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APOD: 2019 February 16 - NGC 2359: Thor s Helmet




NGC 2359 is a helmet-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages popularly called Thor's Helmet. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the helmet is more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center inflates a region within the surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. NGC 2359 is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The remarkably detailed image is a mixed cocktail of data from broadband and narrowband filters that captures natural looking stars and the glow of the nebula's filamentary structures. It highlights a blue-green color from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190216.html

\#astronomy #picture #space #NASA #APOD
 
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APOD: 2005 February 1 - Saturn's Iapetus: Moon with a Strange Surface

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What has happened to Saturn's moon Iapetus? A strange ridge crosses the moon near the equator, visible near the bottom of the above image, making Iapetus appear similar to the pit of a peach. Half of Iapetus is so dark that it can nearly disappear when viewed from Earth. Recent observations show that the degree of darkness of the terrain is strangely uniform, like a dark coating was somehow recently applied to an ancient and highly cratered surface. The other half of Iapetus is relatively bright but oddly covered with long and thin streaks of dark. A 400-kilometer wide impact basin is visible near the image center, delineated by deep scarps that drop sharply to the crater floor. The above image was taken by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft during a flyby of Iapetus at the end of last year.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap050201.html

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APOD: 2019 February 15 - Opportunity at Perseverance Valley




Opportunity had already reached Perseverance Valley by June of 2018. Its view is reconstructed in a colorized mosaic of images taken by the Mars Exploration Rover's Navcam. In fact, Perseverance Valley is an appropriate name for the destination. Designed for a 90 day mission, Opportunity had traveled across Mars for over 5,000 sols (martian solar days) following a January 2004 landing in Eagle crater. Covering a total distance of over 45 kilometers (28 miles), its intrepid journey of exploration across the Martian landscape has come to a close here. On June 10, 2018, the last transmission from the solar-powered rover was received as a dust storm engulfed the Red Planet. Though the storm has subsided, eight months of attempts to contact Opportunity have not been successful and its trailblazing mission ended after almost 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190215.html

\#astronomy #picture #space #NASA #APOD
 
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APOD: 2019 January 31 - Sharpless 308: Star Bubble




Blown by fast winds from a hot, massive star, this cosmic bubble is huge. Cataloged as Sharpless 2-308 it lies some 5,200 light-years away toward the constellation of the Big Dog (Canis Major) and covers slightly more of the sky than a Full Moon. That corresponds to a diameter of 60 light-years at its estimated distance. The massive star that created the bubble, a Wolf-Rayet star, is the bright one near the center of the nebula. Wolf-Rayet stars have over 20 times the mass of the Sun and are thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova phase of massive star evolution. Fast winds from this Wolf-Rayet star create the bubble-shaped nebula as they sweep up slower moving material from an earlier phase of evolution. The windblown nebula has an age of about 70,000 years. Relatively faint emission captured in the expansive image is dominated by the glow of ionized oxygen atoms mapped to a blue hue. SH2-308 is also known as The Dolphin Nebula.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190131.html

\#astronomy #picture #space #NASA #APOD
 
APOD: 2019 February 14 - Solar System Family 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.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190214.html

\#astronomy #picture #space #NASA #APOD
 
Magnetischer Schutzschild der Erde schwingt wie eine Trommel #Erdmagnetfeld #NASA #QueenMaryUniversityofLondon #Schwingungen
 
Mars-Rover Opportunity: NASA beendet Mission nach Monaten Funkstille #Mars #NASA #Opportunity #unbemannteRaumfahrt
 
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APOD: 2009 September 8 - Unexpected Impact on Jupiter

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Two months ago, something unexpected hit Jupiter. First discovered by an amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley on 2009 July 19, the impact was quickly confirmed and even imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope during the next week. Many of the world's telescopes then zoomed in on our Solar System's largest planet to see the result. Some of these images have been complied into the above animation. Over the course of the last month and a half, the above time-lapse sequence shows the dark spot -- first created when Jupiter was struck -- deforming and dissipating as Jupiter's clouds churned and Jupiter rotated. It is now thought that a small comet -- perhaps less than one kilometer across -- impacted Jupiter on or before 2009 July 19. Although initially expected to be visible for only a week, astronomers continue to track atmospheric remnants of the impact for new information about winds and currents in Jupiter's thick atmosphere.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap090908.html

