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Jupiter looks a bit different in ultraviolet light. To better interpret Jupiter's cloud motions and to help NASA's robotic Juno spacecraft understand the planetary context of the small fields that it sees, the Hubble Space Telescope is being directed to regularly image the entire Jovian giant. The colors of Jupiter being monitored go beyond the normal human visual range to include both ultraviolet and infrared light. Featured from 2017, Jupiter appears different in near ultraviolet light, partly because the amount of sunlight reflected back is distinct, giving differing cloud heights and latitudes discrepant brightnesses. In the near UV, Jupiter's poles appear relatively dark, as does its Great Red Spot and a smaller (optically) white oval to the right. The String of Pearl storms farther to the right, however, are brightest in near ultraviolet, and so here appear (false-color) pink. Jupiter's largest moon Ganymede appears on the upper left. Juno continues on its looping 53-day orbits around Jupiter, while Earth-orbiting Hubble is now recovering from the loss of a stabilizing gyroscope. via NASA
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16 hours ago
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From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming. Already visible are several young bright blue stars whose light and winds are burning away and pushing back the remaining filaments and walls of gas and dust. The Eagle emission nebula, tagged M16, lies about 6500 light years away, spans about 20 light-years, and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of the Serpent (Serpens). This picture involved over 25 hours of imaging and combines three specific emitted colors emitted by sulfur (colored as red), hydrogen (yellow), and oxygen (blue). via NASA
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yesterday
APOD: 2018 October 14 - Orion in Red and Blue
When did Orion become so flashy? This colorful rendition of part of the constellation of Orion comes from red light emitted by hydrogen and sulfur (SII), and blue-green light emitted by oxygen (OIII). Hues on the featured image were then digitally reassigned to be indicative of their elemental origins -- but also striking to the human eye. The breathtaking composite was painstakingly composed from hundreds of images which took nearly 200 hours to collect. Pictured, Barnard's Loop, across the image bottom, appears to cradle interstellar constructs including the intricate Orion Nebula seen just right of center. The Flame Nebula can also be quickly located, but it takes a careful eye to identify the slight indentation of the dark Horsehead Nebula. As to Orion's flashiness -- a leading explanation for the origin of Barnard's Loop is a supernova blast that occurred about two million years ago. via NASA
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2 days ago
APOD: 2018 October 12 - The Falcon 9 Nebula
Not the Hubble Space Telescope's latest view of a distant planetary nebula, this illuminated cloud of gas and dust dazzled even casual U.S. west coast skygazers on October 7. Taken about three miles north of Vandenberg Air Force Base, the image follows plumes and exhaust from the first and second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rising through southern California's early evening skies. In the fading twilight, the reddish smoke drifting in the foreground at the right is from the initial ascent of the rocket. The expanding blue and orange filamentary plumes are from first and second stage separation and the first stage boostback burn, still in sunlight at extreme altitudes. But the bright spot below center is the second stage itself headed almost directly away from the camera, accelerating to orbital velocity and far downrange. Pulsed thrusters form the upside down V-shape at the top as they guide the reusable Falcon 9 first stage back to the landing site. via NASA
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4 days ago
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch dazzled viewers along the U.S. west coast after sunset on October 7. Rising from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, planet Earth, the Falcon 9's first stage then returned to a landing zone some 400 meters from the launch site less than 8 minutes after liftoff. Both launch and first stage landing (left) are captured in the frame of this two image stack, recorded by a stationary, sound-activated camera set up on a nearby hill. This Falcon 9 rocket delivered its payload, an Earth-observing satellite developed by Argentina's national space agency, to low Earth orbit. Of course, the Falcon 9 first stage had flown before. Following a launch from Vandenberg on July 25 it was recovered after landing on the autonomous drone ship Just Read the Instructions. via NASA
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5 days ago
APOD: 2018 October 10 - Sun Dance
Sometimes, the surface of our Sun seems to dance. In the middle of 2012, for example, NASA's Sun-orbiting Solar Dynamic Observatory spacecraft imaged an impressive prominence that seemed to perform a running dive roll like an acrobatic dancer. The dramatic explosion was captured in ultraviolet light in the featured time-lapse video covering about three hours. A looping magnetic field directed the flow of hot plasma on the Sun. The scale of the dancing prominence is huge -- the entire Earth would easily fit under the flowing arch of hot gas. A quiescent prominence typically lasts about a month, and may erupt in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) expelling hot gas into the Solar System. The energy mechanism that creates a solar prominence is still a topic of research. Unlike 2012, this year the Sun's surface is significantly more serene, featuring fewer spinning prominences, as it is near the minimum in its 11-year magnetic cycle. via NASA
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6 days ago
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Many spiral galaxies have bars across their centers. Even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a modest central bar. Prominently barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672, featured here, was captured in spectacular detail in an image taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Visible are dark filamentary dust lanes, young clusters of bright blue stars, red emission nebulas of glowing hydrogen gas, a long bright bar of stars across the center, and a bright active nucleus that likely houses a supermassive black hole. Light takes about 60 million years to reach us from NGC 1672, which spans about 75,000 light years across. NGC 1672, which appears toward the constellation of the Dolphinfish (Dorado), is being studied to find out how a spiral bar contributes to star formation in a galaxy's central regions. via NASA
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7 days ago
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Small bits of this greenish-gray comet are expected to streak across Earth's atmosphere tonight. Specifically, debris from the eroding nucleus of Comet 21P / Giacobini-Zinner, pictured, causes the annual Draconids meteor shower, which peaks this evening. Draconid meteors are easy to enjoy this year because meteor rates will likely peak soon after sunset with the Moon's glare nearly absent. Patience may be needed, though, as last month's passing of 21P near the Earth's orbit is not expected to increase the Draconids' normal meteor rate this year of (only) a few meteors per hour. Then again, meteor rates are notoriously hard to predict, and the Draconids were quite impressive in 1933, 1946, and 2011. Featured, Comet 21P gracefully posed between the Rosette (upper left) and Cone (lower right) nebulas two weeks ago before heading back out to near the orbit of Jupiter, to return again in about six and a half years. via NASA
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8 days ago
APOD: 2018 October 6 - Aurora: The Frog's View
What does an aurora look like to a frog? "Awesome!" is the likely answer, suggested by this imaginative snapshot taken on October 3rd from Kiruna, Sweden. Frequented by apparitions of the northern lights, Kiruna is located in Lapland north of the Arctic Circle, and often under the auroral oval surrounding planet Earth's geomagnetic north pole. To create a tantalizing view from a frog's perspective the photographer turned on the flashlight on her phone and placed it on the ground facing down, resting her camera's lens on top. The "diamonds" in the foreground are icy pebbles right in front of the lens, lit up by the flashlight. Reflecting the shimmering northern lights, the "lake" is a frozen puddle on the ground. Of course, in the distance is the Bengt Hultqvist Observatory. via NASA
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10 days ago
APOD: 2018 October 5 - The Last Days of Venus as the Evening Star
That's not a young crescent Moon poised above the hills along the western horizon at sunset. It's Venus in a crescent phase. About 54 million kilometers away and less than 20 percent illuminated, it was captured by telescope and camera on September 30 near Bacau, Romania. The bright celestial beacon is now languishing in the evening twilight, its days as the Evening Star in 2018 coming to a close. But it also grows larger in apparent size and becomes an ever thinner crescent in telescopic views. Heading toward an inferior conjunction (non-judgmental), the inner planet will be positioned between Earth and Sun on October 26 and lost from view in the solar glare. At month's end a crescent Venus will reappear in the east though, rising just before the Sun as the brilliant Morning Star. via NASA
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11 days ago
APOD: 2018 October 3 - NGC 1898: Globular Cluster in the LMC
