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Comment by doone on Sunday

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

A Solar Filament Erupts 
Image Credit: NASA's GSFCSDO AIA Team

Explanation: What's happened to our Sun? Nothing very unusual -- it just threw a filament. Toward the middle of 2012, a long standing solar filament suddenly erupted into space producing an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The filament had been held up for days by the Sun's ever changing magnetic field and the timing of the eruption was unexpected.Watched closely by the Sun-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, the resulting explosion shot electrons and ions into the Solar System, some of which arrived at Earth three days later and impacted Earth's magnetosphere, causing visible aurorae. Loops of plasma surrounding an active region can be seen above the erupting filament in the ultraviolet image. Over the past week the number of sunspots visible on the Sun unexpectedly dropped to zero, causing speculation that the Sun has now passed a very unusual solar maximum, the time in the Sun's 11-year cycle when it is most active.

Comment by doone on Saturday

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

3D Homunculus Nebula 
Science Credit: W. Steffen (UNAM), M. Teodoro, T.I. Madura, 
J.H. Groh, T.R. Gull, A. Mehner, M.F. Corcoran, A. Damineli, K. Ham...
 
Image Credit: NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center/SVS - Inset: NASA, ESA, Hubble SM4 ERO Team

Explanation: If you're looking for something to print with that new 3D printer, try out a copy of the Homunculus Nebula. The dusty, bipolar cosmic cloud is around 1 light-year across but is slightly scaled down for printing to about 1/4 light-nanosecond or 80 millimeters. The full scale Homunculus surrounds Eta Carinae, famously unstable massive stars in a binary system embedded in the extensive Carina Nebula about 7,500 light-years distant. Between 1838 and 1845, Eta Carinae underwent the Great Eruption becoming the second brightest star in planet Earth's night sky and ejecting the Homunculus Nebula. The new 3D model of the still expanding Homunculus was created by exploring the nebula with the European Southern Observatory's VLT/<href="http: cosmicdiary.org="" fpatat="" 2009="" 01="" 19="" x-shooter-goes-on-sky-again-and-again-nights-2-3-and-4="" "="">X-Shooter. That instrument is capable of mapping the velocity of molecular hydrogen gas through the nebula's dust at a fine resolution. It reveals trenches, divots and protrusions, even in the dust obscured regions that face away from Earth. Eta Carinae itself still undergoes violent outbursts, a candidate to explode in a spectacular supernova in the next few million years.

Comment by doone on Friday

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Ou4: A Giant Squid Nebula 
Image Credit: Romano Corradi (IAC), 
Nicolas Grosso, Agnès Acker, Robert Greimel, Patrick Guillout

Explanation: A mysterious, squid-like apparition, this nebula is very faint, but also very large in planet Earth's sky. In the mosaic image, composed with narrowband data from the 2.5 meter Isaac Newton Telescope, it spans some 2.5 full moons toward the constellation Cepheus. Recently discovered by French astro-imager Nicolas Outters, the remarkable nebula's bipolar shape and emission are consistent with it being a planetary nebula, the gaseous shroud of a dying sun-like star, but its actual distance and origin are unknown. A new investigation suggests Ou4 really lies within the emission region SH2-129 some 2,300 light-years away. Consistent with that scenario, the cosmic squid would represent a spectacular outflow of material driven by a triple system of hot, massive stars, cataloged as HR8119, seen near the center of the nebula. If so, this truly giant squid nebula would physically be nearly 50 light-years across.

Comment by doone on July 13, 2014 at 7:15am

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Planetary Nebula NGC 2818 from Hubble 
Image Credit: NASAESAHubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

Explanation: NGC 2818 is a beautiful planetary nebula, the gaseous shroud of a dying sun-like star. It could well offer a glimpse of the future that awaits our own Sun after spending another 5 billion years or so steadily using up hydrogen at its core, and then finally helium, as fuel for nuclear fusion. Curiously, NGC 2818 seems to lie within an open star cluster, NGC 2818A, that is some 10,000 light-years distant toward the southern constellation Pyxis (the Compass). At the distance of the star cluster, the nebula would be about 4 light-years across. But accurate velocity measurements show that the nebula's own velocity is very different from the cluster's member stars. The result is strong evidence that NGC 2818 is only by chance found along the line of sight to the star cluster and so may not share the cluster's distance or age. The Hubble image is a composite of exposures through narrow-band filters, presenting emission from nitrogenhydrogen, and oxygen atoms in the nebula as red, green, and blue hues.

Comment by doone on July 12, 2014 at 8:04am

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

SN 1006 Supernova Remnant 
Image Credit: NASAESA, Zolt Levay (STScI)

Explanation: A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, lit up planet Earth's sky in the year 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion, found in the southerly constellation of Lupus, still puts on a cosmic light show across the electromagnetic spectrum. In fact, this composite view includes X-ray data in blue from theChandra Observatory, optical data in yellowish hues, and radio image data in red. Now known as the SN 1006 supernova remnant, the debris cloud appears to be about 60 light-years across and is understood to represent the remains of a white dwarf star. Part of a binary star system, the compact white dwarf gradually captured material from its companion star. The buildup in mass finally triggered a thermonuclear explosion that destroyed the dwarf star. Because the distance to the supernova remnant is about 7,000 light-years, that explosion actually happened 7,000 years before the light reached Earth in 1006. Shockwaves in the remnant accelerate particles to extreme energies and are thought to be a source of the mysterious cosmic rays.

