NGC 3576: The Statue of Liberty Nebula

What’s happening in the Statue of Liberty nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming and being liberated. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57. This image showcases dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars. A detailed study of NGC 3576, also known as NGC 3582 and NGC 3584, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun’s formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth. The featured image was taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. via NASA http://ift.tt/2d6xf5q

NGC 3576: The Statue of Liberty Nebula

What’s happening in the Statue of Liberty nebula? Bright stars and interesting molecules are forming and being liberated. The complex nebula resides in the star forming region called RCW 57. This image showcases dense knots of dark interstellar dust, bright stars that have formed in the past few million years, fields of glowing hydrogen gas ionized by these stars, and great loops of gas expelled by dying stars. A detailed study of NGC 3576, also known as NGC 3582 and NGC 3584, uncovered at least 33 massive stars in the end stages of formation, and the clear presence of the complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are thought to be created in the cooling gas of star forming regions, and their development in the Sun’s formation nebula five billion years ago may have been an important step in the development of life on Earth. The featured image was taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. via NASA http://ift.tt/2d6xf5q

Saturn from Above

This image of Saturn could not have been taken from Earth. No Earth based picture could possibly view the night side of Saturn and the corresponding shadow cast across Saturn’s rings. Since Earth is much closer to the Sun than Saturn, only the day side of the ringed planet is visible from the Earth. In fact, this image mosaic was taken earlier this year by the robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn, just before filming a 44-hour video of Saturn rotating. The beautiful rings of Saturn are seen in full expanse, while cloud details are visible including the polar hexagon surrounding the north pole. The Cassini mission is now in its final year as the spacecraft is scheduled to be programmed to dive into Saturn’s atmosphere next September. via NASA http://ift.tt/2cu6CBa

The Helix Nebula in Infrared

What makes this cosmic eye look so red? Dust. The featured image from the robotic Spitzer Space Telescope shows infrared light from the well-studied Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) a mere 700 light-years away in the constellation of the Water Carrier Aquarius. The two light-year diameter shroud of dust and gas around a central white dwarf has long been considered an excellent example of a planetary nebula, representing the final stages in the evolution of a Sun-like star. But the Spitzer data show the nebula’s central star itself is immersed in a surprisingly bright infrared glow. Models suggest the glow is produced by a dust debris disk. Even though the nebular material was ejected from the star many thousands of years ago, the close-in dust could have been generated by collisions in a reservoir of objects analogous to our own solar system’s Kuiper Belt or cometary Oort cloud. Had the comet-like bodies formed in the distant planetary system, they would have survived even the dramatic late stages of the star’s evolution. via NASA http://ift.tt/2d57iOX

50000 Kilometers over the Sun

What’s happening at the edge of the Sun? Although it may look like a monster is rampaging, what is pictured is actually only a monster prominence — a sheath of thin gas held above the surface by the Sun’s magnetic field. The solar event was captured just this past weekend with a small telescope, with the resulting image then inverted and false-colored. As indicated with illustrative lines, the prominence rises over 50,000 kilometers above the Sun’s surface, making even our 12,700-diameter Earth seem small by comparison. Below the monster prominence is active region 12585, while light colored filaments can be seen hovering over a flowing solar carpet of fibrils. Filaments are actually prominences seen against the disk of the Sun, while similarly, fibrils are actually spicules seen against the disk. Energetic events like this are becoming less common as the Sun evolves toward a minimum in its 11-year activity cycle. via NASA http://ift.tt/2d5Ewlt

M33: Triangulum Galaxy

The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other’s grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp composite image nicely shows off M33’s blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy’s loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o’clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33’s population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe. via NASA http://ift.tt/2d8hsSb

Full Moon over Brno

After sunset this gorgeous full moon rose over Brno city in the Czech Republic on July 20, 2016. The panoramic image was made during a celebration of the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. A series of exposures captures the yellow hued lunar disk against the fading colors of twilight, with the 14th century Spilberk castle illuminated in the foreground. Of course, tonight’s full moon is called the Harvest Moon. The closest full moon to the northern hemisphere’s autumnal equinox, its traditional name has long been celebrated in story and song. Tonight’s full lunar phase also coincides with a subtle, penumbral lunar eclipse, the Moon passing only through the Earth’s diffuse, outer shadow. via NASA http://ift.tt/2cw3LdH

Retrograde Mars and Saturn

Wandering Mars and Saturn have spent much of this year remarkably close in planet Earth’s night sky. In a sequence of exposures spanning mid-December 2015 through the beginning of this week, this composited skyview follows their time together, including both near opposition, just north of bright star Antares near the Milky Way’s central bulge. In the corresponding video, Saturn’s apparent movement is seen to be back and forth along the flattened, compact loop, while Mars traces the wider, reversing S-shaped track from upper right to lower left through the frame. To connect the dots and dates just slide your cursor over the picture (or follow this link). It looks that way, but Mars and Saturn don’t actually reverse direction along their orbits. Instead, their apparent backwards or retrograde motion with respect to the background stars is a reflection of the orbital motion of the Earth itself. Retrograde motion can be seen each time Earth overtakes and laps planets orbiting farther from the Sun, the Earth moving more rapidly through its own relatively close-in orbit. via NASA http://ift.tt/2cpDnjE

The North and South of Jupiter

A wide, looping orbit brought Juno close to Jupiter on August 27. As the spacecraft swung around the giant planet’s poles JunoCam acquired these premier direct polar views, a change from the usual nearly equatorial perspective of outbound spacecraft and the telescopes of planet Earth. The sunlit side of Jupiter’s north polar region (left) was imaged about 125,000 kilometers from the cloud tops, two hours before Juno’s closest approach. An hour after close approach the south polar region was captured from 94,500 kilometers away. Strikingly different from the alternating light-colored zones and darker belts girdling more familiar equatorial regions, the polar region clouds appear more convoluted and mottled by many clockwise and counterclockwise rotating storm systems. Another 35 close orbital flybys are planned during the Juno mission. via NASA http://ift.tt/2cZvkxY

NGC 1672: Barred Spiral Galaxy from Hubble

Many spiral galaxies have bars across their centers. Even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a modest central bar. Prominently barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672, featured here, was captured in spectacular detail in an image taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Visible are dark filamentary dust lanes, young clusters of bright blue stars, red emission nebulas of glowing hydrogen gas, a long bright bar of stars across the center, and a bright active nucleus that likely houses a supermassive black hole. Light takes about 60 million years to reach us from NGC 1672, which spans about 75,000 light years across. NGC 1672, which appears toward the constellation of the Dolphinfish (Dorado), is being studied to find out how a spiral bar contributes to star formation in a galaxy’s central regions. via NASA http://ift.tt/2ct3Pf5