Author Topic: APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day)  (Read 87422 times)

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Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 Deflects Light 
 Credit:  NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg, DAO) & H. Ford (JHU)

 Explanation:  It is one of the most massive objects in the visible universe. In this view from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, Abell 1689 is seen to warp space as predicted by Einstein's theory of gravity -- deflecting light from individual galaxies which lie behind the cluster to produce multiple, curved images. The power of this enormous gravitational lens depends on its mass, but the visible matter, in the form of the cluster's yellowish galaxies, only accounts for about one percent of the mass needed to make the observed bluish arcing images of background galaxies. In fact, most of the gravitational mass required to warp space enough to explain this cosmic scale lensing is in the form of still mysterious dark matter. As the dominant source of Abell 1689's gravity, the dark matter's unseen presence is mapped out by the lensed arcs and distorted background galaxy images. Surprisingly, close inspection of the above image has revealed the presence of over 100,000 globular star clusters in the galaxy cluster.

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Moon, Venus and Planet Earth 
 Composite Image Credit & Copyright:  Fefo Bouvier

 Explanation:  In this engaging scene from planet Earth, the Moon shines through cloudy skies following sunset on the evening of September 8. Despite the fading light, the camera's long exposure still recorded a colorful, detailed view of a shoreline and western horizon looking toward the island San Gabriel from Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Lights from Buenos Aires, Argentina are along the horizon on the left, across the broad Rio de la Plata estuary. The long exposure strongly overexposed the Moon and sky around it, though. So the photographer quickly snapped a shorter one to merge with the first image in the area around the bright lunar disk. As the the second image was made with a telephoto setting, the digital merger captures both Earth and sky, exaggerating the young Moon's slender crescent shape in relation to the two nearby bright stars. The more distant is bluish Spica, alpha star of the constellation Virgo. Closest to the Moon is Earth's evening star, planet Venus, emerging from a lunar occultation.

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Night at the Drive-in 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Chris Cook

 Explanation:  Colorful stars trail through this late summer, night skyscape from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The picture was composed by stacking 12 consecutive 1 minute long digital camera exposures to follow the trails, a reflection of our fair planet's daily rotation. It also records faint clouds of the Milky Way in the clear sky, stretching above a local drive-in movie theater. In fact, watching movies from cars at the drive-in was once a more common night time activity. But while the stars still shine, drive-in theaters have faded from the American landscape over the decades since the 1950s. Still, this recent scene includes a short exposure made as the projector beamed a space age image to the movie screen, and drive-in skygazers watched a view of the Earth below the International Space Station, under the stars above.

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http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130921.html

Antares Rocket Launch 
 Image Credit:  NASA, Bill Ingalls

 Explanation:  The sky looks dark in this scene from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia. Captured on Wednesday, September 18, an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket is leaving launch pad-0A with the Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard. Though it looks like night, the photograph was taken at 10:58am EDT, under bright, clear morning skies, with a digital camera modified to record infrared images. The Sun itself is above and left of the picture frame, creating strong glare and internal reflections in the camera lens at near-infrared wavelengths. In the false-color presentation, the vegetation and watery reflections also take on an otherworldly pallor. Reaching orbit, the Cygnus spacecraft is now on its way to a Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. The spacecraft will deliver about 1,300 pounds (589 kilograms) of cargo to the Expedition 37 crew.

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Apollo's Analemma 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Anthony Ayiomamitis (TWAN)

 Explanation:  Today, the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading south at 20:44 Universal Time. An equinox (equal night), this astronomical event marks the first day of autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the south. With the Sun on the celestial equator, Earth dwellers will experience nearly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. To celebrate, consider this remarkable record of the Sun's yearly journey through planet Earth's sky, made with planned multiple exposures captured on a single piece of 35 millimeter film. Exposures were made at the same time of day (9:00am local time), capturing the Sun's position on dates from January 7 through December 20, 2003. The multiple suns trace an intersecting curve known as an analemma. A foreground base exposure of the Temple of Apollo in ancient Corinth, Greece, appropriate for an analemma, was digitally merged with the film image. Equinox dates correspond to the middle points (not the intersection point) of the analemma. The curve is oriented at the corresponding direction and altitude for the temple, so the Sun's position for the September equinox is at the upper midpoint near picture center. Summer and winter solstices are at analemma top and bottom.

