Reflecting the International Space Station


Still bathed in sunlight, the International Space Station arced through the evening sky over lake Wulfsahl-Gusborn in northern Germany, just after sunset on March 25. The familiar constellation of Orion can be seen left of the trail of the orbital station’s bright passage. On the right, Venus is the brilliant evening star above the western horizon. With the camera fixed to a tripod, this scene was captured in a series of five exposures. How can you tell? The short time delay between the end of one exposure and the beginning of the next leaves small gaps in the ISS light trail. Look closely and you’ll also see that the sky that appears to be above the horizon is actually a reflection though. The final image has been vertically inverted and the night skyscape recorded in the mirror-like waters of the small lake.

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Earth and Moon through Saturns Rings


What are those dots between Saturn’s rings? Our Earth and Moon. Just over three years ago, because the Sun was temporarily blocked by the body of Saturn, the robotic Cassini spacecraft was able to look toward the inner Solar System. There, it spotted our Earth and Moon — just pin-pricks of light lying about 1.4 billion kilometers distant. Toward the right of the featured image is Saturn’s A ring, with the broad Encke Gap on the far right and the narrower Keeler Gap toward the center. On the far left is Saturn’s continually changing F Ring. From this perspective, the light seen from Saturn’s rings was scattered mostly forward , and so appeared backlit. After more than a decade of exploration and discovery, the Cassini spacecraft ran low on fuel in 2017 and was directed to enter Saturn’s atmosphere, where it surely melted.

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The Milky Way over Snow Capped Himalayas


What��������s higher than the Himalayas? Although the Himalayan Mountains are the tallest on planet Earth, they don’t measure up to the Milky Way. Visible above the snow-capped mountains in the featured image is the arcing central band of our home galaxy. The bright spot just above the central plane is the planet Jupiter, while the brightest orange spot on the upper right is the star Antares. The astrophotographer braved below-zero temperatures at nearly 4,000-meters altitude to take the photographs that compose this image. The featured picture is a composite of eight exposures taken with same camera and from the same location over three hours, just after sunset, in 2019 April, from near Bimtang Lake in Nepal. Over much of planet Earth, the planets Mercury (faint) and Venus (bright) will be visible this week after sunset.

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Mystic Mountain Monster being Destroyed


Inside the head of this interstellar monster is a star that is slowly destroying it. The huge monster, actually an inanimate series of pillars of gas and dust, measures light years in length. The in-head star is not itself visible through the opaque interstellar dust but is bursting out partly by ejecting opposing beams of energetic particles called Herbig-Haro jets. Located about 7,500 light years away in the Carina Nebula and known informally as Mystic Mountain, the appearance of these pillars is dominated by dark dust even though they are composed mostly of clear hydrogen gas. The featured image was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. All over these pillars, the energetic light and winds from massive newly formed stars are evaporating and dispersing the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed. Within a few million years, the head of this giant, as well as most of its body, will have been completely evaporated by internal and surrounding stars.

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Valles Marineris: The Grand Canyon of Mars


The largest canyon in the Solar System cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars. Named Valles Marineris, the grand valley extends over 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep. By comparison, the Earth’s Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA is 800 kilometers long, 30 kilometers across, and 1.8 kilometers deep. The origin of the Valles Marineris remains unknown, although a leading hypothesis holds that it started as a crack billions of years ago as the planet cooled. Several geologic processes have been identified in the canyon. The featured mosaic was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s.

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Ghost Fungus to Magellanic Cloud


Stars shine and satellites glint in this clear, dark, night sky over Wannon Falls Reserve, South West Victoria, Australia. In fact the fuzzy, faint apparition above the tree tops is the only cloud visible, also known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. In the foreground, an Omphalotus nidiformis (ghost fungus) from planet Earth shines with a surprisingly bright bioluminescence. Like the Magellanic cloud, the ghost fungus was easily seen with the eye. Its ghostly glow was actually a dull green, but it appears bright green in digital camera picture. Two images were blended to create the scene. One focused on the distant stars and Large Magellanic Cloud some 160,000 light-years away. Another was focused on the foreground and glowing fungus several light-nanoseconds from the camera lens.

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South of Carina


With natal dust clouds in silhouette against glowing atomic gas, this colorful and chaotic vista lies within one of the largest star forming regions in the Milky Way galaxy, the Great Carina Nebula. The telescopic close-up frames a field of view about 80 light-years across, a little south and east of Eta Carinae, the nebula’s most energetic and enigmatic star. Captured under suburban skies improved during national restrictions, a composite of narrowband image data was used to create the final image. In it, characteristic emission from the nebula’s ionized sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms is mapped to red, green, and blue hues, a color palette also popular in Hubble Space Telescope images. The celestial landscape of bright ridges of emission bordered by cool, obscuring dust lies about 7,500 light-years away toward the southern constellation Carina.

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