Methane Bubbles Frozen in Lake Baikal
What are these bubbles frozen into Lake Baikal?
Lake Baikal, a
World Heritage Site
is the world's largest (by volume), oldest, and deepest lake,
containing over 20% of the world's fresh water.
The lake is also a vast storehouse of methane, a
that, if released, could potentially increase the amount of infrared light absorbed by
and so increase the average temperature of the entire planet.
Fortunately, the amount of methane
is not climatologically important.
It is not clear
what would happen
, though, were temperatures to significantly increase in
, or if the water level in
were to drop.
, bubbles of rising
during winter into the exceptionally
M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
What is the nearest major
to our own
Milky Way Galaxy
In fact, our Galaxy is thought to look much like
Together these two galaxies dominate the
The diffuse light from
is caused by the hundreds of billions of
s that compose it.
The several distinct stars that surround
are actually stars in
that are well in front of the background object.
frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st
's list of diffuse sky objects.
is so distant it takes
about two million years for light to reach us from there.
Although visible without aid
of M31 is a digital mosaic of
20 frames taken with a small telescope.
Much about M31
, including exactly how long it will before it
collides with our home galaxy
Comet Wirtanen Passes by the Earth
Today Comet Wirtanen passes by the Earth.
The kilometer-sized dirty snowball orbits the Sun every 5.4 years,
ranging as far out as
and as close in as the
passes within only
31 lunar distances to the Earth, the closest approach in 70 years.
If you know
where to look
you can see
through binoculars as an unusual
a week ago,
Comet Wirtanen was photographed in the sky beyond an old abandoned church in
The image composite also captures the astrophotographer.
, the comet will begin to fade as
recedes from the Earth and the Sun.
Geminids and Friends
From a radiant
in the constellation of the Twins, the annual
Geminid meteor shower
rained down on our fair planet this week.
This beautiful skyscape collects about 70 of Gemini's lovely
shooting stars in a digital composition made from
The exposures were taken over a six hour period near the shower's peak.
The camera was tracking
the dark predawn sky on December 14
from Teide National Park on the Canary Island Tenerife.
Though Gemini lies off the top left of the frame, the Milky Way sweeps
through the starry background.
Sharing the sky below and left of center are recognizable
stars and nebulosities
A yellowish Aldebaran
and the Hyades are toward the right along with
the Pleiades star cluster.
Also a welcome visitor to this night sky, the faint green coma of
Comet 46P Wirtanen
closest to Earth this weekend, lies below the Pleiades stars.
Dust swept up from the orbit of
Gemini's meteors enter
at about 35 kilometers per second.
Swimming on Jupiter
On October 29, the Juno spacecraft once again dove near
the turbulent Jovian cloud tops.
Its 16th orbital closest approach or
brought Juno within 3,500 kilometers of
the Solar System's largest planetary atmosphere.
recorded by JunoCam
while the spacecraft cruised 20 - 50 thousand kilometers
above the planet's middle southern latitudes,
seem to follow a swirling cloud shaped remarkably like a dolphin.
South South Temperate Belt, this dolphin is itself planet-sized though,
some thousands of kilometers across.
Juno's next perijove
passage will be December 21.
3D Bennu - 19Dez2018 07:17:58
Put on your red/blue glasses and float next to asteroid
Shaped like a spinning top toy
with boulders littering its rough surface,
the tiny Solar System world is about
(less than 500 meters) across.
Frames used to construct this 3D anaglyph were taken by PolyCam
on board the OSIRIS_REx spacecraft on December 3 from
a distance of about 80 kilometers.
Now settling in
to explore Bennu from orbit, the
is expected to deliver samples of the asteroid to
planet Earth in 2023.
Samples of dust from another asteroid will streak
through Earth's atmosphere much sooner though, when the
Geminid meteor shower peaks in predawn skies on December 14.
The parent body for the annual Geminids is asteroid
M43: Orion Falls
Is there a waterfall in Orion?
