Author Topic: APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day)  (Read 87591 times)

Offline Sverre

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2012 March 30: The Grand Canyon in Moonlight



Image Credit & Copyright: Malcolm Park (North York Astronomical Association)

Explanation: In this alluring night skyscape recorded on March 26, a young Moon stands over the distant western horizon in conjunction with brilliant planet Venus. In the foreground, the Colorado River glistens in moonlight as it winds through the Grand Canyon, seen from the canyon's southern rim at Lipan Point. Of course, the Grand Canyon is known as one of the wonders of planet Earth. Carved by the river, the enormous fissure is about 270 miles (440 kilometers) long, up to 18 miles (30 kilometers) wide and approaches 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) deep. On this date, wonders of the night sky included the compact Pleiades and V-shaped Hyades star clusters poised just above the Moon. Bright planet Jupiter is below the closer Moon/Venus pairing, near the western horizon.

Offline Velvet Revolver

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Paris by Night
Image Credit & Copyright: Serge Brunier (TWAN)
Explanation: Do you recognize the city lights of Paris in this picture? Taken on March 25 from the top of the 210 meter tall Montparnasse skyscraper, many will spot the looming Eiffel Tower, or the large domed structure of Les Invalides (right), or the colorfully lit elevated Metro train line gently curving toward picture center. You can even pick out the Arc de Triomphe close to the horizon on the right. But regardless of your location, the celestial lights near the western horizon should look very familiar. The lovely triple conjuntion of brilliant Venus (top), Jupiter, and a young crescent Moon was visible in evening skies around planet Earth.

Offline Captain Tophat

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The last two are spectacular.

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2012 April 01: Dad Quiets Omicron Ceti



Image Credit & Copyright: Tamas Ladanyi (TWAN)

Explanation: The Omicron Cetians have been silenced. After alien-like monsters were reported to disturb his daughter's sleep for four nights in a row, this father took action. When last questioned, the daughter seemed to indicate that the hullabaloo might have come from a planetary system possibly sounding like "Omicron Ceti". Getting to the root of the problem, the dad then took his daughter outside and used a powerful laser to blast the alien's home world. Humorously, the parent star Omicron Ceti now shows itself to be unstable and is dramatically increasing its brightness. Happy April Fool's Day from the folks at APOD. In actuality, the star being pointed out is Mira, a famous variable star expected to reach its maximum brightness again in late August. The father in question was actually pointing out, to his daughter, the star that shares her name.

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Tungurahua Erupts
Image Credit & Copyright: Patrick Taschler
Explanation: Volcano Tungurahua sometimes erupts spectacularly. Pictured above, molten rock so hot it glows visibly pours down the sides of the 5,000-meter high Tungurahua, while a cloud of dark ash is seen being ejected toward the left. Wispy white clouds flow around the lava-lit peak, while a star-lit sky shines in the distance. The above image was captured in 2006 as ash fell around the adventurous photographer. Located in Ecuador, Tungurahua has become active roughly every 90 years since for the last 1,300 years.

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2012 April 03: M46 and M47: Star Clusters Young and Old



Image Credit & Copyright: Sergio Eguivar (Buenos Aires Skies

Explanation: Many stars form in clusters. Galactic or open star clusters are relatively young swarms of bright stars born together near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Separated by about a degree on the sky, two nice examples are M46 (upper left) 5,400 light-years in the distance and M47 (lower right) only 1,600 light-years away toward the nautical constellation Puppis. Around 300 million years young M46 contains a few hundred stars in a region about 30 light-years across. Aged 80 million years, M47 is a smaller but looser cluster of about 50 stars spanning 10 light-years. But this portrait of stellar youth also contains an ancient interloper. The small, colorful patch of glowing gas in M46 is actually the planetary nebula NGC 2438 - the final phase in the life of a sun-like star billions of years old. NGC 2438 is estimated to be only 3,000 light-years distant and likely represents a foreground object, only by chance appearing along our line of sight to youthful M46.

