On January 18th of this year, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft looked back at the Saturn-facing face of the icy moon Enceladus from 483,000 miles away, and captured this image of its cryovolcanic plumes (image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute).
Jupiter’s moon Io, photographed by Voyager 2, 10 July 1979.
Two volcanic eruptions are clearly visible in the top-left: I think that they are from Amirani and Maui. There’s also an eruption on the right-hand side, but as its only lit by reflected light from Jupiter, it requires a lot of brightening to see (NASA’s photojournal shows it here).
You can also see a volcano in the south, tall enough to stay in sunlight even as the surrounding areas fall into darkness.
Virginia-based Orbital Sciences and NASA just successfully launched their new Antares rocket from Wallops Island on Virginia’s eastern shore to orbit at 17,500 MPH, in all of eight minutes. The Cygnus test spacecraft was deployed flawlessly, and everything looks good for Orbital to join Space X as the second space-faring US company capable of reaching the International Space Station (image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
“Massachusetts invented America. American ideals were first spoken here, first dreamed about here. Our constitution is the oldest, and one of the most explicit about individual freedoms. Our legislature is the longest continuously operating democratic body on the face of the earth.”
—Governor Deval L. Patrick
(image credit: NASA/ISS Crew Earth Observation, JSC)
In June of 1997, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft returned this image of an 86 mile high volcanic plume erupting over the caldera Pillan Patera, on the southern hemisphere of Jupiter’s moon Io. Volcanic features on Io’s sulfur-coated surface are named for mythological figures related to fire, volcanos, thunder, the Greek myth of Io, and names from Dante’s Inferno. Pillan Patera was named for a god of the South American Mapuche people. This spectacular eruption continued over a five month period from spring to fall of 1997, but the estimated 13 cubic miles of dark deposits from the effusive eruption (largest ever witnessed) were covered by deposits from nearby volcanoes like Pele, Kami-Nari, and Reiden over the following three years (image credit: NASA/JPL/PIRL/University of Arizona/Kinetikon Pictures/Michael Benson).
Plumes of brine erupt from the south pole of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, in this view from NASA’s Cassini probe. Enceladus’ cryovolcanic jets are thought to reach down through its “tiger stripe” fissures to a salty, warm sea of liquid water six miles under its surface (image credit: NASA/JPL/SSI/Color Composite by Gordan Ugarkovic).
On Friday, solar active region AR 11719 erupted in an M6.5 class flare and a coronal mass ejection, the biggest of 2013 so far. The titanic eruption of solar particles was captured in the high ultraviolet by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (image credit: NASA/SDO).
Seattle and environs as seen during a brief sun break this morning from the International Space Station, in a sweeping view that takes in Puget Sound at the top, Lake Washington mid-image, and Lake Sammamish near the bottom (image credit: CSA/Commander Chris Hadfield).
The last light of Valentine’s Day glinting off of the Northeastern seaboard of the United States, as seen from the International Space Station. Sunlit water bodies visible in this southward view are Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay, Long Island Sound, and Chesapeake Bay, 250 miles southwest of Long Island (image credit: NASA/Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center).
This is what our side of the world looked like from the geostationary orbit of NASA’s GOES 13 satellite, three hours ago (image credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project).
Post-nor’easter snow blankets the northeastern United States in this orbital image from late last week, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite (image credit: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response).
In the latter part of the last decade, world astronomers of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) wrestled with the definition of the term “planet,” and a 2006 redefinition of planets would have added asteroid Ceres, Pluto’s moon Charon, and newly-discovered Eris to our solar system. This draft proposal went even further, suggesting the consideration of a dozen other trans-Neptunian Kuiper belt objects (and one more main belt asteroid) for inclusion as planets (from top left to bottom right in this illustration, with Earth for scale): Haumea, Makemake, Sedna, Orcus, Quaoar, 2002 TX300, 2002 AW197, Varuna, Ixion, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea. This proposal was ultimately rejected and instead Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet, a new category that also includes Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris (image credit: IAU).
In the latter part of the last decade, world astronomers of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) wrestled with the definition of the term “planet,” and a 2006 redefinition of planets would have added three to our solar system: the one-time planet Ceres located in the main asteroid belt, Pluto’s smaller twin Charon, and the trans-Neptunian world later named Eris. This draft proposal was ultimately rejected (image credit: IAU).
The Plutonian system is up to five moons now, but predictive modeling of the system’s formation raises the potential that five more moons and a ring of icy debris may yet be discovered circling the trans-Neptunian dwarf planet at the leading edge of the Kuiper belt, when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches it in July of 2015 (illustration credit: Fahad Sulehria).
Also on this date in 1930, news of the discovery of a new trans-Neptunian “Planet X” was telegraphed by Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ to the Harvard College Observatory, and the story went global. Names were suggested from all over the world for the new world: Zeus, Odin, Persephone, Erebos, Atlas, Prometheus…but Pluto was named by Venetia Burney, the eleven year old granddaughter of an Oxford librarian.
In 2008, Pluto’s status was downgraded to “dwarf planet” after similarly sized, even larger trans-Neptunian objects began to be discovered, one after another. Venetia Burney Phair died one year later.