Keyword: astronomy

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  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- IC 4592: The Blue Horsehead Reflection Nebula

    04/02/2013 5:44:31 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | April 02, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Do you see the horse's head? What you are seeing is not the famous Horsehead nebula toward Orion but rather a fainter nebula that only takes on a familiar form with deeper imaging. The main part of the above imaged molecular cloud complex is a reflection nebula cataloged as IC 4592. Reflection nebulas are actually made up of very fine dust that normally appears dark but can look quite blue when reflecting the light of energetic nearby stars. In this case, the source of much of the reflected light is a star at the eye of the horse. That...
  • Pope plans stargazing show at St Peter's Basilica

    04/01/2013 11:16:03 AM PDT · by CMB_polarization · 6 replies
    physicsworld.com ^ | Apr 1, 2013 | Ken Hartly-Wright
    The new Pope is considering letting astronomers use the dome of St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City as a makeshift planetarium, in a bold attempt to heal the long-standing rift between science and religion. Pope Francis has already given his blessing to the plan, which would see the constellations being projected onto the dome's interior as they would have appeared around the time of Jesus's death. The Pope's interest in the cosmos is said to have been sparked after he was shown recent images of the cosmic microwave background – dubbed the echo of the Big Bang – obtained by...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Moon or Frying Pan?

    04/01/2013 4:01:55 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 14 replies
    NASA ^ | April 01, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Which is which? Of the two images shown above, one is a moon in our Solar System, while the other is the bottom of frying pan. We are not making this up -- can you tell a pan from a planetoid? Think you got it? To find the answer click here. OK, but there are more! That's right: you, your family, friends, neighbors, and local elected officials can all play "Moon or Frying Pan" with these other image pairs, too. As everyone knows, the fundamental underlying reason why moons and frying pans appear similar is -- OK, we at...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Flying Over the Earth at Night

    03/31/2013 5:50:49 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 18 replies
    NASA ^ | March 31, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Many wonders are visible when flying over the Earth at night. A compilation of such visual spectacles was captured recently from the International Space Station (ISS) and set to rousing music. Passing below are white clouds, orange city lights, lightning flashes in thunderstorms, and dark blue seas. On the horizon is the golden haze of Earth's thin atmosphere, frequently decorated by dancing auroras as the video progresses. The green parts of auroras typically remain below the space station, but the station flies right through the red and purple auroral peaks. Solar panels of the ISS are seen around the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Broad Tail of PanSTARRS

    03/30/2013 7:02:05 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | March 30, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: For northern hemisphere skygazers, fading Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) still hangs above the western horzion, after sunset but before moonrise in the coming days. Its perspective from planet Earth continues to reveal the comet's broad dust tail. This long exposure tracking the comet, made on March 21, has been enhanced to show remarkable, subtle striations in PanSTARRS' tail. Place your cursor over the image (or click here) to show an overlay of the dust tail with a model network of synchrones and syndynes. Synchrones (long dashed lines) trace the location of dust grains released from the comet nucleus at...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Ringside with Rhea

    03/28/2013 9:19:03 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | March 29, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Orbiting in the plane of Saturn's rings, Saturnian moons have a perpetual ringside view of the gas giant planet. Of course, while passing near the ring plane the Cassini spacecraft also shares their stunning perspective. The thin rings themselves slice across the middle of this Cassini snapshot from April 2011. The scene looks toward the dark night side of Saturn, in the frame at the left, and the still sunlit side of the rings from just above the ringplane. Centered, over 1,500 kilometers across, Rhea is Saturn's second largest moon and is closest to the spacecraft, around 2.2 million...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Unraveling NGC 3169

    03/28/2013 8:09:35 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | March 28, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Bright spiral galaxy NGC 3169 appears to be unraveling in this cosmic scene, played out some 70 million light-years away just below bright star Regulus toward the faint constellation Sextans. Its beautiful spiral arms are distorted into sweeping tidal tails as NGC 3169 (left) and neighboring NGC 3166 interact gravitationally, a common fate even for bright galaxies in the local universe. In fact, drawn out stellar arcs and plumes, indications of gravitational interactions, seem rampant in the deep and colorful galaxy group photo. The picture spans 20 arc minutes, or about 400,000 light-years at the group's estimated distance, and...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Horizon Rainbow in Paris

    03/27/2013 5:57:33 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | March 27, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why is this horizon so colorful? Because, opposite the Sun, it is raining. What is pictured above is actually just a common rainbow. It's uncommon appearance is caused by the Sun being unusually high in the sky during the rainbow's creation. Since every rainbow's center must be exactly opposite the Sun, a high Sun reflecting off of a distant rain will produce a low rainbow where only the very top is visible -- because the rest of the rainbow is below the horizon. Furthermore, no two observers can see exactly the same rainbow -- every person finds themselves exactly...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Waterfalls, Auroras, Comet: Iceland

    03/26/2013 2:31:45 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 20 replies
    NASA ^ | March 26, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: If not distracted by the picturesque landscape, waterfalls, stars, and auroras, you might be able to find Comet PANSTARRS. The above image, capturing multiple terrestrial and celestial wonders in a single shot, was taken last week in southwest Iceland. The popular Gullfoss waterfalls are pictured under brilliant auroras that followed a M1-class solar flare and powerful Coronal Mass Ejection two days earlier. Give up on locating the comet? Comet PANSTARRS is faintly visible as a light blip just above the horizon toward the left of the above image. The comet remains more directly visible to northern observers with binoculars...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Planck Maps the Microwave Background

    03/25/2013 5:00:35 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | March 25, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What is our universe made of? To help find out, ESA launched the Planck satellite to map, in unprecedented detail, slight temperature differences on the oldest surface known -- the background sky left billions of years ago when our universe first became transparent to light. Visible in all directions, this cosmic microwave background is a complex tapestry that could only show the hot and cold patterns observed were the universe to be composed of specific types of energy that evolved in specific ways. The results, reported last week, confirm again that most of our universe is mostly composed of...
  • Did I just see a star go supernova and wink out???

