• In this engaging scene from planet Earth, the Moon shines through cloudy skies following sunset on the evening of September 8. Despite the fading light, the camera’s long exposure still recorded a colorful, detailed view of a shoreline and western horizon looking toward the island San Gabriel from Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Lights from Buenos Aires, Argentina are along the
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  • Have you ever seen the Pleiades star cluster? Even if you have, you probably have never seen it as dusty as this. Perhaps the most famous star cluster on the sky, the bright stars of the Pleiades can be seen without binoculars from even the depths of a light-polluted city. With a long exposure from a dark location, though, the
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  • It is one of the most massive objects in the visible universe. In this view from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, Abell 1689 is seen to warp space as predicted by Einstein’s theory of gravity — deflecting light from individual galaxies which lie behind the cluster to produce multiple, curved images. The power of this enormous gravitational
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  • Are stars better appreciated for their art after they die? Actually, stars usually create their most artistic displays as they die. In the case of low-mass stars like our Sun and M2-9 pictured above, the stars transform themselves from normal stars to white dwarfs by casting off their outer gaseous envelopes. The expended gas frequently forms an impressive display called
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  • With parachute deployed and retro-rockets blazing, this spacecraft landed on planet Earth on September 11 (UT) in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Seen in silhouette against the rockets’ glare, the spacecraft is a Soyuz TMA-08M. Its crew, Expedition 36 Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Alexander Misurkin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and Flight
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  • On September 8, brilliant planet Venus appearing as the evening star stood near a slender, crescent Moon at sunset. The close celestial pairing or conjunction was a scene enjoyed by skygazers around the world. But from some locations in South America, the Moon actually passed in front of Venus in a lunar occultation. Captured near Las Cañas, Uruguay, this two
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  • Cosmic dust clouds sprawl across a rich field of stars in this sweeping telescopic vista near the northern boundary of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. Less than 500 light-years away the dust clouds effectively block light from more distant background stars in the Milky Way. The entire frame spans about 2 degrees or over 15 light-years at the clouds’ estimated
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  • On September 6, a starry night and the Milky Way witnessed the launch of a Minotaur V rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. So did a large part of the eastern United States, as the spectacular night launch was easily visible even from light polluted urban areas. This 35 second exposure captures part of the rocket’s
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  • Might this distant planet hold water? Actually, given how close Gliese 1214b is to its parent star, any water, if it exists, would surely be in the form of steam. In the above artist’s illustration, the super-Earth Gliese 1214b is imagined passing in front of its parent star, creating a mini-eclipse that alerted humanity to its presence. Gliese 1214b, also
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  • What kind of cloud is this? A type of >arcus cloud called a roll cloud. These rare long clouds may form near advancing cold fronts. In particular, a downdraft from an advancing storm front can cause moist warm air to rise, cool below its dew point, and so form a cloud. When this happens uniformly along an extended front, a
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  • Hot gas is hard to swallow. At least that seems to be true for the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Known as source Sagittarius A*, the Milky Way’s black hole is centered in this infrared (red and yellow hues) and X-ray (blue) composite. Based on data from an extensive campaign of observations by the
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  • Will this caterpillar-shaped interstellar cloud one day evolve into a butterfly-shaped nebula? No one is sure. What is sure is that IRAS 20324+4057, on the inside, is contracting to form a new star. On the outside, however, energetic winds are blowing and energetic light is eroding away much of the gas and dust that might have been used to form
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  • Here lie familiar shapes in unfamiliar locations. On the left is an emission nebula cataloged as NGC 7000, famous partly because it resembles our fair planet’s continent of North America. The emission region to the right of the North America Nebula is IC 5070, also known for its suggestive outlines as the Pelican Nebula. Separated by a dark cloud of
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  • Sometimes, regions of planet Earth light up with fire. Since >fire is the rapid acquisition of oxygen, and since oxygen is a key indicator of life, fire on any planet would be an indicator of life on that planet. Most of the Earth’s land has been >scorched by fire at some time in the past. Although causing many a tragedy,
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  • Dwarf galaxy NGC 5195 is best known as the smaller companion of spiral M51, the Whirlpool galaxy. Seen together they seem to trace the curve and dot of a cosmic question mark, recorded in Lord Rosse’s 19th century drawings as one of the original spiral nebulae. Dwarfed by enormous M51 (aka NGC 5194), NGC 5195 spans about 20,000 light-years. A
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