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A Hotspot Map of Neutron Star J0030's Surface

Posted by Specola • Posted on 12/18/2019 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

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.

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Star Formation in the Tadpole Nebula

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/28/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What's all of the commotion in the Tadpole Nebula? Star formation. Dusty emission in the Tadpole Nebula, IC 410, lies about 12,000 light-years away in the northern constellation of the Charioteer (Auriga). The cloud of glowing gas is over 100 light-years across, sculpted by stellar winds and radiation from embedded open star cluster NGC 1893. Formed in the interstellar cloud a mere 4 million years ago, bright newly formed cluster stars are seen all around the star-forming nebula. Notable near the image center are two relatively dense streamers of material trailing away from the nebula's central regions. Potentially sites of ongoing star formation in IC 410, these cosmic tadpole shapes are about 10 light-years long. The featured image was taken in infrared light by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. Discovery + Outreach: Graduate student research position open for APOD

Photo by Francesco Antonucci

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Comet CG Evaporates

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/27/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Where do comet tails come from? There are no obvious places on the nuclei of comets from which the jets that create comet tails emanate. One of the best images of emerging jets is shown in the featured picture, taken in 2015 by ESA's robotic Rosetta spacecraft that orbited Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Comet CG) from 2014 to 2016. The picture shows plumes of gas and dust escaping numerous places from Comet CG's nucleus as it neared the Sun and heated up. The comet has two prominent lobes, the larger one spanning about 4 kilometers, and a smaller 2.5-kilometer lobe connected by a narrow neck. Analyses indicate that evaporation must be taking place well inside the comet's surface to create the jets of dust and ice that we see emitted through the surface. Comet CG (also known as Comet 67P) loses in jets about a meter of radius during each of its 6.44-year orbits around the Sun, a rate at which will completely destroy the comet in only thousands of years. In 2016, Rosetta's mission ended with a controlled impact onto Comet CG's surface. Outreach Astronomers: Future APOD writers sought.

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Hills, Ridges, and Tracks on Mars

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/26/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Sometimes, even rovers on Mars stop to admire the scenery. Just late last November the Curiosity rover on Mars paused to photograph its impressive surroundings. One thing to admire, straight ahead, was Central Butte, an unusual flat hill studied by Curiosity just a few days before this image was taken. To its right was distant Mount Sharp, the five-kilometer central peak of entire Gale crater, the interior of which Curiosity is exploring. Mount Sharp, covered in sulfates, appears quite bright in this colorized, red-filtered image. To the far left, shrouded in a very dark shadow, was the south slope of Vera Rubin ridge, an elevation explored previously by Curiosity. Between the ridge and butte were tracks left by Curiosity's wheels as they rolled forward, out of the scene. In the image foreground is, of course, humanity's current eyes on Mars: the complex robotic rover Curiosity itself. Later this year, if all goes well, NASA will have another rover -- and more eyes -- on Mars. Today you can help determine the name of this rover yourself, but tomorrow is the last day to cast your vote. Help Name the Mars 2020 Rover: Vote here!

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