Jewels don't shine this bright -- only stars do. And almost every spot in this glittering jewel-box of an image from the Hubble Space Telescope is a star. Now some stars are more red than our Sun, and some more blue -- but all of them are much farther away. Although it takes light about 8 minutes to reach Earth from the Sun, NGC 1898 is so far away that it takes light about 160,000 years to get here. This huge ball of stars, NGC 1898, is called a globular cluster and resides in the central bar of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) -- a satellite galaxy of our large Milky Way Galaxy. The featured multi-colored image includes light from the infrared to the ultraviolet and was taken to help determine if the stars of NGC 1898 all formed at the same time, or at different times. There are increasing indications that most globular clusters formed stars in stages, and that, in particular, stars from NGC 1898 formed shortly after ancient encounters with the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) and our Milky Way Galaxy. via NASA
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13 days ago
APOD: 2018 October 2 - Supernumerary Rainbows over New Jersey
Yes, but can your rainbow do this? After the remnants of Hurricane Florence passed over Jersey Shore, New Jersey, USA last month, the Sun came out in one direction but something quite unusual appeared in the opposite direction: a hall of rainbows. Over the course of a next half hour, to the delight of the photographer and his daughter, vibrant supernumerary rainbows faded in and out, with at least five captured in this featured single shot. Supernumerary rainbows only form when falling water droplets are all nearly the same size and typically less than a millimeter across. Then, sunlight will not only reflect from inside the raindrops, but interfere, a wave phenomenon similar to ripples on a pond when a stone is thrown in. In fact, supernumerary rainbows can only be explained with waves, and their noted existence in the early 1800s was considered early evidence of light's wave nature. via NASA
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14 days ago
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A new chapter in space flight began in 1950 with the launch of the first rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida: the Bumper V-2. Featured here, the Bumper V-2 was an ambitious two-stage rocket program that topped a V-2 missile base with a WAC Corporal rocket. The upper stage was able to reach then-record altitudes of almost 400 kilometers, higher than even International Space Station. Launched under the direction of the General Electric Company, the Bumper V-2 was used primarily for testing rocket systems and for research on the upper atmosphere. Bumper V-2 rockets carried small payloads that allowed them to measure attributes including air temperature and cosmic ray impacts. Seven years later, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I and Sputnik II, the first satellites into Earth orbit. In response in 1958, 60 years ago today, the USA created NASA. via NASA
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15 days ago
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Why is this neutron star off-center? Recently a lone neutron star has been found within the debris left over from an old supernova explosion. The "lonely neutron star" in question is the blue dot at the center of the red nebula near the bottom left of E0102-72.3. In the featured image composite, blue represents X-ray light captured by NASA's Chandra Observatory, while red and green represent optical light captured by ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. The displaced position of this neutron star is unexpected since the dense star is thought to be the core of the star that exploded in the supernova and created the outer nebula. It could be that the neutron star in E0102 was pushed away from the nebula's center by the supernova itself, but then it seems odd that the smaller red ring remains centered on the neutron star. Alternatively, the outer nebula could have been expelled during a different scenario -- perhaps even involving another star. Future observations of the nebulas and neutron star appear likely to resolve the situation. via NASA
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16 days ago
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For 55 consecutive nights Mediterranean skies were at least partly clear this summer, from the 1st of July to the 24th of August 2018. An exposure from each night was incorporated in this composited telephoto and telescopic image to follow bright planet Saturn as it wandered through the generous evening skies. Through August, the outer planet's seasonal apparent retrograde motion slowed and drifted to the right, framed by a starry background. That brought it near the line-of-sight to the central Milky Way, and the beautiful Lagoon (M8) and Trifid (20) nebulae. Of course Saturn's largest moon Titan was also along for the ride. Swinging around the gas giant in a 16 day long orbit, Titan's resulting wave-like motion is easier to spot when the almost-too-bright Saturn is digitally edited from the scene. via NASA
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17 days ago
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This colorful skyscape spans about two full moons across nebula rich starfields along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy in the royal northern constellation Cepheus. Near the edge of the region's massive molecular cloud some 2,400 light-years away, bright reddish emission region Sharpless (Sh) 155 is below and right of center, also known as the Cave Nebula. About 10 light-years across the cosmic cave's bright walls of gas are ionized by ultraviolet light from the hot young stars around it. Dusty blue reflection nebulae, like vdB 155 at upper left, and dense obscuring clouds of dust also abound on the interstellar canvas. Astronomical explorations have revealed other dramatic signs of star formation, including the bright red fleck of Herbig-Haro (HH) 168. Near top center in the frame, the Herbig-Haro object emission is generated by energetic jets from a newborn star. via NASA
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18 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 27 - M33: Triangulum Galaxy
The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp image shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 7 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe. via NASA
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19 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 26 - The Suns Spectrum with its Missing Colors
It is still not known why the Sun's light is missing some colors. Here are all the visible colors of the Sun, produced by passing the Sun's light through a prism-like device. The spectrum was created at the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory and shows, first off, that although our white-appearing Sun emits light of nearly every color, it does indeed appear brightest in yellow-green light. The dark patches in the above spectrum arise from gas at or above the Sun's surface absorbing sunlight emitted below. Since different types of gas absorb different colors of light, it is possible to determine what gasses compose the Sun. Helium, for example, was first discovered in 1870 on a solar spectrum and only later found here on Earth. Today, the majority of spectral absorption lines have been identified - but not all. via NASA
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20 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 25 - Highlights of the North Autumn Sky
What can you see in the night sky this season? The featured graphic gives a few highlights for Earth's northern hemisphere. Viewed as a clock face centered at the bottom, early (northern) autumn sky events fan out toward the left, while late autumn events are projected toward the right. Objects relatively close to Earth are illustrated, in general, as nearer to the cartoon figure with the telescope at the bottom center -- although almost everything pictured can be seen without a telescope. As happens during any season, constellations appear the same year to year, and, as usual, the Leonids meteor shower will peak in mid-November. Also as usual, the International Space Station (ISS) can be seen, at times, as a bright spot drifting across the sky after sunset. Planets visible after sunset this autumn include Jupiter and Mars, and during late autumn, Saturn. via NASA
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21 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 24 - Rover 1A Hops on Asteroid Ryugu
Two small robots have begun hopping around the surface of asteroid Ryugu. The rovers, each the size of a small frying pan, move around the low gravity of kilometer-sized 162173 Ryugu by hopping, staying aloft for about 15 minutes and typically landing again several meters away. On Saturday, Rover 1A returned an early picture of its new home world, on the left, during one of its first hops. On Friday, lander MINERVA-II-1 detached from its mothership Hayabusa2, dropped Rovers 1A and 1B, and then landed on Ryugu. Studying Ryugu could tell humanity not only about Ryugu's surface and interior, but about what materials were available in the early Solar System for the development of life. Two more hopping rovers are planned for release, and Hayabusa2 itself is scheduled to collect a surface sample from Ryugu and return it to Earth for detailed analysis before 2021. via NASA
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22 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 23 - Equinox: Analemma over the Callanish Stones
Does the Sun return to the same spot on the sky every day at the same time? No. A more visual answer to that question is an analemma, a composite image taken from the same spot at the same time over the course of a year. The featured analemma was composed from images taken every few days at 4 pm near the village of Callanish in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, UK. In the foreground are the Callanish Stones, a stone circle built around 2700 BC during humanity's Bronze Age. It is not known if the placement of the Callanish Stones has or had astronomical significance. The ultimate causes for the figure-8 shape of this an all analemmas are the tilt of the Earth axis and the ellipticity of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. At the solstices, the Sun will appear at the top or bottom of an analemma. Equinoxes, however, correspond to analemma middle points -- not the intersection point. Today at 1:54 am (UT) is the equinox ("equal night"), when day and night are equal over all of planet Earth. Many cultures celebrate a change of season at an equinox. via NASA
