Cassini Spies Pandora Hovering Over Titan

What will we find when we open it up to look inside?

In this Cassini image taken on July 2, 2015 little moon Pandora appears to hover behind bigger brother Titan, but is actually almost three times closer at 436,000 miles (698,000 kilometers). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
In this Cassini image taken on July 2, 2015 little moon Pandora appears to hover behind bigger brother Titan, but is actually almost three times closer at 436,000 miles (698,000 kilometers). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Space news ( October 30, 2015) –

First viewed during an examination of Voyager 1 images of Saturn taken in 1980, Titan’s little moon Pandora is only 50 miles (81 kilometers) across in this green light image taken at a distance of about 1.2 million miles (1.9 million kilometers). 

Pandora has lots of craters, indicating she’s still growing in size, and her final size and shape has yet to be determined. Very irregularly shaped presently, Pandora’s craters are covered with space debris from recent collisions on geological time scales. One day, if she collects enough debris, planetary scientist think Pandora could start to look more spherical in shape. 

Detail of Voyager 2 image showing Saturn's moon Pandora, taken 6 hours before Voyager's closest approach to Saturn. Pandora is irregularly shaped, 110 x 90 x 60 km, and bright, with visible albedo of 0.9. The satellite orbits with a semi-major axis of 142,000 km and acts as the outer shepherding satellite (Prometheus is the inner) of Saturn's F-ring. North is approximately up and Pandora is about 70 km across in the image. (Voyager 2, FDS 43998.15) Image credit NASA
Detail of Voyager 2 image showing Saturn’s moon Pandora, taken 6 hours before Voyager’s closest approach to Saturn. Pandora is irregularly shaped, 110 x 90 x 60 km, and bright, with visible albedo of 0.9. The satellite orbits with a semi-major axis of 142,000 km and acts as the outer shepherding satellite (Prometheus is the inner) of Saturn’s F-ring. North is approximately up and Pandora is about 70 km across in the image. (Voyager 2, FDS 43998.15)
Image credit NASA

The fourth of Saturn’s known moons, Pandora orbits at a distance of about 141,700 km from her parent planet, and is the outer shepherd moon of the F ring. Planetary scientists think its elongated shape and low density could mean it was formed when the gravity of a dense core gathered nearby ring particles onto itself. 

Mimas and Pandora both orbit Saturn, but planetary scientists believe they formed using different processes. In this Cassini image taken on July 26, 2015, Mimas is 904,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from the spacecraft and Pandora is 485,000 miles (781,000 kilometers). Image credit NASA
Mimas and Pandora both orbit Saturn, but planetary scientists believe they formed using different processes. In this Cassini image taken on July 26, 2015, Mimas is 904,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) from the spacecraft and Pandora is 485,000 miles (781,000 kilometers). Image credit NASA

Named after the woman bestowed upon mankind by Zeus as a punishment for using Prometheus’ gift of fire, Titan’s little moon Pandora probably doesn’t contain all the ills plaguing humankind. Teams of scientists proposing to government space agencies or private concerns a mission to open it up and take a look inside might get a few laughs.

After all, all myths have a beginning somewhere in time, and nothing is impossible, in this universe, if you wait long enough for it to happen. 

It wouldn’t be a surprise if one day we drifted by and took a better look. 

Just in case someone or something left us a gift!

You can learn more about Pandora here.

Discover NASA’s mandate to travel to the stars here.

Learn about the things Cassini discovered about Saturn and its moons here.

Read about Voyager 1 here.

Read about planetary scientists announcement they have proof positive of an ocean of liquid water beneath the icy shell of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Learn more about Active Galactic Nuclei and relativistic jets erupting from them.

Learn about planets astronomers have found in star systems containing four suns.

NASA’s Explorers Program Selects Five Proposals to Explore the Cosmos

New programs selected will study neutron star-black hole binary systems, the expansion of space and galaxies in the early cosmos, the star formation cycle of the Milky Way and more

The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), launched in 2012, is an Explorer mission that allows astronomers to study the universe in high energy X-rays. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), launched in 2012, is an Explorer mission that allows astronomers to study the universe in high energy X-rays.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Space news (October 29, 2015) – NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. –

NASA’s Explorers Program was designed in the spirit of the first explorers who traveled across the deep, dark and mysterious oceans and lands in search of the unknown. Thousands of years ago, archaeologists believe ancient humans used the stars, ocean currents and waves to navigate across the seas to new lands. Today, astronauts and scientists taking part in NASA’s Explorers Program travel across space-time to stellar objects in the sky using scientific instruments and spacecraft ancient humans would perceive as God-like. 

