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Planet Earth at Blue Hour

Posted by Specola • Posted on 10/11/2019 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Nature photographers and other fans of planet Earth always look forward to the blue hour. That's the transition in twilight, just before sunrise or after sunset, when the Sun is below the horizon but land and sky are still suffused with beautiful bluish hues of light. On August 8 this early morning blue hour panorama scanned along the clear western sky, away from the impending sunrise. A breathtaking scene, it looks down the slopes of Mt. Whitney, from along the John Muir Trail toward rugged peaks of planet Earth's Sierra Nevada mountain range. Above the horizon a faint pinkish band of back scattered sunlight, the anti-twilight arch or Belt of Venus, borders the falling grey shadow of Earth itself. Subtle bands of light across the clear sky are anti-crepuscular rays, defined by shadows of clouds near the sunward horizon. Actually following parallel lines they seem to converge along the horizon at the point opposite the rising Sun due to perspective.

Photo by Matthias Ciprian

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N63A: Supernova Remnant in Visible and X-ray

Posted by Specola • Posted on 12/11/2019 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What has this supernova left behind? As little as 2,000 years ago, light from a massive stellar explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) first reached planet Earth. The LMC is a close galactic neighbor of our Milky Way Galaxy and the rampaging explosion front is now seen moving out - destroying or displacing ambient gas clouds while leaving behind relatively dense knots of gas and dust. What remains is one of the largest supernova remnants in the LMC: N63A. Many of the surviving dense knots have been themselves compressed and may further contract to form new stars. Some of the resulting stars may then explode in a supernova, continuing the cycle. Featured here is a combined image of N63A in the X-ray from the Chandra Space Telescope and in visible light by Hubble. The prominent knot of gas and dust on the upper right -- informally dubbed the Firefox -- is very bright in visible light, while the larger supernova remnant shines most brightly in X-rays. N63A spans over 25 light years and lies about 150,000 light years away toward the southern constellation of Dorado.

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Starlink Satellite Trails over Brazil

Posted by Specola • Posted on 12/10/2019 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What are those streaks over the horizon? New Starlink satellites reflecting sunlight. SpaceX launched 60 Starlink communication satellites in May and 60 more in November. These satellites and thousands more are planned by communications companies in the next few years that may make streaks like these relatively common. Concern has been voiced by many in the astronomical community about how reflections from these satellites may affect future observations into space. In the pictured composite of 33 exposures, parallel streaks from Starlink satellites are visible over southern Brazil. Sunflowers dot the foreground, while a bright meteor was caught by chance on the upper right. Satellite reflections are not new -- the constellation of 66 first-generation Iridium satellites launched starting 20 years ago produced some flares so bright that they could be seen during the day. Most of these old Iridium satellites, however, have been de-orbited over the past few years. Infinite Loop: Create an APOD Station in your classroom or Science Center.

Photo by Egon Filter

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Looking Sideways from the Parker Solar Probe

Posted by Specola • Posted on 12/09/2019 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Everybody sees the Sun. Nobody's been there. Starting in 2018 though, NASA launched the robotic Parker Solar Probe (PSP) to investigate regions near to the Sun for the first time. The PSP's looping orbit brings it yet closer to the Sun each time around -- every few months. The featured time-lapse video shows the view looking sideways from behind PSP's Sun shield during its first approach to the Sun a year ago -- to about half the orbit of Mercury. The PSP's Wide Field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) cameras took the images over nine days, but they are digitally compressed here into about 14 seconds. The waving solar corona is visible on the far left, with stars, planets, and even the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy streaming by in the background as the PSP orbits the Sun. PSP has found the solar neighborhood to be surprisingly complex and to include switchbacks -- times when the Sun's magnetic field briefly reverses itself. The Sun is not only Earth's dominant energy source, its variable solar wind compresses Earth's atmosphere, triggers auroras, affects power grids, and can even damage orbiting communication satellites.

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