Image of the Day: April 2012

I've Got One, Two, Three, Four, Five Rockets Working Overtime

NASA/Wallops Flight Facility

Monday, April 2, 2012: Four of five sounding rockets liftoff from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (Virginia) in this time-lapse photograph of the ATREX mission. The experiment took place on March 27, 2012, producing white clouds to study fast-moving winds high in the thermosphere. The first rocket was launched at 4:58 am EDT, with following launches occurring at 80-second intervals. The star trails result from the extended exposure. [See our full story.]

— Tom Chao

All of a Sudden

Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

Tuesday, April 3, 2012: Galaxy M95, in the Leo I galaxy group, surprised skywatchers recently with a new supernova. Astronomers discovered SN 2012aw on March 16, 2012. Here, it lies at in the spiral arm that descends from the top to the lower right of the galaxy.

— Tom Chao

Triple-Sonic Cheese


Wednesday, April 4, 2012: NASA's Robert R. "Bob" Meyer, Jr. recently retired after 40 years as an aerospace engineer, project manager and program manager with NASA, mainly at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California. His last six years were as program manager of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. Here, Meyer (left), also a pilot, and Ed Schneider humorously displayed "cheesehead" hats after showing off one of Dryden's now-retired SR-71 Blackbird aircraft at the Experimental Aircraft Association's convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1997.

— Tom Chao

Throwing Fire at the Sun

United Launch Alliance

Thursday, April 5, 2012: A United Launch Alliance Delta4 rocket carrying the NROL-25 spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on April 3, 2012.

— Tom Chao

Hour of (No) Power


Friday, April 6, 2012: ESA astronaut André Kuipers took this photo of the coast of North Africa and the Mediterranean Sea from the International Space Station on March 31, 2012. It was released during Earth Hour, a worldwide effort to raise awareness of sustainability issues by encouraging people to turn off their electric lights for an hour.

— Tom Chao

Kind of Blue

Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

Monday, April 9, 2012: Planetary nebula Abell 33, which appears as an almost circular disk to Earth observers, lies in the constellation of Hydra. A bright star coincidentally sits on its rim.

— Tom Chao

I'm Getting Blown Away


Tuesday, April 10, 2012: The STEREO spacecraft recorded this still image of a solar coronal mass ejection during a week of heavy activity, March 25-April 2, 2010. In the image, the sun lies just beyond the left edge, and the Earth millions of miles to the right. Mercury is the bright spot slightly left of and below the center of the image.

— Tom Chao

Bent Out of Shape

ESA/Hubble & NASA

Wednesday, April 11, 2012: NGC 4980, a spiral galaxy, lies in the southern constellation of Hydra. The galaxy’s slight deformation usually would be attributed to recent tidal interactions with another galaxy, however no other galaxies exist nearby. Although the galaxy’s spiral structure remains difficult to discern in this image, scientists showed that NGC 4980 has a disc-type bulge, and its rotating spiral structure extends to the center of the galaxy. Image released April 2, 2012.

— Tom Chao

Chain, Chain, Chain

ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

Thursday, April 12, 2012: Chains of pits in the Tharsis region of Mars appear in this computer-generated perspective view. Data gathered by the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on ESA's Mars Express spacecraft provided the basis for the image. If any cave-like structures are associated with the pits, they could have harbored hypothesized microorganisms in the past. Image taken June 22, 2011.

— Tom Chao

Take It Away

NASA/Kim Shiflett

Friday, April 13, 2012: The mate-demate device frames the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (NASA 905), which arrived at Kennedy Space Center on April 10, 2012. The modified Boeing 747 jet airliner will ferry shuttle Discovery to its final home at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. on April 17, 2012.

— Tom Chao


NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Monday, April 16, 2012: Saturn's moon Mimas casts a ghostly shadow on the southern hemisphere of Saturn at the lower left of this photograph taken by Cassini spacecraft on Jan. 21, 2012. Shadows of the rings fall on Saturn at the upper right. Cassini took the photo approximately 1.6 million miles (2.6 million kilometers) from Saturn, looking toward the southern, unilluminated side of the rings from about 1 degree below the ringplane.

— Tom Chao

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: Staff
News and editorial team is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.