Rings Around the Ring Nebula
There is much more to the familiar
Ring Nebula (M57)
however, than can be seen through a small telescope.
The easily visible
is about one
but this remarkably deep exposure
a collaborative effort combining data from three different large telescopes -
the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from
's central star.
includes narrowband hydrogen image,
visible light emission, and
Of course, in this well-studied example of a
the glowing material does not come from planets.
expelled from a dying, sun-like star.
The Ring Nebula
is about 2,000 light-years away toward the musical
A Nibble on the Sun
The smallest of the three
was just yesterday, Friday, July 13.
It was mostly visible
over the open ocean between Australia and Antarctica.
Still, this video frame of a tiny
on the Sun
was captured through a hydrogen-alpha filter from Port Elliott,
South Australia, during the maximum eclipse visible from that location.
There, the New Moon covered about 0.16 percent of the solar disk.
The greatest eclipse, about one-third of the Sun's diameter
blocked by the New Moon, could be seen from East Antarctica
near Peterson Bank, where the local
likely had the best view.
prolific eclipse season
the coming Full Moon will
bring a total lunar eclipse on July 27, followed by yet another partial
solar eclipse at the next New Moon on August 11.
Star Trails and the Bracewell Radio Sundial
the location of a shadow to measure the Earth's rotation
and indicate the time of day.
So it's fitting that this sundial, at the
Very Large Array
Radio Telescope Observatory in New Mexico,
of radio astronomy and radio astronomy pioneer
The radio sundial was constructed using pieces of a
solar mapping radio telescope array that Bracewell orginaly
built near the Stanford University campus.
Bracewell's array was used to contribute data to
plan the first Moon landing,
its pillars signed by visiting scientists
and radio astronomers, including two Nobel prize winners.
As for most sundials the shadow cast by the central gnomon follows
markers that show the solar time of day, along with solstices and equinoxes.
But markers on the radio sundial are also
according to local
They show the position of the invisible radio shadows
of three bright radio sources in Earth's sky, supernova remnant
active galaxy Cygnus A
active galaxy Centaurus A
Sidereal time is just star time
the Earth's rotation as measured with the stars and distant galaxies.
That rotation is reflected in this composited hour-long exposure.
Above the Bracewell Radio Sundial, the stars trace concentric trails
around the north celestial pole
Only 11 million light-years away,
is the closest
to planet Earth.
Spanning over 60,000 light-years, the peculiar elliptical galaxy
as NGC 5128
is featured in
sharp telescopic view
Centaurus A is
apparently the result of a
of two otherwise normal galaxies
resulting in a fantastic jumble of star clusters and
imposing dark dust lanes.
Near the galaxy's center
, left over
cosmic debris is steadily
being consumed by a central black hole with a billion times
the mass of the Sun.
active galaxies, that process likely generates the radio,
X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by
Symbiotic R Aquarii
You can see it change in brightness with just binoculars over the course of a year.
Variable star R Aquarii
is actually an interacting binary star system,
two stars that seem to have a
About 710 light years away,
this intriguing system consists of a cool
red giant star
and hot, dense
white dwarf star
in mutual orbit around their common
center of mass.
The binary system's visible light is dominated by the red giant,
itself a Mira
-type long period
But material in the cool giant star's extended envelope is pulled by gravity
onto the surface of the smaller, denser white dwarf,
and blasting material into space.
Hubble Space Telescope
shows the still-expanding
ring of debris which spans less than a
and originated from a
blast that would have been seen in the early 1770s.
less understood energetic events producing
high energy emission in the
system has been monitored since 2000 using
Chandra X-ray Observatory
Noctilucent Clouds over Paris Fireworks
It's northern noctilucent cloud season -- perhaps a time to celebrate!
Composed of small ice crystals forming only during specific conditions in the upper atmosphere,
may become visible at sunset during late summer when illuminated by sunlight from below.
highest clouds known
and now established to be polar mesospheric clouds
observed from the ground.
Although observed with NASA's
since 2007, much about
remains unknown and so a
topic of active research
The featured time-lapse video
shows expansive and rippled
during a post-sunset fireworks celebration on
in 2009 July.
are already reporting
s of noctilucent clouds.
Road to Mars
What's that light at the end of the road?
This is a good month to
point out Mars
and family because our
neighboring planet will not only be its
brightest in 15 years
it will be visible for much of night.
During this month
Mars will be about 180 degrees around from the Sun,
and near the closest it ever gets to
In terms of orbits, Mars is also
nearing the closest point
to the Sun in its
just as Earth moves nearly between it and the Sun -- an alignment known as
In terms of
, orange Mars will rise in the east just as the Sun sets in the west, on the opposite side of the sky.
will climb in the sky during the night, reach its highest near midnight, and then set in the west just as the Sun begins to rise in the east.
The red planet
was captured setting beyond a stretch of road in
Arches National Park
in mid-May near
The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi
What created the strange spiral structure on the upper left?
No one is sure, although it is likely related to a star in a
system entering the
phase, when its outer atmosphere is ejected.
The huge spiral
spans about a third of a
across and, winding four or five
, has a regularity that is without precedent.
