• Rising in the dark hours before dawn, wandering Venus now shines as the brilliant morning star. Its close conjunction with the Moon on August 13 was appreciated around planet Earth. But skygazers in eastern Asia were also treated to a lunar occultation, the waning crescent Moon passing directly in front of the bright planet in still dark skies. This composite
    read more
  • During the past week, nightfall on planet Earth has featured Mars, Saturn, and Spica in a lovely conjunction near the western horizon. Still forming the corners of a distinctive celestial triangle after sunset and recently joined by a crescent Moon, they are all about the same brightness but can exhibit different colors to the discerning eye. This ingenious star trail
    read more
  • 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
    read more
  • Every living thing on planet Earth is defined by its own molecule — what’s yours? This molecule, called DNA, spans about two meters stretched out but is coiled into every cell in your body. The many copies of DNA that compose you were all copied from one single cell, and your body is continually making new copies. The above ground-breaking
    read more
  • Is that a cloud hovering over the Sun? Yes, but it is quite different than a cloud hovering over the Earth. The long light feature on the left of the above color-inverted image is actually a solar filament and is composed of mostly charged hydrogen gas held aloft by the Sun’s looping magnetic field. By contrast, clouds over the Earth
    read more
  • Globular clusters once ruled the Milky Way. Back in the old days, back when our Galaxy first formed, perhaps thousands of globular clusters roamed our Galaxy. Today, there are less than 200 left. Many globular clusters were destroyed over the eons by repeated fateful encounters with each other or the Galactic center. Surviving relics are older than any Earth fossil,
    read more
  • What does the Curiosity rover look like on Mars? To help find out, NASA engineers digitally synthesized multiple navigation camera images taken last week into what appears to be the view of a single camera. Besides clods of Martian dirt, many of Curiosity’s science instruments are visible and appear in good shape. Near the middle of the rover is an
    read more
  • Magnificent island universe NGC 5033 lies some 40 million light-years away in the well-trained northern constellation Canes Venatici. This telescopic portrait reveals striking details of dust lanes winding near the galaxy’s bright core and majestic but relatively faint spiral arms. Speckled with pink star forming regions and massive blue star clusters, the arms span over 100,000 light-years, similar in size
    read more
  • If you could stand on Mars, what would you see? The above image is a digitally re-colored approximation of what you might see if the above Martian landscape had occurred on Earth. Images from Mars false-colored in this way are called white balanced and useful for planetary scientists to identify rocks and landforms similar to Earth. The image is a
    read more
  • Where will the next Perseid meteor appear? Sky enthusiasts who trekked outside for the Perseid meteor shower that peaked over the past few days typically had this question on their mind. Six meteors from this past weekend are visible in the above stacked image composite, including one bright fireball streaking along the band of the background Milky Way Galaxy. All
    read more
  • What would it be like to fly through the universe? Possibly the best simulated video of this yet has been composed from recently-released galaxy data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Every spot in the above video is a galaxy containing billions of stars. Many galaxies are part of huge clusters, long filaments, or small groups, while expansive voids nearly
    read more
  • This Picasso-like self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover was taken by its navigation cameras, located on the now-upright mast. The camera snapped pictures 360-degrees around the rover, while pointing down at the rover deck, up and straight ahead. Those images are shown here in a polar projection. Most of the tiles are thumbnails, or small copies of the full-resolution images that
    read more
  • This galaxy is having a bad millennium. In fact, the past 100 million years haven’t been so good, and probably the next billion or so will be quite tumultuous. Visible on the upper left, NGC 4038 used to be a normal spiral galaxy, minding its own business, until NGC 4039, toward its right, crashed into it. The evolving wreckage, known
    read more
  • You’ve just landed on Mars and opened your eyes — what do you see? If you’re the Curiosity rover, you see a strange gravelly place with a large mountain in the distance. You’ve landed on target near the edge of 150-km wide Gale Crater, with Mount Sharp on the horizon being the rise in the crater’s center. As a car-sized
    read more
  • Denizens of planet Earth watched last year’s Perseid meteor shower by looking up into the bright moonlit night sky. But this remarkable view captured on August 13, 2011 by astronaut Ron Garan looks down on a Perseid meteor. From Garan’s perspective onboard the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of about 380 kilometers, the Perseid meteors streak below, swept
    read more