The Most Epic Instagrams by NASA
At 5 million followers, NASA’s Instagram account is one of the top most popular accounts on the social network. It’s no wonder why either. The technology they have to capture images is amazing and the images are so impressive. See some of our favorites!
1. This is a star cluster populated with many young stars that are less than 2 million years old, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms for stars like the Sun expected to burn for billions of years.
2. The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 4:16 a.m. EDT on June 25. Our Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This flare is classified as a M7.9 flare. M-class flares are a tenth the size of the most intense flares, the X-class flares. The number provides more information about its strength. An M2 is twice as intense as an M1, an M3 is three times as intense, etc.
3. Most galaxies are clumped together in groups or clusters. A neighboring galaxy is never far away. But this galaxy, known as NGC 6503, has found itself in a lonely position, at the edge of a strangely empty patch of space called the Local Void. The Local Void is a huge stretch of space that is at least 150 million light-years across. It seems completely empty of stars or galaxies. The galaxy’s odd location on the edge of this never-land led stargazer Stephen James O’Meara to dub it the “Lost-In-Space galaxy” in his 2007 book, Hidden Treasures. NGC 6503 is 18 million light-years away from us in the northern circumpolar constellation of Draco. NGC 6503 spans some 30,000 light-years, about a third of the size of the Milky Way.
4. Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way, is located about 25,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), close to the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It’s a fairly young astronomical object at between two and four million years old. The Arches cluster is so dense that in a region with a radius equal to the distance between the sun and its nearest star there would be over 100,000 stars! At least 150 stars within the cluster are among the brightest ever discovered in the Milky Way. These stars are so bright and massive that they will burn their fuel within a short time (on a cosmological scale that means just a few million years). Then they will die in spectacular supernova explosions. Due to the short lifetime of the stars in the cluster the gas between the stars contains an unusually high amount of heavier elements, which were produced by earlier generations of stars.
5. This image of the Whirlpool Galaxy, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy’s grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars. The galaxy is nicknamed the Whirlpool because of its swirling structure. The Whirlpool is one of astronomy’s galactic darlings. Located 31 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs), the Whirlpool’s beautiful face-on view and closeness to Earth allow astronomers to study a classic spiral galaxy’s structure and star-forming processes.
6. The artist’s concept depicts Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone-a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet’s surface. The discovery from April 2014 of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zones of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth. Kepler-186f orbits its star once every 130 days and receives one-third the energy that Earth does from the sun, placing it near the outer edge of the habitable zone. If you could stand on the surface of Kepler-186f, the brightness of its star at high noon would appear as bright as our sun is about an hour before sunset on Earth. Kepler-186f resides in the Kepler-186 system about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The system is also home to four inner planets, seen lined up in orbit around a host star that is half the size and mass of the sun.
7. Our Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions — a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now. This discovery has given astronomers their first opportunity to measure the strength of these ultra-fast winds and prove they are powerful enough to inhibit the host galaxy’s ability to make new stars. Supermassive black holes blast matter into their host galaxies, with X-ray-emitting winds traveling at up to one-third the speed of light. In the new study, astronomers determined PDS 456, an extremely bright black hole known as a quasar more than 2 billion light-years away, sustains winds that carry more energy every second than is emitted by more than a trillion suns. Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast out radiation and ultra-fast winds, as illustrated in this artist’s conception.
8. the iconic view of the so-called “Pillars of Creation.” The jaw-dropping photo, taken in 1995, revealed never-before-seen details of three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, or M16. The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. With these new images comes better contrast and a clearer view for astronomers to study how the structure of the pillars is changing over time.
9. Aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Terry Virts posted this image and wrote, “One of the most amazing sites on Earth #AmazonRiver delta.” The station crew has been working on a variety of robotics activities this week. On Wednesday, they tested a humanoid robot and explored how bowling ball-sized satellites, known as SPHERES, can navigate around objects. Crew members trained earlier in the week for the planned Sunday capture of the Dragon spacecraft using the 57.7 foot Canadarm2.
10. View from Above: From the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore took this photograph of the Great Lakes and central U.S. on Dec. 7, 2014, and posted it to social media. This week on the station, the Expedition 42 crew has been busy with medical science and spacesuit work while preparing for the arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon commercial cargo craft, scheduled to launch on Dec. 16 on a two day trip to the station before it is captured by the Canadarm2 and berthed to the Harmony node.
11. Loops in Profile A whole series of loops towered above a group of active regions over a five-days period from July 9-13, 2015. When viewed in extreme ultraviolet light, magnetic field lines above the Sun’s surface are revealed by charged particles that spin along the lines and create these loops. They are best observed along the edge of the Sun as they are here. The tallest of the loops reach up about 15 times the diameter of Earth.