NASA’s Explorers Program began with the launch of the first spacecraft designed by engineers and scientists working for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency on January 31, 1958, making it the oldest continuously running low-cost NASA program in history. Fittingly called “Explorer”, since this first spacecraft over 90 space missions to the stars have been designed and launched as part of the Explorers Program. Space missions to the stars that have made startling discoveries about Earth’s magnetosphere and gravity field, the composition of the solar wind and solar plasma erupting from the surface of the Sun. They have traveled to other planets in the solar system and studied radio and gamma-ray astronomy, and in the future will enable the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

NASA recently announced five less-expensive Explorers Program missions designed to the fill the scientific and technical gaps their more involved and expensive space missions. The selected space missions will examine polarized X-ray emissions emitted by binary star systems composed of a neutron star and black hole and the expansion of spacetime during the early moments of the universe. They’ll also take a closer look at the formation of galaxies during the first moments of the cosmos and the birth and life cycle of stars in the Milky Way.

Located in the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, the Explorers Program provides an opportunity for human robotic-envoys to make frequent trips into space for scientific explorations of the solar system and cosmos. Relatively low-cost, small to medium size space missions requiring fewer resources and time compared to larger missions to get off the drawing board and into space.

The Explorers Program brings out some of the most creative ideas for missions to help unravel the mysteries of the Universe,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “The program has resulted in great missions that have returned transformational science, and these selections promise to continue that tradition.”

Now, each of the three selected Small Explorers mission proposals will receive $1 million to conduct an 11-month mission concept study, while the two Missions of Opportunity proposals receive $250,000 to conduct an 11-month mission implementation concept study. 

During the months ahead, NASA scientists will conduct concept studies and detailed evaluations of each proposal selected. After this, they’ll select one mission of each type to proceed to construction and launch, by 2020 at the earliest. In the end, the total cost for this part of the Explorers Program is capped at just around $190 million for the two missions selected: $125 million for each Small Explorers mission and $65 million for each Mission of Opportunity.

The three Small Explorers Program missions selected are:

SPHEREx

SPHEREx explores the origin and evolution of the cosmos and galaxies in the sky and the possibility planets around other stars could harbor life.

James Bock of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California is the main scientist on this mission.

Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)

IXPE studies the processes leading to X-ray emission in neutron stars, pulsar wind nebulae, and stellar and supermassive black holes using X-ray polarimetry, the measurement, and interpretation of the polarization of electromagnetic waves. 

Martin Weisskopf of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama is the main scientist on this project.

Polarimeter for Relativistic Astrophysical X-ray Sources (PRAXyS)

PRAXyS uses X-ray polarimetry to study the geometry and behavior of X-ray sources emitted from supermassive black holes, pulsars, magnetars and supernovae.

The two Missions of Opportunity proposals selected are:

Gal/Xgal U/LDB Spectroscopic/Stratospheric THz Observatory (GUSTO)

GUSTO is an observatory held aloft by a balloon designed to detect high-frequency radio emission from sources in our Milky Way and the Large Magellanic Cloud in order to study the life cycle of interstellar material.

Christopher Walker of the University of Arizona in Tucson is the main scientists on this mission.

LiteBIRD Cosmic Microwave Background Polarization Survey

LiteBIRD is a Japanese space mission with US contributions designed to map polarized fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background in order to search for signs of gravitation waves created during inflation in an effort to better understand the events that occurred during the first moments of the cosmos. 

Adrian Lee of the University of California at Berkeley is a main scientist on this mission.

For more information on NASA’s Explorers Program, go here.

To learn more about NASA’s mandate to travel to the stars and beyond visit here.

Learn more about the Goddard Space Flight Center here.

Discover and explore the Marshall Space Flight Center here

Learn more about the supermassive black hole astronomers believe resides at the center of the Milky Way – the Monster of the Milky Way.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently arrived at Pluto and its moons. Learn more about what they found?

