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  1. Spiral Galaxy NGC 1512: The Nuclear Ring What's happening around the center of this spiral galaxy? Seen in total, NGC 1512 appears to be a barred spiral galaxy -- a type of spiral that has a straight bar of stars across its center. This bar crosses an outer ring, though, a ring not seen as it surrounds the pictured region. Featured in this Hubble Space Telescope image is an inner ring -- one that itself surrounds the nucleus of the spiral. The two rings are connected not only by a bar of bright stars but by dark lanes of dust. Inside of this inner ring, dust continues to spiral right into the very center -- possibly the location of a large black hole. The rings are bright with newly formed stars which may have been triggered by the collision of NGC 1512 with its galactic neighbor, NGC 1510.
  2. Earth at Night Can you find your favorite country or city? Surprisingly, on this world-wide nightscape, city lights make this task quite possible. Human-made lights highlight particularly developed or populated areas of the Earth's surface, including the seaboards of Europe, the eastern United States, and Japan. Many large cities are located near rivers or oceans so that they can exchange goods cheaply by boat. Particularly dark areas include the central parts of South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The featured composite was created from images that were collected during cloud-free periods in April and October 2012 by the Suomi-NPP satellite, from a polar orbit about 824 kilometers above the surface, using its Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).
  3. Hidden Galaxy IC 342 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 clouds along the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy. Even though IC 342's light is dimmed by intervening cosmic clouds, this sharp telescopic image traces the galaxy's own obscuring dust, blue star clusters, and glowing pink star forming regions along spiral arms that wind far from the galaxy's core. IC 342 may have undergone a recent burst of star formation activity and is close enough to have gravitationally influenced the evolution of the local group of galaxies and the Milky Way. T. Rector
  4. A View Toward M106 Big, bright, beautiful spiral, Messier 106 dominates this cosmic vista. The two degree wide telescopic field of view looks toward the well-trained constellation Canes Venatici, near the handle of the Big Dipper. Also known as NGC 4258, M106 is about 80,000 light-years across and 23.5 million light-years away, the largest member of the Canes II galaxy group. For a far away galaxy, the distance to M106 is well-known in part because it can be directly measured by tracking this galaxy's remarkable maser, or microwave laser emission. Very rare but naturally occuring, the maser emission is produced by water molecules in molecular clouds orbiting its active galactic nucleus. Another prominent spiral galaxy on the scene, viewed nearly edge-on, is NGC 4217 below and right of M106. The distance to NGC 4217 is much less well-known, estimated to be about 60 million light-years. Peter Feltoti
  5. Atlas, Daphnis, and Pan Atlas, Daphnis, and Pan are small, inner, ring moons of Saturn, shown at the same scale in this montage of images from the still Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft. In fact, Daphnis was discovered in Cassini images from 2005. Atlas and Pan were first sighted in images from the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. Flying saucer-shaped Atlas orbits near the outer edge of Saturn's bright A Ring while Daphnis orbits inside the A Ring's narrow Keeler Gap and Pan within the A Ring's larger Encke Gap. The curious equatorial ridges of the small ring moons could be built up by the accumulation of ring material over time. Even diminutive Daphnis makes waves in the ring material as it glides along the edge of the Keeler Gap.
  6. Aphelion Sunrise On July 3rd, planet Earth reached aphelion, the farthest point in its elliptical orbit around the Sun. Each year, this day of the most distant Sun happens to occur during winter in the southern hemisphere. That's where this aphelion sunrise from 2015 was captured in a time series composite against the skyline of Brisbane, Australia. Of course, seasons for our fair planet are not determined by distance to the Sun, but by the tilt of Earth's rotational axis with respect to the ecliptic, the plane of its orbit. Fondly known as the obliquity of the ecliptic, the angle of the tilt is about 23.4 degrees from perpendicular to the orbital plane. So the most distant sunrise occurs during northern summer, when the planet's north pole is tilted toward the Sun and the north enjoys longer, warmer days. Stephen Mudge
  7. Celestial Fireworks: Into Star Cluster Westerlund 2 What if you could go right into a cluster where stars are forming? A one-minute, time-lapse, video visualization of just this has been made with 3D computer modeling of the region surrounding the star cluster Westerlund 2, based on images from the Hubble Space Telescope in visible and infrared light. Westerlund 2 spans about 10 light years across and lies about 20,000 light years distant toward the constellation of the Ship's Keel (Carina). As the illustrative animation begins, the greater Gum 29 nebula fills the screen, with the young cluster of bright stars visible in the center. Stars zip past you as you approach the cluster. Soon your imaginary ship pivots and you pass over light-year long pillars of interstellar gas and dust. Strong winds and radiation from massive young stars destroy all but the densest nearby dust clumps, leaving these pillars in their shadows -- many pointing back toward the cluster center. Last, you pass into the top of the star cluster and survey hundreds of the most massive stars known. Open Science: Browse 1,500+ codes in the Astrophysics Source Code Library
  8. The Summer Triangle over the Great Wall Have you ever seen the Summer Triangle? The bright stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair form a large triangle on the sky that can be seen rising in the northern spring during the morning, and rising in the northern fall during the evening. During summer months, the triangle can be found nearly overhead near midnight as three of the brightest stars on the sky. Featured here, along with the arch of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, the Summer Triangle asterism was captured this spring over the Great Wall of China. This part of the Great Wall, a World Culture Heritage Site, was built during the 6th century on the Yan Mountains. At the summit is Wangjinglou Tower from which, on a clear night, the lights of Beijing are visible in the distance. NightChina.net
  9. Mountains of Dust in the Carina Nebula It's stars versus dust in the Carina Nebula and the stars are winning. More precisely, the energetic light and winds from massive newly formed stars are evaporating and dispersing the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed. Located in the Carina Nebula and known informally as Mystic Mountain, these pillar's appearance is dominated by the dark dust even though it is composed mostly of clear hydrogen gas. Dust pillars such as these are actually much thinner than air and only appear as mountains due to relatively small amounts of opaque interstellar dust. About 7,500 light-years distant, the featured image was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and highlights an interior region of Carina which spans about three light years. Within a few million years, the stars will likely win out completely and the entire dust mountain will evaporate.
