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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

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Many spiral galaxies have bars across their centers. Even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a modest central bar. Prominently barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672, featured here, was captured in spectacular detail in an image taken by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Visible are dark filamentary dust lanes, young clusters of bright blue stars, red emission nebulas of glowing hydrogen gas, a long bright bar of stars across the center, and a bright active nucleus that likely houses a supermassive black hole. Light takes about 60 million years to reach us from NGC 1672, which spans about 75,000 light years across. NGC 1672, which appears toward the constellation of the Dolphinfish (Dorado), has been studied to find out how a spiral bar contributes to star formation in a galaxy's central regions. Notable APOD Submissions: Gallery of Venus passing in front of the Pleiades

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Wouldn't it be fun to color in the universe? If you think so, please accept this famous astronomical illustration as a preliminary substitute. You, your friends, your parents or children, can print it out or even color it digitally. While coloring, you might be interested to know that even though this illustration has appeared in numerous places over the past 100 years, the actual artist remains unknown. Furthermore, the work has no accepted name -- can you think of a good one? The illustration, first appearing in a book by Camille Flammarion in 1888, is used frequently to show that humanity's present concepts are susceptible to being supplanted by greater truths.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

After wandering about as far from the Sun on the sky as Venus can get, the brilliant evening star is crossing paths with the sister stars of the Pleiades cluster. Look west after sunset and you can share the ongoing conjunction with skygazers around the world. Taken on April 2, this celestial group photo captures the view from Portal, Arizona, USA. Even bright naked-eye Pleiades stars prove to be much fainter than Venus though. Apparent in deeper telescopic images, the cluster's dusty surroundings and familiar bluish reflection nebulae aren't quite visible, while brighter Venus itself is almost overwhelming in the single exposure. And while Venus and the Sisters do look a little star-crossed, their spiky appearance is the diffraction pattern caused by multiple leaves in the aperture of the telephoto lens. The last similar conjunction of Venus and Pleiades occurred nearly 8 years ago.

Photo by Fred Espenak

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