The NGC 6914 Complex

A study in contrasts, this colorful skyscape features stars, dust, and glowing gas in the vicinity of NGC 6914. The interstellar complex of nebulae lies some 6,000 light-years away, toward the high-flying northern constellation Cygnus and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Obscuring interstellar dust clouds appear in silhouette while reddish hydrogen emission nebulae, along with the dusty blue reflection nebulae, fill the cosmic canvas. Ultraviolet radiation from the massive, hot, young stars of the extensive Cygnus OB2 association ionize the region’s atomic hydrogen gas, producing the characteristic red glow as protons and electrons recombine. Embedded Cygnus OB2 stars also provide the blue starlight strongly reflected by the dust clouds. The over 1 degree wide telescopic field of view spans about 100 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 6914. [via NASA]

Milky Way Motion in 3D from Gaia

Our sky is alive with the streams of stars. The motions of 26 million Milky Way stars are evident in the featured map constructed from recent data taken by ESA’s Gaia satellite. Stars colored blue are moving toward us, while red indicates away. Lines depict the motion of the stars across the sky. The large blue on the left and red areas on the map’s right give the overall impression that stars in the Milky Way are rotating around the center. However, there is a region near the middle — caused by our own Sun’s motion relative to a rigidly-rotating central Galactic bar — that seems to reverse it. Understanding details about the motion of stars is helping humanity to better understand the complex history of our Milky Way galaxy and the origin of our Sun. [via NASA]

A Molten Galaxy Einstein Ring Galaxy

It is difficult to hide a galaxy behind a cluster of galaxies. The closer cluster’s gravity will act like a huge lens, pulling images of the distant galaxy around the sides and greatly distorting them. This is just the case observed in the featured image recently re-processed image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The cluster GAL-CLUS-022058c is composed of many galaxies and is lensing the image of a yellow-red background galaxy into arcs seen around the image center. Dubbed a molten Einstein ring for its unusual shape, four images of the same background galaxy have been identified. Typically, a foreground galaxy cluster can only create such smooth arcs if most of its mass is smoothly distributed — and therefore not concentrated in the cluster galaxies visible. Analyzing the positions of these gravitational arcs gives astronomers a method to estimate the dark matter distribution in galaxy clusters, as well as infer when the stars in these early galaxies began to form. [via NASA]

Strawberry Supermoon Over Devils Saddle

Near the horizon the full moon often seems to loom large, swollen in appearance by the famous Moon illusion. But time-lapse image sequences demonstrate that the Moon’s angular size doesn’t really change as it rises or sets. Its color does, though. Recording a frame about every 60 seconds, this image also shows how red the Sun can look while low on the horizon. The featured montage was taken from Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, the day after June’s Strawberry Moon, a full moon dubbed a supermoon due to its slightly larger-than-usual angular size. This Strawberry Supermoon is seen rising behind the Devil’s Saddle, a mountain named for the unusual moon-sized dip seen just to the right of the rising moon. A shrinking line-of-sight through planet Earth’s dense and dusty atmosphere shifted the moonlight from strawberry red through honey-colored and paler yellowish hues. That change seems appropriate for a northern June Full Moon also known as the Strawberry or Honey Moon. A Thunder Supermoon — the third of four supermoons in 2022 — will occur later this month. [via NASA]

Phobos: Doomed Moon of Mars

This moon is doomed. Mars, the red planet named for the Roman god of war, has two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos, whose names are derived from the Greek for Fear and Panic. These martian moons may well be captured asteroids originating in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or perhaps from even more distant reaches of our Solar System. The larger moon, Phobos, is indeed seen to be a cratered, asteroid-like object in this stunning color image from the robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, with objects as small as 10 meters visible. But Phobos orbits so close to Mars – about 5,800 kilometers above the surface compared to 400,000 kilometers for our Moon – that gravitational tidal forces are dragging it down. In perhaps 50 million years, Phobos is expected to disintegrate into a ring of debris. [via NASA]

