Tag Archives: NASA

Black Sun and Inverted Starfield

Does this strange dark ball look somehow familiar? If so, that might be because it is our Sun. In the featured image from 2012, a detailed solar view was captured originally in a very specific color of red light, then rendered in black and white, and then color inverted. Once complete, the resulting image was added to a starfield, then also color inverted. Visible in the image of the Sun are long light filaments, dark active regions, prominences peeking around the edge, and a moving carpet of hot gas. The surface of our Sun can be a busy place, in particular during Solar Maximum, the time when its surface magnetic field is wound up the most. Besides an active Sun being so picturesque, the plasma expelled can also become picturesque when it impacts the Earth’s magnetosphere and creates auroras. via NASA

Penumbral Eclipse Rising

As seen from Cocoa Beach Pier, Florida, planet Earth, the Moon rose at sunset on February 10 while gliding through Earth’s faint outer shadow. In progress was the first eclipse of 2017, a penumbral lunar eclipse followed in this digital stack of seaside exposures. Of course, the penumbral shadow is lighter than the planet’s umbral shadow. That central, dark, shadow is easily seen on the lunar disk during a total or partial lunar eclipse. Still, in this penumbral eclipse the limb of the Moon grows just perceptibly darker as it rises above the western horizon. The second eclipse of 2017 could be more dramatic though. With viewing from a path across planet Earth’s southern hemisphere, on February 26 there will be an annular eclipse of the Sun. via NASA

The Tulip and Cygnus X-1

Framing a bright emission region, this telescopic view looks out along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the nebula rich constellation Cygnus the Swan. Popularly called the Tulip Nebula, the reddish glowing cloud of interstellar gas and dust is also found in the 1959 catalog by astronomer Stewart Sharpless as Sh2-101. About 8,000 light-years distant and 70 light-years across the complex and beautiful nebula blossoms at the center of this composite image. Ultraviolet radiation from young energetic stars at the edge of the Cygnus OB3 association, including O star HDE 227018, ionizes the atoms and powers the emission from the Tulip Nebula. HDE 227018 is the bright star near the center of the nebula. Also framed in the field of view is microquasar Cygnus X-1, one of the strongest X-ray sources in planet Earth’s sky. Driven by powerful jets from a black hole accretion disk, its fainter visible curved shock front lies above and right, just beyond the cosmic Tulip’s petals via NASA

Solar System Portrait

On Valentine’s Day in 1990, cruising four billion miles from the Sun, the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back one last time to make this first ever Solar System family portrait. The complete portrait is a 60 frame mosaic made from a vantage point 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane. In it, Voyager’s wide angle camera frames sweep through the inner Solar System at the left, linking up with gas giant Neptune, the Solar System’s outermost planet, at the far right. Positions for Venus, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are indicated by letters, while the Sun is the bright spot near the center of the circle of frames. The inset frames for each of the planets are from Voyager’s narrow field camera. Unseen in the portrait are Mercury, too close to the Sun to be detected, and Mars, unfortunately hidden by sunlight scattered in the camera’s optical system. Closer to the Sun than Neptune at the time, small, faint Pluto’s position was not covered. via NASA

Melotte 15 inthe Heart

Cosmic clouds form fantastic shapes in the central regions of emission nebula IC 1805. The clouds are sculpted by stellar winds and radiation from massive hot stars in the nebula’s newborn star cluster, Melotte 15. About 1.5 million years young, the cluster stars are scattered in this colorful skyscape, along with dark dust clouds in silhouette against glowing atomic gas. A composite of narrowband and broadband telescopic images, the view spans about 15 light-years and includes emission from ionized hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen atoms mapped to green, red, and blue hues in the popular Hubble Palette. Wider field images reveal that IC 1805’s simpler, overall outline suggests its popular name – The Heart Nebula. IC 1805 is located about 7,500 light years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia. via NASA

Conjunction of Four

On January 31, a waxing crescent Moon, brilliant Venus, and fainter Mars gathered in the fading twilight, hanging above the western horizon just after sunset on planet Earth. In this combined evening skyscape, the lovely celestial triangle is seen through clouds and haze. Still glinting in sunlight, from low Earth orbit the International Space Station briefly joined the trio that evening in skies near Le Lude, France. The photographer’s line-of-sight to the space station was remarkably close to Mars as the initial exposure began. As a result, the station’s bright streak seems to leap from the Red Planet, moving toward darker skies at the top of the frame. via NASA

NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide

An example of violence on a cosmic scale, enormous elliptical galaxy NGC 1316 lies about 75 million light-years away toward Fornax, the southern constellation of the Furnace. Investigating the startling sight, astronomers suspect the giant galaxy of colliding with smaller neighbor NGC 1317 seen just above, causing far flung loops and shells of stars. Light from their close encounter would have reached Earth some 100 million years ago. In the deep, sharp image, the central regions of NGC 1316 and NGC 1317 appear separated by over 100,000 light-years. Complex dust lanes visible within also indicate that NGC 1316 is itself the result of a merger of galaxies in the distant past. Found on the outskirts of the Fornax galaxy cluster, NGC 1316 is known as Fornax A. One of the visually brightest of the Fornax cluster galaxies it is one of the strongest and largest radio sources with radio emission extending well beyond this telescopic field-of-view, over several degrees on the sky. via NASA

Red Aurora Over Australia

Why would the sky glow red? Aurora. A solar storm in 2012, emanating mostly from active sunspot region 1402, showered particles on the Earth that excited oxygen atoms high in the Earth’s atmosphere. As the excited element’s electrons fell back to their ground state, they emitted a red glow. Were oxygen atoms lower in Earth’s atmosphere excited, the glow would be predominantly green. Pictured here, this high red aurora is visible just above the horizon last week near Flinders, Victoria, Australia. The sky that night, however, also glowed with more familiar but more distant objects, including the central disk of our Milky Way Galaxy on the left, and the neighboring Large and Small Magellanic Cloud galaxies on the right. A time-lapse video highlighting auroras visible that night puts the picturesque scene in context. Why the sky did not also glow green remains unknown. via NASA

N159 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Over 150 light-years across, this cosmic maelstrom of gas and dust is not too far away. It lies south of the Tarantula Nebula in our satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud a mere 180,000 light-years distant. Massive stars have formed within. Their energetic radiation and powerful stellar winds sculpt the gas and dust and power the glow of this HII region, entered into the Henize catalog of emission stars and nebulae in the Magellanic Clouds as N159. The bright, compact, butterfly-shaped nebula above and left of center likely contains massive stars in a very early stage of formation. Resolved for the first time in Hubble images, the compact blob of ionized gas has come to be known as the Papillon Nebula. via NASA

Daphnis the Wavemaker

Plunging close to the outer edges of Saturn’s rings, on January 16 the Cassini spacecraft captured this closest yet view of Daphnis. About 8 kilometers across and orbiting within the bright ring system’s Keeler gap, the small moon is making waves. The 42-kilometer wide outer gap is foreshortened in the image by Cassini’s viewing angle. Raised by the influenced of the small moon’s weak gravity as it crosses the frame from left to right, the waves are formed in the ring material at the edge of the gap. A faint wave-like trace of ring material is just visible trailing close behind Daphnis. Remarkable details on Daphnis can also be seen, including a narrow ridge around its equator, likely an accumulation of particles from the ring. via NASA