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Apollo 14 Heads for Home

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/01/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

When leaving lunar orbit in February 1971, the crew of Apollo 14 watched this Earthrise from their command module Kittyhawk. With Earth's sunlit crescent just peaking over the lunar horizon, the cratered terrain in the foreground is along the lunar farside. Of course, while orbiting the Moon, the crew could watch Earth rise and set, but the Earth hung stationary in the sky over Fra Mauro Base, their landing site on the lunar surface. Rock samples brought back by the Apollo 14 mission included a 20 pound rock nicknamed Big Bertha, later determined to contain a likely fragment of a meteorite from planet Earth.

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Orion over the Central Bohemian Highlands

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/18/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Do you recognize this constellation? Setting past the Central Bohemian Highlands in the Czech Republic is Orion, one of the most identifiable star groupings on the sky and an icon familiar to humanity for over 30,000 years. Orion has looked pretty much the same during this time and should continue to look the same for many thousands of years into the future. Prominent Orion is high in the sky at sunset this time of year, a recurring sign of (modern) winter in Earth's northern hemisphere and summer in the south. The featured picture is a composite of over thirty images taken from the same location and during the same night last month. Below and slightly to the left of Orion's three-star belt is the Orion Nebula, while four of the bright stars surrounding the belt are, clockwise, Sirius (far left, blue), Betelgeuse (top, orange, unusually faint), Aldebaran (far right), and Rigel (below). As future weeks progress, Orion will set increasingly earlier. Infinite Random Loop: Create an APOD Station in your classroom or Science Center.

Photo by Vojtěch Bauer

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The Changing Surface of Fading Betelgeuse

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/17/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Besides fading, is Betelgeuse changing its appearance? Yes. The famous red supergiant star in the familiar constellation of Orion is so large that telescopes on Earth can actually resolve its surface -- although just barely. The two featured images taken with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope show how the star's surface appeared during the beginning and end of last year. The earlier image shows Betelgeuse having a much more uniform brightness than the later one, while the lower half of Betelgeuse became significantly dimmer than the top. Now during the first five months of 2019 amateur observations show Betelgeuse actually got slightly brighter, while in the last five months the star dimmed dramatically. 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. Since Betelgeuse is about 700 light years away, its eventual supernova -- probably thousands of years in the future -- will likely be an amazing night-sky spectacle, but will not endanger life on Earth.

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NGC 2392: Double-Shelled Planetary Nebula

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

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

To some, this huge nebula resembles a person's head surrounded by a parka hood. In 1787, astronomer William Herschel discovered this unusual planetary nebula: NGC 2392. More recently, the Hubble Space Telescope imaged the nebula in visible light, while the nebula was also imaged in X-rays by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The featured combined visible-X ray image, shows X-rays emitted by central hot gas in pink. The nebula displays gas clouds so complex they are not fully understood. NGC 2392 is a double-shelled planetary nebula, with the more distant gas having composed the outer layers of a Sun-like star only 10,000 years ago. The outer shell contains unusual light-year long orange filaments. The inner filaments visible are being ejected by strong wind of particles from the central star. The NGC 2392 Nebula spans about 1/3 of a light year and lies in our Milky Way Galaxy, about 3,000 light years distant, toward the constellation of the Twins (Gemini).

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