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#Astronomy Pic of the Day
captainpotassium · a month ago
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Milky Way over French Alp Hoodoos via NASA https://ift.tt/y0ENLIu
Real castles aren't this old. And the background galaxy is even older. Looking a bit like an alien castle, the pictured rock spires are called hoodoos and are likely millions of years old. Rare, but found around the world, hoodoos form when dense rocks slow the erosion of softer rock underneath. The pictured hoodoos survive in the French Alps and are named Demoiselles Coiffées -- which translates to English as "Ladies with Hairdos". The background galaxy is part of the central disk of our own Milky Way galaxy and contains stars that are typically billions of years old. The photogenic Cygnus sky region -- rich in dusty dark clouds and red glowing nebulas -- appears just above and behind the hoodoos. The featured image was taken in two stages: the foreground was captured during the evening blue hour, while the background was acquired from the same location later that night.
(Published May 16, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 2 months ago
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Planet Parade over Sydney Opera House via NASA https://ift.tt/KbjWaV8
The world is waking up to a picturesque planet parade. Just before dawn, the eastern skies over much of planet Earth are decorated by a notable line of familiar planets. In much of Earth's northern hemisphere, this line of planets appears most nearly horizontal, but in much of Earth's southern hemisphere, the line appears more nearly vertical. Pictured over the Sydney Opera House in southern Australia, the planet line was captured nearly vertical about five days ago. From top to bottom, the morning planets are Saturn, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter. As April ends, the angular distance between Venus and Jupiter will gradually pass below a degree as they switch places. Then, as May ends, Jupiter will pass near Mars as those two planets switch places. In June, the parade will briefly expand to include Mercury.
(Published April 26, 2022)
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captainpotassium · a month ago
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The Once and Future Stars of Andromeda via NASA https://ift.tt/cMZfauH
This picture of Andromeda shows not only where stars are now, but where stars will soon be. Of course, the big, beautiful Andromeda Galaxy, M31, is a spiral galaxy -- and a mere 2.5 million light-years away. Both space-based and ground-based observatories have been here combined to produce this intriguing composite image of Andromeda, at wavelengths both inside and outside normally visible light. The visible light shows where M31's stars are now -- as highlighted in white and blue hues and imaged by the Hubble, Subaru, and Mayall telescopes. The infrared light shows where M31's future stars will soon form -- as highlighted in orange hues and imaged by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The infrared light tracks enormous lanes of dust, warmed by stars, sweeping along Andromeda's spiral arms. This dust is a tracer of the galaxy's vast interstellar gas -- the raw material for future star formation. These new stars will likely form over the next hundred million years, surely well before Andromeda merges with our Milky Way Galaxy in about 5 billion years.
(Published May 23, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 2 months ago
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N11: Star Clouds of the LMC via NASA https://ift.tt/riEGUJL
Massive stars, abrasive winds, mountains of dust, and energetic light sculpt one of the largest and most picturesque regions of star formation in the Local Group of Galaxies. Known as N11, the region is visible on the upper right of many images of its home galaxy, the Milky Way neighbor known as the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). The featured image was taken for scientific purposes by the Hubble Space Telescope and reprocessed for artistry. Although the section imaged above is known as NGC 1763, the entire N11 emission nebula is second in LMC size only to the Tarantula Nebula. Compact globules of dark dust housing emerging young stars are also visible around the image. A recent study of variable stars in the LMC with Hubble has helped to recalibrate the distance scale of the observable universe, but resulted in a slightly different scale than found using the pervasive cosmic microwave background.
(Published April 12, 2022)
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captainpotassium · a month ago
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A Martian Eclipse: Phobos Crosses the Sun via NASA https://ift.tt/HJvqd9G
What's that passing in front of the Sun? It looks like a moon, but it can't be Earth's Moon, because it isn't round. It's the Martian moon Phobos. The featured video was taken from the surface of Mars a month ago by the Perseverance rover. Phobos, at 11.5 kilometers across, is 150 times smaller than Luna (our moon) in diameter, but also 50 times closer to its parent planet. In fact, Phobos is so close to Mars that it is expected to break up and crash into Mars within the next 50 million years. In the near term, the low orbit of Phobos results in more rapid solar eclipses than seen from Earth. The featured video is shown in real time -- the transit really took about 40 seconds,as shown. The videographer -- the robotic rover Perseverance (Percy) -- continues to explore Jezero Crater on Mars, searching not only for clues to the watery history of the now dry world, but evidence of ancient microbial life.
