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  • Strawberry Moon over the Temple of Poseidon

    Did you see the full moon last night? If not, tonight’s nearly full moon should be almost as good. Because full moons are opposite the Sun, they are visible in the sky when the Sun is not — which should be nearly all night long tonight, clouds permitting. One nickname for June’s full moon is the Strawberry Moon, named for when wild strawberries start to ripen in parts of Earth’s northern hemisphere. Different cultures around the globe give this full moon different names, though, including Honey Moon and Rose Moon. In the foreground of this featured image, taken yesterday in Cape Sounion, Greece, is the 2,400 year-old Temple of Poseidon. Next month will the 50th anniversary of the time humans first landed on the Moon.

  • Milky Way over Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent

    To see the feathered serpent descend the Mayan pyramid requires exquisite timing. You must visit El Castillo — in Mexico’s YucatΓ‘n Peninsula — near an equinox. Then, during the late afternoon if the sky is clear, the pyramid’s own shadows create triangles that merge into the famous illusion of the slithering viper. Also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, the impressive step-pyramid stands 30 meters tall and 55 meters wide at the base. Built up as a series of square terraces by the pre-Columbian civilization between the 9th and 12th century, the structure can be used as a calendar and is noted for astronomical alignments. To see the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy descend overhead the Mayan pyramid, however, requires less exquisite timing. Even the ancient Mayans might have been impressed, though, to know that the exact positions of the Milky Way, Saturn (left) and Jupiter (right) in the featured image give it a time stamp more specific than equinox — in fact 2019 April 7 at 5 am.

  • Unusual Mountain Ahuna Mons on Asteroid Ceres

    What created this unusual mountain? There is a new theory. Ahuna Mons is the largest mountain on the largest known asteroid in our Solar System, Ceres, which orbits our Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ahuna Mons, though, is like nothing that humanity has ever seen before. For one thing, its slopes are garnished not with old craters but young vertical streaks. The new hypothesis, based on numerous gravity measurements, holds that a bubble of mud rose from deep within the dwarf planet and pushed through the icy surface at a weak point rich in reflective salt — and then froze. The bright streaks are thought to be similar to other recently surfaced material such as visible in Ceres’ famous bright spots. The featured double-height digital image was constructed from surface maps taken of Ceres in 2016 by the robotic Dawn mission. Successfully completing its mission in 2018, Dawn continues to orbit Ceres even though it has exhausted the fuel needed to keep its antennas pointed toward Earth. Anniversary: The first APOD appeared 24 years ago today.

  • Stereo Helene

    Get out your red/blue glasses and float next to Helene, small, icy moon of Saturn. Appropriately named, Helene is one of four known Trojan moons, so called because it orbits at a Lagrange point. A Lagrange point is a gravitationally stable position near two massive bodies, in this case Saturn and larger moon Dione. In fact, irregularly shaped ( about 36 by 32 by 30 kilometers) Helene orbits at Dione’s leading Lagrange point while brotherly ice moon Polydeuces follows at Dione’s trailing Lagrange point. The sharp stereo anaglyph was constructed from two Cassini images captured during a close flyby in 2011. It shows part of the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Helene mottled with craters and gully-like features.

  • NGC 4676: The Mighty Mice

    These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as The Mice because they have such long tails, each large spiral galaxy has actually passed through the other. Their long tails are drawn out by strong gravitational tides rather than collisions of their individual stars. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion — over hundreds of millions of years. They will probably collide again and again over the next billion years until they coalesce to form a single galaxy. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice’s Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. Not often imaged in small telescopes, this wide field of view catches the faint tidal tails several hundred thousand light-years long.

