Nasa Photos Of The Week: Amazing Mars Gif, Black Hole Squashes Stars

Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 11/05/2012 11:25 Updated: 11/05/2012 15:20

This week, Nasa gives you the gif that keeps on giving. You're looking at the movement of Mars sand dunes, which is highly unexpected according to Nasa, due to the rarity of winds there, and Mars' thin atmosphere.

Less giffy, and more artful interpretation, is an artist's image of a black hole squashing new star formation.

The Herschel space observatory found that galaxies with the most powerful supermassive black holes at their centre are less likely to produce stars.

Nasa says that the radiation from active black holes can stop stars from forming.

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We had a supermoon here on Earth this weekend, but on Saturn, there's a remarkable moon most days. Enceladus is exceptionally reflective, and in this shot it contrasts with Saturn and its rings. Titan looms at the rear in a galactic photobomb.

Nothing fascinates more than the sun, which the UK has been experiencing a distinct lack of lately.

A magnificent sunspot and M-class flare, which did not launch one of the more spectacular coronial mass ejections, was captured by Nasa's solar dynamics observatory.

This week we also saw a forst-of-its-kind image of a super Earth that radiates infrared light. The huge planet is just 40 light-years away from Earth, and is one of 70 known super Earths to be circling stars other than our sun.

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  • Artist's Concept - Active Black Hole Squashes Star Formation The Herschel Space Observatory has shown that galaxies with the most powerful, active, supermassive black holes at their cores produce fewer stars than galaxies with less active black holes. Supermassive black holes are believed to reside in the hearts of all large galaxies. When gas falls upon these monsters, the materials are accelerated and heated around the black hole, releasing great torrents of energy. In the process, active black holes often generate colossal jets that blast out twin streams of heated matter. Inflows of gas into a galaxy also fuel the formation of new stars. In a new study of distant galaxies, Herschel helped show that star formation and black hole activity increase together, but only up to a point. Astronomers think that if an active black hole flares up too much, it starts spewing radiation that prevents raw material from coalescing into new stars. This artistically modified image of the local galaxy Arp 220, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, helps illustrate the Herschel results. The bright core of the galaxy, paired with an overlaid artist's impression of jets emanating from it, indicate that the central black hole's activity is intensifying. As the active black hole continues to rev up, the rate of star formation will, in turn, be tamped down in the galaxy. Astronomers want to further study how star formation and black hole activity are intertwined (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

  • Saturn's Brightly Reflective Moon Enceladus A brightly reflective Enceladus appears before Saturn's rings, while the planet's larger moon Titan looms in the distance. Jets of water ice and vapor emanating from the south pole of Enceladus, which hint at subsurface sea rich in organics, and liquid hydrocarbons ponding on the surface on the surface of Titan make these two of the most fascinating moons in the Saturnian system. Enceladus (313 miles, or 504 kilometers across) is in the center of the image. Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers across) glows faintly in the background beyond the rings. This view looks toward the anti-Saturn side of Enceladus and the Saturn-facing side of Titan. The northern, sunlit side of the rings is seen from just above the ringplane. The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on March 12, 2012. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 600,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from Enceladus and at a Sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 36 degrees. Image scale is 4 miles (6 kilometers) per pixel on Enceladus (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

  • Sunspot Has Produced M-Class Flares, But No CMEs -The sun unleashed an M4.7 class flare at 8:32 EDT on May 9, 2012 as captured here by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The flare was over quickly and there was no coronal mass ejection associated with it. This image is shown in the 131 Angstrom wavelength, a wavelength that is typically colorized in teal and that provided the most detailed picture of this particular flare (NASA/SDO)

  • NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity drove about 12 feet (3.67 meters) on May 8, 2012, after spending 19 weeks working in one place while solar power was too low for driving during the Martian winter. The winter worksite was on the north slope of an outcrop called Greeley Haven. The rover used its rear hazard-avoidance camera after nearly completing the May 8 drive, capturing this view looking back at the Greeley Haven. The dark shape in the foreground is the shadow of Opportunity's solar array. The view is toward the southeast. Since landing in the Meridiani region of Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time and EST (Jan. 24, PST), Opportunity has driven 21.4 miles (34.4 kilometers). Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued for years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit stopped communicating in 2010. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

  • Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center are testing parts of the Orion service module to ensure the spacecraft can withstand the harsh realities of deep space missions. The Orion Ground Test Vehicle shows the Orion "skeleton" used for pathfinding operations in preparation for the Orion spaceflight test vehicle slated for NASA's Exploration Flight Test, or EFT-1, in 2014. (NASA)