No, but some of the dust in M43 appears similar to a
, part of the
Orion Molecular Cloud
, is the often imaged but rarely mentioned neighbor
of the more famous M42.
, which includes many bright stars from the
, lies above the featured scene.
is itself a star forming region and although laced with filaments of dark dust,
is composed mostly of glowing
, located about 1600
away, is inundated with many intricate and
Opaque to visible light, dark
in the outer atmosphere of massive cool stars and expelled by a strong
Arp 188 and the Tadpole's Tail
Why does this galaxy have such a
In this stunning vista, based on image data from
the Hubble Legacy Archive,
distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop
for disrupted spiral
188, the Tadpole Galaxy.
The cosmic tadpole is
a mere 420 million light-years distant toward the
northern constellation of the Dragon (Draco
Its eye-catching tail is about 280 thousand
features massive, bright blue star clusters.
that a more compact
crossed in front
of Arp 188 - from right to left in this view - and was
behind the Tadpole by their gravitational attraction.
, tidal forces drew out the
stars, gas, and dust
forming the spectacular tail.
galaxy itself, estimated to
lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the,
can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper right.
its terrestrial namesake
will likely lose
as it grows older, the tail's star clusters
forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy.
Sound and Light Captured by Mars InSight
Your arm on Mars has unusual powers.
For one thing
is nearly 2 meters long, has a scoop and grapple built into
hand, and has a camera built into
For another, it will soon deploy your ear -- a
that will listen for distant rumblings --
onto the surface of Mars.
momet-ear is the orange box in the foreground,
while the gray dome behind it will be its protective cover.
Your arm is attached to the
InSight robotic lander
that touched down on
two weeks ago.
Somewhat unexpectedly, your ear has
already heard something
slight vibrations caused by the
flowing over the solar panels.
Light from the
is being collected by the
, part of one being visible on the far right.
Actually, at the present time, you have
operating on Mars, but they are separated by about 600 kilometers.
That's because your
other active arm
is connected to the
exploring a distant crater.
Taken a week ago,
and rocks are visible in the
beyond Insight, as well as the
orange sky of Mars
Aurora Shimmer, Meteor Flash
Some night skies are serene and passive -- others shimmer and flash.
The later, in the form of
and meteors, haunted
the island of Kvaløya, near Tromsø Norway on 2009 December 13.
This 30 second long exposure records a
glow gently lighting the wintery coastal scene.
A study in contrasts, the image also captures the sudden flash of
a fireball meteor from the excellent
Geminid meteor shower
Streaking past familiar stars in the handle of the
, the trail points back
, off the top of the view.
Both auroras and meteors occur in Earth's upper atmosphere at altitudes
of 100 kilometers or so, but
caused by energetic charged particles from the
while meteors are trails of cosmic dust
Nine years after this photograph was taken, toward the end of this week, the yearly
meteor shower will peak again,
although this time their flashes will compete with the din of a
during the first half of the night.
Tiny Planet Timelapse
You can pack a lot of sky watching into 30 seconds on this tiny planet.
Of course, the full spherical image timelapse video
outside Pinehurst, North Carolina.
It was shot in early September with a single camera and circular
digitally combining one 24-hour period with camera and lens pointed up
with one taken with camera and lens pointed down.
The resulting image data is processed and projected onto
a flat frame centered on the
the point directly below the camera.
Watch as clouds pass, shadows creep, and the sky cycles from day to night
when stars swirl around the horizon.
Keep watching, though.
In a second sequence the projected center is the
south celestial pole
planet Earth's axis of rotation below the tiny planet horizon.
Holding the stars fixed, the horizon itself rotates as the tiny
planet swings around the frame, hiding half the sky
through day and night
December s Comet Wirtanen
Coming close in mid-December,
Comet 46P Wirtanen
hangs in this starry sky over the bell tower of a Romanesque church.
