December 2016

This galaxy has a far more exciting and futuristic classification than most -- it hosts a megamaser.

NASA's NEOWISE mission has recently discovered some celestial objects traveling through our neighborhood, including one on the blurry line between asteroid and comet. Another--definitely a comet--might be seen with binoculars through next week.

A large dust cloud hangs over the Atlantic along the northwestern coast of Africa in this color-enhanced image captured by the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on December 27, 2016.

Today: Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Prep: The crew reviewed procedures for the upcoming S4 Battery EVA.

Thomas Pesquet: Land and sea sometimes seem to melt together, like here in theGulf of Aqaba.

New work platforms being installed in Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building will provide access for testing and processing NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Thomas Pesquet: White cloud graffiti on an orange desert background, like bright street art on a grey wall.

Today: Fluid Shifts Dilution Measurements: The second of three 49S subjects completed their Flight Day 45 blood draw with assistance from a Crew Medical Officer (CMO) Operator in support of the first part of the Fluid Shift activities - Diultion Measurement.

Thomas Pesquet: When the moon is up, its light reflects on the snow, and combines with city lights for the most beautiful night scenes I've seen so far. Torino, Milano and Lyon!

Thomas Pesquet: More desert art: it looks like somebody's been playing with a paintbrush.

Just hours after the winter solstice, a mass of energetic particles from the Sun smashed into the magnetic field around Earth.

In December 2016, snow fell in the Sahara for the first time since 1979.

NASA Scientist Tiffany Kataria drops in on Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Michael Sheen for a fun, not so serious chat about science fiction, other worlds and time travel?

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA sent holiday greetings and festive imagery from the Cupola on Dec. 18.

Astronauts on the International Space Station take pictures of Earth out their windows nearly every day; over a year that adds up to thousands of photos.

Thomas Pesquet: Egypt and the Sinai desert with the clouds staying in the north

The six-member Expedition 50 crew from France, Russia and the U.S. is heading into the holiday weekend with spacesuit checks and eye studies. The international crew will share a Christmas meal, enjoy a light-duty weekend and take Dec. 26 off.

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA sent holiday greetings and festive imagery from the Japanese Kibo laboratory module on Dec. 18.

Thomas Pesquet: From inside the International Space Station looking out: the Kibo airlock. Like standing on the highest diving board looking at a swimming pool 400 km down ...

Thomas Pesquet: Buenos Aires and el Rio de la Plata : where Argentina meets Uruguay

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency discussed their thoughts about being in space during the holidays and how they plan to celebrate Christmas and New Year's in a downlink message recorded Dec. 12. Kimbrough arrived on the complex in October, followed a month later by Whitson and Pesquet.

The crew wrapped up part of a muscle research program today while continuing other experiments to study the effects of living in space. Also, a new CubeSat deployer was installed in Japan's Kibo laboratory module.

NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station.

Sentinel-2A takes us over northwestern China near the border with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in this false-colour image.

Thomas Pesquet: Toujours aussi fan de l'Italie, sur Terre comme depuis l'espace

Thomas Pesquet: The sandy dunes of Namibia seem to flow straight into the Atlantic ocean

The sheer observing power of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is rarely better illustrated than in an image such as this.

This image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft is one of the highest-resolution views ever taken of Saturn's moon Pandora. Pandora (52 miles, 84 kilometers) across orbits Saturn just outside the narrow F ring.

Now available is the November 16, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Madhu Thangavelu (USC) who presented "MOBIUS - Supersynchronous Earth Orbits for Lunar Missions."

The Expedition 50 crew is exploring a wide variety of phenomena today to understand the effects of living and working in space. Results from the advanced space research aboard the International Space Station has the potential to benefit humans on Earth and astronauts on long-term missions.

NASA's Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) mission has released preliminary data on the heights of Greenland coastal glaciers from its first airborne campaign in March 2016.

The six Expedition 50 crew members from France, Russia and the United States are heading into the final holidays of the year with a muscle study and Earth observations today. The astronauts also checked out fluids and combustion science gear and practiced an emergency escape drill.

Thomas Pesquet: The "eye of Africa" in the Sahara desert, Mauritania.

Erosion-carved troughs that grow and branch during multiple Martian years may be infant versions of larger features known as Martian "spiders," which are radially patterned channels found only in the south polar region of Mars.

Although there are no seasons in space, this cosmic vista invokes thoughts of a frosty winter landscape.

Today: Lighting Effects Meter Reading: The crew set up and configured the Light Meter hardware and took readings in the Node 1 and Crew Quarters (CQ). The Node 1 light is the legacy General Luminaire Assembly (GLA), while the CQ light has been upgraded to the newly installed Solid State Lighting Assemblies (SSLAs).

Thomas Pesquet: Looking West to East along the Pyrenees. The snow seems to be waiting for the skiers

It may look as though Saturn's moon Mimas is crashing through the rings in this image taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, but Mimas is actually 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) away from the rings.

When you cover space and astronomy news as Nancy Atkinson and I do, you usually find yourself focusing on launch dates, destinations, and science.

