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Posted by Specola

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Cosmic Clouds in the Unicorn

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/08/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Interstellar clouds of hydrogen gas and dust abound in this gorgeous skyscape. The 3 degree wide field of view stretches through the faint but fanciful constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. A star forming region cataloged as NGC 2264 is centered, a complex jumble of cosmic gas, dust and stars about 2,700 light-years distant. It mixes reddish emission nebulae excited by energetic light from newborn stars with dark dust clouds. Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds lie close to hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue reflection nebulae. A few light-years across, a simple sculpted shape known as the Cone Nebula is near center. Outlined by the red glow of hydrogen gas, the cone points toward the left and bright, blue-white S Monocerotis. Itself a multiple system of massive, hot stars S Mon is adjacent to bluish reflection nebulae and the convoluted Fox Fur nebula. Expansive dark markings on the sky are silhouetted by a larger region of fainter emission with yellowish open star cluster Trumpler 5 near the top of the frame. The curious compact cometary shape right of center is known as Hubble's Variable Nebula.

Photo by Bray Falls

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LDN 1622: Dark Nebula in Orion

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/21/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The silhouette of an intriguing dark nebula inhabits this cosmic scene. Lynds' Dark Nebula (LDN) 1622 appears against a faint background of glowing hydrogen gas only visible in long telescopic exposures of the region. In contrast, the brighter reflection nebula vdB 62 is more easily seen, just above and right of center. LDN 1622 lies near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, close on the sky to Barnard's Loop, a large cloud surrounding the rich complex of emission nebulae found in the Belt and Sword of Orion. With swept-back outlines, the obscuring dust of LDN 1622 is thought to lie at a similar distance, perhaps 1,500 light-years away. At that distance, this 1 degree wide field of view would span about 30 light-years. Young stars do lie hidden within the dark expanse and have been revealed in Spitzer Space telescope infrared images. Still, the foreboding visual appearance of LDN 1622 inspires its popular name, the Boogeyman Nebula.

Photo by Min Xie

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Trifecta at Twilight

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/20/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

On February 18, as civil twilight began in northern New Mexico skies, the International Space Station, a waning crescent Moon, and planet Mars for a moment shared this well-planned single field of view. From the photographer's location the sky had just begun to grow light, but the space station orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth was already bathed in the morning sunlight. At 6:25am local time it took about a second to cross in front of the lunar disk moving right to left in the composited successive frames. At the time, Mars itself had already emerged from behind the Moon following its much anticipated lunar occultation. The yellowish glow of the Red Planet is still in the frame at the upper right, beyond the Moon's dark edge.

Photo by Paul Schmit

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UGC 12591: The Fastest Rotating Galaxy Known

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/19/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Why does this galaxy spin so fast? To start, even identifying which type of galaxy UGC 12591 is difficult -- featured on the lower left, it has dark dust lanes like a spiral galaxy but a large diffuse bulge of stars like a lenticular. Surprisingly observations show that UGC 12591 spins at about 480 km/sec, almost twice as fast as our Milky Way, and the fastest rotation rate yet measured. The mass needed to hold together a galaxy spinning this fast is several times the mass of our Milky Way Galaxy. Progenitor scenarios for UGC 12591 include slow growth by accreting ambient matter, or rapid growth through a recent galaxy collision or collisions -- future observations may tell. The light we see today from UGC 12591 left about 400 million years ago, when trees were first developing on Earth.

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