In the constructed vertical panorama, a series of digital exposures
capture its greenish coma
on December 3 from Sant Llorenc de la Muga, Girona, Catalonia, Spain,
With an orbital period that is now about 5.4 years, the
periodic comet's perihelion, its closest approach,
to the Sun will be on December 12.
On December 16 it will be closest to Earth, passing at a distance of
about 11.6 million kilometers or 39 light-seconds
for a comet
, a mere 30 times the Earth-Moon distance.
A good binocular target
for comet watchers
Wirtanen could be visible to the unaided eye from a dark sky site.
To spot it after dusk on December 16, look close
to the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus.
Cetus Galaxies and Supernova
Large spiral galaxy NGC 1055 at top left joins
spiral Messier 77 (bottom right) in
this cosmic view
toward the aquatic
The narrowed, dusty appearance of edge-on spiral
contrasts nicely with the face-on view of
M77's bright nucleus and spiral arms.
Both over 100,000 light-years across, the pair are dominant members
of a small galaxy group about 60 million light-years away.
At that estimated distance,
of the most remote objects in
Charles Messier's catalog
and is separated from fellow island universe NGC 1055 by at
least 500,000 light-years.
The field of view is about the size of the full Moon
on the sky
includes colorful foreground Milky Way stars
along with more distant background galaxies.
Taken on November 28, the sharp image also includes newly discovered
its location indicated in the arms of M77.
The light from the explosion of one of M77's massive stars
was discovered by telescopes
only a few days earlier on November 24.
Highlights of the North Winter Sky
What can you see
in the night sky this season?
The featured graphic gives a few highlights for
's northern hemisphere.
Viewed as a clock face centered at the bottom, early (northern) winter sky events fan out toward the left, while late winter events are projected toward the right.
Objects relatively close to
are illustrated, in general, as nearer to the cartoon figure with the telescope at the bottom center -- although almost everything pictured can be
seen without a telescope
As happens during any season, constellations
appear the same year to year, and, as usual, the
Geminids meteor shower
will peak in mid-December.
Also as usual, the
International Space Station
can be seen, at times
, as a bright spot
drifting across the sky
Less usual, the Moon is expected to
pass nearly in front
of several planets in early January.
A treat this winter is
will pass only 36 lunar distances from the Earth in mid-December,
potentially making it
to the unaided eye.
Rocket Launch between Mountains
What's happening between those mountains?
A rocket is being
launched to space
Long March 3B
Carrier Rocket was launched from
Xichang Satellite Launch Center
about two week ago.
2,000 kilometers above
the Earth's surface, well above the orbit of the
International Space Station
, but well below the orbit of
Chang'e 3 mission
that landed the robotic
on the Moon was launched from Xichang in 2013.
The featured image was taken about 10 kilometers from the launch site and is actually a composite of nine exposures, including a separate background image.
Spiraling Supermassive Black Holes
Do black holes glow when they collide?
When merging, co-orbiting
are sure to emit a burst of unusual
, but will they emit
, well before that,
if they are
surrounded by gas
To help find out,
accurately depicts two spiraling
supermassive black hole
s, including the effects of
Einstein's general relativity
on the surrounding gas and light.
first shows the system from the top, and later from the side where unusual
gravitational lens distortions
are more prominent.
indicate that gravitational and magnetic forces should energize the gas to emit high-energy light from the
to the X-ray
The emission of such light may enable humanity to
detect and study
black hole pair
s well before they spiral together.
The Fairy of Eagle Nebula
The dust sculptures of the Eagle Nebula are evaporating.
As powerful starlight whittles away these
cool cosmic mountains
might be imagined as mythical beasts
is one of several striking
that might be described as a gigantic alien
This fairy, however, is ten
tall and spews radiation much hotter than
The greater Eagle Nebula
is actually a giant evaporating shell of gas and
inside of which is a growing
filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an
This great pillar, which is about 7,000 light years away, will
likely evaporate away
in about 100,000 years.
