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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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6 hours 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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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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2 days 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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3 days 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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4 days 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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5 days 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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7 days 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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8 days 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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9 days 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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11 days 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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12 days 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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13 days 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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14 days 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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15 days 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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16 days 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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17 days 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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18 days 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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20 days 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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21 days 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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22 days 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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24 days 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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26 days 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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27 days ago
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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28 days ago
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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29 days ago
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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4 weeks ago
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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4 weeks ago
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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4 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 12 - Centaurus A
Only 11 million light-years away, Centaurus A is the closest active galaxy to planet Earth. Spanning over 60,000 light-years, the peculiar elliptical galaxy also known as NGC 5128, is featured in this sharp telescopic view. Centaurus A is apparently the result of a collision of two otherwise normal galaxies resulting in a fantastic jumble of star clusters and imposing dark dust lanes. Near the galaxy's center, left over cosmic debris is steadily being consumed by a central black hole with a billion times the mass of the Sun. As in other active galaxies, that process likely generates the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by Centaurus A. via NASA
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4 weeks ago
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You can see it change in brightness with just binoculars over the course of a year. Variable star R Aquarii is actually an interacting binary star system, two stars that seem to have a close, symbiotic relationship. About 710 light years away, this intriguing system consists of a cool red giant star and hot, dense white dwarf star in mutual orbit around their common center of mass. The binary system's visible light is dominated by the red giant, itself a Mira-type long period variable star. But material in the cool giant star's extended envelope is pulled by gravity onto the surface of the smaller, denser white dwarf, eventually triggering a thermonuclear explosion and blasting material into space. The featured image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the still-expanding ring of debris which spans less than a light year and originated from a blast that would have been seen in the early 1770s. The evolution of less understood energetic events producing high energy emission in the R Aquarii system has been monitored since 2000 using Chandra X-ray Observatory data. via NASA
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4 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 10 - Noctilucent Clouds over Paris Fireworks
It's northern noctilucent cloud season -- perhaps a time to celebrate! Composed of small ice crystals forming only during specific conditions in the upper atmosphere, noctilucent clouds may become visible at sunset during late summer when illuminated by sunlight from below. Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds known and now established to be polar mesospheric clouds observed from the ground. Although observed with NASA's AIM satellite since 2007, much about noctilucent clouds remains unknown and so a topic of active research. The featured time-lapse video shows expansive and rippled noctilucent clouds wafting over Paris, France, during a post-sunset fireworks celebration on Bastille Day in 2009 July. This year, several locations are already reporting especially vivid displays of noctilucent clouds. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 9 - Road to Mars
