Space

Take two students from MIT; now, take two students from MIT with only $150 in their pockets and a notion to use a little science to make a little art, and what do you get? ... Eight gigabytes of near-space photographs and an experience to share to the rest of the world of citizen scientists!
NASA's Swift satellite has acquired a new high-resolution view of a neighboring spiral galaxy; M31 in the constellation Andromeda, the largest and closest spiral galaxy to our own.

M31, also known as the Andromeda Galaxy, is more than 220,000 light-years across and lies 2.5 million light-years away. On a clear, dark night, the galaxy is faintly visible as a misty patch to the naked eye.

Between May 25 and July 26, 2008, Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) acquired 330 images of M31 at wavelengths of 192.8, 224.6, and 260 nanometers. The images represent a total exposure time of 24 hours. 
Last year, we featured on DPR AmSci, NASA's LCROSS Mission to the moon (read), which is an important study to see if water ice exists on the moon. A successful find would amount to a critical discovery that will lead the way for sending humans back to the big rock in the sky.
What do engineer Burt Rutan, hotel magnate Robert Bigelow, and game programmer John Carmack have in common? Answer: they've built the first private earth-to-space rocket, space station, and lunar lander in the current new space race.

Most people are familiar with Scaled Composite's X-Prize $10 million victory with SpaceShipOne, the first private reusable multi-flight manned spacecraft to succeed. But note 'first'-- they were not the only competitor. Just the first tick on the space race radar.
Just how much would you pay to go into space? $12000 for a satellite plus launch, like me? Or perhaps... $300 to build a high-altitude balloon camera?

Or, if $300 is too high, how about getting a couple of high school kids to do it for half that? Their 99EU ($144) high altitude balloon is a great achievement in engineering, science, cost reduction, and learning.

Their hardware specs are, alas, not in the article, but some MIT students replicated their work at the same $150 price point.

To space,

The Cassini spacecraft's Magnetospheric Imaging instrument (MIMI) has detected a temporary radiation belt around Dione, one of the moons of Saturn.  The discovery will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam by Dr Elias Roussos on Monday, September 14th.

Radiation belts, like Earth’s Van Allen belts, have been discovered at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune but it has only been possible to observe the variability of their intensity at Earth and Jupiter.   Cassini has been orbiting Saturn for more than five years so it has been possible to assess changes in Saturn’s radiation belts.
New beautiful images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have been released recently, and they are, as always, a pleasure to behold. The HST was serviced in a mission by the Space Shuttle Atlantis crew last May, to replace some broken gyroscopes and drained batteries, and perform a number of additional important tasks that will allow operation to continue for many years to come.

Among the new installed instruments the new HST sports an improved wide field camera, WFC3, which promises a significant improvement of the quality of telescope's imaging capabilities.
NASA's 19-year-old Hubble Space Telescope still has a few tricks up its sleeve!  New images were released today from Hubble's new Wide Field Camera 3.  Installed back in March, WFC3 extends Hubble's capabilities well into the infrared, allowing it to peer through dust and see further back in time.  For a stunning demonstration, click here.

Shown below are the featured new images, taken in ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light all with WFC3:
NGC 6302: remnants of a dying star
Old notion: Giant clouds of gas and dust to collapse inward due to gravity, growing denser and hotter until igniting nuclear fusion and forming stars.  New notion:  It's more than just gravity and cosmic magnetic fields play a more important role in star formation than previously thought.

A molecular cloud is a cloud of gas that acts as a stellar nursery.  When a molecular cloud collapses, only a small fraction of the cloud's material forms stars but scientists aren't sure why.
We have been in an anomalously long Solar Minimum.  The sun has an 11 year cycle from Minimum to Maximum.  But the cycles are (like most things in nature) not exact, and some are longer than the others.  We are coming out of Solar Minimum... or are we?

Even in the midst of our current cycle, solar physicists were predicting a long minimum, and, humorously, seemed evenly divided over whether this meant we would have a more active Maximum, or a far less active Maximum.  For example, David Hathaway in the NASA article "Solar Cycle 25 peaking around 2022 could be one of the weakest in centuries" clearly predicts the latter.