Glowing Elements in the Soul Nebula
Stars are forming in the Soul of the Queen of Aethopia.
More specifically, a large star forming region called the
(IC 1898) can be found in the direction of the
, who Greek mythology credits as the
of a King who long ago ruled
The Soul Nebula
open clusters of stars
a large radio source known as
and huge evacuated bubbles formed by the winds of young massive
Located about 6,500 light years away, the
spans about 100
and is usually
imaged next to
its celestial neighbor the
is a composite of three exposures in different colors:
red as emitted by
gas, yellow as emitted by
and blue as emitted by
Active Prominences on a Quiet Sun
Why is the Sun so quiet?
As the Sun
enters into a period of time known as a
, it is, as expected, showing fewer
The quietness is somewhat unsettling
, though, as so far this year, most days show no sunspots at all.
In contrast, from 2011 - 2015, during
the Sun displayed spots just about every day.
Maxima and minima occur on an
, with the
last Solar Minimum
being the most quiet in a century.
Will this current Solar Minimum
go even deeper
Even though the
affects the Earth and its surroundings,
no one knows for sure
what the Sun will do next
and the physics behind the processes remain an
active topic of research
three weeks ago
and shows that our Sun is busy even on a quiet day.
some larger than the Earth
dance continually and are most easily visible over the edge.
Asperitas Clouds Over New Zealand
What kind of clouds are these?
Although their cause is presently unknown, such unusual atmospheric structures,
as menacing as they might seem, do not appear to be harbingers of
Formally recognized as a distinct
only last year,
clouds can be stunning in appearance, unusual in occurrence, and are relatively unstudied.
Whereas most low cloud decks are
appear to have significant vertical structure underneath.
Speculation therefore holds that
might be related to
that form near mountains,
or mammatus clouds
associated with thunderstorms,
or perhaps a foehn wind
a type of dry downward wind that flows off mountains.
Such a wind
streams toward the east coast of New Zealand's
The featured image
, taken above
, in 2005,
shows great detail partly because sunlight illuminates the undulating
from the side.
Shrouded in a thick atmosphere,
Saturn's largest moon Titan
really is hard to see.
Small particles suspended in the upper atmosphere cause an almost
impenetrable haze, strongly scattering light at visible wavelengths
and hiding Titan's surface features from prying eyes.
is better imaged at
infrared wavelengths where
scattering is weaker and atmospheric absorption is reduced.
Arrayed around this centered visible light image of Titan are
some of the clearest global infrared views of the
moon so far.
In false color,
six panels present
a consistent processing of 13 years of
infrared image data from the
Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on board
the Cassini spacecraft
They offer a stunning comparison with Cassini's visible light view.
Perseid Fireball and Persistent Train
midnight on August 12
, this brilliant Perseid meteor
flashed above the Poloniny Dark Sky Park, Slovakia, planet Earth.
the summer Milky Way, its initial color is likely due
to the shower meteor's characteristically high speed.
Moving at about 60 kilometers per second
, Perseid meteors can
excite green emission from oxygen atoms while passing through the
thin atmosphere at high altitudes
Also characteristic of bright meteors, this Perseid left a
lingering visible trail known as a
, wafting in the upper
Its development is followed in the inset frames, exposures separated
by one minute and shown at the scale of the original image.
Compared to the brief flash of the meteor, the wraith-like trail really
After an hour faint remnants of this one could still be traced, expanding
to over 80 degrees on the sky.
Parker vs Perseid
The brief flash of a bright Perseid meteor streaks across the
upper right in this composited series of exposures
made early Sunday morning near the peak of the annual
Perseid meteor shower.
up about two miles
from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, the photographer also captured the
four minute long trail of a Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the
into the dark morning sky.
Perseid meteors aren't slow.