  10. 3D Lava Falls of Mars Get out your red/cyan glasses and gaze across lava falls of Mars. The stereo anaglyph was created by combining two images recorded by the HiRISE camera onboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The multi-level falls were created as flowing lava breached sections of the northern rim of a 30-kilometer diameter martian crater, located in the western part of the Red Planet's volcanic Tharsis region. As the molten lava cascaded down the crater wall and terraces to reach the crater floor it left the distinctly rough, fan-shaped flows on the steeper slopes. North is up and the breathtaking 3D view is 5 kilometers wide.
  11. NGC 7814: The Little Sombrero in Pegasus Point your telescope toward the high flying constellation Pegasus and you can find this expanse of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies. Dominated by NGC 7814, the pretty field of view would almost be covered by a full moon. NGC 7814 is sometimes called the Little Sombrero for its resemblance to the brighter more famous M104, the Sombrero Galaxy. Both Sombrero and Little Sombrero are spiral galaxies seen edge-on, and both have extensive halos and central bulges cut by a thin disk with thinner dust lanes in silhouette. In fact, NGC 7814 is some 40 million light-years away and an estimated 60,000 light-years across. That actually makes the Little Sombrero about the same physical size as its better known namesake, appearing smaller and fainter only because it is farther away. Very faint dwarf galaxies, potentially satellites of NGC 7814, have been discovered in deep exposures of the Little Sombrero. CHART32 Team
  12. Symbiotic R Aquarii A long recognized naked-eye variable star, R Aquarii is actually an interacting binary star system, two stars that seem to have a close, symbiotic relationship. About 710 light years away, it consists of a cool red giant star and hot, dense white dwarf star in mutual orbit around their common center of mass. The binary system's visible light is dominated by the red giant, itself a Mira-type long period variable star. But material in the cool giant star's extended envelope is pulled by gravity onto the surface of the smaller, denser white dwarf, eventually triggering a thermonuclear explosion and blasting material into space. Optical image data (red) shows the still expanding ring of debris originating from a blast that would have been seen in the early 1770s. The evolution of less understood energetic events producing high energy emission in the R Aquarii system has been monitored since 2000 using Chandra X-ray Observatory data (blue). The composite field of view is less that a light-year across at the estimated distance of R Aquarii.
  13. Composite Messier 20 and 21 The beautiful Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, lies about 5,000 light-years away, a colorful study in cosmic contrasts. It shares this nearly 1 degree wide field Martin Pugh
  14. The M81 Galaxy Group through the Integrated Flux Nebula Distant galaxies and nearby nebulas highlight this deep image of the M81 Group of galaxies. First and foremost in this 80-exposure mosaic is the grand design spiral galaxy M81, the largest galaxy in the image, visible on the lower right. M81 is gravitationally interacting with M82 just above it, a large galaxy with an unusual halo of filamentary red-glowing gas. Around the image many other galaxies from the M81 Group of galaxies can be seen, as well as many foreground Milky Way stars. This whole galaxy menagerie is seen through the glow of an Integrated Flux Nebula (IFN), a vast and complex screen of diffuse gas and dust also in our Milky Way Galaxy. Details of the red and yellow IFN, digitally enhanced, were imaged by a new wide-field camera recently installed at the Teide Observatory in the Canary Islands of Spain. Free Presentation (with Czech translation): APOD Editor to speak in Prague on June 30 IAC
  15. Artistic Impression: The Surface of TRAPPIST-1f If you could stand on the surface of the newly discovered Earth-sized exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f, what would you see? Presently, no Earthling knows for sure, but the featured illustration depicts a reasoned guess based on observational data taken by NASA's Sun-orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope. In 2017, four more Earth-sized planets were found by Spitzer, including TRAPPIST-1f, in addition to three discovered in 2015 from the ground. From the planet's surface, near the mild terminator between night and day, you might see water, ice, and rock on the ground, while water-based clouds might hover above. Past the clouds, the small central star TRAPPIST-1 would appear more red than our Sun, but angularly larger due to the close orbit. With seven known Earth-sized planets -- many of which pass near each other -- the TRAPPIST-1 system is not only a candidate to have life, but intercommunicating life -- although a preliminary search has found no obvious transmissions.