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  • Apollo 11 Launches Humans to the Moon

    verybody saw the Moon. Nobody had ever been there. Humans across planet Earth watched in awe 50 years ago today as a powerful Saturn V rocket attempted to launch humans — to the Moon. Some in space flight guessed that the machinery was so complex, that so many things had to go right for it to work, that Apollo 11 would end up being another useful dress rehearsal for a later successful Moon-landing mission. But to the Moon they went. The featured video starts by showing astronauts Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins making their way to the waiting rocket. As the large and mighty Saturn V launched, crowds watched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA and on television around the world. The events that unfolded over the next few days, including a dramatic moon walk 50 years ago this Saturday, will forever be remembered as a milestone in human history and an unrivaled demonstration of human ingenuity. This week, many places around the world are planning celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the first humans landing on the Moon. NASA Remembers: Apollo 50th: Next Giant Le

  • The Space Station Crosses a Spotless Sun

    That’s no sunspot. It’s the International Space Station (ISS) caught passing in front of the Sun. Sunspots, individually, have a dark central umbra, a lighter surrounding penumbra, and no solar panels. By contrast, the ISS is a complex and multi-spired mechanism, one of the largest and most sophisticated machines ever created by humanity. Also, sunspots occur on the Sun, whereas the ISS orbits the Earth. Transiting the Sun is not very unusual for the ISS, which orbits the Earth about every 90 minutes, but getting one’s timing and equipment just right for a great image is rare. Strangely, besides that fake spot, in this recent two-image composite, the Sun lacked any real sunspots. The featured picture combines two images — one capturing the space station transiting the Sun — and another taken consecutively capturing details of the Sun’s surface. Sunspots have been rare on the Sun since the dawn of the current Solar Minimum, a period of low solar activity. For reasons not yet fully understood, the number of sunspots occurring during both the previous and current solar minima have been unusually low.

  • Eagle Aurora over Norway

    What’s that in the sky? An aurora. A large coronal mass ejection occurred on our Sun five days before this 2012 image was taken, throwing a cloud of fast moving electrons, protons, and ions toward the Earth. Although most of this cloud passed above the Earth, some of it impacted our Earth’s magnetosphere and resulted in spectacular auroras being seen at high northern latitudes. Featured here is a particularly photogenic auroral corona captured above Grotfjord, Norway. To some, this shimmering green glow of recombining atmospheric oxygen might appear as a large eagle, but feel free to share what it looks like to you. Although the Sun is near Solar Minimum, streams of the solar wind continue to impact the Earth and create impressive auroras visible even last week.

  • The Eagle Rises

    Get out your red/blue glasses and check out this stereo view from lunar orbit. The 3D anaglyph was created from two photographs (AS11-44-6633, AS11-44-6634) taken by astronaut Michael Collins during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. It features the lunar module ascent stage, dubbed The Eagle, rising to meet the command module in lunar orbit on July 21. Aboard the ascent stage are Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first to walk on the Moon. The smooth, dark area on the lunar surface is Mare Smythii located just below the equator on the extreme eastern edge of the Moon’s near side. Poised beyond the lunar horizon is our fair planet Earth.

  • Magellanic Galaxy NGC 55

    Irregular galaxy NGC 55 is thought to be similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). But while the LMC is about 180,000 light-years away and a well-known satellite of our own Milky Way Galaxy, NGC 55 is more like 6 million light-years distant, a member of the Sculptor Galaxy Group. Classified as an irregular galaxy, in deep exposures the LMC itself resembles a barred disk galaxy. Spanning about 50,000 light-years, NGC 55 is seen nearly edge-on though, presenting a flattened, narrow profile in contrast with our face-on view of the LMC. Just as large star forming regions create emission nebulae in the LMC, NGC 55 is also seen to be producing new stars. This highly detailed galaxy portrait highlights a bright core crossed with dust clouds, telltale pinkish star forming regions, and young blue star clusters in NGC 55.