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23 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 22 - Window Seat over Hudson Bay
On the August 18 night flight from San Francisco to Zurich, a window seat offered this tantalizing view when curtains of light draped a colorful glow across the sky over Hudson Bay. Constructed by digitally stacking six short exposures made with a hand held camera, the scene records the shimmering aurora borealis or northern lights just as the approaching high altitude sunrise illuminated the northeastern horizon. It also caught the flash of a Perseid meteor streaking beneath the handle stars of the Big Dipper of the north. A few days past the meteor shower's peak, its trail still points across the sky toward Perseus. Beautiful aurorae and shower meteors both occur in Earth's upper atmosphere at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, far above commercial airline fights. The aurora are caused by energetic charged particles from the magnetosphere, while meteors are trails of comet dust. via NASA
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24 days ago
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Irregular galaxy NGC 55 is thought to be similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). But while the LMC is about 180,000 light-years away and is a well known satellite of our own Milky Way Galaxy, NGC 55 is more like 6 million light-years distant and is a member of the Sculptor Galaxy Group. Classified as an irregular galaxy, in deep exposures the LMC itself resembles a barred disk galaxy. Spanning about 50,000 light-years, NGC 55 is seen nearly edge-on though, presenting a flattened, narrow profile in contrast with our face-on view of the LMC. Just as large star forming regions create emission nebulae in the LMC, NGC 55 is also seen to be producing new stars. This highly detailed galaxy portrait highlights a bright core crossed with dust clouds, telltale pinkish star forming regions, and young blue star clusters in NGC 55. via NASA
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25 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 20 - Stars and Dust in Corona Australis
Cosmic dust clouds and young, energetic stars inhabit this telescopic vista, less than 500 light-years away toward the northern boundary of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. The dust clouds effectively block light from more distant background stars in the Milky Way. But the striking complex of reflection nebulae cataloged as NGC 6726, 6727, and IC 4812 produce a characteristic color as blue light from the region's young, hot stars is reflected by the cosmic dust. The dust also obscures from view stars still in the process of formation. At top right, smaller yellowish nebula NGC 6729 bends around young variable star R Coronae Australis. Near it, glowing arcs and loops shocked by outflows from embedded newborn stars are identified as Herbig-Haro objects. On the sky this field of view spans about 1 degree. That corresponds to almost 9 light-years at the estimated distance of the nearby star forming region. via NASA
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26 days ago
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Inside the Cocoon Nebula is a newly developing cluster of stars. The cosmic Cocoon on the upper right also punctuates a long trail of obscuring interstellar dust clouds to its left. Cataloged as IC 5146, the beautiful nebula is nearly 15 light-years wide, located some 3,300 light years away toward the northern constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). Like other star forming regions, it stands out in red, glowing, hydrogen gas excited by young, hot stars and blue, dust-reflected starlight at the edge of a nearly invisible molecular cloud. In fact, the bright star near the center of this nebula is likely only a few hundred thousand years old, powering the nebular glow as it slowly clears out a cavity in the molecular cloud's star forming dust and gas. This exceptionally deep color view of the Cocoon Nebula traces tantalizing features within and surrounding the dusty stellar nursery. via NASA
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27 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 18 - Salt Pepper and Ice
There's a "camera" comet now moving across the sky. Just a bit too dim to see with the unaided eye, Comet 21P / Giacobini-Zinner has developed a long tail that makes it a good sight for binoculars and sensitive cameras. The movement of the Comet 21P on the sky was captured last week in the featured time-lapse video compressing 90 minutes into about 2.5 seconds. What might seem odd is that the 21P's tail is not following the comet's movement. This is because comet tails always point away from the Sun, and the comet was not moving toward the Sun during the period photographed. Visible far in the background on the upper left is the Salt & Pepper star cluster, M37, while the bright red star V440 Auriga is visible just about the frame's center. This 2-km ball of dust-shedding ice passed its nearest to the Sun and Earth only last week and is now fading as it crosses into southern skies. Comet 21P should remain visible, however, and photogenic to stabilized cameras, for another month or so. via NASA
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28 days ago
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How could a galaxy become shaped like a ring? The rim of the blue galaxy pictured on the right is an immense ring-like structure 150,000 light years in diameter composed of newly formed, extremely bright, massive stars. That galaxy, AM 0644-741, is known as a ring galaxy and was caused by an immense galaxy collision. When galaxies collide, they pass through each other -- their individual stars rarely come into contact. The ring-like shape is the result of the gravitational disruption caused by an entire small intruder galaxy passing through a large one. When this happens, interstellar gas and dust become condensed, causing a wave of star formation to move out from the impact point like a ripple across the surface of a pond. The likely intruder galaxy is on the left of this combined image from Hubble (visible) and Chandra (X-ray) space telescopes. X-ray light is shown in pink and depicts places where energetic black holes or neutron stars, likely formed shortly after the galaxy collision, reside. via NASA
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29 days ago
APOD: 2018 September 16 - A Solar Filament Erupts
What's happened to our Sun? Nothing very unusual -- it just threw a filament. Toward the middle of 2012, a long standing solar filament suddenly erupted into space producing an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The filament had been held up for days by the Sun's ever changing magnetic field and the timing of the eruption was unexpected. Watched closely by the Sun-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, the resulting explosion shot electrons and ions into the Solar System, some of which arrived at Earth three days later and impacted Earth's magnetosphere, causing visible aurorae. Loops of plasma surrounding an active region can be seen above the erupting filament in the featured ultraviolet image. Although the Sun is now in a relatively inactive state of its 11-year cycle, unexpected holes have opened in the Sun's corona allowing an excess of charged particles to stream into space. As before, these charged particles are creating auroras. via NASA
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4 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 15 - Mont Blanc, Meteor, and Milky Way
Snowy Mont Blanc is near the center of this atmospheric night skyscape. But high, thin clouds fogged the skies at the photographer's location, looking south toward Europe's highest peak from the southern Swiss Alps. Still, the 13 second exposure finds the faint star fields and dark rifts of the Milky Way above the famous white mountain. Bloated by the mist, bright planet Saturn and Antares (right), alpha star of Scorpius, shine through the clouds to flank the galaxy's central bulge. The high-altitude scene is from the rewarding night of August 12/13, so it also includes the green trail of a Perseid meteor shooting along the galactic plane. via NASA
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4 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 14 - Ice Halos at Yellowknife
You've probably seen a circle around the Sun before. More common than rainbows, ice halos, like a 22 degree circular halo for example, can be easy to spot, especially if you can shade your eyes from direct sunlight. Still it's rare to see such a diverse range of ice halos, including sundogs, tangent, infralateral, and Parry arcs, all found in this snapshot from planet Earth. The picture was quickly taken in the late morning of September 4 from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. The beautiful patterns are generated as sunlight (or moonlight) is reflected and refracted in six-sided water ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere. Of course, atmospheric ice halos in the skies of other worlds are likely to be different. via NASA
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4 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 13 - Comet, Clusters, and Nebulae
Bright enough for binocular viewing Comet 21P / Giacobini-Zinner stands out, even in this deep telephoto mosaic of the star cluster and nebula rich constellation Auriga the Charioteer. On the night of September 9 its greenish coma and diffuse tail contrast with the colorful stars and reddish emission nebulae in the almost 10 degree field of view along the Milky Way. The comet was near its perihelion and closest approach to Earth, about 200 light-seconds away. Riding across the distant background just above the comet's tail are well-known Auriga star clusters M38 (left of center) and M36 (toward the right) about 4,000 light-years away. At the top left, emission region IC 405 is only 1,500 light-years distant, more dramatically known as the Flaming Star Nebula. To its right lies IC 410, 12,000 light-years away and famous for its star-forming cosmic tadpoles. A child of our Solar System Giacobini-Zinner is a periodic comet orbiting the Sun once every 6.5 years, and the parent body of October's Draconids meteor shower. via NASA
