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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

How do supermassive black holes create powerful jets? To help find out, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) imaged the center of the nearby active galaxy Centaurus A. The cascade of featured inset images shows Cen A from it largest, taking up more sky than many moons, to its now finest, taking up only as much sky as an golf ball on the moon. The new image shows what may look like two jets -- but is actually two sides of a single jet. This newly discovered jet-edge brightening does not solve the jet-creation mystery, but does imply that the particle outflow is confined by a strong pressure -- possibly involving a magnetic field. The EHT is a coordination of radio telescopes from around the Earth -- from the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory in Hawaii USA, to ALMA in Chile, to NOEMA in France, and more. The EHT will continue to observe massive, nearby black holes and their energetic surroundings.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

It was bright and green and flashed as it moved quickly along the Milky Way. It left a trail that took 30 minutes to dissipate. Given the day, August 12, and the direction, away from Perseus, it was likely a small bit from the nucleus of Comet Swift-Tuttle plowing through the Earth's atmosphere -- and therefore part of the annual Perseids meteor shower. The astrophotographer captured the fireball as it shot across the sky in 2018 above a valley in Yichang, Hubei, China. The meteor's streak, also caught on video, ended near the direction of Mars on the lower left. Next week, the 2021 Perseids meteor shower will peak again. This year the Moon will set shortly after the Sun, leaving a night sky ideal for seeing lots of Perseids from dark and clear locations across planet Earth. Follow APOD in English on: Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter

Photo by Dandan Huang

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Pluto is more colorful than we can see. Color data and high-resolution images of our Solar System's most famous dwarf planet, taken by the robotic New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby in 2015 July, have been digitally combined to give an enhanced-color view of this ancient world sporting an unexpectedly young surface. The featured enhanced color image is not only esthetically pretty but scientifically useful, making surface regions of differing chemical composition visually distinct. For example, the light-colored heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio on the lower right is clearly shown here to be divisible into two regions that are geologically different, with the leftmost lobe Sputnik Planitia also appearing unusually smooth. After Pluto, New Horizons continued on, shooting past asteroid Arrokoth in 2019 and has enough speed to escape our Solar System completely. Pluto-Related Images with Brief Explanations: APOD Pluto Search

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

It was just last July. If you could see the stars of the Big Dipper, you could find Comet NEOWISE in your evening sky. After sunset denizens of the north could look for the naked-eye comet below the bowl of that famous celestial kitchen utensil and above the northwestern horizon. The comet looked like a fuzzy 'star' with a tail, though probably not so long a tail as in this memorable skyview recorded from the Czech Republic on July 23th, 2020, near the comet's closest approach to planet Earth. Photographs of C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) often did show the comet's broad dust tail and fainter but separate bluish ion tail extending farther than the eye could follow. Skygazers around the world were delighted to witness Comet NEOWISE, surprise visitor from the outer Solar System. Notable Comet NEOWISE Images 2020: July 31 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24

Photo by Petr Horalek

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

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.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Chaotic in appearance, these tangled filaments of shocked, glowing gas are spread across planet Earth's sky toward the constellation of Cygnus as part of the Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, an expanding cloud born of the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the original supernova explosion likely reached Earth over 5,000 years ago. The glowing filaments are really more like long ripples in a sheet seen almost edge on, remarkably well separated into the glow of ionized hydrogen atoms shown in blue and oxygen in red hues. Also known as the Cygnus Loop and cataloged as NGC 6979, the Veil Nebula now spans about 6 times the diameter of the full Moon. The length of the wisp corresponds to about 30 light years, given its estimated distance of 2,400 light years. Often identified as Pickering's Triangle for a director of Harvard College Observatory, it is also named for its discoverer, astronomer Williamina Fleming, as Fleming's Triangular Wisp.

Photo by Anthony Saab

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Can a gas cloud grab a galaxy? It's not even close. The "claw" of this odd looking "creature" in the featured photo is a gas cloud known as a cometary globule. This globule, however, has ruptured. Cometary globules are typically characterized by dusty heads and elongated tails. These features cause cometary globules to have visual similarities to comets, but in reality they are very much different. Globules are frequently the birthplaces of stars, and many show very young stars in their heads. The reason for the rupture in the head of this object is not yet known. The galaxy to the left of the globule is huge, very far in the distance, and only placed near CG4 by chance superposition.

