Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Mirach s Ghost

As far as ghosts go, Mirach's Ghost isn't really that scary. Mirach's Ghost is just a faint, fuzzy galaxy, well known to astronomers, that happens to be seen nearly along the line-of-sight to Mirach, a bright star. Centered in this star field, Mirach is also called Beta Andromedae. About 200 light-years distant, Mirach is a red giant star, cooler than the Sun but much larger and so intrinsically much brighter than our parent star. In most telescopic views, glare and diffraction spikes tend to hide things that lie near Mirach and make the faint, fuzzy galaxy look like a ghostly internal reflection of the almost overwhelming starlight. Still, appearing in this sharp image just above and to the right of Mirach, Mirach's Ghost is cataloged as galaxy NGC 404 and is estimated to be some 10 million light-years away. via NASA

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

NGC 6995: The Bat Nebula

Do you see the bat? It haunts this cosmic close-up of the eastern Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. While the Veil is roughly circular in shape and covers nearly 3 degrees on the sky toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus), NGC 6995, known informally as the Bat Nebula, spans only 1/2 degree, about the apparent size of the Moon. That translates to 12 light-years at the Veil's estimated distance, a reassuring 1,400 light-years from planet Earth. In the composite of image data recorded through narrow band filters, emission from hydrogen atoms in the remnant is shown in red with strong emission from oxygen atoms shown in hues of blue. Of course, in the western part of the Veil lies another seasonal apparition: the Witch's Broom Nebula. via NASA

Monday, October 25, 2021

Jupiter Rotates

Observe the graceful twirl of our Solar System's largest planet. Many interesting features of Jupiter's enigmatic atmosphere, including dark belts and light zones, can be followed in detail. A careful inspection will reveal that different cloud layers rotate at slightly different speeds. The famous Great Red Spot is not visible at first -- but soon rotates into view. Other smaller storm systems occasionally appear. As large as Jupiter is, it rotates in only 10 hours. Our small Earth, by comparison, takes 24 hours to complete a spin cycle. The featured high-resolution time-lapse video was captured over five nights earlier this month by a mid-sized telescope on an apartment balcony in Paris, France. Since hydrogen and helium gas are colorless, and those elements compose most of Jupiter's expansive atmosphere, what trace elements create the observed colors of Jupiter's clouds remains a topic of research. via NASA

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Road to the Galactic Center

Does the road to our galaxy's center go through Monument Valley? It doesn't have to, but if your road does -- take a picture. In this case, the road is US Route 163 and iconic buttes on the Navajo National Reservation populate the horizon. The band of Milky Way Galaxy stretches down from the sky and appears to be a continuation of the road on Earth. Filaments of dust darken the Milky Way, in contrast to billions of bright stars and several colorful glowing gas clouds including the Lagoon and Trifid nebulas. The featured picture is a composite of images taken with the same camera and from the same location -- Forest Gump Point in Utah, USA. The foreground was taken just after sunset in early September during the blue hour, while the background is a mosaic of four exposures captured a few hours later. via NASA

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Halloween and the Ghost Head Nebula

Halloween's origin is ancient and astronomical. Since the fifth century BC, Halloween has been celebrated as a cross-quarter day, a day halfway between an equinox (equal day / equal night) and a solstice (minimum day / maximum night in the northern hemisphere). With a modern calendar however, even though Halloween occurs next week, the real cross-quarter day will occur the week after. Another cross-quarter day is Groundhog Day. Halloween's modern celebration retains historic roots in dressing to scare away the spirits of the dead. Perhaps a fitting tribute to this ancient holiday is this view of the Ghost Head Nebula taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. Similar to the icon of a fictional ghost, NGC 2080 is actually a star forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way Galaxy. The Ghost Head Nebula (NGC 2080) spans about 50 light-years and is shown in representative colors. via NASA

Friday, October 22, 2021

3D Bennu

Put on your red/blue glasses and float next to asteroid 101955 Bennu. Shaped like a spinning toy top with boulders littering its rough surface, the tiny Solar System world is about one Empire State Building (less than 500 meters) across. Frames used to construct this 3D anaglyph were taken by PolyCam on the OSIRIS_REx spacecraft on December 3, 2018 from a distance of about 80 kilometers. With a sample from the asteroid's rocky surface on board, OSIRIS_REx departed Bennu's vicinity this May and is now enroute to planet Earth. The robotic spacecraft is scheduled to return the sample to Earth in September 2023. via NASA

NASA Invites Media to Launch of IXPE Mission to Study X-rays in Space

Media accreditation is open for the upcoming launch of NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, which will measure polarized X-rays from exotic cosmic objects, such as black holes and neutron stars, to better understand these types of phenomena and extreme environments. via