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Centaurus A
Image Credit & Copyright: SSRO-South (Steve Mazlin, Jack Harvey, Daniel Verschatse, Rick Gilbert)
and Kevin Ivarsen (PROMPT / CTIO / UNC)
Explanation: What's the closest active galaxy to planet Earth? That would be Centaurus A, only 11 million light-years distant. Spanning over 60,000 light-years, the peculiar elliptical galaxy is also known as NGC 5128. Forged in a collision of two otherwise normal galaxies, Centaurus A's fantastic jumble of young blue star clusters, pinkish star forming regions, and imposing dark dust lanes are seen here in remarkable detail. The colorful galaxy portrait was recorded under clear Chilean skies at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. 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.

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For Sverre  :P



Zodiacal Light Panorama
Image Credit & Copyright: Miloslav Druckmüller (UM FSI, Brno Univ. of Technology), Shadia Habbal (IfA, Univ. of Hawaii)
Explanation: Sweeping from the eastern to western horizon, this 360 degree panorama follows the band of zodiacal light along the solar system's ecliptic plane. Dust scattering sunlight produces the faint zodiacal glow that spans this fundamental coordinate plane of the celestial sphere, corresponding to the apparent yearly path of the Sun through the sky and the plane of Earth's orbit. The fascinating panorama is a mosaic of images taken from dusk to dawn over the course of a single night at two different locations on Mauna Kea. The lights of Hilo, Hawaii are on the eastern (left) horizon, with the Subaru and twin Keck telescope structures near the western horizon. On that well chosen moonless night, Venus was shining as the morning star just above the eastern horizon, and Saturn was close to opposition. In fact, Saturn is seen immersed in a brightening of the zodiacal band known as the gegenschein. The gegenschein also lies near 180 degrees in elongation or angular distance from the Sun along the ecliptic. In the mosaic projection, the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy runs at an angle, crossing the horizontal band of zodiacal light above the two horizons. Nebulae, stars, and dust clouds of the bulging galactic center are rising in the east.

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Venus and the Sisters
Image Credit & Copyright: Fred Espenak (Bifrost Astronomical Observatory)
Explanation: After wandering about as far from the Sun on the sky as Venus can get, the brilliant evening star crossed paths with the Pleiades star cluster earlier this week. The beautiful conjunction was enjoyed by skygazers around the world. Taken on April 2, this celestial group photo captures the view from Portal, Arizona, USA. Also known as the Seven Sisters, even the brighter naked-eye Pleiades stars are seen to be much fainter than Venus. And while Venus and the sisters do look star-crossed, their spiky appearance is the diffraction pattern caused by multiple leaves in the aperture of the telephoto lens. The last similar conjunction of Venus and Pleiades occurred nearly 8 years ago. As it did then, Venus will again move on to cross paths with the disk of the Sun in June.

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2012 April 07: Conjunction Haiku



Image Credit & Copyright: Doug Zubenel (TWAN)

Sister planet stands
together with sister stars.
Celebrate the sky.

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Io: Moon Over Jupiter
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA
Explanation: How big is Jupiter's moon Io? The most volcanic body in the Solar System, Io (usually pronounced "EYE-oh") is 3,600 kilometers in diameter, about the size of planet Earth's single large natural satellite. Gliding past Jupiter at the turn of the millennium, the Cassini spacecraft captured this awe inspiring view of active Io with the largest gas giant as a backdrop, offering a stunning demonstration of the ruling planet's relative size. Although in the above picture Io appears to be located just in front of the swirling Jovian clouds, Io hurtles around its orbit once every 42 hours at a distance of 420,000 kilometers or so from the center of Jupiter. That puts Io nearly 350,000 kilometers above Jupiter's cloud tops, roughly equivalent to the distance between Earth and Moon. The Cassini spacecraft itself was about 10 million kilometers from Jupiter when recording the image data.

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2012 April 09: Blue Straggler Stars in Globular Cluster M53



Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA

Explanation: If our Sun were part of M53, the night sky would glow like a jewel box of bright stars. M53, also known as NGC 5024, is one of about 250 globular clusters that survive in our Galaxy. Most of the stars in M53 are older and redder than our Sun, but some enigmatic stars appear to be bluer and younger. These young stars might contradict the hypothesis that all the stars in M53 formed at nearly the same time. These unusual stars are known as blue stragglers and are unusually common in M53. After much debate, blue stragglers are now thought to be stars rejuvenated by fresh matter falling in from a binary star companion. By analyzing pictures of globular clusters like the above image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers use the abundance of stars like blue stragglers to help determine the age of the globular cluster and hence a limit on the age of the universe. M53, visible with a binoculars towards the constellation of Bernice's Hair (Coma Berenices), contains over 250,000 stars and is one of the furthest globulars from the center of our Galaxy.