Comment by doone on July 11, 2014 at 6:20am

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Spotty Sunrise over Brisbane 
Image Credit & CopyrightStephen Mudge

Explanation: In this composite cityscape, dawn's first colors backdrop the lights along Brisbane's skyline at the southeastern corner of Queensland, Australia, planet Earth. Using a solar filter, additional exposures made every 3.5 minutes follow the winter sunrise on July 8 as planet-sized sunspots cross the visible solar disk. The sunspots mark solar active regions with convoluted magnetic fields. Even as the maximum in the solar activity cycle begins to fade, the active regions produce intense solar flares and eruptions launching coronal mass ejections (CMEs), enormous clouds of energetic particles, into our fair solar system.

Comment by doone on July 10, 2014 at 6:21am

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Noctilucent Clouds over London 
Image Credit & CopyrightChristoph Malin (TWAN)

Explanation: This scene from the early morning hours of July 3 looks out across the River Thames from the Westminster Bridge. Part of a luminous timelapse video (vimeo), the frame captures a sight familiar in London, the nighttime glow of the London Eye. But a not-so-familiar sight is shining in the still dark sky above, widespread noctilucent clouds. From the edge of space, about 80 kilometers above Earth's surface, the icy clouds can still reflect sunlight even though the Sun itself is below the horizon as seen from the ground. Usually spotted at high latitudes in summer months the diaphanous apparitions are also known as polar mesospheric clouds. The seasonal clouds are understood to form as water vapor driven into the cold upper atmosphere condenses on the fine dust particles supplied by disintegrating meteors or volcanic ash. NASA's AIM mission provides daily projections of the noctilucent clouds as seen from space.

Comment by doone on July 6, 2014 at 6:51am

Galaxy of the Day from Astronomy Picture of the Day

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

M106 Across the Spectrum 
Image Credit: X-ray - NASA / CXC / Caltech / P.Ogle et al.
Optical - NASA/STScI, IR - NASA/JPL-Caltech, Radio - NSF/NRAO/VLA

Explanation: The spiral arms of bright, active galaxy M106 sprawl through this remarkable multiwavelength portrait, composed of image data from radio to X-rays, across the electromagnetic spectrum. Also known as NGC 4258, M106 can be found toward the northern constellation Canes Venatici. The well-measured distance to M106 is 23.5 million light-years, making this cosmic scene about 60,000 light-years across. Typical in grand spiral galaxies, dark dust lanes, youthful star clusters, and star forming regions trace spiral arms that converge on a bright nucleus. But this composite highlights two anomalous arms in radio (purple) and X-ray (blue) that seem to arise in the central region of M106, evidence of energetic jets of material blasting into the galaxy's disk. The jets are likely powered by matter falling into a massive central black hole.

Comment by doone on July 3, 2014 at 3:57am

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Along the Cygnus Wall 
Image Credit & CopyrightMartin Pugh

Explanation: The prominent ridge of emission featured in this vivid skyscape is known as the Cygnus Wall. Part of a larger emission nebula with a distinctive shape popularly called The North America Nebula, the ridge spans about 10 light-years along an outline that suggests the western coast of Mexico. Constructed from narrowband image data, the cosmic close-upmaps emission from sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms to red, green, and blue colors. The result highlights the bright 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. To find it, look northeast of bright star Deneb in the high flying constellation Cygnus.

Comment by doone on July 2, 2014 at 5:13am

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

NGC 4651: The Umbrella Galaxy 
Image Credit & CopyrightR Jay Gabany (Blackbird Observatories) 
Collaboration: C.Foster (Australian Astronomical Obs.), H.Lux (U. Nottingham, Oxford), 
A.Romanowsky (San Jose State, UCO), D.Martínez-Delgado (Heidelberg)...

Explanation: Spiral galaxy NGC 4651 is a mere 62 million light-years distant, toward the well-groomed northern constellation Coma Berenices. About the size of our Milky Way, this island universe is seen to have a faint umbrella-shaped structure that seems to extend (left) some 100 thousand light-years beyond the bright galactic disk. The giant cosmic umbrella is now known to be composed of tidal star streams - extensive trails of stars gravitationally stripped from a smaller satellite galaxy. The small galaxy was eventually torn apart in repeated encounters as it swept back and forth on eccentric orbits through NGC 4651. In fact, the picture insert zooms in on the smaller galaxy's remnant core, identified in an extensive exploration of the system, using data from the large Subaru and Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea. Work begun by a remarkable collaboration of amateur and professional astronomers to image faint structures around bright galaxies suggests that even in nearby galaxies, tidal star streams are common markers of such galactic mergers. The result is explained by models of galaxy formation that also apply to our own Milky Way.

 
 
 

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