The grains of dust
from periodic comet Swift-Tuttle vaporize as they
plow through Earth's upper atmosphere at about
60 kilometers per second
On its way
to seven gravity-assist flybys of Venus
over its seven year mission, the Parker Solar Probe's closest
approach to the Sun will steadily decrease,
finally reaching a distance of 6.1 million kilometers
(3.8 million miles).
That's about 1/8 the distance between Mercury and the Sun,
and within the solar corona
the Sun's tenuous outer atmosphere.
By then it will be traveling roughly 190 kilometers per second
(430,000 mph) with respect to the Sun, a record for fastest spacecraft
from planet Earth.
Launch of the Parker Solar Probe
When is the best time to
a probe to the Sun?
The now historic answer -- which is not
because this really happened this past weekend -- was at night.
Night, not only because NASA's
Parker Solar Probe
occurred, in part,
at night, but also because most
will operate in the
of its shield --
in effect creating its own perpetual night near
Before then, years will pass as
approach the Sun
, swinging past
is scheduled to pass dangerously close to the Sun,
within 9 solar radii, the closest ever.
This close, the
will be 1,400 degrees
on the day side of the
PSP's Sun shield
-- hot enough to
melt many forms of glass
On the night side, though, it will be near
of the PSP's mission to the Sun
is to increase humanity's understanding of the
that impact Earth's satellites
Pictured is the
of the PSP aboard the
United Launch Alliances
Delta IV Heavy
rocket early Sunday morning.
M86 in the Central Virgo Cluster
Is there a bridge of gas connecting these two great galaxies?
Quite possibly, but it is hard to be sure.
on the upper left is a giant
near the center of the nearby
Our Milky Way Galaxy is
falling toward the Virgo Cluster
located about 50 million
To the lower right of
is unusual spiral galaxy NGC 4438, which,
together with angular neighbor NGC 4435, are known as the
(also Arp 120).
is one of the deeper images yet taken of the region,
indicating that red-glowing gas surrounds M86 and
it to NGC 4438.
The image spans about the size of the full moon.
It is also known, however, that
superposed in front
and observations of the low speed of this gas
seem more consistent
with this Milky Way origin hypothesis.
A definitive answer may come from
, which may also
resolve how the extended blue arms of NGC 4435 were created.
The Pencil Nebula in Red and Blue
This shock wave plows through interstellar space
at over 500,000 kilometers per hour.
Near the top and moving up in this
sharply detailed color composite, thin, bright, braided filaments
are actually long ripples in a cosmic sheet of glowing gas
seen almost edge-on.
as NGC 2736
, its elongated appearance
suggests its popular name,
the Pencil Nebula
The Pencil Nebula
is about 5 light-years long and 800
but represents only a small part of the
The Vela remnant itself
is around 100 light-years in diameter, the expanding
cloud of a star
that was seen to
about 11,000 years ago.
was moving at millions of kilometers
per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up
surrounding interstellar material.
In the featured narrow-band, wide field image,
red and blue colors track the characteristic glow of
Meteor before Galaxy
What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy?
While photographing the
near the peak of the
, a sand-sized rock from deep space
crossed right in front
Milky Way Galaxy
's far-distant companion.
took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field.
The meteor flared
several times while braking violently upon entering
The green color
was created, at least in part, by the meteor's gas glowing as it vaporized.
Although the exposure
was timed to catch a
the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the
Southern Delta Aquariids
that peaked a few weeks earlier.
Not coincidentally, the
Perseid Meteor Shower
Moon, Mars, and Milky Way
Just two weeks ago
dark skies over the desert in northern Iran
held this alluring celestial vista.
The dramatic digital mosaic finds the Moon and Mars
alongside the Milky Way's dusty rifts, stars, and nebulae.
Captured through a series of exposures to cover a range in brightness,
that night's otherwise Full Moon is immersed in Earth's shadow.
It actually appears fainter
than the Red Planet itself
during the widely watched total lunar eclipse.
For cosmic tourists
the skyscape also includes the
Lagoon (M8) and Trifid (M20)
nebulae and planet Saturn shining against the Milky Way's
The Moon isn't quite done with
Today, the New Moon
partially eclipses the Sun for much of northern planet Earth.