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IC 4628: The Prawn Nebula 
 Credit:  ESO; Acknowledgement: Martin Pugh

 Explanation:  South of Antares, in the tail of the nebula-rich constellation Scorpius, lies emission nebula IC 4628. Nearby hot, massive stars, millions of years young, radiate the nebula with invisible ultraviolet light, stripping electrons from atoms. The electrons eventually recombine with the atoms to produce the visible nebular glow, dominated by the red emission of hydrogen. At an estimated distance of 6,000 light-years, the region shown is about 250 light-years across, spanning an area equivalent to four full moons on the sky. The nebula is also cataloged as Gum 56 for Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum, but seafood-loving astronomers might know this cosmic cloud as The Prawn Nebula.

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The Local Fluff 
 Illustration Credit:  NASA, Goddard, Adler, U. Chicago, Wesleyan

 Explanation:  The stars are not alone. In the disk of our Milky Way Galaxy about 10 percent of visible matter is in the form of gas, called the interstellar medium (ISM). The ISM is not uniform, and shows patchiness even near our Sun. It can be quite difficult to detect the local ISM because it is so tenuous and emits so little light. This mostly hydrogen gas, however, absorbs some very specific colors that can be detected in the light of the nearest stars. A working map of the local ISM within 20 light-years, based on ongoing observations and recent particle detections from the Earth-orbiting Interstellar Boundary Exporer satellite (IBEX), is shown above. These observations indicate that our Sun is moving through a Local Interstellar Cloud as this cloud flows outwards from the Scorpius-Centaurus Association star forming region. Our Sun may exit the Local Cloud, also called the Local Fluff, during the next 10,000 years. Much remains unknown about the local ISM, including details of its distribution, its origin, and how it affects the Sun and the Earth. Unexpectedly, recent IBEX spacecraft measurements indicate that the direction from which neutral interstellar particles flow through our Solar System is changing.

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M81 versus M82 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Ivan Eder

 Explanation:  Here in the Milky Way galaxy we have astronomical front row seats as M81 and M82 face-off, a mere 12 million light-years away. Locked in a gravitational struggle for the past billion years or so, the two bright galaxies are captured in this deep telescopic snapshot, constructed from 25 hours of image data. Their most recent close encounter likely resulted in the enhanced spiral arms of M81 (left) and violent star forming regions in M82 so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. After repeated passes, in a few billion years only one galaxy will remain. From our perspective, this cosmic moment is seen through a foreground veil of the Milky Way's stars and clouds of dust. Faintly reflecting the foreground starlight, the pervasive dust clouds are relatively unexplored galactic cirrus, or integrated flux nebulae, only a few hundred light-years above the plane of the Milky Way.

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M31 versus M33 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors)

 Explanation:  Separated by about 14 degrees (28 Full Moons) in planet Earth's sky, spiral galaxies M31 ,left, and M33 are both large members of the Local Group, along with our own Milky Way galaxy. This wide-angle, telescopic mosaic captures colorful details of spiral structure in both, while the massive neighboring galaxies seem to be balanced either side of bright Mirach, beta star in the constellation Andromeda. But M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, is really 2.5 million light-years distant and M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, is also about 3 million light years away. Mirach, just 200 light-years from the Sun, lies well within the Milky Way, along with the dim clouds of dust drifting through the frame only a few hundred light-years above the galactic plane. Although they look far apart, M31 and M33 are locked in a mutual gravitational embrace. Radio astronomers have found indications of a bridge of neutral hydrogen gas that could connect the two, evidence of a closer encounter in the past. Based on measurements, gravitational simulations currently predict that the Milky Way, M31, and M33 will all undergo mutual close encounters and potentially mergers, billions of years in the future.

