Supernova Cannon Expels Pulsar J0002

What could shoot out a neutron star like a cannon ball? A supernova. About 10,000 years ago, the supernova that created the nebular remnant CTB 1 not only destroyed a massive star but blasted its newly formed neutron star core — a pulsar — out into the Milky Way Galaxy. The pulsar, spinning 8.7 times a second, was discovered using downloadable software Einstein@Home searching through data taken by NASA’s orbiting Fermi Gamma-Ray Observatory. Traveling over 1,000 kilometers per second, the pulsar PSR J0002+6216 (J0002 for short) has already left the supernova remnant CTB 1, and is even fast enough to leave our Galaxy. Pictured, the trail of the pulsar is visible extending to the lower left of the supernova remnant. The featured image is a combination of radio images from the VLA and DRAO radio observatories, as well as data archived from NASA’s orbiting IRAS infrared observatory. It is well known that supernovas can act as cannons, and even that pulsars can act as cannonballs — what is not known is how supernovas do it. [via NASA]

Perseid Meteors over Slovakia

Tonight is a good night to see meteors. Comet dust will rain down on planet Earth, streaking through dark skies during the peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. The featured composite image was taken during last year’s Perseids from the Poloniny Dark Sky Park in Slovakia. The unusual building in the foreground is a planetarium on the grounds of Kolonica Observatory. Although the comet dust particles travel parallel to each other, the resulting shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance, like train tracks. The Perseid Meteor Shower is expected to peak after midnight tonight, although unfortunately this year the sky will be brightened by a near full Moon. [via NASA]

Arp 87: Merging Galaxies from Hubble

This dance is to the death. Along the way, as these two large galaxies duel, a cosmic bridge of stars, gas, and dust currently stretches over 75,000 light-years and joins them. The bridge itself is strong evidence that these two immense star systems have passed close to each other and experienced violent tides induced by mutual gravity. As further evidence, the face-on spiral galaxy on the right, also known as NGC 3808A, exhibits many young blue star clusters produced in a burst of star formation. The twisted edge-on spiral on the left (NGC 3808B) seems to be wrapped in the material bridging the galaxies and surrounded by a curious polar ring. Together, the system is known as Arp 87 and morphologically classified, technically, as peculiar. While such interactions are drawn out over billions of years, repeated close passages should ultimately result in the death of one galaxy in the sense that only one galaxy will eventually result. Although this scenario does look peculiar, galactic mergers are thought to be common, with Arp 87 representing a stage in this inevitable process. The Arp 87 pair are about 300 million light-years distant toward the constellation Leo. The prominent edge-on spiral galaxy at the far left appears to be a more distant background galaxy and not involved in the on-going merger. [via NASA]

Atlas at Dawn

This single, 251-second long exposure follows the early flight of an Atlas V rocket on August 8, streaking eastward toward the dawn from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, planet Earth. The launch of the United Launch Alliance rocket was at 6:13am local time. Sunrise was not until 6:48am, but the rocket’s downrange plume at altitude is brightly lit by the Sun still just below the eastern horizon. Waters of the Indian River Lagoon in Palm Shores, Forida reflect subtle colors and warming glow of the otherwise calm, predawn sky. The mighty Atlas rocket carried a military communications satellite into Earth orbit. Of course, this weekend the streaks you see in clear skies before the dawn could be Perseid Meteors. [via NASA]

Curiosity at Teal Ridge

Part of a 360 degree panorama, this view looks out from the Mars rover Curiosity’s current location on the Red Planet dubbed Teal Ridge. The mosaicked scene was captured by the rover’s Mastcam on Earth calendar date June 18, 2019. That corresponds to Curiosity’s sol 2440, or 2,440th martian day on the surface. Since landing seven years ago on August 6, 2012 in Gale Crater, Curiosity has traveled some 21 kilometers (13 miles). On the right, the rover’s tracks lead back toward Vera Rubin Ridge with the Gale Crater rim visible in the distance. The robotic rover leaves wheel tracks about 3 meters (10 feet) apart. During its mission, Curiosity has had great successes exploring the history of water in the martian environment. In fact, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is largely based on the Mars Curiosity rover design. [via NASA]

