Profile Photo

Astronomy Picture of the Dayoffline

  • The North America Nebula in Infrared

    The North America Nebula can do what most North Americans cannot — form stars. Precisely where in the nebula these stars are forming has been mostly obscured by some of the nebula’s thick dust that is opaque to visible light. However, a view of the North America Nebula in infrared light by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope has peered through much of the dust and uncovered thousands of newly formed stars. Rolling your cursor over the above scientifically-colored infrared image will bring up a corresponding optical image of the same region for comparison. The infrared image neatly captures young stars in many stages of formation, from being imbedded in dense knots of gas and dust, to being surrounded by disks and emitted jets, to being clear of their birth cocoons. The North America Nebula (NGC 7000) spans about 50 light years and lies about 1,500 light years away toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). Still, of all the stars known in the North America Nebula, which massive stars emit the energetic light that gives the ionized red glow is still debated.

  • Chandrayaan 2 Launch

    On July 22nd this GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) MkIII rocket vanished from sight into a cloud bank an instant after this dramatic snapshot was taken. Launched from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Centre it carried the Chandrayaan 2 mission spacecraft into Earth orbit. The spacecraft’s orbiter, lander, and rover are destined for the Moon, though. In the coming weeks it will perform a series of orbit raising maneuvers, eventually transferring to lunar orbit in early September. Carrying the solar-powered rover, the lander is scheduled to separate and attempt its autonomous soft landing at high latitudes near the lunar south pole. It should arrive on the lunar nearside near local sunrise and the start of a two Earth-week long lunar day on September 7.

  • The Veins of Heaven

    Transfusing sunlight through a still dark sky, this exceptional display of noctilucent clouds was captured earlier this month, reflected in the calm waters of Vallentuna Lake near Stockholm, Sweden. From the edge of space, about 80 kilometers above Earth’s surface, the icy clouds themselves still reflect sunlight even though the Sun is below the horizon as seen from the ground. Usually spotted at high latitudes in summer months the night shining clouds have made a strong showing so far during the short northern summer nights. Also known as polar mesopheric clouds they are understood to form as water vapor driven into the cold upper atmosphere condenses on the fine dust particles supplied by disintegrating meteors or volcanic ash. NASA’s AIM mission provides daily projections of noctilucent clouds as seen from space.

  • Cygnus Skyscape

    In brush strokes of interstellar dust and glowing hydrogen gas, this beautiful skyscape is painted across the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy near the northern end of the Great Rift and the constellation Cygnus the Swan. Composed with three different telescopes and about 90 hours of image data the widefield mosaic spans an impressive 24 degrees across the sky. Alpha star of Cygnus, bright, hot, supergiant Deneb lies near top center. Crowded with stars and luminous gas clouds Cygnus is also home to the dark, obscuring Northern Coal Sack Nebula, extending from Deneb toward the center of the view. The reddish glow of star forming regions NGC 7000, the North America Nebula and IC 5070, the Pelican Nebula, are just left of Deneb. The Veil Nebula is a standout below and left of center. A supernova remnant, the Veil is some 1,400 light years away, but many other nebulae and star clusters are identifiable throughout the cosmic scene. Of course, Deneb itself is also known to northern hemisphere skygazers for its place in two asterisms — marking the top of the Northern Cross and a vertex of the Summer Triangle.

  • Zodiacal Road

    What’s that strange light down the road? Dust orbiting the Sun. At certain times of the year, a band of sun-reflecting dust from the inner Solar System appears prominently just after sunset — or just before sunrise — and is called zodiacal light. Although the origin of this dust is still being researched, a leading hypothesis holds that zodiacal dust originates mostly from faint Jupiter-family comets and slowly spirals into the Sun. Recent analysis of dust emitted by Comet 67P, visited by ESA’s robotic Rosetta spacecraft, bolster this hypothesis. Pictured when climbing a road up to Teide National Park in the Canary Islands of Spain, a bright triangle of zodiacal light appeared in the distance soon after sunset. Captured on June 21, the scene includes bright Regulus, alpha star of Leo, standing above center toward the left. The Beehive Star Cluster (M44) can be spotted below center, closer to the horizon and also immersed in the zodiacal glow.

  • M82: Galaxy with a Supergalactic Wind

    Why is the Cigar Galaxy billowing red smoke? M82, as this starburst galaxy is also known, was stirred up by a recent pass near large spiral galaxy M81. This doesn’t fully explain the source of the red-glowing outwardly expanding gas and dust, however. Evidence indicates that this gas and dust is being driven out by the combined emerging particle winds of many stars, together creating a galactic superwind. The dust particles are thought to originate in M82’s interstellar medium and are actually similar in size to particles in cigar smoke. The featured photographic mosaic highlights a specific color of red light strongly emitted by ionized hydrogen gas, showing detailed filaments of this gas and dust. The filaments extend for over 10,000 light years. The 12-million light-year distant Cigar Galaxy is the brightest galaxy in the sky in infrared light, and can be seen in visible light with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). 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

