Astronomy Picture of the Day

 
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LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 21:51
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An Orion Deep Field



Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, the glowing Orion Nebula and the dark Horsehead Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. They both appear in this stunning composite digital image assembled from over 20 hours of data that includes exposures filtered to record emission from hydrogen atoms. The view reveals extensive nebulosities associated with the giant Orion Molecular Cloud complex, itself hundreds of light-years across. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right of the picture. Immediately to its left are a cluster of of prominent bluish reflection nebulae sometimes called the Running Man. The Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. Fainter tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region in this Orion deep field.

 
Это сообщение редактировалось 17.01.2004 в 22:05
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 21:53
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Blue Stragglers in NGC 6397



In our neck of the Galaxy stars are too far apart to be in danger of colliding, but in the dense cores of globular star clusters star collisions may be relatively common. In fact, researchers have evidence that the closely spaced blue stars near the center of the above image taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope were formed when stars directly collided. Pictured is the central region of NGC 6397, a globular cluster about 6,000 light-years distant, whose stars all formed at about the same time. NGC 6397's massive stars have long since evolved off the main sequence, exhausting their central supplies of nuclear fuel. This should leave the cluster with only old low mass stars; faint red main sequence stars and brighter blue and red giants. However, spectroscopic data show that the indicated stars, descriptively dubbed blue stragglers, are clearly main sequence stars which are too blue and too massive to still be there. Suggestively the stragglers appear to be two and occasionally three times as massive as the lower mass cluster stars otherwise present, supporting evidence for their formation from two and even three star collisions.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 21:54
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A Perseid Aurora



Just after the Moon set but before the Sun rose in the early morning hours of 2000 August 12, meteors pelted the Earth from the direction of the constellation Perseus, while ions pelted the Earth from the Sun. The meteors were expected as sub-sand grains long left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle annually create the Perseids Meteor Shower. The aurorae were unexpected, however, as electrons, protons, and heavier ions raced out from a large Coronal Mass Ejection that had occurred just days before on the Sun. In the foreground is Hahn's Peak, an extinct volcano in Colorado, USA. The Perseid meteor shower peaks this year over the next few days, with as much as one bright meteor per minute visible from some locations.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 21:56
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Elements of the Swan Nebula



In the depths of the dark clouds of dust and molecular gas known as M17, stars continue to form. Also known as the Omega Nebula and Horseshoe Nebula, the darkness of M17's molecular clouds results from background starlight being absorbed by thick filaments of carbon-based smoke-sized dust. As bright massive stars form, they produce intense and energetic light that slowly boils away the dark shroud. Colors in the above image were picked to highlight specific elements that emit nebular light: red indicates emission from sulfur, green from hydrogen, and blue from oxygen. The Swan Nebula is visible with binoculars towards the constellation of Sagittarius, lies 5000 light-years away, and spans 20 light-years across.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 21:58
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X-Rays from Stephan's Quintet



Stephan's Quintet is a picturesque but clearly troubled grouping of galaxies about 300 million light-years away toward the high-flying constellation Pegasus. Spanning over 200,000 light-years at that distance, this composite false-color image illustrates the powerful nature of this multiple galaxy collision, showing x-ray data from the Chandra Observatory in blue superposed on optical data in yellow. The x-rays from the central blue cloud running vertically through the image are produced by gas heated to millions of degrees by an energetic shock on a cosmic scale. The shock was likely the result of the interstellar gas in the large spiral galaxy, seen immediately to the right of the cloud, colliding with the quintet's tenuous intergalactic gas as this galaxy plunged through group's central regions. In fact, over billions of years, repeated passages of the group galaxies through the hot intergalactic gas should progressively strip them of their own star forming material. In this view, the large spiral galaxy just seen peeking above the bottom edge is an unrelated foreground galaxy a mere 35 million light-years distant.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 21:59
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Mars Rising Behind Poodle Rock



Have you seen Mars lately? As Earth and Mars near their closest approach in nearly 60,000 years on August 27, the red planet has begun to appear dramatically bright and show interesting details through telescopes and binoculars. Although not yet visible at sunset, Mars can be seen rising increasingly earlier in the evening. Once above the horizon, Mars is easy to spot, as it sports a distinct orange-red hue and it is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun, the nearby Moon, and Venus. After Earth overtakes Mars in their respective solar orbits, Mars will be visible right from sunset, although its historic brightness will then begin to fade. Pictured above, Mars was captured rising in the south east next to Poodle Rock in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:00
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The Northern Milky Way



