The bright light on the left side of the sun is a solar flare, powerful bursts of radiation, as seen on July 8, 2014 from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. An eruption of solar material can also be seen arcing up and away. After it leaves the sun, this arc of material becomes a coronal mass ejection, a giant cloud of solar material, headed toward Mars.
Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However, when intense enough, they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.
More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of the exploded star produced a shock wave moving outward into the surrounding interstellar gas, and another, reverse shock wave moving back into the expanding stellar debris.
This Chandra image of Tycho reveals the dynamics of the explosion in exquisite detail. The outer shock has produced a rapidly moving shell of extremely high-energy electrons (blue), and the reverse shock has heated the expanding debris to millions of degrees (red and green). There is evidence from the Chandra data that these shock waves may be responsible for some of the cosmic rays, ultra-energetic particles, that pervade the Galaxy and constantly bombard the Earth.
At a distance of about 20,000 light years, G292.0+1.8 is one of only three supernova remnants in the Milky Way known to contain large amounts of oxygen. These oxygen-rich supernovas are of great interest to astronomers because they are one of the primary sources of the heavy elements (that is, everything other than hydrogen and helium) necessary to form planets and people. The X-ray image from Chandra shows a rapidly expanding, intricately structured debris field that contains, along with oxygen (yellow and orange), other elements such as magnesium (green) and silicon and sulfur (blue) that were forged in the star before it exploded.
The Crab Nebula
In A.D. 1054, Chinese astronomers and others around the world noticed a new bright object in the sky. This “new star” was in fact the supernova explosion that created what is now called the Crab Nebula.
At the center of the Crab Nebula is an extremely dense, rapidly rotating neutron star left behind by the explosion. The neutron star, also known as a pulsar, is spewing out a blizzard of high-energy particles, producing the expanding X-ray nebula seen by Chandra. In this new image, lower-energy X-rays from Chandra are red, medium energy X-rays are green, and the highest-energy X-rays are blue.
3C58 is the remnant of a supernova observed in the year A.D. 1181 by Chinese and Japanese astronomers. This new Chandra image shows the center of 3C58, which contains a rapidly spinning neutron star surrounded by a thick ring, or torus, of X-ray emission.
The pulsar also has produced jets of X-rays blasting away from it to both the left and right, and extending trillions of miles. These jets are responsible for creating the elaborate web of loops and swirls revealed in the X-ray data. These features, similar to those found in the Crab, are evidence that 3C58 and others like it are capable of generating both swarms of high-energy particles and powerful magnetic fields. In this image, low, medium and high-energy X-rays detected by Chandra are red, green and blue respectively.
Slice of Stars
The thin, glowing streak slicing across this image cuts a lonely figure, with only a few foreground stars and galaxies in the distant background for company. However, this is all a case of perspective; lying out of frame is another nearby spiral. Together, these two galaxies make up a pair, moving through space together and keeping one another company.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Four astronauts are living 62 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean for nine days this summer. The crew members of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 18 project, which began Monday, July 21, will test technologies and training techniques for use aboard the International Space Station and long-duration exploration missions. Mission objectives focus on behavioral health and performance, human health issues, and habitability. Seen here is Dr. Jeanette Epps diving during a simulated spacewalk using the core drill. A drill like this could be used on other planetary surfaces to collect core samples.
Earth from space
Aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Reid Wiseman photographed this image and wrote, “Thin silver polar mesospheric clouds. The beauty from up here far exceeds the camera's ability to capture it.”
Every day on the space station, scientific research is being conducted to prepare astronauts to venture farther into the solar system than ever before and provide real benefits to life on Earth. The ISS is the largest human-made object ever to orbit the Earth. It is so large that it can be seen drifting overhead with the unaided eye, and is frequently imaged from the ground in picturesque fashion.