Friday, September 20, 2019

The Tulip in the Swan


Framing a bright emission region, this telescopic view looks out across a pretty field of stars along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, toward the nebula rich constellation Cygnus the Swan. Popularly called the Tulip Nebula, the reddish glowing cloud of interstellar gas and dust is also found in the 1959 catalog by astronomer Stewart Sharpless as Sh2-101. About 8,000 light-years distant and 70 light-years across the complex and beautiful nebula blossoms near the center of this composite image. Ultraviolet radiation from young energetic O stars at the edge of the Cygnus OB3 association, ionizes the atoms and powers the emission from the Tulip Nebula. via NASA https://ift.tt/32W6jte

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Saturn at Night


Still bright in planet Earth's night skies, good telescopic views of Saturn and its beautiful rings often make it a star at star parties. But this stunning view of Saturn's rings and night side just isn't possible from telescopes closer to the Sun than the outer planet. They can only bring Saturn's day into view. In fact, this image of Saturn's slender sunlit crescent with night's shadow cast across its broad and complex ring system was captured by the Cassini spacecraft. A robot spacecraft from planet Earth, Cassini called Saturn orbit home for 13 years before it was directed to dive into the atmosphere of the gas giant on September 15, 2017. This magnificent mosaic is composed of frames recorded by Cassini's wide-angle camera only two days before its grand final plunge. Saturn's night will not be seen again until another spaceship from Earth calls. via NASA https://ift.tt/34YOFXw

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Along the Western Veil


Delicate in appearance, these filaments of shocked, glowing gas, are draped across planet Earth's sky toward the constellation of Cygnus. They form the western part of the Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, an expanding cloud born of the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the original supernova explosion likely reached Earth over 5,000 years ago. Blasted out in the cataclysmic event, the interstellar shock wave plows through space sweeping up and exciting interstellar material. The glowing filaments are really more like long ripples in a sheet seen almost edge on, remarkably well separated into atomic hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue-green) gas. Also known as the Cygnus Loop, the Veil Nebula now spans nearly 3 degrees or about 6 times the diameter of the full Moon. While that translates to over 70 light-years at its estimated distance of 1,500 light-years, this telescopic image of the western portion spans about half that distance. Brighter parts of the western Veil are recognized as separate nebulae, including The Witch's Broom (NGC 6960) along the top of this view and Pickering's Triangle (NGC 6979) below and left. via NASA https://ift.tt/30sHKmd

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Gigantic Jet Lightning over India


Yes, but can your lightning bolt do this? While flying from Munich to Singapore earlier this month, an industrious passenger took images of a passing lightning storm and caught something unexpected: gigantic jet lightning. The jet was captured on a single 3.2-second exposure above Bhadrak, India. Although the gigantic jet appears connected to the airplane's wing, it likely started in a more distant thundercloud, and can be seen extending upwards towards Earth's ionosphere. The nature of gigantic jets and their possible association with other types of Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) such as blue jets and red sprites remains an active topic of research. via NASA https://ift.tt/34VMIeP

Monday, September 16, 2019

Water Vapor Discovered on Distant Exoplanet


Where else might life exist? One of humanity's great outstanding questions, locating planets where extrasolar life might survive took a step forward recently with the discovery of a significant amount of water vapor in the atmosphere of distant exoplanet K2-18b. The planet and it parent star, K2-18, lie about 124 light years away toward the constellation of the Lion (Leo). The exoplanet is significantly larger and more massive than our Earth, but orbits in the habitable zone of its home star. K2-18, although more red than our Sun, shines in K2-18b's sky with a brightness similar to the Sun in Earth's sky. The discovery was made in data from three space telescopes: Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler, by noting the absorption of water-vapor colors when the planet moved in front of the star. The featured illustration imagines exoplanet K2-18b on the right, its parent red dwarf star K2-18 on the left, and an unconfirmed sister planet between them. via NASA https://ift.tt/2ZWGOKL

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Lunar Corona over Turin


What are those colorful rings around the Moon? A corona. Rings like this will sometimes appear when the Moon is seen through thin clouds. The effect is created by the quantum mechanical diffraction of light around individual, similarly-sized water droplets in an intervening but mostly-transparent cloud. Since light of different colors has different wavelengths, each color diffracts differently. Lunar Coronae are one of the few quantum mechanical color effects that can be easily seen with the unaided eye. The featured lunar corona was captured around full Moon above Turin, Italy in 2014. Similar coronae that form around the Sun are usually harder to see because of the Sun's great brightness. via NASA https://ift.tt/2LAG9Xr

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Long Storm System on Saturn


It was one of the largest and longest lived storms ever recorded in our Solar System. First seen in late 2010, the above cloud formation in the northern hemisphere of Saturn started larger than the Earth and soon spread completely around the planet. The storm was tracked not only from Earth but from up close by the robotic Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn. Pictured here in false colored infrared in February, orange colors indicate clouds deep in the atmosphere, while light colors highlight clouds higher up. The rings of Saturn are seen nearly edge-on as the thin blue horizontal line. The warped dark bands are the shadows of the rings cast onto the cloud tops by the Sun to the upper left. A source of radio noise from lightning, the intense storm was thought to relate to seasonal changes when spring emerges in the north of Saturn. After raging for over six months, the iconic storm circled the entire planet and then tried to absorb its own tail -- which surprisingly caused it to fade away. via NASA https://ift.tt/2Aiw4aX