We’re calling on all inventors and doers to make human flight a reality by building the world’s first personal flying device for anyone, anywhere. Over the next two years, teams will compete to win $2,000,000 in prizes, creating revolutionary technology and accessing the top minds in aerospace.
An announcement from the CosmoQuest public participation in space exploration initiative:
Public Invited to Test New Tool to Study Earth using Photos
Taken by International Space Station Astronauts
CosmoQuest’s Image Detective, a NASA-funded citizen science project, invites the public to identify Earth features in photographs taken by astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS). Citizen scientists are asked to help identify geographic features (natural or human-made) in astronaut photographs and then determine the location on Earth where the photo is centered. CosmoQuest is led by principal investigator Dr. Pamela L. Gay from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP).
“The astronauts’ photos of Earth are visually stunning, but more than that, they can be used to study our changing Earth,” says Dr. Gay, the Director of Technology and Citizen Science at the ASP. “From erupting volcanoes, to seasonal flooding, these images document the gradual changes that happen to our landscape. The trick is, we need to make these images searchable, and that means taking the time to sort through, analyze, and label (add metadata) the unidentified images within the database of 1.5 million plus photos.”
Originally developed by NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) science experts within the JSC Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division, Image Detective’s upgrade provides new and improved options for citizen scientists to help enhance NASA’s growing online database of astronaut imagery, also referred to as Crew Earth Observations (CEO) imagery.
Image Detective lets anyone with an Internet connection advance the usefulness of NASA’s vast catalogue of astronaut imagery. Since construction began in 2000, more than 200 people from 18 nations have visited the International Space Station (ISS). Orbiting just 250 miles above the Earth, this platform provides astronaut photographers an amazing platform for imaging our planet. As part of their day-to-day work on the ISS, astronauts are asked by the ESRS team at Johnson Space Center to take numerous photos of our planet Earth’s land surface, oceans, and atmosphere, including impressive auroral displays. Crews also take images of other solar system bodies, such as the Moon, planets, and stars. These images now need carefully labeled.
Image Detective spreads the significant work necessary to label all of the images out to citizen scientists across the world. “This is a unique, powerful, and beautiful image data set that has already yielded excellent research science. But the data set needs the many eyes and minds of citizen scientists to reach its full potential as a publicly available, searchable catalog,” said Dr. Jennifer Grier, a Senior Scientist and Senior Education and Communication Specialist at Planetary Science Institute (PSI) and CosmoQuest’s lead support scientist. “With the additions that citizen scientists as detectives can make, professional research scientists will be able to conduct more research into our changing world, and do so much more effectively.”
Your efforts can enhance NASA’s database of images taken by International Space Station Astronauts!
These efforts are supported by NASA under cooperative agreement award number NNX17AD20A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of this project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Image Detective was produced through a collaboration of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at the NASA Johnson Space Center, the Planetary Science Institute, Youngstown State University, and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. NASA’s Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth (GAPE), the official online database of more than 1.5 million astronaut images, is curated by the Earth Science and Remote Sensing (ESRS) Unit, within the ARES Division at JSC. Photos used in Image Detective are courtesy of The Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit and NASA Johnson Space Center. NASA’s official online database of astronaut imagery is available at: https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov.
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific, established in 1889, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to use astronomy to increase the understanding and appreciation of science and to advance science and science literacy. The ASP connects scientists, educators, amateur astronomers and the public together to learn about astronomical research, improve astronomy education, and share resources that engage learners of all kinds in the excitement and adventure of scientific discovery. In addition to CosmoQuest, current ASP programs and initiatives support college faculty, K-12 science teachers, amateur astronomy clubs, science museums, libraries, park rangers, and girl scouts to name a few.
The spectacular planetary nebula NGC 7009, or the Saturn Nebula, emerges from the darkness like a series of oddly-shaped bubbles, lit up in glorious pinks and blues. This colourful image was captured by the powerful MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), as part of a study which mapped the dust inside a planetary nebula for the first time. The map — which reveals a wealth of intricate structures in the dust, including shells, a halo and a curious wave-like feature — will help astronomers understand how planetary nebulae develop their strange shapes and symmetries.
