• This dramatic skyscape was recorded during the August 2008 total solar eclipse. The Moon’s silhouette surrounded by a glistening solar corona hangs above the Jiayuguan Fort along the western edge of the Great Wall of China. Lined-up along the ecliptic plane, all the planets of the inner solar system, Mercury, Venus, Mars, (and Earth!) can also be seen along with
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  • Beautiful island universe M94 lies a mere 15 million light-years distant in the northern constellation of the hunting dogs, Canes Venatici. A popular target for earth-based astronomers, the face-on spiral galaxy is about 30,000 light-years across. Its remarkable features include prominent dust lanes, a bright, point-like nucleus, and a bright, bluish ring dominated by the light of young, massive stars.
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  • These are galaxies of the Hercules Cluster, an archipelago of island universes a mere 500 million light-years away. Also known as Abell 2151, this cluster is loaded with gas and dust rich, star-forming spiral galaxies but has relatively few elliptical galaxies, which lack gas and dust and the associated newborn stars. The colors in this remarkably deep composite image clearly
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  • The Chameleon is a small constellation near the south celestial pole. Boasting no bright stars, it blends inconspicuously with the starry southern sky. But, taken in dark skies over Namibia, this image reveals a stunning aspect of the shy constellation — a field of dusty nebulae and colorful stars. Blue reflection nebulae are scattered through the scene, but most eye-catching
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  • Earth’s Moon and planet Jupiter made a beautiful pairing in the night sky late last week. This skyscape recorded on July 11 from Brittany in north western France captures the bright conjunction through a cloud bank. The clouds add drama and mystery to the scene but they were also positioned to reduce the intense moonlight. As a result, the exposure
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  • A volcano on Krakatoa is still erupting. Perhaps most famous for the powerfully explosive eruption in 1883 that killed tens of thousands of people, ash from a violent eruption might also have temporarily altered Earth’s climate as long as 1500 years ago. In 1927, eruptions caused smaller Anak Krakatau to rise from the sea, and the emerging volcanic island continues
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  • If Earth received this message from deep space, could we decode it? The people from the Cosmic Call project sent the above image as the first page of a longer message. The message was broadcast toward local stars by radio telescope during the summer of 1999. Another message was sent in 2003. The single-dish, 70-meter diameter telescope that send the
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  • Noctilucent or night-shining clouds lie near the edge of space. From 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 occurring at high latitudes in summer months, the diaphanous apparitions are also known as polar mesospheric clouds and may be connected
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  • What lights up this castle of star formation? The familiar Eagle Nebula glows bright in many colors at once. The above image is a composite of three of these glowing gas colors. Pillars of dark dust nicely outline some of the denser towers of star formation. Energetic light from young massive stars causes the gas to glow and effectively boils
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  • Born in supernovae, pulsars are spinning neutron stars, collapsed stellar cores left from the death explosions of massive stars. Traditionally identified and studied by observing their regular radio pulsations, two dozen pulsars have now been detected at extreme gamma-ray energies by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The detections include 16 pulsars identified by their pulsed gamma-ray emission alone. This gamma-ray
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  • Connecting the Pipe Nebula to the colorful regon near bright star Antares is a dark cloud dubbed the Dark River, flowing from the picture’s left edge. Murky looking, the Dark River‘s appearance is caused by dust obscuring background starlight, although the dark nebula contains mostly hydrogen and molecular gas. Surrounded by dust, Antares, a red supergiant star, creates an unusual
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  • Unspeakable beauty and unimaginable bedlam can be found together in the Trifid Nebula. Also known as M20, >this photogenic nebula is visible with good binoculars towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The energetic processes of star formation create not only the colors but the chaos. The red-glowing gas results from high-energy starlight striking interstellar hydrogen gas. The dark dust filaments that
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  • What is that strange material on Mercury? When flying by Mercury last October, the robotic MESSENGER spacecraft imaged much of the solar system’s innermost planet in unprecedented detail. As common in science, new data bring new mysteries. Pictured above on the lower right, a large crater — about 100 kilometers across — has unusual dark material of unknown composition near
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  • A flying saucer from outer space crash-landed in the Utah desert in 2004 after being tracked by radar and chased by helicopters. No >space aliens were involved, however. The saucer, pictured above, was the Genesis sample return capsule, part of a human-made robot >Genesis spaceship launched in 2001 by NASA itself to study the Sun. The unexpectedly hard landing at
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  • This starry night sky sparkles above the Black Hills of South Dakota and the United States’ Mount Rushmore National Park. The historic site features enormous sculptures of four US presidents; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, carved into the southeast face of granite cliffs. Above the monumental symbols of the country’s independence and early history, the night
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