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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

A sensitive video camera on a summit of the Vosges mountains in France captured these surprising fireworks above a distant horizon on June 26. Generated over intense thunderstorms, this one about 260 kilometers away, the brief and mysterious flashes have come to be known as red sprites. The transient luminous events are caused by electrical breakdown at altitudes of 50 to 100 kilometers. That puts them in the mesophere, the coldest layer of planet Earth's atmosphere. The glow beneath the sprites is from more familiar lighting though, below the storm clouds. But on the right, the video frames have captured another summertime apparition from the mesophere. The silvery veins of light are polar mesospheric clouds. Also known as noctilucent or night shining clouds, the icy clouds still reflect the sunlight when the Sun is below the horizon.

Photo by Stephane Vetter

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Stars are forming in Lynds Dark Nebula (LDN) 1251. About 1,000 light-years away and drifting above the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, the dusty molecular cloud is part of a complex of dark nebulae mapped toward the Cepheus flare region. Across the spectrum, astronomical explorations of the obscuring interstellar clouds reveal energetic shocks and outflows associated with newborn stars, including the telltale reddish glow from scattered Herbig-Haro objects seen in this sharp image. Distant background galaxies also lurk on the scene, buried behind the dusty expanse. This alluring view imaged with a backyard telescope and broadband filters spans about two full moons on the sky, or 17 light-years at the estimated distance of LDN 1251.

Photo by Ara Jerahian

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The Old Astronomer's Milky Way arcs through this peaceful northern sky. Against faint, diffuse starlight you can follow dark rifts of interstellar dust clouds stretching from the galaxy's core. They lead toward bright star Antares at the right, almost due south above the horizon. The brightest beacon in the twilight is Jupiter, though. From the camera's perspective it seems to hang from the limb of a tree framing the foreground, an apple tree of course. The serene maritime nightscape was recorded in tracked and untracked exposures on June 16 from Dover, Nova Scotia, planet Earth.

Photo by Kristine Richer

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Has your world ever turned upside-down? It would happen every day if you stay fixed to the stars. Most time-lapse videos of the night sky show the stars and sky moving above a steady Earth. Here, however, the camera has been forced to rotate so that the stars remain fixed, and the Earth rotates around them. The movie, with each hour is compressed to a second, dramatically demonstrates the daily rotation of the Earth, called diurnal motion. The video begins by showing an open field in Namibia, Africa, on a clear day, last year. Shadows shift as the Earth turns, the shadow of the Earth rises into the sky, the Belt of Venus momentarily appears, and then day turns into night. The majestic band of our Milky Way Galaxy stretches across the night sky, while sunlight-reflecting, Earth-orbiting satellites zoom by. In the night sky, you can even spot the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The video shows a sky visible from Earth's Southern Hemisphere, but a similar video could be made for every middle latitude on our blue planet. Almost Hyperspace: Random APOD Generator

Video by BartoszWojczyński

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What created this unusual planetary nebula? NGC 7027 is one of the smallest, brightest, and most unusually shaped planetary nebulas known. Given its expansion rate, NGC 7027 first started expanding, as visible from Earth, about 600 years ago. For much of its history, the planetary nebula has been expelling shells, as seen in blue in the featured image. In modern times, though, for reasons unknown, it began ejecting gas and dust (seen in red) in specific directions that created a new pattern that seems to have four corners. These shells and patterns have been mapped in impressive detail by recent images from the Wide Field Camera 3 onboard the Hubble Space Telescope. What lies at the nebula's center is unknown, with one hypothesis holding it to be a close binary star system where one star sheds gas onto an erratic disk orbiting the other star. NGC 7027, about 3,000 light years away, was first discovered in 1878 and can be seen with a standard backyard telescope toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus).

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

When the lake calmed down, many wonders of the land and sky appeared twice. Perhaps the most dramatic from the dark sky was the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, visible as a diagonal band. Toward the right were both the Small (SMC) and Large (LMC) Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies of our Milky Way. Faint multicolored bands of airglow fanned across the night. Numerous bright stars were visible including Antares, while the bright planet Jupiter appears just above the image center. The featured image is a composite of exposures all taken from the same camera and from the same location within 30 minutes in mid-May from the shore of Lake Bonney Riverland in South Australia. Dead trees that extend from the lake were captured not only in silhouette, but reflection, while lights from the small town of Barmera were visible across the lake. In July, Jupiter and Saturn will rise toward the east just as the Sun sets in the west.