(Published May 09, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 3 months ago
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Gems of a Maldivean Night via NASA https://ift.tt/n0BFCMX
The southernmost part of the Milky Way contains not only the stars of the Southern Cross, but the closest star system to our Sun -- Alpha Centauri. The Southern Cross itself is topped by the bright, yellowish star Gamma Crucis. A line from Gamma Crucis through the blue star at the bottom of the cross, Acrux, points toward the south celestial pole, located just above the small island in the featured picture -- taken in early March. That island is Madivaru of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Against faint Milky Way starlight, the dark Coal Sack Nebula lies just left of the cross, while farther left along the Milky Way are the bright stars Alpha Centauri (left) and Beta Centauri (Hadar). Alpha Centauri A, a Sun-like star anchoring a three-star system with exoplanets, is a mere 4.3 light-years distant. Seen from Alpha Centauri, our own Sun would be a bright yellowish star in the otherwise recognizable constellation Cassiopeia.
(Published March 28, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 3 months ago
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The Bubble Nebula from Hubble via NASA https://ift.tt/XQfAkwx
Massive stars can blow bubbles. The featured image shows perhaps the most famous of all star-bubbles, NGC 7635, also known simply as The Bubble Nebula. Although it looks delicate, the 7-light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Above and left of the Bubble's center is a hot, O-type star, several hundred thousand times more luminous and some 45-times more massive than the Sun. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud. The intriguing Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex lie a mere 7,100 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia. This sharp, tantalizing view of the cosmic bubble is a reprocessed composite of previously acquired Hubble Space Telescope image data.
(Published March 23, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 5 months ago
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A Year of Sunrises via NASA https://ift.tt/3mZkxpH
Does the Sun always rise in the same direction? No. As the months change, the direction toward the rising Sun changes, too. The featured image shows the direction of sunrise every month during 2021 as seen from the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The camera in the image is always facing due east, with north toward the left and south toward the right. As shown in an accompanying video, the top image was taken in 2020 December, while the bottom image was captured in 2021 December, making 13 images in total. Although the Sun always rises in the east in general, it rises furthest to the south of east on the December solstice, and furthest north of east on the June solstice. In many countries, the December Solstice is considered an official change in season: for example the first day of winter in the North. Solar heating and stored energy in the Earth's surface and atmosphere are near their lowest during winter, making the winter season the coldest of the year.
(Published January 05, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 4 months ago
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Earthrise 1: Historic Image Remastered via NASA https://ift.tt/M6wEmVP
"Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! Here's the Earth coming up. Wow is that pretty!" Soon after that pronouncement, 50 years ago today, one of the most famous images ever taken was snapped from the orbit of the Moon. Now known as "Earthrise", the iconic image shows the Earth rising above the limb of the Moon, as taken by the crew of Apollo 8. But the well-known Earthrise image was actually the second image taken of the Earth rising above the lunar limb -- it was just the first in color. With modern digital technology, however, the real first Earthrise image -- originally in black and white -- has now been remastered to have the combined resolution and color of the first three images. Behold! The featured image is a close-up of the picture that Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders was talking about. Thanks to modern technology and human ingenuity, now we can all see it. (Historical note: A different historic black & white image of the Earth setting behind the lunar limb was taken by the robotic Lunar Orbiter 1 two years earlier.)
(Published February 27, 2022)
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captainpotassium · a month ago
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Young Stars of NGC 346 via NASA https://ift.tt/8yulKFJ
The massive stars of NGC 346 are short lived, but very energetic. The star cluster is embedded in the largest star forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud, some 210,000 light-years distant. Their winds and radiation sweep out an interstellar cavern in the gas and dust cloud about 200 light-years across, triggering star formation and sculpting the region's dense inner edge. Cataloged as N66, the star forming region also appears to contain a large population of infant stars. A mere 3 to 5 million years old and not yet burning hydrogen in their cores, the infant stars are strewn about the embedded star cluster. In this false-color Hubble Space Telescope image, visible and near-infrared light are seen as blue and green, while light from atomic hydrogen emission is red.
