100 Steps Forward


A beautiful conjunction of Venus and Moon, human, sand, and Milky Way is depicted in this night skyscape from planet Earth. The scene is a panorama of 6 photos taken in a moment near the end of a journey. In the foreground, footsteps along the wind-rippled dunes are close to the Huacachina oasis in the southwestern desert of Peru. An engaging perspective on the world at night, the stunning final image was also chosen as a winner in The World at Night’s 2017 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest.

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Flare Well AR2673


Almost out of view from our fair planet, rotating around the Sun’s western edge giant active region AR2673 lashed out with another intense solar flare followed by a large coronal mass ejection on September 10. The flare itself is seen here at the right in an extreme ultraviolet image from the sun-staring Solar Dynamics Observatory. This intense flare was the fourth X-class flare from AR2673 this month. The active region’s most recent associated coronal mass ejection collided with Earth’s magnetosphere 2 days later. Say farewell to the mighty AR2673, for now. For the next two weeks, the powerful sunspot group will be on the Sun’s far side.

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NGC 6334: The Cats Paw Nebula


Nebulas are perhaps as famous for being identified with familiar shapes as perhaps cats are for getting into trouble. Still, no known cat could have created the vast Cat’s Paw Nebula visible in Scorpius. At 5,500 light years distant, Cat’s Paw is an emission nebula with a red color that originates from an abundance of ionized hydrogen atoms. Alternatively known as the Bear Claw Nebula or NGC 6334, stars nearly ten times the mass of our Sun have been born there in only the past few million years. Pictured here is a deep field image of the Cat’s Paw Nebula in light emitted by hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur.

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Calm Waters and Geomagnetic Storm


Very recognizable stars of the northern sky are a backdrop for calm waters in this moonlit sea and skyscape off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Taken on September 7, the photo also records a colorful display of northern lights or aurora borealis triggered by a severe geomagnetic storm. Visible crossing the Sun, the giant solar active region responsible, AR 2673, is much larger than planet Earth. It has produced the strongest flare of the current solar cycle and and the Earth-directed coronal mass ejection in the last few days.

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The Great Gig in the Sky


There were no crowds on the beach at Phillips Lake, Oregon on August 21. But a few had come there to stand, for a moment, in the dark shadow of the Moon. From the beach, this unscripted mosaic photo records their much anticipated solar eclipse. In two vertical panels it catches the last few seconds of totality and the first instant of 3rd contact, just as the eclipse ends and sunlight faintly returns. Across the US those gathered along the path of totality also took pictures and shared their moment. And like those at Phillips Lake they may treasure the experience more than any planned or unplanned photograph of the total eclipse of the Sun.

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The Climber and the Eclipse


What should you do if your rock climbing picture is photobombed by a total eclipse of the Sun? Rejoice — because your planning paid off. After months of considering different venues, and a week of scouting different locations in Oregon‘s Smith Rock State Park, a group of photographers and rock climbers led by Ted Hesser, Martina Tibell, and Michael Shainblum settled on picturesque 100-meter tall Monkey Face tower as the dramatic foreground for their images of the pending total solar eclipse. Tension mounted as the eclipse time approached, planned juxtapositions were scrutinized, and the placement of rock climber Tommy Smith was adjusted. Right on schedule, though, the Moon moved in front of the Sun, and Smith moved in front of the Moon, just as planned. The solar eclipse image displayed here actually shows a diamond ring, an eclipse phase when a bit of the distant Sun is still visible beyond the Moon’s surface.

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Europa and Jupiter from Voyager 1


What are those spots on Jupiter? Largest and furthest, just right of center, is the Great Red Spot — a huge storm system that has been raging on Jupiter possibly since Giovanni Cassini‘s likely notation of it 352 years ago. It is not yet known why this Great Spot is red. The spot toward the lower left is one of Jupiter’s largest moons: Europa. Images from Voyager in 1979 bolster the modern hypothesis that Europa has an underground ocean and is therefore a good place to look for extraterrestrial life. But what about the dark spot on the upper right? That is a shadow of another of Jupiter’s large moons: Io. Voyager 1 discovered Io to be so volcanic that no impact craters could be found. Sixteen frames from Voyager 1’s flyby of Jupiter in 1979 were recently reprocessed and merged to create the featured image. Forty years ago today, Voyager 1 launched from Earth and started one of the greatest explorations of the Solar System ever.

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