From the Far Side


Four weeks after the Chinese Chang’e 4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter approached the landing site from the east, rolled 70 degrees to the west, and snapped this view of Chang’e 4. The large crater in the center (just right and below arrows) is about 440 m across.

Image Credit: NASA / GSFC / ASU

Dust Survives a Supernova


This artist’s concept illustrates Supernova 1987A as the powerful blast wave passes through its outer ring and destroys most of its dust, before the dust re-forms or grows rapidly. Observations by SOFIA, a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope, reveal that such dust — which makes up the building blocks of stars and planets — can re-form or grow immediately after the catastrophic damage caused by the supernova’s blast wave.

Video Credit: NASA

Weather on Neptune


Neptune has seasons which drive some of the features in its atmosphere, but those seasons are much longer than on Earth, lasting for decades rather than months.

This new Hubble view of Neptune shows a dark storm near the top center of the planet’s disc in the region currently experiencing “summer.” The feature is the fourth and latest  dark vortex captured by Hubble since 1993. Two other dark storms were discovered by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989 as it flew by the remote planet. Since the Voyager flyby, Hubble has been out only telescope with sufficient sensitivity in blue light to track such elusive features which have appeared and faded quickly.

Image Credit: NASA / STScI

Ultima Thule in the Rear View Mirror


This animation was assembled from images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager after the spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day. The central frame of the sequence was taken on at 05:42:42 UT when the spacecraft was 8,862 km past the Kuiper Belt Object and 6.6 billion km from Earth. The KBO’s illuminated crescent is blurred in the individual frames because long exposure times were required boost the camera’s signal level. The Sun’s light is roughly 2000X dimmer at Ultima Thule that here on Earth. This is the farthest movie of any object in our Solar System ever made by a spacecraft.

Image Credits: NASA / JHUAPL / SWRI / NOAO

A Recently Discovered Dwarf Galaxy


When the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the globular star cluster NGC 6752 (located 13,000 light-years away in our Milky Way’s halo), the image revealed a never-before-seen dwarf galaxy cataloged as Bedin 1 located far behind the cluster’s crowded stellar population. The galaxy is only 30 million light-years away but had not been noticed before. It’s classified as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy because it measures only around 3,000 light-years at its greatest extent. Because it’s so small, it’s roughly a thousand times dimmer than the Milky Way.

Because it’s very old, 13 billion years, and relatively isolated, it’s seen hardly any interaction with other galaxies It’s the astronomical equivalent of a living fossil from the early universe.

This composite image above  shows the location of Bedin 1 behind the globular cluster NGC 6752. The lower image of the complete cluster is a ground-based observation from the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The upper right image shows the full field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope. The upper left image highlights the region containing the galaxy Bedin 1.

Image Credits: NASA / ESA / DSS / STScI