Apr 18
astronomypictureoftheday:

 Titan’s Land of LakesSaturn’s large moon Titan would be unique in our solar system, the only world with stable liquid lakes and seas on its surface … except for planet Earth of course. Centered on the north pole, this colorized map shows Titan’s bodies of methane and ethane in blue and black, still liquid at frigid surface temperatures of -180 degrees C (-292 degrees F). The map is based on data from the Cassini spacecraft’s radar, taken during flybys between 2004 and 2013. Roughly heart-shaped, the lake above and right of the pole is Ligeia Mare, the second largest known body of liquid on Titan and larger than Lake Superior on Earth. Just below the north pole is Punga Mare. The sprawling sea below and right of Punga is the (hopefully sleeping) Kraken Mare, Titan’s largest known sea. Above and left of the pole, the moon’s surface is dotted with smaller lakes that range up to 50 kilometers across. Image Credit:  Cassini Radar Mapper, JPL, USGS, ESA, NASA

astronomypictureoftheday:

Titan’s Land of Lakes

Saturn’s large moon Titan would be unique in our solar system, the only world with stable liquid lakes and seas on its surface … except for planet Earth of course. Centered on the north pole, this colorized map shows Titan’s bodies of methane and ethane in blue and black, still liquid at frigid surface temperatures of -180 degrees C (-292 degrees F). The map is based on data from the Cassini spacecraft’s radar, taken during flybys between 2004 and 2013. Roughly heart-shaped, the lake above and right of the pole is Ligeia Mare, the second largest known body of liquid on Titan and larger than Lake Superior on Earth. Just below the north pole is Punga Mare. The sprawling sea below and right of Punga is the (hopefully sleeping) Kraken Mare, Titan’s largest known sea. Above and left of the pole, the moon’s surface is dotted with smaller lakes that range up to 50 kilometers across.

Image Credit: Cassini Radar Mapper, JPL, USGS, ESA, NASA

Apr 15

astronomypictureoftheday:

Geminid Meteors over Chile

From a radiant point in the constellation of the Twins, the annual Geminid meteor shower rained down on planet Earth over the past few weeks. Recorded near the shower’s peak over the night of December 13 and 14, the above skyscape captures Gemini’s shooting stars in a four-hour composite from the dark skies of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. In the foreground the 2.5-meter du Pont Telescope is visible as well as the 1-meter SWOPE telescope. The skies beyond the meteors are highlighted by Jupiter, seen as the bright spot near the image center, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, seen vertically on the image left, and the pinkish Orion Nebula on the far left. Dust swept up from the orbit of active asteroid 3200 Phaethon, Gemini’s meteors enter the atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometers per second.

Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution)

astronomypictureoftheday:

 Sharpless 308: Star BubbleBlown 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 violet hues. Image Credit & Copyright:  Jeff Husted

astronomypictureoftheday:

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 violet hues.

Image Credit & Copyright: Jeff Husted

Apr 14
astronomypictureoftheday:

 Geminid Meteors over Teide VolcanoOn some nights it rains meteors. Peaking two nights ago, asteroid dust streaked through the dark skies of Earth, showering down during the annual Geminids meteor shower. Astrophotographer Juan Carlos Casado captured the space weather event, as pictured above, in a series of exposures spanning about 2.3 hours using a wide angle lens. The snowcapped Teide volcano of the Canary Islands of Spain towers in the foreground, while the picturesque constellation of Orion highlights the background. The star appearing just near the top of the volcano is Rigel. Although the asteroid dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting meteor streaks appear to radiate from a single point on the sky, in this case in the constellation of Gemini, off the top of the image. Like train tracks appearing to converge in the distance, the meteor radiant effect is due to perspective. The astrophotographer has estimated that there are about 50 Geminids visible in the above composite image — how many do you see? Image Credit & Copyright:  Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN, Earth and Stars)

astronomypictureoftheday:

