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Moon Setting Behind Teide Volcano

These people are not in danger. What is coming down from the left is just the Moon, far in the distance. Luna appears so large here because she is being photographed through a telescopic lens. What is moving is mostly the Earth, whose spin causes the Moon to slowly disappear behind Mount Teide, a volcano in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. The people pictured are 16 kilometers away and many are facing the camera because they are watching the Sun rise behind the photographer. It is not a coincidence that a full moon rises just when the Sun sets because the Sun is always on the opposite side of the sky from a full moon. The featured video was made two years ago during the full Milk Moon. The video is not time-lapse — this was really how fast the Moon was setting. via NASA

Comet ATLAS and the Mighty Galaxies

Comet ATLAS C/2019 Y4 was discovered by the NASA funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, the last comet discovery reported in 2019. Now growing brighter in northern night skies, the comet’s pretty greenish coma is at the upper left of this telescopic skyview captured from a remotely operated observatory in New Mexico on March 18. At lower right are M81 and M82, well-known as large, gravitationally interacting galaxies. Seen through faint dust clouds above the Milky Way, the galaxy pair lies about 12 million light-years distant, toward the constellation Ursa Major. In bound Comet ATLAS is about 9 light-minutes from Earth, still beyond the orbit of Mars. The comet’s elongated orbit is similar to orbit of the Great Comet of 1844 though, a trajectory that will return this comet to the inner Solar System in about 6,000 years. Comet ATLAS will reach a perihelion or closest approach to the Sun on May 31 inside the orbit of Mercury and may become a naked-eye comet in the coming days. via NASA

Morning, Planets, Moon, and Montreal

Dawn’s early light came to Montreal, northern planet Earth, on March 18, the day before the vernal equinox. At the end of that nearly equal night the Moon stands above a dense constellation of urban lights in this serene city and skyscape. Of course the Moon’s waning crescent faces toward the rising Sun. Skygazers could easily spot bright Jupiter just above the Moon, close on the sky to a fainter Mars. Saturn, a telescopic favorite, is just a pinprick of light below and farther left of the closer conjunction of Moon, Jupiter and Mars. Near the ecliptic, even Mercury is rising along a line extended to the horizon from Jupiter and Saturn. The elusive inner planet is very close to the horizon though, and not quite visible in this morning’s sky. via NASA

Anticrepuscular Rays over Florida

What’s happening behind those clouds? Although the scene may appear somehow supernatural, nothing more unusual is occurring than a Sun setting on the other side of the sky. Pictured here are anticrepuscular rays. To understand them, start by picturing common crepuscular rays that are seen any time that sunlight pours though scattered clouds. Now although sunlight indeed travels along straight lines, the projections of these lines onto the spherical sky are great circles. Therefore, the crepuscular rays from a setting (or rising) sun will appear to re-converge on the other side of the sky. At the anti-solar point 180 degrees around from the Sun, they are referred to as anticrepuscular rays. Featured here is a particularly striking display of anticrepuscular rays photographed in 2016 over Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida, USA. via NASA

M77: Spiral Galaxy with an Active Center

What’s happening in the center of nearby spiral galaxy M77? The face-on galaxy lies a mere 47 million light-years away toward the constellation of the Sea Monster (Cetus). At that estimated distance, this gorgeous island universe is about 100 thousand light-years across. Also known as NGC 1068, its compact and very bright core is well studied by astronomers exploring the mysteries of supermassive black holes in active Seyfert galaxies. M77 and its active core glows bright at x-ray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and radio wavelengths. The featured sharp image of M77 was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and is dominated by the (visible) red light emitted by hydrogen. The image shows details of the spiral’s winding spiral arms as traced by obscuring dust clouds, and red-tinted star forming regions close in to the galaxy’s luminous core. via NASA

A Moon Dressed Like Saturn

Why does Saturn appear so big? It doesn’t — what is pictured are foreground clouds on Earth crossing in front of the Moon. The Moon shows a slight crescent phase with most of its surface visible by reflected Earthlight known as ashen glow. The Sun directly illuminates the brightly lit lunar crescent from the bottom, which means that the Sun must be below the horizon and so the image was taken before sunrise. This double take-inducing picture was captured on 2019 December 24, two days before the Moon slid in front of the Sun to create a solar eclipse. In the foreground, lights from small Guatemalan towns are visible behind the huge volcano Pacaya. via NASA

The Snows of Churyumov Gerasimenko

You couldn’t really be caught in this blizzard while standing by a cliff on Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Orbiting the comet — frequently abbreviated as 67P or CG — in June of 2016, the Rosetta spacecraft’s narrow angle camera did record streaks of dust and ice particles — similar to snow — as they drifted across the field of view near the camera and above the comet’s surface. Some of the bright specks in the scene, however, are likely due to a rain of energetic charged particles or cosmic rays hitting the camera, and the dense background of stars in the direction of the constellation of the Big Dog (Canis Major). In the featured video, these background stars are easy to spot trailing from top to bottom. The stunning movie was constructed from 33 consecutive images taken over 25 minutes while Rosetta cruised some 13 kilometers from the comet’s nucleus. via NASA

Moonrise and Mountain Shadow

What phase of the Moon is 3.14 radians from the Sun? The Full Moon, of course. Even though the Moon might look full for several days, the Moon is truly at its full phase when it is 3.14 radians (aka 180 degrees) from the Sun in ecliptic longitude. That’s opposite the Sun in planet Earth’s sky. Rising as the Sun set on March 9, only an hour or so after the moment of its full phase, this orange tinted and slightly flattened Moon still looked full. It was photographed opposite the setting Sun from Teide National Park on the Canary Island of Tenerife. Also opposite the setting Sun, seen from near the Teide volcano peak about 3,500 meters above sea level, is the mountain’s rising triangular shadow extending into Earth’s dense atmosphere. Below the distant ridge line on the left are the white telescope domes of Teide Observatory via NASA

An Extreme Black Hole Outburst

Astronomers believe they have now found the most powerful example of a black hole outburst yet seen in our Universe. The composite, false-color featured image is of a cluster of galaxies in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer. The composite includes X-ray images (from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and XMM-Newton) in purple, and a radio image (from India’s Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope) in blue (along with an infrared image of the galaxies and stars in the field in white for good measure). The dashed line marks the border of a cavity blown out by the supermassive black hole which lurks at the center of the galaxy marked by the cross. Radio emission fills this cavity. This big blowout is believed to be due to the black hole eating too much and experiencing a transient bout of “black hole nausea”, which resulted in the ejection of a powerful radio jet blasting into intergalactic space. The amount of energy needed to blow this cavity is equivalent to about 10 billion supernova explosions. via NASA

Wide Field: Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree

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 as a star forming region and 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 featured wide-field image spans over three times the diameter of a full moon, covering over 100 light-years at the distance of NGC 2264. Its cast of cosmic characters includes the Fox Fur Nebula, whose convoluted pelt lies just to the lower right of the image center, bright variable star S Mon visible just above the Fox Fur, and the Cone Nebula just to the left. Given their distribution, the stars of NGC 2264 are also known as the Christmas Tree star cluster. via NASA