SMAP Takes to the Skies

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard is seen in this long exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 2, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls) via NASA http://ift.tt/1Abg9qy

Hubble’s View of the Polar Ring of Arp 230

This image shows Arp 230, also known as IC 51, observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Arp 230 is a galaxy of an uncommon or peculiar shape, and is therefore part of the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies produced by Halton Arp. Its irregular shape is thought to be the result of a violent collision with another galaxy sometime in the past. The collision could also be held responsible for the formation of the galaxy’s polar ring.

The outer ring surrounding the galaxy consists of gas and stars and rotates over the poles of the galaxy. It is thought that the orbit of the smaller of the two galaxies that created Arp 230 was perpendicular to the disk of the second, larger galaxy when they collided. In the process of merging the smaller galaxy would have been ripped apart and may have formed the polar ring structure astronomers can observe today.

Arp 230 is quite small for a lenticular galaxy, so the two original galaxies forming it must both have been smaller than the Milky Way.  A lenticular galaxy is a galaxy with a prominent central bulge and a disk, but no clear spiral arms.  They are classified as intermediate between an elliptical galaxy and a spiral galaxy.

European Space Agency

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Flickr user Det58 via NASA http://ift.tt/1yLHxoB

Delta II Rocket With Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission Onboard

A worker is seen preparing the launch gantry to be rolled back from the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard, at the Space Launch Complex 2, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Now scheduled to launch early Friday morning, SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls via NASA http://ift.tt/1Kbxxvx

NASA’s Day of Remembrance 2015

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and his wife, Alexis, lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns as part of NASA’s Day of Remembrance, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, at Arlington National Cemetery.  The wreaths were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration.  Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky via NASA http://ift.tt/1v57rc7

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Ready for Jan. 29 Launch

The sun sets behind Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) with the Delta II rocket and the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory protected by the service structure on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy, and carbon cycles.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls via NASA http://ift.tt/1zyp1a3

Sounding Rockets Launch Into an Aurora

The interaction of solar winds and Earth’s atmosphere produces northern lights, or auroras, that dance across the night sky and mesmerize the casual observer. However, to scientists this interaction is more than a light display. It produces many questions about the role it plays in Earth’s meteorological processes and the impact on the planet’s atmosphere.

To help answer some of these questions, NASA suborbital sounding rockets carrying university-developed experiments — the Mesosphere-Lower Thermosphere Turbulence Experiment (M-TeX) and Mesospheric Inversion-layer Stratified Turbulence (MIST) — were launched into auroras from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. The experiments explore the Earth’s atmosphere’s response to auroral, radiation belt and solar energetic particles and associated effects on nitric oxide and ozone.

This composite shot of all four sounding rockets for the M-TeX and MIST experiments is made up of 30 second exposures. The rocket salvo began at 4:13 a.m. EST, Jan. 26, 2015. A fifth rocket carrying the Auroral Spatial Structures Probe remains ready on the launch pad. The launch window for this experiment runs through Jan. 27.

Image Credit: NASA/Jamie Adkins

> More: M-TeX and MIST Experiments Launched from Alaska via NASA http://ift.tt/1yL9zFf

Rocky Mountain National Park Viewed From the International Space Station

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Rocky Mountain National Park on Jan. 26, 2015, Expedition 42 Flight Engineer Terry Virts posted this photograph, taken from the International Space Station, to Twitter. Virts wrote, “Majestic peaks and trails! Happy 100th anniversary @RockyNPS So much beauty to behold in our @NatlParkService.”

Image Credit: NASA/Terry Virts via NASA http://ift.tt/1JtMz0Y