Spiral Galaxy NGC 6744
Beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 6744
is nearly 175,000 light-years across, larger than
our own Milky Way
It lies some 30 million light-years distant in the southern
constellation Pavo and appears as only a faint, extended object in
We see the disk of the nearby island universe tilted towards our
line of sight.
remarkably detailed galaxy portrait
covers an area about
the angular size of the full moon
In it, the giant galaxy's elongated yellowish core is dominated by
the light from old, cool stars.
Beyond the core, grand spiral arms are filled with
young blue star clusters and speckled with pinkish star forming regions.
An extended arm sweeps past a smaller satellite galaxy at the upper left.
NGC 6744's galactic companion is reminiscent of the Milky Way's
satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud
Red Planet Red Moon and Mars
Mars is also known as
The Red Planet
often seen with a reddish tinge in dark night skies.
Mars shines brightly at the upper left of this
gorgeous morning twilight view from Mornington Peninsula,
Victoria, Australia, but the Moon and planet Earth look redder still.
Taken on July 27, the totally eclipsed Moon is setting.
It looks reddened because the
Earth's umbral shadow
isn't completely dark.
Instead Earth's shadow is suffused with a faint red light from all the
planet's sunsets and sunrises seen from the
perspective of an eclipsed
The sunsets and sunrises are reddened because Earth's
atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red, creating
the faint bluish twilight sky.
Of course, craggy seaside
take on the reddened colors of this Australian sunrise.
Animation: Perseid Meteor Shower
Where do Perseid meteors come from?
Mostly small bits of stony grit,
were once expelled from
and continue to follow this comet's orbit as they slowly disperse.
The featured animation
depicts the entire meteoroid stream as it orbits
When the Earth nears this stream, as it does every year, the
Perseid Meteor Shower
Highlighted as bright in the animation,
this size is usually so dim it is practically undetectable.
Only a small fraction of this debris will enter the Earth's atmosphere
, heat up and
This weekend promises some of the better skies to view
the Perseid shower
as well as other active showers
will not only be faint,
it will be completely absent from the sky for most of the night.
not outshining faint Perseids
the new moon will partially obstruct the Sun as a
partial solar eclipse
some northern locations.
Eclipsed Moon and Mars over Mountains
There is something unusual about this astronomically-oriented photograph.
It's not obvious -- it was discovered only during post-processing.
It is not
, although capturing the Moon rising during a total lunar eclipse is quite an unusually interesting sight.
(Other interesting images also captured during last month's eclipse can be found
It is not
, found to the lower right of the Moon,
although Mars being captured near its brightest
also makes for an unusually interesting sight.
(Mars is visible nearly the entire night this month; other interesting images of it can be found
It is not the
, although the French
do provide unusually spectacular perspectives on
(Other interesting mountainous starscapes can be found
It is the goat.
Live: Cosmic Rays from Minnesota
Cosmic rays from outer space go through your body every second.
Typically, they do you no harm.
The featured image
shows some of these fast moving particles as streaks going through Fermilab's
NOvA Far Detector
located in Ash River,
Although the image updates every 15 seconds, it only shows
that occurred over a (changing) small fraction of that time, and mostly shows only one type of particle:
Far Detector's main purpose is not to detect cosmic rays, though, but rather
beam shot through the Earth from
810 kilometers away
Only a few
events are expected in NOvA per week, though.
experiment is allowing humanity to better explore the
nature of neutrinos
for example how frequently they change type during their trip.
only about 100 years ago and can not only
alter computer memory
but may have helped to create
that resulted in, eventually,
Trapezium: At the Heart of Orion
Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait
the heart of the Orion Nebula
are four hot, massive stars
Gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius,
they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster.
ionizing radiation from the
mostly from the brightest star
powers the complex star forming region's entire visible glow.
