The private spaceflight companies Boeing and SpaceX are on track to start launching NASA astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017, representatives of both firms said Monday (Jan. 26). In September 2014, SpaceX and Boeing were awarded contracts under NASA's commercial crew program to help them start flying astronauts on missions to the space station from U.S. soil in the next few years. SpaceX and Boeing are planning to launch a series of tests of their spaceships — capsules called Dragon V2 and the CST-100, respectively — from this year through 2017. The tests will make sure the launch systems are in good shape before the spacecraft make their first official runs to and from the station.
Via NASA: Blasting skyward an Atlas V rocket carrying a U.S. Navy satellite pierces a cloud bank in this starry night scene captured on January 20. On its way to orbit from Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, planet Earth, the rocket streaks past brightest star Sirius, as seen from a dark beach at Canaveral National Seashore. Above the alpha star of Canis Major, Orion the Hunter strikes a pose familiar to northern winter skygazers. Above Orion is the V-shaped Hyades star cluster, head of Taurus the Bull, and farther still above Taurus it's easy to spot the compact Pleiades star cluster. Of course near the top of the frame you'll find the greenish coma and long tail of Comet Lovejoy, astronomical darling of these January nights.
Via NASA: Celebrating astronomy in this International Year of Light, the detailed image reveals spectacular active galaxy Cygnus A in light across the electromagnetic spectrum. Incorporating X-ray data ( blue) from the orbiting Chandra Observatory, Cygnus A is seen to be a prodigious source of high energy x-rays. But it is actually more famous at the low energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum. One of the brightest celestial sources visible to radio telescopes, at 600 million light-years distant Cygnus A is the closest powerful radio galaxy. Radio emission ( red) extends to either side along the same axis for nearly 300,000 light-years powered by jets of relativistic particles emanating from the galaxy's central supermassive black hole. Hot spots likely mark the ends of the jets impacting surrounding cool, dense material. Confined to yellow hues, optical wavelength data of the galaxy from Hubble and the surrounding field in the Digital Sky Survey complete a remarkable multiwavelength view.