East to West, Light and Shadow

On this November morning an old crescent Moon and morning star rise just before the Sun in a wide panoramic skyscape from Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. Still below the limbs of an acacia tree and the eastern horizon, the Sun’s position is easy to find though. It’s marked at the left by the subtle convergence of light and shadow in the dawn sky. Known as crepuscular rays, the warm-colored rays of sunlight are outlined by shadows cast by unseen clouds near the horizon. Arcing above the profile of Mount Kilimanjaro, toward the right the rays of light and shadow converge at the western horizon. There known as anti-crepuscular rays, they indicate the point opposite the rising sun. The cloud shadows are very nearly parallel, but converge toward the distant horizons because of perspective. via NASA http://ift.tt/2gwPjCY

Ring Scan

Scroll right and you can cruise along the icy rings of Saturn. This high resolution scan is a mosaic of images presented in natural color. The images were recorded in May 2007 over about 2.5 hours as the Cassini spacecraft passed above the unlit side of the rings. To help track your progress, major rings and gaps are labeled along with the distance from the center of the gas giant in kilometers. The alphabetical designation of Saturn’s rings is historically based on their order of discovery; rings A and B are the bright rings separated by the Cassini division. In order of increasing distance from Saturn, the seven main rings run D,C,B,A,F,G,E. (Faint, outer rings G and E are not imaged here.) Four days from now, on November 29, Cassini will make a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan and use the large moon’s gravity to nudge the spacecraft into a series of 20 daring, elliptical, ring-grazing orbits. Diving through the ring plane just 11,000 kilometers outside the F ring (far right) Cassini’s first ring-graze will be on December 4. via NASA http://ift.tt/2fbgea1

Nova over Thailand

A nova in Sagittarius is bright enough to see with binoculars. Detected last month, the stellar explosion even approached the limit of naked-eye visibility last week. A classical nova results from a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star — a dense star having the size of our Earth but the mass of our Sun. In the featured image, the nova was captured last week above ancient Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai, Thailand. To see Nova Sagittarius 2016 yourself, just go out just after sunset and locate near the western horizon the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius), popularly identified with an iconic teapot. Also visible near the nova is the very bright planet Venus. Don’t delay, though, because not only is the nova fading, but that part of the sky is setting continually closer to sunset. via NASA http://ift.tt/2gBQ3dz

NGC 4414: A Flocculent Spiral Galaxy

How much mass do flocculent spirals hide? The featured true color image of flocculent spiral galaxy NGC 4414 was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope to help answer this question. The featured image was augmented with data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Flocculent spirals — galaxies without well-defined spiral arms — are a quite common form of galaxy, and NGC 4414 is one of the closest. Stars and gas near the visible edge of spiral galaxies orbit the center so fast that the gravity from a large amount of unseen dark matter must be present to hold them together. Understanding the matter and dark matter distribution of NGC 4414 helps humanity calibrate the rest of the galaxy and, by deduction, flocculent spirals in general. Further, calibrating the distance to NGC 4414 helps humanity calibrate the cosmological distance scale of the entire visible universe. via NASA http://ift.tt/2gsbMns

Philadelphia Perigee Full Moon

A supermoon sets over the metropolis of Philadelphia in this twilight snapshot captured on November 14 at 6:21am Eastern Standard Time. Within hours of the Moon’s exact full phase, that time does correspond to a lunar perigee or the closest point in the Moon’s elliptical orbit around our fair planet. Slightly bigger and brighter at perigee, this Full Moon is still flattened and distorted in appearance by refraction in atmospheric layers along the sight-line near the horizon. Also like more ordinary Full Moons, it shines with the warm color of sunlight. Joined by buildings along the Philadelphia skyline, the perigee full moonlight is reflected in the waters of the mighty Cooper River. via NASA http://ift.tt/2f7q2wQ

The Heart and Soul Nebulas

Is the heart and soul of our Galaxy located in Cassiopeia? Possibly not, but that is where two bright emission nebulas nicknamed Heart and Soul can be found. The Heart Nebula, officially dubbed IC 1805 and visible in the featured image on the right, has a shape reminiscent of a classical heart symbol. Both nebulas shine brightly in the red light of energized hydrogen. Several young open clusters of stars populate the image and are visible here in blue, including the nebula centers. Light takes about 6,000 years to reach us from these nebulas, which together span roughly 300 light years. Studies of stars and clusters like those found in the Heart and Soul Nebulas have focused on how massive stars form and how they affect their environment. via NASA http://ift.tt/2fYA4mm

NGC 7822 in Cepheus

Hot, young stars and cosmic pillars of gas and dust seem to crowd into NGC 7822. At the edge of a giant molecular cloud toward the northern constellation Cepheus, the glowing star forming region lies about 3,000 light-years away. Within the nebula, bright edges and dark shapes stand out in this colorful skyscape. The image includes data from narrowband filters, mapping emission from atomic oxygen, hydrogen, and sulfur into blue, green, and red hues. The emission line and color combination has become well-known as the Hubble palette. The atomic emission is powered by energetic radiation from the central hot stars. Their powerful winds and radiation sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes and clear out a characteristic cavity light-years across the center of the natal cloud. Stars could still be forming inside the pillars by gravitational collapse but as the pillars are eroded away, any forming stars will ultimately be cutoff from their reservoir of star stuff. This field of view spans over 40 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 7822. via NASA http://ift.tt/2fqqCap

Inverted City Beneath Clouds

How could that city be upside-down? The city, Chicago, was actually perfectly right-side up. The long shadows it projected onto nearby Lake Michigan near sunset, however, when seen in reflection, made the buildings appear inverted. This fascinating, puzzling, yet beautiful image was captured by a photographer in 2014 on an airplane on approach to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The Sun can be seen both above and below the cloud deck, with the latter reflected in the calm lake. As a bonus, if you look really closely — and this is quite a challenge — you can find another airplane in the image, likely also on approach to the same airport. via NASA http://ift.tt/2frZ98z

Starburst Cluster in NGC 3603

A mere 20,000 light-years from the Sun lies NGC 3603, a resident of the nearby Carina spiral arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. NGC 3603 is well known to astronomers as one of the Milky Way’s largest star-forming regions. The central open star cluster contains thousands of stars more massive than our Sun, stars that likely formed only one or two million years ago in a single burst of star formation. In fact, nearby NGC 3603 is thought to contain a convenient example of the massive star clusters that populate much more distant starburst galaxies. Surrounding the cluster are natal clouds of glowing interstellar gas and obscuring dust, sculpted by energetic stellar radiation and winds. Recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope, the image spans about 17 light-years. via NASA http://ift.tt/2erW06L

Arp 299: Black Holes in Colliding Galaxies

Is only one black hole spewing high energy radiation — or two? To help find out, astronomers trained NASA’s Earth-orbiting NuSTAR and Chandra telescopes on Arp 299, the enigmatic colliding galaxies expelling the radiation. The two galaxies of Arp 299 have been locked in a gravitational combat for millions of years, while their central black holes will soon do battle themselves. Featured, the high-resolution visible-light image was taken by Hubble, while the superposed diffuse glow of X-ray light was imaged by NuSTAR and shown in false-color red, green, and blue. NuSTAR observations show that only one of the central black holes is seen fighting its way through a region of gas and dust — and so absorbing matter and emitting X-rays. The energetic radiation, coming only from the galaxy center on the right, is surely created nearby — but outside — the central black hole’s event horizon. In a billion years or so, only one composite galaxy will remain, and only one central supermassive black hole. Soon thereafter, though, another galaxy may enter the fray. via NASA http://ift.tt/2f8LuDd