Object Name: Antennae Galaxies Image Type: Astronomical…

Object Name: Antennae Galaxies

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA/ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team

Acknowledgement: J. Whitmore (STSI) and James Long (ESA/HST)

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Wandering through this stunning field of view, Mars really is in…

Wandering through this stunning field of view, Mars really is in front of these colorful cosmic clouds. The mosaic contructed from telescopic images is about 5 degrees (10 full moons) across. It captures the planet’s position on August 26, over 7 light-minutes from Earth and very near the line-of-sight to bright star Antaresand the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. In the exposure yellow-hued Mars, above and left, is almost matched by Antares, also known as Alpha Scorpii, below center. Globular star cluster M4 shines just right of Antares, but M4 lies some 7,000 light-years away compared to Antares’ 500 light-year distance. Slightly closer than Antares, Rho Ophiuchi’s bluish starlight is reflected by the dusty molecular clouds near the top of the frame.

Object Names: Mars, Rho Ophiuchi

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit & Copyright: Sebastian Voltmer

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 It is one of the more massive galaxies known. A mere 46…


It is one of the more massive galaxies known. A mere 46 million light-years distant, spiral galaxy NGC 2841 can be found in the northern constellation of Ursa Major. This sharp view of the gorgeous island universe shows off a striking yellow nucleus and galactic disk. Dust lanes, small, pink star-forming regions, and young blue star clusters are embedded in the patchy, tightly wound spiral arms. In contrast, many other spirals exhibit grand, sweeping arms with large star-forming regions. NGC 2841 has a diameter of over 150,000 light-years, even larger than our own Milky Way and captured by this composite image merging exposures from the orbiting 2.4-meter Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based 8.2-meter Subaru Telescope. X-ray images suggest that resulting winds and stellar explosions create plumes of hot gas extending into a halo around NGC 2841.

Object Names: NGC 2841

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Hubble Space Telescope, Subaru Telescope

Composition And Copyright: Roberto Colombari

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Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, the star factory known…

Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, the star factory known as Messier 17 lies some 5,500 light-years away in the nebula-rich constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this 1/3 degree wide field of view spans over 30 light-years. The sharp composite, color image, highlights faint details of the region’s gas and dust clouds against a backdrop of central Milky Way stars. Stellar winds and energetic light from hot, massive stars formed from M17 stock of cosmic gas and dust have slowly carved away at the remaining interstellar material producing the cavernous appearance and undulating shapes. M17 is also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula.

Object Names: Omega Nebula/ Swan Nebula/ M17

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: ESO/ MPIA/ OAC

Asembly:  R. Colombari

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One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth’s sky is similar…

One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth’s sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. The grand spiral galaxy can be found toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). This superbly detailed image reveals M81’s bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, tell tale pinkish star forming regions, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, to the left of the galactic center, contrary to M81’s other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy – 11.8 million light-years. M81’s dwarf companion galaxy Holmberg IX can be seen just above the large spiral.

Object Names: M81

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Ken Crawford (Rancho Del Sol Observatory)

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Very faint but also very large on planet Earth’s sky, a…

Very faint but also very large on planet Earth’s sky, a giant Squid Nebula cataloged as Ou4, and Sh2-129 also known as the Flying Bat Nebula, are both caught in this scene toward the royal constellation Cepheus. Composed with a total of 20 hours of broadband and narrowband data, the telescopic field of view is almost 4 degrees or 8 Full Moons across. Discovered in 2011 by French astro-imager Nicolas Outters, the Squid Nebula’s alluring bipolar shape is distinguished here by the telltale blue-green emission from doubly ionized oxygen atoms. Though apparently completely surrounded by the reddish hydrogen emission region Sh2-129, the true distance and nature of the Squid Nebula have been difficult to determine. Still, a recent investigation suggests Ou4 really does lie within Sh2-129 some 2,300 light-years away. Consistent with that scenario, Ou4 would represent a spectacular outflow driven by a triple system of hot, massive stars, cataloged as HR8119, seen near the center of the nebula. If so, the truly giant Squid Nebula would physically be nearly 50 light-years across.