Photo by Nicolas RollandMartin Pugh

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Gliding silently through the outer Solar System, the Voyager 2 spacecraft camera captured Neptune and Triton together in crescent phase. The elegant picture of the gas giant planet and its cloudy moon was taken from behind just after closest approach in 1989. It could not have been taken from Earth because Neptune never shows a crescent phase to sunward Earth. The unusual vantage point also robs Neptune of its familiar blue hue, as sunlight seen from here is scattered forward, and so is reddened like the setting Sun. Neptune is smaller but more massive than Uranus, has several dark rings, and emits more light than it receives from the Sun.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Where does space begin? For purposes of spaceflight some would say at the Karman line, currently defined as an altitude of 100 kilometers (60 miles). Others might place a line 80 kilometers (50 miles) above Earth's mean sea level. But there is no sharp physical boundary that marks the end of atmosphere and the beginning of space. In fact, the Karman line itself is near the transition between the upper mesophere and lower thermosphere. Night shining or noctilucent clouds are high-latitude summer apparitions formed at altitudes near the top of the mesophere, up to 80 kilometers or so, also known as polar mesopheric clouds. Auroral bands of the northern (and southern) lights caused by energetic particles exciting atoms in the thermosphere can extend above 80 kilometers to over 600 kilometers altitude. Taken from a cockpit while flying at an altitude of 10 kilometers (33,000 feet) in the realm of stratospheric aeronautics, this snapshot captures both noctilucent clouds and aurora borealis under a starry sky, looking toward planet Earth's horizon and the edge of space.

Photo by Ralf Rohner

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Sprawling emission nebulae IC 1396 and Sh2-129 mix glowing interstellar gas and dark dust clouds in this 10 degree wide field of view toward the northern constellation Cepheus the King. Energized by its bluish central star IC 1396 (left) is hundreds of light-years across and some 3,000 light-years distant. The nebula's intriguing dark shapes include a winding dark cloud popularly known as the Elephant's Trunk below and right of center. Tens of light-years long, it holds the raw raw material for star formation and is known to hide protostars within. Located a similar distance from planet Earth, the bright knots and swept back ridges of emission of Sh2-129 on the right suggest its popular name, the Flying Bat Nebula. Within the Flying Bat, the most recently recognized addition to this royal cosmic zoo is the faint bluish emission from Ou4, the Giant Squid nebula.

Photo by Patrick Hsieh

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Point your telescope toward the high flying constellation Pegasus and you can find this expanse of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies. NGC 7814 is centered in the pretty field of view that would almost be covered by a full moon. NGC 7814 is sometimes called the Little Sombrero for its resemblance to the brighter more famous M104, the Sombrero Galaxy. Both Sombrero and Little Sombrero are spiral galaxies seen edge-on, and both have extensive halos and central bulges cut by a thin disk with thinner dust lanes in silhouette. In fact, NGC 7814 is some 40 million light-years away and an estimated 60,000 light-years across. That actually makes the Little Sombrero about the same physical size as its better known namesake, appearing smaller and fainter only because it is farther away. In this telescopic view from July 17, NGC 7814 is hosting a newly discovered supernova, dominant immediately to the left of the galaxy's core. Cataloged as SN 2021rhu, the stellar explosion has been identified as a Type Ia supernova, useful toward calibrating the distance scale of the universe.

Photo by CHART32 Team

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What if you could see, separately, all the colors of the Ring? And of the surrounding stars? There's technology for that. The featured image shows the Ring Nebula (M57) and nearby stars through such technology: in this case, a prism-like diffraction grating. The Ring Nebula is seen only a few times because it emits light, primarily, in only a few colors. The two brightest emitted colors are hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue), appearing as nearly overlapping images to the left of the image center. The image just to the right of center is the color-combined icon normally seen. Stars, on the other hand, emit most of their light in colors all across the visible spectrum. These colors, combined, make a nearly continuous streak -- which is why stars appear accompanied by multicolored bars. Breaking object light up into colors is scientifically useful because it can reveal the elements that compose that object, how fast that object is moving, and how distant that object is.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Thor not only has his own day (Thursday), but a helmet in the heavens.  Popularly called Thor's Helmet, NGC 2359 is a hat-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the cosmic head-covering is more like an interstellar bubble, blown with a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. NGC 2359 is located about 15,000 light-years away toward the constellation of the Great Overdog. This remarkably sharp image is a mixed cocktail of data from broadband and narrowband filters, capturing not only natural looking stars but details of the nebula's filamentary structures. The star in the center of Thor's Helmet is expected to explode in a spectacular supernova sometime within the next few thousand years. Almost Hyperspace: Random APOD Generator