Many of the stars in our home Milky Way Galaxy appear together as a dim band on the sky that passes nearly over the Earth's north and south poles. Pictured above is the part of our Galaxy that passes closest over the north pole. Placing your cursor over the image will bring up the names of several constellations and bright stars. The diffuse white Galaxy glow is created by billions of stars, while red patches are large emission nebulas, usually marking areas where bright stars have recently formed. In the north, all of the lights visible at night and all lights that created this image were emitted within the past few thousand years from within the Milky Way Galaxy — except one. On the upper right is a small faint patch designated M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. M31 is a spiral galaxy similar to our Milky Way but so distant it emits the oldest light distinguishable by the unaided eye — light that takes over two million years to reach us.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:02
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Recycling Cassiopeia A



For billions of years, massive stars in our Milky Way Galaxy have lived spectacular lives. Collapsing from vast cosmic clouds, their nuclear furnaces ignite and create heavy elements in their cores. After a few million years, the enriched material is blasted back into interstellar space where star formation begins anew. The expanding debris cloud known as Cassiopeia A is an example of this final phase of the stellar life cycle. Light from the explosion which created this supernova remnant was probably first seen in planet Earth's sky just over 300 years ago, although it took that light more than 10,000 years to reach us. In this gorgeous Hubble Space Telescope image of cooling filaments and knots in the Cas A remnant, light from specific elements has been color coded to help astronomers understand the recycling of our galaxy's star stuff. For instance, red regions are dominated by emission from sulfur atoms while blue shades correspond to oxygen. The area shown is about 10 light-years across.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:06
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A Beautiful Trifid



The beautiful Trifid Nebula (aka M20), a photogenic study in cosmic contrasts, 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 alone illustrates three basic types of astronomical nebulae; red emission nebulae dominated by light from hydrogen atoms, blue reflection nebulae produced by dust reflecting starlight, and dark absorption nebulae where dense dust clouds appear in silhouette. The bright emission nebula on the right, separated into three parts by obscuring dust lanes, lends the nebula its popular name. Many details are apparent in this gorgeous high-resolution image of the Trifid. For example, light-year long pillars and jets sculpted by newborn stars - visible here in the upper right-hand corner of the emission nebula - appear in Hubble Space Telescope close-up images of the region.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:08
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Thackeray's Globules




Rich star fields and glowing hydrogen gas silhouette dense, opaque clouds of interstellar gas and dust in this Hubble Space Telescope close-up of IC 2944, a bright star forming region in Centaurus, 5,900 light-years away. The largest of these dark globules, first spotted by South African astronomer A. D. Thackeray in 1950, is likely two separate but overlapping clouds, each more than one light-year wide. Combined the clouds contain material equivalent to about 15 times the mass of the Sun, but will they actually collapse to form massive stars? Along with other data, the sharp Hubble images indicate that Thackeray's globules are fractured and churning as a result of intense ultraviolet radiation from young, hot stars already energizing and heating the bright emission nebula. These and similar dark globules known to be associated with other star forming regions may ultimately be dissipated by their hostile environment — like cosmic lumps of butter in a hot frying pan.


 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:09
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Galactic Supernova Remnant IC 443



About 8000 years ago, a star in our Galaxy exploded. Ancient humans might have noticed the supernova as a temporary star, but modern humans can see the expanding shell of gas even today. Pictured above, part of the shell of IC 443 is seen to be composed of complex filaments, some of which are impacting an existing molecular cloud. Here emission from shock-excited molecular hydrogen is allowing astronomers to study how fast moving supernova gas affects star formation in the cloud. Additionally, astronomers theorize that the impact accelerates some particles to velocities near the speed of light. Supernova remnant IC 443 is also known to shine brightly also in infrared and X-ray light.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:11
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Composite Crab



The Crab Pulsar, a city-sized, magnetized neutron star spinning 30 times a second, lies at the center of this composite image of the inner region of the well-known Crab Nebula. The spectacular picture combines optical data (red) from the Hubble Space Telescope and x-ray images (blue) from the Chandra Observatory, also used in the popular Crab Pulsar movies. Like a cosmic dynamo the pulsar powers the x-ray and optical emission from the nebula, accelerating charged particles and producing the eerie, glowing x-ray jets. Ring-like structures are x-ray emitting regions where the high energy particles slam into the nebular material. The innermost ring is about a light-year across. With more mass than the Sun and the density of an atomic nucleus, the spinning pulsar is the collapsed core of a massive star that exploded, while the nebula is the expanding remnant of the star's outer layers. The supernova explosion was witnessed in the year 1054.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:12
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X-Rays from M17