  • First-of-Its-Kind Glimpse at a Super Earth Super Earths are exotic planets unlike any in our solar system. They are more massive than Earth yet lighter than gas giants like Neptune, and they can be made of gas, rock or a combination of both. There are about 70 known to circle stars beyond our sun, and NASA's Kepler mission has detected hundreds of candidates. These planets' relatively small sizes make them very hard to see. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope was able to detect a super Earth's direct light for the first time using its sensitive heat-seeking infrared vision. Seen here in this artist's concept, the planet is called 55 Cancri e. It's a toasty world that rushes around its star every 18 hours. It orbits so closely -- about 25 times closer than Mercury is to our sun -- that it is tidally locked with one face forever blisters under the heat of its sun. The planet is proposed to have a rocky core surrounded by a layer of water in a "supercritical" state, where it is both liquid and gas, and then the whole planet is thought to be topped by a blanket of steam. Spitzer was able to see the light of the planet by watching it slip behind its star in what is called an occultation. Because the planet is brighter relative to its star when viewed in infrared light, Spitzer was able to measure the slight drop in total brightness that occurred as the planet disappeared from view. This technique, pioneered by Spitzer in 2005, has since been performed by other telescopes, including NASA's Hubble and Kepler space telescopes. The method can be used to obtain information about a planet's temperature, and in some cases, its composition. In this current study, the Spitzer data revealed that 55 Cancri e is very dark and that its sun-facing side is blistering hot at 2,000 kelvins or 3,140 degrees Fahrenheit (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

  • SpaceX Launch Targeted for May 19 -Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, of Hawthorne, Calif., on Friday targeted May 19 for the launch of its upcoming demonstration mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft and its Falcon 9 rocket, both made by SpaceX, are rolled to the launch pad ahead of the static firing test for the rocket. Photo courtesy of SpaceX.

  • NASA Spacecraft Detects Changes in Martian Sand Dunes - PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed that movement in sand dune fields on the Red Planet occurs on a surprisingly large scale, about the same as in dune fields on Earth. This is unexpected because Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, is only about one percent as dense, and its high-speed winds are less frequent and weaker than Earth's (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/JHU-APL)

  • Pink Opaque - An extraordinary outburst produced by a black hole in a nearby galaxy has provided direct evidence for a population of old, volatile stellar black holes. The discovery, made by astronomers using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, provides new insight into the nature of a mysterious class of black holes that can produce as much energy in X-rays as a million suns radiate at all wavelengths (X-ray: NASA/CXC/Curtin University/R. Soria et al., Optical: NASA/STScI/ Middlebury College/F. Winkler et al.)

  • Testing the Webb Telescope Several critical items related to NASA's next-generation James Webb Space Telescope currently are being tested in the thermal vacuum test chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. This image shows the Optical Telescope Element Simulator, or OSIM, wrapped in a silver blanket on a platform, being lowered into the Space Environment Simulator vacuum chamber via crane to be tested to withstand the cold temperatures of space (NASA/Chris Gunn)

  • Broken Sea -The partially broken sea ice pack below NASA's ER-2 can be clearly seen through the pilot's cockpit viewing sight during one of the MABEL laser altimeter validation flights (NASA)

  • The Bluest Sky - The main parachutes deploy for Boeing's crew capsule during a parachute drop test on May 2, 2012. This is the second successful parachute drop test for its Crew Space Transportation (CST) spacecraft, part of Boeing's effort to develop commercial crew transportation capabilities that could ferry U.S. astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. To accomplish the task, a helicopter lifted the CST-100 crew capsule to about 10,000 feet above the Delmar Dry Lake Bed near Alamo, Nev. A drogue parachute deployment sequence was initiated, followed by deployment of the main parachute. The capsule descended to a smooth ground landing, cushioned by six inflated air bags (Boeing/NASA)

  • Dragon's Crew Accommodations - Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has finished an important evaluation of a prototype Dragon spacecraft designed to carry people into orbit. This key milestone is part of SpaceX's partnership with NASA under a funded Space Act Agreement to advance the design of crew transportation vehicles. The primary goal of the tests was to determine whether the layout will allow astronauts to maneuver effectively in the vehicle. Several veteran space shuttle astronauts and NASA engineers conducted the evaluation during a pair of two-day-long reviews. On top, from left, are NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA astronauts Tony Antonelli and Eric Boe, and SpaceX Mission Operations Engineer Laura Crabtree. On bottom, from left, are SpaceX Thermal Engineer Brenda Hernandez and NASA astronauts Rex Walheim and Tim Kopra (SpaceX/NASA)