Photo by Bernard Miller

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The photographer had this shot in mind for some time. He knew that objects overhead are the brightest -- since their light is scattered the least by atmospheric air. He also that knew the core of our Milky Way Galaxy was just about straight up near midnight around this time of year in South Australia. Chasing his mental picture, he ventured deep inside the Kuipto Forest where tall radiata pines blocked out much of the sky -- but not in this clearing. There, through a window framed by trees, he captured his envisioned combination of local and distant nature. Sixteen exposures of both trees and the Milky Way Galaxy were recorded. Antares is the bright orange star to left of our Galaxy's central plane, while Alpha Centauri is the bright star just to the right of the image center. The direction toward our Galaxy's center is below Antares. Although in a few hours the Earth's rotation moved the Galactic plane up and to the left -- soon invisible behind the timber, his mental image was secured forever -- and is featured here. Follow APOD on Instagram in: English, Farsi, Indonesian, Persian, Portuguese or Taiwanese

Photo by Will Godward

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What does the Andromeda galaxy look like in ultraviolet light? Young blue stars circling the galactic center dominate. A mere 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, really is just next door as large galaxies go. Spanning about 230,000 light-years, it took 11 different image fields from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in ultraviolet light in 2003. While its spiral arms stand out in visible light images, Andromeda's arms look more like rings in ultraviolet. The rings are sites of intense star formation and have been interpreted as evidence that Andromeda collided with its smaller neighboring elliptical galaxy M32 more than 200 million years ago. The Andromeda galaxy and our own comparable Milky Way galaxy are the most massive members of the Local Group of galaxies and are projected to collide in several billion years -- perhaps around the time that our Sun's atmosphere will expand to engulf the Earth.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Point your telescope at tonight's first quarter Moon. Along the terminator, the shadow line between night and day, you might find these two large craters staring back at you with an owlish gaze. Alphonsus (left) and Arzachel are ancient impact craters on the north eastern shores of Mare Nubium, the lunar Sea of Clouds. The larger Alphonsus is over 100 kilometers in diameter. A low sun angle highlights the crater's sharp 1.5 kilometer high central peak in bright sunlight and dark shadow. Scouting for potential Apollo moon landing sites, the Ranger 9 spacecraft returned closeup pictures of Alphonsus before it crashed in the crater just northeast (toward the upper left) of its central mountain in 1965. Alpetragius, between Alphonsus and Arzachel, is the small crater with the deeply shadowed floor and overly large central beak.

Photo by Noel Donnard

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Venus, named for the Roman goddess of love, and Mars, the war god's namesake, come together by moonlight in this serene skyview, recorded on July 11 from Lualaba province, Democratic Republic of Congo, planet Earth. Taken in the western twilight sky shortly after sunset the exposure also records earthshine illuminating the otherwise dark surface of the young crescent Moon. Of course the Moon has moved on. Venus still shines in the west though as the evening star, third brightest object in Earth's sky, after the Sun and the Moon itself. Seen here above a brilliant Venus, Mars moved even closer to the brighter planet and by July 13 could be seen only about a Moon's width away. Mars has since slowly wandered away from much brighter Venus in the twilight, but both are sliding toward bright star Regulus. Alpha star of the constellation Leo, Regulus lies off the top of this frame and anticipates a visit from Venus and then Mars in twilight skies of the coming days.

Photo by Shi Huan

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

In silhouette against a crowded star field along the tail of the arachnalogical constellation Scorpius, this dusty cosmic cloud evokes for some the image of an ominous dark tower. In fact, clumps of dust and molecular gas collapsing to form stars may well lurk within the dark nebula, a structure that spans almost 40 light-years across this gorgeous telescopic portrait. Known as a cometary globule, the swept-back cloud, is shaped by intense ultraviolet radiation from the OB association of very hot stars in NGC 6231, off the upper edge of the scene. That energetic ultraviolet light also powers the globule's bordering reddish glow of hydrogen gas. Hot stars embedded in the dust can be seen as bluish reflection nebulae. This dark tower, NGC 6231, and associated nebulae are about 5,000 light-years away.

Photo by Martin Pugh

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