An Airglow Fan from Lake to Sky

Why would the sky look like a giant fan? Airglow. The featured intermittent green glow appeared to rise from a lake through the arch of our Milky Way Galaxy, as captured during 2015 next to Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA. The unusual pattern was created by atmospheric gravity waves, ripples of alternating air pressure that can grow with height as the air thins, in this case about 90 kilometers up. Unlike auroras powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction. More typically seen near the horizon, airglow keeps the night sky from ever being completely dark. [via NASA]

LDN 1622: Dark Nebula in Orion

The silhouette of an intriguing dark nebula inhabits this cosmic scene. Lynds’ Dark Nebula (LDN) 1622 appears against a faint background of glowing hydrogen gas only easily seen in long telescopic exposures of the region. LDN 1622 lies near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, close on the sky to Barnard’s Loop, a large cloud surrounding the rich complex of emission nebulae found in the Belt and Sword of Orion. But the obscuring dust of LDN 1622 is thought to be much closer than Orion’s more famous nebulae, perhaps only 500 light-years away. At that distance, this 1 degree wide field of view would span less than 10 light-years. Its foreboding appearance lends this dark expanse a popular name, the Boogeyman Nebula. [via NASA]

Twin Galaxies in Virgo

Spiral galaxy pair NGC 4567 and NGC 4568 share this sharp cosmic vista with lonely elliptical galaxy NGC 4564. All are members of the large Virgo Galaxy Cluster. With their classic spiral arms, dust lanes, and star clusters, the eye-catching spiral pair is also known as the Butterfly Galaxies or the Siamese Twins. Very close together, the galaxy twins don’t seem to be too distorted by gravitational tides. Their giant molecular clouds are known to be colliding though and are likely fueling the formation of massive star clusters. The galaxy twins are about 52 million light-years distant, while their bright cores appear separated by about 20,000 light-years. Of course, the spiky foreground stars lie within our own Milky Way. [via NASA]

Wide Field View of Great American Eclipse

Only in the fleeting darkness of a total solar eclipse is the light of the solar corona easily visible. Normally overwhelmed by the bright solar disk, the expansive corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, is an alluring sight. But the subtle details and extreme ranges in the corona’s brightness, although discernible to the eye, are notoriously difficult to photograph. Pictured here, however, using over 120 images and meticulous digital processing, is a detailed wide-angle image of the Sun’s corona taken during the Great American Eclipse in 2017 August. Clearly visible are intricate layers and glowing caustics of an ever changing mixture of hot gas and magnetic fields. Hundreds of stars as faint as 11th magnitude are visible behind the Moon and Sun, with Mars appearing in red on the far right. The next total eclipse of the Sun will occur on July 2 and be visible during sunset from a thin swath across Chile and Argentina. [via NASA]

Ultima Thule from New Horizons

How do distant asteroids differ from those near the Sun? To help find out, NASA sent the robotic New Horizons spacecraft past the classical Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, the farthest asteroid yet visited by a human spacecraft. Zooming past the 30-km long space rock on January 1, the featured image is the highest resolution picture of Ultima Thule’s surface beamed back so far. Utima Thuli does look different than imaged asteroids of the inner Solar System, as it shows unusual surface texture, relatively few obvious craters, and nearly spherical lobes. Its shape is hypothesized to have formed from the coalescence of early Solar System rubble in into two objects — Ultima and Thule — which then spiraled together and stuck. Research will continue into understanding the origin of different surface regions on Ultima Thule, whether it has a thin atmosphere, how it obtained its red color, and what this new knowledge of the ancient Solar System tells us about the formation of our Earth. [via NASA]

The Long Gas Tail of Spiral Galaxy D100

Why is there long red streak attached to this galaxy? The streak is made mostly of glowing hydrogen that has been systematically stripped away as the galaxy moved through the ambient hot gas in a cluster of galaxies. Specifically, the galaxy is spiral galaxy D100, and cluster is the Coma Cluster of galaxies. The red path connects to the center of D100 because the outer gas, gravitationally held less strongly, has already been stripped away by ram pressure. The extended gas tail is about 200,000 light-years long, contains about 400,000 times the mass of our Sun, and stars are forming within it. Galaxy D99, visible to D100’s lower left, appears red because it glows primarily from the light of old red stars — young blue stars can no longer form because D99 has been stripped of its star-forming gas. The featured false-color picture is a digitally enhanced composite of images from Earth-orbiting Hubble and the ground-based Subaru telescope. Studying remarkable systems like this bolsters our understanding of how galaxies evolve in clusters. [via NASA]

From the Northern to the Southern Cross

There is a road that connects the Northern to the Southern Cross but you have to be at the right place and time to see it. The road, as pictured here, is actually the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy; the right place, in this case, is dark Laguna Cejar in Salar de Atacama of Northern Chile; and the right time was in early October, just after sunset. Many sky wonders were captured then, including the bright Moon, inside the Milky Way arch; Venus, just above the Moon; Saturn and Mercury, just below the Moon; the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds satellite galaxies, on the far left; red airglow near the horizon on the image left; and the lights of small towns at several locations across the horizon. One might guess that composing this 30-image panorama would have been a serene experience, but for that one would have required earplugs to ignore the continued brays of wild donkeys. [via NASA]

Moon Struck

Craters produced by ancient impacts on the airless Moon have long been a familiar sight. But only since the 1990s have observers began to regularly record and study optical flashes on the lunar surface, likely explosions resulting from impacting meteoroids. Of course, the flashes are difficult to see against a bright, sunlit lunar surface. But during the January 21 total eclipse many imagers serendipitously captured a meteoroid impact flash against the dim red Moon. Found while examining images taken shortly before the total eclipse phase began, the flash is indicated in the inset above, near the Moon’s darkened western limb. Estimates based on the flash duration recorded by the Moon Impact Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS) telescopes in southern Spain indicate the impactor’s mass was about 10 kilograms and created a crater between seven and ten meters in diameter. [via NASA]

Tuiteando al vuelo, January 24, 2019 at 04:59PM

Nuestros gobernantes son unos sinvergüenzas. ¿Pasar de expulsar a los MIR del sistema a retenerles de forma obligatoria? La única solución decente es tratarles con la dignidad que merecen: contratos dignos y poner fin a la explotación del médico.

Matterhorn, Moon, and Meteor

Fans of planet Earth probably recognize the Matterhorn in the foreground of this night skyscape. Famed in mountaineering history, the 4,478 meter Alpine mountain stands next to the totally eclipsed Moon. In spite of -22 degree C temperatures, the inspired scene was captured on the morning of January 21 from the mountains near Zermatt, Switzerland. Different exposures record the dim red light reflected by the Moon fully immersed in Earth’s shadow. Seen directly above the famous Alpine peak, but about 600 light-years away, are the stars of the Praesepe or Beehive star cluster also known as Messier 44. An added reward to the cold eclipse vigil, a bright and colorful meteor flashed below the temporarily dimmmed Moon, just tracing the Matterhorn’s north-eastern climbing route along Hornli ridge. [via NASA]