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4 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 12 - Lunations
Our Moon's appearance changes nightly. As the Moon orbits the Earth, the half illuminated by the Sun first becomes increasingly visible, then decreasingly visible. The featured video animates images taken by NASA's Moon-orbiting Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to show all 12 lunations that appear this year, 2018. A single lunation describes one full cycle of our Moon, including all of its phases. A full lunation takes about 29.5 days, just under a month (moon-th). As each lunation progresses, sunlight reflects from the Moon at different angles, and so illuminates different features differently. During all of this, of course, the Moon always keeps the same face toward the Earth. What is less apparent night-to-night is that the Moon's apparent size changes slightly, and that a slight wobble called a libration occurs as the Moon progresses along its elliptical orbit. via NASA
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4 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 10 - Curiosity Vista from Vera Rubin Ridge
If you could stand on Mars -- what might you see? If you were NASA's Curiosity rover, just last month you would have seen the view from Vera Rubin Ridge, an intriguing rock-strewn perch on the side of Mount Sharp. In the featured 360-degree panorama, you can spin around and take in the vista from all directions, in many browsers, just by pointing or tilting. In this virtual reality view, many instruments on the rover are labelled, including antennas, the robotic arm, and the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). Dark sand and light rock cover the ground nearby in a mixture called lakebed mudstone. Towering Mount Sharp is only barely visible in the distance due to airborne dust from a planet-wide storm just winding down. Among its many discoveries, Curiosity has found that the raw ingredients for life are present on Mars. Next on Mars will be NASA's Insight, on target to land in late November, which is scheduled to deploy a seismometer to better study the interior of the red planet. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 9 - M1: The Crab Nebula from Hubble
This is the mess that is left when a star explodes. The Crab Nebula, the result of a supernova seen in 1054 AD, is filled with mysterious filaments. The filaments are not only tremendously complex, but appear to have less mass than expelled in the original supernova and a higher speed than expected from a free explosion. The featured image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, is presented in three colors chosen for scientific interest. The Crab Nebula spans about 10 light-years. In the nebula's very center lies a pulsar: a neutron star as massive as the Sun but with only the size of a small town. The Crab Pulsar rotates about 30 times each second. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 6 - Along the Western Veil
Delicate in appearance, these filaments of shocked, glowing gas, are draped across planet Earth's sky toward the constellation of Cygnus. They form the western part of the Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, an expanding cloud born of the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the original supernova explosion likely reached Earth over 5,000 years ago. Blasted out in the cataclysmic event, the interstellar shock wave plows through space sweeping up and exciting interstellar material. The glowing filaments are really more like long ripples in a sheet seen almost edge on, remarkably well separated into atomic hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue-green) gas. Also known as the Cygnus Loop, the Veil Nebula now spans nearly 3 degrees or about 6 times the diameter of the full Moon. While that translates to over 70 light-years at its estimated distance of 1,500 light-years, this telescopic two panel mosaic image of the western portion spans about half that distance. Brighter parts of the western Veil are recognized as separate nebulae, including The Witch's Broom (NGC 6960) along the top of this view and Pickering's Triangle (NGC 6979) below and left. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 5 - NGC 3682: Sideways Spiral Galaxy
What do spiral galaxies look like sideways? Featured is a sharp telescopic view of a magnificent edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 3628, a puffy galactic disk divided by dark dust lanes. Of course, this deep galactic portrait puts some astronomers in mind of its popular moniker, The Hamburger Galaxy. The tantalizing island universe is about 100,000 light-years across and 35 million light-years away in the northern springtime constellation Leo. NGC 3628 shares its neighborhood in the local Universe with two other large spirals M65 and M66 in a grouping otherwise known as the Leo Triplet. Gravitational interactions with its cosmic neighbors are likely responsible for the extended flare and warp of this spiral's disk. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 4 - Moon behind Lava Fountain
What's happened to the Moon? Nothing, but something has happened to the image of the Moon. The heat from a volcanic lava fountain in the foreground has warmed and made turbulent the air nearby, causing passing light to refract differently than usual. The result is a lava plume that appears to be melting the Moon. The featured picture was taken as the full Sturgeon Moon was setting behind Mt. Etna as it erupted in Italy about one week ago. The picture is actually a composite of two images, one taken right after the other, with the same camera and lens. The first image was a quick exposure to capture details of the setting Moon, while the second exposure, taken after the Moon set a few minutes later, was longer so as to capture details of the faint lava jets. From our Earth, we can only see the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars as they appear through the distortion of the Earth's atmosphere. This distortion can not only change the images of familiar orbs into unusual shapes, it can --unexpectedly at times -- delay sunset and moonset by several minutes. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 September 2 - A Powerful Solar Flare
It was one of the most powerful solar flares in recorded history. Occurring in 2003 and seen across the electromagnetic spectrum, the Sun briefly became over 100 times brighter in X-rays than normal. The day after this tremendous X 17 solar flare -- and subsequent Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) -- energetic particles emitted from the explosions struck the Earth, creating auroras and affecting satellites. The spacecraft that took these frames -- SOHO -- was put in a turtle-like safe mode to avoid further damage from this and subsequent solar particle storms. The featured time-lapse movie condenses into 10 seconds events that occurred over 4 hours. The CME, visible around the central sun-shade, appears about three-quarters of the way through the video, while frames toward the very end are progressively noisier as protons from the explosions strike SOHO's LASCO detector. One this day in 1859, the effects of an even more powerful solar storm caused telegraphs on Earth to spark in what is known as the Carrington Event. Powerful solar storms such as these may create beautiful aurora-filled skies, but they also pose a real danger as they can damage satellites and even power grids across the Earth. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
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On August 23, 2018 the identification and distribution of aerosols in the Earth's atmosphere is shown in this dramatic, planet-wide visualization. Produced in real time, the Goddard Earth Observing System Forward Processing (GEOS FP) model relies on a combination of Earth-observing satellite and ground-based data to calculate the presence of types of aerosols, tiny solid particles and liquid droplets, as they circulate above the entire planet. This August 23rd model shows black carbon particles in red from combustion processes, like smoke from the fires in the United States and Canada, spreading across large stretches of North America and Africa. Sea salt aerosols are in blue, swirling above threatening typhoons near South Korea and Japan, and the hurricane looming near Hawaii. Dust shown in purple hues is blowing over African and Asian deserts. The location of cities and towns can be found from the concentrations of lights based on satellite image data of the Earth at night. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
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Still bright in evening skies, Mars was just past opposition and closest to Earth on July 31, a mere 57.6 million kilometers away. Captured only a week later, this remarkable image shows the Red Planet's disk near its maximum size in earthbound telescopes, but still less than 1/74th the apparent diameter of a Full Moon. Broad regional surface shadings are starting to reappear in the tantalizing view as the latest planet-wide dust storm subsides. With the bright south polar cap at the bottom, the Valles Marineris extends along the center of the disk. Just below it lies the roughly circular Solis Lacus region sometimes known as the Eye of Mars. In a line, three prominent dark spots left of center are the volcanic Tharsis Montes. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
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A study in contrasts, this colorful skyscape features stars, dust, and glowing gas in the vicinity of NGC 6914. The complex of reflection nebulae lies some 6,000 light-years away, toward the high-flying northern constellation Cygnus and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Obscuring interstellar dust clouds appear in silhouette while reddish hydrogen emission nebulae, along with the dusty blue reflection nebulae, fill the cosmic canvas. Ultraviolet radiation from the massive, hot, young stars of the extensive Cygnus OB2 association ionize the region's atomic hydrogen gas, producing the characteristic red glow as protons and electrons recombine. Embedded Cygnus OB2 stars also provide the blue starlight strongly reflected by the dust clouds. The nearly 1 degree wide telescopic field of view spans about 100 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 6914. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 28 - Sea and Sky Glows over the Oregon Coast