What's that light at the end of the road? Mars. This is a good month to point out Mars to your friends and family because our neighboring planet will not only be its brightest in 15 years, it will be visible for much of night. During this month, Mars will be about 180 degrees around from the Sun, and near the closest it ever gets to planet Earth. In terms of orbits, Mars is also nearing the closest point to the Sun in its elliptical orbit, just as Earth moves nearly between it and the Sun -- an alignment known as perihelic opposition. In terms of viewing, orange Mars will rise in the east just as the Sun sets in the west, on the opposite side of the sky. Mars will climb in the sky during the night, reach its highest near midnight, and then set in the west just as the Sun begins to rise in the east. The red planet was captured setting beyond a stretch of road in Arches National Park in mid-May near Moab, Utah, USA. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 8 - The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi
What created the strange spiral structure on the upper left? No one is sure, although it is likely related to a star in a binary star system entering the planetary nebula phase, when its outer atmosphere is ejected. The huge spiral spans about a third of a light year across and, winding four or five complete turns, has a regularity that is without precedent. Given the expansion rate of the spiral gas, a new layer must appear about every 800 years, a close match to the time it takes for the two stars to orbit each other. The star system that created it is most commonly known as LL Pegasi, but also AFGL 3068. The unusual structure itself has been cataloged as IRAS 23166+1655. The featured image was taken in near-infrared light by the Hubble Space Telescope. Why the spiral glows is itself a mystery, with a leading hypothesis being illumination by light reflected from nearby stars. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 7 - A Northern Summer s Night
Near a summer's midnight a mist haunts the river bank in this dreamlike skyscape taken on July 3rd from northern Denmark. Reddened light from the Sun a little below the horizon gives an eerie tint to low hanging clouds. Formed near the edge of space, the silvery apparitions above them are noctilucent or night shining clouds. The icy condensations on meteoric dust or volcanic ash are still in full sunlight at the extreme altitudes of the mesophere. Usually seen at high latitudes in summer months, wide spread displays of the noctilucent clouds are now being reported. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 6 - Charon: Moon of Pluto
A darkened and mysterious north polar region known to some as Mordor Macula caps this premier high-resolution view. The portrait of Charon, Pluto's largest moon, was captured by New Horizons near the spacecraft's closest approach on July 14, 2015. The combined blue, red, and infrared data was processed to enhance colors and follow variations in Charon's surface properties with a resolution of about 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles). A stunning image of Charon's Pluto-facing hemisphere, it also features a clear view of an apparently moon-girdling belt of fractures and canyons that seems to separate smooth southern plains from varied northern terrain. Charon is 1,214 kilometers (754 miles) across. That's about 1/10th the size of planet Earth but a whopping 1/2 the diameter of Pluto itself, and makes it the largest satellite relative to its parent body in the Solar System. Still, the moon appears as a small bump at about the 1 o'clock position on Pluto's disk in the grainy, negative,telescopic picture inset at upper left. That view was used by James Christy and Robert Harrington at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff to discover Charon 40 years ago in June of 1978. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 4 - Dawn s Early Light, Rocket s Red Glare
If you saw the dawn's early light from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last Friday, June 29, then you could have seen this rocket's red glare. The single 277-second long exposure, made from the roof of NASA's Vehicle Assembly building, shows a predawn Falcon 9 launch, the rocket streaking eastward into the sky about 45 minutes before sunrise. At high altitude, its stage separation plume is brightly lit by the Sun still below the eastern horizon. The Falcon 9 rocket's first stage had been launched before, lofting the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) into orbit on April 18, only 72 days earlier. For this launch of SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service mission 15 (CRS-15) it carried an also previously flown Dragon capsule. But no further reuse of this Falcon 9 was planned so no dramatic first stage landing followed the launch. The Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station on July 2. via NASA
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5 weeks ago
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If you look closely at the Moon, you will see a large airplane in front of it. Well, not always. OK, hardly ever. Actually, to capture an image like this takes precise timing, an exposure fast enough to freeze the airplane and not overexpose the Moon -- but slow enough to see both, a steady camera, and luck -- because not every plane that approaches the Moon crosses in front. Helpful equipment includes a camera with fast continuous video mode and a mount that automatically tracks the Moon. The featured fleeting superposition was captured from Seoul, South Korea two weeks ago during a daytime waxing gibbous moonrise. Within 1/10th of a second, the airplane crossing was over. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 July 1 - Fresh Tiger Stripes on Saturns Enceladus
Do underground oceans vent through the tiger stripes on Saturn's moon Enceladus? Long features dubbed tiger stripes are known to be spewing ice from the moon's icy interior into space, creating a cloud of fine ice particles over the moon's South Pole and creating Saturn's mysterious E-ring. Evidence for this has come from the robot Cassini spacecraft that orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Pictured here, a high resolution image of Enceladus is shown from a close flyby. The unusual surface features dubbed tiger stripes are visible in false-color blue. Why Enceladus is active remains a mystery, as the neighboring moon Mimas,approximately the same size, appears quite dead. A recent analysis of ejected ice grains has yielded evidence that complex organic molecules exist inside Enceladus. These large carbon-rich molecules bolster -- but do not prove -- that oceans under Enceladus' surface could contain life. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 29 - Messier 24: Sagittarius Star Cloud
