Tag Archives: NASA

Clouds Near Jupiters South Pole from Juno

What’s happening near the south pole of Jupiter? Recent images sent back by NASA’s robotic Juno spacecraft are showing an interesting conglomeration of swirling clouds and what appear to be white ovals. Juno arrived at Jupiter in July and is being placed into a wide, looping orbit that will bring it near the gas giant — and over its poles — about twice a month. The featured image is a composite taken by JunoCam and post-processed by a digitally savvy citizen scientist. White ovals have been observed elsewhere on Jupiter and are thought to be giant storm systems. They have been observed to last for years, while typically showing Category 5 wind speeds of around 350 kilometers per hour. Unlike Earthly cyclones and hurricanes where high winds circle regions of low pressure, white ovals on Jupiter show rotational directions indicating that they are anticylones — vortices centered on high pressure regions. Juno will continue to orbit Jupiter over thirty more times while recording optical, spectral, and gravitational data meant to help determine Jupiter’s structure and evolution. via NASA

Eagle Aurora over Norway

What’s that in the sky? An aurora. A large coronal mass ejection occurred on our Sun five days before this 2012 image was taken, throwing a cloud of fast moving electrons, protons, and ions toward the Earth. Although most of this cloud passed above the Earth, some of it impacted our Earth’s magnetosphere and resulted in spectacular auroras being seen at high northern latitudes. Featured here is a particularly photogenic auroral corona captured above Grotfjord, Norway. To some, this shimmering green glow of recombining atmospheric oxygen might appear as a large eagle, but feel free to share what it looks like to you. Although now past Solar Maximum, our Sun continues to show occasional activity creating impressive auroras on Earth visible only last week. via NASA

Cerro Tololo Trails

Early one moonlit evening car lights left a wandering trail along the road to the Chilean Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. Setting stars left the wandering trails in the sky. The serene view toward the mountainous horizon was captured in a telephoto timelapse image and video taken from nearby Cerro Pachon, home to Gemini South. Afforded by the mountaintop vantage point, the clear, long sight-line passes through layers of atmosphere. The changing atmospheric refraction shifts and distorts the otherwise steady apparent paths of the stars as they set. That effect also causes the distorted appearance of Sun and Moon as they rise or set near a distant horizon. via NASA

The Tulip in the Swan

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 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 the composite image. Red, green, and blue hues map emission from ionized sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. 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 visible light emission from the Tulip Nebula. HDE 227018 is the bright star very near the blue arc at the center of the cosmic tulip. via NASA

M45: The Pleiades Star Cluster

Have you ever seen the Pleiades star cluster? Even if you have, you probably have never seen it as dusty as this. Perhaps the most famous star cluster on the sky, the bright stars of the Pleiades can be seen without binoculars even from the heart of a light-polluted city. With a long exposure from a dark location, though, the dust cloud surrounding the Pleiades star cluster becomes very evident. The featured image was a long duration exposure taken last month from Namibia and covers a sky area many times the size of the full moon. Also known as the Seven Sisters and M45, the Pleiades lies about 400 light years away toward the constellation of the Bull (Taurus). A common legend with a modern twist is that one of the brighter stars faded since the cluster was named, leaving only six stars visible to the unaided eye. The actual number of visible Pleiades stars, however, may be more or less than seven, depending on the darkness of the surrounding sky and the clarity of the observer’s eyesight. via NASA

Cylindrical Mountains on Venus

What could cause a huge cylindrical mountain to rise from the surface of Venus? Such features that occur on Venus are known as coronas. Pictured here in the foreground is 500-kilometer wide Atete Corona found in a region of Venus known as the Galindo. The featured image was created by combining multiple radar maps of the region to form a computer-generated three-dimensional perspective. The series of dark rectangles that cross the image from top to bottom were created by the imaging procedure and are not real. The origin of massive coronas remains a topic of research although speculation holds they result from volcanism. Studying Venusian coronas help scientists better understand the inner structure of both Venus and Earth. via NASA

Galaxies from the Altiplano

The central bulge of our Milky Way Galaxy rises over the northern Chilean Atacama altiplano in this postcard from planet Earth. At an altitude of 4500 meters, the strange beauty of the desolate landscape could almost belong to another world though. Brownish red and yellow tinted sulfuric patches lie along the whitish salt flat beaches of the Salar de Aguas Calientes region. In the distance along the Argentina border is the stratovolcano Lastarria, its peak at 5700 meters (19,000 feet). In the clear, dark sky above, stars, nebulae, and cosmic dust clouds in the Milky Way echo the colors of the altiplano at night. Extending the view across extragalactic space, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, shine near the horizon through a faint greenish airglow. via NASA

Moon, Mercury, and Twilight Radio

Sharing dawn’s twilight with the Moon on September 29, Mercury was about as far from the Sun as it can wander, the innermost planet close to its maximum elongation in planet Earth’s skies. In this colorful scene fleeting Mercury is joined by a waning sunlit lunar crescent and earthlit lunar nightside, the New Moon in the Old Moon’s arms. Below is the Italian Medicina Radio Astronomical Station near Bologna with a low row of antennae that is part of Italy’s first radio telescope array dubbed the “Northern Cross”, and a 32-meter-diameter parabolic dish. Of course, moonwatchers won’t have to rise in early morning hours on October 8. After sunset the Moon will be high and bright in evening skies, at its first quarter phase for International Observe the Moon Night. via NASA

The Hydrogen Clouds of M33

Gorgeous spiral galaxy M33 seems to have more than its fair share of glowing hydrogen gas. A prominent member of the local group of galaxies, M33 is also known as the Triangulum Galaxy and lies about 3 million light-years distant. The galaxy’s inner 30,000 light-years or so are shown in this telescopic portrait that enhances its reddish ionized hydrogen clouds or HII regions. Sprawling along loose spiral arms that wind toward the core, M33’s giant HII regions are some of the largest known stellar nurseries, sites of the formation of short-lived but very massive stars. Intense ultraviolet radiation from the luminous, massive stars ionizes the surrounding hydrogen gas and ultimately produces the characteristic red glow. To enhance this image, broadband data was used to produce a color view of the galaxy and combined with narrowband data recorded through a hydrogen-alpha filter. That filter transmits the light of the strongest visible hydrogen emission line. via NASA

Trifid, Lagoon, and Mars

Bright nebulae and star clusters along this 5 degree wide field of view are popular stops on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius and the crowded starfields of the central Milky Way. Cataloged by 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier, M20, the colorful Trifid Nebula, and M8, the expansive Lagoon Nebula, are at upper left and center. Both are well-known star forming regions about 5,000 light-years distant. Just passing through the same field of view on September 29, the yellowish star lined up with M8 and M20 at the lower right is actually Mars, close to 8.8 light-minutes from Earth on that date. That distance is nearly equivalent to 1 astronomical unit or the distance from Earth to Sun. Mars is overexposed in the image, with visible diffraction spikes created by the telescope mirror supports. Of course, Mars has long been known to wander through planet Earth’s night skies. via NASA