• Unspeakable beauty and unimaginable bedlam can be found together in the Trifid Nebula. Also known as M20, >this photogenic nebula is visible with good binoculars towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The energetic processes of star formation create not only the colors but the chaos. The red-glowing gas results from high-energy starlight striking interstellar hydrogen gas. The dark dust filaments that
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  • What is that strange material on Mercury? When flying by Mercury last October, the robotic MESSENGER spacecraft imaged much of the solar system’s innermost planet in unprecedented detail. As common in science, new data bring new mysteries. Pictured above on the lower right, a large crater — about 100 kilometers across — has unusual dark material of unknown composition near
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  • A flying saucer from outer space crash-landed in the Utah desert in 2004 after being tracked by radar and chased by helicopters. No >space aliens were involved, however. The saucer, pictured above, was the Genesis sample return capsule, part of a human-made robot >Genesis spaceship launched in 2001 by NASA itself to study the Sun. The unexpectedly hard landing at
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  • This starry night sky sparkles above the Black Hills of South Dakota and the United States’ Mount Rushmore National Park. The historic site features enormous sculptures of four US presidents; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, carved into the southeast face of granite cliffs. Above the monumental symbols of the country’s independence and early history, the night
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  • This year Aphelion, the point in Earth’s elliptical orbit when it is farthest from the Sun, occurs tomorrow, July 4th. Of course, that doesn’t affect the seasons on our fair planet. Those are determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis of rotation and not Earth’s distance from the Sun, so July is still winter in the south and summer in
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  • Dubbed a Lyman-alpha blob, an enormous cloud of hydrogen gas spans several hundred thousand light-years in this remarkable image (left), a composite of x-ray, optical, and infrared data from space and ground based observatories. The gigantic, amoeba-like structure is seen as it was when the universe was a mere 2 billion years old (about 12 billion years ago). Lyman-alpha blobs
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  • This intriguing trio of galaxies is sometimes called the Draco Group, located in the northern constellation of (you guessed it) Draco. From left to right are edge-on spiral NGC 5981, elliptical galaxy NGC 5982, and face-on spiral NGC 5985 — all within this single telescopic field of view spanning a little more than half the width of the full moon.
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  • Here are some familiar shapes in unfamiliar locations. This emission nebula on the left is famous partly because it resembles Earth’s continent of North America. To the right of the >North America Nebula, cataloged as NGC 7000, is a less luminous nebula that resembles a pelican dubbed the Pelican Nebula. The two emission nebula measure about 50 light-years across, are
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  • This panoramic image of a starry night looks across a dry, desolate landscape. The magnificent view was recorded from Tassili National Park, in the heart of the Sahara desert in southern Algeria. Rising above eroded sandstone cliffs, the celestial menagerie of constellations includes Draco the Dragon, Cygnus the Swan, Aquila the Eagle, and Scorpius the Scorpion. Ruling planet Jupiter shines
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  • This six month long exposure compresses the time from solstice to solstice (~ December 21, 2008 to June 20, 2009) into a single point of view. Dubbed a solargraph, the unconventional picture was recorded with a pinhole camera made from an aluminum can lined with a piece of photographic paper. Fixed to a single spot for the entire exposure, the
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