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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Astronomers believe they have now found the most powerful example of a black hole outburst yet seen in our Universe. The composite, false-color featured image is of a cluster of galaxies in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer. The composite includes X-ray images (from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and XMM-Newton) in purple, and a radio image (from India's Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope) in blue (along with an infrared image of the galaxies and stars in the field in white for good measure). The dashed line marks the border of a cavity blown out by the supermassive black hole which lurks at the center of the galaxy marked by the cross. Radio emission fills this cavity. This big blowout is believed to be due to the black hole eating too much and experiencing a transient bout of "black hole nausea", which resulted in the ejection of a powerful radio jet blasting into intergalactic space. The amount of energy needed to blow this cavity is equivalent to about 10 billion supernova explosions.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

A sensitive video camera on a summit of the Vosges mountains in France captured these surprising fireworks above a distant horizon on June 26. Generated over intense thunderstorms, this one about 260 kilometers away, the brief and mysterious flashes have come to be known as red sprites. The transient luminous events are caused by electrical breakdown at altitudes of 50 to 100 kilometers. That puts them in the mesophere, the coldest layer of planet Earth's atmosphere. The glow beneath the sprites is from more familiar lighting though, below the storm clouds. But on the right, the video frames have captured another summertime apparition from the mesophere. The silvery veins of light are polar mesospheric clouds. Also known as noctilucent or night shining clouds, the icy clouds still reflect the sunlight when the Sun is below the horizon.

Photo by Stephane Vetter

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Stars are forming in Lynds Dark Nebula (LDN) 1251. About 1,000 light-years away and drifting above the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, the dusty molecular cloud is part of a complex of dark nebulae mapped toward the Cepheus flare region. Across the spectrum, astronomical explorations of the obscuring interstellar clouds reveal energetic shocks and outflows associated with newborn stars, including the telltale reddish glow from scattered Herbig-Haro objects seen in this sharp image. Distant background galaxies also lurk on the scene, buried behind the dusty expanse. This alluring view imaged with a backyard telescope and broadband filters spans about two full moons on the sky, or 17 light-years at the estimated distance of LDN 1251.

Photo by Ara Jerahian

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The Old Astronomer's Milky Way arcs through this peaceful northern sky. Against faint, diffuse starlight you can follow dark rifts of interstellar dust clouds stretching from the galaxy's core. They lead toward bright star Antares at the right, almost due south above the horizon. The brightest beacon in the twilight is Jupiter, though. From the camera's perspective it seems to hang from the limb of a tree framing the foreground, an apple tree of course. The serene maritime nightscape was recorded in tracked and untracked exposures on June 16 from Dover, Nova Scotia, planet Earth.

Photo by Kristine Richer

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