Hawaii's Mauna Loa erupts for the first time in decades, a meteorite contains two minerals new to science and a stellar bridge connects two galaxies. These are some of this week's top photos.
El Ali meteorite has minerals new to science
This is a single 2.5 ounce (70 gram) slice from a massive meteorite called El Ali. The space rock appeared in Somalia in 2020.
Scientists have detected two minerals within El Ali that have never been seen before on Earth. One mineral is called elaliite, like the meteorite's name. The other mineral is called elkinstantonite, after Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the managing director of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative and principal investigator of NASA's upcoming Psyche mission. That project will send a probe to the mineral-rich Psyche asteroid, which orbits the Sun between the paths of Mars and Jupiter.
The heart of the Perseus galaxy cluster
This composite image merges data from several observatories to showcase the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster. The red seen here is radio data from the LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) radio telescope array. The blue represents X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory. These colors are added later, but there are some visible light observations in this image too: the Hubble Space Telescope provides the background night sky visuals in optical wavelengths.
Images like this one intrigue astronomers who want to know more about cluster evolution. This information helps them determine how star births, supernovas and galactic collisions create these gargantuan groupings.
Two stellar nurseries
These two purple splotches are nebulas, places where gas and dust coalesces to form the next generation of stars.
They appear near one another in this image, but they are different distances from Earth. The nebula on the left, NGC 3603, is much farther away from us. Astronomers estimate its distance to be 22,000 light-years away. However, the smaller nebula on the right, NGC 3576, is just 1,350 light-years away from Earth.
This image shows observations from VISTA, or Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, operated by the European Southern Observatory.
A stellar bridge
The mutual gravity of two galaxies has formed a mesmerizing bridge of gas, dust, and stars between them. The Hubble Space Telescope caught this scene playing out approximately 200 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation Virgo. This patch of sky is also decorated by a distant galaxy much farther away that isn't interacting with the other two. But it adds to the mystique of the scene. Astronomers call this scene Arp 248, or Wild's Triplet.
The lava of Mauna Loa
Hawaii's Mauna Loa began to erupt on Sunday (Nov. 27), and a day later, the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite caught it smoldering.
The satellite, operated by the European Space Agency, watched as Mauna Loa erupted for the first time since 1984. This composite image reveals clouds of gas billowing off the eruption, while infrared data reveals the flowing lava's heat.
Mauna Loa eruption spotted from space
This view of Mauna Loa by a Maxar Technologies satellite on Nov 28, 2022, shows the dramatic scenes unfolding during Mauna Loa's eruption. Here, the lava flows move along the Northeast Rift Zone on Hawaii's Big Island.
Hawaii's Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano, began erupting on Sunday (Nov. 27), the first eruption in almost 40 years. The volcano last erupted in 1984 when it sent a lava flow barreling toward the city of Hilo.
Mauna Loa occupies more than half of Hawaii's Big Island and rises 13,679 feet (4,169 meters) above the Pacific Ocean, according to USGS(opens in new tab). It has erupted 33 times since the first well-documented eruption in 1843. - Daisy Dobrijevic
New view of Pillars of Creation combines images from two Webb's instruments
By combining images of the iconic Pillars of Creation taken by the two main cameras on the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists created a new view of the imposing dust structure that reveals its complexity in unprecedented detail.
The new image is a composite of previously released photographs taken by Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). NIRCam detects the shorter wavelengths of the near infrared light emitted by objects in the universe and is a specialist in finding stars and warmer, denser dust accumulations where stars form. MIRI scans the universe in the longer, mid-infrared wavelengths and excels at detecting cosmic dust.
Images obtained by these two instruments were previously released separately, with the one taken by NIRCam studded with stars, while MIRI's image was a ghostlike cloud of gray.
Adding NIRCam's view to that of MIRI enlivens the deadness of the dusty Pillars with the sparkle of hundreds of stars, big and small. Newborn stars can be seen as tiny reddish dots scattered in the thickest, darkest parts of the dust cloud.
Pillars of Creation, first imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope in the mid-1990s, are one of the nearest star-forming regions to Earth. Located in the Eagle Nebula, some 6,500 light-years away, the Pillars serve as a cosmological lab that will help Webb unravel the processes of star creation in a way impossible before. – Tereza Pultarova
This dramatic image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope displays a galactic merger of cosmic proportions known to astronomers as II ZW 96.
II ZW 96 lies approximately 500 million light-years from Earth and is located in the constellation Delphinus.
The two bright cores of each galaxy are clearly visible in this image but the swirling arms of each galaxy have been twisted out of shape by the collision. - Daisy Dobrijevic
Moon photobombs Shenzhou 15 launch
This incredible image was captured during the launch of the fourth crew to China's Tiangong space station. Here, a Long March 2F rocket topped with the Shenzhou 15 spacecraft lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 10:08 a.m. EST (1508 GMT; 11:08 p.m. local time).
Crew members Fei Junlong (the mission commander), Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu are now headed for Tiangong, a day after they were unveiled as the crew for the six-month-long Shenzhou 15 mission. — Space.com staff
Orion's incredible views of Earth and the moon
Orion is currently performing an uncrewed test flight as part of the Artemis 1 mission. The capsule is fitted with 16 monitoring cameras that not only capture stunning views like this one but also help ground controllers inspect the spacecraft and check the mission is going to plan. Artemis 1 is the first stage of a series of missions designed to send back to the moon as part of the Artemis program. - Daisy Dobrijevic
You can keep up to date with the latest mission news with our Artemis 1 live updates blog.
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