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  1. APOD - A Conjunction of Comets - 2017-09-23

    A Conjunction of Comets A conjunction of comets is captured in this pretty star field from the morning of September 17. Discovered in July by a robotic sky survey searching for supernovae, comet C/2017 O1 ASASSN is at the lower left. The visible greenish glow of its coma is produced by the fluorescence of diatomic carbon molecules in sunlight. Nearing its closest approach to the Sun, the binocular comet was only about 7.2 light-minutes from Earth. In the same telescopic field of view is the long-tailed, outbound comet C/2015 ER61 PanSTARRS at the upper right, almost 14 light-minutes away. Many light-years distant, the starry background includes faint, dusty nebulae of the Milky Way. The well-known Pleiades star cluster lies just off the top right of the frame. Jose J. Chambo
  2. Solar Eclipse Solargraph Today is the September equinox. Heading south, the Sun's path through the sky will cross the celestial equator at 20:02 UT. Of course the equinox date results in (mostly) equal night and day all over planet Earth. But on August 21 the Sun's path through the sky found a little extra-night for some. Made with a drink can pinhole camera and light-sensitive paper, this creative solargraph follows the Sun's path on that date. An all-day exposure, it traces the Sun's arc still rising high in northern skies, aligned with a panoramic snapshot of the local landscape at the bottom. The gap in the arc represents the duration of the partial and total phases of the solar eclipse in clear skies over Lowman, Idaho, USA. There, the extra-night (totality) lasted for about 2 minutes. The broad gap in the Sun's arc also covers the loss of sunlight during the more extended partial eclipse phases. Chuck Bueter
  3. APOD - A September Morning Sky - 2017-09-21

    A September Morning Sky The Moon, three planets, and a bright star gathered near the ecliptic plane in the September 18 morning sky over Veszprem Castle, Hungary. In this twilight skyscape, Mercury and Mars still shine close to the eastern horizon, soon to disappear in the glare of the Sun. Regulus, alpha star of the constellation Leo, is the bright point next to a waning crescent Moon, with brilliant Venus near the top of the frame. The beautiful morning conjunction of Moon, planets, and bright star could generally be followed by early morning risers all around planet Earth. But remarkably, the Moon also occulted, or passed directly in front of, Regulus and each of the three planets within 24 hours, all on September 18 UT. Visible from different locations, timing and watching the lunar occultations was much more difficult though, and mostly required viewing in daytime skies. Tamas Ladanyi
  4. APOD - The Big Corona - 2017-09-20

    The Big Corona Most photographs don't adequately portray the magnificence of the Sun's corona. Seeing the corona first-hand during a total solar eclipse is unparalleled. The human eye can adapt to see coronal features and extent that average cameras usually cannot. Welcome, however, to the digital age. The featured picture is a combination of forty exposures from one thousandth of a second to two seconds that, together, were digitally combined and processed to highlight faint features of the total solar eclipse that occurred in August of 2017. Clearly visible are intricate layers and glowing caustics of an ever changing mixture of hot gas and magnetic fields in the Sun's corona. Looping prominences appear bright pink just past the Sun's limb. Faint details on the night side of the New Moon can even be made out, illuminated by sunlight reflected from the dayside of the Full Earth. Alson Wong
  5. Veil Nebula: Wisps of an Exploded Star Wisps like this are all that remain visible of a Milky Way star. About 7,000 years ago that star exploded in a supernova leaving the Veil Nebula. At the time, the expanding cloud was likely as bright as a crescent Moon, remaining visible for weeks to people living at the dawn of recorded history. Today, the resulting supernova remnant, also known as the Cygnus Loop, has faded and is now visible only through a small telescope directed toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). The remaining Veil Nebula is physically huge, however, and even though it lies about 1,400 light-years distant, it covers over five times the size of the full Moon. The featured picture is a Hubble Space Telescope mosaic of six images together covering a span of only about two light years, a small part of the expansive supernova remnant. In images of the complete Veil Nebula, even studious readers might not be able to identify the featured filaments.
  6. Orion above Easter Island Why were the statues on Easter Island built? No one is sure. What is sure is that over 800 large stone statues exist there. The Easter Island statues, stand, on the average, over twice as tall as a person and have over 200 times as much mass. Few specifics are known about the history or meaning of the unusual rock sculptures, but many believe that they were created about 700 years ago in the images of local leaders of a lost civilization. Featured here, one of the ancient Moai sculptures was imaged in 2016 before the constellation of Orion, including the famous line of three belt stars and brilliant stars Betelgeuse (far left in red) and Rigel (upper center). The stone giant appears, however, to be inspecting the brightest star in the night sky (far right): Sirius. Follow APOD on: Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, or Twitter Yuri Beletsky
  7. Bright Spiral Galaxy M81 One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. This grand spiral galaxy can be found toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). This superbly detailed view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, to the left of the galactic center, contrary to M81's other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years. Free Download: The 2018 APOD Calendar Roberto ColombariRobert Gendler
  8. APOD - Cassini's Final Image - 2017-09-16

    Cassini's Final Image As planned, the Cassini spacecraft impacted the upper atmosphere of Saturn on September 15, after a 13 year long exploration of the Saturnian System. With spacecraft thrusters firing until the end, its atmospheric entry followed an unprecedented series of 22 Grand Finale dives between Saturn and rings. Cassini's final signal took 83 minutes to reach planet Earth and the Deep Space Network antenna complex in Canberra Australia where loss of contact with the spacecraft was recorded at 11:55 UT. For the spacecraft, Saturn was bright and the Sun was overhead as it plowed into the gas giant planet's swirling cloud tops at about 70,000 miles (113,000 kilometers) per hour. But Cassini's final image shows the impact site hours earlier and still on the planet's night side, the cloud tops illuminated by ringlight, sunlight reflected from Saturn's rings.
  9. APOD - 100 Steps Forward - 2017-09-15