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Andromeda on the Rocks 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Cristian Fattinnanzi

 Explanation:  How far can you see? The Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light years away is the most distant object easily seen by the unaided eye. Other apparent denizens of the night sky, stars, clusters, and nebulae, typically range from a few hundred to a few thousand light-years away and lie well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Also known as M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is the faint smudge near top center of this Earth and skyscape, taken from eastern Italy, near Monte Conero on the Adriatic sea coast. From a few centimeters to a few million light-years, the picture demonstrates a stunning range of vision. Though galaxy and seaside rocks could be seen with the eye on that clear summer night, no camera captured this view in a single exposure. Because the stars trailed above the horizon while the picture was made, separate exposures tracking the stars were combined with one of rocks and cliffs made with the camera steadied to create the tantalizing scene.

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Equinox Earth 
 Image Credit:  Roscosmos / NTSOMZ / zelenyikot.livejournal.com - Courtesy: Igor Tirsky

 Explanation:  From a geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the equator, Russian meteorological satellite Elektro-L takes high-resolution images our fair planet every 30 minutes. But only twice a year, during an Equinox, can it capture an image like this one, showing an entire hemisphere bathed in sunlight. At an Equinox, the Earth's axis of rotation is not tilted toward or away from the Sun, so the solar illumination can extend to both the planet's poles. Of course, this Elektro-L picture was recorded on September 22nd, at the northern hemisphere's autumnal equinox. For a moment on that date, the Sun was behind the geostationary satellite and a telltale glint of reflected sunlight is seen crossing the equator, at the location on the planet with satellite and sun directly overhead (5MB animated gif).

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The Fairy of Eagle Nebula 
 Image Credit:  The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA

 Explanation:  The dust sculptures of the Eagle Nebula are evaporating. As powerful starlight whittles away these cool cosmic mountains, the statuesque pillars that remain might be imagined as mythical beasts. Pictured above is one of several striking dust pillars of the Eagle Nebula that might be described as a gigantic alien fairy. This fairy, however, is ten light years tall and spews radiation much hotter than common fire. The greater Eagle Nebula, M16, is actually a giant evaporating shell of gas and dust inside of which is a growing cavity filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an open cluster of stars. The above image in scientifically re-assigned colors was released in 2005 as part of the fifteenth anniversary celebration of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Angus Lau, Y Van, SS Tong (Jade Scope Observatory)

 Explanation:  The explosion is over but the consequences continue. About eleven thousand years ago a star in the constellation of Vela could be seen to explode, creating a strange point of light briefly visible to humans living near the beginning of recorded history. The outer layers of the star crashed into the interstellar medium, driving a shock wave that is still visible today. A roughly spherical, expanding shock wave is visible in X-rays. The above image captures some of that filamentary and gigantic shock in visible light. As gas flies away from the detonated star, it decays and reacts with the interstellar medium, producing light in many different colors and energy bands. Remaining at the center of the Vela Supernova Remnant is a pulsar, a star as dense as nuclear matter that rotates completely around more than ten times in a single second.

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Venus, Zodiacal Light, and the Galactic Center 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Juergen Schmoll (Durham University, CfAI)

 Explanation:  The bulging center of our Milky Way Galaxy rests on a pillar of light in this luminous skyscape. Recorded on September 22nd in dark South African skies, rivers of dust seem to flow downward from the galactic center towards Antares, yellowish alpha star of the constellation Scorpius, near the top of the scene. The brightest celestial beacon present is not a star at all though, but planet Venus, still dominant in the western sky after sunset. Of course, the pillar of light stretching upward from the horizon is Zodiacal light. Sunlight scattered by dust along the plane of the ecliptic creates the zodiacal glow, prominent in the evening after twilight during the southern hemisphere spring.

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Sh2-155: The Cave Nebula 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Jimmy Walker

 Explanation:  This colorful skyscape features the dusty, reddish glow of Sharpless catalog emission region Sh2-155, the Cave Nebula. About 2,400 light-years away, the scene lies along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the royal northern constellation of Cepheus. Astronomical explorations of the region reveal that it has formed at the boundary of the massive Cepheus B molecular cloud and the hot, young, blue stars of the Cepheus OB 3 association. The bright rim of ionized hydrogen gas is energized by the radiation from the hot stars, dominated by the bright blue O-type star above picture center. Radiation driven ionization fronts are likely triggering collapsing cores and new star formation within. Appropriately sized for a stellar nursery, the cosmic cave is over 10 light-years across.

