Int-Ball Drone Activated on the Space Station
What if you were followed around by a
floating ball that kept taking your picture?
Then you might be an astronaut on today's
International Space Station
Designed by the
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
JEM Internal Ball Camera
-- informally "Int-Ball" -- is a bit larger than a
, can float and maneuver by itself but also be controlled remotely, can take high resolution images and videos, and is not related to
Int-Ball was delivered to the
in early June and is designed to allow ground-control to increase the monitoring of
equipment and activities while decreasing time demands on
moves by turning on small internal fans and
sees with a camera located between its two dark eyes.
A Hybrid Solar Eclipse over Kenya
Chasing solar eclipses can cause you to go to the most interesting places and meet the most interesting people.
For example, chasing this eclipse brought this astrophotographer to Kenya in 2013.
His contact, a member of the
was to pick him up at the airport, show him part of southern Kenya, and even agreed to pose in
traditional warrior garb
on a hill as the hopefully
set far in background.
Unfortunately, this contact person died unexpectedly
a week before the astrophotographer's arrival,
and so he never got to participate in the shoot,
nor know that the resulting image went on to win an
international award for astrophotography
Pictured in 2013 from
the Moon covers much of the Sun during a
a rare type
that appears as total from some Earth locations, but annular in others.
During the annular
part of the eclipse,
the Moon was too far from the Earth to block the entire Sun.
Next month a total solar eclipse
Mercury as Revealed by MESSENGER
Mercury had never been seen like this before.
In 2008, the robotic
for the second time and imaged terrain mapped previously only by
comparatively crude radar
The featured image
was recorded as
looked back 90 minutes after passing,
from an altitude of about 27,000 kilometers.
Visible in the image, among many other newly imaged features,
are unusually long
that appear to run like
out from a young crater near the northern limb.
entered orbit around Mercury in 2011 and finished its primary mission in 2012, but took
until 2015, at which time it ran out of fuel and so was instructed to
impact Mercury's surface
Apollo 11: Catching Some Sun
glints and long dark shadows mark this image of the
It was taken July 20, 1969 by Apollo 11 astronaut
, the first to walk
on the Moon
the mission's lunar module, the Eagle,
and spacesuited lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin unfurling a long sheet
of foil also known as the
Solar Wind Composition Experiment
Exposed facing the Sun, the foil trapped particles streaming
outward in the solar wind, catching a sample of
from the Sun
Along with moon rocks and lunar soil samples,
the solar wind collector was returned for analysis
in earthbound laboratories
Phobos: Moon over Mars
tiny moon with a scary name
, Phobos emerges from behind
the Red Planet in this timelapse sequence from the Earth-orbiting
Over 22 minutes the 13 separate exposures were
captured near the 2016 closest
approach of Mars
to planet Earth.
have to look to the west
to watch Phobos rise, though.
The small moon is closer to its
than any other
moon in the Solar System, about 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers)
above the Martian surface
It completes one orbit in just 7 hours and 39 minutes.
That's faster than a Mars rotation, which corresponds to
about 24 hours and 40 minutes.
So on Mars, Phobos can be seen to rise above
the western horizon 3 times a day.
Still, Phobos is doomed
IC 1396: Emission Nebula in Cepheus
Stunning emission nebula
IC 1396 mixes
glowing cosmic gas and dark dust clouds in the
high and far off
constellation of Cepheus.
Energized by the bright central star seen here, this
sprawls across hundreds of
light-years, spanning over three degrees on the sky while
nearly 3,000 light-years from planet Earth.
Among the intriguing
within IC 1396, the winding
nebula lies just below center.
Stars could still be forming inside the dark shapes by gravitational
But as the denser clouds are eroded away by powerful stellar winds and
radiation, any forming stars will
ultimately be cutoff from the reservoir of star stuff.
The gorgeous color view
is a composition of image data from
narrowband filters, mapping emission from the nebula's
atomic oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur into blue, green, and red hues.
Ireson Hill on Mars
What created this unusual hill on Mars?
Its history has become a topic of research, but its shape and two-tone structure makes it one of the more unusual hills that the robotic Curiosity rover on Mars has rolled near.
about 5 meters high and
about 15 meters across.
is located on the
Bagnold Dune field
on the slope of
The featured 41-image panorama
to include the entire hill.
The image was taken on February 2 and released last week.
behind the Sun
as seen from the Earth
stop sending commands
Martian orbiters and rovers
until about August 1.
Thunder Moon over Pisa
What's wrong with this picture?