Read about and learn the things astronomers have discovered during their search for the missing link in black hole evolution.

Concerned Earthlings Planning on Moving to an Exoplanet in the Far Future

No need not worry, according to planetary scientists, the majority of potential cradles for a new human Genesis have yet to be born

Mars is one of the newest location humans plan on visiting and possibly inhabiting in the near future. This spot looks promising, but getting the work crew to this spot is a killer. Realtors of the future will have to work on this one a bit. Image credit: NASA
Mars is one of the newest location humans plan on visiting and possibly inhabiting in the near future. This spot looks promising, but getting the work crew to this spot is a killer. Realtors of the future will have to work on this one a bit. Image credit: NASA

Space news (October 24, 2015) – The journey to Mars –

Earthlings thinking about moving to Mars, or another planet, with the first spacecraft leaving, can breathe a sigh of relief. Peter Behroozi and Molly Peeples of NASA’s Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have completed a study of the percentage of Earth-like planets created during the life of the universe, so far, and according to estimates, the majority of Earth-like planets have yet to be born. 

“Our main motivation was understanding the Earth’s place in the context of the rest of the universe,” said study author Peter Behroozi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, “Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the universe, the Earth is actually quite early.”

“There is enough remaining material [after the big bang] to produce even more planets in the future, in the Milky Way and beyond,” added co-investigator Molly Peeples of STScI.

The diversity of exoplanets is large — more than 800 planets outside the Solar System have been found to date, with thousands more waiting to be confirmed. Detection methods in this field are steadily and quickly increasing — meaning that many more exoplanets will undoubtedly be discovered in the months and years to come. This planet looks promising, but is going to be a problem reaching with current technology. Image credit IAU
The diversity of exoplanets is large — more than 800 planets outside the Solar System have been found to date, with thousands more waiting to be confirmed. Detection methods in this field are steadily and quickly increasing — meaning that many more exoplanets will undoubtedly be discovered in the months and years to come.
This planet looks promising but is going to be a problem reaching with current technology.
Image credit IAU

By Earth-like we mean an exoplanet the right distance from its parent star for water to exist in liquid form and the Genesis of life to take place. Earth is the only planet we know life exists on, but considering estimates of the size of the cosmos, one would certainly expect life has popped its head up somewhere else. If their estimates of the amount of gas left over for the formation of new stars is correct, the Milky Way and universe will be making new stars for a very long time. 

There’s still lots of time to invent, or order on the uni-net (Universal Internet), a faster-than-light spacecraft to help in your search for a new home. Current estimates indicate there are at least 1 billion Earth-sized planets in the Milky Way. How many are suitable homes you can live on? Maybe by the time you get the spacecraft you need, they’ll have a better estimate of exactly how many are Earth-like. 

You still have time to prepare!

Unless you’re a time traveler from the future, you have time to prepare, and this team of intrepid astronomers has time to refine their estimate. Hopefully, by then, we’ll be permanently connected to the uni-net, and you can just look online for the best property on an exoplanet far, far away.

You can learn more about NASA’s mandate to travel to the stars here.

You can discover the Hubble Space Telescope.

Learn more about the Space Telescope Science Institute here.

Learn more and become part of Planetary Resources Inc’s plans to mine an asteroid in the near future.

Read about astronomers search for planets with the building blocks of life.

Read about the detection of the first Earth-sized planet.

 

Planetary Nebula Menzel 2 in Final Stages of Life Cycle

Two white dwarfs shed outer layers of mass to form winding blue clouds of hot gas

This planetary nebula is called PK 329-02.2 and is located in the constellation of Norma in the southern sky. It is also sometimes referred to as Menzel 2, or Mz 2, named after the astronomer Donald Menzel who discovered the nebula in 1922. When stars that are around the mass of the Sun reach their final stages of life, they shed their outer layers into space, which appear as glowing clouds of gas called planetary nebulae. The ejection of mass in stellar burnout is irregular and not symmetrical, so that planetary nebulae can have very complex shapes. In the case of Menzel 2 the nebula forms a winding blue cloud that perfectly aligns with two stars at its centre. In 1999 astronomers discovered that the star at the upper right is in fact the central star of the nebula, and the star to the lower left is probably a true physical companion of the central star. For tens of thousands of years the stellar core will be cocooned in spectacular clouds of gas and then, over a period of a few thousand years, the gas will fade away into the depths of the Universe. The curving structure of Menzel 2 resembles a last goodbye before the star reaches its final stage of retirement as a white dwarf. A version of this image was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Serge Meunier.
This planetary nebula is called PK 329-02.2 and is located in the constellation of Norma in the southern sky.

