Monday, October 14, 2019

The Galaxy Above

Have you contemplated your home galaxy lately? If your sky looked like this, perhaps you'd contemplate it more often! The featured picture is actually a composite of two images taken last month from the same location in south Brazil and with the same camera -- but a few hours apart. The person in the image -- also the astrophotographer -- has much to see in the Milky Way Galaxy above. The central band of our home Galaxy stretches diagonally up from the lower left. This band is dotted with spectacular sights including dark nebular filaments, bright blue stars, and red nebulas. Millions of fainter and redder stars fill in the deep Galactic background. To the lower right of the Milky Way are the colorful gas and dust clouds of Rho Ophiuchus, featuring the bright orange star Antares. On this night, just above and to the right of Antares was a bright planet Jupiter. The sky is so old and so familiar that humanity has formulated many stories about it, some of which inspired this very picture. via NASA

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Andromeda before Photoshop

What does the Andromeda galaxy really look like? The featured image shows how our Milky Way Galaxy's closest major galactic neighbor really appears in a long exposure through Earth's busy skies and with a digital camera that introduces normal imperfections. The picture is a stack of 223 images, each a 300 second exposure, taken from a garden observatory in Portugal over the past year. Obvious image deficiencies include bright parallel airplane trails, long and continuous satellite trails, short cosmic ray streaks, and bad pixels. These imperfections were actually not removed with Photoshop specifically, but rather greatly reduced with a series of computer software packages that included Astro Pixel Processor, DeepSkyStacker, and PixInsight. All of this work was done not to deceive you with a digital fantasy that has little to do with the real likeness of the Andromeda galaxy (M31), but to minimize Earthly artifacts that have nothing to do with the distant galaxy and so better recreate what M31 really does look like. via NASA

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Stellar Jewel Box: Open Cluster NGC 290

Jewels don't shine this bright -- only stars do. Like gems in a jewel box, though, the stars of open cluster NGC 290 glitter in a beautiful display of brightness and color. The photogenic cluster, pictured here, was captured in 2006 by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Open clusters of stars are younger, contain few stars, and contain a much higher fraction of blue stars than do globular clusters of stars. NGC 290 lies about 200,000 light-years distant in a neighboring galaxy called the Small Cloud of Magellan (SMC). The open cluster contains hundreds of stars and spans about 65 light years across. NGC 290 and other open clusters are good laboratories for studying how stars of different masses evolve, since all the open cluster's stars were born at about the same time. via NASA

Friday, October 11, 2019

Interplanetary Earth

In an interplanetary first, on July 19, 2013 Earth was photographed on the same day from two other worlds of the Solar System, innermost planet Mercury and ringed gas giant Saturn. Pictured on the left, Earth is the pale blue dot just below the rings of Saturn, as captured by the robotic Cassini spacecraft then orbiting the outermost gas giant. On that same day people across planet Earth snapped many of their own of their own pictures of Saturn. On the right, the Earth-Moon system is seen against the dark background of space as captured by the robotic MESSENGER spacecraft, then in Mercury orbit. MESSENGER took its image as part of a search for small natural satellites of Mercury, moons that would be expected to be quite dim. In the MESSENGER image, the Earth (left) and Moon (right) are overexposed and shine brightly with reflected sunlight. Destined not to return to their home world, both Cassini and Messenger have since retired from their missions of Solar System exploration. via NASA

Thursday, October 10, 2019

NASA Spacecraft Launches on Mission to Explore Frontier of Space

After successfully launching Thursday night, NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft is in orbit for a first-of-its-kind mission to study a region of space where changes can disrupt communications and satellite orbits, and even increase radiation risks to astronauts. via

Planet Earth at Blue Hour

Nature photographers and other fans of planet Earth always look forward to the blue hour. That's the transition in twilight, just before sunrise or after sunset, when the Sun is below the horizon but land and sky are still suffused with beautiful bluish hues of light. On August 8 this early morning blue hour panorama scanned along the clear western sky, away from the impending sunrise. A breathtaking scene, it looks down the slopes of Mt. Whitney, from along the John Muir Trail toward rugged peaks of planet Earth's Sierra Nevada mountain range. Above the horizon a faint pinkish band of back scattered sunlight, the anti-twilight arch or Belt of Venus, borders the falling grey shadow of Earth itself. Subtle bands of light across the clear sky are anti-crepuscular rays, defined by shadows of clouds near the sunward horizon. Actually following parallel lines they seem to converge along the horizon at the point opposite the rising Sun due to perspective. via NASA

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Mid Air Meteor and Milky Way

On September 24, a late evening commercial flight from Singapore to Australia offered stratospheric views of the southern hemisphere's night sky, if you chose a window seat. In fact, a well-planned seating choice with a window facing toward the Milky Way allowed the set up of a sensitive digital camera on a tripod mount to record the galaxy's central bulge in a series of 10 second long exposures. By chance, one of the exposures caught this bright fireball meteor in the starry frame. Reflected along the wing of the A380 aircraft, the brilliant greenish streak is also internally reflected in the double layer window, producing a fainter parallel to the original meteor track. In the southern sky Jupiter is the bright source beneath the galactic bulge and seen next to a green beacon, just off the wing tip. via NASA