    100 Steps Forward A beautiful conjunction of Venus and Moon, human, sand, and Milky Way is depicted in this night skyscape from planet Earth. The scene is a panorama of 6 photos taken in a moment near the end of a journey. In the foreground, footsteps along the wind-rippled dunes are close to the Huacachina oasis in the southwestern desert of Peru. An engaging perspective on the world at night, the stunning final image was also chosen as a winner in The World at Night's 2017 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest. Mission: Farewell Cassini Camilo Jaramillo
  10. APOD - Flare Well AR2673 - 2017-09-14

    Flare Well AR2673 Almost out of view from our fair planet, rotating around the Sun's western edge giant active region AR2673 lashed out with another intense solar flare followed by a large coronal mass ejection on September 10. The flare itself is seen here at the right in an extreme ultraviolet image from the sun-staring Solar Dynamics Observatory. This intense flare was the fourth X-class flare from AR2673 this month. The active region's most recent associated coronal mass ejection collided with Earth's magnetosphere 2 days later. Say farewell to the mighty AR2673, for now. For the next two weeks, the powerful sunspot group will be on the Sun's far side. Mission: Farewell Cassini
  11. NGC 6334: The Cat's Paw Nebula Nebulas are perhaps as famous for being identified with familiar shapes as perhaps cats are for getting into trouble. Still, no known cat could have created the vast Cat's Paw Nebula visible in Scorpius. At 5,500 light years distant, Cat's Paw is an emission nebula with a red color that originates from an abundance of ionized hydrogen atoms. Alternatively known as the Bear Claw Nebula or NGC 6334, stars nearly ten times the mass of our Sun have been born there in only the past few million years. Pictured here is a deep field image of the Cat's Paw Nebula in light emitted by hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. George Varouhakis
  12. A Total Solar Eclipse Close-Up in Real Time How would you feel if the Sun disappeared? Many eclipse watchers across the USA surprised themselves with the awe that they felt and the exclamations that they made as the Sun momentarily disappeared behind the Moon. Perhaps expecting just a brief moment of dusk, the spectacle of unusually rapid darkness, breathtakingly bright glowing beads around the Moon's edge, shockingly pink solar prominences, and a strangely detailed corona stretching across the sky caught many a curmudgeon by surprise. Many of these attributes were captured in the featured real-time, three-minute video of last month's total solar eclipse. The video frames were acquired in Warm Springs, Oregon with equipment specifically designed by Jun Ho Oh to track a close-up of the Sun's periphery during eclipse. As the video ends, the Sun is seen being reborn on the other side of the Moon from where it departed. KAISTHuboLab Music: Flowing Air by Mattia Vlad Morleo
  13. Cassini Approaches Saturn What would it look like to approach Saturn in a spaceship? One doesn't have to just imagine -- the Cassini spacecraft did just this in 2004, recording thousands of images along the way, and hundreds of thousands more since entering orbit. Some of Cassini's early images have been digitally tweaked, cropped, and compiled into the featured inspiring video which is part of a larger developing IMAX movie project named In Saturn's Rings. In the concluding sequence, Saturn looms increasingly large on approach as cloudy Titan swoops below. With Saturn whirling around in the background, Cassini is next depicted flying over Mimas, with large Herschel Crater clearly visible. Saturn's majestic rings then take over the show as Cassini crosses Saturn's thin ring plane. Dark shadows of the ring appear on Saturn itself. Finally, the enigmatic ice-geyser moon Enceladus appears in the distance and then is approached just as the video clip ends. The Cassini spacecraft itself, low on fuel, is scheduled to end on Friday when it will be directed to approach so close to Saturn that it falls in and melts. Cassini Imaging TeamISSJPLESANASAS. Van Vuuren Music: Adagio for Strings (NY Philharmonic)
  14. Swirling Around the Eye of Hurricane Irma Why does a hurricane have an eye at its center? No one is yet sure. What happens in and around a hurricane's eye is well documented, though. Warm air rises around the eye's edges, cools, swirls, and spreads out over the large storm, sinking primarily at the far edges. Inside the low-pressure eye, air also sinks and warms -- which causes evaporation, calm, and clearing -- sunlight might even stream through. Just at the eye's edge is a towering eyewall, the area of the highest winds. It is particularly dangerous to go outside when the tranquil eye passes over because you are soon to experience, again, the storm's violent eyewall. Featured is one of the most dramatic videos yet taken of an eye and rotating eyewall. The time-lapse video was taken from space by NASA's GOES-16 satellite last week over one of the most powerful tropical cyclones in recorded history: Hurricane Irma. Hurricanes can be extremely dangerous and their perils are not confined to the storm's center. Latest Images: Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and K
  15. Calm Waters and Geomagnetic Storm Very recognizable stars of the northern sky are a backdrop for calm waters in this moonlit sea and skyscape off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Taken on September 7, the photo also records a colorful display of northern lights or aurora borealis triggered by a severe geomagnetic storm. Visible crossing the Sun, the giant solar active region responsible, AR 2673, is much larger than planet Earth. It has produced the strongest flare of the current solar cycle and and the Earth-directed coronal mass ejection in the last few days. Chris Cook
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