• At the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, a mere 27,000 light-years away, lies a black hole with 4 million times the mass of the Sun. Fondly known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star), the Milky Way’s black hole is fortunately mild-mannered compared to the central black holes in distant active galaxies, much more calmly consuming material around it. From time
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  • Described as a “dusty curtain” or “ghostly apparition”, mysterious reflection nebula VdB 152 really is very faint. Far from your neighborhood on this Halloween Night, the cosmic phantom is nearly 1,400 light-years away. Also catalogued as Ced 201, it lies along the northern Milky Way in the royal constellation Cepheus. Near the edge of a large molecular cloud, pockets of
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  • Oh what a tangled web a >planetary nebula can weave. The Red Spider Planetary Nebula shows the complex structure that can result when a normal star ejects its outer gases and becomes a white dwarf star. Officially tagged NGC >6537, this two-lobed symmetric planetary nebula houses one of the hottest white dwarfs ever observed, probably as part of a >binary
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  • Beautiful emission nebula NGC 6164 was created by a rare, hot, luminous O-type star, some 40 times as massive as the Sun. Seen at the center of the cosmic cloud, the star is a mere 3 to 4 million years old. In another three to four million years the massive star will end its life in a supernova explosion. Spanning
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  • Every book has a first page and every catalog a first entry. And so this lovely blue cosmic cloud begins the van den Bergh Catalog (vdB) of stars surrounded by reflection nebulae. Interstellar dust clouds reflecting the light of the nearby stars, the nebulae usually appear blue because scattering by the dust grains is more effective at shorter (bluer) wavelengths.
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  • The large stellar association cataloged as NGC 206 is nestled within the dusty arms of neighboring spiral galaxy Andromeda (M31), 2.5 million light-years distant. Seen near the center of this gorgeous close-up of the southwestern extent of Andromeda’s disk, the bright, blue stars of NGC 206 indicate its youth. Its youngest massive stars are less than 10 million years old.
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  • >Normal cloud bottoms are flat. This is because moist warm air that rises and cools will >condense into water droplets at a specific temperature, which usually corresponds to a very specific height. As water >droplets grow, an opaque cloud forms. Under some conditions, however, >cloud pockets can develop that contain large droplets of water or ice that fall into clear
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  • A Space Shuttle on the Streets of Los Angeles
    Was that the space shuttle that just went by? Garnering attention that could make even a movie star blush, thousands of people watched in awe as a quintessential icon of the space age was towed through the streets of Los Angeles. After landing at LAX airport late last month, the shuttle Endeavour was carefully loaded onto rolling trailers and maneuvered
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  • Ghostly apparitions of two fundamental planes in planet Earth’s sky span this October all-sky view. The scene was captured from a lakeside campsite under dark skies in northern Maine, USA. In it, the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy arcs above faint airglow along the horizon. Zodiacal light, a band of dust scattering sunlight along the solar system’s ecliptic plane,
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  • NGC 2623 is really two galaxies that are becoming one. Seen to be in the final stages of a titanic galaxy merger, the pair lies some 300 million light-years distant toward the constellation Cancer. The violent encounter between two galaxies that may have been similar to the Milky Way has produced widespread star formation near a luminous core and along
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  • Located just next door, Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the Sun. A view from our interstellar neighbor a mere 4.3 light-years away is shown in this illustration. The Sun is at the upper right, a bright star against the background of the Milky Way. The cresent in the foreground is an artist’s rendering of a planet now
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  • Sometimes both heaven and Earth erupt. Colorful aurorae erupted unexpectedly earlier this month, with green aurora appearing near the horizon and brilliant bands of red aurora blooming high overhead. A bright Moon lit the foreground of this picturesque scene, while familiar stars could be seen far in the distance. With planning, the careful astrophotographer shot this image mosaic in the
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  • What’s happening around that star? An unusual spiral structure has been discovered around the Milky Way star R Sculptoris, a red giant star located about 1,500 light years away toward the constellation of the Sculptor (Sculptoris). The star was observed with the new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the most powerful telescopic array observing near millimeter wavelengths, that part of
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  • Does this strange dark ball look somehow familiar? If so, that might be because it is our Sun. In the above image, a detailed solar view was captured originally in a very specific color of red light, then rendered in black and white, and then color inverted. Once complete, the resulting image was added to a starfield, then also color
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  • What did the first galaxies look like? To help answer this question, the Hubble Space Telescope has just finished taking the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF), the deepest image of the universe ever taken in visible light. Pictured above, the XDF shows a sampling of some of the oldest galaxies ever seen, galaxies that formed just after the dark ages, 13
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