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Posted by Specola

Aurora Slathers Up the Sky

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/04/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Like salsa verde on your favorite burrito, a green aurora slathers up the sky in this 2017 June 25 snapshot from the International Space Station. About 400 kilometers (250 miles) above Earth, the orbiting station is itself within the upper realm of the auroral displays. Aurorae have the signature colors of excited molecules and atoms at the low densities found at extreme altitudes. Emission from atomic oxygen dominates this view. The tantalizing glow is green at lower altitudes, but rarer reddish bands extend above the space station's horizon. The orbital scene was captured while passing over a point south and east of Australia, with stars above the horizon at the right belonging to the constellation Canis Major, Orion's big dog. Sirius, alpha star of Canis Major, is the brightest star near the Earth's limb.

South Celestial Rocket Launch

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/28/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

At sunset on December 6 a Rocket Lab Electron rocket was launched from a rotating planet. With multiple small satellites on board it departed on a mission to low Earth orbit dubbed Running Out of Fingers from Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand's north island. The fiery trace of the Electron's graceful launch arc is toward the south in this southern sea and skyscape. Drifting vapor trails and rocket exhaust plumes catch the sunlight even as the sky grows dark though, the setting Sun still shinning at altitude along the rocket's trajectory. Fixed to a tripod, the camera's perspective nearly aligns the peak of the rocket arc with the South Celestial Pole, but no bright star marks that location in the southern hemisphere's evening sky. Still, it's easy to find at the center of the star trail arcs in the timelapse composite.

Photo by Brendan Gully

Two Hemisphere Night Sky

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/27/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The Sun is hidden by a horizon that runs across the middle in this two hemisphere view of Earth's night sky. The digitally stitched mosaics were recorded from corresponding latitudes, one 29 degrees north and one 29 degrees south of the planet's equator. On top is the northern view from the IAC observatory at La Palma taken in February 2020. Below is a well-matched southern scene from the ESO La Silla Observatory recorded in April 2016. In this projection, the Milky Way runs almost vertically above and below the horizon. Its dark clouds and and bright nebulae are prominent near the galactic center in the lower half of the frame. In the upper half, brilliant Venus is immersed in zodiacal light. Sunlight faintly scattered by interplanetary dust, the zodiacal light traces the Solar System's ecliptic plane in a complete circle through the starry sky. Large telescope domes bulge along the inverted horizon from La Silla while at La Palma, multi-mirror Magic telescopes stand above center. Explore this two hemisphere night sky and you can also find the Andromeda Galaxy and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.

Photo by Petr Horálek

NGTS-10b: Discovery of a Doomed Planet

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/26/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

This hot jupiter is doomed. Hot jupiters are giant planets like Jupiter that orbit much closer to their parent stars than Mercury does to our Sun. But some hot jupiters are more extreme than others. NGTS-10b, illustrated generically, is the closest and fastest-orbiting giant planet yet discovered, circling its home star in only 18 hours. NGTS-10b is a little larger than Jupiter, but it orbits less than two times the diameter of its parent star away from the star’s surface. When a planet orbits this close, it is expected to spiral inward, pulled down by tidal forces to be eventually ripped apart by the star’s gravity. NGTS-10b, discovered by researchers at the University of Warwick, is named after the Next Generation Transit Survey, which detected the imperiled planet when it passed in front of its star, blocking some of the light. Although the violent demise of NGTS-10b will happen eventually, we don't yet know when.

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