Every step caused the sand to light up blue. That glow was bioluminescence -- a blue radiance that also lights the surf in this surreal scene captured last month at Meyer's Creek Beach in Oregon, USA. Volcanic stacks dot the foreground sea, while a thin fog layer scatters light on the horizon. The rays of light spreading from the left horizon were created by car headlights on the Oregon Coast Highway (US 101), while the orange light on the right horizon emanates from a fishing boat. Visible far in the distance is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy, appearing to rise from a dark rocky outcrop. Sixteen images were added together to bring up the background Milky Way and to reduce noise. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 27 - Total Solar Eclipse Shadow from a Balloon
Where were you during the Great American Eclipse of 2017? A year ago last week, over 100 million of people in North America went outside to see a partial eclipse of the Sun, while over ten million drove across part of the USA to see the Sun completely disappear behind the Moon -- a total solar eclipse. An estimated 88 percent of American adults saw the eclipse either personally or electronically. One of the better photographed events in human history, images from the eclipse included some unusual vistas, such as from balloons floating in the Earth's stratosphere. About fifty such robotic balloons were launched as part of NASA's Eclipse Ballooning project. Featured is a frame taken from a 360-degree panoramic video captured by one such balloon set aloft in Idaho by students from Brazil in conjunction with NASA and Montana State University. Pictured, the dark shadow of the Moon was seen crossing the Earth below. Although the total eclipse lasted less than three minutes, many who saw it may remember it for a lifetime. Many North Americans will get a another chance to experience a total solar eclipse in 2024. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
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Sometimes, regions of planet Earth light up with fire. Since fire is the rapid acquisition of oxygen, and since oxygen is a key indicator of life, fire on any planet would be an indicator of life on that planet. Most of the Earth's land has been scorched by fire at some time in the past. Although causing many a tragedy, for many places on Earth fire is considered part of a natural ecosystem cycle. Large forest fires on Earth are usually caused either by humans or lightning and can be visible from orbit. Featured from the year 2000, stunned elk avoid a fire sweeping through Montana's Bitterroot Valley by standing in a river. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
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Spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 hurtles through massive galaxy cluster Abell 3627 some 220 million light years away. The distant galaxy is seen in this colorful Hubble/Chandra composite image through a foreground of the Milky Way's stars toward the southern constellation Triangulum Australe. As the spiral speeds along at nearly 7 million kilometers per hour, its gas and dust are stripped away when ram pressure with the cluster's own hot, tenuous intracluster medium overcomes the galaxy's gravity. Evident in Hubble's near visible light data, bright star clusters have formed in the stripped material along the short, trailing blue streaks. Chandra's X-ray data shows off the enormous extent of the heated, stripped gas as diffuse, darker blue trails stretching over 400,000 light-years toward the bottom right. The significant loss of dust and gas will make new star formation difficult for this galaxy. A yellowish elliptical galaxy, lacking in star forming dust and gas, is just to the right of ESO 137-001 in the frame. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 24 - Messier 20 and 21
The beautiful Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, is easy to find with a small telescope in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. About 5,000 light-years away, the colorful study in cosmic contrasts shares this well-composed, nearly 1 degree wide field with open star cluster Messier 21 (bottom right). Trisected by dust lanes the Trifid itself is about 40 light-years across and a mere 300,000 years old. That makes it one of the youngest star forming regions in our sky, with newborn and embryonic stars embedded in its natal dust and gas clouds. Estimates of the distance to open star cluster M21 are similar to M20's, but though they share this gorgeous telescopic skyscape there is no apparent connection between the two. In fact, M21's stars are much older, about 8 million years old. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 23 - Comet Heart and Soul
The greenish coma of comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner stands out at the left of this telephoto skyscape spanning over 10 degrees toward the northern constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus. Captured on August 17, the periodic comet is the known parent body of the upcoming Draconid meteor shower. Predicted to be at its brightest next month, the comet is actually in the foreground of the rich starfield, only about 4 light-minutes from our fair planet. Giacobini-Zinner should remain too faint for your eye to see though, like the colorful Heart and Soul nebulae near the center of the sensitive digital camera's field of view. But the pair of open star clusters at the right, h and Chi Persei, could just be seen by the unaided eye from dark locations. The Heart and Soul nebulae with their own embedded clusters of young stars a million or so years old, are each over 200 light-years across and 6 to 7 thousand light-years away. They are part of a large, active star forming complex sprawling along the Perseus spiral arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. Also known as the Double Cluster, h and Chi Persei are located at about that same distance. Periodic Giacobini-Zinner was visited by a spacecraft from Earth when the repurposed International Cometary Explorer passed through its tail in September 1985. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 22 - Asteroid Ryugu from Hayabusa2
This big space diamond has an estimated value of over 80 billion dollars. It's only diamond in shape, though -- asteroid 162173 Ryugu is thought to be composed of mostly nickel and iron. Asteroids like Ryugu are interesting for several reasons, perhaps foremost because they are near the Earth and might, one day in the far future, pose an impact threat. In the nearer term, Ryugu is interesting because it may be possible to send future spacecraft there to mine it, thus providing humanity with a new source of valuable metals. Scientifically, Ryugu is interesting because it carries information about how our Solar System formed billions of years ago, and why its orbit takes it so close to Earth. Japan's robotic spacecraft Hayabusa2 just arrived at this one-kilometer wide asteroid in late June. The featured image shows surface structures unknown before spacecraft Hayabusa2's arrival, including rock fields and craters. Within the next three months, Hayabusa2 is scheduled to unleash several probes, some that will land on Ryugu and hop around, while Hayabusa2 itself will mine just a little bit of the asteroid for return to Earth. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
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Stars are forming in the Soul of the Queen of Aethopia. More specifically, a large star forming region called the Soul Nebula (IC 1898) can be found in the direction of the constellation Cassiopeia, who Greek mythology credits as the vain wife of a King who long ago ruled lands surrounding the upper Nile river. The Soul Nebula houses several open clusters of stars, a large radio source known as W5, and huge evacuated bubbles formed by the winds of young massive stars. Located about 6,500 light years away, the Soul Nebula spans about 100 light years and is usually imaged next to its celestial neighbor the Heart Nebula (IC 1805). The featured image is a composite of three exposures in different colors: red as emitted by hydrogen gas, yellow as emitted by sulfur, and blue as emitted by oxygen. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 19 - Asperitas Clouds Over New Zealand
What kind of clouds are these? Although their cause is presently unknown, such unusual atmospheric structures, as menacing as they might seem, do not appear to be harbingers of meteorological doom. Formally recognized as a distinct cloud type only last year, Asperitas clouds can be stunning in appearance, unusual in occurrence, and are relatively unstudied. Whereas most low cloud decks are flat bottomed, asperitas clouds appear to have significant vertical structure underneath. Speculation therefore holds that asperitas clouds might be related to lenticular clouds that form near mountains, or mammatus clouds associated with thunderstorms, or perhaps a foehn wind -- a type of dry downward wind that flows off mountains. Such a wind called the Canterbury arch streams toward the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. The featured image, taken above Hanmer Springs in Canterbury, New Zealand, in 2005, shows great detail partly because sunlight illuminates the undulating clouds from the side. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
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Shrouded in a thick atmosphere, Saturn's largest moon Titan really is hard to see. Small particles suspended in the upper atmosphere cause an almost impenetrable haze, strongly scattering light at visible wavelengths and hiding Titan's surface features from prying eyes. But Titan's surface is better imaged at infrared wavelengths where scattering is weaker and atmospheric absorption is reduced. Arrayed around this centered visible light image of Titan are some of the clearest global infrared views of the tantalizing moon so far. In false color, the six panels present a consistent processing of 13 years of infrared image data from the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on board the Cassini spacecraft. They offer a stunning comparison with Cassini's visible light view. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 17 - Perseid Fireball and Persistent Train
