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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Perihelion for 2020, the point in Earth's elliptical orbit when it is closest to the Sun, occurred on January 5th. The distance from the Sun doesn't determine the seasons, though. Those are governed by the tilt of Earth's axis of rotation, so January is still winter in the north and summer in southern hemisphere. But it does mean that on January 5 the Sun was at its largest apparent size. This composite neatly compares two pictures of the Sun, both taken from planet Earth with the same telescope and camera. The left half was captured on the date of the 2020 perihelion. The right was recorded only a week before the July 4 date of the 2019 aphelion, the farthest point in Earth's orbit. Otherwise difficult to notice, the change in the Sun's apparent diameter between perihelion and aphelion amounts to a little over 3 percent. The 2020 perihelion and the preceding 2019 aphelion correspond to the closest and farthest perihelion and aphelion of the 21st century.

Photo by Ian Griffin

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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