Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD)Columbia Waits, Discovery Launches
Space Shuttle Discovery launches while the Space Shuttle Columbia is readied for a future mission. Space shuttles are launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At this date there are four operating space shuttles: Atlantis, Columbia, Discovery, and Endeavour. This mission is most famous for carrying the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.
Night Launch of Endeavour
Space Shuttle Endeavour thunders off into orbit in a rare night launch. This March 1995 mission is most famous for operating the set of astronomical telescopes known as Astro-2. Astro-2's telescopes observed the universe in ultraviolet light - light so blue humans by themselves can't see it.
Liftoff of Space Shuttle Columbia
On April 12, 1981, space flight entered a new era with the first launch of Space Shuttle Columbia, shown above. NASA's Space Shuttles land like a normal plane, carry a heavy cargo, carry a large crew, make use of cheap solid fuel, and are reusable.
Geysers on Triton
In August of 1989 NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft passed by Neptune, the most distant of the solar system's gas giant planets. Its encounter with Neptune climaxed with its closest approach to Neptune's largest moon Triton.
Closeup of an Io Volcano
In 1979, one of NASA's Voyager spacecraft made a spectacular and unexpected discovery. Io, the innermost Galilean moon of Jupiter, was covered with volcanoes and some of them were erupting! In all, Voyager 1 observed nine volcanic eruptions during its encounter with the moon.
Io: A Volcanic Moon
In 1610, Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens and discovered that the planet Jupiter had four bright moons. The innermost of these Galilean moons, Io, turned out to be one of the most exotic objects in the solar system.
Astronomers using NASA's Voyager spacecraft to search for a ring system around Jupiter discovered these faint rings in 1979. Unlike Saturn's bright rings which are composed of chunks of rock and ice, Jupiter's rings appear to consist of fine particles of dust.
Crossing The Ring Plane
"I do not know what to say in a case so surprising, so unlooked for and so novel." announced Galileo when Saturn's rings appeared to vanish in 1612. In fact, every 15 years Saturn's rings seem to almost disappear as viewed from the Earth.
Exploring Saturn's Rings
By watching a star flicker and fade as it passed behind Saturn's rings, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft was able explore the ring system in amazing detail. Data produced by Voyager's instruments...
The Rings of Saturn
Saturn's spectacular system of bright rings has been the subject of study and wonder since Galileo first turned his telescope on the ringed planet in 1610. To Galileo, the blurry image produced by his small telescope was confusing. Saturn appeared to him to have "ear-like" appendages which he thought might be large moons.