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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

On August 11, 2021 a multi-mirror, 17 meter-diameter MAGIC telescope reflected this starry night sky from the Roque de los Muchachos European Northern Observatory on the Canary Island of La Palma. MAGIC stands for Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov. The telescopes can see the brief flashes of optical light produced in particle air showers as high-energy gamma rays impact the Earth's upper atmosphere. To the dark-adapted eye the mirror segments offer a tantalizing reflection of stars and nebulae along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. But directly behind the segmented mirror telescope, low on the horizon, lies the constellation Perseus. And on that date the dramatic composite nightscape also captured meteors streaming from the radiant of the annual Perseid meteor shower. This year the Perseid shower activity will again peak around August 13 but perseid meteors will have to compete with the bright light of a Full Moon.

Photo by Urs Leutenegger

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Stars can create huge and intricate dust sculptures from the dense and dark molecular clouds from which they are born. The tools the stars use to carve their detailed works are high energy light and fast stellar winds. The heat they generate evaporates the dark molecular dust as well as causing ambient hydrogen gas to disperse and glow red. Pictured here, a new open cluster of stars designated IC 1590 is nearing completion around the intricate interstellar dust structures in the emission nebula NGC 281, dubbed the Pac-man Nebula because of its overall shape. The dust cloud on the upper left is classified as a Bok Globule as it may gravitationally collapse and form a star -- or stars. The Pacman Nebula lies about 10,000 light years away toward the constellation of Cassiopeia.

Photo by Douglas J. StrubleFuture World Media

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What it would look like to leave planet Earth? Such an event was recorded visually in great detail by the MESSENGER spacecraft as it swung back past the Earth in 2005 on its way in toward the planet Mercury. Earth can be seen rotating in this time-lapse video, as it recedes into the distance. The sunlit half of Earth is so bright that background stars are not visible. The robotic MESSENGER spacecraft is now in orbit around Mercury and has recently concluded the first complete map of the surface. On occasion, MESSENGER has continued to peer back at its home world. MESSENGER is one of the few things created on the Earth that will never return. At the end of its mission MESSENGER crashed into Mercury's surface.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Ridges of glowing interstellar gas and dark dust clouds inhabit the turbulent, cosmic depths of the Lagoon Nebula. Also known as M8, the bright star forming region is about 5,000 light-years distant. But it still makes for a popular stop on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius, toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Dominated by the telltale red emission of ionized hydrogen atoms recombining with stripped electrons, this stunning, deep view of the Lagoon is nearly 100 light-years across. Right of center, the bright, compact, hourglass shape is gas ionized and sculpted by energetic radiation and extreme stellar winds from a massive young star. In fact, although digitally removed from the featured image, the many bright stars of open cluster NGC 6530 drift within the nebula, just formed in the Lagoon several million years ago.

Photo by Sameer Dhar

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What's that green streak in front of the Andromeda galaxy? A meteor. While photographing the Andromeda galaxy in 2016, near the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, a small pebble from deep space crossed right in front of our Milky Way Galaxy's far-distant companion. The small meteor took only a fraction of a second to pass through this 10-degree field. The meteor flared several times while braking violently upon entering Earth's atmosphere. The green color was created, at least in part, by the meteor's gas glowing as it vaporized. Although the exposure was timed to catch a Perseid meteor, the orientation of the imaged streak seems a better match to a meteor from the Southern Delta Aquariids, a meteor shower that peaked a few weeks earlier. Not coincidentally, the Perseid Meteor Shower peaks later this week, although this year the meteors will have to outshine a sky brightened by a nearly full moon.