About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was
even more compact in its younger years and a
recent dynamical study
runaway stellar collisions
at an earlier age may have formed a black hole
with more than 100 times the mass of
The presence of a
within the cluster
could explain the observed high velocities of the
The Orion Nebula's distance of some 1,500
would make it the
closest known black hole
to planet Earth.
Central Cygnus Skyscape
star Gamma Cygni lies at the center of the
famous asterism in the constellation Cygnus the Swan.
Known by its
proper name, Sadr
the bright star also lies at the center of
a complex of stars, dust clouds, and glowing nebulae along the
plane of our
Milky Way galaxy
The field of view spans
almost 4 degrees
(eight Full Moons) on the sky and
includes emission nebula IC 1318 and open star cluster NGC 6910.
Left of Gamma Cygni and shaped
like two glowing cosmic wings divided by a long dark
dust lane, IC 1318's popular name is understandably the
Above and left of Gamma Cygni, are the young, still tightly
stars of NGC 6910.
Some distance estimates for Gamma Cygni place it at around 1,800
while estimates for IC 1318 and
range from 2,000 to 5,000 light-years.
Central Lunar Eclipse
Reddened by scattered sunlight, the Moon in the center is passing
through the center of Earth's
dark umbral shadow
lunar eclipse sequence
Left to right the three images are from the start, maximum, and end to
103 minutes of totality from the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century.
The longest path the Moon can follow through Earth's shadow does
cross the shadow's center, that's what makes such central lunar
eclipses long ones
But July 27 was also the date of lunar apogee, and
at the most distant part of its elliptical orbit the
Moon moves slowest.
For the previous lunar eclipse, last January 31, the Moon was
near its orbital perigee.
Passing just south of the Earth shadow central axis,
totality lasted only 76 minutes.
on January 21, 2019, a third consecutive total lunar eclipse will
also be off center and
Then totality will be a
62 minutes long.
Eclipse over the Gulf of Poets
The total phase of the
July 27 lunar eclipse
lasted for an impressive 103 minutes.
That makes it the longest total lunar eclipse
of the 21st century
The Moon passed through the center of
the Moon was near apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit.
From start to finish, the entire duration of totality is covered
in this composite view.
A dreamlike scene, it includes a sequence of digital camera exposures made
every three minutes.
The exposures track the totally eclipsed lunar disk, accompanied on
that night by bright planet Mars, as it
climbs above the seaside village of Tellaro, Italy.
In the foreground lies the calm mediteranean Gulf of La Spezia,
known to some as the Gulf of Poets
In the 3rd century BCE, heliocentric astronomer
also tracked the duration of lunar eclipses, though without
the benefit of digital clocks
Using geometry he
the Moon's distance from the eclipse duration,
in terms of the radius of planet Earth.
The Iris Nebula in a Field of Dust
What blue flower grows in this field of dark interstellar dust?
The Iris Nebula
The striking blue color of the
is created by light from the bright star
reflecting off of a dense patch of normally
Not only is the star itself mostly blue, but blue light from the star is preferentially
by the dust -- the same affect that
makes Earth's sky blue
The brown tint of the pervasive dust comes partly from
Iris Nebula is studied
frequently because of the unusual prevalence there of
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
(PAHs), complex molecules that are also released on Earth during the incomplete combustion of wood fires.
The bright blue portion of the
spans about six light years.
pictured here, lies about 1300 light years distant and
can be found
with a small telescope toward the constellation of
Layers of the South Pole of Mars
What lies beneath the layered south pole of Mars?
A recent measurement
Mars Express satellite
has detected a bright reflection layer
an underground lake of
comes from about 1.5-km down but covers an area 200-km across.
Liquid water evaporates quickly from the surface of
, but a briny
, such as implied by the radar reflection, could last much longer and be a candidate to host life such as
, green, and blue image
of the south pole of Mars taken by Mars Express in 2012 shows a complex mixture of
frozen carbon dioxide