Today: Medical Consumables Tracker (MCT) Installation: The crew installed the HTV-6 delivered MCT hardware in the Crew Health Care System (CHeCS) Resupply Stowage Rack (RSR). MCT uses Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) codes to track medicines and medical supplies on board the ISS.

Thomas Pesquet: This is tonight's "super moon" seen from space! The last one I saw was in Baikonur ... I like this one better! ;)

Thomas Pesquet: I've always wanted to go to the Galapagos islands, but never managed. As a consolation prize, I saw them from space today.

NASA Television covered The Ohio State University's public celebration of John Glenn's life on Dec. 17, at the university's Mershon Auditorium. The former NASA astronaut and U.S. Senator passed away Dec. 8 at the age of 95. Glenn, a decorated U.S. marine, was the first American to orbit Earth and, much later in life, became the oldest person to travel to space.

2016 marked record-breaking progress in NASA's exploration objectives. The agency advanced the capabilities needed to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.

NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station.

External and internal cargo is currently being unloaded from Japan's sixth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) to visit the International Space Station. The Expedition 50 commander also talked to students on Earth today and helped the rest of the crew with space research and orbital lab maintenance.

The western area of Spain's Province of Seville and its capital with the same name (right) is pictured in this image from the Sentinel-2A satellite.

An international team of scientists, including researchers from the University of Chicago, has made the rare discovery of a planetary system with a host star similar to Earth's sun.

At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy.

Proba-V - ESA's smallest Earth-observing mission - overflies Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, its peak seen left of centre in this false-colour image.

NASA successfully launched eight small satellites that will provide scientists with advanced technology to see inside tropical storms and hurricanes like never before.

Robotic officers in Mission Control, Houston maneuvered the Canadarm2 robotic arm overnight to extract a pallet from the newly-arrived Japanese HTV-6 cargo ship containing new batteries for the station's power supply.

The Alps in the evening light: the shadows accentuate the valleys and summits. Are you going skiing this year? ;)

A view of our dinner table. Very roomy, as people can also float above! Other than the wall color, I couldn't have picked a nicer kitchen

A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has found the mechanism behind the sudden onset of a "natural thermostat" in Earth's upper atmosphere that dramatically cools the air after it has been heated by violent solar activity.

A side view of our spaceship. At the base of the solar arrays, a few white boxes: the batteries we're in charge of replacing in January.

Imagery and an animation of infrared imagery from the AIRS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite showed the movement of cold, Arctic air over the U.S. from Dec. 1 to Dec. 11.

Ground controllers successfully installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kounotori 6 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) to the International Space Station's Earth-facing port of the Harmony module at 8:57 a.m. EST.

This image, taken by the JunoCam imager on NASA's Juno spacecraft, highlights the seventh of eight features forming a 'string of pearls' on Jupiter -- massive counterclockwise rotating storms that appear as white ovals in the gas giant's southern hemisphere.

NASA's "Exo-Brake" will demonstrate a critical technology leading to the potential return of science payloads to Earth from the International Space Station through the deployment of small spacecraft in early 2017.

Boron has been identified for the first time on the surface of Mars, indicating the potential for long-term habitable groundwater in the ancient past.

The six crew members aboard the International Space Station are getting ready for the arrival of new resupply ship early Tuesday. The crew is also exploring human research and physics and cleaning spacesuits.

Signs of powerful changing winds have been detected on a planet 16 times larger than Earth, over 1000 light years away - the first time ever that weather systems have been found on a gas giant outside our solar system - according to new research by the University of Warwick.

Members of the media were invited to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to participate in a news conference Dec. 12 with cast members from the 20th Century Fox motion picture Hidden Figures.

Loaded with more than four tons of supplies and experiments, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-6) arrived at the International Space Station Dec. 13 four days after its launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

As Earth warms, much of the extra heat is stored in the planet's ocean -- but monitoring the magnitude of that heat content is a difficult task.

Glaciers and ice sheets move in unique and sometimes surprising patterns, as evidenced by a new capability that uses satellite images to map the speed of flowing ice in Greenland, Antarctica and mountain ranges around the world.

An extraordinarily brilliant point of light seen in a distant galaxy, and dubbed ASASSN-15lh, was thought to be the brightest supernova ever seen.

NASA Launch Manager Tim Dunn of the Launch Services Program recapped today's launch attempt. The hydraulic system problem developed en route, after takeoff, in the last 25 minutes prior to the initial 8:30 a.m. launch time.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s H-IIB rocket launched at 8:26 a.m. EST (10:26 p.m. Japan time) on Friday, Dec. 9 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. At the time of launch, the space station was flying about 250 miles over the Philippine Sea south of Japan.

A peculiar class of meteorites has offered scientists new clues about when the planet Jupiter took shape and wandered through the solar system.

The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is especially rich in galaxies, due in part to the presence of a massive and gravitationally-bound collection of over 1300 galaxies called the Virgo Cluster.

A nighttime view of Western Europe is captured by crew members aboard the International Space Station.

On December 10, a news briefing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida previewed the launch of NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) spacecraft.

NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station.