View of the Earth and Moon from planet Mars.

Photographic Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
During a recent calibration exercise, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured a remarkable view of Earth and its moon from a distance of 127 million miles (205 million kilometers).
It’s so clear, you can even make out our planet’s continents.
To calibrate the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Orbiter, NASA scientists needed to scan an object other than the Red Planet.
Seeing as Earth is right next door, that was an obvious choice.
The image is a combination of two separate exposures taken on November 20, 2016, and have been moderately adjusted to make both objects appear equally as bright (otherwise the Earth would have appeared too dark).
The combined view shows the correct positions and sizes of the two celestial bodies relative to each other.
Source: Incredible New Image Shows the Earth and Moon From Mars

Sunset over the Atlantic.

The Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA’s Johnson Space Center picks this year’s top 16 photos of Earth from the International Space Station.
A sunset over the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean. Johnson Space Center/NASA
Source: See NASA’s Top 16 Earth Images of 2016 – The Washington Post

Uranus, No Place Like Home.

PIA17178-990x990
The planet Uranus is spectacularly far away. Even when viewed from Saturn, the next planet in, icy Uranus is still just a few pixels of blue in an inky black sky.
This photo was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft while the probe was 2,659,800,000 miles away from Uranus.
Here, Saturn’s A and F rings arc across the foreground. Uranus is in the upper left. With the equivalent of 14.5 Earth-masses of material, the planet is considered an ice giant (its neighbor Neptune is, too) since it’s primarily made of water, ammonia, and methane ices.
It looks blue in photographs because the methane in its atmosphere absorbs red wavelengths and reflects blue.
Like Saturn, Uranus has rings and moons.
But unlike Saturn — and indeed every other planet in the solar system — the ice giant is tipped on its side. In other words, rather than spinning like a top as it circles the sun, Uranus rolls around on its side.
It’s not exactly clear why this is the case, but one of the more popular theories suggests that early on, a pair of giant impacts pummeled the planet and knocked it over.
This strange configuration isn’t the only enigma in cool, blue Uranus’ clutches, though: The planet’s moon Miranda is one of the strangest objects in the solar system, a tiny world that looks like it’s been blasted apart and put back together again.
via This Is What Uranus Looks Like From Saturn – Phenomena: No Place Like Home.

“Astronaut in Space”.

8408139b-0232-4d28-9d5a-34012b9d8df4-2060x1236

‘On a clear day you can see forever,’ says Hadfield. ‘Or at least from Havana to Washington DC …’
All photographs: Chris Hadfield/Macmillan
The guitar-strumming spaceman Chris Hadfield is releasing a new book – You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes – featuring stunning images of the Earth captured while in orbit.
Here are some of his best snaps.
d4b3696a-0cc9-48be-8d2c-a57c3a78755c-2060x1236The Nile, draining into the Mediterranean. ‘The bright lights of Cairo announce the opening of the north-flowing river’s delta,’ says Hadfield. ‘Israel is to the north-east.
This 4,258 mile braid of human life is visible in a single glance from space.’
‘The Richat Structure in Mauritania, also known as the Eye of the Sahara, is a landmark for astronauts,’ says Hadfield. d52021d5-638c-43e3-887f-a8cd7c6d3695-2060x1236
‘If you’ve been busy doing experiments and haven’t looked out the window for a while, it’s hard to know where you are, especially if you’re over a vast 3,600,000-square-mile desert.
This bullseye orients you, instantly’ –
All photographs: Chris Hadfield/Macmillan

Read on via Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s amazing photos from space | Travel | The Guardian

“The Birth of a Star.”

the-birth-of-a-star-hubble
Photograph by ESA/Hubble & NASA
In this incredible image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, we are witness to the birth of a star.
This Hubble image shows IRAS 14568-6304, a young star that is cloaked in a haze of golden gas and dust.
It appears to be embedded within an intriguing swoosh of dark sky, which curves through the image and obscures the sky behind.
This dark region is known as the Circinus molecular cloud. This cloud has a mass around 250 000 times that of the Sun, and it is filled with gas, dust and young stars.
Within this cloud lie two prominent and enormous regions known colloquially to astronomers as Circinus-West and Circinus-East. Each of these clumps has a mass of around 5000 times that of the Sun, making them the most prominent star-forming sites in the Circinus cloud.
The clumps are associated with a number of young stellar objects, and IRAS 14568-6304, featured here under a blurry fog of gas within Circinus-West, is one of them.
IRAS 14568-6304 is special because it is driving a protostellar jet, which appears here as the “tail” below the star. This jet is the leftover gas and dust that the star took from its parent cloud in order to form.
While most of this material forms the star and its accretion disc — the disc of material surrounding the star, which may one day form planets — at some point in the formation process the star began to eject some of the material at supersonic speeds through space.
This phenomenon is not only beautiful, but can also provide us with valuable clues about the process of star formation.
via Picture of the Day: The Birth of a Star «TwistedSifter.

” Poor Little Pluto.”

poor_pluto_1600x900
On February 18, 1930, Clyde W. Tombaugh, an assistant at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, discovered Pluto. For over seven decades, Pluto was considered the ninth planet of our solar system.
The Discovery
It was American astronomer Percival Lowell who first thought there might be another planet somewhere near Neptune and Uranus.
Lowell had noticed that the gravitational pull of something large was affecting the orbits of those two planets.
However, despite looking for what he called “Planet X” from 1905 until his death in 1916, Lowell never found it.
Thirteen years later, the Lowell Observatory decided to recommence Lowell’s search for Planet X.
They had a more powerful, 13-inch telescope built for this sole purpose. The Observatory then hired 23-year-old Clyde W. Tombaugh to use Lowell’s predictions and the new telescope to search the skies for a new planet.
It took a year of detailed, painstaking work, but Tombaugh did find Planet X.
The discovery occurred on February 18, 1930 while Tombaugh was carefully examining a set of photographic plates created by the telescope.
Despite Planet X being discovered on February 18, 1930, the Lowell Observatory was not quite ready to announce this huge discovery until more research could be done.
After a few weeks, it was confirmed that Tombaugh’s discovery was indeed a new planet.
On what would have been Percival Lowell’s 75th birthday, March 13, 1930, the Observatory publicly announced to the world that a new planet had been discovered.
Pluto was re-classified as a Dwarf Planet in 2006, thus losing its planetary status.
via When Was the Dwarf Planet Pluto Discovered?.