The spectacular planetary nebula NGC 7009, or the Saturn Nebula, emerges from the darkness like a series of oddly-shaped bubbles, lit up in glorious pinks and blues. This colourful image was captured by the powerful MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), as part of a study which mapped the dust inside a planetary nebula for the first time.
The Saturn Nebula is located approximately 5000 light years away in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water Bearer). Its name derives from its odd shape, which resembles everyone’s favourite ringed planet seen edge-on.
But in fact, planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets. The Saturn Nebula was originally a low-mass star, which expanded into a red giant at the end of its life and began to shed its outer layers. This material was blown out by strong stellar winds and energised by ultraviolet radiation from the hot stellar core left behind, creating a circumstellar nebula of dust and brightly-coloured hot gas. At the heart of the Saturn Nebula lies the doomed star, visible in this image, which is in the process of becoming a white dwarf.
In order to better understand how planetary nebulae are moulded into such odd shapes, an international team of astronomers led by Jeremy Walsh from ESO used the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) to peer inside the dusty veils of the Saturn Nebula. MUSE is an instrument installed on one of the four Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescopeat ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. It is so powerful because it doesn’t just create an image, but also gathers information about the spectrum — or range of colours — of the light from the object at each point in the image.
The team used MUSE to produce the first detailed optical maps of the gas and dust distributed throughout a planetary nebula . The resulting image of the Saturn Nebula reveals many intricate structures, including an elliptical inner shell, an outer shell, and a halo. It also shows two previously imaged streams extending from either end of the nebula’s long axis, ending in bright ansae (Latin for “handles”).
Intriguingly, the team also found a wave-like feature in the dust, which is not yet fully understood. Dust is distributed throughout the nebula, but there is a significant drop in the amount of dust at the rim of the inner shell, where it seems that it is being destroyed. There are several potential mechanisms for this destruction. The inner shell is essentially an expanding shock wave, so it may be smashing into the dust grains and obliterating them, or producing an extra heating effect that evaporates the dust.
Mapping the gas and dust structures within planetary nebulae will aid in understanding their role in the lives and deaths of low mass stars, and it will also help astronomers understand how planetary nebulae acquire their strange and complex shapes.
This zoom sequence starts from a very broad view of the sky and heads towards the constellation of Aquarius (The Water Bearer). After a while we see a bright tiny blue disc, which eventually turns into the spectacular planetary nebula NGC 7009, known as the Saturn Nebula because of its distinctive shape. The final image is from new data taken with the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org). Music: Astral Electronic
But MUSE’s capabilities extend far beyond planetary nebulae. This sensitive instrument can also study the formation of stars and galaxies in the early Universe, as well as map the dark matter distribution in galaxy clusters in the nearby Universe. MUSE has also created the first 3D map of the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula (eso1518) and imaged a spectacular cosmic crash in a nearby galaxy (eso1437).
 Planetary nebulae are generally short-lived; the Saturn Nebula will last only a few tens of thousands of years before expanding and cooling to such an extent that it becomes invisible to us. The central star will then fade as it becomes a hot white dwarf.
 The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has previously provided a spectacular image of the Saturn Nebula — but, unlike MUSE, it cannot reveal the spectrum at each point over the whole nebula.
Indian musician Ram Sampath has composed a song dedicated to the Team Indus lunar lander project. The song is performed by Sona Mohapatra and the band Sanam. Read the background story to the TeamIndus anthem.
NASA Astronaut and Skylab 4 commander Jerry Carr joins us this week to talk about his experiences in the Stories from a Skylab Astronaut – Orbit 10.35. Apollo Program and commanding the United States first Space Station.
Space news topics discussed:
Northrop Grumman to acquire Orbital ATK CRS-12 Dragon returns to Earth Chinese space station refueling demo
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