Like a sun on a fast rise, Space Shuttle Atlantis arcs into the still-black sky over the Atlantic Ocean, casting a fiery glow on its way. With a crew of five it is heading on the 10th assembly flight to the International Space Station. The primary payload on the mission is the joint airlock module, which will require two spacewalks to attach it to the Space Station. The airlock will be the primary path for Space Station spacewalk entry and departure for US spacesuits, and will also support the Russian Orlan spacesuit for EVA activity.
This image shows average temperatures in April, 2003, observed by AIRS at an infrared wavelength that senses either the Earth's surface or any intervening cloud. Similar to a photograph of the planet taken with the camera shutter held open for a month, stationary features are captured while those obscured by moving clouds are blurred. Many continental features stand out boldly, such as our planet's vast deserts, and India, now at the end of its long, clear dry season.
Possibly the Youngest Galaxy Ever Seen, an irregular dwarf galaxy about 45 million light-years away is seen in this image from NASA.
This image courtesy of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) shows an artist's impression of an active galaxy that has jets. The central engine is thought to be a supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disc and enshrouded in a thick doughnut-shaped structure of gas and dust, which astronomers call a "torus". The torus of dust and gas can be seen orbiting a flatter disc of swirling gas. In the center, the supermassive black hole is surrounded by a flat accretion disc of rapidly orbiting material. The jets are emitted at right angles from the plane of the disc.
This infrared composite image of the two hemispheres of Uranus was obtained with Keck adaptive optics. The images were obtained on July 11 and 12, 2004. The representative balance of these infrared images which were selected to display the vertical structure of atmospheric features gives a reddish tint to the rings, an artifact of the process. The North pole is at 4 o'clock.
What happens when you crash into a comet? That was a question considered by astronomers when they designed the Deep Impact mission, launched in January. On July 4, the Deep Impact spaceship will reach its target, Comet Tempel 1, and fire an impactor at its surface, photographing the result. The remaining crater may tell how Tempel 1 is constructed. If, for example, the comet is an extremely loose pile of debris, the impactor may leave little or no discernable crater. But if the comet's surface is relatively firm, the impactor's ripple may leave quite a large crater. Pictured above is an artist's impression of the initial encounter between the spacecraft and the comet.
This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows what astronomers are referring to as a 'snake' (upper left) and its surrounding stormy environment. The sinuous object is actually the core of a thick, sooty cloud large enough to swallow dozens of solar systems. In fact, astronomers say the 'snake's belly' may be harboring beastly stars in the process of forming.
This artist's impression shows the Cygnus X-1 binary star system, one of the brightest X-ray sources in the sky. Data suggest that there is a small, very dense object about nine times the mass of the sun in this star system. The object could be a black hole, but, strangely, it appears to have formed without a supernova.
This composite image shows N49, the aftermath of a supernova explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud.