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Keyword: astronomy

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  • Newfound Comet Could Look Spectacular in 2013 ( Comet ISON )

    12/27/2012 6:32:20 AM PST · by Las Vegas Dave · 16 replies
    space.com ^ | 25 September 2012 | Joe Rao
    A newly discovered comet has the potential to put on a dazzling celestial display late next year, when it will be so bright you may be able to see it briefly in the daytime sky. The discovery of the object named Comet ISON was announced Monday (Sept. 24) by Russians Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok, who detected it in photographs taken three days earlier using a 15.7-inch (0.4-meter) reflecting telescope of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON), near Kislovodsk. The new comet is officially known as C/2012 S1. When first sighted, Comet ISON was 625 million miles (1 billion kilometers)...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Makemake of the Outer Solar System

    12/26/2012 3:49:45 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | December 26, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Makemake is one of the largest objects known in the outer Solar System. Pronounced MAH-kay MAH-kay, this Kuiper belt object is about two-thirds the size of Pluto, orbits the Sun only slightly further out than Pluto, and appears only slightly dimmer than Pluto. Makemake, however, has an orbit much more tilted to the ecliptic plane of the planets than Pluto. Discovered by a team led by Mike Brown (Caltech) in 2005, the outer Solar System orb was officially named Makemake for the creator of humanity in the Rapa Nui mythology of Easter Island. In 2008, Makemake was classified as...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Yosemite Winter Night

    12/25/2012 8:30:36 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 17 replies
    NASA ^ | December 25, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In this evocative night skyscape a starry band of the Milky Way climbs over Yosemite Valley, Sierra Nevada Range, planet Earth. Jupiter is the brightest celestial beacon on the wintry scene, though. Standing nearly opposite the Sun in the constellation Taurus, the wandering planet joins yellowish Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster. Below, Orion always comes up sideways over a fence of mountains. And from there the twin stars of Gemini rise just across the Milky Way. As this peaceful winter night began, they followed Auriga the charioteer, its alpha star Capella near the top of the frame.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Hyades for the Holidays

    12/24/2012 3:46:57 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 24, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Recognized since antiquity and depicted on the shield of Achilles according to Homer, stars of the Hyades cluster form the head of the constellation Taurus the Bull. Their general V-shape is anchored by Aldebaran, the eye of the Bull and by far the constellation's brightest star. Yellowish in appearance, red giant Aldebaran is not a Hyades cluster member, though. Modern astronomy puts the Hyades cluster 151 light-years away making it the nearest established open star cluster, while Aldebaran lies at less than half that distance, along the same line-of-sight. Along with colorful Hyades stars, this stellar holiday portrait locates...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Comet Hale-Bopp Over Val Parola Pass

    12/22/2012 9:30:25 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | December 23, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Comet Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997, became much brighter than any surrounding stars. It was seen even over bright city lights. Away from city lights, however, it put on quite a spectacular show. Here Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed above Val Parola Pass in the Dolomite mountains surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Comet Hale-Bopp's blue ion tail, consisting of ions from the comet's nucleus, is pushed out by the solar wind. The white dust tail is composed of larger particles of dust from the nucleus driven by the pressure of sunlight, that orbit behind the comet. Observations showed that Comet...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Saturn at Night

    12/22/2012 7:09:21 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 15 replies
    NASA ^ | December 22, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Splendors seldom seen are revealed in this glorious picture from Saturn's shadow. Imaged by Cassini on October 17, 2012 during its 174th orbit, the ringed planet's night side is viewed from a perspective 19 degrees below the ring plane at a distance of about 800,000 kilometers with the Sun almost directly behind the planet. A 60 frame mosaic, images made with infrared, red, and violet filters were combined to create an enhanced, false-color view. Strongly backlit, the rings look bright away from the planet but dark in silhouette against the gas giant. Above center, they reflect a faint, eerie...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Orion over El Castillo

    12/21/2012 4:02:17 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | December 21, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Welcome to the December solstice, a day the world does not end ... even according to the Mayan Calendar. To celebrate, consider this dramatic picture of Orion rising over El Castillo, the central pyramid at Chichén Itzá, one of the great Mayan centers on the Yucatán peninsula. Also known as the Temple of Kukulkan it stands 30 meters tall and 55 meters wide at the base. Built up as a series of square terraces by the pre-Columbian civilization between the 9th and 12th century, the structure can be used as a calendar and is noted for astronomical alignments. In...
  • Several Nights Only- All Seven Planets Visible in One Night

    12/20/2012 8:30:00 AM PST · by virgil283 · 52 replies
    "For those of you with even a small refractor telescope, the next few nights present a once in a blue moon opportunity to spot all seven planets in the same evening. Five of them are visible without even binoculars, while the other two will require you to reference the charts below. While Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will "move" faster in the sky, Uranus and Neptune will stay relatively fixed in their positions in Pisces and Aquarius for some time. The closest five planets all yield some features through a small amateur telescope, the largest, Saturn and Jupiter, even...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- M33: Triangulum Galaxy

    12/19/2012 9:29:54 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | December 20, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: 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 composite image, a...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 5189: An Unusually Complex Planetary Nebula

    12/19/2012 3:46:15 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | December 19, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why is this nebula so complex? When a star like our Sun is dying, it will cast off its outer layers, usually into a simple overall shape. Sometimes this shape is a sphere, sometimes a double lobe, and sometimes a ring or a helix. In the case of planetary nebula NGC 5189, however, no such simple structure has emerged. To help find out why, the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope recently observed NGC 5189 in great detail. Previous findings indicated the existence of multiple epochs of material outflow, including a recent one that created a bright but distorted torus running...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Sun Pillar Over Sweden

    12/18/2012 7:03:07 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 19 replies
    NASA ^ | December 18, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: 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-pillar effect. In the above picture taken last week, a sun-pillar reflects light from a Sun setting over Östersund, Sweden.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 922: Collisional Ring Galaxy

    12/18/2012 6:58:33 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 17, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why does this galaxy have so many big black holes? No one is sure. What is sure is that NGC 922 is a ring galaxy created by the collision of a large and small galaxy about 300 million years ago. Like a rock thrown into a pond, the ancient collision sent ripples of high density gas out from the impact point near the center that partly condensed into stars. Pictured above is NGC 922 with its beautifully complex ring along the left side, as imaged recently by the Hubble Space Telescope. Observations of NGC 922 with the Chandra X-ray...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- MWC 922: The Red Square Nebula

    12/16/2012 1:01:56 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | December 16, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What could cause a nebula to appear square? No one is quite sure. The hot star system known as MWC 922, however, appears to be embedded in a nebula with just such a shape. The above image combines infrared exposures from the Hale Telescope on Mt. Palomar in California, and the Keck-2 Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. A leading progenitor hypothesis for the square nebula is that the central star or stars somehow expelled cones of gas during a late developmental stage. For MWC 922, these cones happen to incorporate nearly right angles and be visible from the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- When Gemini Sends Stars to Paranal

    12/14/2012 9:40:15 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 1 replies
    NASA ^ | December 15, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: From a radiant point in the constellation of the Twins, the annual Geminid meteor shower rained down on planet Earth this week. Recorded near the shower's peak in the early hours of December 14, this skyscape captures Gemini's lovely shooting stars in a careful composite of 30 exposures, each 20 seconds long, from the dark of the Chilean Atacama Desert over ESO's Paranal Observatory. In the foreground Paranal's four Very Large Telescopes, four Auxillary Telescopes, and the VLT Survey telescope are all open and observing. The skies above are shared with bright Jupiter (left), Orion, (top left), and the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Umbra World

    12/14/2012 9:35:39 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | December 14, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: On the morning of November 14, sky gazers from around the world gathered on this little planet to stand in the dark umbral shadow of the Moon. Of course, the Moon cast the shadow during last month's total solar eclipse, and the little planet is actually a beach on Green Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The picture itself, the first little planet projection of a total solar eclipse, is a digitally warped and stitched wrap-around of 8 images covering 360x180 degrees. To make it, the intrepid photographer had to remember to shoot both toward and away(!) from...
  • Geminids Rain Down Shooting Stars

    12/14/2012 5:24:29 AM PST · by Mozilla · 12 replies
    Slate ^ | 12/14/12 | Phil Plait
    As I wrote a couple of days ago, the annual Geminid meteor shower peaked last night, raining down a magnificent display of shooting stars. Did you go out and watch? A lot of photographers did. One was John Chumack, an accomplished astrophotographer, who captured this amazing shot of three meteors: Chumack was in Yellow Springs, Ohio on the evening of the 12th (the day before the peak!) using a simple DSLR camera and a fisheye lens. This was a 25-second exposure, enough to see Orion, Jupiter (the bright “star” above Orion), Gemini—the direction from which the eponymous meteors appear to...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Apollo 17: A Stereo View from Lunar Orbit [3D]

    12/13/2012 8:55:00 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 13, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Get out your red/blue glasses and check out this awesome stereo view of another world. The scene was recorded by Apollo 17 mission commander Eugene Cernan on December 11, 1972, one orbit before descending to land on the Moon. The stereo anaglyph was assembled from two photographs (AS17-147-22465, AS17-147-22466) captured from his vantage point on board the Lunar Module Challenger as he and Dr. Harrison Schmitt flew over Apollo 17's landing site in the Taurus-Littrow Valley. The broad, sunlit face of the mountain dubbed South Massif rises near the center of the frame, above the dark floor of Taurus-Littrow...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Milky Way Over Quiver Tree Forest

    12/11/2012 9:40:55 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | December 12, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In front of a famous background of stars and galaxies lies some of Earth's more unusual trees. Known as quiver trees, they are actually succulent aloe plants that can grow to tree-like proportions. The quiver tree name is derived from the historical usefulness of their hollowed branches as dart holders. Occurring primarily in southern Africa, the trees pictured in the above 16-exposure composite are in Quiver Tree Forest located in southern Namibia. Some of the tallest quiver trees in the park are estimated to be about 300 years old. Behind the trees is light from the small town of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 604: Giant Stellar Nursery

    12/11/2012 4:15:16 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | December 11, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Stars are sometimes born in the midst of chaos. About 3 million years ago in the nearby galaxy M33, a large cloud of gas spawned dense internal knots which gravitationally collapsed to form stars. NGC 604 was so large, however, it could form enough stars to make a globular cluster. Many young stars from this cloud are visible in the above image from the Hubble Space Telescope, along with what is left of the initial gas cloud. Some stars were so massive they have already evolved and exploded in a supernova. The brightest stars that are left emit light...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Time-Lapse: A Total Solar Eclipse

    12/10/2012 7:17:29 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | December 10, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Have you ever experienced a total eclipse of the Sun? The above time-lapse movie depicts such an eclipse in dramatic detail as visible from Australia last month. As the video begins, a slight dimming of the Sun and the surrounding Earth is barely perceptible. Suddenly, as the Moon moves to cover nearly the entire Sun, darkness sweeps in from the left -- the fully blocked part of the Sun. At totality, only the bright solar corona extends past the edges of the Moon, and darkness surrounds you. Distant horizons are still bright, though, as they are not in the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Astronaut Who Captured a Satellite [from 1984]

    12/08/2012 9:19:40 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | December 09, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In 1984, high above the Earth's surface, an astronaut captured a satellite. It was the second satellite captured that mission. Pictured above, astronaut Dale A. Gardner flies free using the Manned Maneuvering Unit and begins to attach a control device dubbed the Stinger to the rotating Westar 6 satellite. Communications satellite Westar 6 had suffered a rocket malfunction that left it unable to reach its intended high geosynchronous orbit. Both the previously caught Palapa B-2 satellite and the Westar 6 satellite were guided into the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle Discovery and returned to Earth. Westar 6 was...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Baku Moonrise

    12/08/2012 10:58:48 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 08, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A Full Moon rises in this waterfront scene. Its colorful, watery reflection is joined by harbor lights and a windowed skyscraper's echo of the western horizon just after sunset. The tantalizing image is a composite of frames recorded at 2 minute intervals on November 28 from the Caspian Sea port city of Baku, Azerbaijan. Still, this Full Moon was not really as big or as bright as others, though it might be hard to tell. In fact, November 28's Full Moon was near apogee, making it the smallest Full Moon of 2012. As it rose over the Baku boardwalk...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Earth at Night

    12/07/2012 9:13:19 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 35 replies
    NASA ^ | December 07, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This remarkably complete view of Earth at night is a composite of cloud-free, nighttime images. The images were collected during April and October 2012 by the Suomi-NPP satellite from polar orbit about 824 kilometers (512 miles) above the surface using its Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). VIIRS offers greatly improved resolution and sensitivity compared to past global nightlight detecting instrumentation on DMSP satellites. It also has advantages compared to cameras on the International Space Station. While the space station passes over the same point on Earth every two or three days, Suomi-NPP passes over the same point twice...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- 47 Tuc Near the Small Magellanic Cloud

    12/05/2012 9:44:29 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | December 06, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Globular star cluster 47 Tucanae is a jewel of the southern sky. Also known as NGC 104, it roams the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy along with around 200 other globular star clusters. The second brightest globular cluster (after Omega Centauri) as seen from planet Earth, it lies about 13,000 light-years away and can be spotted naked-eye near the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) in the constellation of the Toucan. Of course, the SMC is some 210,000 light-years distant, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way and not physically close to 47 Tuc. Stars on the outskirts of the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Plasma Jets from Radio Galaxy Hercules A

    12/05/2012 9:30:09 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 19 replies
    NASA ^ | December 05, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why does this galaxy emit such spectacular jets? No one is sure, but it is likely related to an active supermassive black hole at its center. The galaxy at the image center, Hercules A, appears to be a relatively normal elliptical galaxy in visible light. When imaged in radio waves, however, tremendous plasma jets over one million light years long appear. Detailed analyses indicate that the central galaxy, also known as 3C 348, is actually over 1,000 times more massive than our Milky Way Galaxy, and the central black hole is nearly 1,000 times more massive than the black...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- In the Center of Saturn's North Polar Vortex

    12/04/2012 8:30:49 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 04, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What's happening at the north pole of Saturn? A vortex of strange and complex swirling clouds. The center of this vortex was imaged in unprecedented detail last week by the robotic Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. These clouds lie at the center of the unusual hexagonal cloud system that surrounds the north pole of Saturn. Saturn's north pole precessed into sunlight just a few years ago, with Cassini taking only infrared images of the shadowed region previously. The above image is raw and unprocessed and is being prepared for release in 2013. Several similar images of the region have recently...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Quadruple Lunar Halo Over Spain

    12/02/2012 9:17:35 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | December 03, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Sometimes falling ice crystals make the atmosphere into a giant lens causing arcs and halos to appear around the Sun or Moon. This past Saturday night was just such a time near Madrid, Spain, where a winter sky displayed not only a bright Moon but as many as four rare lunar halos. The brightest object, near the top of the above image, is the Moon. Light from the Moon refracts through tumbling hexagonal ice crystals into a 22 degree halo seen surrounding the Moon. Elongating the 22 degree arc horizontally is a circumscribed halo caused by column ice crystals....
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Gegenschein Over Chile

    12/01/2012 9:56:19 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | December 02, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above from 2008 October is one of the more spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. Here a deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Paranal Observatory in...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Northern Mercury

    12/01/2012 10:10:52 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | December 01, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Innermost planet Mercurywould probably not be a good location for an interplanetary winter olympics. But new results based on data from the Mercury orbitingMESSENGER spacecraft indicate that it does have substantial water icein permanently shadowed regions within craters near its north pole. The possibility of ice on Mercury has been entertained for years, inspired by the discovery of radar bright, hence highly reflective, regions near the north pole. Highlighted in yellow in this map based on projected MESSENGER images, radar bright regions are seen to correspond with floors and walls of north polar impact craters. Farther from the pole...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Clouds in Cygnus

    11/30/2012 7:47:55 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | November 30, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Cosmic clouds of gas and dust drift across this magnificent mosaic covering a 12x12 degree field within the high flying constellation Cygnus. The collaborative skyscape, a combination of broad and narrow band image data presented in the Hubble palette, is anchored by bright, hot, supergiant star Deneb, below center near the left edge. Alpha star of Cygnus, Deneb, is the top of the Northern Cross asterism and is seen here next to the dark void known as the Northern Coal Sack. Below Deneb are the recognizable North America and Pelican nebulae (NGC 7000 and IC 5070). Another supergiant star,...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day — Super Moon vs. Micro Moon

    11/30/2012 7:40:02 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | November 29, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Did you see the big, bright, beautiful Full Moon Wednesday night? That was actually a Micro Moon! On that night, the smallest Full Moon of 2012 reached its full phase only about 4 hours before apogee, the most distant point from Earth in the Moon's elliptical orbit. Of course, earlier this year on May 6, a Full Super Moon was near perigee, the closest point in its orbit. The relative apparent size of November 28's Micro Moon (right) is compared to the famous May 6 Super Moon in these two panels, matching telescopic images from Bucharest, Romania. The difference...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Jupiter and Io

    11/28/2012 6:28:42 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 24 replies
    NASA ^ | November 28, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: On December 3 (UT), Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet, will be at opposition, opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky, shining brightly and rising as the Sun sets. That configuration results in Jupiter's almost annual closest approach to planet Earth. So, near opposition the gas giant offers earthbound telescopes stunning views of its stormy, banded atmosphere and large Galilean moons. For example, this sharp series was recorded on the night of November 16/17 from the island of Sardinia near Dolianova, Italy. North is up in the images that show off Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot, and planet girdling...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Bright Jupiter in Taurus

    11/27/2012 3:22:35 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 27, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: That bright star you've recently noticed rising just after sunset isn't a star at all. It's Jupiter, the solar system's ruling gas giant. Bright Jupiter is nearing its December 3rd opposition when it will stand in Taurus, opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky. Clearly outshining yellowish Aldebaran, alpha star of Taurus, Jupiter is centered in this skyview from November 14th, also featuring the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters, familiar celestial sights as the northern hemisphere winter approaches. Sliding your cursor over the image will label the scene and identify two other solar system worlds approaching their opposition in...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Wisps of the Veil Nebula

    11/26/2012 7:28:18 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | November 26, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Wisps like this are all that remain visible of a Milky Way star. About 9,000 years ago that star exploded in a supernova leaving the Veil Nebula, also known as the Cygnus Loop. At the time, the expanding cloud was likely as bright as a crescent Moon, remaining visible for weeks to people living at the dawn of recorded history. Today, the resulting supernova remnant has faded and is now visible only through a small telescope directed toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). The remaining Veil Nebula is physically huge, however, and even though it lies about 1,400...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Dark Sand Cascades on Mars

    11/26/2012 7:25:19 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 23 replies
    NASA ^ | November 25, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: They might look like trees on Mars, but they're not. Groups of dark brown streaks have been photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on melting pinkish sand dunes covered with light frost. The above image was taken in 2008 April near the North Pole of Mars. At that time, dark sand on the interior of Martian sand dunes became more and more visible as the spring Sun melted the lighter carbon dioxide ice. When occurring near the top of a dune, dark sand may cascade down the dune leaving dark surface streaks -- streaks that might appear at first...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 1365: Majestic Spiral with Supernova

    11/24/2012 4:51:09 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | November 24, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. This sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, and details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy's bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole. Astronomers think NGC 1365's prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy's evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Pipe Nebula

