Pillars of the Eagle Nebula in Infrared
Newborn stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula.
Gravitationally contracting in
of dense gas and dust, the intense radiation of these newly-formed bright stars is causing surrounding material to boil away.
, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope
allows the viewer to
see through much of the thick dust
that makes the pillars
The giant structures
in length and dubbed informally the Pillars of Creation
Associated with the
open star cluster
the Eagle Nebula lies about 6,500
is an easy target
for small telescopes in a nebula-rich part of the sky toward the split constellation
Cauda (the tail of the snake).
Ancients of Sea and Sky
They may look like round rocks, but they're alive.
Moreover, they are modern versions of one of the oldest known forms of life:
Fossils indicate that
appeared on Earth about 3.7 billion years ago -- even before many of the
in the modern night sky were formed.
In the featured
, only the ancient central arch of our
Milky Way Galaxy
, satellite galaxies of our Milky Way and visible in the featured image below the
Milky Way's arch
, didn't exist in their current form when
first grew on Earth.
are accreting biofilms of billions of
that can slowly move toward light.
Using this light to
into the air,
ancient stromatolites helped make
other life forms
An Active Prominence on the Sun
Sometimes the Sun's surface becomes a whirlwind of activity.
is a time-lapse video of the
's surface taken over a two hour period in early May, run both forwards and backwards.
The Sun's surface
was blocked out so that
over the edge could be imaged in greater detail.
is seen swirling over the
limb in an ongoing battle between changing
and constant gravity.
Earth-diameter over the Sun's surface.
Energetic events like
this are becoming less common as the Sun nears a minimum in its
11-year activity cycle
What's happened to Mars?
, Mars underwent a tremendous
planet-wide dust storm
-- one of the largest ever recorded from Earth.
To show the extent, these two
Hubble Space Telescope
from late June and
early September (2001) offer dramatically contrasting views
of the martian surface
At left, the onset of smaller "seed" storms can be seen near
the Hellas basin
(lower right edge of Mars) and the
northern polar cap
A similar surface view at right, taken over two months later,
shows the fully developed extent of the
Although this storm eventually waned, in recent days a
new large dust storm
has been taking hold of the
Dusty With a Chance of Dust
season on Mars.
Dusty with a chance of dust is the weather report for Gale crater
as a recent planet-scale dust storm rages.
On June 10
the east-northeast crater rim, the
Curiosity rover's Mastcam captured this image of its local
conditions so far.
Meanwhile over 2,000 kilometers away, the Opportunity
rover ceased science operations as the storm grew thicker at its
location on the west rim of Endeavour crater,
and has stopped communicating,
waiting out the storm
a radioisotope thermoelectric generator,
but the smaller Opportunity rover
uses solar panels to charge its batteries.
For Opportunity, the increasingly severe
has caused its batteries to run low.
Little Planet Soyuz
, a large rocket bids farewell to this little planet.
Of course, the little planet is really planet Earth and
the large rocket is a
Launched from the
in Kazakhstan on June 6
it carried a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft into orbit.
On board were
International Space Station
Expedition 56-57 crew members
Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos,
Serena Aunon-Chancellor of NASA and
Alexander Gerst of ESA.
Their spacecraft successfully docked with humanity's orbiting outpost
just two days later.
The little planet projection is the
digitally warped and stitched
mosaic of images covering 360 by 180 degrees,
captured during the 2018
Star Trek car expedition
Six Planets from Yosemite
The five naked-eye planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn,
have been seen since ancient times to wander the night skies of planet Earth.
So it could be remarkable that on this night,
standing at the side of a clear, calm lake, six planets
can be seen with the unaided eye.
Very bright and easy to spot for skygazers, yellowish Mars
is left of a pale Milky Way.
Saturn is immersed in the glow of the Milky Way's diffuse starlight.
Jupiter is very near the horizon on the right, shining beyond the
trees against the glow of distant city lights.
Last weekend, while admiring this night time view across beautiful,
high-altitude Lake Tanaya in Yosemite National Park, a
observer could probably
see three planets more
Red Cloudbow over Delaware
What kind of rainbow is this?
In this case, no rain was involved -- what is pictured is actually a red
The unusual sky arc was spotted last month during sunset in
When the photographer realized that what he was seeing was extraordinary, he captured it with the only camera available -- a cell phone.
Clouds are made of
water droplets, and in a cloudbow a
reflects back light from the bright Sun (or Moon) on the opposite side of the sky.
Similar phenomena include
Here, the red color
was caused by atmospheric air preferentially scattering away blue light -- which simultaneously makes most of the
sky appear blue
A careful inspection reveals a
just inside the outermost arc, a bow caused by
Star Size Comparison 2
How big is our Sun compared to other stars?