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Researchers and engineers involved are in mourning over the passing of the NASA rover, known affectionately as Oppy. #Space #NASA
 
APOD: 2019 February 13 - The Helix Nebula in Hydrogen and Oxygen




Is the Helix Nebula looking at you? No, not in any biological sense, but it does look quite like an eye. The Helix Nebula is so named because it also appears that you are looking down the axis of a helix. In actuality, it is now understood to have a surprisingly complex geometry, including radial filaments and extended outer loops. The Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293) is one of brightest and closest examples of a planetary nebula, a gas cloud created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The featured picture, taken in the light emitted by oxygen (shown in blue) and hydrogen (shown in red), was created from 74 hours of exposure over three months from a small telescope in a backyard of suburban Melbourne, Australia. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows complex gas knots of unknown origin.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190213.html

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Mars-Rover Opportunity: Letzter Kontaktversuch der NASA #Mars #NASA #Opportunity
 
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APOD: 2013 February 11 - N11: Star Clouds of the LMC




Massive stars, abrasive winds, mountains of dust, and energetic light sculpt one of the largest and most picturesque regions of star formation in the Local Group of Galaxies. Known as N11, the region is visible on the upper right of many images of its home galaxy, the Milky Way neighbor known as the Large Magellanic Clouds (LMC). The above image was taken for scientific purposes by the Hubble Space Telescope and reprocessed for artistry by an amateur to win the Hubble's Hidden Treasures competition. Although the section imaged above is known as NGC 1763, the entire N11 emission nebula is second in LMC size only to 30 Doradus. Studying the stars in N11 has shown that it actually houses three successive generations of star formation. Compact globules of dark dust housing emerging young stars are also visible around the image.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130211.html

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APOD: 2019 February 12 - Plane Crossing a Crescent Moon




No, this is not a good way to get to the Moon. What is pictured is a chance superposition of an airplane and the Moon. The contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the setting Sun preferentially knocks away blue light, giving the reflected trail a bright red hue. Far in the distance, well behind the plane, is a crescent Moon, also slightly reddened. Captured a month ago above Valais, Switzerland, the featured image was taken so soon after sunset that planes in the sky were still in sunlight, as were their contrails. Within minutes, unfortunately, the impromptu sky show ended. The plane crossed the Moon and moved out of sight. The Moon set. The contrail became unilluminated and then dispersed.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190212.html

\#astronomy #picture #space #NASA #APOD
 
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APOD: 2014 January 8 - Sunspot at Sunset




Sunsets may be the most watched celestial event, but lately sunsets have even offered something extra. A sunspot so large it was visible to the naked eye is captured in Swiss skies in this sunset scene from January 5, crossing left to right near the center of a solar disk dimmed and distorted by Earth's dense atmosphere. Detailed views reveal a large solar active region composed of sunspots, some larger than planet Earth itself. Cataloged as active region AR 1944, on January 7 it produced a substantial solar flare and a coronal mass ejection (CME) forecast to reach Earth. The CME could trigger geomagnetic storms and aurora on January 9.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140108.html

\#astronomy #picture #space #NASA #APOD
 
APOD: 2019 February 11 - New Data: Ultima Thule Surprisingly Flat




Ultima Thule is not the object humanity thought that it was last month. When the robotic New Horizons spacecraft zoomed past the distant asteroid Ultima Thule (officially 2014 MU69) in early January, early images showed two circular lobes that when most simply extrapolated to 3D were thought to be, roughly, spheres. However, analyses of newly beamed-back images -- including many taken soon after closest approach -- shows eclipsed stars re-appearing sooner than expected. The only explanation possible is that this 30-km long Kuiper belt object has a different 3D shape than believed only a few weeks ago. Specifically, as shown in the featured illustration, it now appears that the larger lobe -- Ultima -- is more similar to a fluffy pancake than a sphere, while the smaller lobe -- Thule -- resembles a dented walnut. The remaining uncertainty in the outlines are shown by the dashed blue lines. The new shape information indicates that gravity -- which contracts more massive bodies into spheres -- played perhaps less of a role in contouring the lobes of Ultima Thule than previously thought. The New Horizons spacecraft continued on to Ultima Thule after passing Pluto in mid-2015. New data and images are still being received.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190211.html