  • The Ghost of Jupiter’s Halo

    Close-up images of NGC 3242 show the cast off shroud of a dying, sun-like star fancifully known as The Ghost of Jupiter nebula. But this deep and wide telescopic view also finds the seldom seen outer halo of the beautiful planetary nebula at the upper left, toward Milky Way stars and background galaxies in the serpentine constellation Hydra. Intense and otherwise invisible ultraviolet radiation from the nebula’s central white dwarf star powers its illusive glow in visible light. In fact, planets of NGC 3242’s evolved white dwarf star may have contributed to the nebula’s symmetric features and shape. Activity beginning in the star’s red giant phase, long before it produced a planetary nebula, is likely the cause of the fainter more extensive halo. About a light-year across NGC 3242 is some 4,500 light-years away. The tenuous clouds of glowing material at the right could well be interstellar gas, by chance close enough to the NGC 3242’s white dwarf to be energized by its ultraviolet radiation.

  • 4000 Exoplanets

    Over 4000 planets are now known to exist outside our Solar System. Known as exoplanets, this milestone was passed last month, as recorded by NASA’s Exoplanet Archive. The featured video highlights these exoplanets in sound and light, starting chronologically from the first confirmed detection in 1992. The entire night sky is first shown compressed with the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy making a giant U. Exoplanets detected by slight jiggles in their parents-star’s colors (radial velocity) appear in pink, while those detected by slight dips in their parent star’s brightness (transit) are shown in purple. Further, those exoplanets imaged directly appear in orange, while those detected by gravitationally magnifying the light of a background star (microlensing) are shown in green. The faster a planet orbits its parent star, the higher the accompanying tone played. The retired Kepler satellite has discovered about half of these first 4000 exoplanets in just one region of the sky, while the new TESS mission is on track to find even more, all over the sky, orbiting the brightest nearby stars. Finding exoplanets not only helps humanity to better understand the potential prevalence of life elsewhere in the universe, but also how our Earth and Solar System were formed. Follow APOD on Instagram in: English, Indonesian, or Persian

  • Birds During a Total Solar Eclipse

    What do birds do during a total solar eclipse? Darkness descends more quickly in a total eclipse than during sunset, but returns just as quickly — and perhaps unexpectedly to the avians — just a few minutes later. Stories about the unusual behavior of birds during eclipses have been told for centuries, but bird reactions were recorded and studied systematically by citizen scientists participating in an eBird project during the total solar eclipse that crossed the USA in 2017 August. Although some unusual behaviors were observed, many observers noted birds acting like it was dusk and either landing or flying low to the ground. Radar confirmed a significant decrease in high-flying birds and insects during and just after totality. Conversely, several sightings of normally nocturnal birds were reported. Pictured, a flock of birds in La Serena, Chile flew through the air together during the total solar eclipse that crossed South America last week. The photographer captured the scene in frames from an eclipse video. The next total solar eclipse in 2020 December will also cross South America, while in 2024 April a total solar eclipse will cross North America from Mexico through New England, USA. Gallery 2019: Notable total eclipse images submitted to APOD

  • The Galactic Center in Radio from MeerKAT

    What’s happening at the center of our galaxy? It’s hard to tell with optical telescopes since visible light is blocked by intervening interstellar dust. In other bands of light, though, such as radio, the galactic center can be imaged and shows itself to be quite an interesting and active place. The featured picture shows the inaugural image of the MeerKAT array of 64 radio dishes just completed in South Africa. Spanning four times the angular size of the Moon (2 degrees), the image is impressively vast, deep, and detailed. Many known sources are shown in clear detail, including many with a prefix of Sgr, since the Galactic Center is in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. In our Galaxy’s Center lies Sgr A, found here just to the right of the image center, which houses the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole. Other sources in the image are not as well understood, including the Arc, just to the left of Sgr A, and numerous filamentary threads. Goals for MeerKAT include searching for radio emission from neutral hydrogen emitted in a much younger universe and brief but distant radio flashes.

