A simulated tornado, ghosts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and other amazing images of the week

Newsworthy eye candy

Mars On Earth

Chile’s Atacama Desert contains Earth’s closest Mars-like conditions: It’s extremely dry with high UV radiation from the sun. So naturally, NASA has made the area it’s go-to practice facility for tests and experiments that they may one day perform on the red planet. Recently, scientists from NASA’s Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies completed their second season of tests. The tested KREX-2 rover was able to rove, drill, and detect life signs all at the same time. Such multi-tasking robotic rovers could ultimately help scientists to figure out if there was (or still is) microbial life forms under Mars’ surface.

A Simulated Tornado

Believe it or not, it’s springtime. And with it comes Tornado season—and tornado simulations. By modeling real data with a supercomputer, a team led by Leigh Orf at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has re-created this tornado-producing supercell that spawned several strong tornadoes in May 2011, including the EF-5 that touched down near El Reno, Oklahoma and caused a 63-mile path of destruction. These simulators can help us better understand the formation and structure of this extreme weather form.

NASA’s Ghosts

It takes some artistic tricks to see ghosts around a space telescope. A NASA photographer recently captured this amazing and freaky picture during a lights-out inspection on the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Because the special flashlights used for testing worked better in the dark, the engineers kept the lights off. To combat the dim (or nonexistent) light, the photographer used a longer than normal exposure, making the moving technicians look like blurred ghosts.

A Black Hole Meets A White Dwarf Star

In a new study out this week in the journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers found a white dwarf star orbiting around a black hole. It’s a pretty rare find. Only a handful of binary systems like this one have been found in such dense globular star clusters. The researchers hope to learn more about this star-and-black-hole pair in future, and space-based gravitational wave observatories could be the key to its secrets.