Posts Tagged ‘astronomy’

UV Earth

January 5, 2014 2 comments



Here’s an eye-catcher to start the year with: the Earth, taken in ultraviolet light from the surface of the Moon. Open your eyes, folks…   RT


Photo: Earth in Ultraviolet Light from the Moon’s Surface. NASA. Public Domain.


Martian Dunes–Fantasy Follows Nature

September 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Several types of downhill flow features have been observed on Mars. This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is an example of a type called 'linear gullies.'

Raw experience forms the playing blocks of our dreams. RT wouldn’t say that our exploration of space is changing the nature of beauty, but it might be broadening our conception of what’s possible…   RT


Photo: Linear Gullies; NASA, HiRISE Camera, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, June 13, 2013. NASA web site; Public Domain.



Voyager 1 Enters Interstellar Space!

September 14, 2013 5 comments



NASA has confirmed it: launched in 1977, Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in August 2012. Another giant leap for mankind…  RT


Photo: Voyager 1; NASA. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Cygnus Loop Supernova

August 31, 2013 7 comments

File:Cygnus Loop Supernova Blast Wave - GPN-2000-000992.jpg


Whoa, what happened here? Five to ten thousand years ago, a massive star exploded, sending out shock-waves in all directions, creating the Cygnus Loop. The blast shell is currently expanding at 370,000 mph and emits energy across the electromagnetic spectrum: radio, visible, x-ray, and ultra-violet. Some of the ejecta material, however, is travelling faster: the violet streak of light near the top of the image marks the path of a knot of gases moving at nearly 3 million mph. This image is a combination of three photographs: one capturing green light (hydrogen atoms), one, blue light (oxygen atoms); and the last, red light (sulfur atoms). 

The visible part of the Swan Loop is called the Veil Nebula, and was discovered by William Herschel in 1784.


RT’s Related Posts: 1) Guest Star.


Photo: Cygnus Loop Supernova Blast Wave (1993); Hubble Space Telescope. Author: NASA, J.J. Hester Arizona State University. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Transit of Venus

August 15, 2013 2 comments


This high-definition photo of Venus transiting the Sun (taken in 2012) speaks directly to our awe at the powers of nature and the universe. The next transit will occur in 2117; who knows where space exploration will be by that point?   RT

Photo: SDO’s Ultra-High Definition View of Venus 2012 Transit (NASA/SDO, AIA). WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.


Lunar Spiral Cycle

File:Zeusandhera - Lunar Spiral Cycle (by-sa).jpg


Wow!     RT

Photo: Zeusandhera–Lunar Spiral Cycle (20 February 2008, 23:27). Author: Alex Gorzen. WikiCmns; CC 2.0 Generic.


Enceladus & Saturn’s Ring Shadows

June 15, 2013 1 comment

File:Enceladus backdropped by ring shadows on Saturn.jpg

as the summer comes in, something beautiful from a cool location… RT

PhotoRing shadows line the face of distant Saturn, providing a backdrop for the brilliant, white sphere of Enceladus. Captured by Cassini space probe, 28 June 2007. NASA; Public Domain.


Cygnus X–Star Complex

File:Cygnus X.jpg


and you thought this was going to be easyCygnus X is mind-boggling in a bunch of ways. First, as always, is the astounding image returned by a space telescope, in this case the Spitzer Space Telescope, an infrared earth-orbiting observatory. Then there is the issue of what we are actually looking at: Cygnux X, as it turns out, is a star-factory or star-nursery, that is, a region of space that produces new stars out of clouds of interstellar gas and dust. Impressive, to be sure, but here is something even more impressive: Cygnus X contains NML Cygni, the largest star known. NML Cygni is 1,650 times as large as our sun; its radius is 7.67 astronomical units across. That’s right; if NML-C was our star, we would lie well within its surface. Cygnus X contains other massive protostars and lies 4,600 light years from earth.   RT


Related RT Posts: 1) Music of the Spheres; 2) Mystery and Perfection: The Sombrero Galaxy.


Photo: Cygnus X (May 17, 2011); taken by the Spitzer Telescope. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Cat’s Eye Nebula



Here’s another eyeful, the Cat’s Eye Nebula, photographed from the Nordic Optical Telescope (which is, please note, located in the Canary Islands).

The CEN (NGC 6543) is a planetary nebula, which means it is a ring of gases that is being ionized by a nearby star, in this case the remnants of a red giant (or possibly a binary star system) that died in an extremely complex process. What is certain is that the CEN has the most intricate halo of gases ever observed in a planetary nebula.

Here is RT’s effort at reconstructing the star’s death: the original star expanded into a red giant, sending out long trails of its outer material into space, where they encountered interstellar gas and dust that broke the trails up into spectacular streamers and knots of gas. Then the star began a series of explosions, ejecting more material to form a set of shells surrounding the star. These events took place 1,500-1,000 years ago; the CEN is located 3,000 light-years from earth.

What a masterpiece of stellar art!   RT


Photograph: The Cat’s Eye Nebula (photographed 9 September 2004); author: Nordic Optical Telescope and Romano Corradi (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Spain). WikiCmns; Public Domain.


New Horizons–Pluto & Beyond

March 14, 2013 1 comment

File:Atlas V 551 roars into blue sky.jpg

The math behind the New Horizons space mission is boggling: launched in early 2006, the spacecraft is in transit to the dwarf planet Pluto and its five known natural satellites, two of which were discovered after the mission launch. Pluto orbits more than 48 times as far from the Sun as does the Earth, and when New Horizons sweeps by its destination in 2015, it will have been en route for more than nine years. That’s right, folks: Pluto lies more than 5.7 billion km (3.54 billion mi) from Earth.

And though the distant Plutonian system is NH’s goal, it has already had quite a cruise getting to where it is (at present, about five astronomical units from its destination). The spacecraft has flown by the small asteroid 132524 APL, measuring its chemical composition (the asteroid turns out to be S-type), and Jupiter and its moons (September 2006), sending back some spectacular photos from the encounter.

File:NH Jupiter IR.jpg

But this is the boggling part: after photographing Jupiter and its court, New Horizons began its years-long, deep-space cruise. And after the Pluto flyby, there may be more: NH might be able to study some Kuiper Belt objects. The incentive is great: not many spacecraft have gotten this far carrying a science payload this sophisticated.

And here’s the kicker: New Horizons is the first of NASA’s New Frontier missions, which will also study Jupiter and Venus.



Photo: TopLaunch of the New Horizons space probe, January 19, 2006. WikiCmns; NASA, Public Domain. BottomJupiter detail via LEISA infrared camera, re-mapped to visible colors and contrast-enhanced. Taken by New Horizons probe. WikiCmns; NASA/JPL; Public Domain.