Photo by Will Godward

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What are those spots on Jupiter? Largest and furthest, just right of center, is the Great Red Spot -- a huge storm system that has been raging on Jupiter possibly since Giovanni Cassini's likely notation of it 355 years ago. It is not yet known why this Great Spot is red. The spot toward the lower left is one of Jupiter's largest moons: Europa. Images from Voyager in 1979 bolster the modern hypothesis that Europa has an underground ocean and is therefore a good place to look for extraterrestrial life. But what about the dark spot on the upper right? That is a shadow of another of Jupiter's large moons: Io. Voyager 1 discovered Io to be so volcanic that no impact craters could be found. Sixteen frames from Voyager 1's flyby of Jupiter in 1979 were recently reprocessed and merged to create the featured image. About 43 years ago, Voyager 1 launched from Earth and started one of the greatest explorations of the Solar System ever. Free Download: Voyager Posters

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The dark shadow of the New Moon reached out and touched planet Earth on June 21. A high definition camera outside the International Space Station captured its passing in this snapshot from low Earth orbit near the border of Kazakhstan and China. Of course those along the Moon's central shadow track below could watch the much anticipated annular eclipse of the Sun. In the foreground a cargo spacecraft is docked with the orbital outpost. It's the H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 from JAXA the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Gallery: Notable images of the Annular Solar Eclipse of 2020 June submitted to APOD

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Want to watch a solar eclipse safely? Try looking down instead of up, though you might discover you have a plethora of images to choose from. For example, during the June 21st solar eclipse this confusing display appeared under a shady bamboo grove in Pune, India. Small gaps between close knit leaves on the tall plants effectively created a network of randomly placed pinholes. Each one projected a separate image of the eclipsed Sun. The snapshot was taken close to the time of maximum eclipse in Pune when the Moon covered about 60 percent of the Sun's diameter. But an annular eclipse, the Moon in silhouette completely surrounded by a bright solar disk at maximum, could be seen along a narrow path where the Moon's dark shadow crossed central Africa, south Asia, and Ch

Photo by Somak Raychaudhury

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

On June 21 an annular solar eclipse came soon after the solstice and our fair planet's northernmost sunset for 2020. At maximum eclipse, the New Moon in silhouette created a ring of fire visible along a narrow path at most 85 kilometers wide. The annular eclipse path began in central Africa, crossed south Asia and China, and ended over the Pacific Ocean. But a partial eclipse of the Sun was visible over a much broader region. In Hong Kong, this busy section of Jordan Street looks to the northwest, well-aligned with the track of the near solstice afternoon Sun. The street level view was composited with an eclipse sequence made with a safe solar filter on the camera. For that location the eclipse was partial. The Moon covered about 90 percent of the Sun's diameter at maximum, seen near the middle of the eclipse sequence. Gallery: Notable images of the Annular Solar Eclipse of 2020 June submitted to APOD

Photo by Gary Chan

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

How could that city be upside-down? The city, Chicago, was actually perfectly right-side up. The long shadows it projected onto nearby Lake Michigan near sunset, however, when seen in reflection, made the buildings appear inverted. This fascinating, puzzling, yet beautiful image was captured by a photographer in 2014 on an airplane on approach to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The Sun can be seen both above and below the cloud deck, with the latter reflected in the calm lake. As a bonus, if you look really closely -- and this is quite a challenge -- you can find another airplane in the image, likely also on approach to the same airport.

Photo by Mark Hersch

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What if you could see X-rays? The night sky would seem a strange and unfamiliar place. X-rays are about 1,000 times more energetic than visible light photons and are produced by violent explosions and high temperature astronomical environments. Instead of the familiar steady stars, the sky would seem to be filled with exotic stars, active galaxies, and hot supernova remnants. The featured X-ray image captures in unprecedented detail the entire sky in X-rays as seen by the eROSITA telescope onboard Spektr-RG satellite, orbiting around the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system, launched last year. The image shows the plane of our Milky Way galaxy across the center, a diffuse and pervasive X-ray background, the hot interstellar bubble known as the North Polar Spur, sizzling supernova remnants such as Vela, the Cygnus Loop and Cas A, energetic binary stars including Cyg X-1 and Cyg X-2, the LMC galaxy, and the Coma, Virgo, and Fornax clusters of galaxies. This first sky scan by eROSITA located over one million X-ray sources, some of which are not understood and will surely be topics for future research.

Photo by TeamMPEIKI

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What are those dark streaks in this composite image of yesterday's solar eclipse? They are reversed shadows of mountains at the edge of the Moon. The center image, captured from Xiamen, China, has the Moon's center directly in front of the Sun's center. The Moon, though, was too far from the Earth to completely block the entire Sun. Light that streamed around all of the edges of the Moon is called a ring of fire. Images at each end of the sequence show sunlight that streamed through lunar valleys. As the Moon moved further in front of the Sun, left to right, only the higher peaks on the Moon's perimeter could block sunlight. Therefore, the dark streaks are projected, distorted, reversed, and magnified shadows of mountains at the Moon's edge. Bright areas are called Bailey's Beads. Only a narrow swath across Earth's Eastern Hemisphere was able to see yesterday's full annular solar eclipse. Next June, though, a narrow swath across Earth's Northern Hemisphere will be able to see the next annular solar eclipse. A total solar eclipse will be visible at the bottom of the world near the end of this year. Gallery: Notable images of the Annular Solar Eclipse of 2020 June submitted to APOD