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A Fox Fur, a Unicorn, and a Christmas Tree
Image Credit: Rolf Geissinger
Explanation: What do the following things have in common: a cone, the fur of a fox, and a Christmas tree? Answer: they all occur in the constellation of the unicorn (Monoceros). Pictured above as a star forming region cataloged as NGC 2264, the complex jumble of cosmic gas and dust is about 2,700 light-years distant and mixes reddish emission nebulae excited by energetic light from newborn stars with dark interstellar dust clouds. Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds lie close to the hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue reflection nebulae. The above image spans about 3/4 degree or nearly 1.5 full moons, covering 40 light-years at the distance of NGC 2264. Its cast of cosmic characters includes the Fox Fur Nebula, whose convoluted pelt lies at the upper left, bright variable star S Mon immersed in the blue-tinted haze just below the Fox Fur, and the Cone Nebula near the tree's top. Of course, the stars of NGC 2264 are also known as the Christmas Tree star cluster. The triangular tree shape traced by the stars appears sideways here, with its apex at the Cone Nebula and its broader base centered near S Mon.


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2012 April 11: Geostationary Satellites Beyond the Alps



Video Credit & Copyright: Michael Kunze

Explanation: Why don't those stars move? Stars in the sky will typically appear to rise and set as the Earth turns. Those far to the north or south will appear to circle the pole. If you look closely at the above time-lapse movie, however, there are points of light that appear stationary. These objects are not stars but human-launched robotic spacecraft that remain fixed high above the Earth's equator. Called geostationary satellites, they don't fall down because they do orbit the Earth -- they just orbit at exactly the same speed that the Earth rotates. The orbital distance where this is possible is much farther than the International Space Station but much closer than the Moon. The video was taken from one of the highest revolving restaurants in the world located on the Mittelallalin in the Swiss Alps. In the foreground is a mountain known as the Allalinhorn. An even closer inspection will show that the geostationary satellites flash with glints of reflected sunlight. The satellites also all appear on a single line -- actually the projection of the Earth's equator onto the sky.

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Yuri's Planet
Image Credit: ISS Expedition 30, NASA
Explanation: On another April 12th, in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alexseyevich Gagarin became the first human to see planet Earth from space. Commenting on his view from orbit he reported, "The sky is very dark; the Earth is bluish. Everything is seen very clearly". To celebrate, consider this recent image from the orbiting International Space Station. A stunning view of the planet at night from an altitude of 240 miles, it was recorded on March 28. The lights of Moscow, Russia are near picture center and one of the station's solar panel arrays is on the left. Aurora and the glare of sunlight lie along the planet's gently curving horizon. Stars above the horizon include the compact Pleiades star cluster, immersed in the auroral glow.

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2012 April 13: A Dust Devil of Mars



Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Explanation: It was late in the northern martian spring when the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spied this local denizen. Tracking south and east (down and right) across the flat, dust-covered Amazonis Planitia the core of the whirling dust devil is about 30 meters in diameter. Lofting dust into the thin martian atmosphere, its plume reaches more than 800 meters above the surface. Not following the path of the dust devil, the plume is blown toward the east by a westerly breeze. Common in this region, dust devils occur as the surface is heated by the Sun, generating warm, rising air currents that begin to rotate. Tangential wind speeds of up to 110 kilometers per hour are reported for dust devils in other HiRISE images.

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Six Moons of Saturn
Image Credit & Copyright: Rafael Defavari
Explanation: How many moons does Saturn have? So far 62 have been discovered, the smallest only a fraction of a kilometer across. Six of its largest satellites can be seen here, though, in a sharp Saturnian family portrait taken on March 9. Larger than Earth's Moon and even slightly larger than Mercury, Titan has a diameter of 5,150 kilometers and starts the line-up at the lower left. Continuing to the right across the frame are Mimas, Tethys, [Saturn], Enceladus, Dione, and Rhea at far right. Saturn's first known natural satellite, Titan was discovered in 1655 by Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens, while most recently the satellite provisionally designated S/2009 S1 was found by the Cassini Imaging Science Team in 2009. Tonight, Saturn reaches opposition in planet Earth's sky, offering the best telescopic views of the ringed planet and moons.