  • The Colors and Magnitudes of M13

    M13 is modestly recognized as the Great Globular Star Cluster in Hercules. A ball of stars numbering in the hundreds of thousands crowded into a region 150 light years across, it lies some 25,000 light-years away. The sharp, color picture of M13 at upper left is familiar to many telescopic imagers. Still, M13’s Color vs Magnitude Diagram in the panel below and right, made from the same image data, can offer a more telling view. Also known as a Hertzsprung Russell (HR) diagram it plots the apparent brightness of individual cluster stars against color index. The color index is determined for each star by subtracting its brightness (in magnitudes) measured through a red filter from its brightness measured with a blue filter (B-R). Blue stars are hot and red stars are cool so that astronomical color index ranging from bluer to redder follows the relative stellar temperature scale from left (hot) to right (cool). In M13’s HR diagram, the stars clearly fall into distinct groups. The broad swath extending diagonally from the bottom right is the cluster’s main sequence. A sharp turn toward the upper right hand corner follows the red giant branch while the blue giants are found grouped in the upper left. Formed at the same time, at first M13’s stars were all located along the main sequence by mass, lower mass stars at the lower right. Over time higher mass stars have evolved off the main sequence into red, then blue giants and beyond. In fact, the position of the turn-off from the main sequence to the red giant branch indicates the cluster’s age at about 12 billion years.

  • Spiral Galaxy M96 from Hubble

    Dust lanes seem to swirl around the core of Messier 96 in this colorful, detailed portrait of the center of a beautiful island universe. Of course M96 is a spiral galaxy, and counting the faint arms extending beyond the brighter central region, it spans 100 thousand light-years or so, making it about the size of our own Milky Way. M96, also known as NGC 3368, is known to be about 35 million light-years distant and a dominant member of the Leo I galaxy group. The featured image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The reason for M96’s asymmetry is unclear — it could have arisen from gravitational interactions with other Leo I group galaxies, but the lack of an intra-group diffuse glow seems to indicate few recent interactions. Galaxies far in the background can be found by examining the edges of the picture. APOD in other languages: Arabic, Catalan, Chinese (Beijing), Chinese (Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Farsi, French, French, German, Hebrew, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Montenegrin, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish and Ukrainian

  • The Cave Nebula in Infrared from Spitzer

    What’s happening in and around the Cave Nebula? To help find out, NASA’s orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope looked into this optically-dark star-forming region in four colors of infrared light. The Cave Nebula, cataloged as Sh2-155, is quite bright in infrared, revealing details not only of internal pillars of gas and dust, but of the illuminating star cluster too – all near the top of the image. The red glow around the Cave’s entrance is created by dust heated by bright young stars. To the right is Cepheus B, a star cluster that formed previously from the same cloud of gas and dust. Other interesting stars of Cepheus come to light in infrared as well, including those illuminating an even younger nebula toward the image bottom, and a runaway star pushing a bow shock, tinged in red near the image center. This region spans about 50 light years and lies about 2,500 light years toward the constellation of the King of Aethiopia (Cepheus). Get the latest from NASA: Subscribe to NASA’s Newsletter.

  • Jupiter Abyss

    What’s that black spot on Jupiter? No one is sure. During the latest pass of NASA’s Juno around Jupiter, the robotic spacecraft imaged an usually dark cloud feature informally dubbed the Abyss. Surrounding cloud patterns show the Abyss to be at the center of a vortex. Since dark features on Jupiter’s atmosphere tend to run deeper than light features, the Abyss may really be the deep hole that it appears — but without more evidence that remains conjecture. The Abyss is surrounded by a complex of meandering clouds and other swirling storm systems, some of which are topped by light colored, high-altitude clouds. The featured image was captured last month while Juno passed only about 15,000 kilometers above Jupiter’s cloud tops. The next close pass of Juno near Jupiter will be in July.

  • A Triangular Shadow of a Large Volcano

    Why does the shadow of this volcano look like a triangle? The Mount Teide volcano itself does not have the strictly pyramidal shape that its geometric shadow might suggest. The triangle shadow phenomena is not unique to the Mt. Teide, though, and is commonly seen from the tops of other large mountains and volcanoes. A key reason for the strange dark shape is that the observer is looking down the long corridor of a sunset (or sunrise) shadow that extends to the horizon. Even if the huge volcano were a perfect cube and the resulting shadow were a long rectangular box, that box would appear to taper off at its top as its shadow extended far into the distance, just as parallel train tracks do. The featured spectacular image shows Pico Viejo crater in the foreground, located on Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain. The nearly full moon is seen nearby shortly after its total lunar eclipse. Explore the Universe: Random APOD Generator