Unlike most entries in Charles Messier's famous catalog of deep sky objects, M24 is not a bright galaxy, star cluster, or nebula. It's a gap in nearby, obscuring intertellar dust clouds that allows a view of the distant stars in the Sagittarius spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy. When you gaze at the star cloud with binoculars or small telescope you are looking through a window over 300 light-years wide at stars some 10,000 light-years or more from Earth. Sometimes called the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud, M24's luminous stars fill the left side of this gorgeous starscape. Covering about 4 degrees or the width of 8 full moons in the constellation Sagittarius, the telescopic field of view contains many small, dense clouds of dust and nebulae toward the center of the Milky Way, including reddish emission from IC 1284 near the top of the frame. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
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South pole star Sigma Octantis (of the constellation Octans) is on the left of this starry expanse spanning over 40 degrees across far southern skies. You'll have to look hard to find it, though. The southern hemisphere's faint counterpart to the north star Polaris, Sigma Octantis is a little over one degree from the South Celestial Pole. Also known as Polaris Australis, Sigma Octantis is below 5th magnitude, some 25 times fainter than Polaris and not easy to see with the unaided eye. In fact, it may be the faintest star depicted on a national flag. The remarkable deep and wide-field view also covers faint, dusty galactic cirrus clouds, bounded at the right by the star clusters and nebulae along the southern reaches of plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Near the upper right corner is yellowish Gamma Crucis, the top of the Southern Cross. Easy to pick out above and right of center is the long Dark Doodad nebula in the southern constellation Musca, the Fly. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
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What can you see in the night sky this summer? The featured graphic gives a few highlights for Earth's northern hemisphere. Viewed as a clock face centered at the bottom, early (northern) summer sky events fan out toward the left, while late summer 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 meteor showers occur on or near the same dates. For example, like last year, the stars of the Summer Triangle will be nighttime icons for most the season, while the Perseids meteor shower will peak in mid-August, as usual. Highlights specific to this summer's sky include that Jupiter will be visible after sunset during June, and Venus will shine brightly in the evening sky during July and August. Saturn and Mars should be visible during much of this season's night, with Saturn appearing in the direction opposite the Sun in late June, and Mars at opposition in late July. Finally, a total lunar eclipse should be visible to anyone who can see the Moon in late July. via NASA
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6 weeks ago
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Sometimes even the dark dust of interstellar space has a serene beauty. One such place occurs toward the constellation of Taurus. The filaments featured here can be found on the sky between the Pleiades star cluster and the California Nebula. This dust is not known not for its bright glow but for its absorption and opaqueness. Several bright stars are visible with their blue light seen reflecting off the brown dust. Other stars appear unusually red as their light barely peaks through a column of dark dust, with red the color that remains after the blue is scattered away. Yet other stars are behind dust pillars so thick they are not visible here. Although appearing serene, the scene is actually an ongoing loop of tumult and rebirth. This is because massive enough knots of gas and dust will gravitationally collapse to form new stars -- stars that both create new dust in their atmospheres and destroy old dust with their energetic light and winds. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 25 - Hayabusa2 Approaches Asteroid Ryugu
It looks like a big space diamond -- but with craters. It's 162173 Ryugu (Dragon's Castle), and Japan's robotic Hayabusa2 mission is now arriving at this near-Earth asteroid. Ambitious Hayabusa2 is carrying an armada of separable probes, including two impactors, four small close-proximity hoverers, three small surface hoppers, and the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) which will land, study, and move around on Ryugu's surface. Most of these are equipped with cameras. Moreover, Hayabusa2 itself is scheduled to collect surface samples and return these samples to Earth for a detailed analysis near the end of 2020. Previously, what was known about asteroid Ryugu was its orbit, that it spans about one kilometer, and that it has a dark surface that reflects unusual colors. 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. Pictured, a series of approach images shows features suggestive of large boulders and craters. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 24 - Rocket Plume Shadow Points to the Moon
Why would the shadow of a space shuttle launch plume point toward the Moon? In early 2001 during a launch of Atlantis, the Sun, Earth, Moon, and rocket were all properly aligned for this photogenic coincidence. First, for the space shuttle's plume to cast a long shadow, the time of day must be either near sunrise or sunset. Only then will the shadow be its longest and extend all the way to the horizon. Finally, during a Full Moon, the Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of the sky. Just after sunset, for example, the Sun is slightly below the horizon, and, in the other direction, the Moon is slightly above the horizon. Therefore, as Atlantis blasted off, just after sunset, its shadow projected away from the Sun toward the opposite horizon, where the Full Moon happened to be. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 22 - Galaxy in a Crystal Ball