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APOD: 2006 April 17 - Barnard's Loop around the Horsehead Nebula




Why is the Horsehead Nebula surrounded by a bubble? Although glowing like an emission nebula, the origin of the bubble, known as Barnard's Loop, is currently unknown. Progenitor hypotheses include the winds from bright Orion stars and the supernovas of stars long gone. Barnard's Loop is too faint to be identified with the unaided eye. The nebula was discovered only in 1895 by E. E. Barnard on long duration film exposures. The above image was taken in a single specific color emitted by hydrogen to bring out detail. To the left of the Horsehead Nebula, visible as the small dark indentation near the image top, is the photogenic Flame Nebula.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap060417.html

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APOD: 2019 February 10 - Venus Unveiled




What does Venus look like beneath its thick clouds? These clouds keep the planet's surface hidden from even the powerful telescopic eyes of Earth-bound astronomers. In the early 1990s, though, using imaging radar, NASA's Venus-orbiting Magellan spacecraft was able to lift the veil from the face of Venus and produced spectacular high resolution images of the planet's surface. Colors used in this computer generated picture of Magellan radar data are based on color images from the surface of Venus transmitted by the Soviet Venera 13 and 14 landers. The bright area running roughly across the middle represents the largest highland region of Venus known as Aphrodite Terra. Venus, on the left, is about the same size as our Earth, shown to the right for comparison.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190210.html

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APOD: December 11, 1995 - NGC 5189: A Strange Planetary Nebula

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After a Sun-like star can no longer support fusion in its core, the center condenses into a white dwarf while the outer atmospheric layers are expelled into space and appear as a planetary nebula. This particular planetary nebula has a quite strange and chaotic structure. The inner part of this nebula contains an unusual expanding ring of gas that we see nearly edge-on. The exact mechanism that expels the planetary nebula gas is a current topic of astronomical speculation and research.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap951211.html

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APOD: 2019 February 9 - Comet Iwamoto and the Sombrero Galaxy




Comet Iwamoto (C/2018 Y1), shows off a pretty, greenish coma at the upper left in this telescopic field of view. Taken on February 4 from the Mount John Observatory, University of Canterbury, the 30 minute long total exposure time shows the comet sweeping quickly across a background of stars and distant galaxies in the constellation Virgo. The long exposure and Iwamoto's rapid motion relative to the stars and galaxies results in the noticeable blurred streak tracing the the comet's bright inner coma. In fact, the streaked coma gives the comet a remarkably similar appearance to Messier 104 at lower right, popularly known as the Sombrero Galaxy. The comet, a visitor to the inner Solar System, is a mere 4 light-minutes away though, while majestic Messier 104, a spiral galaxy posing edge-on, is 30 million light-years distant. The first binocular comet of 2019, Iwamoto will pass closest to Earth on February 12. This comet's highly elliptical orbit around the Sun stretches beyond the Kuiper belt with an estimated 1,371 year orbital period. That should bring it back to the inner Solar System in 3390 AD.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190209.html

\#astronomy #picture #space #NASA #APOD
 
Klimawandel: Auch 2018 wieder eines der wärmsten Jahre #DWD #Erderwärmung #Klimawandel #NASA #NOAA
 
NASA: Foto von Chinas Mondsonde Chang'e 4 aus dem Orbit #Change4 #Mond #NASA #unbemannteRaumfahrt
 
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APOD: 2002 January 26 - Shuttle Engine Blast

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The Space Shuttle Discovery's orbital maneuvering system (OMS) engine firing produced this dramatic flare as it cruised "upside down" in low Earth orbit. Discovery was named for a ship commanded by Captain James Cook RN, the 18th Century English astronomer and navigator. Cook's voyages of discovery established new standards in scientific exploration and brought extensive knowledge of the Pacific regions, including Australia, New Zealand, and the Hawaiian Island archipelago to Europeans. The Space Shuttle Endeavor, also named after one of Cook's ships, is the newest of NASA's four-orbiter shuttle fleet.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap020126.html

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APOD: 2019 February 8 - Moon, Four Planets, and Emu