If you figure it out, you may then realize
where the image was taken
lies actually in one of the buildings -- it leans.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
has been an
since shortly after its construction began in the year 117
Now part of a
World Heritage Site
used the leaning tower to dramatically demonstrate the
that objects of different mass
fall the same
Between the Leaning Tower of Pisa
on the right and
on the left, a full "Thunder" moon was visible last week when the image was taken.
Using modern analyses
the tower has been successfully
and, barring the unexpected,
should hold its present tilt for the next 200 years.
Moon Shadow versus Sun Reflection
What are those lights and shadows crossing the Earth?
As the featured
progresses, a full day on planet Earth is depicted as seen from
high above the
The Sun rises to the right and sets to the left,
half of Earth
that is most directly below.
A reflected image of the Sun -- a
is visible as a bright spot that moves from right to left.
More unusual, though, is the
that moves from the lower left to upper right
That is the
shadow of the Moon
and it can only appear when the Moon goes
the Earth and the Sun.
Last year, on the day these images were taken, the most deeply shadowed
of the Sun.
a similarly dark shadow will sweep
Lightning Eclipse from the Planet of the Goats
Thunderstorms almost spoiled this view of the spectacular
2011 June 15 total lunar eclipse
Instead, storm clouds parted for 10 minutes during the
total eclipse phase
and lightning bolts
contributed to the dramatic sky.
Captured with a 30-second exposure the scene also inspired
one of the more memorable titles (thanks to the astrophotographer)
in APOD's now 22-year history
Of course, the lightning reference clearly makes sense, and
the shadow play
of the dark lunar
across planet Earth in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
The picture itself
, however, was shot from the Greek
That area is known as "the planet of the
because of the
and strange looking rocks.
Close-up of The Great Red Spot
On July 11
the Juno spacecraft once again swung near to
Jupiter's turbulent cloud tops in its looping 53 day orbit around
the Solar System's ruling gas giant.
About 11 minutes after perijove
its closest approach on this orbit,
it passed directly
above Jupiter's Great Red Spot
During the much anticipated fly over, it captured
image data from a distance of less than 10,000 kilometers.
raw JunoCam data
was subsequently processed by
but found to be shrinking, the Solar System's
storm system was measure to be 16,350 kilometers wide on
That's about 1.3 times the diameter of planet Earth.
NGC 4449: Close-up of a Small Galaxy
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Grand spiral galaxies
often seem to get all the glory.
Their young, blue star clusters and pink star forming regions
are guaranteed to attract attention.
But small irregular galaxies form stars too, like
, about 12 million light-years distant.
Less than 20,000 light-years across, the small island universe is
similar in size, and often
to our Milky Way's satellite
galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud
This remarkable Hubble Space Telescope close-up of the
galaxy was reprocessed to highlight the telltale reddish
glow of hydrogen gas.
The glow traces NGC 4449's widespread star forming regions, some
even larger than those in the LMC
with enormous interstellar arcs and bubbles blown by short-lived,
NGC 4449 is a member of a
found in the constellation Canes Venatici.
It also holds the distinction of being the first dwarf galaxy with an
identified tidal star stream
Full Moon and Boston Light
This well-planned telephoto timelapse captures July's Full Moon rise
across outer Boston Harbor, Massachusetts,
In the foreground, the historic terrestrial beacon is
known as Boston
July's Full Moon is
known to some
as a Thunder Moon, likely a
reference to the sounds of the northern summer month's
typically stormy weather.
But the eastern sky was clear for this
Near the horizon, the long sight-line through
filters and refracts the moonlight,
causing the rising Moon's reddened color, ragged edges and distorted
Messier 63: The Sunflower Galaxy
A bright spiral galaxy of the northern sky,
is about 25 million light-years distant in the
Also cataloged as NGC 5055, the majestic
is nearly 100,000 light-years across.
That's about the size
of our own Milky Way
Known by the popular moniker, The Sunflower Galaxy,
M63 sports a bright yellowish core in this sharp composite
from space- and ground-based telescopes.
Its sweeping blue spiral arms are streaked with cosmic dust lanes and
dotted with pink star forming regions.
A dominant member of a known
, M63 has faint, extended features that are likely star streams from
M63 shines across
the electromagnetic spectrum and is thought to have
bursts of intense
Star Cluster Omega Centauri in HDR
Behold the largest ball of stars in our galaxy.
with about 10 million stars,
many older than
and packed within a volume of only about 150
The star cluster
is the largest and brightest of 200 or so known
that roam the
of our Milky Way galaxy.
consist of stars with the same age and
composition, the enigmatic Omega Cen exhibits the presence of
stellar populations with a spread of ages and chemical abundances.
Cen may be
the remnant core of a small galaxy merging with
the Milky Way.
