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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What's behind Betelgeuse? One of the brighter and more unusual stars in the sky, the red supergiant star Betelgeuse can be found in the direction of famous constellation Orion. Betelgeuse, however, is actually well in front of many of the constellation's other bright stars, and also in front of the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Numerically, light takes about 700 years to reach us from Betelgeuse, but about 1,300 years to reach us from the Orion Nebula and its surrounding dust and gas. All but the largest telescopes see Betelgeuse as only a point of light, but a point so bright that the inherent blurriness created by the telescope and Earth's atmosphere make it seem extended. In the featured long-exposure image, thousands of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy can be seen in the background behind Betelgeuse, as well as dark dust from the Orion Molecular Cloud, and some red-glowing emission from hydrogen gas on the outskirts of the more distant Lambda Orionis Ring. Betelgeuse has recovered from appearing unusually dim over the past six months, but is still expected to explode in a spectacular supernova sometime in the next (about) 100,000 years.

Photo by Adam BlockSteward Observatory, University of Arizona

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

very time Venus passes the Earth, it shows the same face. This remarkable fact has been known for only about 50 years, ever since radio telescopes have been able to peer beneath Venus' thick clouds and track its slowly rotating surface. This inferior conjunction -- when Venus and Earth are the closest -- occurs today. The featured animation shows the positions of the Sun, Venus and Earth between 2010-2023 based on NASA-downloaded data, while a mock yellow 'arm' has been fixed to the ground on Venus to indicate rotation. The reason for this unusual 1.6-year resonance is the gravitational influence that Earth has on Venus, which surprisingly dominates the Sun's tidal effect. If Venus could be seen through the Sun's glare today, it would show just a very slight sliver of a crescent. Although previously visible in the evening sky, starting tomorrow, Venus will appear in the morning sky -- on the other side of the Sun as viewed from Earth. Experts Debate: How will humanity first discover extraterrestrial life?

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Humanity is under attack. The attack is not from large tentacle-flailing aliens, but from invaders so small they can barely be seen, and so strange they are not even clearly alive. All over planet Earth, the human home world, DNA-based humans are being invaded by the RNA-based SARS-CoV2. The virus, which creates a disease known as COVID-19, specializes in reprogramming human cells into zombies that manufacture and release copies of itself. Pictured here is a high magnification image of a human cell covered by attacking novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2 (orange). Epic battles where two species square off in a fight to the death are not unusual on Earth, with several just involving humans typically ongoing at any time. Even so, most humans are predicted to survive. After several years, humanity expects to win this war -- but only after millions of humans have died and trillions of coronaviruses have been destroyed. Wash your hands: Tips for humans on how to survive this SARS-CoV2 assault

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The center of the Lagoon Nebula is a whirlwind of spectacular star formation. Visible near the image center, at least two long funnel-shaped clouds, each roughly half a light-year long, have been formed by extreme stellar winds and intense energetic starlight. A tremendously bright nearby star, Herschel 36, lights the area. Vast walls of dust hide and redden other hot young stars. As energy from these stars pours into the cool dust and gas, large temperature differences in adjoining regions can be created generating shearing winds which may cause the funnels. This picture, spanning about 15 light years, features two colors detected by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8, lies about 5000 light years distant toward the constellation of the Archer Sagittarius.

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