(Published May 12, 2022)
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captainpotassium · a month ago
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A Digital Lunar Eclipse via NASA https://ift.tt/BZQYAKn
Recorded on May 15/16 this sequence of exposures follows the Full Moon during a total lunar eclipse as it arcs above treetops in the clearing skies of central Florida. A frame taken every 5 minutes by a digital camera shows the progression of the eclipse over three hours. The bright lunar disk grows dark and red as it glides through planet Earth's shadow. In fact, counting the central frames in the sequence measures the roughly 90 minute duration of the total phase of this eclipse. Around 270 BC, the Greek astronomer Aristarchus also measured the duration of total lunar eclipses, but probably without the benefit of digital watches and cameras. Still, using geometry he devised a simple and impressively accurate way to calculate the Moon's distance in terms of the radius of planet Earth, from the eclipse duration.
(Published May 19, 2022)
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captainpotassium · a month ago
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The Lively Center of the Lagoon Nebula via NASA https://ift.tt/zBCna5H
The center of the Lagoon Nebula is a whirlwind of spectacular star formation. Visible near the image center, at least two long funnel-shaped clouds, each roughly half a light-year long, have been formed by extreme stellar winds and intense energetic starlight. A tremendously bright nearby star, Herschel 36, lights the area. Vast walls of dust hide and redden other hot young stars. As energy from these stars pours into the cool dust and gas, large temperature differences in adjoining regions can be created generating shearing winds which may cause the funnels. This picture, spanning about 10 light years, combines images taken in six colors by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8, lies about 5000 light years distant toward the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius).
(Published May 25, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 3 months ago
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Leaning Tower, Active Sun via NASA https://ift.tt/BVAjD4T
The natural filter of a hazy atmosphere offered this recognizable architecture and sunset view on March 27. Dark against the solar disk, large sunspots in solar active regions 2975 and 2976 are wedged between the Duomo of Pisa and its famous Leaning Tower. Only one day later, Sun-staring spacecraft watched active region 2975 unleash a frenzy of solar flares along with two coronal mass ejections. The largest impacted the magnetosphere on March 31 triggering a geomagnetic storm and aurorae in high-latitude night skies. On March 30, active region 2975 erupted again with a powerful X-class solar flare that caused a temporary radio blackout on planet Earth.
(Published April 01, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 3 months ago
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Venus and Mars: Passing in the Night via NASA https://ift.tt/1sC0AOr
When two planets pass on the night sky, they can usually be seen near each other for a week or more. In the case of this planetary conjunction, Venus and Mars passed within 4 degrees of each other earlier this month. The featured image was taken a few days prior, when Venus was slowing rising in the pre-dawn sky, night by night, while Mars was slowly setting. The image, a four-part mosaic, was captured in Brazil from the small town Teresópolis. Besides Venus and Mars, the morning sky now also includes the more distant planet Saturn. Of course, these conjunctions are only angular -- Venus, Mars, and Saturn continue to orbit the Sun in very different parts of our Solar System. Next week, the angle between Saturn and Mars will drop to below a quarter of a degree.
(Published March 29, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 3 months ago
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A Road to the Stars via NASA https://ift.tt/PKCks3u
Pictured -- a very scenic road to the stars. The road approaches La Silla Observatory in Chile, with the ESO's 3.6-meter telescope just up ahead. To the left are some futuristic-looking support structures for the planned BlackGEM telescopes, an array of optical telescopes that will help locate optical counterparts to gravitational waves detections by LIGO and other detectors. But there is much more. Red airglow illuminates the night sky on the right, while the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy slants across the image center. Jupiter can be seen just above the band near the image center, while Saturn is visible just above the 3.6-meter telescope dome. The two largest satellite galaxies of our Milky Way Galaxy, the LMC and SMC, are seen on the far right. The featured image panorama was built up from multiple 15-second exposures that were captured on 2019 June 30. Two days later, La Silla experienced a rare total eclipse of the Sun.
