Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

NASA just ordered 53 Nikon D5 DSLRs for the ISS and training purposes

27 Aug

NASA’s relationship with Nikon is as strong as ever, judging by the fact that the space agency just placed a massive order for 53 Nikon D5 DSLRs.

According to Nikon, NASA ordered the cameras as-is (no hardware modifications) and plans to use them for photography on the International Space Station, as well as astronaut training on Earth. The agency might make some changes down the line, but for now there’s no difference between the D5 cameras available to consumers and the ones being shipped to NASA.

This is the latest development in a long-running relationship between NASA and Nikon, which has provided the space agency with camera gear as far back as 1971 for the Apollo 15 space mission.

Most recently, Nikon provided NASA with 38 units of the Nikon D4 DSLR in 2013 and another 10 units of the D4 in 2016. The camera maker didn’t reveal whether NASA received any special discounts on its bulk order, but assuming NASA paid retail price, the cost could have exceeded $ 344,000 USD.

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NASA captured photos and video of the ISS ‘photobombing’ today’s solar eclipse

22 Aug
The International Space Station, with a crew of six onboard, is seen in silhouette as it transits the Sun at roughly five miles per second during a partial solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017 near Banner, Wyoming. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Plenty of people were pointing their cameras up at the solar eclipse today, but leave it to NASA to capture a little something extra. From his vantage point in Banner, Wyoming, NASA photo editor Joel Kowsky captured a dual eclipse of sorts: the moon obscuring the sun, and the tiny pinprick of the International Space Station obscuring a little bit of what was left.

As the ISS and its six crew members flew in front of the partially obscured disk of the sun, Kowsky had both still and slow motion video cameras trained on his target.

Here’s a closer crop of the photograph above:

Here, a composite that shows the ISS’s full transit across the partial eclipse:

And, finally, a slow motion video of the transit, recorded by Kowsky at 1,500 frames a second:

To see these photos and video in their full glory, head over to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Flickr account.

All photos and video courtesy of NASA/Joel Kowsky

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NASA Curiosity Rover captures rare photographs of clouds on Mars

12 Aug
Clouds drift across the sky above a Martian horizon in this photograph captured on July 17, 2017 by the Navcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University

Last month, NASA’s Curiosity Rover captured something (appropriately enough) curious in the Martian sky: clouds. Specifically, Curiosity snapped several sequences of “wispy, early-season clouds resembling Earth’s ice-crystal cirrus clouds” that NASA is calling “the most clearly visible so far” since the Rover landed 5 years and 5 days ago.

As NASA explains in a news release:

Researchers used Curiosity’s Navigation Camera (Navcam) to take two sets of eight images of the sky on an early Martian morning last month. For one set, the camera pointed nearly straight up. For the other, it pointed just above the southern horizon. Cloud movement was recorded in both and was made easier to see by image enhancement.

Each sequence of 8 images was enhanced and turned into an animated GIF:

To learn more about these photos and the science behind why there are clouds on Mars, and why they were a lot more common billions of years ago, head over to the NASA news release by clicking here.

All photos courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University

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NASA will chase the August eclipse in jets to capture ‘clearest images of the corona to date’

03 Aug

It doesn’t matter where you’ll be during the August 21st solar eclipse, NASA plans to one-up you and capture a better photo—or at least a unique one. The space agency is actually going to chase the eclipse’s totality in two highly modified 1950s-vintage WB-57F jets, in order to capture the ‘clearest image of the sun’s […] corona to date,’ and the first-ever thermal images of Mercury.

The whole plan is detailed in the short video above, although we have to warn you, it might make you feel a little bit of gear envy—”if only I’d bought that Air Force surplus reconnaissance plane…”

Joking aside, the August 21st eclipse is a brilliant research opportunity, and NASA doesn’t plan to let it slip by unused. The two WB-57F jets have each been retrofitted with twin telescopes mounted on their noses. Using these telescopes, Amir Caspi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado plans to capture “the clearest images of the Sun’s outer atmosphere — the corona — to date and the first-ever thermal images of Mercury.”

One of the WB-57F jets is readied for a test run at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The instruments are mounted under the silver casing on the nose of the plane. Photo: NASA’s Johnson Space Center/Norah Moran

According to NASA, the jets will capture high-definition pictures at 30fps during the entire eclipse totality—which will last three times longer as the jets speed along, staying inside the moon’s shadow—from the stratosphere, avoiding interference from most of the Earths atmosphere. These photos will then be analyzed to determine why the sun’s atmosphere is so hot (millions of degrees), when the visible surface of the sun is significantly cooler (a few thousand degrees).