Photo by Fritz Helmut Hemmerich

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Get out your red/blue glasses and float next to Phobos, grooved moon of Mars! Captured in 2004 by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, the image data was recorded at a distance of about 200 kilometers from the martian moon. This tantalizing stereo anaglyph view shows the Mars-facing side of Phobos. It highlights the asteroid-like moon's cratered and grooved surface. Up to hundreds of meters wide, the mysterious grooves may be related to the impact that created Stickney crater, the large crater at the left. Stickney crater is about 10 kilometers across, while Phobos itself is only around 27 kilometers across at its widest point.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The beautiful Trifid Nebula is a cosmic study in contrasts. Also known as M20, it lies about 5,000 light-years away toward the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. A star forming region in the plane of our galaxy, the Trifid does illustrate three different types of astronomical nebulae; red emission nebulae dominated by light from hydrogen atoms, blue reflection nebulae produced by dust reflecting starlight, and dark nebulae where dense dust clouds appear in silhouette. But the red emission region, roughly separated into three parts by obscuring dust lanes, is what lends the Trifid its popular name. Pillars and jets sculpted by newborn stars, above and right of the emission nebula's center, appear in famous Hubble Space Telescope close-up images of the region. The Trifid Nebula is about 40 light-years across. Too faint to be seen by the unaided eye, it almost covers the area of a full moon in planet Earth's sky. Open star cluster M21 just peeks into this telescopic field of view along the bottom right edge of the frame.

Photo by Vikas Chander

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

In 1716, English astronomer Edmond Halley noted, "This is but a little Patch, but it shows itself to the naked Eye, when the Sky is serene and the Moon absent." Of course, M13 is now less modestly recognized as the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, one of the brightest globular star clusters in the northern sky. Sharp telescopic views like this one reveal the spectacular cluster's hundreds of thousands of stars. At a distance of 25,000 light-years, the cluster stars crowd into a region 150 light-years in diameter. Approaching the cluster core upwards of 100 stars could be contained in a cube just 3 light-years on a side. For comparison, the closest star to the Sun is over 4 light-years away. The remarkable range of brightness recorded in this image follows stars into the dense cluster core. Distant background galaxies in the medium-wide field of view include NGC 6207 at the upper left.

Photo by Joan Josep Isach Cogollos

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What created the unusual halo around the Cat's Eye nebula? No one is sure. What is sure is that the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae on the sky. Although haunting symmetries are seen in the bright central region, this image was taken to feature its intricately structured outer halo, which spans over three light-years across. Planetary nebulae have long been appreciated as a final phase in the life of a Sun-like star. Only recently however, have some planetaries been found to have expansive halos, likely formed from material shrugged off during earlier puzzling episodes in the star's evolution. While the planetary nebula phase is thought to last for around 10,000 years, astronomers estimate the age of the outer filamentary portions of the Cat's Eye Nebula's halo to be 50,000 to 90,000 years.

Photo by Bray Falls

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Why does Saturn appear so big? It doesn't -- what is pictured are foreground clouds on Earth crossing in front of the Moon. The Moon shows a slight crescent phase with most of its surface visible by reflected Earthlight known as ashen glow. The Sun directly illuminates the brightly lit lunar crescent from the bottom, which means that the Sun must be below the horizon and so the image was taken before sunrise. This double take-inducing picture was captured on 2019 December 24, two days before the Moon slid in front of the Sun to create a solar eclipse. In the foreground, lights from small Guatemalan towns are visible behind the huge volcano Pacaya. News: APOD Receives First Outreach Prize from the International Astronomical Union

Photo by Francisco Sojuel

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

It's stars versus dust in the Carina Nebula and the stars are winning. More precisely, the energetic light and winds from massive newly formed stars are evaporating and dispersing the dusty stellar nurseries in which they formed. Located in the Carina Nebula and known informally as Mystic Mountain, these pillar's appearance is dominated by the dark dust even though it is composed mostly of clear hydrogen gas. Dust pillars such as these are actually much thinner than air and only appear as mountains due to relatively small amounts of opaque interstellar dust. About 7,500 light-years distant, the featured image was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and highlights an interior region of Carina which spans about three light years. Within a few million years, the stars will likely win out completely and the entire dust mountain will evaporate.

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