Space news (October 16, 2015) – light-years away in the southern constellation Norma –

First discovered during modern times by noted astronomer Donald Menzel in 1922, planetary nebula PK 329-02.2 or Menzel 2 (Mz 2), is composed of a central star and companion sun cocooned in stunning, hot clouds of glowing gas ejected in complex shapes that will fade into the cosmos over the next few thousands of years.

Astrophysicists believe the star at the upper right of the two central stars shining brightly in this Hubble image is the main star of planetary nebula PK 329-02.2. The star just to the lower left of this central star astronomers believe is the companion sun, which is gravitationally tied to the main star.

Over tens of thousands of years, this pair of stars is expected to be cocooned in stunning clouds of hot, glowing gas. Swirling clouds forming a goodbye wave as the main star enters the final stages of its life cycle and starts to enjoy retirement as a white dwarf star

You can discover more about the journey of the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Learn more about planetary nebula here.

Take part in NASA’s mission to the stars here.

Learn why planetary scientists think they have found absolute evidence for the presence of water on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Read about the Twin Jet Nebula and its cosmic wings.

Learn more about the plans of private firm Planetary Resources Inc to mine as asteroid in the near future and how to take part in the journey.

Astronomers Detect Mysterious Ripples Moving Across Planet Forming Region of AU Microscopii

Unlike anything seen during the human journey to the beginning of space and time

October 15, 2015 – 32 light-years toward the southern constellation Microscopium 

This set of images of a 40-billion-mile-diameter edge-on disk encircling the young star AU Microscopii reveals a string of mysterious wave-like features.
This set of images of a 40-billion-mile-diameter edge-on disk encircling the young star AU Microscopii reveals a string of mysterious wave-like features. Image credit NASA and Hubble.

Astrophysicists viewing four years of data provided by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered something unlike anything is ever seen before. Fast-moving, wave-like structures hidden within the dusty disk orbiting young star AU Microscopii (AU Mic), where they have been looking for clues to the processes leading to the formation of young planets.

Moving across the 40 billion-mile wide disk orbiting young star AU Microscopii at 22,000 mph, the string of ripples in the images above are moving at different speeds. Astronomers believe the features further away from AU Microscopii are moving faster than the ones closer to the star. At least, three are moving at a velocity which will result in them leaving the gravitational influence of the young star.  

Using images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered fast-moving wave-like features in the dusty disc around the nearby star AU Microscopii. These odd structures are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted, before now. The top row shows a Hubble image of the AU Mic disc from 2010, the middle row Hubble from 2011 and the bottom row VLT/SPHERE data from 2014. The black central circles show where the brilliant light of the central star has been blocked off to reveal the much fainter disc, and the position of the star is indicated schematically. The scale bar at the top of the picture indicates the diameter of the orbit of the planet Neptune in the Solar System (60 AU). Note that the brightness of the outer parts of the disc has been artificially brightened to reveal the faint structure.
These odd structures are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted, before now. The top row shows a Hubble image of the AU Mic disk from 2010, the middle row Hubble from 2011 and the bottom row VLT/SPHERE data from 2014. The black central circles show where the brilliant light of the central star has been blocked off to reveal the much fainter disc, and the position of the star is indicated schematically. The scale bar at the top of the picture indicates the diameter of the orbit of the planet Neptune in the Solar System (60 AU). Note that the brightness of the outer parts of the disc has been artificially brightened to reveal the faint structure.

“The images from SPHERE show a set of unexplained features in the disk, which have an arc-like, or wave-like structure unlike anything that has ever been observed before,” said Anthony Boccaletti of the Paris Observatory, the paper’s lead author.

