Our Universe Visualized
This artist’s conception shows an edge-on view of the Milky Way galaxy. Newly discovered gamma-ray jets (pink) extend for 27,000 light-years above and below the galactic plane, and are tilted at an angle of 15 degrees. Previously known gamma-ray bubbles are shown in purple. The bubbles and jets suggest that our galactic center was much more active in the past than it is today. 

credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

This artist’s conception shows an edge-on view of the Milky Way galaxy. Newly discovered gamma-ray jets (pink) extend for 27,000 light-years above and below the galactic plane, and are tilted at an angle of 15 degrees. Previously known gamma-ray bubbles are shown in purple. The bubbles and jets suggest that our galactic center was much more active in the past than it is today.

credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

During the annular solar eclipse of May 20/21, 2012, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter pointed its cameras at Earth to capture the shadow of the moon as it raced across the Pacific Ocean. Due to the rapid orbit of LRO around the moon, only four images were obtained. In these two images, Japan and the Aleutian Islands are experiencing maximum eclipse, respectively.

credit: ASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

The Yarlung Zangpo Grand Canyon (or Tsangpo Gorge) in Tibet is the deepest canyon in the world, and longer than the Grand Canyon. As the river passes between the peaks of Namcha Barwa (7,782 m) and Gyala Peri (7,234 m) it reaches a maximum depth of 6,009 m. In 2002, seven kayakers were the first westerners to navigate the entire gorge. The image was acquired February 25, 2004, and is located near 29.7 degrees north latitude, 95 degrees east longitude.

With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and data products.

credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

The Yarlung Zangpo Grand Canyon (or Tsangpo Gorge) in Tibet is the deepest canyon in the world, and longer than the Grand Canyon. As the river passes between the peaks of Namcha Barwa (7,782 m) and Gyala Peri (7,234 m) it reaches a maximum depth of 6,009 m. In 2002, seven kayakers were the first westerners to navigate the entire gorge. The image was acquired February 25, 2004, and is located near 29.7 degrees north latitude, 95 degrees east longitude.

With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and data products.

credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Beautiful and haunting compilation of raw images acquired by the Cassini spacecraft over the past eight years in its orbital tour of the Saturn system set in motion to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”

credit: Nahum Chazarra

This image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, or also known as M101, combines data in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays from four of NASA’s space-based telescopes. This multi-spectral view shows that both young and old stars are evenly distributed along M101’s tightly-wound spiral arms. Such composite images allow astronomers to see how features in one part of the spectrum match up with those seen in other parts. It is like seeing with a regular camera, an ultraviolet camera, night-vision goggles and X-ray vision, all at the same time.

The Pinwheel Galaxy is in the constellation of Ursa Major (also known as the Big Dipper). It is about 70% larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy, with a diameter of about 170,000 light years, and sits at a distance of 21 million light years from Earth. This means that the light we’re seeing in this image left the Pinwheel Galaxy about 21 million years ago - many millions of years before humans ever walked the Earth.

The hottest and most energetic areas in this composite image are shown in purple, where the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the X-ray emission from exploded stars, million-degree gas, and material colliding around black holes.

The red colors in the image show infrared light, as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope. These areas show the heat emitted by dusty lanes in the galaxy, where stars are forming.

The yellow component is visible light, observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Most of this light comes from stars, and they trace the same spiral structure as the dust lanes seen in the infrared.

The blue areas are ultraviolet light, given out by hot, young stars that formed about 1 million years ago, captured by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX).

credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; IR & UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI

This image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, or also known as M101, combines data in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays from four of NASA’s space-based telescopes. This multi-spectral view shows that both young and old stars are evenly distributed along M101’s tightly-wound spiral arms. Such composite images allow astronomers to see how features in one part of the spectrum match up with those seen in other parts. It is like seeing with a regular camera, an ultraviolet camera, night-vision goggles and X-ray vision, all at the same time.

The Pinwheel Galaxy is in the constellation of Ursa Major (also known as the Big Dipper). It is about 70% larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy, with a diameter of about 170,000 light years, and sits at a distance of 21 million light years from Earth. This means that the light we’re seeing in this image left the Pinwheel Galaxy about 21 million years ago - many millions of years before humans ever walked the Earth.

The hottest and most energetic areas in this composite image are shown in purple, where the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the X-ray emission from exploded stars, million-degree gas, and material colliding around black holes.

The red colors in the image show infrared light, as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope. These areas show the heat emitted by dusty lanes in the galaxy, where stars are forming.

The yellow component is visible light, observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Most of this light comes from stars, and they trace the same spiral structure as the dust lanes seen in the infrared.

The blue areas are ultraviolet light, given out by hot, young stars that formed about 1 million years ago, captured by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX).

credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; IR & UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI

Reprocessed image of Copernicus crater taken by the Lunar Orbiter 2 spacecraft on 1966 November 24. This oblique view looking across the crater was taken from an altitude of 27.1 miles was called the "Picture of the Century" because for the first time, humans could see the moon as a real world with mountains and boulders from a perspective similar to what an astronaut might see.

Spacecraft imaging technology was primitive at the time — real photographs were taken and developed onboard, scanned and then “faxed” back to Earth. The returned images usually contained horizontal lines as an artifact of the scanning process. Over the last several years, the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has been painstakingly restoring images returned from the five Lunar Orbiter mission probes that mapped the moon in high detail in preparation for the Apollo missions just a few years later.

