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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What do neutron stars look like? Previously these city-sized stars were too small and too far away to resolve. Recently, however, the first maps of the locations and sizes of hotspots on a neutron star's surface have been made by carefully modeling how the rapid spin makes the star's X-ray brightness rise and fall. Based on a leading model, an illustrative map of pulsar J0030+0451's hotspots is pictured, with the rest of the star's surface filled in with a false patchy blue. J0030 spins once every 0.0049 seconds and is located about 1000 light years away. The map was computed from data taken by NASA's Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) X-ray telescope attached to the International Space Station. The computed locations of these hotspots is surprising and not well understood. Because the gravitational lensing effect of neutron stars is so strong, J0300 displays more than half of its surface toward the Earth. Studying the appearance of pulsars like J0030 allows accurate estimates of the neutron star's mass, radius, and the internal physics that keeps the star from imploding into a black hole.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Humanity is under attack. The attack is not from large tentacle-flailing aliens, but from invaders so small they can barely be seen, and so strange they are not even clearly alive. All over planet Earth, the human home world, DNA-based humans are being invaded by the RNA-based SARS-CoV2. The virus, which creates a disease known as COVID-19, specializes in reprogramming human cells into zombies that manufacture and release copies of itself. Pictured here is a high magnification image of a human cell covered by attacking novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2 (orange). Epic battles where two species square off in a fight to the death are not unusual on Earth, with several just involving humans typically ongoing at any time. Even so, most humans are predicted to survive. After several years, humanity expects to win this war -- but only after millions of humans have died and trillions of coronaviruses have been destroyed. Wash your hands: Tips for humans on how to survive this SARS-CoV2 assault

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The center of the Lagoon Nebula is a whirlwind of spectacular star formation. Visible near the image center, at least two long funnel-shaped clouds, each roughly half a light-year long, have been formed by extreme stellar winds and intense energetic starlight. A tremendously bright nearby star, Herschel 36, lights the area. Vast walls of dust hide and redden other hot young stars. As energy from these stars pours into the cool dust and gas, large temperature differences in adjoining regions can be created generating shearing winds which may cause the funnels. This picture, spanning about 15 light years, features two colors detected by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8, lies about 5000 light years distant toward the constellation of the Archer Sagittarius.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

It was bright and green and stretched across the sky. This striking aurora display was captured in 2016 just outside of Östersund, Sweden. Six photographic fields were merged to create the featured panorama spanning almost 180 degrees. Particularly striking aspects of this aurora include its sweeping arc-like shape and its stark definition. Lake Storsjön is seen in the foreground, while several familiar constellations and the star Polaris are visible through the aurora, far in the background. Coincidently, the aurora appears to avoid the Moon visible on the lower left. The aurora appeared a day after a large hole opened in the Sun's corona allowing particularly energetic particles to flow out into the Solar System. The green color of the aurora is caused by oxygen atoms recombining with ambient electrons high in the Earth's atmosphere.

Photo by Göran Strand

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