Object Names: Squid Nebula/Ou4, Flying Bat Nebula/Sh2-129

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Steve Canistra (Starry Wonders)

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What’s that rising over the edge of the Moon? Earth. About 47…

What’s that rising over the edge of the Moon? Earth. About 47 years ago, in December of 1968, the Apollo 8 crew flew from the Earth to the Moon and back again. Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were launched atop a Saturn V rocket on December 21, circled the Moon ten times in their command module, and returned to Earth on December 27. The Apollo 8 mission’s impressive list of firsts includes: the first humans to journey to the Earth’s Moon, the first to fly using the Saturn V rocket, and the first to photograph the Earth from deep space. As the Apollo 8 command module rounded the farside of the Moon, the crew could look toward the lunar horizon and see the Earth appear to rise, due to their spacecraft’s orbital motion. Their famous picture of a distant blue Earth above the Moon’s limb was a marvelous gift to the world.

Object Names: Earth, Moon

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Nasa, Apolo 8 Crew

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Will either of these galaxies survive? In what might be dubbed…

Will either of these galaxies survive? In what might be dubbed as a semi-final round in a galactic elimination tournament, the two spirals of NGC 7318 are colliding. The featured picture was created from images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. When galaxies crash into each other, many things may happen including gravitational distortion, gas condensing to produce new episodes of star formation, and ultimately the two galaxies combining into one. Since these two galaxies are part of Stephan’s Quintet, a final round of battling galaxies will likely occur over the next few billion years with the eventual result of many scattered stars and one large galaxy. Quite possibly, the remaining galaxy will not be easily identified with any of its initial galactic components. Stephan’s Quintet was the first identified galaxy group, lies about 300 million light years away, and is visible through a moderately-sized telescope toward the constellation of the Winged Horse (Pegasus).

Object Names: NGC 7318, Stephan’s Quintet

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA (Via Nasa’s APOD)

Pocesing And Copyright: José Jimenez Priego

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How Sunflowers Follow the Sun, Day After Day

How Sunflowers Follow the Sun, Day After Day:

At dawn, whole fields of sunflowers stand at attention, all facing east, and begin their romance with the rising sun. As that special star appears to move across the sky, young flowers follow its light, looking up, then over and westward, catching one final glance as the sun disappears over the horizon.

At night, in its absence, the sunflowers face east again, anticipating the sun’s return.

They do this until they get old, when they stop moving. Then, always facing east, the old flowers await visits from insects that will spread their pollen and make new sunflowers. Those flowers too, will follow the sun.

It’s not love. It’s heliotropism, and sunflowers are not the only plants that track the sun. But until now, how sunflowers do it has been a mystery.

In a study published Friday in Science, researchers revealed that the sunflower’s internal clock and ability to detect light work together, turning on genes related to growth at just the right time to allow the stems to bend with the arc of the sun. The research team also showed that when fully grown, as tall as people in some cases, plants that always face east get a head start, warming up early to attract pollinators.

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NASA’s getting ready to plunge a spacecraft deeper into the Sun than ever before

NASA’s getting ready to plunge a spacecraft deeper into the Sun than ever before:

NASA is one step closer in its mission to ‘touch’ the Sun. Last week, it announced that the Solar Probe Plus mission had passed a huge milestone, keeping it on track for a 2018 launch.

The Solar Probe Plus mission will start with the launch of a spaceship that will complete 24 orbits of the Sun. Then, after completing seven flybys of Venus to get closer and closer, the spacecraft will dive into the corona, or the outer atmosphere of the Sun.

The three closest orbits will be just under 6.4 million km (4 million miles) from the Sun’s surface – that’s seven times closer than any spacecraft has ever come to our neighbourhood fireball.

That close to the Sun, the spacecraft will face 500 times as much solar intensity as a spacecraft orbiting Earth.

According to NASA, the spacecraft will collect data about solar activity, which will help scientists forecast major space-weather events, such as solar flares that impact life on Earth. These solar flares, or eruptions of high-energy radiation from the Sun, can damage satellites and power lines.

The primary goals for Solar Probe Plus include tracing the flow of energy from the corona, as well as understanding the heating of it. The mission will also investigate how solar winds (streams of charged and energetic particles flowing from the Sun) are accelerated.

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