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Curiosity Rover Finds a Clay Cache on Mars

Posted by Specola Posted on 10/29/2019 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Why is there clay on Mars? On Earth, clay can form at the bottom of a peaceful lake when specific minerals trap water. At the pictured site on Mars, the robotic rover Curiosity drilled into two rocks and found the highest concentration of clay yet. The clay cache is considered addition evidence that Gale Crater once held water in the distant past. Pictured, 57 images taken by Curiosity have been combined into a selfie. The images were taken by a camera at the end of its robotic arm. Many details of the car-sized rover are visible, including its rugged wheels, numerous scientific instruments, and a high mast that contains camera "eyes", one of which can shoot out an infrared laser beam. Curiosity continues to roll around and up Mount Sharp -- in the center of Gale Crater -- in a search for new clues about the ancient history of Mars and whether or not the red planet once had conditions that could support life.

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NGC 3717: A Nearly Sideways Spiral Galaxy

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

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Some spiral galaxies are seen nearly sideways. Most bright stars in spiral galaxies swirl around the center in a disk, and seen from the side, this disk can appear quite thin. Some spiral galaxies appear even thinner than NGC 3717, which is actually seen tilted just a bit. Spiral galaxies form disks because the original gas collided with itself and cooled as it fell inward. Planets may orbit in disks for similar reasons. The featured image by the Hubble Space Telescope shows a light-colored central bulge composed of older stars beyond filaments of orbiting dark brown dust. NGC 3717 spans about 100,000 light years and lies about 60 million light years away toward the constellation of the Water Snake (Hydra). Mercury Crosses the Sun: Some notable images of 2019 transit submitted to APOD

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Lunar Craters Langrenus and Petavius

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

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The history of the Moon is partly written in its craters. Pictured here is a lunar panorama taken from Earth featuring the large craters Langrenus, toward the left, and Petavius, toward the right. The craters formed in separate impacts. Langrenus spans about 130 km, has a terraced rim, and sports a central peak rising about 3 km. Petavius is slightly larger with a 180 km diameter and has a distinctive fracture that runs out from its center. Although it is known that Petravius crater is about 3.9 billion years old, the origin of its large fracture is unknown. The craters are best visible a few days after a new Moon, when shadows most greatly accentuate vertical walls and hills. The featured image is a composite of the best of thousands of high-resolution, infrared, video images taken through a small telescope. Although mountains on Earth will likely erode into soil over a billion years, lunar craters Langrenus and Petavius will likely survive many billions more years, possibly until the Sun expands and engulfs both the Earth and Moon. Watch: the November 11 Transit of Mercury from Earth or from Space.

Photo by Eduardo Schaberger Poupeau

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A Mercury Transit Sequence

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

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Tomorrow -- Monday -- Mercury will cross the face of the Sun, as seen from Earth. Called a transit, the last time this happened was in 2016. Because the plane of Mercury's orbit is not exactly coincident with the plane of Earth's orbit, Mercury usually appears to pass over or under the Sun. The featured time-lapse sequence, superimposed on a single frame, was taken from a balcony in Belgium shows the entire transit of 2003 May 7. That solar crossing lasted over five hours, so that the above 23 images were taken roughly 15 minutes apart. The north pole of the Sun, the Earth's orbit, and Mercury's orbit, although all different, all occur in directions slightly above the left of the image. Near the center and on the far right, sunspots are visible. After Monday, the next transit of Mercury will occur in 2032. Watch: the November 11 Transit of Mercury from Earth or from Space.

Photo by Dominique Dierick

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