    11/23/2012 12:44:51 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | November 23, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: East of Antares, dark markings sprawl through crowded star fields toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Cataloged in the early 20th century by astronomer E. E. Barnard, the obscuring interstellar dust clouds include B59, B72, B77 and B78, seen in silhouette against the starry background. Here, their combined shape suggests a pipe stem and bowl, and so the dark nebula's popular name is the Pipe Nebula. The deep and expansive view was represents nearly 24 hours of exposure time recorded in very dark skies of the Chilean Atacama desert. It covers a full 10 by 10 degree...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Night of the Long Leonid

    11/23/2012 12:40:23 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | November 22, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A cosmic grain of sand left the long and colorful trail across this all-sky view. Its grazing impact with planet Earth's atmosphere began at 71 kilometers per second. With the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, the scene was captured on the night of November 17 from the astronomically popular high plateau at Champ du Feu in Alsace, France. Of course, the earthgrazer meteor belongs to this month's Leonid meteor shower, produced as our fair planet annually sweeps through dust from the tail of periodic Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The shower's radiant point in the constellation Leo is very close...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Diamond Ring and Shadow Bands

    11/21/2012 4:13:51 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 2 replies
    NASA ^ | November 21, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: As the total phase of last week's solar eclipse came to an end, sunlight streaming past the edge of the Moon created the fleeting appearance of a glistening diamond ring in the sky. And while most eclipse watchers did not consider clouds a welcome sight, a view through thin clouds north of Cairns in Queensland, Australia also revealed these remarkable flickering shadow bands. Projected onto the cloud layer, the bands are parallel to the sliver of emerging sunlight. Caused by turbulence in Earth's atmosphere refracting the sliver of sunlight, the narrow bands were captured in this brief, 1/1000th second...
  • Mars Mystery: What HAS Curiosity Discovered?

    11/20/2012 1:45:34 PM PST · by Red Badger · 90 replies
    Discovery.com ^ | Tue Nov 20, 2012 02:13 PM ET | Analysis by Ian O'Neill
    Science isn't something that just happens overnight. It takes many measurements, oodles of analysis, re-testing and re-analysis before any groundbreaking announcement can be made. So, on the surface of Mars, inside Gale Crater on a plain called Aeolis Palus, our tenacious six-wheeled Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is doing cutting-edge laboratory work on an alien world and mission scientists are itching to announce a "historic" discovery. "This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good," John Grotzinger, lead scientist of the MSL mission, said in an interview with NPR. But what is he referring to and...
  • Lonely planet: Orphan world spotted in deep space

    11/20/2012 6:33:42 AM PST · by Red Badger · 18 replies
    Space Daily ^ | 14 NOV 2012 | by Staff Writers
    Astronomers on Wednesday reported they had detected a planet that had strayed from its star system and was wandering alone in deep space. Object CFBDSIR2149 is believed to be a cold, young world that for unknown reasons has pulled free of the gravitational pull of its mother star, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said. It is not the first time that a "free-floating" planet has been found, but this one is the closest that has ever been spotted, at over 100 light years from Earth. Initial observations sketched the object as either a homeless planet or a tiny failed star...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Halo Around the Moon

    11/20/2012 3:27:14 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 20 replies
    NASA ^ | November 20, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Have you ever seen a halo around the Moon? This fairly common sight occurs when high thin clouds containing millions of tiny ice crystals cover much of the sky. Each ice crystal acts like a miniature lens. Because most of the crystals have a similar elongated hexagonal shape, light entering one crystal face and exiting through the opposing face refracts 22 degrees, which corresponds to the radius of the Moon Halo. A similar Sun Halo may be visible during the day. The setting of the above picture is Athens San Sebastian, Greece. The distant planet Jupiter appears by chance...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Leonids Over Monument Valley

    11/19/2012 3:41:20 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | November 19, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What's happening in the sky over Monument Valley? A meteor shower. Over the past weekend the Leonid meteor shower has been peaking. The image -- actually a composite of six exposures of about 30 seconds each -- was taken in 2001, a year when there was a much more active Leonids shower. At that time, Earth was moving through a particularly dense swarm of sand-sized debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle, so that meteor rates approached one visible streak per second. The meteors appear parallel because they all fall to Earth from the meteor shower radiant -- a point on the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 6357's Cathedral to Massive Stars