Solargraphic Analemmas

For the northern hemisphere June 21 was the summer solstice, the Sun reaching its northernmost declination for the year. That would put it at the top of each of these three figure-8 curves, or analemmas, as it passed through the daytime sky over the village of Proboszczow, Poland. No sequence of digital exposures was used to construct the remarkable image though. Using a pinhole camera fixed to face south during the period June 26, 2021 to June 26, 2022, the image was formed directly on a single sheet of photographic paper, a technique known as solargraphy. The three analemmas are the result of briefly exposing the photo paper through the pinhole each day at 11:00, 12:00, and 13:00 CET. Groups of dashed lines on the sides show partial tracks of the Sun from daily exposures made every 15 minutes. Over the year-long solargraphic photo opportunity clouds blocking the Sun during the pinhole exposures created the dark gaps. [via NASA]

The Solar System s Planet Trails

Stars trail through a clear morning sky in this postcard from a rotating planet. The timelapse image is constructed from consecutive exposures made over nearly three hours with a camera fixed to a tripod beside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China on June 24. Arcing above the eastern horizon after the series of exposures began, a waning crescent Moon left the brightest streak and watery reflection. On that date the planets of the Solar System were also lined up along the ecliptic and left their own trails before sunrise. Saturn was first to rise on that morning and the ringed planet’s trail starts close to the top right edge, almost out of the frame. Innermost planet Mercury rose only just before the Sun though. It left the shortest trail, visible against the twilight near the horizon at the far left. Uranus and Neptune are faint and hard to find, but mingled with the star trails the Solar System’s planet trails are all labeled in the scene. [via NASA]

Comet C 2017 K2 (PanSTARRS)

Imaged on June 20 2022, comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) shares this wide telescopic field of view with open star cluster IC 4665 and bright star Beta Ophiuchi, near a starry edge of the Milky Way. On its maiden voyage to the inner Solar System from the dim and distant Oort cloud, this comet PanSTARRS was initially spotted over five years ago, in May 2017. Then it was the most distant active inbound comet ever found, discovered when it was some 2.4 billion kilometers from the Sun. That put it between the orbital distances of Uranus and Saturn. Hubble Space Telescope observations indicated the comet had a large nucleus less than 18 kilometers in diameter. Now visible in small telescopes C/2017 K2 will make its closest approach to planet Earth on July 14 and closest approach to the Sun this December. Its extended coma and developing tail are seen here at a distance of some 290 million kilometers, a mere 16 light-minutes away. [via NASA]

Solar System Family Portrait

Yes, but have you ever seen all of the planets at once? A rare roll-call of planets has been occurring in the morning sky for much of June. The featured fisheye all-sky image, taken a few mornings ago near the town of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, caught not only the entire planet parade, but the Moon between Mars and Venus. In order, left to right along the ecliptic plane, members of this Solar System family portrait are Earth, Saturn, Neptune, Jupiter, Mars, Uranus, Venus, Mercury, and Earth. To emphasize their locations, Neptune and Uranus have been artificially enhanced. The volcano just below Mercury is Licancabur. In July, Mercury will move into the Sun’s glare but reappear a few days later on the evening side. Then, in August, Saturn will drift past the direction opposite the Sun and so become visible at dusk instead of dawn. The next time that all eight planets will be simultaneously visible in a morning sky will be in 2122. [via NASA]

Mercury from Passing BepiColombo

Which part of the Moon is this? No part — because this is the planet Mercury. Mercury’s old surface is heavily cratered like that of Earth’s Moon. Mercury, while only slightly larger than Luna, is much denser and more massive than any Solar System moon because it is made mostly of iron. In fact, our Earth is the only planet more dense. Because Mercury rotates exactly three times for every two orbits around the Sun, and because Mercury’s orbit is so elliptical, visitors on Mercury could see the Sun rise, stop in the sky, go back toward the rising horizon, stop again, and then set quickly over the other horizon. From Earth, Mercury’s proximity to the Sun causes it to be visible only for a short time just after sunset or just before sunrise. The featured image was captured last week by ESA and JAXA’s passing BepiColombo spacecraft as it sheds energy and prepares to orbit the innermost planet starting in 2025. [via NASA]