Before local midnight on August 12, this brilliant Perseid meteor flashed above the Poloniny Dark Sky Park, Slovakia, planet Earth. Streaking beside the summer Milky Way, its initial color is likely due to the shower meteor's characteristically high speed. Moving at about 60 kilometers per second, Perseid meteors can excite green emission from oxygen atoms while passing through the thin atmosphere at high altitudes. Also characteristic of bright meteors, this Perseid left a lingering visible trail known as a persistent train, wafting in the upper atmosphere. Its development is followed in the inset frames, exposures separated by one minute and shown at the scale of the original image. Compared to the brief flash of the meteor, the wraith-like trail really is persistent. After an hour faint remnants of this one could still be traced, expanding to over 80 degrees on the sky. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 15 - Launch of the Parker Solar Probe
When is the best time to launch a probe to the Sun? The now historic answer -- which is not a joke because this really happened this past weekend -- was at night. Night, not only because NASA's Parker Solar Probe's (PSP) launch window to its planned orbit occurred, in part, at night, but also because most PSP instruments will operate in the shadow of its shield -- in effect creating its own perpetual night near the Sun. Before then, years will pass as the PSP sheds enough orbital energy to approach the Sun, swinging past Venus seven times. Eventually, the PSP is scheduled to pass dangerously close to the Sun, within 9 solar radii, the closest ever. This close, the temperature will be 1,400 degrees Celsius on the day side of the PSP's Sun shield -- hot enough to melt many forms of glass. On the night side, though, it will be near room temperature. A major goal of the PSP's mission to the Sun is to increase humanity's understanding of the Sun's explosions that impact Earth's satellites and power grids. Pictured is the night launch of the PSP aboard the United Launch Alliances' Delta IV Heavy rocket early Sunday morning. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
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Is there a bridge of gas connecting these two great galaxies? Quite possibly, but it is hard to be sure. M86 on the upper left is a giant elliptical galaxy near the center of the nearby Virgo Cluster of galaxies. Our Milky Way Galaxy is falling toward the Virgo Cluster, located about 50 million light years away. To the lower right of M86 is unusual spiral galaxy NGC 4438, which, together with angular neighbor NGC 4435, are known as the Eyes Galaxies (also Arp 120). Featured here is one of the deeper images yet taken of the region, indicating that red-glowing gas surrounds M86 and seemingly connects it to NGC 4438. The image spans about the size of the full moon. It is also known, however, that cirrus gas in our own Galaxy is superposed in front of the Virgo cluster, and observations of the low speed of this gas seem more consistent with this Milky Way origin hypothesis. A definitive answer may come from future research, which may also resolve how the extended blue arms of NGC 4435 were created. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 13 - The Pencil Nebula in Red and Blue
This shock wave plows through interstellar space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Near the top and moving up in this sharply detailed color composite, thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a cosmic sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge-on. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its elongated appearance suggests its popular name, the Pencil Nebula. The Pencil Nebula is about 5 light-years long and 800 light-years away, but represents only a small part of the Vela supernova remnant. The Vela remnant itself is around 100 light-years in diameter, the expanding debris cloud of a star that was seen to explode about 11,000 years ago. Initially, the shock wave was moving at millions of kilometers per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up surrounding interstellar material. In the featured narrow-band, wide field image, red and blue colors track the characteristic glow of ionized hydrogen and oxygen atoms, respectively. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 12 - Meteor before Galaxy
What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy in 2016, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a sand-sized rock from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy's far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared several times while braking violently upon entering Earth's atmosphere. The green color was created, at least in part, by the meteor's gas glowing as it vaporized. Although the exposure was timed to catch a Perseids meteor, the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked a few weeks earlier. Not coincidentally, the Perseid Meteor Shower peaks again tonight. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
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Just two weeks ago, dark skies over the desert in northern Iran held this alluring celestial vista. The dramatic digital mosaic finds the Moon and Mars alongside the Milky Way's dusty rifts, stars, and nebulae. Captured through a series of exposures to cover a range in brightness, that night's otherwise Full Moon is immersed in Earth's shadow. It actually appears fainter and redder than the Red Planet itself during the widely watched total lunar eclipse. For cosmic tourists, the skyscape also includes the Lagoon (M8) and Trifid (M20) nebulae and planet Saturn shining against the Milky Way's pale starlight. The Moon isn't quite done with its shadow play, though. Today, the New Moon partially eclipses the Sun for much of northern planet Earth. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 10 - Spiral Galaxy NGC 6744
Beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 6744 is nearly 175,000 light-years across, larger than our own Milky Way. It lies some 30 million light-years distant in the southern constellation Pavo and appears as only a faint, extended object in small telescopes. We see the disk of the nearby island universe tilted towards our line of sight. This remarkably detailed galaxy portrait covers an area about the angular size of the full moon. In it, the giant galaxy's elongated yellowish core is dominated by the light from old, cool stars. Beyond the core, grand spiral arms are filled with young blue star clusters and speckled with pinkish star forming regions. An extended arm sweeps past a smaller satellite galaxy at the upper left. NGC 6744's galactic companion is reminiscent of the Milky Way's satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 9 - Red Planet Red Moon and Mars
Mars is also known as The Red Planet, often seen with a reddish tinge in dark night skies. Mars shines brightly at the upper left of this gorgeous morning twilight view from Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia, but the Moon and planet Earth look redder still. Taken on July 27, the totally eclipsed Moon is setting. It looks reddened because the Earth's umbral shadow isn't completely dark. Instead Earth's shadow is suffused with a faint red light from all the planet's sunsets and sunrises seen from the perspective of an eclipsed Moon. The sunsets and sunrises are reddened because Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red, creating the faint bluish twilight sky. Of course, craggy seaside rocks also take on the reddened colors of this Australian sunrise. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
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There is something unusual about this astronomically-oriented photograph. It's not obvious -- it was discovered only during post-processing. It is not the Moon, although capturing the Moon rising during a total lunar eclipse is quite an unusually interesting sight. (Other interesting images also captured during last month's eclipse can be found here.) It is not Mars, found to the lower right of the Moon, although Mars being captured near its brightest also makes for an unusually interesting sight. (Mars is visible nearly the entire night this month; other interesting images of it can be found here.) It is not the foreground mountains, although the French Alps do provide unusually spectacular perspectives on planet Earth. (Other interesting mountainous starscapes can be found here.) It is the goat. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 6 - Live: Cosmic Rays from Minnesota
Cosmic rays from outer space go through your body every second. Typically, they do you no harm. The featured image shows some of these fast moving particles as streaks going through Fermilab's NOvA Far Detector located in Ash River, Minnesota, USA. Although the image updates every 15 seconds, it only shows cosmic rays that occurred over a (changing) small fraction of that time, and mostly shows only one type of particle: muons. The NOvA Far Detector's main purpose is not to detect cosmic rays, though, but rather neutrinos from the NuMI beam shot through the Earth from Fermilab near Chicago, Illinois, USA, 810 kilometers away. Only a few neutrino events are expected in NOvA per week, though. The NuMI / NOvA experiment is allowing humanity to better explore the nature of neutrinos, for example how frequently they change type during their trip. Cosmic rays themselves were discovered only about 100 years ago and can not only alter computer memory, but may have helped to create DNA mutations that resulted in, eventually, humans. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
