Tuesday, June 18, 2024


Do dragons fight on the altar of the sky? Although it might appear that way, these dragons are illusions made of thin gas and dust. The emission nebula NGC 6188, home to the glowing clouds, is found about 4,000 light years away near the edge of a large molecular cloud, unseen at visible wavelengths, in the southern constellation Ara (the Altar). Massive, young stars of the embedded Ara OB1 association were formed in that region only a few million years ago, sculpting the dark shapes and powering the nebular glow with stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation. The recent star formation itself was likely triggered by winds and supernova explosions from previous generations of massive stars, that swept up and compressed the molecular gas. This impressively detailed image spans over 2 degrees (four full Moons), corresponding to over 150 light years at the estimated distance of NGC 6188.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240619.html ( June 19, 2024)

ISS Daily Summary Report – 6/17/2024

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ISS Reboost: Friday, the ISS performed a reboost using the SM Aft 87P R&D thrusters at 11:40 PM CDT. This is one in a series of reboosts to set up proper phasing conditions for Progress 89P launch in August. The burn duration was 23 minutes 25 seconds with a delta-V of 2.0 m/s. Boeing CST-100 … ...

June 17, 2024 at 12:00PM
From NASA: https://blogs.nasa.gov/stationreport/2024/06/17/iss-daily-summary-report-6-17-2024/

Monday, June 17, 2024


Yes, but can your thunderstorm do this? Pictured here are gigantic jets shooting up from a thunderstorm last week toward the Himalayan Mountains in China and Bhutan. The composite image captured four long jets that occurred only minutes apart. Gigantic jets, documented only in this century, are a type of lightning discharge that occurs between some thunderstorms and the Earth's ionosphere high above them. They are an unusual type of lightning that is much different from regular cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning. The bottoms of gigantic jets appear similar to a cloud-to-above strike called blue jets, while the tops appear similar to upper-atmosphere red sprites. Although the mechanism and trigger that cause gigantic jets remains a topic of research, it is clear that the jets reduce charge imbalance between different parts of Earth's atmosphere. A good way to look for gigantic jets is to watch a powerful but distant thunderstorm from a clear location.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240618.html ( June 18, 2024)

Sunday, June 16, 2024


Squids on Earth aren't this big. This mysterious squid-like cosmic cloud spans nearly three full moons on planet Earth's sky. Discovered in 2011 by French astro-imager Nicolas Outters, the Squid Nebula's bipolar shape is distinguished here by the telltale blue emission from doubly ionized oxygen atoms. Though apparently surrounded by the reddish hydrogen emission region Sh2-129, the true distance and nature of the Squid Nebula have been difficult to determine. Still, one investigation suggests Ou4 really does lie within Sh2-129 some 2,300 light-years away. Consistent with that scenario, the cosmic squid would represent a spectacular outflow of material driven by a triple system of hot, massive stars, cataloged as HR8119, seen near the center of the nebula. If so, this truly giant squid nebula would physically be over 50 light-years across.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240617.html ( June 17, 2024)

Saturday, June 15, 2024


What happens if a star gets too close to a black hole? The black hole can rip it apart -- but how? It's not the high gravitational attraction itself that's the problem -- it's the difference in gravitational pull across the star that creates the destruction. In the featured animated video illustrating this disintegration, you first see a star approaching the black hole. Increasing in orbital speed, the star's outer atmosphere is ripped away during closest approach. Much of the star's atmosphere disperses into deep space, but some continues to orbit the black hole and forms an accretion disk. The animation then takes you into the accretion disk while looking toward the black hole. Including the strange visual effects of gravitational lensing, you can even see the far side of the disk. Finally, you look along one of the jets being expelled along the spin axis. Theoretical models indicate that these jets not only expel energetic gas, but also create energetic neutrinos -- one of which may have been seen recently on Earth.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240616.html ( June 16, 2024)

Friday, June 14, 2024

Prominences and Filaments on the Active Sun


This colorized and sharpened image of the Sun is composed of frames recording emission from hydrogen atoms in the solar chromosphere on May 15. Approaching the maximum of solar cycle 25, a multitude of active regions and twisting, snake-like solar filaments are seen to sprawl across the surface of the active Sun. Suspend in the active regions' strong magnetic fields, the filaments of plasma lofted above the Sun's edge appear as bright solar prominences. The large prominences seen near 4 o'clock, and just before 9 o'clock around the solar limb are post flare loops from two powerful X-class solar flares that both occurred on that day. In fact, the 4 o'clock prominence is associated with the monster active region AR 3664 just rotating off the Sun's edge.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240615.html ( June 15, 2024)

Thursday, June 13, 2024

RCW 85


From the 1960 astronomical catalog of Rodgers, Campbell and Whiteoak, emission region RCW 85 shines in southern night skies between bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri. About 5,000 light years distant, the hazy interstellar cloud of glowing hydrogen gas and dust is faint. But detailed structures along well-defined rims within RCW 85 are traced in this cosmic skyscape composed of 28 hours of narrow and broadband exposures. Suggestive of dramatic shapes in other stellar nurseries where natal clouds of gas and dust are sculpted by energetic winds and radiation from newborn stars, the tantalizing nebula has been called the Devil's Tower. This telescopic frame would span around 100 light-years at the estimated distance of RCW 85.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240614.html ( June 14, 2024)

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Messier 66 Close Up


Big, beautiful spiral galaxy Messier 66 lies a mere 35 million light-years away. The gorgeous island universe is about 100 thousand light-years across, similar in size to the Milky Way. This Hubble Space Telescope close-up view spans a region about 30,000 light-years wide around the galactic core. It shows the galaxy's disk dramatically inclined to our line-of-sight. Surrounding its bright core, the likely home of a supermassive black hole, obscuring dust lanes and young, blue star clusters sweep along spiral arms dotted with the tell-tale glow of pinkish star forming regions. Messier 66, also known as NGC 3627, is the brightest of the three galaxies in the gravitationally interacting Leo Triplet.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240613.html ( June 13, 2024)

Tuesday, June 11, 2024


It was the first time ever. At least, the first time this photographer had ever seen aurora from his home mountains. And what a spectacular aurora it was. The Karkonosze Mountains in Poland are usually too far south to see any auroras. But on the amazing night of May 10 - 11, purple and green colors lit up much of the night sky, a surprising spectacle that also appeared over many mid-latitude locations around the Earth. The featured image is a composite of six vertical exposures taken during the auroral peak. The futuristic buildings on the right are part of a meteorological observatory located on the highest peak of the Karkonosze Mountains. The purple color is primarily due to Sun-triggered, high-energy electrons impacting nitrogen molecules in Earth's atmosphere. Our Sun is reaching its maximum surface activity over the next two years, and although many more auroras are predicted, most will occur over regions closer to the Earth's poles.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240612.html ( June 12, 2024)

Monday, June 10, 2024


Why is the sky near Antares and Rho Ophiuchi so colorful, yet dusty? The colors result from a mixture of objects and processes. Fine dust -- illuminated by starlight -- produces blue reflection nebulae. Gaseous clouds whose atoms are excited by ultraviolet starlight produce reddish emission nebulae. Backlit dust clouds block starlight and so appear dark. Antares, a red supergiant and one of the brighter stars in the night sky, lights up the yellow-red clouds on the upper right of the featured image. The Rho Ophiuchi star system lies at the center of the blue reflection nebula on the left, while a different reflection nebula, IC 4605, lies just below and right of the image center. These star clouds are even more colorful than humans can see, emitting light across the electromagnetic spectrum.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240611.html ( June 11, 2024)