A luminous Milky Way falls toward the horizon in this deep skyscape, starting at the top of the frame from the stars of the Southern Cross and the dark Coalsack Nebula. Captured in the dark predawn of February 2nd from Central Victoria, Australia, planet Earth, the 26 day old waning crescent Moon still shines brightly near the horizon. The second and third brightest celestial beacons are Venus and Jupiter along the lower part of the Milky Way's central bulge. Almost in line with the brighter planets and Moon, Saturn is the pinprick of light just visible below and right of the lunar glow. Australia's first astronomers saw the elongated, bulging shape of the familiar Milky Way as a great celestial Emu. The Moon and planets could almost be the Emu's eggs on this starry night.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190208.html

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APOD: 2015 August 15 - Perihelion Approaches




This dramatic outburst from the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko occured on August 12, just hours before perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun. Completing an orbit of the Sun once every 6.45 years, perihelion distance for this periodic comet is about 1.3 astronomical units (AU), still outside the orbit of planet Earth (at 1 AU). The stark image of the 4 kilometer wide, double-lobed nucleus in bright sunlight and dark shadows was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft's science camera about 325 kilometers away. Too close to see the comet's growing tail, Rosetta maintains its ringside seat to watch the nucleus warm and become more active in coming weeks, as primordial ices sublimating from the surface produce jets of gas and dust. Of course, dust from the nucleus of periodic comet Swift-Tuttle, whose last perihelion passage was in 1992 at a distance of 0.96 AU, fell to Earth just this week.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150815.html

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APOD: 2019 February 7 - Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree




Clouds of glowing hydrogen gas fill this colorful skyscape in the faint but fanciful constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. A star forming region 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 telescopic image spans about 3/4 degree or nearly 1.5 full moons, covering 40 light-years at the distance of NGC 2264. Its cast of cosmic characters includes the the Fox Fur Nebula, whose dusty, convoluted pelt lies near the top, bright variable star S Monocerotis immersed in the blue-tinted haze near center, and the Cone Nebula pointing in from the right side of the frame. Of course, the stars of NGC 2264 are also known as the Christmas Tree star cluster. The triangular tree shape is seen on its side here. Traced by brighter stars it has its apex at the Cone Nebula. The tree's broader base is centered near S Monocerotis.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190207.html

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APOD: 2015 July 17 - Charon




Icy world Charon is 1,200 kilometers across. That makes Pluto's largest moon only about 1/10th the size of planet Earth but a whopping 1/2 the diameter of Pluto itself. Charon is seen in unprecedented detail in this image from New Horizons. The image was captured late July 13 during the spacecraft's flight through the Plutonian system from a range of less than 500,000 kilometers. For reference, the distance separating Earth and Moon is less than 400,000 kilometers. Charonian terrain, described as surprising, youthful, and varied, includes a 1,000 kilometer swath of cliffs and troughs stretching below center, a 7 to 9 kilometer deep canyon cutting the curve of the upper right edge, and an enigmatic dark north polar region unofficially dubbed Mordor.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150717.html

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APOD: 2014 April 28 - Time Lapse of a Total Lunar Eclipse

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Video: //www.youtube.com/embed/KBBFzHLvrvA

Why would a bright full Moon suddenly become dark? Because it entered the shadow of the Earth. Almost two weeks ago this exact event happened as the Moon underwent a total lunar eclipse. That eclipse, visible from the half of the Earth then facing the Moon, was captured in numerous spectacular photographs and is depicted in the above time lapse video covering about an hour. The above video, recorded from Mt. Lemmon Sky Center in Arizona, USA, keeps the Earth shadow centered and shows the Moon moving through it from west to east. The temporarily good alignment between Earth, Moon, and Sun will show itself again tomorrow -- precisely half a moon-th (month) later -- when part of the Earth will pass through part of the new Moon's shadow.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140428.html

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APOD: 2019 February 5 - Perijove 16: Passing Jupiter

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Video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/c4TU3arrZR8