(Published March 15, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 3 months ago
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Colorful Airglow Bands Surround Milky Way via NASA https://ift.tt/LgRqhXu
Why would the sky glow like a giant repeating rainbow? Airglow. Now air glows all of the time, but it is usually hard to see. A disturbance however -- like an approaching storm -- may cause noticeable rippling in the Earth's atmosphere. These gravity waves are oscillations in air analogous to those created when a rock is thrown in calm water. Red airglow likely originates from OH molecules about 87-kilometers high, excited by ultraviolet light from the Sun, while orange and green airglow is likely caused by sodium and oxygen atoms slightly higher up. While driving near Keluke Lake in Qinghai Provence in China a few years ago, the photographer originally noticed mainly the impressive central band of the Milky Way Galaxy. Stopping to photograph it, surprisingly, the resulting sensitive camera image showed airglow bands to be quite prominent and span the entire sky. The featured image has been digitally enhanced to make the colors more vibrant.
(Published March 13, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 3 months ago
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A Flower Shaped Rock on Mars via NASA https://ift.tt/36ui0kv
It is one of the more unusual rocks yet found on Mars. Smaller than a penny, the rock has several appendages that make it look, to some, like a flower. Although it would be a major discovery if the rock was truly a fossilized ancient Martian flower, there are less spectacular -- and currently preferred -- explanations for its unusual structure. One theory that has emerged is that the rock is a type of concretion created by minerals deposited by water in cracks or divisions in existing rock. These concretions can be compacted together, can be harder and denser than surrounding rock, and can remain even after the surrounding rock erodes away. The flower structure may also be caused by crystal clusters. The small rock, named Blackthorn Salt, has similarities to previously imaged Martian pebbles. The featured image was taken by the Curiosity rover on Mars in late February. Scientists will continue to study data and images taken of this -- and similar -- surprising Martian rocks.
(Published March 09, 2022)
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captainpotassium · 7 months ago
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Geminids from Gemini via NASA https://ift.tt/3nlNTz2
Where are all of these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Gemini. That is why the major meteor shower in December is known as the Geminids -- because shower meteors all appear to come from a radiant toward Gemini. Three dimensionally, however, sand-sized debris expelled from the unusual asteroid 3200 Phaethon follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the constellation of Gemini. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Gemini. Featured here, a composite of many images taken during the 2020 Geminids meteor shower shows over 200 bright meteorss that streaked through the sky during the night December 14. The best meteor shower in November, the Leonids, peaks tonight and tomorrow. Unfortunately, this year, dim meteors during the early-morning peak will be hard to see against a sky lit by a bright gibbous moon. Still, a few bright Leonid meteors should be visible each hour.
(Published November 16, 2021)
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captainpotassium · 3 months ago
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Moon in Inverted Colors via NASA https://ift.tt/ECVDH4W
Which moon is this? It's Earth's moon -- but in inverted colors. Here, the pixel values corresponding to light and dark areas have been translated in reverse, or inverted, producing a false-color representation reminiscent of a black and white photographic negative. However, this is an inverted color image -- where the muted colors of the moon are real but digitally exaggerated before inversion. Normally bright rays from the large crater Tycho dominate the southern (bottom) features as easily followed dark green lines emanating from the 85-kilometer diameter impact site. Normally dark lunar mare appear light and silvery. The image was acquired in Southend-on-Sea, England, UK. Historically, astronomical images recorded on photographic plates were directly examined on inverted-color negatives because it helped the eye pick out faint details.
(Published March 08, 2022)
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captainpotassium · a month ago
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NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide via NASA https://ift.tt/z3vrTMl
Astronomers turn detectives when trying to figure out the cause of startling sights like NGC 1316. Investigations indicate that NGC 1316 is an enormous elliptical galaxy that started, about 100 million years ago, to devour a smaller spiral galaxy neighbor, NGC 1317, just on the upper right. Supporting evidence includes the dark dust lanes characteristic of a spiral galaxy, and faint swirls and shells of stars and gas visible in this wide and deep image. One thing that >remains unexplained is the unusually small globular star clusters, seen as faint dots on the image. Most elliptical galaxies have more and brighter globular clusters than NGC 1316. Yet the observed globulars are too old to have been created by the recent spiral collision. One hypothesis is that these globulars survive from an even earlier galaxy that was subsumed into NGC 1316. Another surprising attribute of NGC 1316, also known as Fornax A, is its giant lobes of gas that glow brightly in radio waves.
(Published May 17, 2022)
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