“We ended up with enough information to track the movement of these strange features over a four-year period,” explained team member Christian Thalmann of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. “By doing this, we found that the arches are racing away from the star at speeds of up to 10 kilometers per second (22,000 miles per hour)! “ Co-investigator Carol Grady of Eureka Scientific in Oakland, California, added, “Because nothing like this has been observed or predicted in theory we can only hypothesize when it comes to what we are seeing and how it came about.”

Velocities reaching 22,000 miles per hour rule out the possibility of proto-planets within the dusty disk causing the gravitational disturbance detected. Calculations also indicate this phenomenon isn’t related to a collision between two massive bodies or unknown gravitational instabilities in the system of AU Mic. This team of astronomers is currently testing other theories in order to rule out other possibilities, but at this time, they’re just as mystified as the rest of us.

“One explanation for the strange structure links them to the star’s flares. AU Mic is a star with high flaring activity — it often lets off huge and sudden bursts of energy from on or near its surface,” said co-author Glenn Schneider of Steward Observatory in Phoenix, Arizona. “One of these flares could perhaps have triggered something on one of the planets — if there are planets — like a violent stripping of material, which could now be propagating through the disk, propelled by the flare’s force.”

What’s next?

Astronomers now plan on additional observations of the AU Mic system using the Hubble Space Telescope, the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope and other ground and space-based telescopes. To look for answers to the mystery surrounding fast-moving, wave-like structures hidden within the dusty disk surrounding young star AU Microscopii.

You can read more about this in the Oct. 8 edition of the British science journal Nature.

You can discover more about AU Microscopii and the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Journey across the cosmos with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope here.

You can learn about NASA’s mandate to travel to the stars here.

Learn about plans of private firm Planetary Resources Inc to mine an asteroid in the near future.

Read about some of the geophysical and atmospheric surprises discovered by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft during its visit to Pluto and its moons.

Learn more about icy grains of water and organic material detected erupting from geysers located in the southern polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

The Monster of the Milky Way Comes to Life

Erupting X-ray flares every day, a ten-fold increase in bright flares from previous observations of Sagittarius A

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Astronomers believe the ten-fold increase in X-ray flares during the past year could be connected to the passage of a mysterious object designated G2 near the supermassive black hole (Image credit NASA and ESO

Space news (October 01, 2015) – 26,000 light-years from Earth, near the center of the Milky Way

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is part of a new breed of star hunting telescopes.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is part of a new breed of star hunting telescopes.

Astrophysicists combining the telescopic talents of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift spacecraft, with the European Space Agency’s X-ray Space Observatory XMM-Newton, recently detected an increase in X-ray flares erupting from the supermassive black hole (Sagittarius A) at the center of the Milky Way.

NASA's Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer scans the universe looking for gamma ray bursts.
NASA’s Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer scans the universe looking for gamma ray bursts.

By analyzing data collected during extensive periods of monitoring by all three spacecraft, space scientists determined the Monster of the Milky Way – the supermassive black hole at the center with more than 4 million times the mass of Sol– has been more active during the past 15 years than first thought. 

An artists impression of the ESO's Newton XMM-Newton telescope.
An artists impression of the ESO’s Newton XMM-Newton telescope.

Erupting a bright X-ray flare every ten days, the Monster of the Milky Way has been eating hot gas falling into its gravity pool. Even more interesting, Sagittarius A during the past year has been erupting ten times as much, producing a bright X-ray flare every day. A discovery that has astrophysicists going over the data looking for a reason for the sudden increase. 

“For several years, we’ve been tracking the X-ray emission from Sgr A*. This includes also the close passage of this dusty object” said Gabriele Ponti of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. “A year or so ago, we thought it had absolutely no effect on Sgr A*, but our new data raise the possibility that that might not be the case.”

The mystery started late in 2013, as G2 passed close to the supermassive black hole. At this time, there wasn’t any apparent change in G2 as it approached Sagittarius A, other than being slightly stretched by the gravity pool of the black hole.

Originally astronomers thought G2 was a stretched cloud of gas and dust, but this finding has led scientists to the possibility it could be a dense body embedded in a dusty cocoon. Currently, there’s no consensus among astronomers on the identity of this mysterious object. But the recent ten-fold increase in X-ray flares as G2 passed near the supermassive black hole suggests there could be a connection of some kind. 