In dramatic and
s featured on
the relative sizes of planets, stars, and even the universe
are shown from smallest to largest.
and progresses through increasingly larger moons and planets in our
is shown and compared to many of the
brighter stars in our neighborhood of the
Milky Way Galaxy
Finally, star sizes are shown in comparison with the
Milky Way Galaxy
, galaxies across the
, and speculatively, regions of a
Note that the true sizes of most stars outside of the Sun and
are not known by direct observation, but rather inferred by measurements of their perceived
, and distance.
Although an inspiring learning tool that is mostly accurate,
are encouraged to complete the learning experience -- and possibly help make future versions more accurate -- by
out slight inaccuracies
in the video.
At Last GLAST
Rising through a billowing cloud of smoke,
a long time ago from a planet very very close by,
Delta II rocket
left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's launch pad 17-B
at 12:05 pm EDT on June 11, 2008.
Snug in the payload section was GLAST, the
Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope.
GLAST's detector technology was developed for use in terrestrial
So from orbit, GLAST can detect gamma-rays from
extreme environments above the Earth and across the distant Universe,
including supermassive black holes at the centers of distant
, and the sources of powerful
achieve energies not attainable
in earthbound laboratories.
Now known as the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
on the 10 year anniversary of its launch, let
the Fermi Science Playoffs begin
The Cat's Eye Nebula from Hubble
To some, it may look like a cat's eye.
alluring Cat's Eye
nebula, however, lies three thousand light-years from Earth across interstellar space.
, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief
in the life of a sun-like star.
's dying central star may have produced the simple,
outer pattern of dusty
in a series of regular convulsions.
But the formation of the beautiful, more complex
inner structures is not well understood
Seen so clearly in
this digitally sharpened Hubble
Space Telescope image,
the truly cosmic eye
is over half a
gazing into this Cat's Eye
astronomers may well be seeing
the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own
of evolution ... in about 5 billion years.
Countryside Mars and Milky Way
Mars shines brightly
now in planet Earth's sky.
Seen with a yellowish hue it rises over the hills and far away in
this serene night skyscape, a countryside panorama recorded
last month from Parque Nacional de Cabaneros in Spain.
The Milky Way too
extends above the distant hills into a starry sky.
Its faint pinkish nebulae, cosmic rifts and rivers of dust
are mingled with the pale, diffuse glow of starlight.
yellow tint, bright star Antares shines to the
right of the central Milky Way starclouds.
CubeSats from Earth
are on their way to the Red Planet.
Fermi Science Playoffs
Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
was launched into orbit on June
Its instruments detect gamma-rays -- light that is thousands to
hundreds of billions of times more energetic than what we see with our
In the last decade
Fermi's high-energy voyage
of exploration has resulted in a cornucopia of astonishing discoveries,
from extreme environments above our fair planet
and across the distant Universe.
Now you can vote for Fermi's best result so far.
To mark Fermi's 10th
anniversary, images representing 16 scientific results have been
selected and seeded to create brackets.
Follow this link
to cast your first round vote for your favorite
out of each pair and then return every two weeks to vote in the next round.
The winner of the Fermi Final will be announced on August 6,
the 10th anniversary of the first science data from Fermi.
The Clash of NGC 3256
Marked by an unusually bright central region, swirling dust lanes,
and far flung tidal tails, peculiar NGC 3256 is the aftermath of a
The 500 million year old clash of two separate galaxies spans
some 100 thousand light-years in
sharp Hubble view
Of course when two galaxies collide, individual stars rarely do.
Giant galactic clouds of
and dust do interact though, and produce spectacular bursts of
the two original spiral galaxies had similar masses.
Their disks are no longer distinct and the two galactic nuclei
are hidden by obscuring dust.
On the timescale of a few hundred million years the nuclei
will likely also merge
becomes a single large elliptical galaxy.
NGC 3256 itself is nearly 100 million light-years distant toward
the southern sailing constellation Vela.
The frame includes many even more distant background galaxies and
spiky foreground stars.
A Sun Pillar over Norway
Have you ever seen a sun pillar
When the air is cold and the Sun is rising or
, falling ice
can reflect sunlight and create an
column of light.
Ice sometimes forms flat, six-sided
as it falls from high-level
causes these crystals to
lie nearly flat
much of the time as they flutter to the ground.
Sunlight reflects off crystals that are
creating the sun-sun-pillar
In the featured picture taken last week,
reflects light from a
How complex is Jupiter?
to Jupiter is finding the Jovian giant to be
more complicated than expected
Jupiter's magnetic field has been
discovered to be
much different from our Earth's simple dipole field
several poles embedded in a complicated network
more convoluted in the north than the south.