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Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta-1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region's entire visible glow. About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a recent dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier age may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. The presence of a black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars. The Orion Nebula's distance of some 1,500 light-years would make it the closest known black hole to planet Earth. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 August 3 - Central Lunar Eclipse
Reddened by scattered sunlight, the Moon in the center is passing through the center of Earth's dark umbral shadow in this July 27 lunar eclipse sequence. Left to right the three images are from the start, maximum, and end to 103 minutes of totality from the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century. The longest path the Moon can follow through Earth's shadow does cross the shadow's center, that's what makes such central lunar eclipses long ones. But July 27 was also the date of lunar apogee, and at the most distant part of its elliptical orbit the Moon moves slowest. For the previous lunar eclipse, last January 31, the Moon was near its orbital perigee. Passing just south of the Earth shadow central axis, totality lasted only 76 minutes. Coming up on January 21, 2019, a third consecutive total lunar eclipse will also be off center and find the Moon near perigee. Then totality will be a mere 62 minutes long. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
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The total phase of the July 27 lunar eclipse lasted for an impressive 103 minutes. That makes it the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century. The Moon passed through the center of Earth's shadow while the Moon was near apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit. From start to finish, the entire duration of totality is covered in this composite view. A dreamlike scene, it includes a sequence of digital camera exposures made every three minutes. The exposures track the totally eclipsed lunar disk, accompanied on that night by bright planet Mars, as it climbs above the seaside village of Tellaro, Italy. In the foreground lies the calm mediteranean Gulf of La Spezia, known to some as the Gulf of Poets. In the 3rd century BCE, heliocentric astronomer Aristarchus also tracked the duration of lunar eclipses, though without the benefit of digital clocks and cameras. Using geometry he devised a way to calculate the Moon's distance from the eclipse duration, in terms of the radius of planet Earth. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
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What blue flower grows in this field of dark interstellar dust? The Iris Nebula. The striking blue color of the Iris Nebula is created by light from the bright star SAO 19158 reflecting off of a dense patch of normally dark dust. Not only is the star itself mostly blue, but blue light from the star is preferentially reflected by the dust -- the same affect that makes Earth's sky blue. The brown tint of the pervasive dust comes partly from photoluminescence -- dust converting ultraviolet radiation to red light. Cataloged as NGC 7023, the Iris Nebula is studied frequently because of the unusual prevalence there of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), complex molecules that are also released on Earth during the incomplete combustion of wood fires. The bright blue portion of the Iris Nebula spans about six light years. The Iris Nebula, pictured here, lies about 1300 light years distant and can be found with a small telescope toward the constellation of Cepheus. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 31 - Layers of the South Pole of Mars
What lies beneath the layered south pole of Mars? A recent measurement with ground-penetrating radar from ESA's Mars Express satellite has detected a bright reflection layer consistent with an underground lake of salty water. The reflection comes from about 1.5-km down but covers an area 200-km across. Liquid water evaporates quickly from the surface of Mars, but a briny confined lake, such as implied by the radar reflection, could last much longer and be a candidate to host life such as microbes. Pictured, an infrared, green, and blue image of the south pole of Mars taken by Mars Express in 2012 shows a complex mixture of layers of dirt, frozen carbon dioxide, and frozen water. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
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Moonrise doesn't usually look this interesting. For one thing, the full moon is not usually this dark -- but last Friday the moon rose here as it simultaneously passed through the shadow of the Earth. For another thing, the Moon does not usually look this red -- but last Friday it was slightly illuminated by red sunlight preferentially refracted through the Earth's atmosphere. Next, the Moon doesn't usually rise next to a planet, but since Mars was also coincidently nearly opposite the Sun, the red planet was visible to the full moon's upper right. Finally, from the vantage point of most people, the Moon does not usually rise over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Last Friday's sunset eclipse, however, specifically its remarkable Micro Blood Moon Total Lunar Eclipse, was captured from Rio's Botofogo Beach, along with an unusually large crowd of interested onlookers. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 29 - Journey to the Center of the Galaxy
What wonders lie at the center of our Galaxy? In Jules Verne's science fiction classic A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Professor Liedenbrock and his fellow explorers encounter many strange and exciting wonders. Astronomers already know of some of the bizarre objects that exist at our Galactic center, including like vast cosmic dust clouds, bright star clusters, swirling rings of gas, and even a supermassive black hole. Much of the Galactic Center is shielded from our view in visible light by the intervening dust and gas, but it can be explored using other forms of electromagnetic radiation. The featured video is actually a digital zoom into the Milky Way's center which starts by utilizing visible light images from the Digitized Sky Survey. As the movie proceeds, the light shown shifts to dust-penetrating infrared and highlights gas clouds that were recently discovered in 2013 to be falling toward central black hole. In 2018 May, observations of a star passing near the Milky Way's central black hole showed, for the first time, a gravitational redshift of the star's light -- as expected from Einstein's general relativity. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
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Taken on the same night, from the same place, with the same telescope and camera, these postcards from our Solar System are shown at the same scale to provide an interesting comparison of apparent sizes. Spanning about half a degree in planet Earth's sky, the Moon is a stitched mosaic of six images. The others are the result of digitally stacked frames or simple single exposures, with the real distances to the objects indicated along the bottom of each insert. Most of the Solar System's planets with their brighter moons, and Pluto were captured during the telescopic expedition, but elusive Mercury was missed because of clouds near the horizon. The International Space Station was successfully hunted, though. The night was July 21st. Telescope and camera were located at the Centro Astronomico de Tiedra Observatory in Spain. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 27 - Mars Opposition
Look opposite the Sun in the sky tonight and you'll see Mars at its brightest. Also within days of its closest approach Mars rises at sunset, near its brightest and best for telescopic observers too, except for the dust storm still blanketing the Red Planet. These two Hubble Space Telescope images compare Mars' appearance near its 2016 and 2018 oppositions. In 2016 the martian atmosphere was clear. Captured just days ago, the 2018 image shows almost the same face of Mars. Surface features obscured by dust, the planet's cloud enshrouded south pole is tilted more toward the Sun. Increased heat in the southern hemisphere spring and summer likely triggers planet wide dust storms. Of course, if you look opposite the Sun in the sky tonight, you'll also see a Full Moon near Mars. Skygazers NOT located in North America could see the Red Planet near a Red Moon during a Total Lunar Eclipse. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 25 - The Edge On Spindle Galaxy
What kind of celestial object is this? A relatively normal galaxy -- but seen from its edge. Many disk galaxies are actually just as thin as NGC 5866, pictured here, but are not seen edge-on from our vantage point. A perhaps more familiar galaxy seen edge-on is our own Milky Way Galaxy. Cataloged as M102 and NGC 5866, the Spindle galaxy has numerous and complex dust lanes appearing dark and red, while many of the bright stars in the disk give it a more blue underlying hue. The blue disk of young stars can be seen extending past the dust in the extremely thin galactic plane. There is evidence that the Spindle galaxy has cannibalized smaller galaxies over the past billion years or so, including multiple streams of faint stars, dark dust that extends away from the main galactic plane, and a surrounding group of galaxies (not shown). In general, many disk galaxies become thin because the gas that forms them collides with itself as it rotates about the gravitational center. The Spindle galaxy lies about 50 million light years distant toward the constellation of the Dragon (Draco). via NASA
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11 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 24 - Clouds of Earth and Sky