  • Crescent Saturn

    Saturn never shows a crescent phase — from Earth. But when viewed from beyond, the majestic giant planet can show an unfamiliar diminutive sliver. This image of crescent Saturn in natural color was taken by the robotic Cassini spacecraft in 2007. The featured image captures Saturn’s majestic rings from the side of the ring plane opposite the Sun — the unilluminated side — another vista not visible from Earth. Pictured are many of Saturn’s photogenic wonders, including the subtle colors of cloud bands, the complex shadows of the rings on the planet, and the shadow of the planet on the rings. A careful eye will find the moons Mimas (2 o’clock) and Janus (4 o’clock), but the real challenge is to find Pandora (8 o’clock). Saturn is now nearly opposite from the Sun in the Earth’s sky and so can be seen in the evening starting just after sunset for the rest of the night.

  • 8 Minute and 30 Second Eclipse

    The total phase of the July 2nd solar eclipse lasted about 4 minutes and 30 seconds at the point of maximum eclipse. On the surface of planet Earth, that was about 600 nautical miles north of Easter Island in the Southern Pacific Ocean. But from 37,000 feet above, on a charter flight intercepting the Moon’s shadow, the Moon could be seen to completely block the Sun for about 8 minutes and 30 seconds. With a tailwind at the mid-eclipse intercept point, the plane was traveling around 488 nautical miles per hour chasing along the Moon’s shadow track. From above the clouds this wide-field image of the totally eclipsed Sun and shimmering solar corona over the wing records the spectacular view from a window seat on the sunward side of the aircraft.

  • La Silla Eclipse Sequence

    The road to the high mountaintop La Silla Observatory in the Chilean Atacama Desert also led in to the path of July 2nd’s total solar eclipse. Recorded at regular intervals before and after the total eclipse phase, the frames in this composite sequence include the moment the Moon’s dark shadow fell across some of planet Earth’s advanced large telescopes. The dreamlike view looks west toward the setting Sun and the approaching Moon shadow. In fact La Silla was a little north of the shadow track’s center line, so the region’s stunning, clear skies are slightly brighter to the north (right) in the scene.

  • In the Shadow of the Moon

    On July 2 denizens of planet Earth could stand in the Moon’s dark umbral shadow during South America’s 2019 total solar eclipse. It first touched down in the Southern Pacific Ocean, east of New Zealand. Racing toward the east along a narrow track, the shadow of the Moon made landfall along the Chilean coast with the Sun low on the western horizon. Captured in the foreground here are long shadows still cast by direct sunlight though, in the final moments before totality began. While diffraction spikes are from the camera lens aperture, the almost totally eclipsed Sun briefly shone like a beautiful diamond ring in the clear, darkened sky.

  • Robotic Dragonfly Selected to Fly Across Titan

    If you could fly across Titan, what would you see? To find out and to better explore this exotic moon of Saturn, NASA recently green-lighted Dragonfly, a mission to Titan with plans to deploy a helicopter-like drone. Saturn’s moon Titan is one of the largest moons in the Solar System and the only moon known to have a thick atmosphere and changing hydrocarbon lakes. After development, building, testing, and launch, Dragonfly is currently scheduled to reach Titan in 2034. The featured animated video envisions Dragonfly arriving at Titan, beginning its airborne exploration, landing to establishing a radio link back to Earth, and then continuing on to another trans-Titanian flight. It is hoped that Dragonfly will not only help humanity better understanding Titan’s weather, chemistry, and changing landscape, but also bolster humanity’s understanding of how life first developed on our young Earth. Astrophysicists: Browse 1,900+ codes in the Astrophysics Source Code Library