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Fata Morgana: A Possibly Titanic Mirage
Image Credit & Copyright: Mila Zinkova
Explanation: Did this mirage help sink the Titanic? The optical phenomenon called Fata Morgana can make strange shapes or a false wall of water appear above a watery horizon. When conditions are right, light reflecting off of cold water will be bent by an unusual layer of warm air above to arrive at the observer from several different angles. A conceptually comparable mirage can make a setting Sun appear strangely distorted or a distant pavement appear wet. One hundred years ago today, such a Fata Morgana mirage might have obscured real icebergs from the clear view of crew onboard the Titanic. Additional evidence for this distortion hypothesis arises from the nearby vessel SS Californian which reported sightings consistent with Fata Morgana mirages. The above Fata Morgana mirage was taken off the US Pacific coast in 2008.


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The Eagle Nebula from Kitt Peak
Image Credit: T. A. Rector & B. A. Wolpa, NOAO, AURA
Explanation: From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming. Already visible are several young bright blue stars whose light and winds are burning away and pushing back the remaining filaments and walls of gas and dust. The Eagle emission nebula, tagged M16, lies about 6500 light years away, spans about 20 light-years, and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of the Serpent (Serpens). This picture combines three specific emitted colors and was taken with the 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, USA.

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Antares and Clouds
Image Credit & Copyright: Ivan Eder
Explanation: Antares is a huge star. In a class called red supergiant, Antares is about 850 times the diameter of our own Sun, 15 times more massive, and 10,000 times brighter. Antares is the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius and one of the brighter stars in all the night sky. Located about 550 light years away, Antares is seen on the left surrounded by a yellowish nebula of gas which it has itself expelled. Radiation from Antares' blue stellar companion helps cause the nebular gas to glow. Far behind Antares in the above image is the globular star cloud M4, while the bright star on the right is Al Niyat.

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The Flight Deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour
Image Credit & Copyright: Ben Cooper (Launch Photography), Spaceflight Now
Explanation: What would it be like to fly a space shuttle? Although the last of NASA's space shuttles has now been retired, it is still fun to contemplate sitting at the controls of one of the humanity's most sophisticated machines. Pictured above is the flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour, the youngest shuttle and the second to last ever launched. The numerous panels and displays allowed the computer-controlled orbiter to enter the top of Earth's atmosphere at greater than the speed of sound and -- just thirty minutes later -- land on a runway like an airplane. The retired space shuttles are now being sent to museums, with Endeavour being sent to California Space Center in Los Angeles, California, Atlantis to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Merritt Island, Florida, and Discovery to the Udvar-Hazy Annex of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. Therefore sitting in a shuttle pilot's chair and personally contemplating the thrill of human space flight may actually be in your future.

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2012 April 19: Discovery Departs



Image Credit & Copyright: Ben Cooper (Launch Photography)

Explanation: Climbing into cloudy skies, the Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery (OV-103) took off from Kennedy Space Center Tuesday at 7 am local time. This time, its final departure from KSC, it rode atop a modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Following a farewell flyover of the Space Coast, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Washington DC, Discovery headed for Dulles International Airport in Virginia, destined to reside at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center. Discovery retires as  NASA's most traveled shuttle orbiter, covering more than 148 million miles in 39 missions that included the delivery of the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit. Operational from 1984 through 2011, Discovery spent a total of one year in space.

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M57: The Ring Nebula
Credit: Composite Image Data - Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Legacy Archive;
Processing and additional imaging - Robert Gendler
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. Its classic appearance is understood to be due to perspective - our view from planet Earth looks down the center of a roughly barrel-shaped cloud of glowing gas. But expansive looping structures are seen to extend far beyond the Ring Nebula's familiar central regions in this intriguing composite of ground based and Hubble Space Telescope images with narrowband image data from Subaru. 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 the dying, once sun-like star at the nebula's center. Intense ultraviolet light from the hot central star ionizes atoms in the gas. Ionized oxygen atoms produce the characteristic greenish glow and ionized hydrogen the prominent red emission. The central ring of the Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away. To accompany tonight's shooting stars it shines in the northen constellation Lyra.

Offline vfly79

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That is such an awesome picture. It looks like a really cool flower. Almost like a dahlia. :lol: