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Spiral Galaxies Spinning Super-Fast

Posted by Specola Posted on 11/05/2019 at 12:30PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Why are these galaxies spinning so fast? If you estimated each spiral's mass by how much light it emits, their fast rotations should break them apart. The leading hypothesis as to why these galaxies don't break apart is dark matter -- mass so dark we can't see it. But these galaxies are even out-spinning this break-up limit -- they are the fastest rotating disk galaxies known. It is therefore further hypothesized that their dark matter halos are so massive -- and their spins so fast -- that it is harder for them to form stars than regular spirals. If so, then these galaxies may be among the most massive spirals possible. Further study of surprising super-spirals like these will continue, likely including observations taken by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope scheduled for launch in 2021.

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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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