  • On the Beach with Mars

    At the end of last year’s northern summer, after its dazzling opposition, Mars still shone brightly in the night. The celestial beacon easily attracted the attention of these two night skygazers who stood still for just a while, but long enough to be captured in the sea and night skyscape from Big Sur, planet Earth. Its central bulge near the southwestern horizon, the Milky Way runs through the scene too, while the long exposure also reveals a faint blue bioluminescence blooming in the waves along Pfeiffer Beach. Now much fainter, Mars can be spotted near the western horizon after sunset, but this month Jupiter is near its closest and brightest, reaching its own opposition on June 10. Night skygazers can spot brilliant Jupiter over southern horizons, glaring next to the stars toward the central Milky Way.

  • The Planet and the Pipe

    Now posing against our galaxy’s rich starfields and nebulae, brilliant planet Jupiter shines in the night sky. Its almost overwhelming glow is near the top of the frame in this colorful telephoto portrait of the central Milky Way. Spanning about 20 degrees on the sky, the scene includes the silhouette of LDN 1773 against the starlight, also know by the popular moniker the Pipe Nebula for its apparent outline of stem and bowl. The Pipe Nebula is part of the galaxy’s Ophiuchus dark cloud complex. Located at a distance of about 450 light-years, dense cores of gas and dust within are collapsing to form stars. Approaching its opposition, opposite the Sun in the sky on June 12, Jupiter is only about 36 light-minutes from planet Earth. Fans of dark markings on the sky can probably spot the Snake Nebula below and left of Jupiter’s glare.

  • Messier 63: The Sunflower Galaxy

    A bright spiral galaxy of the northern sky, Messier 63 is about 25 million light-years distant in the loyal constellation Canes Venatici. Also cataloged as NGC 5055, the majestic island universe is nearly 100,000 light-years across. That’s about the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Known by the popular moniker, The Sunflower Galaxy, M63 sports a bright yellowish core in this sharp telescopic portrait. Its sweeping blue spiral arms are streaked with cosmic dust lanes and dotted with pink star forming regions. A dominant member of a known galaxy group, M63 has faint, extended features that are likely star streams from tidally disrupted satellite galaxies. M63 shines across the electromagnetic spectrum and is thought to have undergone bursts of intense star formation.

  • The Interstellar Clouds of Orion

    The constellation of Orion is much more than three stars in a row. It is a direction in space that is rich with impressive nebulas. To better appreciate this well-known swath of sky, a new long exposure image was taken over several clear nights in January, February and March. After 23 hours of camera time and untold hours of image processing, the featured collage in the light of hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur was produced spanning over 40 times the angular diameter of the Moon. Of the many interesting details that have become visible, one that particularly draws the eye is Barnard’s Loop, the bright red orange arc just to the right of the image center. The Rosette Nebula is not the giant orange nebula just to the left of the image center — that is larger but lesser known nebula known as the Meissa Ring. The Rosette Nebula is visible, though: it is the bright orange, blue and white nebula near the image bottom. The bright orange star just left of the frame center is Betelgeuse, while the bright blue star on the upper right is Rigel. About those famous three stars that cross the belt of Orion the Hunter — in this busy frame they can be hard to locate, but a discerning eye will find them just to the right of the image center.

  • SEIS: Listening for Marsquakes

    If you put your ear to Mars, what would you hear? To find out, and to explore the unknown interior of Mars, NASA’s Insight Lander deployed SEIS late last year, a sensitive seismometer that can detect marsquakes. In early April, after hearing the wind and motions initiated by the lander itself, SEIS recorded an unprecedented event that matches what was expected for a marsquake. This event can be heard on this YouTube video. Although Mars is not thought to have tectonic plates like the Earth, numerous faults are visible on the Martian surface which likely occurred as the hot interior of Mars cooled — and continues to cool. Were strong enough marsquakes to occur, SEIS could hear their rumbles reflected from large structures internal to Mars, like a liquid core, if one exists. Pictured last week, SEIS sits quietly on the Martian surface, taking in some Sun while light clouds are visible over the horizon. Create a Distant Legacy: Send your name to Mars