Watch Juno zoom past Jupiter again. NASA's robotic spacecraft Juno is continuing on its 53-day, highly-elongated orbits around our Solar System's largest planet. The featured video is from perijove 16, the sixteenth time that Juno has passed near Jupiter since it arrived in mid-2016. Each perijove passes near a slightly different part of Jupiter's cloud tops. This color-enhanced video has been digitally composed from 21 JunoCam still images, resulting in a 125-fold time-lapse. The video begins with Jupiter rising as Juno approaches from the north. As Juno reaches its closest view -- from about 3,500 kilometers over Jupiter's cloud tops -- the spacecraft captures the great planet in tremendous detail. Juno passes light zones and dark belt of clouds that circle the planet, as well as numerous swirling circular storms, many of which are larger than hurricanes on Earth. As Juno moves away, the remarkable dolphin-shaped cloud is visible. After the perijove, Jupiter recedes into the distance, now displaying the unusual clouds that appear over Jupiter's south. To get desired science data, Juno swoops so close to Jupiter that its instruments are exposed to very high levels of radiation.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190205.html

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APOD: February 6, 1996 - COBE Hotspots: The Oldest Structures Known

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Above are two microwave images of the sky, looking north and south of our galaxy's equator, based on data from NASA's COBE satellite. After computer processing to remove contributions from nearby objects and the effects of the earth's motion, they show "spots". These spots are the oldest structures known - probably the oldest structures humanity will ever know. They are also the most distant. As our universe expanded and cooled, conglomerations of mass formed - these are some of the first. They confirm that only a million years after the big-bang - which occurred roughly 15 billion years ago - parts of the universe were visibly hotter than other parts. By studying the size and distribution of the spots found with COBE and future missions, astronomers hope to learn what matter and processes caused the spots to form - and hence determine the composition, density, and future of our universe.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap960206.html

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APOD: 2019 February 4 - Henize 70: A Superbubble in the LMC




Massive stars profoundly affect their galactic environments. Churning and mixing interstellar clouds of gas and dust, stars -- most notably those upwards of tens of times the mass of our Sun -- leave their mark on the compositions and locations of future generations of stars. Dramatic evidence of this is illustrated in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), by the featured nebula, Henize 70 (also known as N70 and DEM301). Henize 70 is actually a luminous superbubble of interstellar gas about 300 light-years in diameter, blown by winds from hot, massive stars and supernova explosions, with its interior filled with tenuous hot and expanding gas. Because superbubbles can expand through an entire galaxy, they offer humanity a chance to explore the connection between the lifecycles of stars and the evolution of galaxies.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190204.html

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APOD: December 23, 1997 - M2-9: Wings of a Planetary Nebula

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Are stars better appreciated for their art after they die? Actually, stars usually create their most artistic displays as they die. In the case of low-mass stars like our Sun and M2-9 pictured above, the stars transform themselves from normal stars to white dwarfs by casting off their outer gaseous envelopes. The expended gas frequently forms an impressive display called a planetary nebula that fades gradually over thousand of years. M2-9, a butterfly planetary nebula 2100 light-years away shown in representative colors, has wings that tell a strange but incomplete tale. In the center, two stars orbit inside a gaseous disk 10 times the orbit of Pluto. The expelled envelope of the dying star breaks out from the disk creating the bipolar appearance. Much remains unknown about the physical processes that cause planetary nebulae.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap971223.html

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APOD: 2019 February 3 - An Airglow Fan from Lake to Sky




Why would the sky look like a giant fan? Airglow. The featured intermittent green glow appeared to rise from a lake through the arch of our Milky Way Galaxy, as captured during 2015 next to Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA. The unusual pattern was created by atmospheric gravity waves, ripples of alternating air pressure that can grow with height as the air thins, in this case about 90 kilometers up. Unlike auroras powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction. More typically seen near the horizon, airglow keeps the night sky from ever being completely dark.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190203.html

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APOD: 2015 November 3 - Seeking Venus under the Spitzkoppe Arch




What's that in the sky? Although there was much to see in this spectacular panorama taken during the early morning hours of a day in late September, the brightest object in the sky was clearly the planet Venus. In the featured image, Venus was captured actually through a natural rock bridge, itself picturesque, in Spitzkoppe, Namibia. The planet, on the left of the opening, was complemented by a silhouette of the astrophotographer on the right. Above and beyond the rock bridge were many famous icons of a dark night sky, including, from left to right, the Pleiades star cluster, the Orion Nebula, the bright star Sirius, and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. This week, Venus remains visible to the east in the pre-dawn sky, being complemented by Mars, which is angularly quite close.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap151103.html

