• The Great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda (aka M31), a mere 2.5 million light-years distant, is the closest large spiral to our own Milky Way. Andromeda is visible to the unaided eye as a small, faint, fuzzy patch, but because its surface brightness is so low, casual skygazers can’t appreciate the galaxy’s impressive extent in planet Earth’s sky. This entertaining composite
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  • In 1787, astronomer William Herschel discovered the Eskimo Nebula. From the ground, NGC 2392 resembles a person’s head surrounded by a parka hood. In 2000, the Hubble Space Telescope imaged the Eskimo Nebula in visible light, while the nebula was imaged in X-rays by the Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2007. The above combined visible-X ray image, with X-rays emitted by
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  • This is not a solar eclipse. Pictured above is a busy vista of moons and rings taken at Saturn. The large circular object in the center of the image is Titan, the largest moon of Saturn and one of the most intriguing objects in the entire Solar System. The dark spot in the center is the main solid part of
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  • Is this one galaxy or two? This question came to light in 1950 when astronomer Art Hoag chanced upon this unusual >extragalactic object. On the outside is a ring dominated by bright blue stars, while near the center lies a ball of much redder stars that are likely much older. Between the two is a gap that appears almost completely
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  • Storm clouds do sometimes come to Chile’s Atacama desert, known as the driest place on Earth. These washed through the night sky just last month during the winter season, captured in this panoramic view. Drifting between are cosmic clouds more welcome by the region’s astronomical residents though, including dark dust clouds in silhouette against the crowded starfields and nebulae of
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  • Like an illustration in a galactic Just So Story, the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula winds through the emission nebula and young star cluster complex IC 1396, in the high and far off constellation of Cepheus. Of course, the cosmic elephant’s trunk is over 20 light-years long. This composite was recorded through narrow band filters that transmit the light from ionized hydrogen,
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  • The beautiful Trifid Nebula is a cosmic study in contrasts. Also known as M20, it lies about 5,000 light-years away toward the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. A star forming region in the plane of our galaxy, the Trifid illustrates three different types of astronomical nebulae; red emission nebulae dominated by light emitted by hydrogen atoms, blue reflection nebulae produced by
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  • In a cross-Solar System interplanetary first, our Earth was photographed during the same day from both Mercury and Saturn. Pictured on the left, Earth is the pale blue dot just below the rings of Saturn, as captured by the robotic Cassini spacecraft now the gas giant. Pictured on the right, the Earth-Moon system is seen against a dark background, as
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  • You are here. Everyone you’ve ever known is here. Every human who has ever lived — is here. Pictured above is the Earth-Moon system as captured by the Cassini mission orbiting Saturn in the outer Solar System. Earth is the brighter of the two spots near the center, while the Moon is visible to its lower left. The unprocessed image
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  • Since >Saturn’s axis is tilted as it orbits the Sun, Saturn has seasons, like those of planet Earth … but Saturn’s seasons last for over seven years. So what season is it on Saturn now? Orbiting the equator, the tilt of the rings of Saturn provides quite a graphic seasonal display. Each year until 2016, Saturn’s rings will be increasingly
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  • Now sweeping high above the ecliptic plane, Comet Lemmon has faded dramatically in planet Earth’s night sky as it heads for the outer solar system. Some 16 light-minutes (2 AU) from the Sun, it still sports a greenish coma though, posing on the right in this 4 degree wide telescopic view from last Saturday with deep sky star clusters and
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  • Take a picture of Saturn in the sky tonight. You could capture a view like this one. Recorded just last month looking toward the south, planet Earth and ruins of the ancient temple of Athena at Assos, Turkey are in the foreground. The Moon rises at the far left of the frame and Saturn is the bright “star” at the
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  • Similar in size to large, bright spiral galaxies in our neighborhood, IC 342 is a mere 10 million light-years distant in the long-necked, northern constellation Camelopardalis. A sprawling island universe, IC 342 would otherwise be a prominent galaxy in our night sky, but it is hidden from clear view and only glimpsed through the veil of stars, gas and dust
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  • What’s happening over the water? Pictured above is one of the better images yet recorded of a waterspout, a type of tornado that occurs over water. Waterspouts are spinning columns of rising moist air that typically form over warm water. Waterspouts can be as dangerous as tornadoes and can feature wind speeds over 200 kilometers per hour. Some waterspouts form
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  • Which moon is this? Earth’s. Our Moon’s unfamiliar appearance is due partly to an unfamiliar viewing angle as captured by a little-known spacecraft — the Soviet Union’s Zond 8 that circled the Moon in October of 1970. Pictured above, the dark-centered circular feature that stands out near the top of the image is Mare Orientale, a massive impact basin formed
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