Jupiter Engulfed and the Milky Way

This is a good month to see Jupiter. To find our Solar System’s largest planet in your sky, look toward the southeast just after sunset — Jupiter should be the brightest object in that part of the sky. If you have a binoculars or a small telescope, you should be able to see Jupiter’s four brightest moons right nearby, and possibly some cloud bands. The featured image was taken about a month ago from the Persian Gulf. The image shows Jupiter just to the right of the nearly vertical band of the central disk of our Milky Way Galaxy. The unnamed rock formations appear in projection like the jaws of a giant monster ready to engulf the Jovian giant. When you see Jupiter, it may be interesting to know that NASA’s robotic Juno spacecraft is simultaneously visiting and studying the giant planet. Saturn is also visible this month, and although it is nearby to Jupiter, it is not as bright. [via NASA]

The Local Void in the Nearby Universe

What does our region of the Universe look like? Since galaxies are so spread out over the sky, and since our Milky Way Galaxy blocks part of the distant sky, it has been hard to tell. A new map has been made, however, using large-scale galaxy motions to infer what massive objects must be gravitating in the nearby universe. The featured map, spanning over 600 million light years on a side, shows that our Milky Way Galaxy is on the edge of the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies, which is connected to the Great Attractor — an even larger grouping of galaxies. Also nearby are the massive Coma Cluster and the extensive Perseus-Pisces Supercluster. Conversely, we are also on the edge of huge region nearly empty of galaxies known as the Local Void. The repulsive push by the Local Void combined with the gravitational pull toward the elevated galaxy density on the other side of the sky explains part of the mysteriously high speed our Galaxy has relative to the cosmic microwave background — but not all. To explore the local universe yourself, as determined by Cosmicflows-3, you are invited to zoom in and spin around this interactive 3D visualization. [via NASA]

A Total Solar Eclipse Reflected

If you saw a total solar eclipse, would you do a double-take? One astrophotographer did just that — but it took a lake and a bit of planning. Realizing that the eclipse would be low on the horizon, he looked for a suitable place along the thin swath of South America that would see, for a few minutes, the Moon completely block the Sun, both directly and in reflection. The day before totality, he visited a lake called La Cuesta Del Viento (The Slope of the Wind) and, despite its name, found so little wind that the lake looked like a mirror. Perfect. Returning the day of the eclipse, though, there was a strong breeze churning up the water — enough to ruin the eclipse reflection shot. Despair. But wait! Strangely, about an hour before totality, the wind died down. This calmness may have been related to the eclipse itself, because eclipsed ground heats the air less and reduces the amount rising warm air — which can dampen and even change the wind direction. The eclipse came, his tripod and camera were ready, and so was the lake. The featured image of this double-eclipse came from a single exposure lasting just one fifteenth of a second. Soon after totality, the winds returned and the water again became choppy. No matter — this double-image of the 2019 July total solar eclipse had been captured forever. [via NASA]

Rumors of a Dark Universe

Twenty-one years ago results were first presented indicating that most of the energy in our universe is not in stars or galaxies but is tied to space itself. In the language of cosmologists, a large cosmological constant — dark energy — was directly implied by new distant supernova observations. Suggestions of a cosmological constant were not new — they have existed since the advent of modern relativistic cosmology. Such claims were not usually popular with astronomers, though, because dark energy was so unlike known universe components, because dark energy’s abundance appeared limited by other observations, and because less-strange cosmologies without a signficant amount of dark energy had previously done well in explaining the data. What was exceptional here was the seemingly direct and reliable method of the observations and the good reputations of the scientists conducting the investigations. Over the two decades, independent teams of astronomers have continued to accumulate data that appears to confirm the existence of dark energy and the unsettling result of a presently accelerating universe. In 2011, the team leaders were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work. The featured picture of a supernova that occurred in 1994 on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy was taken by one of these collaborations. [via NASA]

Mimas in Saturnlight

Peering from the shadows, the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Mimas lies in near darkness alongside a dramatic sunlit crescent. The mosaic was captured near the Cassini spacecraft’s final close approach on January 30, 2017. Cassini’s camera was pointed in a nearly sunward direction only 45,000 kilometers from Mimas. The result is one of the highest resolution views of the icy, crater-pocked, 400 kilometer diameter moon. An enhanced version better reveals the Saturn-facing hemisphere of the synchronously rotating moon lit by sunlight reflected from Saturn itself. To see it, slide your cursor over the image (or follow this link). Other Cassini images of Mimas include the small moon’s large and ominous Herschel Crater. [via NASA]