Before and after these observations, the scientists will also use the jets to try and capture the first-ever thermal images of Mercury—”the first attempt to map the variation of temperature across the surface of the planet.”

To find out more about this fascinating scientific (and photographic) mission, check out the video at the top or head over to the NASA website for a more detailed breakdown of what they’re looking to capture and why.

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NASA releases incredible close-ups of Jupiter’s ‘Great Red Spot’

15 Jul
A close-up of Jupiter’s ‘Great Red Spot,’ a storm that has been raging on the planet for 350 years. Photo: NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Marty McGuire © PUBLIC DOMAIN

It’s one of Jupiter’s most distinct and immediately recognizable features: the so-called Great Red Spot. This massive storm, wider than the diameter of our Earth, has been raging for at least 350 years and is itself a mystery to scientists. Fortunately for those scientists (and the rest of us space nerds) NASA’s Juno spacecraft just captured the closest ever photos of the storm.

On Monday of this week, Juno passed just 5,600 miles above the 10,000-mile wide spot, taking pictures as it went.

The photos were received and released by NASA yesterday on the JunoCam website, where astronomy fans, space nerds and astrophotography junkies alike pulled the originals into photo editing programs and started pull out colors, sharpening, and otherwise improving the photos.

So while the original Raw images looked like this:

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Ambitious NASA fans have tuned the unprocessed shots to reveal more details, structure, color and even overlaid the continental US on one of the photos for scale.

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NASA is no doubt taking a close look at the Raw files, processing the shots themselves and hoping to learn something new about the spot from these close-ups. For our part, we’re just enjoying the pretty pictures and trying to fathom how they were captured.

To see the full resolution Raw files and all of the different processed versions by various users, head over to the JunoCam website by clicking here.

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NASA ortbiter snaps aerial photo of lonesome Mars Curiosity rover

23 Jun
The bright blue dot at the center of this photo by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is actually NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, going about its lonely mission on the Red Planet. © Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

No human photographer could capture this aerial photograph. That’s because this image is literally out of this world – it was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on June 5th, and shows the Mars Curiosity Rover as it traverses the red planet, approximately 241,500,000 miles away from where I sit typing this right now.

It’s hard to spot, and you have to look really closely, but there’s a small blue dot in the very middle of the photograph above. This closer crop might help:

There, amid the Martian landscape, you can actually see the Curiosity rover as it trekked along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp, on its way to ‘Vera Rubin Ridge.’

The photograph was taken by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, which captures a red band, blue -green band, and an infrared band, combining these together to form an RGB image. Because of this, the photograph is not a so-called ‘true color’ image, and the orbiter appears bluer than it actually is.

Oh, and if you’re curious, you can actually see what Curiosity was seeing when this photo was captured. The rover was using its Mast Camera to shoot these photographs of the Martian landscape while its picture was taken.

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NASA spacecraft struck by meteoroid while photographing the Moon

03 Jun
The collision of a meteoroid with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Narrow Angle Camera resulted in this wavy image.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

A camera on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter survived a direct hit from a meteoroid no larger than the pin of a head that was traveling at incredibly high speeds. Despite its small size, tiny meteoroids can inflict significant damage on space equipment, especially instruments as delicate as a camera.

According to NASA project scientist Mark Robinson, ‘In this case, (the camera) did not dodge a speeding, but rather survived a speeding bullet.’

The incident actually occurred in late 2014, but was not made public until recently. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been mapping the moon’s poles ever since its launch in 2009. And its cameras – manufactured by a small company called Malin – are known for being particularly tough. In fact, Malin cameras are also used on the Mars Curiosity rover.

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NASA puts it all in perspective with this image of Earth between Saturn’s rings

22 Apr
Earth, photographed from 1.4 billion kilometers / 870 million miles away. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will soon meet its demise in Saturn’s atmosphere, but one of its last photos of Earth is making for a heck of a swan song. The image, dated April 12, 2017, shows Earth as a bright white dot framed by the planet’s rings. For comparison, it’s about the same size as your standard speck of dust. Our entire planet.

Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004 and has spent the last decade and then some beaming back information about the ringed planet and its moons. But all good things must come to an end, and as the spacecraft’s fuel supply runs low, NASA will begin the process of safely putting it out to pasture.

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National Geographic and NASA celebrate National Parks with images from space

22 Apr

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If you’re unable to take advantage of free National Park entry this weekend, you can still enjoy the grandeur of some of the US’s best-loved National Parks thanks to National Geographic and NASA. To celebrate National Parks week they’ve published some of their favorite photos of parks – from space.

