This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows Messier 96, a…

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows Messier 96, a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). It is of about the same mass and size as the Milky Way. It was first discovered by astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1781, and added to Charles Messier’s famous catalogue of astronomical objects just four days later.

The galaxy resembles a giant maelstrom of glowing gas, rippled with dark dust that swirls inwards towards the nucleus. Messier 96 is a very asymmetric galaxy; its dust and gas are unevenly spread throughout its weak spiral arms, and its core is not exactly at the galactic center. Its arms are also asymmetrical, thought to have been influenced by the gravitational pull of other galaxies within the same group as Messier 96.

This group, named the M96 Group, also includes the bright galaxies Messier 105 and Messier 95, as well as a number of smaller and fainter galaxies. It is the nearest group containing both bright spirals and a bright elliptical galaxy (Messier 105).

Object Names: M96

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA and the LEGUS Team, Acknowledgement: R. Gendler
Text credit: European Space Agency

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To celebrate 25 years (1990-2015) of exploring the Universe from…

To celebrate 25 years (1990-2015) of exploring the Universe from low Earth orbit, the Hubble Space Telescope’s cameras were used to revisit its most iconic image. The result is this sharper, wider view of the region dubbed the Pillars of Creation, first imaged by Hubble in 1995. Stars are forming deep inside the towering structures. The light-years long columns of cold gas and dust are some 6,500 light-years distant in M16, the Eagle Nebula, toward the constellation Serpens. Sculpted and eroded by the energetic ultraviolet light and powerful winds from M16’s cluster of young, massive stars, the cosmic pillars themselves are destined for destruction. But the turbulent environment of star formation within M16, whose Image

Object Names: Pillars of Creation, M16/Eagle Nebula

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

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The magnificent galaxy NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of…

The magnificent galaxy NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Some 10 million light-years distant and about 50,000 light-years across, the spiral galaxy also seems to have more than its fair share of giant star forming HII regions, marked by the telltale reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas. The giant HII regions are energized by clusters of hot, massive stars that explode as bright supernovae at the end of their short and furious lives. A member of the M81 group of galaxies, NGC 2403 closely resembles another galaxy with an abundance of star forming regions that lies within our own local galaxy group, M33 the Triangulum Galaxy. Spiky in appearance, bright stars in this colorful galaxy portrait of NGC 2403 are in the foreground, within our own Milky Way.

Object Names: NGC 2403

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Eric Coles and Mel Helm (via APOD)

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Sweeping through northern skies, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10)…

Sweeping through northern skies, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) made its closest approach on January 17, passing about 6 light-minutes from our fair planet. Dust and ion tails clearly separated in this Earth-based view, the comet is also posed for a Messier moment, near the line-of-sight to M101, grand spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. A cosmic pinwheel at the lower left, M101 is nearly twice the size of our own Milky Way galaxy, but some 270 thousand light-centuries away. Both galaxy and comet are relatively bright, easy targets for binocular-equipped skygazers. But Comet Catalina is now outbound from the inner Solar System and will slowly fade in coming months.

Object Names: Comet Catalina (C/2013 US 10), M101

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Fritz Helmut Helmmerich

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The deepest infrared image of the Orion Nebula has uncovered a…

The deepest infrared image of the Orion Nebula has uncovered a bonanza of previously unknown low-mass stars and – quite possibly – free floating planets. The picturesque nebula is best known in visible light where it shows a many bright stars and bright glowing gas. Catalogued as M42, the Orion Nebula at a distance of 1300 light years is the closest major star forming region to Earth. One can peer into Orion’s pervasive dust in infrared light, as was done again recently with the sophisticated HAWK-I camera attached to one of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescopes in the high mountains of Chile. High resolution versions of the featured infrared deep image show many points of light, many of which are surely brown dwarf stars but some of which are best fit by an unexpectedly high abundance of free-floating planets. Understanding how these low mass objects formed is important to understanding star formation generally and may even help humanity to better understand the early years of our Solar System.

