Fans of our fair planet might recognize the outlines of these cosmic clouds. On the left, bright emission outlined by dark, obscuring dust lanes seems to trace a continental shape, lending the popular name North America Nebula to the emission region cataloged as NGC 7000. To the right, just off the North America Nebula's east coast, is IC 5070, whose profile suggests the Pelican Nebula. The two bright nebulae are about 1,500 light-years away, part of the same large and complex star forming region, almost as nearby as the better-known Orion Nebula. At that distance, the 6 degree wide field of view would span 150 light-years. This careful cosmic portrait uses narrow band images to highlight the bright ionization fronts and the characteristic red glow from atomic hydrogen gas. These nebulae can be seen with binoculars from a dark location. Look northeast of bright star Deneb in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan. via NASA
Thursday, November 30, 2017
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
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 nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 7 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe. via NASA
Wikipedia picture of the day on November 30, 2017: Vanessa indica, Indian Red Admiral, is a butterfly found in the higher altitude regions of India. Males commonly imbibe mineralised moisture from damp ground, and also visit dung or decomposing fallen fruit. Wikipedia"
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud. Many of the filamentary structures visible in the featured image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The featured image, taken last month, shows a two-hour exposure of the nebula in three colors. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years. via NASA
Monday, November 27, 2017
Some storms on Jupiter are quite complex. The swirling storm was captured late last month by the NASA's robotic Juno spacecraft currently orbiting the Solar System's largest planet. The featured image spans about 30,000 kilometers, making this storm system just about as wide as planet Earth. The disturbance rotates counter-clockwise and shows a cloud pattern that includes light-colored updrafts thought to be composed predominantly of ammonia ice. These light clouds are the highest up and even cast discernable shadows toward the right. Juno will continue to orbit and probe Jupiter over the next few years as it tries to return data that help us to better understand Jupiter's atmospheric water abundance and if the planet has a solid surface underneath these fascinating clouds. via NASA
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Wikipedia picture of the day on November 27, 2017: A concept of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. In this picture, the rover examines a rock on Mars with a set of tools at the end of the rover's arm. Wikipedia"
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Wikipedia picture of the day on November 26, 2017: The Berca Mud Volcanoes are a geological and botanical reservation located close to Berca in Buzău County, Romania. The phenomenon is caused due to gases that erupt from 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) deep towards the surface, through the underground layers of clay and water, they push up underground salty water and mud, so that they overflow through the mouths of the volcanoes, while the gas emerges as bubbles as you can see in the image. Wikipedia"
Friday, November 24, 2017
Follow this vertical panoramic view from horizon to horizon and your gaze will sweep through the zenith of a dark night sky over Pic du Midi mountaintop observatory. To make the journey above a sea of clouds, 19 single exposures were taken near the end of night on October 31 and assembled in a mercator projection that renders the two horizons flat. Begin at the top and you're looking east toward the upsidedown dome of the observatory's 1 meter telescope. It's easy to follow the plane of our Milky Way galaxy as it appears to emerge from the dome and angle down toward the far horizon. Just to its right, the sky holds a remarkable diffuse glow of zodiacal light along our Solar System's ecliptic plane. Zodiacal light and Milky Way with star clusters, cosmic dust clouds and faint nebulae, cross near the zenith. Both continue down toward the airglow in the west. They disappear near the western horizon at the bottom, beyond more Pic du Midi observatory domes and a tall communications relay antenna. via NASA
Wikipedia picture of the day on November 25, 2017: An immature male bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), the smallest bird in the world - it weighs only 1.6 grams. It is endemic to Cuba. Today is the first anniversary of the death of Fidel Castro, President of Cuba for over 31 years. Wikipedia"
Thursday, November 23, 2017
In December of 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the Moon in the Taurus-Littrow valley, while colleague Ronald Evans orbited overhead. This sharp image was taken by Cernan as he and Schmitt roamed the valley floor. The image shows Schmitt on the left with the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater, near the spot where geologist Schmitt discovered orange lunar soil. The Apollo 17 crew returned with 110 kilograms of rock and soil samples, more than was returned from any of the other lunar landing sites. Forty five years later, Cernan and Schmitt are still the last to walk on the Moon. via NASA