“There isn’t universal agreement on what G2 is,” said Mark Morris of the University of California at Los Angeles. “However, the fact that Sgr A* became more active not long after G2 passed by suggests that the matter coming off of G2 might have caused an increase in the black hole’s feeding rate.”

At this point, astronomers don’t know if the increase in X-ray flares from the supermassive black hole is common or unusual in nature. These emissions could be part of the normal life cycle of supermassive black holes and totally unrelated to the passage of G2. The ten-fold increase in X-ray flares could also be due to changing solar winds from nearby massive stars feeding gas and dust into the black hole.

What’s next?

Scientists will keep observing Sagittarius A over the next little while to see what pops up next in this mystery. Hopefully, they can shed some light on the reason the Monster of the Milky Way, suddenly started emitting X-ray flares once a day.  

“It’s too soon to say for sure, but we will be keeping X-ray eyes on Sgr A* in the coming months,” said co-author Barbara De Marco, also of Max Planck. “Hopefully, new observations will tell us whether G2 is responsible for the changed behavior or if the new flaring is just part of how the black hole behaves.”

Read about plans of private firm Planetary Resources, Inc. to mine a near-Earth asteroid in the next decade or less.

Learn more about a magnetar astronomers believe is orbiting extremely close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A.

Discover the Butterfly Nebula or Twin Jet Nebula.

You can learn more about NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory here.

Learn more about the discoveries made by NASA’s Swift spacecraft here.

Discover the European Space Agency’s X-ray Space Observatory XMM-Newton here.

Learn more about the Monster of the Milky Way: Sagittarius A here.

Discover NASA’s mission to the stars here.

Take part in the European Space Agency’s mission to the stars here.

Watch this Nova video on the Monster of the Milky Way.

Hubble Space Telescope Views Island Universe Messier 96

A very asymmetric galaxy resembling a titanic island universe of glowing gas and dark dust

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows Messier 96, a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). It is of about the same mass and size as the Milky Way. It was first discovered by astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1781, and added to Charles Messier’s famous catalogue of astronomical objects just four days later. The galaxy resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the nucleus. Messier 96 is a very asymmetric galaxy; its dust and gas is unevenly spread throughout its weak spiral arms, and its core is not exactly at the galactic centre. Its arms are also asymmetrical, thought to have been influenced by the gravitational pull of other galaxies within the same group as Messier 96. This group, named the M96 Group, also includes the bright galaxies Messier 105 and Messier 95, as well as a number of smaller and fainter galaxies. It is the nearest group containing both bright spirals and a bright elliptical galaxy (Messier 105).
This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows Messier 96, a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). It is of about the same mass and size as the Milky Way. It was first discovered by astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1781 and added to Charles Messier’s famous catalogue of astronomical objects just four days later. The galaxy resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the nucleus. Messier 96 is a very asymmetric galaxy; its dust and gas are unevenly spread throughout its weak spiral arms, and its core is not exactly at the galactic centre. Its arms are also asymmetrical, thought to have been influenced by the gravitational pull of other galaxies within the same group as Messier 96. This group named the M96 Group, also includes the bright galaxies Messier 105 and Messier 95, as well as a number of smaller and fainter galaxies. It is the nearest group containing both bright spirals and a bright elliptical galaxy (Messier 105).

Space news ( October 11, 2015) – 35 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Leo the Lion –

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently took this stunning image of Messier 96, a spiral galaxy approximately the same volume and mass as our Milky Way. First viewed by Pierre Mechain in 1781, this island universe is unusual in many aspects compared to other spiral galaxies. The gas and dust in the spiral arms of Messier 96 are unevenly spread, due at least partially to the gravitational influence of nearby galaxies in the Leo I Galaxy Group. The core of this asymmetric island universe is also slightly off center, a fact that has scientists scratching their heads and wondering, why?

You can view more images and learn more about Messier 96 here.

Learn and read about the Leo I Galaxy Group here.

Discover NASA’s mission to the stars here.

View the journey of the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Learn more about titanic collisions between galaxy clusters in Abell 1033.

Read about a magnetar discovered orbiting close to Sagittarius A.

Learn more about plans of Planetary Resources Inc. to mine as an asteroid.