We were pleased to discover that Grand Prismatic looks just as colorful from space as it does from the ground. Maybe we can keep it that way if we don’t trample all over it, hmm?

Take a look at a few of the images above and see more over at National Geographic Travel.

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Get your pictures in front a NASA photo editor by entering Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017

24 Feb
Serene Saturn Winner Planets, Comets & Asteroids 2016 © Damian Peach (UK)

The Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 competition is set to open next week offering space photographers the chance to have their work judged by a picture editor from NASA as well as to win the top prize of £10,000. The competition is open to professional and amateur photographers who can choose from nine categories in which to enter their images. Entry is free but restricted to ten images in total all of which need to have been taken since January 1st 2016.

The winner of each category will receive a £1500 prize while those in runner-up positions get £500 and Commended images win £250. There are an additional two special awards for The Sir Patrick Moore Award Best Newcomer and for Robotic Scope Image of the Year – both of which earn the photographer £750.

Joining the judging panel this year is photographer Rebecca Roth, the Image Coordinator and Social Media Specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. She will judge alongside a collection of astronomers and astro-photographers as well as presenters from the BBC Sky at Night TV program. Photographer Wolfgang Tillmans is also on the judging panel.

The competition is open for entries from Monday February 27th and closes on Friday April 7th. It is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the UK along with the BBC’s Sky at Night magazine. The Royal Observatory is a charitable organization and has some terms regarding additional uses beyond the realms of the competition that entrants should acquaint themselves with before submitting their work.

For more information see the Royal Museums Greenwich website and the terms and conditions page.

Press release


The Royal Observatory Greenwich, in association with Insight Investment and BBC Sky at Night Magazine, announces the dates for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 competition – its annual global search for the most beautiful and spectacular visions of the cosmos, whether they are striking pictures of vast galaxies millions of light years away, or dramatic images of the night sky much closer to home.

Now in its ninth year, the hugely popular competition will open to entrants on Monday 27 February giving them a chance of taking home the grand prize of £10,000. Entrants will have until Friday 7 April to enter up to ten images into the various categories of the competition via

The competition also welcomes Rebecca Roth of NASA to the judging panel. Based in Washington D.C. Rebecca is a photographer, photo editor and social media specialist, currently working as the Image Coordinator and Social Media Specialist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Rebecca has worked at NASA for nearly 8 years and is charged with sharing amazing images of our universe with the media and with the public through channels such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Prior to working at NASA, Rebecca worked as a photojournalist and photo editor for outlets including National Geographic Television & Film, Roll Call Newspaper, and USA Weekend Magazine. Of her latest role as a judge for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017, Rebecca has said, “At NASA Goddard, we build spacecraft and instruments, and invent new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe – a favorite part of my job is sharing images of these spacecraft and the images they produce with the public. This will be an exciting and unique opportunity to see the spectacular images of space captured by the public themselves and discovering their photographic interpretations of the night sky and beyond.”

Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 has nine main categories:

– Skyscapes: Landscape and cityscape images of twilight and the night sky featuring the Milky Way, star trails, meteor showers, comets, conjunctions, constellation rises, halos and noctilucent clouds alongside elements of earthly scenery.

– Aurorae: Photographs featuring auroral activity.

– People and Space: Photographs of the night sky including people or a human interest element.

– Our Sun: Solar images including solar eclipses and transits.

– Our Moon: Lunar images including lunar eclipses and occultation of planets.

– Planets, Comets and Asteroids: Everything else in our solar system, including planets and their satellites, comets, asteroids and other forms of zodiacal debris.

– Stars and Nebulae: Deep space objects within the Milky Way galaxy, including stars, star clusters, supernova remnants, nebulae and other intergalactic phenomena.

– Galaxies: Deep space objects beyond the Milky Way galaxy, including galaxies, galaxy clusters, and stellar associations.

– Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Pictures taken by budding astronomers under the age of 16 years old.

There are also two special prizes: The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer is awarded to the best photo by an amateur astrophotographer who has taken up the hobby in the last year and who has not entered an image into the competition before, and Robotic Scope, acknowledges the best photo taken using one of the increasing number of computer-controlled telescopes at prime observing sites around the world which can be accessed over the internet by members of the public.

Entries to the competition must be submitted by 7 April 2017, and the winning images will be showcased in the annual free exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich from 14 September 2017.

Photographers can enter online by visiting and each entrant may submit up to ten images to the competition.

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