Full Moonlight

A photographer in silhouette stands in bright moonlight as the Full Moon rises in this well-planned telephoto image. Of course, the Full Moon is normally the brightest lunar phase. But on November 18/19, the Full Moon’s light will be dimmed during a deep partial lunar eclipse seen across much of planet Earth. At maximum eclipse only a few percent of the lunar disk’s diameter should remain outside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow when the Moon slides close to the shadow’s southern edge. Near apogee, the farthest point in its orbit, the Moon’s motion will be slow. That should make this second lunar eclipse of 2021 an exceptionally long partial lunar eclipse. For most of North America the eclipse partial phases will be visible in predawn hours. Since eclipses tend to come in pairs, this lunar eclipse will be followed by a solar eclipse in two weeks on December 4. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3CyHTrq
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NGC 3314: When Galaxies Overlap

Why doesn’t the nearby galaxy create a gravitational lensing effect on the background galaxy? It does, but since both galaxies are so nearby, the angular shift is much smaller than the angular sizes of the galaxies themselves. The featured Hubble image of NGC 3314 shows two large spiral galaxies which happen to line up exactly. The foreground spiral NGC 3314a appears nearly face-on with its pinwheel shape defined by young bright star clusters. Against the glow of the background galaxy NGC 3314b, though, dark swirling lanes of interstellar dust can also be seen tracing the nearer spiral’s structure. Both galaxies appear on the edge of the Hydra Cluster of Galaxies, a cluster that is about 200 million light years away. Gravitational lens distortions are much easier to see when the lensing galaxy is smaller and further away. Then, the background galaxy may even be distorted into a ring around the nearer. Fast gravitational lens flashes due to stars in the foreground galaxy momentarily magnifying the light from stars in the background galaxy might one day be visible in future observing campaigns with high-resolution telescopes. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3oDTssa

Geminids from Gemini

Where are all of these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Gemini. That is why the major meteor shower in December is known as the Geminids — because shower meteors all appear to come from a radiant toward Gemini. Three dimensionally, however, sand-sized debris expelled from the unusual asteroid 3200 Phaethon follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the constellation of Gemini. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Gemini. Featured here, a composite of many images taken during the 2020 Geminids meteor shower shows over 200 bright meteorss that streaked through the sky during the night December 14. The best meteor shower in November, the Leonids, peaks tonight and tomorrow. Unfortunately, this year, dim meteors during the early-morning peak will be hard to see against a sky lit by a bright gibbous moon. Still, a few bright Leonid meteors should be visible each hour. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3nlNTz2

Light Pillar over Volcanic Etna

What happening above that volcano? Something very unusual — a volcanic light pillar. More typically, light pillars are caused by sunlight and so appear as a bright column that extends upward above a rising or setting Sun. Alternatively, other light pillars — some quite colorful — have been recorded above street and house lights. This light pillar, though, was illuminated by the red light emitted by the glowing magma of an erupting volcano. The volcano is Italy’s Mount Etna, and the featured image was captured with a single shot a few hours after sunset in mid-June. Freezing temperatures above the volcano’s ash cloud created ice-crystals either in cirrus clouds high above the volcano — or in condensed water vapor expelled by Mount Etna. These ice crystals — mostly flat toward the ground but fluttering — then reflected away light from the volcano’s caldera. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3CkbBA2

How to Identify that Light in the Sky

What is that light in the sky? Perhaps one of humanity’s more common questions, an answer may result 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 din 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. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3nc3i52

Rosetta s Comet in Gemini

Returning along its 6.4 year orbit, periodic comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) is caught in this telescopic frame from November 7. Sweeping past background stars in the constellation Gemini the comet’s dusty tail stretches toward the upper right to Upsilon Geminorum. Also known as Pollux, Beta Geminorum, Gemini’s brightest star, shines just off the upper left edge of the field-of-view. Churyumov-Gerasimenko reached its 2021 perihelion or closest approach to the Sun on November 2. At perigee, its closest approach to planet Earth on November 12, this comet was about 0.42 astronomical units away, though it remains too faint to be seen by eye alone. The well-studied comet was explored by robots from planet Earth during its last trip through the inner solar system. It’s now famous as the final resting place for the historic Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3Faz9ZX

M33: The Triangulum Galaxy

The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other’s grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp image shows off M33’s blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions along the galaxy’s loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 4 o’clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33’s population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3cb3riJ

NGC 1333: Stellar Nursery in Perseus

NGC 1333 is seen in visible light as a reflection nebula, dominated by bluish hues characteristic of starlight reflected by interstellar dust. A mere 1,000 light-years distant toward the heroic constellation Perseus, it lies at the edge of a large, star-forming molecular cloud. This telescopic close-up spans about two full moons on the sky or just over 15 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 1333. It shows details of the dusty region along with telltale hints of contrasty red emission from Herbig-Haro objects, jets and shocked glowing gas emanating from recently formed stars. In fact, NGC 1333 contains hundreds of stars less than a million years old, most still hidden from optical telescopes by the pervasive stardust. The chaotic environment may be similar to one in which our own Sun formed over 4.5 billion years ago. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3C7Jvbf

Video of a Green Flash

Many think it is just a myth. Others think it is true but its cause isn’t known. Adventurers pride themselves on having seen it. It’s a green flash from the Sun. The truth is the green flash does exist and its cause is well understood. Just as the setting Sun disappears completely from view, a last glimmer appears startlingly green. The effect is typically visible only from locations with a low, distant horizon, and lasts just a few seconds. A green flash is also visible for a rising Sun, but takes better timing to spot. A dramatic green flash was caught on video last month as the Sun set beyond the Ligurian Sea from Tuscany, Italy. The second sequence in the featured video shows the green flash in real time, while the first is sped up and the last is in slow motion. The Sun itself does not turn partly green — the effect is caused by layers of the Earth’s atmosphere acting like a prism. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3H5iA3B

All of These Space Images are Fake Except One

Why would you want to fake a universe? For one reason — to better understand our real universe. Many astronomical projects seeking to learn properties of our universe now start with a robotic telescope taking sequential images of the night sky. Next, sophisticated computer algorithms crunch these digital images to find stars and galaxies and measure their properties. To calibrate these algorithms, it is useful to test them on fake images from a fake universe to see if the algorithms can correctly deduce purposely imprinted properties. The featured mosaic of fake images was created to specifically mimic the images that have appeared on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). Only one image of the 225 images is real — can you find it? The accomplished deceptors have made available individual fake APOD images that can be displayed by accessing their ThisIsNotAnAPOD webpage or Twitter feed. More useful for calibrating and understanding our distant universe, however, are fake galaxies — a sampling of which can be seen at their ThisIsNotAGalaxy webpage. [via NASA] https://ift.tt/3BXJs1E