On Oct. 9, Juno flew by Earth using the home planet's gravity to get a boost needed to reach Jupiter. The JunoCam caught this image of Earth, and other instruments were tested to ensure they work as designed during a close planetary encounter. The Juno spacecraft was launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 5, 2011. Juno’s rocket, the Atlas 551, was only capable of giving Juno enough energy or speed to reach the asteroid belt, at which point the Sun’s gravity pulled Juno back toward the inner solar system. The Earth flyby gravity assist increases the spacecraft’s speed to put it on course for arrival at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.
A magnetic filament of solar material erupted on the sun in late September, breaking the quiet conditions in a spectacular fashion. The 200,000 mile long filament ripped through the sun's atmosphere, the corona, leaving behind what looks like a canyon of fire. The glowing canyon traces the channel where magnetic fields held the filament aloft before the explosion. In reality, the sun is not made of fire, but of something called plasma: particles so hot that their electrons have boiled off, creating a charged gas that is interwoven with magnetic fields.
This MODIS image taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite on Nov. 10, 2013, shows an iceberg that was part of the Pine Island Glacier and is now separating from the Antarctica continent. What appears to be a connection point on the top left portion of the iceberg is actually ice debris floating in the water. The original rift that formed the iceberg was first observed in October 2011 but as the disconnection was not complete, the “birth” of the iceberg had not yet happened. It is believed the physical separation took place on or about July 10, 2013, however the iceberg persisted in the region, adjacent to the front of the glacier. The iceberg is estimated to be 21 miles by 12 miles (35 km by 20 km) in size, roughly the size of Singapore. A team of scientists from Sheffield and Southampton universities will track it and try to predict its path using satellite data.
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Orion ground test vehicle has been lifted high in the air by crane in the transfer aisle of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The ground test vehicle is being used for pathfinding operations, including simulated manufacturing, assembly and stacking procedures. Orion is the exploration spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to destinations not yet explored by humans, including an asteroid and Mars. It will have emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during space travel and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The first unpiloted test flight of Orion, Exploration Flight Test (EFT)-1 is scheduled to launch in 2014. EFT-1 will be Orion's first mission, which will send an uncrewed spacecraft 3,600 miles into Earth's orbit. As part of the test flight, Orion will return to Earth at a speed of approximately 20,000 mph for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
A full moon rises behind the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft onboard at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Nov. 17, 2013. MAVEN is the second mission under NASA's Mars Scout Program. It will take critical measurements of the Martian upper atmosphere to help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet's history. MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft, inside a payload fairing, is hoisted to the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41. The move and hoisting operations mark another major milestone for the launch team as everything proceeds on schedule to launch Nov. 18, when the Atlas V will lift MAVEN into space and on to Mars. The two-hour launch window extends from 1:28 to 3:28 p.m. EST. MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. It will orbit the planet in an elliptical orbit that allows it to pass through and sample the entire upper atmosphere on every orbit. The spacecraft will investigate how the loss of Mars' atmosphere to space determined the history of water on the surface.
This ghostly image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the disembodied remains of a dying star, called a planetary nebula. Planetary nebulas are a late stage in a sun-like star's life, when its outer layers have sloughed off and are lit up by ultraviolet light from the central star. The Ghost of Jupiter, also known as NGC 3242, is located roughly 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Hydra. Spitzer's infrared view shows off the cooler outer halo of the dying star, colored here in red. Also evident are concentric rings around the object, the result of material being periodically tossed out in the star's final death throes.