A small crystal ball seems to hold a whole galaxy in this creative snapshot. Of course, the galaxy is our own Milky Way. Its luminous central bulge marked by rifts of interstellar dust spans thousands of light-years. On this long southern hemisphere night it filled dark Chilean skies over Paranal Observatory. The single exposure image did not require a Very Large Telescope, though. Experiments with a digital camera on a tripod and crystal ball perched on a handrail outside the Paranal Residencia produced the evocative, cosmic marble portrait of our home galaxy. via NASA
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7 weeks ago
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Newborn stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula. Gravitationally contracting in pillars of dense gas and dust, the intense radiation of these newly-formed bright stars is causing surrounding material to boil away. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in near infrared light, allows the viewer to see through much of the thick dust that makes the pillars opaque in visible light. The giant structures are light years in length and dubbed informally the Pillars of Creation. Associated with the open star cluster M16, the Eagle Nebula lies about 6,500 light years away. The Eagle Nebula is an easy target for small telescopes in a nebula-rich part of the sky toward the split constellation Serpens Cauda (the tail of the snake). via NASA
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7 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 19 - Ancients of Sea and Sky
They may look like round rocks, but they're alive. Moreover, they are modern versions of one of the oldest known forms of life: stromatolites. Fossils indicate that stromatolites appeared on Earth about 3.7 billion years ago -- even before many of the familiar stars in the modern night sky were formed. In the featured image taken in Western Australia, only the ancient central arch of our Milky Way Galaxy formed earlier. Even the Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies of our Milky Way and visible in the featured image below the Milky Way's arch, didn't exist in their current form when stromatolites first grew on Earth. Stromatolites are accreting biofilms of billions of microorganisms that can slowly move toward light. Using this light to liberate oxygen into the air, ancient stromatolites helped make Earth hospitable to other life forms including, eventually, humans. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 18 - An Active Prominence on the Sun
Sometimes the Sun's surface becomes a whirlwind of activity. Pictured is a time-lapse video of the Sun's surface taken over a two hour period in early May, run both forwards and backwards. The Sun's surface was blocked out so that details over the edge could be imaged in greater detail. Hot plasma is seen swirling over the solar limb in an ongoing battle between changing magnetic fields and constant gravity. The featured prominence rises about one Earth-diameter over the Sun's surface. Energetic events like this are becoming less common as the Sun nears a minimum in its 11-year activity cycle. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 17 - Mars Engulfed
What's happened to Mars? In 2001, Mars underwent a tremendous planet-wide dust storm -- one of the largest ever recorded from Earth. To show the extent, these two Hubble Space Telescope storm watch images from late June and early September (2001) offer dramatically contrasting views of the martian surface. At left, the onset of smaller "seed" storms can be seen near the Hellas basin (lower right edge of Mars) and the northern polar cap. A similar surface view at right, taken over two months later, shows the fully developed extent of the obscuring global storm. Although this storm eventually waned, in recent days a new large dust storm has been taking hold of the red planet. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 16 - Dusty With a Chance of Dust
It's storm season on Mars. Dusty with a chance of dust is the weather report for Gale crater as a recent planet-scale dust storm rages. On June 10 looking toward the east-northeast crater rim, the Curiosity rover's Mastcam captured this image of its local conditions so far. Meanwhile over 2,000 kilometers away, the Opportunity rover ceased science operations as the storm grew thicker at its location on the west rim of Endeavour crater, and has stopped communicating, waiting out the storm for now. Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, but the smaller Opportunity rover uses solar panels to charge its batteries. For Opportunity, the increasingly severe lack of sunlight has caused its batteries to run low. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 15 - Little Planet Soyuz
Engines blazing, a large rocket bids farewell to this little planet. Of course, the little planet is really planet Earth and the large rocket is a Soyuz-FG rocket. Launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 6 it carried a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft into orbit. On board were International Space Station Expedition 56-57 crew members Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA. Their spacecraft successfully docked with humanity's orbiting outpost just two days later. The little planet projection is the digitally warped and stitched mosaic of images covering 360 by 180 degrees, captured during the 2018 Star Trek car expedition. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 14 - Six Planets from Yosemite
The five naked-eye planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, have been seen since ancient times to wander the night skies of planet Earth. So it could be remarkable that on this night, standing at the side of a clear, calm lake, six planets can be seen with the unaided eye. Have a look. Very bright and easy to spot for skygazers, yellowish Mars is left of a pale Milky Way. Saturn is immersed in the glow of the Milky Way's diffuse starlight. Jupiter is very near the horizon on the right, shining beyond the trees against the glow of distant city lights. Last weekend, while admiring this night time view across beautiful, high-altitude Lake Tanaya in Yosemite National Park, a thoughtful and reflective observer could probably see three planets more. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 13 - Red Cloudbow over Delaware
