Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Re: Astronomy Picture of the Day

Postby abuali » 25 Feb 2010, 09:53

August 23, 1999

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Explanation: What if you woke up one morning and saw more than one Sun in the sky? Most probably, you would be seeing sundogs, extra-images of the Sun created by falling ice-crystals in the Earth's atmosphere. As water freezes in the atmosphere, small, flat, six-sided, ice crystals might be formed. As these crystals flutter to the ground, much time is spent with their faces flat, parallel to the ground. An observer may pass through the same plane as many of the falling ice crystals near sunrise or sunset. During this alignment, each crystal can act like a miniature lens, refracting sunlight into our view and creating parhelia, the technical term for sundogs. Sundogs were photographed here in a cloudy sky above the Very Large Array of radio telescopes. The real Sun is near the center above the train tracks. A bright sundog is visible on the far right, and a dim one on the far left. Ice-crystals can create other strange illusions of the Sun and Moon including halos and pillars
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Re: Astronomy Picture of the Day

Postby abuali » 25 Feb 2010, 09:55

2010 February 21
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NGC 2440: Cocoon of a New White Dwarf
Credit: H. Bond (STScI), R. Ciardullo (PSU), WFPC2, HST, NASA

Explanation: Like a butterfly, a white dwarf star begins its life by casting off a cocoon that enclosed its former self. In this analogy, however, the Sun would be a caterpillar and the ejected shell of gas would become the prettiest of all! In the above cocoon, the planetary nebula designated NGC 2440, contains one of the hottest white dwarf stars known. The white dwarf can be seen as the bright dot near the photo's center. Our Sun will eventually become a white dwarf butterfly but not for another 5 billion years. The above false color image was post-processed by Forrest Hamilton.
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Re: Astronomy Picture of the Day

Postby abuali » 25 Feb 2010, 09:58

2010 February 15

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Cassini Spacecraft Crosses Saturn's Ring Plane
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: If this is Saturn, where are the rings? When Saturn's "appendages" disappeared in 1612, Galileo did not understand why. Later that century, it became understood that Saturn's unusual protrusions were rings and that when the Earth crosses the ring plane, the edge-on rings will appear to disappear. This is because Saturn's rings are confined to a plane many times thinner, in proportion, than a razor blade. In modern times, the robot Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn now also crosses Saturn's ring plane. A series of plane crossing images from 2005 February was dug out of the vast online Cassini raw image archive by interested Spanish amateur Fernando Garcia Navarro. Pictured above, digitally cropped and set in representative colors, is the striking result. Saturn's thin ring plane appears in blue, bands and clouds in Saturn's upper atmosphere appear in gold. Since Saturn just passed its equinox, today the ring plane is pointed close to the Sun and the rings could not cast the high dark shadows seen across the top of this image, taken back in 2005. Moons appear as bumps in the rings.
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A Milky Way Shadow at Loch Ard Gorge

Postby abuali » 25 Aug 2010, 22:30

2010 August 23: A Milky Way Shadow at Loch Ard Gorge

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Credit & Copyright: Alex Cherney (Terrastro)
Explanation: Have you ever seen the Milky Way's glow create shadows? To do so, conditions need to be just right. First and foremost, the sky must be relatively clear of clouds so that the long band of the Milky Way's central disk can be seen. The surroundings must be very near to completely dark, with no bright artificial lights visible anywhere. Next, the Moon cannot be anywhere above the horizon, or its glow will dominate the landscape. Last, the shadows can best be caught on long camera exposures. In the above image taken in Port Campbell National Park, Victoria, Australia, seven 15-second images of the ground and de-rotated sky were digitally added to bring up the needed light and detail. In the foreground lies Loch Ard Gorge, named after a ship that tragically ran aground in 1878. The two rocks pictured are the remnants of a collapsed arch and are named Tom and Eva after the only two people who survived that Loch Ard ship wreck. A close inspection of the water just before the rocks will show reflections and shadows in light thrown by our Milky Way galaxy. Low clouds are visible moving through the serene scene in this movie.
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Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 Magnifies the Dark Universe

Postby abuali » 25 Aug 2010, 22:32

2010 August 24: Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689 Magnifies the Dark Universe
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Credit: NASA, ESA, E. Jullo (JPL), P. Natarajan (Yale), & J.-P. Kneib (LAM, CNRS)
Acknowledgment: H. Ford and N. Benetiz (JHU), & T. Broadhurst (Tel Aviv)
Explanation: What's the matter with this cluster of galaxies? To find out what forms matter takes in the Abell 1689 cluster requires not only deep images from telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope, but detailed computer modeling as well. To start, almost every fuzzy yellow patch in the above image is an entire galaxy. A close inspection, however, shows that many background galaxies are strangely magnified and distorted into long curving arcs by the gravitational lens deflections of the cluster. Computer analyses of the placement and smoothness of these arcs indicate that in addition to the matter in the galaxies you can see, the cluster must also contain a significant amount of dark matter such as the model digitally superposed in purple. Now Abell 1689 remains enigmatic because the arcs are so numerous and diverse that no single dark matter model has emerged that can explain them all and still remain consistent with dark matter models needed to constrain their motion. Still, the detailed information available from clusters of galaxies like Abell 1689 gives hope that one day full solutions will be found that will not only fully reveal the dark matter in clusters, but also reveal the amounts of dark energy in the universe needed to lie along the line of sight to the distant arcs.
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Re: Astronomy Picture of the Day

