The central bulge of our Milky Way Galaxy rises over the northern Chilean Atacama altiplano in this postcard from planet Earth. At an altitude of 4500 meters, the strange beauty of the desolate landscape could almost belong to another world though. Brownish red and yellow tinted sulfuric patches lie along the whitish salt flat beaches of the Salar de Aguas Calientes region. In the distance along the Argentina border is the stratovolcano Lastarria, its peak at 5700 meters (19,000 feet). In the clear, dark sky above, stars, nebulae, and cosmic dust clouds in the Milky Way echo the colors of the altiplano at night. Extending the view across extragalactic space, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, shine near the horizon through a faint greenish airglow.
from NASA http://ift.tt/2dP2QJ4
Does this Moon look a little different to you? Although shown in spectacular detail, the full face of Earth’s most familiar satellite appears slightly darker than usual, in particular on the upper left, because it is undergoing a penumbral lunar eclipse. The image was captured in Hong Kong, China, on September 16 when the Moon crossed through part of Earth’s shadow — but not the darkest where the Earth shades the entire Sun. A lunar eclipse can only occur during a full moon, and many know this particular full moon as the Harvest moon for its proximity to northern harvests. The next full moon will occur this coming Sunday. Some cultures refer to it as a Leaf Falling Moon, named for its proximity to northern autumn. The second full moon of the same month (“moonth”) is sometimes called a Blue moon; meanwhile, this month features a rare second new moon, an event known to some as a Black moon.
from NASA http://ift.tt/2e14PWe
Sometimes, stars form in walls — bright walls of interstellar gas. In this vivid skyscape, stars are forming in the W-shaped ridge of emission known as the Cygnus Wall. Part of a larger emission nebula with a distinctive outline popularly called The North America Nebula, the cosmic ridge spans about 20 light-years. Constructed using narrowband data to highlight the telltale reddish glow from ionized hydrogen atoms recombining with electrons, the image mosaic follows an ionization front with fine details of dark, dusty forms in silhouette. Sculpted by energetic radiation from the region’s young, hot, massive stars, the dark shapes inhabiting the view are clouds of cool gas and dust with stars likely forming within. The North America Nebula itself, NGC 7000, is about 1,500 light-years away.
from NASA http://ift.tt/2d4Liaw
Gorgeous spiral galaxy M33 seems to have more than its fair share of glowing hydrogen gas. A prominent member of the local group of galaxies, M33 is also known as the Triangulum Galaxy and lies about 3 million light-years distant. The galaxy’s inner 30,000 light-years or so are shown in this telescopic portrait that enhances its reddish ionized hydrogen clouds or HII regions. Sprawling along loose spiral arms that wind toward the core, M33’s giant HII regions are some of the largest known stellar nurseries, sites of the formation of short-lived but very massive stars. Intense ultraviolet radiation from the luminous, massive stars ionizes the surrounding hydrogen gas and ultimately produces the characteristic red glow. To enhance this image, broadband data was used to produce a color view of the galaxy and combined with narrowband data recorded through a hydrogen-alpha filter. That filter transmits the light of the strongest visible hydrogen emission line.
from NASA http://ift.tt/2d8nO2o
What is this unusual mound on Mars? NASA’s Curiosity rover rolling across Mars has come across a group of these mounds that NASA has labelled Murray Buttes. Pictured is a recently assembled mosaic image of one of the last of the buttes passed by Curiosity on its way up Mt. Sharp — but also one of the most visually spectacular. Ancient water-deposited layers in relatively dense — but now dried-out and crumbling — windblown sandstone tops the 15-meter tall structure. The rim of Gale crater is visible in the distance. Curiosity continues to accumulate clues about how Mars changed from a planet with areas wet and hospitable to microbial life to the dry, barren, rusted landscape seen today.
from NASA http://ift.tt/2cSWFNv
What surrounds the famous Eagle Nebula? The inside of the Eagle Nebula contains eggs — evaporating gaseous globules — that typically reside in tremendous pillars of gas and dust and where stars form. This image, though, dramatically captures the area surrounding the Eagle Nebula, showing not only the entire Eagle shape, but also enormous volumes of glowing gas and dark dust. Cataloged as M16, the Eagle emission nebula lies about 6,500 light years away and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of the Serpent (Serpens). The image spans about 80 light years around the nebula. The iconic center of the Eagle Nebula has been the focus of many observational efforts both from the ground and orbiting observatories.
from NASA http://ift.tt/2d06Tz3
Sometimes both heaven and Earth erupt. Colorful aurorae erupted unexpectedly a few years ago, with green aurora appearing near the horizon and brilliant bands of red aurora blooming high overhead. A bright Moon lit the foreground of this picturesque scene, while familiar stars could be seen far in the distance. With planning, the careful astrophotographer shot this image mosaic in the field of White Dome Geyser in Yellowstone National Park in the western USA. Sure enough, just after midnight, White Dome erupted — spraying a stream of water and vapor many meters into the air. Geyser water is heated to steam by scalding magma several kilometers below, and rises through rock cracks to the surface. About half of all known geysers occur in Yellowstone National Park. Although the geomagnetic storm that created these aurorae has since subsided, eruptions of White Dome Geyser continue about every 30 minutes.
from NASA http://ift.tt/2dmTiBm
After closely following comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for 786 days as it rounded the Sun, the Rosetta spacecraft’s controlled impact with the comet’s surface was confirmed by the loss of signal from the spacecraft on September 30, 2016. One the images taken during its final descent, this high resolution view looks across the comet’s stark landscape. The scene spans just over 600 meters (2,000 feet), captured when Rosetta was about 16 kilometers from the comet’s surface. Rosetta’s descent to the comet brought to an end the operational phase of an inspirational mission of space exploration. Rosetta deployed a lander to the surface of one of the Solar System’s most primordial worlds and witnessed first hand how a comet changes when subject to the increasing intensity of the Sun’s radiation. The decision to end the mission on the surface is a result of the comet’s orbit now taking it to the dim reaches beyond Jupiter where there would be a lack of power to operate the spacecraft. Mission operators also faced an approaching period where the Sun would be close to line-of-sight between Earth and Rosetta, making radio communications increasingly difficult.
from NASA http://ift.tt/2cIZosW