• Sometimes it’s night on the ground but day in the air. As the Earth rotates to eclipse the Sun, sunset rises up from the ground. Therefore, at sunset on the ground, sunlight still shines on clouds above. Under usual circumstances, a pretty sunset might be visible, but unusual noctilucent clouds float so high up they can be seen well after
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  • Where did all the stars go? What used to be considered a hole in the sky is now known to astronomers as a dark molecular cloud. Here, a high concentration of dust and molecular gas absorb practically all the visible light emitted from background stars. The eerily dark surroundings help make the interiors of molecular clouds some of the coldest
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  • This rocket is headed for the Moon. Pictured above, a huge Altas V rocket roared off the launch pad last week to start NASA’s first missions to Earth’s Moon in 10 years. The rocket is carrying two robotic spacecraft. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is scheduled to orbit and better map the Moon, search for buried and hidden ice, and
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  • Today, the sun will stay in the sky longer than any other day of the year, as seen from the northern hemisphere of Earth. Named the Summer Solstice, today’s maximum daylight is indicative of the high amount of sunlight this time of year that is primarily responsible for the heat of the summer season. At the north pole and for
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  • This surprising view of the Full Moon rising on June 7 was captured with a telephoto lens from a seaside balcony near Nice, France. The orange Moon’s dark markings and odd shape put the photographer in mind of an alien creature’s face staring down at the passing ship. Of course, the Moon’s distorted appearance is due to the unusual bending
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  • This ancient Chinese map of planet Earth’s northern sky is part of the Dunhuang Star Atlas, one of the most impressive documents in the history of astronomy. The oldest complete star atlas known, it dates to the years 649 to 684, discovered at the Silk Road town of Dunhuang in 1907. A recent analysis that examines the accuracy and projections
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  • NGC 6240 offers a rare glimpse of a cosmic catastrophe in its final throes. The titanic galaxy-galaxy collision is located a mere 400 million light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus. One of the brightest sources in the infrared sky, the merging galaxies spew distorted tidal tails of stars, gas, and dust and undergo frantic bursts of star formation. The two
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  • M13 is one of the most prominent and best known globular clusters. Visible with binoculars in the constellation of Hercules, M13 is frequently one of the first objects found by curious sky gazers seeking celestials wonders beyond normal human vision. M13 is a colossal home to over 100,000 stars, spans over 150 light years across, lies over 20,000 light years
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  • Is the Moon larger when near the horizon? No — as shown above, the Moon appears to be very nearly the same size no matter its location on the sky. Oddly, the cause or causes for the common Moon Illusion are still being debated. Two leading explanations both hinge on the illusion that foreground objects make a horizon Moon seem
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  • Dark dust lit by the bright yellow star Antares highlight this photogenic starscape of the southern sky. A wider angle image shows the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy connected to Antares by streams of dust knows as the Dark River. At the head of the Dark River the dust appears in dense knots. One of the densest knots
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  • The center of our Milky Way Galaxy is hidden from the prying eyes of optical telescopes by clouds of obscuring dust and gas. But in this stunning vista, the Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared cameras, penetrate much of the dust revealing the stars of the crowded galactic center region. A mosaic of many smaller snapshots, the detailed, false-color image shows older,
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  • Inspired by the night skies of planet Earth in the International Year of Astronomy, photographer Larry Landolfi created this tantalizing fantasy view. The composited image suggests a luminous Milky Way is the heavenly extension of a country road. Of course, the name for our galaxy, the Milky Way (in Latin, Via Lactea), does refer to its appearance as a milky
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  • SNR 0104 is a supernova remnant with an unusual shape. Found 190,000 light-years away in our neighboring galaxy the Small Magellanic Cloud, SNR 0104 is suspected of being the expanding debris cloud from a Type 1a supernova – the catastrophic thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf star. For example, like Type 1a supernova remnants within our galaxy, investigations show that
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  • A sea of clouds laps at rugged mountain peaks of the French Pyrenees in this serene view from Pic du Midi Observatory. The time exposure was recorded on June 4, with the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius shining in the starry night. At the top right lies a faint, but colorful moondog or paraselene. Analogous to a sundog or parhelion, the
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  • These clouds of interstellar dust and gas have blossomed 1,300 light-years away in the fertile star fields of the constellation Cepheus. Sometimes called the Iris Nebula and dutifully cataloged as NGC 7023, this is not the only nebula in the sky to evoke the imagery of flowers. Surrounding it, obscuring clouds of dust and cold molecular gas are also present
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