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Posted by Specola

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Perihelion to Aphelion

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/09/2020 at 12:17PM Photography See more by Specola

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

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Into the Shadow

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/24/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

On January 21, 2019 moonwatchers on planet Earth saw a total lunar eclipse. In 35 frames this composite image follows the Moon that night as it crossed into Earth's dark umbral shadow. Taken 3 minutes apart, they almost melt together in a continuous screen that captures the dark colors within the shadow itself and the northern curve of the shadow's edge. Sunlight scattered by the atmosphere into the shadow causes the lunar surface to appear reddened during totality (left), but close to the umbra's edge, the limb of the eclipsed Moon shows a remarkable blue hue. The blue eclipsed moonlight originates as rays of sunlight pass through layers high in Earth's upper stratosphere, colored by ozone that scatters red light and transmits blue. The Moon's next crossing into Earth's umbral shadow, will be on May 26, 2021.

Photo by Laszlo Francsics

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Globular Star Cluster NGC 6752

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/23/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Some 13,000 light-years away toward the southern constellation Pavo, the globular star cluster NGC 6752 roams the halo of our Milky Way galaxy. Over 10 billion years old, NGC 6752 follows clusters Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae as the third brightest globular in planet Earth's night sky. It holds over 100 thousand stars in a sphere about 100 light-years in diameter. Telescopic explorations of the NGC 6752 have found that a remarkable fraction of the stars near the cluster's core, are multiple star systems. They also reveal the presence of blue straggle stars, stars which appear to be too young and massive to exist in a cluster whose stars are all expected to be at least twice as old as the Sun. The blue stragglers are thought to be formed by star mergers and collisions in the dense stellar environment at the cluster's core. This sharp color composite also features the cluster's ancient red giant stars in yellowish hues. (Note: The bright, spiky blue star at 11 o'clock from the cluster center is a foreground star along the line-of-sight to NGC 6752)

Photo by Jose Joaquin Perez

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The Hyades Star Cluster

Posted by Specola • Posted on 01/22/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

It is the closest cluster of stars to the Sun. The Hyades open cluster is bright enough to have been remarked on even thousands of years ago, yet is not as bright or compact as the nearby Pleiades (M45) star cluster. Pictured here is a particularly deep image of the Hyades which has brings out vivid star colors and faint coincidental nebulas. The brightest star in the field is yellow Aldebaran, the eye of the bull toward the constellation of Taurus. Aldebaran, at 65 light-years away, is now known to be unrelated to the Hyades cluster, which lies about 150 light-years away. The central Hyades stars are spread out over about 15 light-years. Formed about 625 million years ago, the Hyades likely shares a common origin with the Beehive cluster (M44), a naked-eye open star cluster toward the constellation of Cancer, based on M44's motion through space and remarkably similar age.

Photo by Jose Mtanous

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