Given the expansion rate of the
gas, a new layer must appear about every 800 years, a close match to the time it takes for the two stars to orbit each other.
The star system
that created it is most commonly known as
but also AFGL 3068. The unusual structure itself has been cataloged as
The featured image was taken in near-infrared
light by the
Hubble Space Telescope
Why the spiral glows
is itself a mystery, with a leading hypothesis being
illumination by light reflected from nearby stars.
A Northern Summer s Night
Near a summer's midnight a mist haunts the river bank in this
taken on July 3rd from northern Denmark.
Reddened light from the Sun a little below the horizon
gives an eerie tint to low hanging clouds.
Formed near the edge of space, the silvery apparitions above them
are noctilucent or night shining clouds.
The icy condensations on
or volcanic ash are still in
full sunlight at the extreme altitudes of
Usually seen at high latitudes in summer months,
of the noctilucent clouds are now being reported.
Charon: Moon of Pluto
A darkened and mysterious north polar region
known to some as
Mordor Macula caps this premier high-resolution view.
portrait of Charon
, Pluto's largest moon,
was captured by New Horizons near the spacecraft's closest
approach on July 14, 2015.
The combined blue, red,
data was processed to enhance colors
and follow variations in Charon's surface properties
with a resolution of about 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles).
A stunning image of Charon's Pluto-facing hemisphere, it also
features a clear view of an apparently
fractures and canyons that seems to
separate smooth southern plains from varied northern terrain.
Charon is 1,214 kilometers (754 miles) across.
That's about 1/10th the size of planet Earth
but a whopping 1/2 the diameter of
, and makes it the largest satellite relative to its
parent body in the Solar System.
Still, the moon appears as a small bump at about the 1 o'clock position
on Pluto's disk in the grainy, negative,telescopic picture inset
at upper left.
That view was used by James Christy and Robert Harrington
at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff to
Charon 40 years ago in June of 1978
Shadow Rise on the Inside Passage
At sunset look east not west.
As Earth's dark shadow rises
from the eastern horizon, faint and
subtle colors will appear opposite the setting Sun.
This beautiful evening sea and skyscape records the
reflective scene from a cruise on the well-traveled Alaskan
in the Pacific Northwest.
Along the horizon the fading sunset gives way to the
the pinkish anti-twilight arch, more poetically known as
the Belt of Venus
at sunset in favor of the brighter western horizon,
the lovely arch is tinted by filtered sunlight backscattered in the
dense atmosphere, hugging the
rising blue-grey shadow
Dawn s Early Light, Rocket s Red Glare
If you saw
the dawn's early light from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
last Friday, June 29, then you could have seen this rocket's red glare.
The single 277-second long exposure, made from the roof of
NASA's Vehicle Assembly building, shows a predawn Falcon 9 launch,
the rocket streaking eastward into the sky about 45 minutes before sunrise.
At high altitude, its stage separation plume is brightly
lit by the Sun still below the eastern horizon.
The Falcon 9 rocket's first stage
had been launched before
lofting the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
into orbit on April 18, only
72 days earlier
For this launch of SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service mission 15 (CRS-15)
it carried an also previously flown Dragon capsule.
But no further reuse of this Falcon 9 was planned
so no dramatic first stage
The Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station
on July 2
An Airplane in Front of the Moon
If you look closely at the Moon, you will see a large airplane in front of it.
Well, not always.
OK, hardly ever.
an exposure fast enough to freeze the airplane and not overexpose
the Moon -- but slow enough to see both, a steady camera, and luck -- because not every plane that approaches
crosses in front.
Helpful equipment includes a camera with
fast continuous video mode and a mount that automatically
tracks the Moon
featured fleeting superposition
was captured from
two weeks ago during a daytime
Within 1/10th of a second, the airplane crossing
From the Galactic Plane through Antares
Behold one of the most photogenic regions of the night sky, captured impressively.
Featured, the band of our
Milky Way Galaxy
runs diagonally along the far left, while the
colorful Rho Ophiuchus
region including the bright orange star
is visible just right of center,
and the nebula
(Sh2-1) appears on the far right.
Visible in front of the
Milk Way band
are several famous nebulas including the
(M21), and the
Other notable nebulas include the
from nebulas glowing in the light of exited
gas, while blue marks
reflecting the light
of bright young stars.
Thick dust appears otherwise dark brown.
Large balls of stars visible include the globular clusters
annotated companion image
This extremely wide field -- about 50 degrees across -- spans the constellations of
is on the lower left,
on the upper left,
across the middle, and
on the right.
It took over 100 hours of sky imaging, combined with
and digital processing, to create this image
Fresh Tiger Stripes on Saturns Enceladus
Do underground oceans vent through the tiger stripes on Saturn's moon Enceladus?
Long features dubbed tiger stripes are known to be
from the moon's icy interior into space,
creating a cloud of fine ice particles over the moon's South Pole
Evidence for this has come from the
robot Cassini spacecraft
from 2004 to 2017.
a high resolution image of
is shown from a close flyby.
