• An eerie blue glow and ominous columns of dark dust highlight M78 and other bright reflection nebula in the constellation of Orion. The dark filamentary dust not only absorbs light, but also reflects the light of several bright blue stars that formed recently in the nebula. Of the two reflection nebulas pictured above, the more famous nebula is M78, in
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  • What creates these picturesque dark streaks on Mars? No one knows for sure. A leading hypothesis is that streaks like these are caused by fine grained sand sliding down the banks of troughs and craters. Pictured above, dark sand appears to have flowed hundreds of meters down the slopes of Acheron Fossae. The sand appears to flow like a liquid
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  • On February 21st, the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station (ISS) flew through the sky near dawn over Whitby, Ontario, Canada. Along with star trails, both were captured in this single time exposure. Glinting in sunlight 350 kilometers above the Earth, Endeavour slightly preceeded the ISS arcing over the horizon. But the brighter trail and the brighter flare
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  • A jewel of the southern sky, the Great Carina Nebula, aka NGC 3372, spans over 300 light-years. Near the upper right of this expansive skycape, it is much larger than the more northerly Orion Nebula. In fact, the Carina Nebula is one of our galaxy’s largest star-forming regions and home to young, extremely massive stars, including the still enigmatic variable
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  • This beautiful cosmic portrait features NGC 891. The spiral galaxy spans about 100 thousand light-years and is seen almost exactly edge-on from our perspective. In fact, about 30 million light-years distant in the constellation Andromeda, NGC 891 looks a lot like our Milky Way. At first glance, it has a flat, thin, galactic disk and a central bulge cut along
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  • This space job was almost complete. Floating just below the >International Space Station, astronaut >Nicholas Patrick put some >finishing touches on the newly installed >cupola space windows last week. Patrick was a >mission specialist onboard the recently completed space shuttle Endeavor’s STS-130 mission to the ISS. Pictured, Patrick floats near the outermost of seven windows on the >new cupola of
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  • What created those rocket waves, and why did they destroy that sun dog? Close inspection of the above image shows not only a rocket rising near the center, but unusual air ripples around it and a colorful sundog to the far right. The rocket, carrying the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), lifted off two weeks ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA
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  • Will the result of these galactic collisions be one big elliptical galaxy? Quite possibly, but not for another billion years. Pictured above, several of the dwarf galaxies of in the Hickson Compact Group 31 are seen slowly merging. Two of the brighter galaxies are colliding on the far left, while an elongated galaxy above is connected to them by an
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  • Like a >butterfly, a white dwarf star begins its life by casting off a >cocoon that enclosed its former self. In this analogy, however, the Sun would be a >caterpillar and the ejected shell of gas would become the prettiest of all! In the above cocoon, the >planetary nebula designated >NGC 2440, contains one of the hottest white dwarf stars
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  • Put a satellite in a circular orbit about 42,000 kilometers from the center of the Earth (36,000 kilometers or so above the surface) and it will orbit once in 24 hours. Because that matches Earth’s rotation period, it is known as a geosynchronous orbit. If that orbit is also in the plane of the equator, the satellite will hang in
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  • This sharp, wide-field view features infrared light from the spiral Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Dust heated by Andromeda’s young stars is shown in yellow and red, while its older population of stars appears as a bluish haze. The false-color skyscape is a mosaic of images from NASA’s new Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. With over twice the diameter of our
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  • Main belt asteroid 4 Vesta is at its brightest now. The small world is near opposition (opposite the Sun in the sky) and closest to Earth. But even at its brightest, Vesta is just too faint to spot with the naked-eye. Still, over the next few days it will be relatively easy to find in the constellation Leo, sharing a
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  • Why is this moon of Saturn so smooth? This past weekend, humanity’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft passed as close to Saturn’s small moon Calypso as it ever has, and imaged the small moon in unprecedented detail. Pictured above is an early return, raw, unprocessed image of the 20-km long irregularly shaped moon. Like its sister moon Telesto and the shepherd moon
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  • What’s that approaching? Astronauts on board the International Space Station first saw it far in the distance. Soon it enlarged to become a dark silhouette. As it came even closer, the silhouette appeared to be a spaceship. Finally, at just past 11 pm ( >CST) last Tuesday, the object, revealed to be the >Space Shuttle Endeavor, docked as expected with
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  • If this is Saturn, where are the rings? When Saturn’s “appendages” disappeared in 1612, Galileo did not understand why. Later that century, it became understood that Saturn’s unusual protrusions were rings and that when the Earth crosses the ring plane, the edge-on rings will appear to disappear. This is because Saturn’s rings are confined to a plane many times thinner,
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