The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has snapped the best ever image of the Antennae Galaxies. Hubble has released images of these stunning galaxies twice before, once using observations from its Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) in 1997, and again in 2006 from the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Each of Hubble’s images of the Antennae Galaxies has been better than the last, due to upgrades made during the famous servicing missions, the last of which took place in 2009.
The galaxies — also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 — are locked in a deadly embrace. Once normal, sedate spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, the pair have spent the past few hundred million years sparring with one another. This clash is so violent that stars have been ripped from their host galaxies to form a streaming arc between the two. In wide-field images of the pair the reason for their name becomes clear — far-flung stars and streamers of gas stretch out into space, creating long tidal tails reminiscent of antennae.
This new image of the Antennae Galaxies shows obvious signs of chaos. Clouds of gas are seen in bright pink and red, surrounding the bright flashes of blue star-forming regions — some of which are partially obscured by dark patches of dust. The rate of star formation is so high that the Antennae Galaxies are said to be in a state of starburst, a period in which all of the gas within the galaxies is being used to form stars. This cannot last forever and neither can the separate galaxies; eventually the nuclei will coalesce, and the galaxies will begin their retirement together as one large elliptical galaxy.
This image uses visible and near-infrared observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), along with some of the previously-released observations from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).
During its third and final flyby of Earth on 13 November 2009, Rosetta imaged this anticyclone over the South Pacific.
The image was taken by Rosetta’s camera at 05:48 GMT and this false-colour composite was generated from the orange, green and blue filters.
The closest approach was at exactly 07:45:40 GMT, as Rosetta passed just south of the Indonesian island of Java, at an altitude of 2481 km.
Rosetta previously visited Earth in March 2005 and November 2007, and Mars in February 2007. Each planetary flyby gave Rosetta a gravity ‘kick’ to place it on the correct trajectory to reach comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in May 2014.
Rosetta will make the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted. It will release its Philae lander to analyse the surface, and will escort the comet on its journey through the inner Solar System, measuring the increase in activity as the icy surface is warmed up by the Sun.
After five months in space working on over 50 experiments, helping with the docking of three spacecraft and an intense return flight, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is still full of energy just after his landing in Kazakhstan.
Luca, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and cosmonaut commander Fyodor Yurchikhin landed at 02:49 GMT on 11 November 2013 in the same Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft that flew them to the International Space Station on 29 May.
Following medical checks, Luca and Karen flew to Houston for debriefing and to recuperate from the effects of living in weightlessness, while scientists continue to observe them for their experiments.
Photo of GOCE reentering the atmosphere taken by Bill Chater in the Falklands at 21:20 local time on 11 November. Posted on Twitter, Bill wrote, “Driving southwards at dusk, it appeared with bright smoke trail and split in 2 before splitting again into more and going on north.”
After more than four years mapping Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision, the GOCE mission came to a natural end when it ran out of fuel on 21 October.
The Dasht-e Lut salt desert in southeast Iran is captured in this Envisat image.
The desert is often called the ‘hottest place on Earth’ as satellites measured record surface temperatures there for several years. The highest land surface temperature ever recorded was in the Lut Desert in 2005 at 70.7ºC, as measured by NASA’s Aqua satellite.
The light area in the centre of the image are the long, parallel wind-carved ridges and furrows. The darker area to the east is an extent of massive sand dunes, some reaching up to 300 m tall.
In the upper-right section we can see a light green, shallow body of water that straddles Iran’s border with Afghanistan. With their arid surroundings, the wetlands in this border region have been a major source of food and fresh water for thousands of years, as well as an important stop for migratory birds. But irrigation expansion combined with droughts have caused the water levels in these wetlands to drop significantly – and some years even dry up.
In the lower-left we can see the white, snow-capped Jebal Barez mountains.
A major earthquake struck about 100 km east of the snow-caps in 2003, its epicentre near the ancient city of Bam (lower-central portion of image). Iran experiences frequent tectonic activity as several major fault lines cross the country.
This image was acquired by Envisat’s MERIS instrument on 2 April 2012 and is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
The Portable Antenna Measurement System, or PAMS, takes the form of a gondola suspended from the existing cranes within a satellite or antenna assembly hall. It has been built by Astrium GmbH, with support from ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunication Systems (ARTES) programme.
Here PAMS is shown performing near-field probing along a tilted and planar-oriented scan surface. Laser trackers show PAMS at work.
Branches in the 2 km-wide trough of Ismeniae Fossae are seen in close-up detail in this scene. Material in the channels likely derived from the walls subsequently transported by glaciers or water flowing through the region. Smaller dendritic valley systems formed by water – possibly from melting ice – are seen at the bottom left and in the upper right portion of the image. The clusters of circular to elliptical depressions in the bottom left may be either secondary impact craters from debris flung out by larger impact craters, or collapse pits caused by the sublimation of subsurface ice.
This region was imaged by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA’s Mars Express on 16 June 2013 (orbit 11709), with a ground resolution of about 20 m per pixel. The scene is located at approximately 40°N / 42°E.
Artist’s impression of a black hole feasting on matter from its companion star in a binary system. Matter flows from the star towards the black hole and forms an accretion disc with a temperature so high that it emits X-rays. The black hole can be a fussy eater: instead of swallowing all of the material, it sometimes pushes a fraction of it away in the form of two powerful jets of particles.
A team of astronomers studying the jets of the binary system 4U1630-47 have confirmed that black hole jets not only consist of electrons but also contain heavier particles, like protons or atomic nuclei. This means that jets can carry mass and energy away from the black hole in much larger amounts than previously thought.
British Airways pilot Captain Simon Wijker caught this image of the Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft, shortly before it landed in Kazakhstan 11 November 2013. Inside the spacecraft were ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, NASA’s Karen Nyberg, Russian commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and the Olympic torch.
A hoisting device has been built around Swarm's three-satellite and launch adapter assembly. This will be used to lift the assembly onto the Breeze upper stage of the Rockot launcher.
This involved mounting the lower hoisting ring to the adapter. Then three vertical beams were bolted to the lower ring. To complete the hoisting structure, a second ring was mounted to stabilise the beams.
Follow the Swarm launch campaign in our blog: blogs.esa.int/eolaunches/
Cities and street lights are not the only things visible from the International Space Station at night. This picture taken with the automated camera aid Nightpod shows Chinese fishing boats using bright lights on the South-China Sea to attract fish to their nets.
The village at the centre is unidentified. The image was taken by an astronaut on Expedition 30 and the frame number is 172306.
Week in Images
11-15 November 2013