Sunday, June 9, 2024


Is the Lion Nebula the real ruler of the constellation Cepheus? This powerful feline appearing nebula is powered by two massive stars, each with a mass over 20 times greater than our Sun. Formed from shells of ionized gas that have expanded, the nebula's energetic matter not only glows, but is dense enough to contract gravitationally and form stars. The angular size of the Lion Nebula, officially named Sh2-132, is slightly greater than that of the full moon. The gaseous iconic region resides about 10,000 light years away in a constellation named after the King of Aethopia in Greek mythology.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240610.html ( June 10, 2024)

Saturday, June 8, 2024


What is that light in the sky? The answer to one of humanity's more common questions may emerge from a few quick observations. For example -- is it moving or blinking? If so, and if you live near a city, the answer is typically an airplane, since planes are so numerous and so few stars and satellites are bright enough to be seen over the glare of artificial city lights. If not, and if you live far from a city, that bright light is likely a planet such as Venus or Mars -- the former of which is constrained to appear near the horizon just before dawn or after dusk. Sometimes the low apparent motion of a distant airplane near the horizon makes it hard to tell from a bright planet, but even this can usually be discerned by the plane's motion over a few minutes. Still unsure? The featured chart gives a sometimes-humorous but mostly-accurate assessment. Dedicated sky enthusiasts will likely note -- and are encouraged to provide -- polite corrections.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240609.html ( June 09, 2024)

Friday, June 7, 2024

Pandora's Cluster of Galaxies


This deep field mosaicked image presents a stunning view of galaxy cluster Abell 2744 recorded by the James Webb Space Telescope's NIRCam. Also dubbed Pandora's Cluster, Abell 2744 itself appears to be a ponderous merger of three different massive galaxy clusters. It lies some 3.5 billion light-years away, toward the constellation Sculptor. Dominated by dark matter, the mega-cluster warps and distorts the fabric of spacetime, gravitationally lensing even more distant objects. Redder than the Pandora cluster galaxies many of the lensed sources are very distant galaxies in the early Universe, their lensed images stretched and distorted into arcs. Of course distinctive diffraction spikes mark foreground Milky Way stars. At the Pandora Cluster's estimated distance this cosmic box spans about 6 million light-years. But don't panic. You can explore the tantalizing region in a 2 minute video tour.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240608.html ( June 08, 2024)

ISS Daily Summary Report – 6/06/2024

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Boeing CST-100 Crewed Flight Test (CFT) Docking: Boeing Starliner Calypso successfully hard-docked to the ISS on Thursday, June 6th, at 12:56 PM CDT. The ISS crew welcomed aboard NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams. The ISS crew complement has officially increased from seven to nine. Payloads: Immunity Assay (IA): The crew gathered and … ...

June 06, 2024 at 12:00PM
From NASA: https://blogs.nasa.gov/stationreport/2024/06/06/iss-daily-summary-report-6-06-2024/

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Sharpless 308: The Dolphin Head Nebula


Blown by fast winds from a hot, massive star, this cosmic bubble is huge. Cataloged as Sharpless 2-308 it lies some 5,000 light-years away toward the well-trained constellation Canis Major and covers slightly more of the sky than a Full Moon. That corresponds to a diameter of 60 light-years at its estimated distance. The massive star that created the bubble, a Wolf-Rayet star, is the bright one near the center of the nebula. Wolf-Rayet stars have over 20 times the mass of the Sun and are thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova phase of massive star evolution. Fast winds from this Wolf-Rayet star create the bubble-shaped nebula as they sweep up slower moving material from an earlier phase of evolution. The windblown nebula has an age of about 70,000 years. Relatively faint emission captured by narrowband filters in the deep image is dominated by the glow of ionized oxygen atoms mapped to a blue hue. Presenting a mostly harmless outline, SH2-308 is also known as The Dolphin-head Nebula.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240607.html ( June 07, 2024)