If you go high enough, you may find yourself on a picturesque perch between the water clouds of the Earth and the star clouds of the Milky Way. Such was the case last month for one adventurous alpinist astrophotographer. Captured here in the foreground above white clouds are mountain peaks in the Dolomite range in northern Italy. This multi-exposure image was captured from Lagazuoi, one of the Dolomites. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Dolomites were not mountains but islands an ancient sea that rose through colliding tectonic plates. The Dolomites divergent history accounts for its unusually contrasting features, which include jagged crests and ancient marine fossils. High above even the Dolomites, and far in the distance, dark dust lanes streak out from the central plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. The stars and dust are dotted with bright red clouds of glowing hydrogen gas -- such as the Lagoon Nebula just above and to the left of center. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
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The Fermi Science Playoffs celebrate 10 years of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope's exploration of the high-energy universe. Surviving all early rounds of voting, these two finalists in the competion square off at last. Digital illustrations from a list of 16 of Fermi's top scientific discoveries, they represent the competition's two top seeds, defeating 12th seed New Clues to Dark Matter and 14th seed Starquakes in Magnetar Storm in the semifinal round. On the left are unprecedented, unpredicted, 25,000 light-year tall Gamma-ray Bubbles above and below the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. On the right, violently merging Neutron Stars Collide to create the first gamma-ray detected gravitational wave event. Pick one now and cast your vote here to crown the most popular science result from Fermi's first decade. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 21 - Apollo 11 Landing Site Panorama
Have you seen a panorama from another world lately? Assembled from high-resolution scans of the original film frames, this one sweeps across the magnificent desolation of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon's Sea of Tranquility. The images were taken by Neil Armstrong looking out his window of the Eagle Lunar Module shortly after the July 20, 1969 landing. The frame at the far left (AS11-37-5449) is the first picture taken by a person on another world. Toward the south, thruster nozzles can be seen in the foreground on the left, while at the right, the shadow of the Eagle is visible to the west. For scale, the large, shallow crater on the right has a diameter of about 12 meters. Frames taken from the Lunar Module windows about an hour and a half after landing, before walking on the lunar surface, were intended to initially document the landing site in case an early departure was necessary. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 19 - Cerealia Facula
Cerealia Facula, also known as the brightest spot on Ceres, is shown in this stunning mosaic close-up view. The high-resolution image data was recorded by the Dawn spacecraft, in a looping orbit, from altitudes as low as 34 kilometers (21 miles) above the dwarf planet's surface. Cerealia Facula is about 15 kilometers wide, found in the center of 90 kilometer diameter Occator crater. Like the other bright spots (faculae) scattered around Ceres, Cerealia Facula is not ice, but an exposed salty residue with a reflectivity like dirty snow. The residue is thought to be mostly sodium carbonate and ammonium chloride from a slushy brine within or below the dwarf planet's crust. Driven by advanced ion propulsion on an 11-year mission, Dawn explored main-belt asteriod Vesta before traveling on to Ceres. But sometime between this August and October, the interplanetary spacecraft is expected to finally run out of fuel for its hydrazine thrusters, with the subsequent loss of control of its orientation, losing power and the ability to communicate with Earth. Meanwhile Dawn will continue to explore Ceres in unprecedented detail, and ultimately retire in its orbit around the small world. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 18 - Dark Slope Streaks Split on Mars
What is creating these dark streaks on Mars? No one is sure. Candidates include dust avalanches, evaporating dry ice sleds, and liquid water flows. What is clear is that the streaks occur through light surface dust and expose a deeper dark layer. Similar streaks have been photographed on Mars for years and are one of the few surface features that change their appearance seasonally. Particularly interesting here is that larger streaks split into smaller streaks further down the slope. The featured image was taken by the HiRISE camera on board the Mars-orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) several months ago. Currently, a global dust storm is encompassing much of Mars. via NASA
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july 2018
APOD: 2018 July 17 - Moon and Venus over Cannon Beach
What's that spot next to the Moon? Venus. Two days ago, the crescent Moon slowly drifted past Venus, appearing within just two degrees at its closest. This conjunction, though, was just one of several photographic adventures for our Moon this month (moon-th), because, for one, a partial solar eclipse occurred just a few days before, on July 12. Currently, the Moon appears to be brightening, as seen from the Earth, as the fraction of its face illuminated by the Sun continues to increase. In a few days, the Moon will appear more than half full, and therefore be in its gibbous phase. Next week the face of the Moon that always faces the Earth will become, as viewed from the Earth, completely illuminated by the Sun. Even this full phase will bring an adventure, though, as a total eclipse of this Thunder Moon will occur on July 27. Don't worry about our Luna getting tired, though, because she'll be new again next month (moon-th) -- August 11 to be exact -- just as she causes another partial eclipse of the Sun. Pictured, Venus and the Moon were captured from Cannon Beach above a rock formation off the Oregon (USA) coast known as the Needles. About an hour after this image was taken, the spin of the Earth caused both Venus and the Moon to set. via NASA
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july 2018
APOD: 2018 July 16 - Neutrino Associated with Distant Blazar Jet
With equipment frozen deep into ice beneath Earth's South Pole, humanity appears to have discovered a neutrino from far across the universe. If confirmed, this would mark the first clear detection of cosmologically-distant neutrinos and the dawn of an observed association between energetic neutrinos and cosmic rays created by powerful jets emanating from blazing quasars (blazars). Once the Antarctican IceCube detector measured an energetic neutrino in 2017 September, many of humanity's premier observatories sprang into action to try to identify a counterpart in light. And they did. An erupting counterpart was pinpointed by high energy observatories including AGILE, Fermi, HAWC, H.E.S.S., INTEGRAL, NuSTAR, Swift, and VERITAS, which found that gamma-ray blazar TXS 0506+056 was in the right direction and with gamma-rays from a flare arriving nearly coincidental in time with the neutrino. Even though this and other position and time coincidences are statistically strong, astronomers will await other similar neutrino - blazar light associations to be absolutely sure. Pictured here is an artist's drawing of a particle jet emanating from a black hole at the center of a blazar. via NASA
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july 2018
APOD: 2018 July 15 - Rings Around the Ring Nebula
There is much more to the familiar Ring Nebula (M57), however, than can be seen through a small telescope. The easily visible central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from three different large telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. This remarkable composite image includes narrowband hydrogen image, visible light emission, and infrared light emission. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. The Ring Nebula is about 2,000 light-years away toward the musical constellation Lyra. via NASA
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july 2018
APOD: 2018 July 14 - A Nibble on the Sun
The smallest of the three partial solar eclipses during 2018 was just yesterday, Friday, July 13. It was mostly visible over the open ocean between Australia and Antarctica. Still, this video frame of a tiny nibble on the Sun was captured through a hydrogen-alpha filter from Port Elliott, South Australia, during the maximum eclipse visible from that location. There, the New Moon covered about 0.16 percent of the solar disk. The greatest eclipse, about one-third of the Sun's diameter blocked by the New Moon, could be seen from East Antarctica near Peterson Bank, where the local emperor penguin colony likely had the best view. During this prolific eclipse season, the coming Full Moon will bring a total lunar eclipse on July 27, followed by yet another partial solar eclipse at the next New Moon on August 11. via NASA
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july 2018
APOD: 2018 July 13 - Star Trails and the Bracewell Radio Sundial
Sundials use the location of a shadow to measure the Earth's rotation and indicate the time of day. So it's fitting that this sundial, at the Very Large Array Radio Telescope Observatory in New Mexico, commemorates the history of radio astronomy and radio astronomy pioneer Ronald Bracewell. The radio sundial was constructed using pieces of a solar mapping radio telescope array that Bracewell orginaly built near the Stanford University campus. Bracewell's array was used to contribute data to plan the first Moon landing, its pillars signed by visiting scientists and radio astronomers, including two Nobel prize winners. As for most sundials the shadow cast by the central gnomon follows markers that show the solar time of day, along with solstices and equinoxes. But markers on the radio sundial are also laid out according to local sidereal time. They show the position of the invisible radio shadows of three bright radio sources in Earth's sky, supernova remnant Cassiopeia A, active galaxy Cygnus A, and active galaxy Centaurus A. Sidereal time is just star time, the Earth's rotation as measured with the stars and distant galaxies. That rotation is reflected in this composited hour-long exposure. Above the Bracewell Radio Sundial, the stars trace concentric trails around the north celestial pole. via NASA
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july 2018
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