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APOD: 2019 February 2 - LDN 1622: Dark Nebula in Orion




The silhouette of an intriguing dark nebula inhabits this cosmic scene. Lynds' Dark Nebula (LDN) 1622 appears against a faint background of glowing hydrogen gas only easily seen in long telescopic exposures of the region. LDN 1622 lies near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, close on the sky to Barnard's Loop, a large cloud surrounding the rich complex of emission nebulae found in the Belt and Sword of Orion. But the obscuring dust of LDN 1622 is thought to be much closer than Orion's more famous nebulae, perhaps only 500 light-years away. At that distance, this 1 degree wide field of view would span less than 10 light-years. Its foreboding appearance lends this dark expanse a popular name, the Boogeyman Nebula.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190202.html

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APOD: 2011 June 20 - Last Roll Out of a NASA Space Shuttle




In the final move of its kind, NASA's space shuttle Atlantis was photographed earlier this month slowly advancing toward Launch Pad 39A, where it is currently scheduled for a July launch to the International Space Station. The mission, designated STS-135, is the 135th and last mission for a NASA space shuttle. Atlantis and its four-person crew will be carrying, among other things, the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module Raffaello to bring key components and supplies to the ISS. Pictured above, the large Shuttle Crawler Transporter rolls the powerful orbiter along the five-kilometer long road at less than two kilometers per hour. Over 15,000 spectators, some visible on the right, were on hand for the historic roll out.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110620.html

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APOD: 2019 February 1 - Twin Galaxies in Virgo




Spiral galaxy pair NGC 4567 and NGC 4568 share this sharp cosmic vista with lonely elliptical galaxy NGC 4564. All are members of the large Virgo Galaxy Cluster. With their classic spiral arms, dust lanes, and star clusters, the eye-catching spiral pair is also known as the Butterfly Galaxies or the Siamese Twins. Very close together, the galaxy twins don't seem to be too distorted by gravitational tides. Their giant molecular clouds are known to be colliding though and are likely fueling the formation of massive star clusters. The galaxy twins are about 52 million light-years distant, while their bright cores appear separated by about 20,000 light-years. Of course, the spiky foreground stars lie within our own Milky Way.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190201.html

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APOD: May 13, 1996 - Hubble's Constant And The Expanding Universe (I)

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Our Universe is expanding. Distant galaxies appear to recede from us at ever-increasing speeds. What is the rate of expansion? How long has it been expanding? What will be its ultimate fate? Two groups of astronomers are searching vigorously for answers to these fundamental questions using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The teams have recently announced conflicting measurements of the Hubble constant, a number which represents the expansion rate of the Universe. Astronomer Wendy Freedman and her collaborators have used pulsating stars called Cepheids to measure the distance to galaxies like the Fornax cluster barred spiral galaxy NGC1365 shown above. The ground based photo (left) shows an inset locating the HST image (right) which Freedman and team have used to identify some 50 Cepheids. Their distance and velocity measurements determine Hubble's constant to be about 80 kilometers per second per megaparsec which means that galaxies one megaparsec (3 million lightyears) distant appear to recede from us at a speed of 80 kilometers per second. Conflicting results indicating a substantially slower expansion rate (smaller Hubble constant) are being reported by astronomer Allan Sandage and collaborators. The value of Hubble's constant was recently the subject of a popular public debate titled "The Scale of the Universe 1996: The Value of Hubble's Constant".

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap960513.html

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APOD: 2019 January 31 - Sharpless 308: Star Bubble




Blown by fast winds from a hot, massive star, this cosmic bubble is huge. Cataloged as Sharpless 2-308 it lies some 5,200 light-years away toward the constellation of the Big Dog (Canis Major) and covers slightly more of the sky than a Full Moon. That corresponds to a diameter of 60 light-years at its estimated distance. The massive star that created the bubble, a Wolf-Rayet star, is the bright one near the center of the nebula. Wolf-Rayet stars have over 20 times the mass of the Sun and are thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova phase of massive star evolution. Fast winds from this Wolf-Rayet star create the bubble-shaped nebula as they sweep up slower moving material from an earlier phase of evolution. The windblown nebula has an age of about 70,000 years. Relatively faint emission captured in the expansive image is dominated by the glow of ionized oxygen atoms mapped to a blue hue. SH2-308 is also known as The Dolphin Nebula.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190131.html