About 5,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Sagittarius and the center of our galaxy, lies the bright star forming region cataloged as M17. In visible light, M17's bowed and hollowed-out appearance has resulted in many popular names like the Horseshoe, Swan, Omega, and Lobster nebula. But what has sculpted this glowing gas cloud? This Chandra Observatory image of x-rays from M17 provides a clue. Many massive young stars are responsible for the pink central region of the false-color x-ray picture, their colliding stellar winds producing the multimillion degree gas cloud which extends ten or so light-years to the left. When compared with visible light images, this x-ray hot cloud is partly surrounded by the nebula's cooler gas. In fact, having carved out a central cavity the hot gas seems to be flowing out of the horseshoe shape like champagne from an uncorked bottle ... suggesting yet another name for star forming region M17.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:14
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The Galactic Center in Infrared



The center of our Galaxy is a busy place. In visible light, much of the Galactic Center is obscured by opaque dust. In infrared light, however, dust glows more and obscures less, allowing nearly one million stars to be recorded in the above photograph. The Galactic Center itself appears on the right and is located about 30,000 light years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The Galactic Plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, the plane in which the Sun orbits, is identifiable by the dark diagonal dust lane. The absorbing dust grains are created in the atmospheres of cool red-giant stars and grow in molecular clouds. The region directly surrounding the Galactic Center glows brightly in radio and high-energy radiation, and is thought to house a large black hole.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:19
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Stars and Dust of the Lagoon Nebula



The large majestic Lagoon Nebula is home for many young stars and hot gas. Spanning 100 light years across while lying only about 5000 light years distant, the Lagoon Nebulae is so big and bright that it can be seen without a telescope toward the constellation of Sagittarius. Many bright stars are visible from NGC 6530, an open cluster that formed in the nebula only several million years ago. The greater nebula, also known as M8 and NGC 6523, is named "Lagoon" for the band of dust seen to the left of the open cluster's center. A bright knot of gas and dust in the nebula's center is known as the Hourglass Nebula. The above picture is a digitally sharpened composite of exposures taken in specific colors of light emitted by sulfur (red), hydrogen (green), and oxygen (blue). Star formation continues in the Lagoon Nebula as witnessed by the many globules that exist there.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:22
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NGC 3132: The Eight Burst Nebula



It's the dim star, not the bright one, near the center of NGC 3132 that created this odd but beautiful planetary nebula. Nicknamed the Eight-Burst Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, the glowing gas originated in the outer layers of a star like our Sun. In this representative color picture, the hot blue pool of light seen surrounding this binary system is energized by the hot surface of the faint star. Although photographed to explore unusual symmetries, it's the asymmetries that help make this planetary nebula so intriguing. Neither the unusual shape of the surrounding cooler shell nor the structure and placements of the cool filamentary dust lanes running across NGC 3132 are well understood.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:24
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Inside the Eagle Nebula






From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look of the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming. Already visible are several young bright blue stars whose light and winds are burning away and pushing back the remaining filaments and walls of gas and dust. The Eagle emission nebula, tagged M16, lies about 6500 light years away, spans about 20 light-years, and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of Serpens. The above picture combines three specific emitted colors and was taken with the 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, USA.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:28
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Pelican nebula ionisation front



What's happening to the Pelican Nebula? The light from young energetic stars is slowly transforming the Pelican's cold gas to hot gas, with the advancing boundary between the two known as an ionization front. Most of these bright stars lie off the top of the image, but part of the bright ionization front crosses on the upper right. Particularly dense and intricate filaments of cold gas are visible along the front. Millions of years from now this nebula might no longer be known as the Pelican, as the balance and placement of stars and gas will leave something that appears completely different. The above image was taken with the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, USA. The large circular artifact below the image center is not real. The nebula, also known as IC 5070, spans about 30 light years and lies about 1800 light years away

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:30
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An Unusual Globule in IC 1396



Is there a monster in IC 1396? Known to some as the Elephant's Trunk Nebula, parts of gas and dust clouds of this star formation region may appear to take on foreboding forms, some nearly human. The only real monster here, however, is a bright young star too far from Earth to hurt us. Energetic light from this star is eating away the dust of the dark cometary globule near the top of the above image. Jets and winds of particles emitted from this star are also pushing away ambient gas and dust. Nearly 3,000 light-years distant, the relatively faint IC 1396 complex covers a much larger region on the sky than shown here, with an apparent width of more than 10 full moons.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:31
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The Heart and Soul Nebulas



