Wales, Australia.

Located some 17,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Puppis, the star cluster NGC 2467 seen in this photo burns brightly with infant stars, illuminating the hollowed-out gas cloud that was their nursery.

Our own sun is suspected of originating in a similar star cluster, where wind from other infant stars and their solar eruptions would have helped shape the early solar system.

Catching Titan's Wave

A photo of Titan's south polar vortex, which creates the appearance of a moon within a moon.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SPACE SCIENCE INSTITUTE

Shrouded in its signature haze, Saturn's moon Titan has a curious crescent within a crescent in this view from the international Cassini spacecraft released on May 5.

Curving across the moon's darkened southern sky, the smaller crescent is formed by a polar vortex circling Titan's south pole, raising a wave of haze just high enough to catch a fleeting bit of sunlight.

Wildfires Scar Chilean Mountains

A photo of burnt Valparaiso, Chile after a fire.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JESSE ALLEN AND ROBERT SIMMON, NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY

Flames that threatened the Chilean city of Valparaiso left behind the broad reddish-brown scar visible in the center of a May 4 image captured by NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite.

The April wildfire, one of the deadliest fires in the region's history, claimed 15 lives, destroyed more than 3,300 homes, and burned 2,385 acres (965 hectares) of land.

Rover Drills Martian Sandstone

A photo of of Mars from the Curiosity rover.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/JPL-CALTECH

While exploring Mars up close last week, NASA's Curiosity rover drilled into this sandstone outcrop.

A test hole and the full drill hole, some 2.6 inches (6.5 centimeters) deep, can be seen at the top center of the photo of the rock, dubbed "Windjana" by mission scientists reminded of an Australian gorge.

From the hole in the rock—the first sandstone drilled on Mars—the team captured a sample uncontaminated by the dust covering the surface of Mars. Curiosity's instruments will analyze its mineral and chemical content. The overriding mission of the $2.5-billion rover is to assess whether the red planet was once habitable.

2 comments

Share

How to Feed Our Growing Planet

  • Feed the World

    Feed the World

    National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series.

See blogs, stories, photos, and news »

The Innovators Project

See more innovators »

Latest Photos Galleries

See more photos »

Shop Our Space Collection

  • Be the First to Own <i>Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey</i>

    Be the First to Own Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

    The updated companion book to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, featuring a new forward by Neil deGrasse Tyson is now available. Proceeds support our mission programs, which protect species, habitats, and cultures.

Shop Now »