The featured image shows so many stars because it merged different exposures with
high dynamic range
also known as NGC 5139, lies about 15,000 light-years away toward the
southern constellation of the Centaurus
Spiral Galaxy NGC 1512: The Nuclear Ring
What's happening around the center of this spiral galaxy?
Seen in total,
appears to be a
barred spiral galaxy
a type of spiral that has a straight bar of stars across its center.
This bar crosses
an outer ring
, though, a ring not seen as it surrounds
the pictured region
Featured in this
Hubble Space Telescope
image is an inner
-- one that itself surrounds the nucleus of the spiral.
The two rings are connected not only by a bar of bright stars but by dark lanes of dust.
Inside of this inner ring
, dust continues to spiral right into the very center -- possibly the location of a large
The rings are bright with newly formed
which may have been triggered by the collision of
with its galactic neighbor,
Earth at Night
Can you find your favorite
Surprisingly, on this world-wide nightscape, city lights make this task quite possible.
particularly developed or populated areas of the Earth's surface,
including the seaboards of Europe
eastern United States
Many large cities are located near rivers
so that they can exchange goods cheaply by boat.
include the central parts of
, and Australia
The featured composite
was created from images that were collected during cloud-free periods in April and October 2012
from a polar orbit
about 824 kilometers above the surface, using its
Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite
Hidden Galaxy IC 342
in size to large, bright spiral galaxies in our neighborhood,
is a mere 10 million light-years
in the long-necked,
northern constellation Camelopardalis
A sprawling island universe
IC 342 would otherwise be a prominent galaxy in our night sky,
but it is hidden from clear view and only
glimpsed through the veil of stars, gas and dust clouds
along the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy
Even though IC 342's light is dimmed by intervening
traces the galaxy's own obscuring dust, blue star clusters,
and glowing pink star forming regions along spiral arms that wind far from
the galaxy's core
IC 342 may have undergone a recent burst of
activity and is
close enough to have gravitationally
influenced the evolution of the
of galaxies and the Milky Way.
A View Toward M106
Big, bright, beautiful
spiral, Messier 106
dominates this cosmic vista.
The two degree wide
field of view
looks toward the well-trained constellation
Canes Venatici, near the handle of the Big Dipper.
Also known as NGC 4258, M106 is about 80,000 light-years across and
23.5 million light-years away, the largest member of the
For a far away galaxy, the distance to M106 is well-known
in part because it can be
by tracking this galaxy's remarkable maser, or microwave laser emission.
Very rare but naturally occuring, the
by water molecules in molecular clouds orbiting its
Another prominent spiral galaxy on the scene, viewed nearly
is NGC 4217
below and right of M106.
The distance to NGC 4217 is much less well-known, estimated
to be about 60 million light-years.
Atlas, Daphnis, and Pan
are small, inner, ring moons of Saturn,
shown at the same scale in
of images from the still
In fact, Daphnis was discovered in Cassini images from 2005.
Atlas and Pan were first sighted in images from the
Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
Flying saucer-shaped Atlas orbits near the outer edge of Saturn's
bright A Ring while Daphnis orbits
inside the A Ring's
narrow Keeler Gap
and Pan within
the A Ring's larger Encke Gap.
of the small ring moons
could be built up by the
accumulation of ring material over time.
Daphnis makes waves
ring material as it glides along the edge of the Keeler Gap.
On July 3rd,
, the farthest point in
its elliptical orbit around the Sun.
Each year, this day of the most distant Sun happens to occur
during winter in the southern hemisphere.
That's where this aphelion sunrise from 2015 was captured in a
time series composite against the skyline of Brisbane, Australia.
Of course, seasons
for our fair planet are not determined by
distance to the Sun, but by the tilt of Earth's rotational axis
with respect to the ecliptic, the plane of its orbit.
obliquity of the ecliptic
the angle of the tilt
is about 23.4 degrees from perpendicular to the orbital plane.
So the most distant sunrise occurs during northern summer, when
the planet's north pole is tilted toward the Sun
and the north enjoys longer, warmer days.
Celestial Fireworks: Into Star Cluster Westerlund 2
What if you could go right into a cluster where stars are forming?
A one-minute, time-lapse,
of just this has been made with 3D
of the region surrounding the star cluster
, based on
Hubble Space Telescope
spans about 10 light years across and lies about 20,000 light years distant toward the constellation of the Ship's Keel
begins, the greater
Gum 29 nebula
fills the screen, with the young cluster of bright stars visible in the center.
Stars zip past you
as you approach the cluster.
pivots and you pass over light-year
of interstellar gas and dust.
and radiation from massive young stars destroy all but the densest nearby
clumps, leaving these pillars in their
many pointing back toward the cluster center.
Last, you pass into the top of the
and survey hundreds of the
most massive stars known