Full restored image of Copernicus (683.2 MB TIFF)

Reprocessed image of Copernicus crater taken by the Lunar Orbiter 2 spacecraft on 1966 November 24. This oblique view looking across the crater was taken from an altitude of 27.1 miles was called the "Picture of the Century" because for the first time, humans could see the moon as a real world with mountains and boulders from a perspective similar to what an astronaut might see.

Spacecraft imaging technology was primitive at the time — real photographs were taken and developed onboard, scanned and then “faxed” back to Earth. The returned images usually contained horizontal lines as an artifact of the scanning process. Over the last several years, the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has been painstakingly restoring images returned from the five Lunar Orbiter mission probes that mapped the moon in high detail in preparation for the Apollo missions just a few years later.

Full restored image of Copernicus (683.2 MB TIFF)

Annular eclipse of 20 May 2012 as seen from just north of Gail, Texas.

credit: Jacob Thumberger

Annular eclipse of 20 May 2012 as seen from just north of Gail, Texas.

credit: Jacob Thumberger

This is one of a series of photos taken by Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station, at the time located over the Western Pacific, showing a shadow of the moon created by the May 20 solar eclipse, as the shadow spreads across cloud cover on Earth. Pettit used a 28-mm lens on a digital still camera to record the image at 23:35:36 GMT. One of the space station’s solar array panels appears at the top of the frame.

credit: NASA / Don Pettit

This is one of a series of photos taken by Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station, at the time located over the Western Pacific, showing a shadow of the moon created by the May 20 solar eclipse, as the shadow spreads across cloud cover on Earth. Pettit used a 28-mm lens on a digital still camera to record the image at 23:35:36 GMT. One of the space station’s solar array panels appears at the top of the frame.

credit: NASA / Don Pettit

On May 20, 2012, sky watchers from eastern Eurasia to western North America saw a fiery ring around the Moon as it passed between the Sun and the Earth. Known as an annular eclipse, the event blocked sunlight across a swath of Earth up to 300 kilometers (185 miles) wide, and the effects were most dramatic across the northern Pacific Ocean.

As people on the ground looked up at the sky and saw a ring, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) looked down and saw the Moon’s shadow racing eastward over Earth’s surface. The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of the shadow on the Pacific Ocean at roughly 11:30 a.m. local time on May 21 (23:30 Universal Time on May 20).

Where the Moon passed in front of the Sun, Earth’s surface appeared black (left half of image). Around the margins of the shadow, our planet’s surface appeared yellowish brown. The shadow cast by an eclipse consists of two parts, the completely shadowed umbra and the partially shadowed penumbra.

The annular eclipse started in southern China at 22:06 UTC on May 20. It then passed over the southern coast of Japan, and swept over the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The eclipse finished over Oregon and California around 01:30 UTC on May 21, having crossed the international date line. The eclipse reached its maximum duration of 5 minutes 46 seconds over the Pacific Ocean.

During this eclipse, the Moon’s apparent diameter was 94 percent of the Sun’s, showing viewers on the ground a bright ring of light. Whether they could see the full eclipse or just a partial eclipse, millions of people turned out to see the show and many posted their photos online.

credit: NASA / MODIS

On May 20, 2012, sky watchers from eastern Eurasia to western North America saw a fiery ring around the Moon as it passed between the Sun and the Earth. Known as an annular eclipse, the event blocked sunlight across a swath of Earth up to 300 kilometers (185 miles) wide, and the effects were most dramatic across the northern Pacific Ocean.

As people on the ground looked up at the sky and saw a ring, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) looked down and saw the Moon’s shadow racing eastward over Earth’s surface. The MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of the shadow on the Pacific Ocean at roughly 11:30 a.m. local time on May 21 (23:30 Universal Time on May 20).

Where the Moon passed in front of the Sun, Earth’s surface appeared black (left half of image). Around the margins of the shadow, our planet’s surface appeared yellowish brown. The shadow cast by an eclipse consists of two parts, the completely shadowed umbra and the partially shadowed penumbra.

The annular eclipse started in southern China at 22:06 UTC on May 20. It then passed over the southern coast of Japan, and swept over the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The eclipse finished over Oregon and California around 01:30 UTC on May 21, having crossed the international date line. The eclipse reached its maximum duration of 5 minutes 46 seconds over the Pacific Ocean.

During this eclipse, the Moon’s apparent diameter was 94 percent of the Sun’s, showing viewers on the ground a bright ring of light. Whether they could see the full eclipse or just a partial eclipse, millions of people turned out to see the show and many posted their photos online.

credit: NASA / MODIS

There are landforms called “gullies,” consisting of an alcove, channel, and apron, on many large sand dunes on Mars.

Remarkably, we have learned that the gullies form primarily or entirely during seasons when there is carbon dioxide frost on the ground. To understand this better we image key locations multiple times throughout the Martian year. 

This image, at 49.5 S latitude, was acquired very near the winter solstice, when shadows are very long in the middle afternoon when MRO passes overhead. Dark sand inside shadows is a challenging scene to image while flying overhead at 3.4 km/sec, but the HiRISE camera has the sensitivity needed to acquire useful images even at the most challenging time of the year.

There are landforms called “gullies,” consisting of an alcove, channel, and apron, on many large sand dunes on Mars.

Remarkably, we have learned that the gullies form primarily or entirely during seasons when there is carbon dioxide frost on the ground. To understand this better we image key locations multiple times throughout the Martian year.

This image, at 49.5 S latitude, was acquired very near the winter solstice, when shadows are very long in the middle afternoon when MRO passes overhead. Dark sand inside shadows is a challenging scene to image while flying overhead at 3.4 km/sec, but the HiRISE camera has the sensitivity needed to acquire useful images even at the most challenging time of the year.