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Three Galaxies and a Comet 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Miloslav Druckmuller (Brno University of Technology)

 Explanation:  Diffuse starlight and dark nebulae along the southern Milky Way arc over the horizon and sprawl diagonally through this gorgeous nightscape. The breath-taking mosaic spans a wide 100 degrees, with the rugged terrain of the Patagonia, Argentina region in the foreground. Along with the insider's view of our own galaxy, the image features our outside perspective on two irregular satellite galaxies - the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The scene also captures the broad tail and bright coma of Comet McNaught, the Great Comet of 2007. Currently, many sky enthusiasts are following the development of Comet ISON, a comet which might become the Great Comet of 2013.

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Saturn from Above 
 Image Credit & License:  NASA/JPL/SSI;  Composition:  Gordan Ugarkovic

 Explanation:  This image of Saturn could not have been taken from Earth. No Earth based picture could possibly view the night side of Saturn and the corresponding shadow cast across Saturn's rings. Since Earth is much closer to the Sun than Saturn, only the day side of the ringed planet is visible from the Earth. In fact, this image mosaic was taken earlier this month by the robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. The beautiful rings of Saturn are seen in full expanse, while cloud details are visible including the polar hexagon surrounding the north pole, and an extended light-colored storm system.



A Massive Star in NGC 6357 
 Image Credit:  NASA, ESA and J. M. Apellániz (IAA, Spain)

 Explanation:  For reasons unknown, NGC 6357 is forming some of the most massive stars ever discovered. One such massive star, near the center of NGC 6357, is framed above carving out its own interstellar castle with its energetic light from surrounding gas and dust. In the greater nebula, the intricate patterns are caused by complex interactions between interstellar winds, radiation pressures, magnetic fields, and gravity. The overall glow of the nebula results from the emission of light from ionized hydrogen gas. Near the more obvious Cat's Paw nebula, NGC 6357 houses the open star cluster Pismis 24, home to many of these tremendously bright and blue stars. The central part of NGC 6357 shown spans about 10 light years and lies about 8,000 light years away toward the constellation of the Scorpion.

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North Celestial Tree 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Jerónimo Losada

 Explanation:  If you climbed this magnificent tree, it looks like you could reach out and touch the North Celestial Pole at the center of all the star trail arcs. The well-composed image was recorded over a period of nearly 2 hours as a series of 30 second long, consecutive exposures on the night of October 5. The exposures were made with a digital camera fixed to a tripod near Almaden de la Plata, province of Seville, in southern Spain, planet Earth. Of course, the graceful star trails reflect the Earth's daily rotation around its axis. By extension, the axis of rotation leads to the center of the concentric arcs in the night sky. Convenient for northern hemisphere night sky photographers and celestial navigators alike, the bright star Polaris is very close to the North Celestial Pole and so makes the short bright trail in the central gap between the leafy branches.



Little Planet Shadowrise 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Acquisition - Enzo De Bernardini, Processing - w/Sophie le Comte

 Explanation:  Warm shades and subtle colors come to the sky in the fading sunlight after shadowrise on this little planet. Of course the little planet is planet Earth, and this nadir-to-zenith, around-the-horizon mosaic maps the view from a small airfield near the town of Intendente Alvear, La Pampa province, Argentina. Just above the western horizon (top) the sky shines with the warm colors of sunset. The slate blue shadow of Earth itself extending through the atmosphere can be seen rising as it hugs the eastern horizon (bottom). Wrapped closely above the narrow projection of Earth's shadow is the gentle glow of reddened, backscattered sunlight called the antitwilight arch or the Belt of Venus.