  • Stephan’s Quintet from Hubble

    When did these big galaxies first begin to dance? Really only four of the five of Stephan’s Quintet are locked in a cosmic tango of repeated close encounters taking place some 300 million light-years away. The odd galaxy out is easy to spot in this recently reprocessed image by the Hubble Space Telescope — the interacting galaxies, NGC 7319, 7318B, 7318A, and 7317 (left to right), have a more dominant yellowish cast. They also tend to have distorted loops and tails, grown under the influence of disruptive gravitational tides. The mostly bluish galaxy, large NGC 7320 on the lower left, is in the foreground at about 40 million light-years distant, and so is not part of the interacting group. Data and modeling indicate that NGC 7318B is a relatively new intruder. A recently-discovered halo of old red stars surrounding Stephan’s Quintet indicate that at least some of these galaxies started tangling over a billion years. Stephan’s Quintet is visible with a moderate sized-telescope toward the constellation of Winged Horse (Pegasus).

  • A Live View from the International Space Station

    If you were floating above the Earth right now, this is what you might see. In 2014, a robotic SpaceX Dragon capsule that delivered supplies to the Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS) also delivered High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) cameras that take and transmit live views of Earth. Pictured here, when working, is the live video feed that switches between four cameras, each pointed differently. Watch white clouds, tan land, and blue oceans drift by. The featured live view will appear black when it is nighttime on the Earth below, but the space station’s rapid 90-minute orbit compresses this dark time into only 45 minutes. The present location of the ISS above the Earth can be found on the web. If the video appears gray, this indicates that the view is either being switched between cameras, or communications with the ISS is temporarily unavailable. As the HDEV project continues, video quality will be monitored to assess the effects of high energy radiation, which types of cameras work best, and which Earth views are the most popular.

  • NICER at Night

    A payload on board the International Space Station, the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) twists and turns to track cosmic sources of X-rays as the station orbits planet Earth every 93 minutes. During orbit nighttime, its X-ray detectors remain on. So as NICER slews from target to target bright arcs and loops are traced across this all-sky map made from 22 months of NICER data. The arcs tend to converge on prominent bright spots, pulsars in the X-ray sky that NICER regularly targets and monitors. The pulsars are spinning neutron stars that emit clock-like pulses of X-rays. Their timing is so precise it can be used for navigation, determining spacecraft speed and position. This NICER X-ray, all-sky, map is composed in coordinates with the celestial equator horizontally across the center.

  • Lynds Dark Nebula 1251

    Stars are forming in Lynds Dark Nebula (LDN) 1251. About 1,000 light-years away and drifting above the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, the dusty molecular cloud is part of a complex of dark nebulae mapped toward the Cepheus flare region. Across the spectrum, astronomical explorations of the obscuring interstellar clouds reveal energetic shocks and outflows associated with newborn stars, including the telltale reddish glow from scattered Herbig-Haro objects seen in this sharp image. Distant background galaxies also lurk on the scene, visually buried behind the dusty expanse. The deep telescopic field of view imaged with broadband filters spans about two full moons on the sky, or 17 light-years at the estimated distance of LDN 1251.

  • Sunrise at Copernicus Crater

    A prominent impact site anchored in the lunar Oceanus Procellarum, Copernicus crater is at the center of this telescopic portrait in light and shadow. Caught in stacked and sharpened video frames recorded on April 14 at 3:30am UTC, the lunar terminator, or boundary between night and day, cuts across the middle of the 93 kilometer diameter crater. Sunlight is just beginning to strike its tall western walls but doesn’t yet shine on lower terrain nearby, briefly extending the crater’s outline into the lunar nightside. At that moment standing at Copernicus crater you could watch the sunrise, an event that happens at Copernicus every 29.5 days. Of course that corresponds to a lunar month or a lunation, the time between consecutive Full Moons, as seen from planet Earth.

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