  • NGC 1566: The Spanish Dancer Spiral Galaxy

    If not perfect, then this spiral galaxy is at least one of the most photogenic. An island universe containing billions of stars and situated about 40 million light-years away toward the constellation of the Dolphinfish (Dorado), NGC 1566 presents a gorgeous face-on view. Classified as a grand design spiral, NGC 1566’s shows two prominent and graceful spiral arms that are traced by bright blue star clusters and dark cosmic dust lanes. Numerous Hubble Space Telescope images of NGC 1566 have been taken to study star formation, supernovas, and the spiral’s unusually active center. Some of these images, stored online in the Hubble Legacy Archive, were freely downloaded, combined, and digitally processed by an industrious amateur to create the featured image. NGC 1566’s flaring center makes the spiral one of the closest and brightest Seyfert galaxies, likely housing a central supermassive black hole wreaking havoc on surrounding stars and gas. Today: Total solar eclipse visible in parts of South America

  • 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 central image digitally combined short and long exposures that were processed to highlight faint and extended features in the corona 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. Images taken seconds before and after the total eclipse show glimpses of the background Sun known as Baily’s Beads and Diamond Ring. Tomorrow, a new total solar eclipse will be visible from parts of South America.

  • Virtual Flight over Asteroid Vesta

    What would it be like to fly over the asteroid Vesta? Animators from the German Aerospace Center took actual images and height data from NASA’s Dawn mission when it visited asteroid Vesta a few years ago and generated a virtual movie. The featured video begins with a sequence above Divalia Fossa, an unusual pair of troughs running parallel over heavily cratered terrain. Next, the virtual spaceship explores Vesta’s 60-km Marcia Crater, showing numerous vivid details. Last, Dawn images were digitally recast with exaggerated height to better reveal Vesta’s 5-km high mountain Aricia Tholus. The second largest object in the Solar System’s asteroid belt, Vesta is the brightest asteroid visible from Earth and can be found with binoculars. Using Vesta Trek, you can explore all over Vesta yourself. Every June 30: Today is Asteroid Day

  • M83: The Thousand-Ruby Galaxx

    Big, bright, and beautiful, spiral galaxy M83 lies a mere twelve million light-years away, near the southeastern tip of the very long constellation Hydra. Prominent spiral arms traced by dark dust lanes and blue star clusters lend this galaxy its popular name, The Southern Pinwheel. But reddish star forming regions that dot the sweeping arms highlighted in this sparkling color composite also suggest another nickname, The Thousand-Ruby Galaxy. About 40,000 light-years across, M83 is a member of a group of galaxies that includes active galaxy Centaurus A. In fact, the core of M83 itself is bright at x-ray energies, showing a high concentration of neutron stars and black holes left from an intense burst of star formation. This sharp composite color image also features spiky foreground Milky Way stars and distant background galaxies. The image data was taken from the Subaru Telescope, the European Southern Observatory’s Wide Field Imager camera, and the Hubble Legacy Archive.

  • A Solstice Night in Paris

    The night of June 21 was the shortest night for planet Earth’s northern latitudes, so at latitude 48.9 degrees north, Paris was no exception. Still, the City of Light had an exceptionally luminous evening. Its skies were flooded with silvery night shining or noctilucent clouds after the solstice sunset. Hovering at the edge of space, the icy condensations on meteoric dust or volcanic ash are still in full sunlight at the extreme altitudes of the mesophere. Seen at high latitudes in summer months, stunning, wide spread displays of northern noctilucent clouds are now being reported.

  • The Longer Days

    This persistent six month long exposure compresses the time from solstice to solstice (December 21, 2018 to June 16, 2019) into a single point of view. Dubbed a solargraph, the unconventional picture was recorded with a tall, tube-shaped pinhole camera using a piece of photographic paper. Fixed to a single spot at Casarano, Italy for the entire exposure, the simple camera continuously records the Sun’s daily path as a glowing trail burned into the photosensitive paper. Breaks and gaps in the trails are caused by cloud cover. At the end of the exposure, the paper was scanned to create the digital image. Of course, starting in December the Sun trails peak lower in the sky, near the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice. The trails trails climb higher as the days grow longer and the June 21st summer solstice approaches.

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