The featured image
in 2005 as part of the
fifteenth anniversary celebration
Hubble Space Telescope
Mount Everest Star Trails
is framed in this mountain and night skyscape.
On September 30, the digital stack of 240 sequential exposures
made with a camera fixed to a tripod at an Everest
captured the sheer
of the Himalayan mountain and foreground illuminated
by bright moonlight.
Taken over 1.5 hours, the sequence also recorded colorful star trails.
Reflecting the planet's daily rotation on its axis,
their motion is along gentle concentric arcs centered on the
south celestial pole
a point well below the rugged horizon.
of the trails actually indicates the temperatures of the stars.
Blueish hues are from hotter stars, and yellow to reddish hues
are from stars cooler than the Sun.
A Cold River to Orion
on the river Lielupe as it flows through the
in this winter's night scene
Even in motion the frigid water still reflects a starry sky, though.
The well planned,
panorama looks toward the south,
taken in three exposures from a bridge near the
village of Stalgene, Latvia,
Drifting pancakes of ice leave streaks in the long exposures,
while familiar stars of Orion and the northern winter night
appear above and below the horizon.
Village lights along the horizon include skyward beams from the
local community church.
This image was a first place winner in the 2018 StarSpace
Across Corona Australis
Cosmic dust clouds are draped across a rich field of stars in
broad telescopic panorama
near the northern boundary of
, the Southern Crown.
Less than 500 light-years away the denser clouds
effectively block light
more distant background stars in the
The entire vista spans about 5 degrees or nearly 45 light-years at
the clouds' estimated distance.
Toward the right lies a group of bluish reflection nebulae
NGC 6726, 6727, 6729 and IC 4812
The characteristic blue color is produced as light
from hot stars is reflected by
the cosmic dust.
The dust also obscures from view stars
in the region
still in the process of formation.
Smaller yellowish nebula NGC 6729 surrounds
Below it are arcs and loops identified as
Herbig Haro (HH) objects
associated with energetic newborn stars.
Magnificent globular star cluster
is above and right of the nebulae.
Though NGC 6723 appears
to be part
of the group
its ancient stars actually lie nearly 30,000 light-years away,
far beyond the young stars of the Corona Australis dust clouds
IC 1871: Inside the Soul Nebula
This cosmic close-up
looks deep inside the
The dark and brooding
s on the left, outlined by bright
ridges of glowing gas, are cataloged as IC 1871.
About 25 light-years across,
the telescopic field of view spans only
a small part of the much larger
Heart and Soul
At an estimated distance of 6,500 light-years the star-forming
complex lies within the
Perseus spiral arm
Galaxy, seen in planet
Earth's skies toward the constellation Cassiopeia.
An example of
triggered star formation
the dense star-forming clouds of IC 1871 are themselves
sculpted by the intense winds and radiation of the region's
massive young stars.
appears mostly red due to the emission of a
of light emitted by
excited hydrogen gas
InSights First Image from Mars
Welcome to Mars, NASA Insight.
Yesterday NASA's robotic spacecraft
made a dramatic landing on
across the inner Solar System.
Needing to brake
from 20,000 km per hour to zero in about
, Insight decelerated by as much as 8
and heated up to 1500 degrees
as it deployed a heat shield,
a parachute, and at the end, rockets.
by InSight on Mars, and welcome proof that the spacecraft had shed enough speed to
and function on the red planet.
During its final descent, InSight's rockets
kicked up dust
which can be seen stuck to the lens cap of the
Instrument Context Camera
Past the spotty dirt, parts of
that are visible include
cover bolts at the bottom and a lander footpad on the lower right.
Small rocks are
the rusty red soil,
while the arc across the top of the image is the
dividing land and sky.
Over the next few weeks
will deploy several scientific instruments, including a
These instruments are expected to give humanity unprecedented data involving the
interior of Mars
, a region thought to harbor
not only about Mars, but