Photo by Wang LetianEyes at Night

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

It may look like Earthrise, but it's actually Venus-set. Just after sunrise two days ago, both the Moon and Venus also rose. But then the Moon overtook Venus. In the featured image sequence centered on the Moon, Venus is shown increasingly angularly close to the Moon. In the famous Earthrise image taken just over 50 years ago, the Earth was captured rising over the edge of the Moon, as seen from the Apollo 8 crew orbiting the Moon. This similar Venus-set image was taken from Earth, of course, specifically Estonia. Venus shows only a thin crescent because last week it passed nearly in front of the Sun, as seen from Earth. The Moon shows only a thin crescent because it will soon be passing directly in front of the Sun, as seen from Earth. Today, in fact, two days after this image was taken, the Moon will create a solar eclipse, with a thin swath across the Earth treated to an annular solar eclipse. Gallery: Notable images of the Venus - Mooon conjunction of 2020 June submitted to APOD

Photo by Dzmitry Kananovich

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Today's solstice brings summer to planet Earth's northern hemisphere. But the northern summer solstice arrived for ringed planet Saturn over three years ago on May 24, 2017. Orbiting the gas giant, Saturn's moon Titan experiences the Saturnian seasons that are about 7 Earth-years long. Larger than inner planet Mercury, Titan was captured in this Cassini spacecraft image about two weeks after its northern summer began. The near-infrared view finds bright methane clouds drifting through Titan's dense, hazy atmosphere as seen from a distance of about 507,000 kilometers. Below the clouds, dark hydrocarbon lakes sprawl near its fully illuminated north pole.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Transfusing sunlight through a darkened sky, this beautiful display of noctilucent clouds was captured earlier this week, reflected in calm waters from Nykobing Mors, Denmark. From the edge of space, about 80 kilometers above Earth's surface, the icy clouds themselves still reflect sunlight, though the Sun is below the horizon as seen from the ground. Usually spotted at high latitudes in summer months the night shining clouds have made an early appearance this year as northern nights grow short. Also known as polar mesopheric clouds they are understood to form as water vapor driven into the cold upper atmosphere condenses on the fine dust particles supplied by disintegrating meteors or volcanic ash. NASA's AIM mission provides daily projections of noctilucent clouds as seen from space.

Photo by Ruslan Merzlyakov

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

This telescopic close-up shows off the central regions of otherwise faint emission nebula IC 410, captured under backyard suburban skies with narrowband filters. It also features two remarkable inhabitants of the cosmic pond of gas and dust. Below and right of center are the tadpoles of IC 410. Partly obscured by foreground dust, the nebula itself surrounds NGC 1893, a young galactic cluster of stars. Formed in the interstellar cloud a mere 4 million years ago, the intensely hot, bright cluster stars energize the glowing gas. Composed of denser cooler gas and dust, the tadpoles are around 10 light-years long and are likely sites of ongoing star formation. Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation their heads are outlined by bright ridges of ionized gas while their tails trail away from the cluster's central young stars. IC 410 lies some 10,000 light-years away, toward the nebula-rich constellation Auriga.

Photo by Trevor Jones

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What role do magnetic fields play in interstellar physics? Analyses of observations by ESA's Planck satellite of emission by small magnetically-aligned dust grains reveal previously unknown magnetic field structures in our Milky Way Galaxy -- as shown by the curvy lines in the featured full-sky image. The dark red shows the plane of the Milky Way, where the concentration of dust is the highest. The huge arches above the plane are likely remnants of past explosive events from our Galaxy's core, conceptually similar to magnetic loop-like structures seen in our Sun's atmosphere. The curvy streamlines align with interstellar filaments of neutral hydrogen gas and provide tantalizing evidence that magnetic fields may supplement gravity in not only in shaping the interstellar medium, but in forming stars. How magnetism affected our Galaxy's evolution will likely remain a topic of research for years to come.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Welcome to the quadranscentennial year of the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Perhaps a source of consistency for some, APOD is still here. To help celebrate APOD's Silver Anniversary, some of APOD's TVAoTaSMD have recorded a birthday greeting and thanks to APOD's readership in today's featured video. Many have also highlighted a few of their favorite APOD images. In collaboration with NASA through APOD, these and other volunteers help to inform the world, in most major world languages and over most major media platforms, of NASA and humanity's growing knowledge, active exploration, and inspiring visualizations of the amazing astronomical universe in which we live. APOD's founders (still alive!) would also like to offer a sincere thank you -- not only to our TVAoTaSMD -- but to APOD's readership for continued interest, support, and many gracious communications over the years.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What's rising above the horizon behind those clouds? It's the Sun. Most sunrises don't look like this, though, because most sunrises don't include the Moon. In the early morning of 2013 May 10, however, from Western Australia, the Moon was between the Earth and the rising Sun. At times, it would be hard for the uninformed to understand what was happening. In an annular eclipse, the Moon is too far from the Earth to block the entire Sun, and at most leaves a ring of fire where sunlight pours out around every edge of the Moon. The featured time-lapse video also recorded the eclipse through the high refraction of the Earth's atmosphere just above the horizon, making the unusual rising Sun and Moon appear also flattened. As the video continues on, the Sun continues to rise, and the Sun and Moon begin to separate. This weekend, a new annular solar eclipse will occur, visible from central Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and a narrow band across Asia, with much of Earth's Eastern hemisphere being able to see a partial solar eclipse.

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