What kind of rainbow is this? In this case, no rain was involved -- what is pictured is actually a red cloudbow. The unusual sky arc was spotted last month during sunset in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, USA. When the photographer realized that what he was seeing was extraordinary, he captured it with the only camera available -- a cell phone. Clouds are made of water droplets, and in a cloudbow a cloud-droplet group reflects back light from the bright Sun (or Moon) on the opposite side of the sky. Similar phenomena include fogbows and airplane glories. Here, the red color was caused by atmospheric air preferentially scattering away blue light -- which simultaneously makes most of the sky appear blue. A careful inspection reveals a supernumery bow just inside the outermost arc, a bow caused by quantum diffraction. via NASA
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8 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 12 - Star Size Comparison 2
How big is our Sun compared to other stars? In dramatic and popular videos featured on YouTube, the relative sizes of planets, stars, and even the universe are shown from smallest to largest. The featured video begins with Earth's Moon and progresses through increasingly larger moons and planets in our Solar System. Soon, the Sun is shown and compared to many of the brighter stars in our neighborhood of the Milky Way Galaxy. Finally, star sizes are shown in comparison with the Milky Way Galaxy, galaxies across the observable universe, and speculatively, regions of a potentially greater multiverse. Note that the true sizes of most stars outside of the Sun and Betelgeuse are not known by direct observation, but rather inferred by measurements of their perceived brightness, temperature, and distance. Although an inspiring learning tool that is mostly accurate, APOD readers are encouraged to complete the learning experience -- and possibly help make future versions more accurate -- by pointing out slight inaccuracies in the video. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 11 - At Last GLAST
Rising through a billowing cloud of smoke, a long time ago from a planet very very close by, this Delta II rocket left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's launch pad 17-B at 12:05 pm EDT on June 11, 2008. Snug in the payload section was GLAST, the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope. GLAST's detector technology was developed for use in terrestrial particle accelerators. So from orbit, GLAST can detect gamma-rays from extreme environments above the Earth and across the distant Universe, including supermassive black holes at the centers of distant active galaxies, and the sources of powerful gamma-ray bursts. Those formidable cosmic accelerators achieve energies not attainable in earthbound laboratories. Now known as the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, on the 10 year anniversary of its launch, let the Fermi Science Playoffs begin. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
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To some, it may look like a cat's eye. The alluring Cat's Eye nebula, however, lies three thousand light-years from Earth across interstellar space. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this digitally sharpened Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into this Cat's Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution ... in about 5 billion years. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 9 - Countryside Mars and Milky Way
Mars shines brightly now in planet Earth's sky. Seen with a yellowish hue it rises over the hills and far away in this serene night skyscape, a countryside panorama recorded last month from Parque Nacional de Cabaneros in Spain. The Milky Way too extends above the distant hills into a starry sky. Its faint pinkish nebulae, cosmic rifts and rivers of dust are mingled with the pale, diffuse glow of starlight. Mimicking Mars' yellow tint, bright star Antares shines to the right of the central Milky Way starclouds. Of course, CubeSats from Earth are on their way to the Red Planet. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 8 - Fermi Science Playoffs
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was launched into orbit on June 11th, 2008. Its instruments detect gamma-rays -- light that is thousands to hundreds of billions of times more energetic than what we see with our eyes. In the last decade Fermi's high-energy voyage of exploration has resulted in a cornucopia of astonishing discoveries, from extreme environments above our fair planet and across the distant Universe. Now you can vote for Fermi's best result so far. To mark Fermi's 10th anniversary, images representing 16 scientific results have been selected and seeded to create brackets. Follow this link to cast your first round vote for your favorite out of each pair and then return every two weeks to vote in the next round. The winner of the Fermi Final will be announced on August 6, the 10th anniversary of the first science data from Fermi. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
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Have you ever seen a sun pillar? When the air is cold and the Sun is rising or setting, falling ice crystals can reflect sunlight and create an unusual column of light. Ice sometimes forms flat, six-sided shaped crystals as it falls from high-level clouds. Air resistance causes these crystals to lie nearly flat much of the time as they flutter to the ground. Sunlight reflects off crystals that are properly aligned, creating the sun-sun-pillar effect. In the featured picture taken last week, a sun-pillar reflects light from a Sun setting over Fensfjorden, Norway. via NASA
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9 weeks ago
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How complex is Jupiter? NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter is finding the Jovian giant to be more complicated than expected. Jupiter's magnetic field has been discovered to be much different from our Earth's simple dipole field, showing several poles embedded in a complicated network more convoluted in the north than the south. Further, Juno's radio measurements show that Jupiter's atmosphere shows structure well below the upper cloud deck -- even hundreds of kilometers deep. Jupiter's newfound complexity is evident also in southern clouds, as shown in the featured image. There, planet-circling zones and belts that dominate near the equator decay into a complex miasma of continent-sized storm swirls. Juno continues in its looping elliptical orbit, swooping near the huge planet every 53 days and exploring a slightly different sector each time around. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 4 - Moon Setting Behind Teide Volcano
