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Firing Lasers to Tame the Sky

Copyright: Juan Carlos MuñozESO Text: Juan Carlos Muñoz Why do stars twinkle? Our atmosphere is to blame as pockets of slightly off-temperature air, in constant motion, distort the light paths from distant astronomical objects. Atmospheric turbulence is a problem for astronomers because it blurs the images of the sources they want to study. The telescope […]

Flashes of the Crab Pulsar

Copyright: Martin Fiedler It somehow survived an explosion that would surely have destroyed our Sun. Now it is spins 30 times a second and is famous for the its rapid flashes. It is the Crab Pulsar, the rotating neutron star remnant of the supernova that created the Crab Nebula. A careful eye can spot the […]

WR32 and Interstellar Clouds in Carina

Copyright: Ariel Cappelletti Stars can be like artists. With interstellar gas as a canvas, a massive and tumultuous Wolf-Rayet star has created the picturesque ruffled half-circular filaments called WR32, on the image left. Additionally, the winds and radiation from a small cluster of stars, NGC 3324, have sculpted a 35 light year cavity on the […]

Blue Straggler Stars in Globular Cluster M53

Copyright: If our Sun were part of this star cluster, the night sky would glow like a jewel box of bright stars. This cluster, known as M53 and cataloged as NGC 5024, is one of about 250 globular clusters that survive in our Galaxy. Most of the stars in M53 are older and redder than […]

A Northern Winter Night

Copyright: Lukasz Zak Snow blankets the ground in this serene forest and sky view. Assembled in a 360 degree panoramic projection, the mosaicked frames were captured at January’s end along a quiet country road near Siemiony, northeastern Poland, planet Earth. The night was cold and between trees reaching toward the sky shine the stars and […]

Apollo 14 Heads for Home

Copyright: Fifty years ago this Sunday (February 7, 1971), the crew of Apollo 14 left lunar orbit and headed for home. They watched this Earthrise from their command module Kittyhawk. With Earth’s sunlit crescent just peeking over the lunar horizon, the cratered terrain in the foreground is along the lunar farside. Of course, while orbiting […]

Found on the Moon: Candidate for Oldest Known Earth Rock

Copyright: Was the oldest known rock on Earth found on the Moon? Quite possibly. The story opens with the Apollo 14 lunar mission. Lunar sample 14321, a large rock found in Cone crater by astronaut Alan Shepard, when analyzed back on Earth, was found to have a fragment that was a much better match to […]

A Colorful Quadrantid Meteor

Copyright: Frank Kuszaj Meteors can be colorful. While the human eye usually cannot discern many colors, cameras often can. Pictured is a Quadrantids meteor captured by camera over Missouri, USA, early this month that was not only impressively bright, but colorful. The radiant grit, likely cast off by asteroid 2003 EH1, blazed a path across […]

Lunar Halo over Snowy Trees

Copyright: Göran Strand Have you ever seen a halo around the Moon? This fairly common sight occurs when high thin clouds containing millions of tiny ice crystals cover much of the sky. Each ice crystal acts like a miniature lens. Because most of the crystals have a similar elongated hexagonal shape, light entering one crystal […]

Asteroids in the Distance

Copyright: Rocks from space hit Earth every day. The larger the rock, though, the less often Earth is struck. Many kilograms of space dust pitter to Earth daily. Larger bits appear initially as a bright meteor. Baseball-sized rocks and ice-balls streak through our atmosphere daily, most evaporating quickly to nothing. Significant threats do exist for […]

Southern Sky from 38,000 Feet

Copyright: Ralf Rohner Celestial sights of the southern sky shine above a cloudy planet Earth in this gorgeous night sky view. The scene was captured from an airliner’s flight deck at 38,000 feet on a steady westbound ride to Lima, Peru. To produce the sharp airborne astrophotograph, the best of a series of short exposures […]

North American Nightscape

Copyright: Liron Gertsman On January 21, light from the Moon near first quarter illuminated the foreground in this snowy mountain and night scene. Known as The Lions, the striking pair of mountain peaks are north of Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada, North America, planet Earth. Poised above the twin summits, left of Deneb alpha star of […]

Messier 66 Close Up

Copyright: Big, beautiful spiral galaxy Messier 66 lies a mere 35 million light-years away. The gorgeous island universe is about 100 thousand light-years across, similar in size to the Milky Way. This reprocessed Hubble Space Telescope close-up view spans a region about 30,000 light-years wide around the galactic core. It shows the galaxy’s disk dramatically […]

The Vertical Magnetic Field of NGC 5775

Copyright: How far do magnetic fields extend up and out of spiral galaxies? For decades astronomers knew only that some spiral galaxies had magnetic fields. However, after NRAO’s Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope (popularized in the movie Contact) was upgraded in 2011, it was unexpectedly discovered that these fields could extend vertically away from […]

Central NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide

Copyright: How did this strange-looking galaxy form? Astronomers turn detectives when trying to figure out the cause of unusual jumbles of stars, gas, and dust like NGC 1316. Inspection indicates that NGC 1316 is an enormous elliptical galaxy that somehow includes dark dust lanes usually found in a spiral galaxy. Detailed images taken by the […]