Is the heart and soul of our Galaxy located in Cassiopeia? Possibly not, but that is where two bright emission nebulas nicknamed Heart and Soul can be found. The Heart Nebula, officially dubbed IC 1805 and visible above on the right, has a shape reminiscent of a classical heart symbol. Both nebulas shine brightly in the red light of energized hydrogen. Several young open clusters of stars populate the image and are visible above in blue, including the nebula centers. Light takes about 6,000 years to reach us from these nebulas, which together span roughly 300 light years. Studies of stars and clusters like those found in the Heart and Soul Nebulas have focussed on how massive stars form and how they affect their environment.


 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:32
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Newborn stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula



Newborn stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, shows evaporating gaseous globules (EGGs) emerging from pillars of molecular hydrogen gas and dust. The giant pillars are light years in length and are so dense that interior gas contracts gravitationally to form stars. At each pillars' end, the intense radiation of bright young stars causes low density material to boil away, leaving stellar nurseries of dense EGGs exposed. The Eagle Nebula, associated with the open star cluster M16, lies about 7000 light years away.

 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:33
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The SDSS 3D Universe Map



The latest map of the cosmos again indicates that dark matter and dark energy dominate our universe. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is on its way to measuring the distances to over one million galaxies. Galaxies first identified on 2D images, like the one shown above on the right, have their distances measured to create the 3D map. The SDSS currently reports 3D information for over 200,000 galaxies, now rivaling the 3D galaxy-count of the Two-Degree Field sky map. The latest SDSS map, shown above on the left, could only show the galaxy distribution it does if the universe was composed and evolved a certain way. After trying to match many candidate universes to it, the Cinderella universe that best fits the above map has 5% atoms, 25% dark matter, and 70% dark energy. Such a universe was previously postulated because its rapid recent expansion can explain why distant supernovas are so dim, and its early evolution can explain the spot distribution on the very distant cosmic microwave background.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 22:36
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The Colorful Horsehead Nebula



Explanation: While drifting through the cosmos, a magnificent interstellar dust cloud became sculpted by stellar winds and radiation to assume a recognizable shape. Fittingly named the Horsehead Nebula, it is embedded in the vast and complex Orion Nebula. The dark molecular cloud, roughly 1,500 light years distant, is cataloged as Barnard 33 and is visible only because its obscuring dust is silhouetted against the bright emission nebula IC 434. The bright blue reflection nebula NGC 2023 is visible on the lower left. The prominent horse head portion of the nebula is really just part of a larger cloud of dust which can be seen extending toward the bottom of the picture. A potentially rewarding but difficult object to view with a small telescope, this gorgeous representative-color image was taken by the large 3.6-m Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, USA.
 
LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 23:41
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NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 in Orion



The 1970s are often overlooked. In particular, the beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 in Orion are often overlooked in favor of the substantial stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along the sword of Orion just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these nebulae are also associated with Orion's giant molecular cloud which lies about 1,500 light-years away, but are dominated by the characteristic blue color of interstellar dust reflecting light from hot young stars. In this sharp color image a portion of the Orion Nebula appears along the bottom border with the cluster of reflection nebulae at picture center. NGC 1977 stretches across the field just below center, separated from NGC 1973 (above right) and NGC 1975 (above left) by dark regions laced with faint red emission from hydrogen atoms. Taken together, the dark regions suggest to many the shape of a running man.


 
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LT Олег Фадин #17.01.2004 23:44
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Startling Star V838 Mon



Variable star V838 Monocerotis startled astronomers in January of 2002, undergoing a dramatic outburst like no other variable star known. Followed closely by ground-based instruments and the Hubble Space Telescope over the following months, it was soon realized that the quickly evolving dusty nebula surrounding V838 Mon was in fact made visible by "light echoes" from the outburst. Remarkably, as light from the outburst plays across layers of pre-existing circumstellar material, it gives the surrounding nebulosity the illusion of expanding "faster than light". Though the nebula's visible appearance changes dramatically over a period of months, it is actually at least 6 light years in diameter. A good astrophysical explanation for V838 Mon's outbursting behavior is still unknown but astronomers continue to follow the mystery star. This gorgeous image, based on data recorded on October 21 with the US Naval Observatory's 1.55 meter telescope, adopts the color scheme used in previous Hubble images for easy comparison.

 
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