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APOD: 2011 June 19 - The Regolith of Asteroid Eros

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From fifty kilometers above asteroid Eros, the surface inside one of its largest craters appears covered with an unusual substance: regolith. The thickness and composition of the surface dust that is regolith remains a topic of much research. Much of the regolith on 433 Eros was probably created by numerous small impacts during its long history. In this representative-color view taken by the robot spacecraft NEAR-SHOEMAKER that orbited Eros in 2000 and 2001, brown areas indicate regolith that has been chemically altered by exposure to the solar wind during micrometeorite impacts. White areas are thought to have undergone relatively less exposure. The boulders visible inside the crater appear brown, indicating either that they are old enough to have a surface itself tanned by the solar wind, or that they have somehow become covered with some dark surface dust. This July, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will orbit giant main belt asteroid Vesta.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110619.html

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APOD: 2019 January 30 - Wide Field View of Great American Eclipse




Only in the fleeting darkness of a total solar eclipse is the light of the solar corona easily visible. Normally overwhelmed by the bright solar disk, the expansive corona, the sun's outer atmosphere, is an alluring sight. But the subtle details and extreme ranges in the corona's brightness, although discernible to the eye, are notoriously difficult to photograph. Pictured here, however, using over 120 images and meticulous digital processing, is a detailed wide-angle image of the Sun's corona taken during the Great American Eclipse in 2017 August. Clearly visible are intricate layers and glowing caustics of an ever changing mixture of hot gas and magnetic fields. Hundreds of stars as faint as 11th magnitude are visible behind the Moon and Sun, with Mars appearing in red on the far right. The next total eclipse of the Sun will occur on July 2 and be visible during sunset from a thin swath across Chile and Argentina.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190130.html

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APOD: 2002 September 1 - The Hubble Deep Field

Bild/Foto

Galaxies like colorful pieces of candy fill the Hubble Deep Field - one of humanity's most distant optical views of the Universe. The dimmest, some as faint as 30th magnitude (about four billion times fainter than stars visible to the unaided eye), are very distant galaxies and represent what the Universe looked like in the extreme past, perhaps less than one billion years after the Big Bang. To make the Deep Field image, astronomers selected an uncluttered area of the sky in the constellation Ursa Major (the Big Bear) and pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at a single spot for 10 days accumulating and combining many separate exposures. With each additional exposure, fainter objects were revealed. The final result has been used to explore the mysteries of galaxy evolution and the infant Universe.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap020901.html

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APOD: 2019 January 29 - Ultima Thule from New Horizons




How do distant asteroids differ from those near the Sun? To help find out, NASA sent the robotic New Horizons spacecraft past the classical Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, the farthest asteroid yet visited by a human spacecraft. Zooming past the 30-km long space rock on January 1, the featured image is the highest resolution picture of Ultima Thule's surface beamed back so far. Utima Thuli does look different than imaged asteroids of the inner Solar System, as it shows unusual surface texture, relatively few obvious craters, and nearly spherical lobes. Its shape is hypothesized to have formed from the coalescence of early Solar System rubble in into two objects -- Ultima and Thule -- which then spiraled together and stuck. Research will continue into understanding the origin of different surface regions on Ultima Thule, whether it has a thin atmosphere, how it obtained its red color, and what this new knowledge of the ancient Solar System tells us about the formation of our Earth.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190129.html

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APOD: 2012 December 2 - The Gegenschein Over Chile




Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured above from 2008 October is one of the more spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. Here a deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Paranal Observatory in Chile shows the gegenschein so clearly that even a surrounding glow is visible. In the foreground are several of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescopes, while notable background objects include the Andromeda galaxy toward the lower left and the Pleiades star cluster just above the horizon. The gegenschein is distinguished from zodiacal light near the Sun by the high angle of reflection. During the day, a phenomenon similar to the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap121202.html

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APOD: 2019 January 28 - The Long Gas Tail of Spiral Galaxy D100




