NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope new image shows NGC 7026, a planetary nebula. Located just beyond the tip of the tail of the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan), this butterfly-shaped cloud of glowing gas and dust is the wreckage of a star similar to the Sun. Planetary nebulae, despite their name, have nothing to do with planets. They are in fact a relatively short-lived phenomenon that occurs at the end of the life of mid-sized stars.
Two small asteroids zipped close by Earth in back-to-back flybys of the planet on May 28 and on May 29. As said NASA scientists while both space rocks came well within the moon’s orbit, they posed no danger to our plane. The newfound asteroid 2012 KP24, which measures approximately 69 feet (21 meters) across, zoomed by Earth on May 28, coming within 32,000 miles (51,000 kilometers) on its closest approach, according to astronomers at NASA’s Asteroid Watch at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity catches its own late-afternoon shadow in this dramatically lit view eastward across Endeavour Crater on Mars. Opportunity is perched on the western rim of Endeavour Crater looking eastward. The crater spans about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. Opportunity has been studying the edge of Endeavour Crater since arriving there in August 2011. The photo is a mosaic composed of images taken with Opportunity’s panoramic camera between 4:30 and 5 p.m.
Astronomers have previously detected superflares from a variety of star types, which release bursts that have 10 to 10,000 times more energy than the largest solar flare ever detected from our sun. Scientists wanted to know how common these outbursts might be from stars like the sun, those with masses and temperatures similar to our star. Even normal solar flares can damage satellites, endanger astronauts and wreak havoc on electrical grids on Earth, suggesting that superflares might be catastrophic to life on Earth.
On May 20 a solar eclipse will block out most of the sun, leaving a spectacular “ring of fire” shining in the sky for observers located along the eclipse’s path. The event is what’s known as an annular solar eclipse, from the Latin “annulus,” meaning “little ring”, and its full glory should be visible from much of Asia, the Pacific region and some of western North America, weather permitting. At its peak, the eclipse will block about 94 percent of the sun’s light.
An asteroid with the size of a school bus gave Earth a close shave on May 13, passing well inside the orbit of the moon. According to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif the near-Earth asteroid 2012 JU, which is thought to be about 40 feet (12 meters) wide, came within 119,000 miles (191,500 kilometers) or so of our planet before zooming off into deep space.
According to NASA scientists huge sunspot that dwarfs the Earth is unleashing a series of powerful solar flares as it moves across the surface of the sun. The sunspot AR 1476 was detected by space telescopes on May 5. The huge sunspot is 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across, so large that when it was first seen in views from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, mission scientists dubbed it a “monster sunspot.”
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed that movement in sand dune fields on the Red Planet occurs on a surprisingly large scale, about the same as in dune fields on Earth. This is unexpected because Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, is only about one percent as dense, and its high-speed winds are less frequent and weaker than Earth’s. For years, researchers debated whether sand dunes observed on Mars were mostly fossil features related to past climate, rather than currently active.
The Biological Oxidant and Life Detection mission, or BOLD, would send six small spacecraft to Mars to seek out extinct or extant life in the planet’s red dirt. As said researchers the mission, if it’s ever approved, might be ready to go by 2018 and would likely cost less than $300 million. If BOLD gets off the ground, it would be the first dedicated life-detection mission to Mars since NASA’s twin Viking landers blasted off in 1975, ultimately returning inconclusive results.