Object Names: Orion Nebula, M42

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: ESO,  VLT, HAWK-I, H. Drass et all

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Some 4 billion light-years away, galaxies of massive Abell S1063…

Some 4 billion light-years away, galaxies of massive Abell S1063 cluster near the center of this sharp Hubble Space Telescope snapshot. But the fainter bluish arcs are magnified images of galaxies that lie far beyond Abell S1063. About twice as distant, their otherwise undetected light is magnified and distorted by the cluster’s largely unseen gravitational mass, approximately 100 trillion times the mass of the Sun. Providing a tantalizing glimpse of galaxies in the early universe, the effect is known as gravitational lensing. A consequence of warped spacetime it was first predicted by Einstein a century ago. The Hubble image is part of the Frontier Fields program to explore the Final Frontier.

Object Names: Galaxy Cluster Abel S1063

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA, ESA, Jennifer Lotz (STScl)

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What’s that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A…

What’s that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy last Friday, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a sand-sized rock from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy’s far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared several times while braking violently upon entering Earth’s atmosphere. The green color was created, at least in part, by the meteor’s gas glowing as it vaporized. Although the exposure was timed to catch a Perseids meteor, the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked a few weeks earlier

Object Names: Andromeda Galaxy

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Fritz Helmut Hemmerich

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The star closest to the Sun has a planet similar to the Earth….

The star closest to the Sun has a planet similar to the Earth. As announced a couple of days ago, recent observations confirmed that this planet not only exists but inhabits a zone where its surface temperature could allow liquid water, a key ingredient for life on Earth. It is not yet known if this planet, Proxima b, has any life. Even if not, its potential ability to sustain liquid water might make it a good first hop for humanity’s future trips out into the Milky Way Galaxy. Although the planet’s parent star, Proxima Centauri, is cooler and redder than our Sun, one of the other two stars in the Alpha Centauri star system is very similar to our Sun. The featured image shows the sky location of Proxima Centauri in southern skies behind the telescope that made many of the discovery observations: ESO’s 3.6-meter telescope in La Silla, Chile. The discovered planet orbits close in – so close one year there takes only 11 days on Earth. The planet was discovered by the ESO’s Pale Red Dot collaboration. Although seemingly unlikely, if Proxima b does have intelligent life, at 4.25 light years distance it is close enough to Earth for two-way communication.

Object Names: Proxima B

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Y. Beletsky (LCO), ESO, Red Dot Team

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What dark structures arise from the Pelican Nebula? Visible as a…

What dark structures arise from the Pelican Nebula? Visible as a bird-shaped nebula toward the constellation of a bird (Cygnus, the Swan), the Pelican Nebula is a place dotted with newly formed stars but fouled with dark dust. These smoke-sized dust grains formed in the cool atmospheres of young stars and were dispersed by stellar winds and explosions. Impressive Herbig-Haro jets are seen emitted by a star on the right that is helping to destroy the light year-long dust pillar that contains it. The featured image was scientifically-colored to emphasize light emitted by small amounts of ionized nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur in the nebula made predominantly of hydrogen and helium. The Pelican Nebula (IC 5067 and IC 5070) is about 2,000 light-years away and can be found with a small telescope to the northeast of the bright star Deneb.

Object Names: Pelican Nebula, IC 5067, IC 5070

Imagte Type: Astronomical

Credit: Larry Van Vleet (LVVASTRO)

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This false-color view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows…

This false-color view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows clouds in Saturn’s northern hemisphere. The view was produced by space imaging enthusiast Kevin M. Gill, who also happens to be an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The view was made using images taken by Cassini’s wide-angle camera on July 20, 2016, using a combination of spectral filters sensitive to infrared light at 750, 727 and 619 nanometers.

Filters like these, which are sensitive to absorption and scattering of sunlight by methane in Saturn’s atmosphere, have been useful throughout Cassini’s mission for determining the structure and depth of cloud features in the atmosphere.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Object Names:Infrared Saturn Clouds

Image Type:  Astronomical

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Kevin M. Gill/Cassini

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