    11/18/2012 6:13:47 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | November 18, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: How massive can a normal star be? Estimates made from distance, brightness and standard solar models had given one star in the open cluster Pismis 24 over 200 times the mass of our Sun, nearly making it the record holder. This star is the brightest object located just above the gas front in the above image. Close inspection of images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, however, have shown that Pismis 24-1 derives its brilliant luminosity not from a single star but from three at least. Component stars would still remain near 100 solar masses, making them among the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Like a Diamond in the Sky

    11/16/2012 9:40:40 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | November 17, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A dark Sun hung over Queensland, Australia on Wednesday morning during a much anticipated total solar eclipse. Storm clouds threatened to spoil the view along the northern coast, but minutes before totality the clouds parted. Streaming past the Moon's edge, the last direct rays of sunlight produced a gorgeous diamond ring effect in this scene from Ellis Beach between Cairns and Port Douglas. Winking out in a moment, the diamond didn't last forever though. The area was plunged into darkness for nearly 2 minutes as the Moon's shadow swept off shore toward Australia's Great Barrier Reef and out into...
  • JPL Solar System Simulator

    11/16/2012 4:38:31 AM PST · by lbryce · 3 replies
    JPL ^ | Staff
    This is one of the most interesting,complex of the Solar System Simulators by JPL. It lists all the planets with every one of its moons, plus many numerous missions including the Voyager I and II. You can program the simulator to view every object from any location. There are lots of ways to configure it and you can spend hours playing around with all its features, Lots of fun for the desktop astronomer. The graphics are somewhat dated but are still very good at providing the thrill of viewing Titan from Saturn or any one planetary body to another.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Moon Shadow Sequence

    11/16/2012 3:17:24 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | November 16, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: On the morning of November 14, the Moon's umbral shadow tracked across northern Australia before heading into the southern Pacific. Captured from a hilltop some 30 miles west of the outback town of Mount Carbine, Queensland, a series of exposures follows the progress of the total solar eclipse in this dramatic composite image. The sequence begins near the horizon. The Moon steadily encroaches on the on the reddened face of the Sun, rising as the eclipse progresses. At the total phase, lasting about 2 minutes for that location, an otherwise faint solar corona shimmers around the eclipsed disk. Recorded...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Solar Eclipse over Queensland

    11/15/2012 7:19:35 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | November 15, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This month's New Moon brought a total solar eclipse to parts of planet Earth on November 13 (UT). Most of the total eclipse track fell across the southern Pacific, but the Moon's dark umbral shadow began its journey in northern Australia on Wednesday morning, local time. From along the track, this telescopic snapshot captures the Moon's silhouette in skies over Queensland along the Mulligan highway west of Port Douglas. Almost completely covered, the Sun's disk is seen still surrounded by a hint of the faint solar corona. Planet-sized prominences stretch above the active Sun's edge. Sunlight streaming through gaps...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Our Story in One Minute

    11/14/2012 6:20:29 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 18 replies
    NASA ^ | November 14, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Could you tell the story of human existence in a minute? This thrilling video culls together multiple teasing snippets in an attempt to do just that. And sets it to music. Briefly depicted, from start to finish, is an artistic animation of the Big Bang, a trip across the early universe, the formation of the Earth and Moon, the emergence of multi-celled life and plants, the rise of reptiles and dinosaurs, a devastating meteor strike, the rise of mammals and humans, and finally the rise of modern civilization. The minute movie ends with a flyover of the modern skyscraper...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Solar Eclipse Quilt

    11/13/2012 3:34:35 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | November 13, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Some people are so inspired by solar eclipses that they quilt. Pictured above is a resulting textile from one such inspiration. The 38x38 inch quilt offers impressions of a total annular eclipse, when the Moon is too far from the Earth to cover the entire Sun, witnessed in Spain in October of 2005. Today, however, a full total solar eclipse will occur, although it will only be visible to eclipse chasers and those who live in a thin swath of Australia. For a few minutes, those near the center of the eclipse path will see the entire Sun blocked...