The unusual surface features dubbed
stripes are visible in false-color blue.
is active remains a mystery, as the neighboring moon
,approximately the same size, appears
A recent analysis
ejected ice grains
has yielded evidence that complex organic molecules exist inside Enceladus.
These large carbon-rich
-- but do not prove -- that oceans under Enceladus' surface could contain life
The East 96th Street Moon
A very full Moon
rose over Manhattan's Upper Eastside on June 28,
known to some as the
Near the horizon, the warm yellow lunar disk was a bit ruffled and
dimmed by a long sight-line through dense, hazy atmosphere.
Still it fit well with traffic and lights along East 96th street
in this urban astroimage.
The telephoto shot was (safely) taken from elevated ground
looking east-southeast from Central Park,
Of course, the East 96th street moon was the closest Full Moon to
this year's northern summer solstice
Messier 24: Sagittarius Star Cloud
Unlike most entries
in Charles Messier's famous catalog of deep sky objects,
is not a bright galaxy, star cluster, or nebula.
It's a gap in nearby, obscuring intertellar dust clouds that allows
a view of the distant stars in the Sagittarius spiral arm
of our Milky Way galaxy.
When you gaze at the star cloud
with binoculars or small telescope you are
looking through a window over 300 light-years wide at stars some
10,000 light-years or more from Earth.
Sometimes called the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud, M24's luminous
stars fill the left side of
this gorgeous starscape
Covering about 4 degrees or the width of 8 full moons in the
the telescopic field of view contains many
, dense clouds of dust
and nebulae toward the center of the Milky Way,
including reddish emission from IC 1284
near the top of the frame.
Sigma Octantis and Friends
pole star Sigma Octantis
(of the constellation Octans) is on the left of this starry expanse
spanning over 40 degrees across far southern skies.
You'll have to look hard
to find it,
The southern hemisphere's faint counterpart to the north star Polaris,
Sigma Octantis is a little over one degree from the
South Celestial Pole
Also known as Polaris Australis,
is below 5th magnitude, some 25 times fainter than Polaris and
not easy to see with the unaided eye.
it may be the faintest star depicted on a national flag.
The remarkable deep and wide-field view also covers faint,
dusty galactic cirrus clouds, bounded at the right
by the star clusters and nebulae along
the southern reaches of plane of our
Milky Way galaxy
Near the upper right corner is yellowish Gamma Crucis, the top of the
Easy to pick out above and right of center is the long
nebula in the southern constellation Musca, the Fly.
Highlights of the Summer Sky
in the night sky this summer?
The featured graphic gives a few highlights for Earth's northern hemisphere.
Viewed as a clock face centered at the bottom, early (northern) summer sky events fan out toward the left, while late summer 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 meteor showers occur on or near the same dates.
For example, like last year, the stars of the
will be nighttime icons for most the season, while the
Perseids meteor shower
will peak in mid-August, as usual.
Highlights specific to this summer's sky include that
will be visible after sunset during June,
will shine brightly in the evening sky during July and August.
should be visible during much of this season's night,
with Saturn appearing in the direction opposite the Sun in late June, and Mars at
in late July.
total lunar eclipse
should be visible to anyone who can see the Moon in late July.
Dark Nebulas across Taurus
Sometimes even the dark dust of interstellar space has a serene beauty.
One such place occurs toward the constellation of Taurus.
filaments featured here
can be found on the
Pleiades star cluster
This dust is not known not for its bright glow but for its absorption and opaqueness.
Several bright stars are visible with their blue light seen
off the brown dust.
appear unusually red as their light barely peaks through a column of dark dust,
with red the color that remains after the
blue is scattered
Yet other stars are behind dust pillars
so thick they are not visible here.
Although appearing serene
, the scene is actually an ongoing loop of tumult and rebirth.
This is because massive enough knots of gas and dust will
to form new stars -- stars that both
create new dust
in their atmospheres and destroy old dust with their energetic light and
Hayabusa2 Approaches Asteroid Ryugu
It looks like a big space diamond -- but with craters.
It's 162173 Ryugu
is now arriving at this
is carrying an armada of separable probes, including two impactors,
four small close-proximity hoverers,
three small surface hoppers, and the
Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout
(MASCOT) which will
land, study, and move around
on Ryugu's surface.
Most of these are equipped with cameras.
to collect surface samples and return these samples to Earth for a
near the end of 2020.
Previously, what was known about asteroid Ryugu was its orbit, that it spans about one kilometer, and that it has a
that reflects unusual colors.
not only about Ryugu's surface and interior,
but about what materials were available in the early
development of life
, a series of approach images shows features suggestive of large
Rocket Plume Shadow Points to the Moon
Why would the shadow of a
launch plume point toward the Moon?
In early 2001 during a launch of
and rocket were all properly aligned for
this photogenic coincidence
First, for the
's plume to cast a long shadow,
the time of day must be either near
Only then will the
be its longest and extend all the way to the
Finally, during a
opposite sides of the sky.
, for example, the Sun is slightly below the
in the other direction, the Moon is slightly above the horizon
blasted off, just after
its shadow projected away from the Sun
toward the opposite horizon, where the
happened to be.