These people are not in danger. What is coming down from the left is just the Moon, far in the distance. Luna appears so large here because she is being photographed through a telescopic lens. What is moving is mostly the Earth, whose spin causes the Moon to slowly disappear behind Mount Teide, a volcano in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. The people pictured are 16 kilometers away and many are facing the camera because they are watching the Sun rise behind the photographer. It is not a coincidence that a full moon rises just when the Sun sets because the Sun is always on the opposite side of the sky from a full moon. The featured video was made last week during the full Milk Moon. The video is not time-lapse -- this was really how fast the Moon was setting. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 3 - Saturns Iapetus: Painted Moon
What has happened to Saturn's moon Iapetus? Vast sections of this strange world are dark as coal, while others are as bright as ice. The composition of the dark material is unknown, but infrared spectra indicate that it possibly contains some dark form of carbon. Iapetus also has an unusual equatorial ridge that makes it appear like a walnut. To help better understand this seemingly painted moon, NASA directed the robotic Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn to swoop within 2,000 kilometers in 2007. Pictured here, from about 75,000 kilometers out, Cassini's trajectory allowed unprecedented imaging of the hemisphere of Iapetus that is always trailing. A huge impact crater seen in the south spans a tremendous 450 kilometers and appears superposed on an older crater of similar size. The dark material is seen increasingly coating the easternmost part of Iapetus, darkening craters and highlands alike. Close inspection indicates that the dark coating typically faces the moon's equator and is less than a meter thick. A leading hypothesis is that the dark material is mostly dirt leftover when relatively warm but dirty ice sublimates. An initial coating of dark material may have been effectively painted on by the accretion of meteor-liberated debris from other moons. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
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Volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawaii has increased since this Hawaiian night skyscape was recorded earlier this year. Recent vents and lava flows are about 30 kilometers to the east, the direction of the blowing smoke and steam in the panoramic view of the Kilauea caldera with Halemaumau crater taken from Volcanoes National Park. Still, this year Jupiter is bright in late spring to early summer skies. High in the south it is easily the brightest celestial beacon in the scene where the central bulge of the Milky Way seems to rise above vapors and clouds. Yellowish Antares is the bright star near the end of the dark rivers of dust seen toward the center of our galaxy. Near the horizon, stars Alpha and Beta Centauri and the compact Southern Cross shine through the almost too bright volcanic smoke. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 June 1 - Mars Approach
Since the distance from Earth to Mars changes drastically as the planets orbit the Sun, Mars' appearance changes dramaticaly. Mars is bright now, and it's getting closer and brighter still as it orbits toward its 2018 opposition and closest approach to Earth in late July. This sequence of sharp telescopic images records the Red Planet's steady increase in apparent size for the months of January (top left) through April. During that time its distance from Earth went from 284 million kilometers in January to 129 million kilometers in April, and so its apparent size more than doubled. At closest approach Mars will be about 58 million kilometers distant, more than doubling in apparent size compared to the disk at the lower right. By then it will rival the brightness of Jupiter in planet Earth's night sky, but don't believe the claims of the inevitable internet hoax. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 30 - The Case of the Backwards Orbiting Asteroid
Why does asteroid 2015 BZ509 orbit the Sun the backwards? As shown in the featured animation, Jupiter's trojan asteroids orbit the Sun in two major groups -- one just ahead of Jupiter, and one just behind -- but all orbit the Sun in the same direction as Jupiter. Asteroid BZ509 however, discovered in 2015 and currently unnamed, orbits the Sun in retrograde and in a more complex gravitational dance with Jupiter. The reason why is currently unknown and a topic of research -- but if resolved might tell us about the early Solar System. A recently popular hypothesis holds that BZ509 was captured by Jupiter from interstellar space billions of years ago, while a competing conjecture posits that BZ509 came from our Solar System's own distant Oort cloud of comets, perhaps more recently. The answer may only become known after more detailed models of the likelihood and stability of orbits near Jupiter are studied, or, possibly, by observing direct properties of the unusual object. via NASA
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10 weeks ago
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How many of these can you find in today's featured photograph: an aurora, airglow, one of the oldest impact craters on the Earth, snow and ice, stars, city lights, and part of the International Space Station? Most of these can be identified by their distinctive colors. The aurora here appears green at the bottom, red at the top, and is visible across the left of image. Airglow appears orange and can be seen hovering over the curve of the Earth. The circular Manicouagan Crater in Canada, about 100 kilometers across and 200 million years old, is visible toward the lower right and is covered in white snow and ice. Stars, light in color, dot the dark background of space. City lights appear a bright yellow and dot the landscape. Finally, across the top, part of the International Space Station (ISS) appears mostly tan. The featured image was taken from the ISS in 2012. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 27 - Coronal Rain on the Sun