Geminid Meteors over Teide Volcano

On some nights it rains meteors. Peaking two nights ago, asteroid dust streaked through the dark skies of Earth, showering down during the annual Geminids meteor shower. Astrophotographer Juan Carlos Casado captured the space weather event, as pictured above, in a series of exposures spanning about 2.3 hours using a wide angle lens. The snowcapped Teide volcano of the Canary Islands of Spain towers in the foreground, while the picturesque constellation of Orion highlights the background. The star appearing just near the top of the volcano is Rigel. Although the asteroid dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting meteor streaks appear to radiate from a single point on the sky, in this case in the constellation of Gemini, off the top of the image. Like train tracks appearing to converge in the distance, the meteor radiant effect is due to perspective. The astrophotographer has estimated that there are about 50 Geminids visible in the above composite image — how many do you see?

Image Credit & Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN, Earth and Stars)

astronomypictureoftheday:

 Gibbous EuropaAlthough the phase of this moon might appear familiar, the moon itself might not. In fact, this gibbous phase shows part of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The robot spacecraft Galileo captured this image mosaic during its mission orbiting Jupiter from 1995 - 2003. Visible are plains of bright ice, cracks that run to the horizon, and dark patches that likely contain both ice and dirt. Raised terrain is particularly apparent near the terminator, where it casts shadows. Europa is nearly the same size as Earth’s Moon, but much smoother, showing few highlands or large impact craters. Evidence and images from the Galileo spacecraft, indicated that liquid oceans might exist below the icy surface. To test speculation that these seas hold life, ESA has started preliminary development of the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), a spacecraft proposed for launch around 2022 that would further explore Jupiter and in particular Europa. Recent observations by the Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered new evidence that Europa, like Saturn’s moon Enceladus, has ice venting from its surface. Image Credit:  Galileo Project, JPL, NASA; Copyright, Reprocessed By: Ted Stryk

astronomypictureoftheday:

Gibbous Europa

Although the phase of this moon might appear familiar, the moon itself might not. In fact, this gibbous phase shows part of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The robot spacecraft Galileo captured this image mosaic during its mission orbiting Jupiter from 1995 - 2003. Visible are plains of bright ice, cracks that run to the horizon, and dark patches that likely contain both ice and dirt. Raised terrain is particularly apparent near the terminator, where it casts shadows. Europa is nearly the same size as Earth’s Moon, but much smoother, showing few highlands or large impact craters. Evidence and images from the Galileo spacecraft, indicated that liquid oceans might exist below the icy surface. To test speculation that these seas hold life, ESA has started preliminary development of the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), a spacecraft proposed for launch around 2022 that would further explore Jupiter and in particular Europa. Recent observations by the Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered new evidence that Europa, like Saturn’s moon Enceladus, has ice venting from its surface.

Image Credit: Galileo Project, JPL, NASA; Copyright, Reprocessed By: Ted Stryk

Apr 13

astronomypictureoftheday:

Naked Eye Nova Centauri 2013

Brightest stellar beacons of the constellation Centaurus, Alpha and Beta Centauri are easy to spot from the southern hemisphere. For now, so is new naked eye Nova Centauri 2013. In this night skyscape recorded near Las Campanas Observatory in the Chilean southern Atacama desert on December 5, the new star joins the old in the expansive constellation, seen at early morning hours through a greenish airglow. Caught by nova hunter John Seach from Australia on December 2 as it approached near naked eye brightness, Nova Cen 2013 has been spectroscopically identified as a classical nova, an interacting binary star system composed of a dense, hot white dwarf and cool, giant companion. Material from the companion star builds up as it falls onto the white dwarf’s surface triggering a thermonuclear event. The cataclysmic blast results in a drastic increase in brightness and an expanding shell of debris. The stars are not destroyed, though. Classical novae are thought to recur when the flow of material onto the white dwarf eventually resumes and produces another outburst.

Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution)

Apr 12

Hubble sees a cosmic caterpillar

This light-year-long knot of interstellar gas and dust resembles a caterpillar on its way to a feast. But the meat of the story is not only what this cosmic caterpillar eats for lunch, but also what’s eating it. Harsh winds from extremely bright stars are blasting ultraviolet radiation at this “wanna-be” star and sculpting the gas and dust into its long shape.

The culprits are 65 of the hottest, brightest known stars, classified as O-type stars, located 15 light-years away from the knot, towards the right edge of the image. These stars, along with 500 less bright, but still highly luminous, B-type stars make up what is called the Cygnus OB2 association. Collectively, the association is thought to have a mass more than 30 000 times that of our Sun.

The caterpillar-shaped knot, called IRAS 20324+4057, is a protostar in a very early evolutionary stage. It is still in the process of collecting material from an envelope of gas surrounding it. However, that envelope is being eroded by the radiation from Cygnus OB2. Protostars in this region should eventually become young stars with final masses about one to ten times that of our Sun, but if the eroding radiation from the nearby bright stars destroys the gas envelope before the protostars finish collecting mass, their final masses may be reduced.

Spectroscopic observations of the central star within IRAS 20324+4057 show that it is still collecting material quite heavily from its outer envelope, hoping to bulk up. Only time will tell if the formed star will be a “heavy-weight” or a “light-weight” with respect to its mass.

This image of IRAS 20324+4057 is a composite of Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) data taken in green and infrared light in 2006, and ground-based hydrogen data from the Isaac Newton Telescope in 2003, as part of the IPHAS H-alpha survey. The object lies 4500 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan).

Apr 07
Hubble has snapped a spectacular view of M 66, the largest “player” of the Leo Triplet, and a galaxy with an unusual anatomy: it displays asymmetric spiral arms and an apparently displaced core. The peculiar anatomy is most likely caused by the gravitational pull of the other two members of the trio.
The unusual spiral galaxy, Messier 66, is located at a distance of about 35 million light-years in the constellation of Leo. Together with Messier 65 and NGC 3628, Messier 66 is the member of the Leo Triplet, a trio of interacting spiral galaxies, part of the larger Messier 66 group. Messier 66 wins in size over its fellow triplets — it is about 100 000 light-years across.
This is a composite of images obtained through the following filters: 814W (near infrared), 555W (green) and H-alpha (showing the glowing of the hydrogen gas). They have been combined so to represent the real colours of the galaxy.
CREDIT: nasa/hubble heritage

Hubble has snapped a spectacular view of M 66, the largest “player” of the Leo Triplet, and a galaxy with an unusual anatomy: it displays asymmetric spiral arms and an apparently displaced core. The peculiar anatomy is most likely caused by the gravitational pull of the other two members of the trio.

The unusual spiral galaxy, Messier 66, is located at a distance of about 35 million light-years in the constellation of Leo. Together with Messier 65 and NGC 3628, Messier 66 is the member of the Leo Triplet, a trio of interacting spiral galaxies, part of the larger Messier 66 group. Messier 66 wins in size over its fellow triplets — it is about 100 000 light-years across.

This is a composite of images obtained through the following filters: 814W (near infrared), 555W (green) and H-alpha (showing the glowing of the hydrogen gas). They have been combined so to represent the real colours of the galaxy.

CREDIT: nasa/hubble heritage

Apr 03
discoverynews:

Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Has Underground Ocean
Gravity measurements made with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft indicate the small moon Enceladus has an ocean sandwiched between its rocky core and icy shell, a finding that raises the prospects of a niche for life beyond Earth. Read more

discoverynews:

Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Has Underground Ocean

Gravity measurements made with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft indicate the small moon Enceladus has an ocean sandwiched between its rocky core and icy shell, a finding that raises the prospects of a niche for life beyond Earth. Read more

Apr 01
This true colour image of the giant planet Jupiter, by NASA and ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope, reveals the impact sites of fragments ‘D’ and ‘G’ from Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

This true colour image of the giant planet Jupiter, by NASA and ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope, reveals the impact sites of fragments ‘D’ and ‘G’ from Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

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