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, are the bright bluish stars from east to west (lower right to upper left) along the diagonal in this cosmic vista. Otherwise known as the Belt of Orion, these three blue supergiant stars are hotter and much more massive than the Sun. They lie from 800 to 1,500 light-years away, born of Orion's well-studied interstellar clouds. In fact, clouds of gas and dust adrift in this region have some surprisingly familiar shapes, including the dark Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula near Alnitak at the lower right. The famous Orion Nebula itself is off the right edge of this colorful starfield. This well-framed, 2-panel telescopic mosaic spans about 4 degrees on the sky. via NASA
Wikipedia picture of the day on November 23, 2017: A high purity (99.999 %) rhenium single crystal made by the floating zone process, an ebeam remelted (99.995 %) rhenium bar and as well as a high purity (99.99 % = 4N) 1 cm3 rhenium cube for comparison. Wikipedia"
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Nothing like it has ever been seen before. The unusual space rock 'Oumuamua is so intriguing mainly because it is the first asteroid ever detected from outside our Solar System -- although likely many more are to follow given modern computer-driven sky monitoring. Therefore humanity's telescopes -- of nearly every variety -- have put 'Oumuamua into their observing schedule to help better understand this unusual interstellar visitor. Pictured is an artist's illustration of what 'Oumuamua might look like up close. 'Oumuamua is also intriguing, however, because it has unexpected parallels to Rama, a famous fictional interstellar spaceship created by the late science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. Like Rama, 'Oumuamua is unusually elongated, should be made of strong material to avoid breaking apart, is only passing through our Solar System, and passed unusually close to the Sun for something gravitationally unbound. Unlike a visiting spaceship, though, 'Oumuamua's trajectory, speed, color, and even probability of detection are consistent with it forming naturally around a normal star many millions of years ago, being expelled after gravitationally encountering a normal planet, and subsequently orbiting in our Galaxy alone. Even given 'Oumuamua's likely conventional origin, perhaps humanity can hold hope that one day we will have the technology to engineer 'Oumuamua -- or another Solar System interloper -- into an interstellar Rama of our own. via NASA
Monday, November 20, 2017
Wikipedia picture of the day on November 21, 2017: Female Giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) smashing a tilapia against a post to break its spine on Lake Naivasha, Kenya. To celebrate World Fisheries Day. Wikipedia"
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Yes, but have you ever taken a selfie on Mars? The Curiosity rover on Mars has. This selfie was compiled from many smaller images -- which is why the mechanical arm holding the camera is not visible. (Although its shadow is!) Taken in mid-2015, the featured image shows not only the adventurous rover, but dark layered rocks, the light colored peak of Mount Sharp, and the rusting red sand that pervades Mars. If you look closely, you can even see that a small rock is stuck into one of Curiosity's aging wheels. Now nearing the end of 2017, Curiosity continues to explore the layers of sedimentary rocks it has discovered on Vera Rubin Ridge in order to better understand, generally, the ancient geologic history of Mars and, specifically, why these types of rocks exist there. via NASA
Wikipedia picture of the day on November 20, 2017: A view from the observation deck at the top station of the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. The Duquesne Incline is one of two surviving inclines in Pittsburgh, the other being the Monongahela Incline. Wikipedia"
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Young stars themselves are clearing out their nursery in NGC 7822. Within the nebula, bright edges and complex dust sculptures dominate this detailed skyscape taken in infrared light by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. NGC 7822 lies at the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, a glowing star forming region that lies about 3,000 light-years away. The atomic emission of light by the nebula's gas is powered by energetic radiation from the hot stars, whose powerful winds and light also sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes. Stars could still be forming inside the pillars by gravitational collapse, but as the pillars are eroded away, any forming stars will ultimately be cut off from their reservoir of star stuff. This field spans around 40 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 7822. via NASA
Friday, November 17, 2017
Friday, an old Moon smiled for early morning risers. Its waning sunlit crescent is captured in this atmospheric scene from clear skies near Bursa, Turkey, planet Earth. In the subtle twilight hues nearby celestial lights are Jupiter (top) and Venus shining close to the eastern horizon. But today, Saturday, the Moon will be new and early next week its waxing crescent will follow the setting Sun as it sinks in the west. Then, a young Moon's smile will join Saturn and Mercury in early evening skies. via NASA
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