Tag Archives: NASA

The X Ray Sky from eROSITA

What if you could see X-rays? The night sky would seem a strange and unfamiliar place. X-rays are about 1,000 times more energetic than visible light photons and are produced by violent explosions and high temperature astronomical environments. Instead of the familiar steady stars, the sky would seem to be filled with exotic stars, active galaxies, and hot supernova remnants. The featured X-ray image captures in unprecedented detail the entire sky in X-rays as seen by the eROSITA telescope onboard Spektr-RG satellite, orbiting around the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system, launched last year. The image shows the plane of our Milky Way galaxy across the center, a diffuse and pervasive X-ray background, the hot interstellar bubble known as the North Polar Spur, sizzling supernova remnants such as Vela, the Cygnus Loop and Cas A, energetic binary stars including Cyg X-1 and Cyg X-2, the LMC galaxy, and the Coma, Virgo, and Fornax clusters of galaxies. This first sky scan by eROSITA located over one million X-ray sources, some of which are not understood and will surely be topics for future research. via NASA

Moon Mountains Magnified during Ring of Fire Eclipse

What are those dark streaks in this composite image of yesterday’s solar eclipse? They are reversed shadows of mountains at the edge of the Moon. The center image, captured from Xiamen, China, has the Moon’s center directly in front of the Sun’s center. The Moon, though, was too far from the Earth to completely block the entire Sun. Light that streamed around all of the edges of the Moon is called a ring of fire. Images at each end of the sequence show sunlight that streamed through lunar valleys. As the Moon moved further in front of the Sun, left to right, only the higher peaks on the Moon’s perimeter could block sunlight. Therefore, the dark streaks are projected, distorted, reversed, and magnified shadows of mountains at the Moon’s edge. Bright areas are called Bailey’s Beads. Only a narrow swath across Earth’s Eastern Hemisphere was able to see yesterday’s full annular solar eclipse. Next June, though, a narrow swath across Earth’s Northern Hemisphere will be able to see the next annular solar eclipse. A total solar eclipse will be visible at the bottom of the world near the end of this year. via NASA

Moon Occults Venus

It may look like Earthrise, but it’s actually Venus-set. Just after sunrise two days ago, both the Moon and Venus also rose. But then the Moon overtook Venus. In the featured image sequence centered on the Moon, Venus is shown increasingly angularly close to the Moon. In the famous Earthrise image taken just over 50 years ago, the Earth was captured rising over the edge of the Moon, as seen from the Apollo 8 crew orbiting the Moon. This similar Venus-set image was taken from Earth, of course, specifically Estonia. Venus shows only a thin crescent because last week it passed nearly in front of the Sun, as seen from Earth. The Moon shows only a thin crescent because it will soon be passing directly in front of the Sun, as seen from Earth. Today, in fact, two days after this image was taken, the Moon will create a solar eclipse, with a thin swath across the Earth treated to an annular solar eclipse. via NASA

Northern Summer on Titan

Today’s solstice brings summer to planet Earth’s northern hemisphere. But the northern summer solstice arrived for ringed planet Saturn over three years ago on May 24, 2017. Orbiting the gas giant, Saturn’s moon Titan experiences the Saturnian seasons. Larger than inner planet Mercury, Titan was captured in this Cassini spacecraft image about two weeks after its northern summer began. The near-infrared view finds bright methane clouds drifting through Titan’s dense, hazy atmosphere as seen from a distance of about 507,000 kilometers. Below the clouds, dark hydrocarbon lakes sprawl near its fully illuminated north pole. via NASA

The Veins of Heaven

Transfusing sunlight through a darkened sky, this beautiful display of noctilucent clouds was captured earlier this week, reflected in calm waters from Nykobing Mors, Denmark. From the edge of space, about 80 kilometers above Earth’s surface, the icy clouds themselves still reflect sunlight, though the Sun is below the horizon as seen from the ground. Usually spotted at high latitudes in summer months the night shining clouds have made an early appearance this year as northern nights grow short. Also known as polar mesopheric clouds they are understood to form as water vapor driven into the cold upper atmosphere condenses on the fine dust particles supplied by disintegrating meteors or volcanic ash. NASA’s AIM mission provides daily projections of noctilucent clouds as seen from space. via NASA