Further, Juno's radio measurements show that
shows structure well below the upper cloud deck -- even hundreds of kilometers deep.
's newfound complexity is evident also in southern clouds, as shown in the
zones and belts
that dominate near the equator decay into a
of continent-sized storm swirls.
continues in its looping elliptical orbit,
swooping near the huge planet
every 53 days and exploring a slightly different sector each time around.
Moon Setting Behind Teide Volcano
These people are not in danger.
What is coming down from the left is just the Moon, far in the distance.
appears so large here because she is being
photographed through a telescopic lens
What is moving is mostly
, whose spin causes
to slowly disappear behind
a volcano in the
off the northwest coast of
The people pictured are
16 kilometers away
many are facing the camera because they are watching
rise behind the photographer.
It is not a
rises just when the
because the Sun is always on the
of the sky from a full moon.
The featured video
was made last week during the full
The video is not time-lapse
this was really how fast the Moon was setting.
Saturn's Iapetus: Painted Moon
What has happened to Saturn's moon Iapetus?
Vast sections of
this strange world
are dark as
while others are as bright as ice.
The composition of the dark material is unknown, but
indicate that it possibly contains some dark form of
Iapetus also has an unusual
that makes it appear like a walnut
To help better understand this seemingly painted moon,
robotic Cassini spacecraft
orbiting Saturn to swoop
within 2,000 kilometers
from about 75,000 kilometers out, Cassini's trajectory allowed unprecedented imaging of the hemisphere of Iapetus that is
A huge impact crater seen in the south spans a tremendous 450 kilometers
and appears superposed on an
of similar size.
The dark material
is seen increasingly coating the easternmost part of
, darkening craters and highlands alike.
indicates that the dark coating typically faces the moon's equator and is less than a meter thick.
A leading hypothesis
is that the dark material is mostly
dirt leftover when relatively warm but dirty ice
An initial coating of
may have been effectively painted on by the accretion of meteor-liberated debris from
Jupiter Season, Hawaiian Sky
on the Big Island of Hawaii has increased
since this Hawaiian night skyscape was recorded earlier this year.
Recent vents and lava flows
are about 30 kilometers to
the east, the direction of the blowing smoke and steam in the
panoramic view of the Kilauea caldera with Halemaumau crater taken from
Volcanoes National Park
Still, this year Jupiter is
bright in late spring to early summer skies.
High in the south it is easily the brightest celestial beacon
in the scene where the central bulge of the Milky Way seems to rise
above vapors and clouds.
Yellowish Antares is the bright star near the end of the
of dust seen toward the center of our galaxy.
Near the horizon, stars Alpha and Beta Centauri
and the compact
shine through the almost
too bright volcanic smoke.
Since the distance from Earth to Mars changes drastically as
the planets orbit the Sun, Mars' appearance changes dramaticaly.
Mars is bright
now, and it's getting closer and
it orbits toward its 2018 opposition
closest approach to Earth
in late July.
This sequence of sharp telescopic images records the Red Planet's
steady increase in apparent size for the months of
January (top left) through April.
During that time its distance from Earth went from 284 million
kilometers in January to 129 million kilometers in April,
and so its apparent size more than doubled.
At closest approach Mars will be about 58 million kilometers distant, more
than doubling in apparent size compared to the disk at the lower right.
By then it will rival the brightness
in planet Earth's
night sky, but don't believe the claims of the inevitable
NGC 6744 Close Up
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, its galactic disk tilted towards our line of sight.
of the nearby island universe spans about
24,000 light-years across NGC 6744's central region in
a detailed portrait that combines visible light and ultraviolet image data.
The giant galaxy's
is dominated by the visible light from old, cool stars.
Beyond the core are pinkish star forming regions and
young star clusters scattered along the inner spiral arms.
The young star clusters are bright at ultraviolet wavelengths,
shown in blue and magenta hues.
The Case of the Backwards Orbiting Asteroid
Why does asteroid 2015 BZ509 orbit the Sun the backwards?
As shown in the featured animation, Jupiter's
in two major groups -- one just ahead of
, and one just behind -- but all orbit the
in the same direction as Jupiter.
however, discovered in 2015 and currently unnamed,
orbits the Sun in retrograde and in a more complex gravitational dance with
The reason why is currently unknown and a topic of research --
but if resolved might tell us about the early
A recently popular hypothesis
holds that BZ509 was captured by Jupiter
from interstellar space
billions of years ago,
while a competing conjecture posits that BZ509 came from our Solar System's own
distant Oort cloud
of comets, perhaps more recently.
The answer may only become known after more detailed models of the likelihood and
stability of orbits
near Jupiter are
, or, possibly, by observing direct properties of the unusual object.