    03/23/2013 8:36:32 PM PDT · by CapnJack · 107 replies
    03/23/2013 | vanity
    Did anybody else here happen to be looking into the north sky and see a star get really bright and then just wink out??? I was standing on my back deck having a cigar and looking up at the north by northeast sky and was looking at a patch of sky (the night sky is very clear tonight here in NH) and saw a star twinkle for a second or two, then it got really bright, brighter than any other star out tonight. Then it just winked out and was gone. If you looked up and find the Big Dipper...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Dust Pillar of the Carina Nebula

    03/23/2013 10:21:56 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 17 replies
    NASA ^ | March 24, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Inside the head of this interstellar monster is a star that is slowly destroying it. The monster, actually an inanimate pillar of gas and dust, measures over a light year in length. The star, not itself visible through the opaque dust, is bursting out partly by ejecting energetic beams of particles. Similar epic battles are being waged all over the star-forming Carina Nebula (NGC 3372). The stars will win in the end, destroying their pillars of creation over the next 100,000 years, and resulting in a new open cluster of stars. The pink dots are newly formed stars that...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Infrared Portrait of the Large Magellanic Cloud

    03/22/2013 9:40:22 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | March 23, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Cosmic dust clouds ripple across this infrared portrait of our Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. In fact, the remarkable composite image from the Herschel Space Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope show that dust clouds fill this neighboring dwarf galaxy, much like dust along the plane of the Milky Way itself. The dust temperatures tend to trace star forming activity. Spitzer data in blue hues indicate warm dust heated by young stars. Herschel's instruments contributed the image data shown in red and green, revealing dust emission from cooler and intermediate regions where star formation is just...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Comet Castle

    03/22/2013 7:29:44 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 9 replies
    NASA ^ | March 22, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The broad dust tail of Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) has become a familiar sight for many northern hemisphere comet watchers, as the comet fades but rises higher above the western horizon after sunset. This view of the popular comet may seem a little fantastic, though. Sweeping away from the Sun and trailing behind the comet's orbit, the curving dust tail also seems to stream away from a shining mountaintop castle. Comet Castle might be an appropriate name in this scene, but its traditional name is Castle Hohenzollern. Taken on March 15 with an extreme telephoto lens, the Comet Castle...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 2736: The Pencil Nebula

    03/21/2013 3:48:41 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | March 21, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Moving left to right near the center of this beautifully detailed color composite, the thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge on. The interstellar shock wave plows through space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. 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...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- M42: Inside the Orion Nebula

    03/20/2013 3:37:27 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | March 20, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image in assigned colors highlighted by emission in oxygen and hydrogen, wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- GRAIL Maps the Moon's Gravity

    03/19/2013 2:55:46 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 14 replies
    NASA ^ | March 19, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: How did the Moon form? To help find out, NASA launched the twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) satellites in 2011 to orbit and map the Moon's surface gravity in unprecedented detail. Pictured above is a resulting GRAIL gravity map, with regions of slightly lighter gravity shown in blue and regions of slightly stronger gravity shown in red. Analysis of GRAIL data indicates that the moon has an unexpectedly shallow crust than runs about 40 kilometers deep, and an overall composition similar to the Earth. Although other surprising structures have been discovered that will continue to be investigated,...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Comet PANSTARRS Just After Sunset

    03/18/2013 7:13:19 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | March 18, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Have you seen the comet? As Comet PANSTARRS fades, careful observers -- even with unaided eyes -- should still be able to find the shedding ice ball on the western horizon just after sunset. Pictured above, Comet PANSTARRS (C/2011 L4) was pointed out from a hilltop last week on First Encounter Beach in Massachusetts, USA. The comet was discovered by -- and is named for -- the Pan-STARRS astronomical sky survey that discovered it. As the comet now recedes from both the Earth and the Sun, it will remain visible further into the night, although binoculars or a small...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- PanSTARRS from France

    03/15/2013 10:14:06 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | March 16, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Still looking for that comet? Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) naked-eye appearance in the northern hemisphere is described by successful comet spotters as a dim star with faint a tail. If you want to catch it the next few days could be your best bet. Start looking low and almost due west about 45 minutes after sunset. Of course, clear skies and a pair of binoculars should help a lot. Sky photographer Jean-Luc Dauvergne found suitable weather and western horizon for this comet and crescent Moon portrait after a road trip on March 13. Seeing PanSTARRS for the first time,...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- CME, Comet and Planet Earth

    03/15/2013 6:26:50 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | March 15, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: After appearing in a popular photo opportunity with a young crescent Moon near sunset, naked-eye Comet PanSTARRS continues to rise in northern hemisphere skies. But this remarkable interplanetary perspective from March 13, finds the comet posing with our fair planet itself -- as seen from the STEREO Behind spacecraft. Following in Earth's orbit, the spacecraft is nearly opposite the Sun and looks back toward the comet and Earth, with the Sun just off the left side of the frame. At the left an enormous coronal mass ejection (CME) is erupting from a solar active region. Of course, CME, comet,...