• What is this strange rock on Mars? Sitting on a smooth plane, the rock stands out for its isolation, odd shape, large size and unusual texture. The rock was discovered by the robotic Opportunity rover rolling across Mars late last month. Pictured above, Opportunity prepares to inspect the unusual rock. After being X-rayed, poked, and chemically analyzed, the rock has
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  • Irregular galaxy NGC 55 is thought to be similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). But while the LMC is about 180,000 light-years away and is a well known satellite of our own Milky Way Galaxy, NGC 55 is more like 6 million light-years distant and is a member of the Sculptor Galaxy Group. Classified as an irregular galaxy, in
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  • What happens when a meteor hits the ground? Usually nothing much, as most meteors are small, and indentations they make are soon eroded away. About 50,000 years ago, however, a large meteor created Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona, USA. Also known simply as Meteor Crater, the resulting impact basin spans over a kilometer. Pictured above, a tour group views the
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  • Moonbow and Rainbows Over Patagonia
    Have you ever seen a moonbow? Just as rainbows are lit by the Sun, moonbows are lit by the Moon. Since the Sun is so much brighter than the Moon, sunlit rainbows are much brighter and more commonly seen than moonbows. The above movie captures not only a moonbow, but several rainbows, moving clouds, and the starry sky visible in
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  • What has happened to Saturn’s moon Iapetus? Vast sections of this strange world are dark as coal, while others are as bright as ice. The composition of the dark material is unknown, but infrared spectra indicate that it possibly contains some dark form of carbon. Iapetus also has an unusual equatorial ridge that makes it appear like a walnut. To
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  • Cloudy skies over Wuhan, China hid the delicate solar corona during July’s total eclipse of the Sun. Still, the Moon’s silhouette was highlighted by these glistening diamonds as the total eclipse phase ended. Caused by bright sunlight streaming through dips and valleys in the irregular terrain along the Moon’s edge, the effect is known as Baily’s Beads, named after Francis
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  • Like grains of sand on a cosmic beach, individual stars of barred spiral galaxy NGC 1313 are resolved in this sharp composite from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The inner region of the galaxy is pictured, spanning about 10,000 light-years. Hubble’s unique ability to distinguish individual stars in the 14 million light-year distant galaxy has been
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  • This wide, sharp telescopic view reveals galaxies scattered beyond the stars at the northern boundary of the high-flying constellation Pegasus. Prominent at the upper right is NGC 7331. A mere 50 million light-years away, the large spiral is one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier’s famous 18th century catalog. The disturbed looking group of galaxies at the
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  • The sharpest image ever of Betelgeuse shows a mammoth star that is slowly evaporating. Betelgeuse (sounds a lot like “beetle juice”), also known as Alpha Orionis, is one of the largest and brightest stars known. The star is a familiar orange fixture easily visible to the unaided eye toward the constellation of Orion. The above recent image from the Very
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  • How can the same Sun rise three times? Last month on Friday, 2009 July 10, a spectacular triple sunrise was photographed at about 4:30 am over Gdansk Bay in Gdansk, Poland. Clearly, our Sun rises only once. Some optical effect is creating at least two mirages of the Sun — but which effect? In the vast majority of similarly reported
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