The Tadpoles of IC 410

This telescopic close-up shows off the central regions of otherwise faint emission nebula IC 410, captured under backyard suburban skies with narrowband filters. It also features two remarkable inhabitants of the cosmic pond of gas and dust. Below and right of center are the tadpoles of IC 410. Partly obscured by foreground dust, the nebula itself surrounds NGC 1893, a young galactic cluster of stars. Formed in the interstellar cloud a mere 4 million years ago, the intensely hot, bright cluster stars energize the glowing gas. Composed of denser cooler gas and dust, the tadpoles are around 10 light-years long and are likely sites of ongoing star formation. Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation their heads are outlined by bright ridges of ionized gas while their tails trail away from the cluster’s central young stars. IC 410 lies some 10,000 light-years away, toward the nebula-rich constellation Auriga. via NASA

Magnetic Streamlines of the Milky Way

What role do magnetic fields play in interstellar physics? Analyses of observations by ESA’s Planck satellite of emission by small magnetically-aligned dust grains reveal previously unknown magnetic field structures in our Milky Way Galaxy — as shown by the curvy lines in the featured full-sky image. The dark red shows the plane of the Milky Way, where the concentration of dust is the highest. The huge arches above the plane are likely remnants of past explosive events from our Galaxy’s core, conceptually similar to magnetic loop-like structures seen in our Sun’s atmosphere. The curvy streamlines align with interstellar filaments of neutral hydrogen gas and provide tantalizing evidence that magnetic fields may supplement gravity in not only in shaping the interstellar medium, but in forming stars. How magnetism affected our Galaxy’s evolution will likely remain a topic of research for years to come. via NASA

APOD is 25 Years Old Today

Welcome to the quadranscentennial year of the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Perhaps a source of consistency for some, APOD is still here. To help celebrate APOD’s Silver Anniversary, some of APOD’s TVAoTaSMD have recorded a birthday greeting and thanks to APOD’s readership in today’s featured video. Many have also highlighted a few of their favorite APOD images. In collaboration with NASA through APOD, these and other volunteers help to inform the world, in most major world languages and over most major media platforms, of NASA and humanity’s growing knowledge, active exploration, and inspiring visualizations of the amazing astronomical universe in which we live. APOD’s founders (still alive!) would also like to offer a sincere thank you — not only to our TVAoTaSMD — but to APOD’s readership for continued interest, support, and many gracious communications over the years. via NASA

Orion over Argentine Mountains

Do you recognize the constellation of Orion? It may be harder than usual in today’s featured image because the camera has zoomed in on the center, and the exposure is long enough to enhance nebulas beyond what the unaided human eye can see. Still, once you become oriented, you can see Orion’s three belt stars lined up vertically near the image center, and even locate the familiar Orion Nebula on the upper left. Famous faint features that are also visible include the dark Horsehead Nebula indentation near the image center, and the dusty Flame Nebula just to its right. Part of the Orion-encircling Barnard’s Loop can also be found on the far right. The image combines multiple sky-tracking shots of the background in different colors with a single static foreground exposure taken at twilight — all captured with the same camera and from the same location. The picturesque scene was captured early last year from mountains in San Juan, Argentina. via NASA

Atmospheric Ring of Venus

Why is Venus surrounded by a bright ring? Sometimes called a ring of fire, this rare ring is caused by the Sun’s light being visible all around an object. Usually seen around the Moon during an annular solar eclipse, the ring of fire is also visible when either Venus or Mercury cross the face of our Sun. In the featured pictured taken last week, though, Venus did not pass directly in front of the Sun — the complete atmospheric ring was caused by sunlight refracting through Venus’ thick atmosphere. Venus passed within one degree of the Sun during its inferior conjunction, as it moved from the evening to the morning sky.  The extreme brightness of the nearby Sun made capturing such an image very difficult — the featured image was only made possible by using a temporary filter to block direct sunlight. The image was captured from Thorton, Leicestershire, UK. The pervasive blue sky glow indicates that the image was actually captured during the day. via NASA