Why is there long red streak attached to this galaxy? The streak is made mostly of glowing hydrogen that has been systematically stripped away as the galaxy moved through the ambient hot gas in a cluster of galaxies. Specifically, the galaxy is spiral galaxy D100, and cluster is the Coma Cluster of galaxies. The red path connects to the center of D100 because the outer gas, gravitationally held less strongly, has already been stripped away by ram pressure. The extended gas tail is about 200,000 light-years long, contains about 400,000 times the mass of our Sun, and stars are forming within it. Galaxy D99, visible to D100's lower left, appears red because it glows primarily from the light of old red stars -- young blue stars can no longer form because D99 has been stripped of its star-forming gas. The featured false-color picture is a digitally enhanced composite of images from Earth-orbiting Hubble and the ground-based Subaru telescope. Studying remarkable systems like this bolsters our understanding of how galaxies evolve in clusters.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190128.html

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APOD: 2010 February 20 - Geostationary Highway




Put a satellite in a circular orbit about 42,000 kilometers from the center of the Earth (36,000 kilometers or so above the surface) and it will orbit once in 24 hours. Because that matches Earth's rotation period, it is known as a geosynchronous orbit. If that orbit is also in the plane of the equator, the satellite will hang in the sky over a fixed location in a geostationary orbit. As predicted in the 1940s by futurist Arthur C. Clarke, geostationary orbits are in common use for communication and weather satellites, a scenario now well-known to astroimagers. Deep images of the night sky made with telescopes that follow the stars can also pick up geostationary satellites glinting in sunlight still shining far above the Earth's surface. Because they all move with the Earth's rotation against the background of stars, the satellites leave trails that seem to follow a highway across the celestial landscape. For example, in this wide view of the nearly equatorial Orion region, individual frames were added to create a 10 minute long exposure. It shows Orion's belt stars and well-known nebulae along with many 2.5 degree long geostationary satellite trails. The frames are from an ingenious movie, featuring the geostationary satellite highway.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap100220.html

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APOD: 2019 January 27 - From the Northern to the Southern Cross




There is a road that connects the Northern to the Southern Cross but you have to be at the right place and time to see it. The road, as pictured here, is actually the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy; the right place, in this case, is dark Laguna Cejar in Salar de Atacama of Northern Chile; and the right time was in early October, just after sunset. Many sky wonders were captured then, including the bright Moon, inside the Milky Way arch; Venus, just above the Moon; Saturn and Mercury, just below the Moon; the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds satellite galaxies, on the far left; red airglow near the horizon on the image left; and the lights of small towns at several locations across the horizon. One might guess that composing this 30-image panorama would have been a serene experience, but for that one would have required earplugs to ignore the continued brays of wild donkeys.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190127.html

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APOD: 2017 May 13 - Planet Aurora




What bizarre alien planet is this? It's planet Earth of course, seen from the International Space Station through the shimmering glow of aurorae. About 400 kilometers (250 miles) above Earth, the orbiting station is itself within the upper realm of the auroral displays. Aurorae have the signature colors of excited molecules and atoms at the low densities found at extreme altitudes. Emission from atomic oxygen dominates this view. The eerie glow is green at lower altitudes, but a rarer reddish band extends above the space station's horizon. Also visible from the planet's surface, this auroral display began during a geomagnetic storm. The storm was triggered after a coronal mass ejection impacted Earth's magnetosphere in June of 2015.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap170513.html

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APOD: 2019 January 26 - The Umbra of Earth




The dark, inner shadow of planet Earth is called the umbra. Shaped like a cone extending into space, it has a circular cross section most easily seen during a lunar eclipse. For example, on January 21 the Full Moon slid across the northern half of Earth's umbral shadow, entertaining moonwatchers around much of the planet. In the total phase of the eclipse, the Moon was completely within the umbra for 63 minutes. Recorded under clear, dark skies from the hills near Chiuduno, Italy this composite eclipse image uses successive pictures from totality (center) and partial phases to trace out a large part of the umbra's curved edge. Reflecting sunlight scattered by the atmosphere into Earth's shadow, the lunar surface appears reddened during totality. But close to the umbra's edge, the limb of the eclipsed Moon shows a distinct blue hue. The blue eclipsed moonlight originates as rays of sunlight pass through layers high in the upper stratosphere, colored by ozone that scatters red light and transmits blue.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190126.html

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