  • HDR: Earth’s Circular Shadow on the Moon

    What could create such a large circular shadow on the Moon? The Earth. Last week’s full Moon — the Buck Moon — was so full that it fell almost exactly in a line with the Sun and the Earth. When that happens the Earth casts its shadow onto the Moon. The circularity of the Earth’s shadow on the Moon was commented on by Aristotle and so has been noticed since at least the 4th century BC. What’s new is humanity’s ability to record this shadow with such high dynamic range (HDR). The featured HDR composite of last week’s partial lunar eclipse combines 15 images and include an exposure as short as 1/400th of a second — so as not to overexpose the brightest part — and an exposure that lasted five seconds — to bring up the dimmest part. This dimmest part — inside Earth’s umbra — is not completely dark because some light is refracted through the Earth’s atmosphere onto the Moon. A total lunar eclipse will occur next in 2021 May. Partial Lunar Eclipse in 2019 July: Some memorable images submitted to APOD

  • Moonquakes Surprisingly Common

    Why are there so many moonquakes? Analyses of seismometers left on the moon by the Apollo moon landings reveals a surprising number of moonquakes occurring within 100 kilometers of the surface. In fact, 62 moonquakes were detected in data recorded between 1972 and 1977. Many of these moonquakes are not only strong enough to move furniture in a lunar apartment, but the stiff rock of the moon continues to vibrate for many minutes, significantly longer than the softer rock earthquakes on Earth. The cause of the moonquakes remains unknown, but a leading hypothesis is the collapse of underground faults. Regardless of the source, future moon dwellings need to be built to withstand the frequent shakings. Pictured here 50 years ago today, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands beside a recently deployed lunar seismometer, looking back toward the lunar landing module.

  • Apollo 11 Landing Panorama

    Have you seen a panorama from another world lately? Assembled from high-resolution scans of the original film frames, this one sweeps across the magnificent desolation of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. The images were taken by Neil Armstrong looking out his window of the Eagle Lunar Module fifty years ago, shortly after the July 20, 1969 landing. The frame at the far left (AS11-37-5449) is the first picture taken by a person on another world. Toward the south, thruster nozzles can be seen in the foreground on the left, while at the right, the shadow of the Eagle is visible to the west. For scale, the large, shallow crater on the right has a diameter of about 12 meters. Frames taken from the Lunar Module windows about an hour and a half after landing, before walking on the lunar surface, were intended to initially document the landing site in case an early departure was necessary.

  • Tranquility Base Panorama

    On July 20, 1969 the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle safely touched down on the Moon. It landed near the southwestern corner of the Moon’s Mare Tranquillitatis at a landing site dubbed Tranquility Base. This panoramic view of Tranquility Base was constructed from the historic photos taken from the lunar surface. On the far left astronaut Neil Armstrong casts a long shadow with Sun is at his back and the Eagle resting about 60 meters away ( AS11-40-5961). He stands near the rim of 30 meter-diameter Little West crater seen here to the right ( AS11-40-5954). Also visible in the foreground is the top of the camera intended for taking stereo close-ups of the lunar surface.

  • Shadowed Moon and Mountain

    On July 16 the Moon celebrated the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 with a lunar eclipse visible from much of planet Earth. In this view part of the lunar disk is immersed in Earth’s dark, reddened umbral shadow. Near the maximum eclipse phase, it just touches down along a mountain ridge. The rugged Tyrolean nightscape was recorded after moonrise south of Innsbruck, Austria with a dramatically lit communication tower along the ridgeline. Of course eclipses rarely travel alone. This partial lunar eclipse was at the Full Moon following July 2nd’s New Moon and total eclipse of the Sun.

  • Apollo 11: Descent to the Moon

    It had never been done before. But with the words “You’re Go for landing”, 50 years ago this Saturday, Apollo 11 astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong were cleared to make the first try. The next few minutes would contain more than a bit of drama, as an unexpected boulder field and an unacceptably sloping crater loomed below. With fuel dwindling, Armstrong coolly rocketed the lander above the lunar surface as he looked for a clear and flat place to land. With only seconds of fuel remaining, and with the help of Aldrin and mission control calling out data, Armstrong finally found a safe spot — and put the Eagle down. Many people on Earth listening to the live audio felt great relief on hearing “The Eagle has landed”, and great pride knowing that for the first time ever, human beings were on the Moon. Combined in the featured descent video are two audio feeds, a video feed similar to what the astronauts saw, captions of the dialog, and data including the tilt of the Eagle lander. The video concludes with the panorama of the lunar landscape visible outside the Eagle. A few hours later, hundreds of millions of people across planet Earth, drawn together as a single species, watched fellow humans walk on the Moon. NASA Remembers: Apollo 50th: Next Giant Le

  • 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

  • Load More Posts
user balance 0 / Points

user badges

Founding Member
Welcome Balloons!