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

NGC 4565: Galaxy on Edge


Magnificent spiral galaxy NGC 4565 is viewed edge-on from planet Earth. Also known as the Needle Galaxy for its narrow profile, bright NGC 4565 is a stop on many telescopic tours of the northern sky, in the faint but well-groomed constellation Coma Berenices. This sharp, colorful image reveals the galaxy's boxy, bulging central core cut by obscuring dust lanes that lace NGC 4565's thin galactic plane. NGC 4565 itself lies about 40 million light-years distant and spans some 100,000 light-years. Easily spotted with small telescopes, sky enthusiasts consider NGC 4565 to be a prominent celestial masterpiece Messier missed.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240606.html ( June 06, 2024)

Tuesday, June 4, 2024


What if you saw your shadow on Mars and it wasn't human? Then you might be the Perseverance rover exploring Mars. Perseverance has been examining the Red Planet since 2021, finding evidence of its complex history of volcanism and ancient flowing water, and sending breathtaking images across the inner Solar System. Pictured here in February of 2024, Perseverance looks opposite the Sun and across Neretva Vallis in Jezero Crater, with a local hill visible at the top of the frame. The distinctively non-human shadow of the car-sized rover is visible below center, superposed on scattered rocks. Perseverance, now working without its flying companion Ingenuity, continues to search Mars for signs of ancient life.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240605.html ( June 05, 2024)

Monday, June 3, 2024


Why does Comet Pons-Brooks now have tails pointing in opposite directions? The most spectacular tail is the blue-glowing ion tail that is visible flowing down the image. The ion tail is pushed directly out from the Sun by the solar wind. On the upper right is the glowing central coma of Comet 12P/Pons–Brooks. Fanning out from the coma, mostly to the left, is the comet's dust tail. Pushed out and slowed down by the pressure of sunlight, the dust tail tends to trail the comet along its orbit and, from some viewing angles, can appear opposite to the ion tail. The distant, bright star Alpha Leporis is seen at the bottom of the featured image captured last week from Namibia. Two days ago, the comet passed its closest to the Earth and is now best visible from southern skies as it dims and glides back to the outer Solar System.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240604.html ( June 04, 2024)

Sunday, June 2, 2024

NGC 2403 in Camelopardalis


Magnificent island universe NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Some 10 million light-years distant and about 50,000 light-years across, the spiral galaxy also seems to have more than its fair share of giant star forming HII regions, marked by the telltale reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas. The giant HII regions are energized by clusters of hot, massive stars that explode as bright supernovae at the end of their short and furious lives. A member of the M81 group of galaxies, NGC 2403 closely resembles a galaxy in our own local galaxy group with an abundance of star forming regions, M33, the Triangulum Galaxy. Spiky in appearance, bright stars in this portrait of NGC 2403 are in the foreground, within our own Milky Way. Also in the foreground of the deep, wide-field, telescopic image are the Milky Way's dim and dusty interstellar clouds also known as galactic cirrus or integrated flux nebulae. But faint features that seem to extend from NGC 2403 itself are likely tidal stellar streams drawn out by gravitational interactions with neighboring galaxies.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240603.html ( June 03, 2024)

Saturday, June 1, 2024


No one, presently, sees the Moon rotate like this. That's because the Earth's moon is tidally locked to the Earth, showing us only one side. Given modern digital technology, however, combined with many detailed images returned by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a high resolution virtual Moon rotation movie has been composed. The featured time-lapse video starts with the standard Earth view of the Moon. Quickly, though, Mare Orientale, a large crater with a dark center that is difficult to see from the Earth, rotates into view just below the equator. From an entire lunar month condensed into 24 seconds, the video clearly shows that the Earth side of the Moon contains an abundance of dark lunar maria, while the lunar far side is dominated by bright lunar highlands. Currently, over 32 new missions to the Moon are under active development from multiple countries and companies, including NASA's Artemis program which aims to land people on the Moon again within the next few years.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap240602.html ( June 02, 2024)