Postby abuali » 26 Aug 2010, 12:34

2010 August 22: Hoag's Object: A Strange Ring Galaxy
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Credit: R. Lucas (STScI/AURA), Hubble Heritage Team, NASA

Explanation: Is this one galaxy or two? This question came to light in 1950 when astronomer Art Hoag chanced upon this unusual extragalactic object. On the outside is a ring dominated by bright blue stars, while near the center lies a ball of much redder stars that are likely much older. Between the two is a gap that appears almost completely dark. How Hoag's Object formed remains unknown, although similar objects have now been identified and collectively labeled as a form of ring galaxy. Genesis hypotheses include a galaxy collision billions of years ago and the gravitational effect of a central bar that has since vanished. The above photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in July 2001 reveals unprecedented details of Hoag's Object and may yield a better understanding. Hoag's Object spans about 100,000 light years and lies about 600 million light years away toward the constellation of the Snake (Serpens). Coincidentally, visible in the gap (at about one o'clock) is yet another ring galaxy that likely lies far in the distance.
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Perseid Storm

Postby abuali » 26 Aug 2010, 12:51

2010 August 21: Perseid Storm
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Credit & Copyright: Robert Arn

Explanation: Storms on the distant horizon and comet dust raining through the heavens above are combined in this alluring nightscape. The scene was recorded in the early hours of August 13 from the Keota Star Party site on the Pawnee National Grasslands of northeastern Colorado, USA. Looking east across the prairie, the composite of 8 consecutive exposures each 30 seconds long captures the flash of lightning and a bright Perseid meteor. On the right, even the clouds can't block the light from brilliant planet Jupiter, whose mythological namesake knew how to handle both lightning bolts and meteors. Of course, this meteor's streak points back toward the shower's radiant in the heroic constellation Perseus, sharing a starry background that includes the Pleiades star cluster poised above the storm clouds. Just above the bright meteor lies the faint Andromeda Galaxy.
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Pelican Nebula Close-up

Postby abuali » 26 Aug 2010, 13:51

2010 August 19: Pelican Nebula Close-up
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Credit & Copyright: Tony Hallas

Explanation: The prominent ridge of emission featured in this vivid skyscape is designated IC 5067. Part of a larger emission nebula with a distinctive shape, popularly called The Pelican Nebula, the ridge spans about 10 light-years and follows the curve of the cosmic pelican's head and neck. Fantastic, dark shapes inhabiting the view are clouds of cool gas and dust sculpted by energetic radiation from hot, massive stars. But stars are also forming within the dark shapes. In fact, twin jets emerging from the tip of the central, dark tendril are the telltale signs of an embedded protostar cataloged as Herbig-Haro 555. The Pelican Nebula itself, also known as IC 5070, is about 2,000 light-years away. To find it, look northeast of bright star Deneb in the high flying constellation Cygnus.
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Re: Astronomy Picture of the Day

Postby abuali » 28 Aug 2010, 22:00

2010 July 12: Moons Beyond the Rings of Saturn
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Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: What's happened to that moon of Saturn? Nothing -- Saturn's moon Rhea is just partly hidden behind Saturn's rings. In April, the robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn took this narrow-angle view looking across the Solar System's most famous rings. Rings visible in the foreground include the thin F ring on the outside and the much wider A and B rings just interior to it. Although it seems to be hovering over the rings, Saturn's moon Janus is actually far behind them. Janus is one of Saturn's smaller moons and measures only about 180 kilometers across. Farther out from the camera is the heavily cratered Rhea, a much larger moon measuring 1,500 kilometers across. The top of Rhea is visible only through gaps in the rings. The Cassini mission around Saturn has been extended to 2017 to better study the complex planetary system as its season changes from equinox to solstice.
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Re: Astronomy Picture of the Day

Postby abuali » 18 Apr 2013, 02:27

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Sun with Solar Flare

Image Credit: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

Explanation: This week the Sun gave up its strongest solar flare so far in 2013, accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME) headed toward planet Earth. A false-color composite image in extreme ultraviolet light from the Solar Dynamics Observatory captures the moment, recorded on April 11 at 0711 UTC. The flash, a moderate, M6.5 class flare erupting from active region AR 11719, is near the center of the solar disk. Other active regions, areas of intense magnetic fields seen as sunspot groups in visible light, mottle the surface as the solar maximum approaches. Loops and arcs of glowing plasma trace the active regions' magnetic field lines. A massive cloud of energetic, charged particles, the CME will impact the Earth's magnetosphere by this weekend and skywatchers should be on the alert for auroral displays.

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