Does it rain on the Sun? Yes, although what falls is not water but extremely hot plasma. An example occurred in mid-July 2012 after an eruption on the Sun that produced both a Coronal Mass Ejection and a moderate solar flare. What was more unusual, however, was what happened next. Plasma in the nearby solar corona was imaged cooling and falling back, a phenomenon known as coronal rain. Because they are electrically charged, electrons, protons, and ions in the rain were gracefully channeled along existing magnetic loops near the Sun's surface, making the scene appear as a surreal three-dimensional sourceless waterfall. The resulting surprisingly-serene spectacle is shown in ultraviolet light and highlights matter glowing at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. Each second in the featured time lapse video takes about 6 minutes in real time, so that the entire coronal rain sequence lasted about 10 hours. Recent observations have confirmed that that coronal rain can also occur in smaller loops for as long as 30 hours. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
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Like Earth's moon, Saturn's largest moon Titan is locked in synchronous rotation. This mosiac of images recorded by the Cassini spacecraft in May of 2012 show's its anti-Saturn side, the side always facing away from the ringed gas giant. The only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere, Titan is the only solar system world besides Earth known to have standing bodies of liquid on its surface and an earthlike cycle of liquid rain and evaporation. Its high altitude layer of atmospheric haze is evident in the Cassini view of the 5,000 kilometer diameter moon over Saturn's rings and cloud tops. Near center is the dark dune-filled region known as Shangri-La. The Cassini-delivered Huygens probe rests below and left of center, after the most distant landing for a spacecraft from Earth. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 25 - Galaxies Away
This stunning group of galaxies is far, far away, about 450 million light-years from planet Earth and cataloged as galaxy cluster Abell S0740. Dominated by the cluster's large central elliptical galaxy (ESO 325-G004), this reprocessed Hubble Space Telescope view takes in a remarkable assortment of galaxy shapes and sizes with only a few spiky foreground stars scattered through the field. The giant elliptical galaxy (right of center) spans over 100,000 light years and contains about 100 billion stars, comparable in size to our own spiral Milky Way galaxy. The Hubble data can reveal a wealth of detail in even these distant galaxies, including arms and dust lanes, star clusters, ring structures, and gravitational lensing arcs. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 24 - The Gum Nebula Expanse
Named for a cosmic cloud hunter, Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum (1924-1960), The Gum Nebula is so large and close it is actually hard to see. In fact, we are only about 450 light-years from the front edge and 1,500 light-years from the back edge of this interstellar expanse of glowing hydrogen gas. Covered in this 40+ degree-wide monochrome mosaic of Hydrogen-alpha images, the faint emission region stands out against the background of Milky Way stars. The complex nebula is thought to be a supernova remnant over a million years old, sprawling across the Ship's southern constellations Vela and Puppis. This spectacular wide field view also explores many objects embedded in The Gum Nebula, including the younger Vela supernova remnant. via NASA
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11 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 22 - Craters and Shadows at the Lunar Terminator
Why does the right part of this image of the Moon stand out? Shadows. The terminator line -- the line between light and dark -- occurs in the featured image so that just over half the Moon's face is illuminated by sunlight. The lunar surface appears different nearer the terminator because there the Sun is nearer the horizon and therefore causes shadows to become increasingly long. These shadows make it easier for us to discern structure, giving us depth cues so that the two-dimensional image, when dominated by shadows, appears almost three-dimensional. Therefore, as the Moon fades from light to dark, shadows not only tell us the high from the low, but become noticeable for increasingly shorter structures. For example, many craters appear near the terminator because their height makes them easier to discern there. The image was taken two weeks ago when the lunar phase was waning gibbous. The next full moon, a Moon without shadows, will occur one week from today. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 21 - Jupiter Cloud Animation from Juno
How do Jupiter's clouds move? To help find out, images taken with NASA's Juno spacecraft during its last pass near Jupiter have been analyzed and digitally extrapolated into a time-lapse video. The eight-second time-lapse video, digitally extrapolated between two images taken only nine minutes apart, estimates how Jupiter's clouds move over 29 hours. Abstractly, the result appears something like a psychedelic paisley dream. Scientifically, however, the computer animation shows that circular storms tend to swirl, while bands and zones appear to flow. This overall motion is not surprising and has been seen on time-lapse videos of Jupiter before, although never in this detail. The featured region spans about four times the area of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Results from Juno are showing, unexpectedly, that Jupiter's weather phenomena can extend deep below its cloud tops. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 20 - In the Heart of the Tarantula Nebula
In the heart of monstrous Tarantula Nebula lies huge bubbles of energetic gas, long filaments of dark dust, and unusually massive stars. In the center of this heart, is a knot of stars so dense that it was once thought to be a single star. This star cluster, labeled as R136 or NGC 2070, is visible just above the center of the featured image and home to a great number of hot young stars. The energetic light from these stars continually ionizes nebula gas, while their energetic particle wind blows bubbles and defines intricate filaments. The representative-color picture, a digital synthesis of images from the NASA/ESA orbiting Hubble Space Telescope and ESO's ground-based New Technology Telescope, shows great details of the LMC nebula's tumultuous center. The Tarantula Nebula, also known as the 30 Doradus nebula, is one of the largest star-formation regions known, and has been creating unusually strong episodes of star formation every few million years. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 19 - Reflections of Venus and Moon