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NGC 7814: The Little Sombrero in Pegasus 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Ken Crawford (Rancho Del Sol Obs.)
Collaboration:  David Martinez-Delgado ( ARI-ZAH, Univ. Heidelberg)

 Explanation:  Point your telescope toward the high flying constellation Pegasus and you can find this expanse of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies. Centered on NGC 7814, the pretty field of view would almost be covered by a full moon. NGC 7814 is sometimes called the Little Sombrero for its resemblance to the brighter more famous M104, the Sombrero Galaxy. Both Sombrero and Little Sombrero are spiral galaxies seen edge-on, and both have extensive central bulges cut by a thinner disk with dust lanes in silhouette. In fact, NGC 7814 is some 40 million light-years away and an estimated 60,000 light-years across. That actually makes the Little Sombrero about the same physical size as its better known namesake, appearing to be smaller and fainter only because it is farther away. A very faint dwarf galaxy, potentially a satellite of NGC 7814, is revealed in the deep exposure just below the Little Sombrero




NGC 7789: Caroline's Rose
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Albert Barr

 Explanation:  Found among the rich starfields of the Milky Way toward the constellation Cassiopeia, star cluster NGC 7789 lies about 8,000 light-years away. A late 18th century deep sky discovery of astronomer Caroline Lucretia Herschel, the cluster is also known as Caroline's Rose. Its suggestive appearance is created by the cluster's nestled complex of stars and voids. Now estimated to be 1.6 billion years young, the galactic or open cluster of stars also shows its age. All the stars in the cluster were likely born at the same time, but the brighter and more massive ones have more rapidly exhausted the hydrogen fuel in their cores. These have evolved from main sequence stars like the Sun into the many red giant stars shown with a yellowish cast in this lovely color composite. Using measured color and brightness, astronomers can model the mass and hence the age of the cluster stars just starting to "turn off" the main sequence and become red giants. Over 50 light-years across, Caroline's Rose spans about half a degree (the angular size of the moon) near the center of the wide-field telescopic image.




Sungrazer 
 Image Credit:  LASCO, SOHO Consortium, NRL, ESA, NASA

 Explanation:  Arcing toward a fiery fate, this Sungrazer comet was recorded by the SOHO spacecraft's Large Angle Spectrometric COronagraph(LASCO) on December 23, 1996. LASCO uses an occulting disk, partially visible at the lower right, to block out the otherwise overwhelming solar disk allowing it to image the inner 8 million kilometers of the relatively faint corona. The comet is seen as its coma enters the bright equatorial solar wind region (oriented vertically). Positioned in space to continuously observe the Sun, SOHO has now been used to discover over 1,500 comets, including numerous sungrazers. Based on their orbits, the vast majority of sungrazers are believed to belong to the Kreutz family of sungrazing comets created by successive break ups from a single large parent comet that passed very near the Sun in the twelfth century. The Great Comet of 1965, Ikeya-Seki, was also a member of the Kreutz family, coming within about 650,000 kilometers of the Sun's surface. Passing so close to the Sun, Sungrazers are subjected to destructive tidal forces along with intense solar heat. This small comet, known as the Christmas Comet SOHO 6, did not survive. Later this year, Comet ISON, potentially the brightest sungrazer in recorded history but not a Kreutz sungrazer, is expected to survive.

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The Great Comet of 1680 Over Rotterdam 
 Illustration Credit:  Lieve Verschuier

 Explanation:  Was there ever another comet like ISON? Although no two comets are exactly alike, one that appears to have had notable similarities was Comet Kirch, the Great Comet of 1680. Like approaching Comet ISON, Comet Kirch was a bright sungrazer, making a very close approach to the surface of the Sun. Neither comet, coincidently, is a member of the most common group of sungrazers -- the Kreutz group -- populated by remnants of a comet that disintegrated near the Sun hundreds of years ago. The long tail of Comet Kirch is depicted in the above painting by Lieve Versheier. As pictured, some members of the foreground crowd of Rotterdam in the Netherlands are holding cross-staffs, an angle measuring device that predated the sextant. No one knows how Comet ISON will develop, but like Comet Kirch, it is expected to be brightest when very near the Sun, in ISON's case during last few days of November

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Horsehead and Orion Nebulas 
 Image Credit & Copyright:  Roberto Colombari & Federico Pelliccia

 Explanation:  The dark Horsehead Nebula and the glowing Orion Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, they appear in opposite corners of the above stunning mosaic. The familiar Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right. Immediately to its left is a prominent reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man. Pervasive tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region.