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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Why is Betelgeuse fading? No one knows. Betelgeuse, one of the brightest and most recognized stars in the night sky, is only half as bright as it used to be only five months ago. Such variability is likely just normal behavior for this famously variable supergiant, but the recent dimming has rekindled discussion on how long it may be before Betelgeuse does go supernova. Known for its red color, Betelgeuse is one of the few stars to be resolved by modern telescopes, although only barely. The featured artist's illustration imagines how Betelgeuse might look up close. Betelgeuse is thought to have a complex and tumultuous surface that frequently throws impressive flares. Were it to replace the Sun (not recommended), its surface would extend out near the orbit of Jupiter, while gas plumes would bubble out past Neptune. Since Betelgeuse is about 700 light years away, its eventual supernova will not endanger life on Earth even though its brightness may rival that of a full Moon. Astronomers -- both amateur and professional -- will surely continue to monitor Betelgeuse as this new decade unfolds. Free Presentation: APOD Editor to show best astronomy images of 2019 -- and the decade -- in NYC on January 3

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

very time Venus passes the Earth, it shows the same face. This remarkable fact has been known for only about 50 years, ever since radio telescopes have been able to peer beneath Venus' thick clouds and track its slowly rotating surface. This inferior conjunction -- when Venus and Earth are the closest -- occurs today. The featured animation shows the positions of the Sun, Venus and Earth between 2010-2023 based on NASA-downloaded data, while a mock yellow 'arm' has been fixed to the ground on Venus to indicate rotation. The reason for this unusual 1.6-year resonance is the gravitational influence that Earth has on Venus, which surprisingly dominates the Sun's tidal effect. If Venus could be seen through the Sun's glare today, it would show just a very slight sliver of a crescent. Although previously visible in the evening sky, starting tomorrow, Venus will appear in the morning sky -- on the other side of the Sun as viewed from Earth. Experts Debate: How will humanity first discover extraterrestrial life?

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.

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