Posing near the western horizon, a brilliant evening star and slender young crescent shared reflections in a calm sea last Thursday after sunset. Recorded in this snapshot from the Atlantic beach at Santa Marinella near Rome, Italy, the lovely celestial conjunction of the two brightest beacons in the night sky could be enjoyed around the world. Seaside, light reflected by briefly horizontal surfaces of the gentle waves forms the shimmering columns across the water. Similar reflections by fluttering atmospheric ice crystals can create sometimes mysterious pillars of light. Of course, earthlight itself visibly illuminates the faint lunar night side. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
APOD: 2018 May 17 - Milky Way vs Airglow Australis
Captured last week after sunset on a Chilean autumn night, an exceptional airglow floods this allsky view from Las Campanas Observatory. The airglow was so intense it diminished parts of the Milky Way as it arced horizon to horizon above the high Atacama desert. Originating at an altitude similar to aurorae, the luminous airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light through chemical excitation. Commonly recorded in color by sensitive digital cameras, the airglow emission here is fiery in appearance. It is predominately from atmospheric oxygen atoms at extremely low densities and has often been present during southern hemisphere nights over the last few years. Like the Milky Way, on that dark night the strong airglow was very visible to the eye, but seen without color. Jupiter is brightest celestial beacon though, standing opposite the Sun and near the central bulge of the Milky Way rising above the eastern (top) horizon. The Large and Small Magellanic clouds both shine through the airglow to the lower left of the galactic plane, toward the southern horizon. via NASA
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12 weeks ago
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This image is not blurry. It shows in clear detail that the largest satellite galaxy to our Milky Way, the Large Cloud of Magellan (LMC), rotates. First determined with Hubble, the rotation of the LMC is presented here with fine data from the Sun-orbiting Gaia satellite. Gaia measures the positions of stars so accurately that subsequent measurements can reveal slight proper motions of stars not previously detectable. The featured image shows, effectively, exaggerated star trails for millions of faint LMC stars. Inspection of the image also shows the center of the clockwise rotation: near the top of the LMC's central bar. The LMC, prominent in southern skies, is a small spiral galaxy that has been distorted by encounters with the greater Milky Way Galaxy and the lesser Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). via NASA
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may 2018
APOD: 2018 May 15 - Kepler s House in Linz
Four hundred years ago today (May 15, 1618) Johannes Kepler discovered the simple mathematical rule governing the orbits of the solar system's planets, now recognized as Kepler's Third Law of planetary motion. At that time he was living in this tall house on The Hofgasse, a narrow street near the castle and main square of the city of Linz, Austria, planet Earth. The conclusive identification of this residence (Hofgasse 7) as the location of the discovery of his third law is a recent discovery itself. Erich Meyer of the Astronomical Society of Linz was able to solve the historical mystery, based in part on descriptions of Kepler's own observations of lunar eclipses. A key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution, Kepler supported Galileo's discoveries and the Copernican system of planets orbiting the Sun instead of the Earth. He showed that planets move in ellipses around the Sun (Kepler's First Law), that planets move proportionally faster in their orbits when they are nearer the Sun (Kepler's Second Law), and that more distant planets take proportionally longer to orbit the Sun (Kepler's Third Law). via NASA
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may 2018
APOD: 2018 May 14 - Saturns Hyperion in Natural Color
What lies at the bottom of Hyperion's strange craters? To help find out, the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn swooped past the sponge-textured moon in 2005 and 2010 and took images of unprecedented detail. A six-image mosaic from the 2005 pass, featured here in natural color, shows a remarkable world strewn with strange craters and an odd sponge-like surface. At the bottom of most craters lies some type of unknown dark reddish material. This material appears similar to that covering part of another of Saturn's moons, Iapetus, and might sink into the ice moon as it better absorbs warming sunlight. Hyperion is about 250 kilometers across, rotates chaotically, and has a density so low that it likely houses a vast system of caverns inside. via NASA
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may 2018
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Why does a volcanic eruption sometimes create lightning? Pictured above, the Sakurajima volcano in southern Japan was caught erupting in 2013 January. Magma bubbles so hot they glowed shot away as liquid rock burst through the Earth's surface from below. The featured image is particularly notable, however, for the lightning bolts caught near the volcano's summit. Why lightning occurs even in common thunderstorms remains a topic of research, and the cause of volcanic lightning is even less clear. Surely, lightning bolts help quench areas of opposite but separated electric charges. Volcanic lightning episodes may be facilitated by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust. Lightning is usually occurring somewhere on Earth, typically over 40 times each second. via NASA
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may 2018
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