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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

No one knew that 2,000 years ago, the technology existed to build such a device. The Antikythera mechanism, pictured, is now widely regarded as the first computer. Found at the bottom of the sea aboard a decaying Greek ship, its complexity prompted decades of study, and even today some of its functions likely remain unknown. X-ray images of the device, however, have confirmed that a main function of its numerous clock-like wheels and gears is to create a portable, hand-cranked, Earth-centered, orrery of the sky, predicting future star and planet locations as well as lunar and solar eclipses. The corroded core of the Antikythera mechanism's largest gear is featured, spanning about 13 centimeters, while the entire mechanism was 33 centimeters high, making it similar in size to a large book. Recently, modern computer modeling of missing components is allowing for the creation of a more complete replica of this surprising ancient machine.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

This popular group leaps into the early evening sky around the March equinox and the northern hemisphere spring. Famous as the Leo Triplet, the three magnificent galaxies found in the prominent constellation Leo gather here in one astronomical field of view. Crowd pleasers when imaged with even modest telescopes, they can be introduced individually as NGC 3628 (right), M66 (upper left), and M65 (bottom). All three are large spiral galaxies but tend to look dissimilar, because their galactic disks are tilted at different angles to our line of sight. NGC 3628, also known as the Hamburger Galaxy, is temptingly seen edge-on, with obscuring dust lanes cutting across its puffy galactic plane. The disks of M66 and M65 are both inclined enough to show off their spiral structure. Gravitational interactions between galaxies in the group have left telltale signs, including the tidal tails and warped, inflated disk of NGC 3628 and the drawn out spiral arms of M66. This gorgeous view of the region spans over 1 degree (two full moons) on the sky in a frame that covers over half a million light-years at the trio's estimated distance of 30 million light-years. Of course the spiky foreground stars lie well within our own Milky Way.

Photo by Francis Bozon

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Stars fill this infrared view, spanning 4 light-years across the center of the Lagoon Nebula. Visible light images show the glowing gas and obscuring dust clouds that dominate the scene. But this infrared image, constructed from Hubble Space Telescope data, peers closer to the heart of the active star-forming region revealing newborn stars scattered within, against a crowded field of background stars toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This tumultuous stellar nursery's central regions are sculpted and energized by the massive, young Herschel 36, seen as the bright star near center in the field of view. Herschel 36 is actually a multiple system of massive stars. At over 30 times the mass of the Sun and less than 1 million years old, the most massive star in the system should live to a stellar old age of 5 million years. Compare that to the almost 5 billion year old Sun which will evolve into a red giant in only another 5 billion years or so. The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8, lies about 4,000 light-years away within the boundaries of the constellation Sagittarius.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Clouds of stardust drift through this deep skyscape, across the Perseus molecular cloud some 850 light-years away. Dusty nebulae reflecting light from embedded young stars stand out in the nearly 2 degree wide telescopic field of view. With a characteristic bluish color reflection nebula NGC 1333 is at center, vdB 13 at top right, with rare yellowish reflection nebula vdB 12 near the top of the frame. Stars are forming in the molecular cloud, though most are obscured at visible wavelengths by the pervasive dust. Still, hints of contrasting red emission from Herbig-Haro objects, the jets and shocked glowing gas emanating from recently formed stars, are evident in NGC 1333. The chaotic environment may be similar to one in which our own Sun formed over 4.5 billion years ago. At the estimated distance of the Perseus molecular cloud, this cosmic scene would span about 40 light-years.

Photo by Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

If you could stand on Venus -- what would you see? Pictured is the view from Venera 13, a robotic Soviet lander which parachuted and air-braked down through the thick Venusian atmosphere in March of 1982. The desolate landscape it saw included flat rocks, vast empty terrain, and a featureless sky above Phoebe Regio near Venus' equator. On the lower left is the spacecraft's penetrometer used to make scientific measurements, while the light piece on the right is part of an ejected lens-cap. Enduring temperatures near 450 degrees Celsius and pressures 75 times that on Earth, the hardened Venera spacecraft lasted only about two hours. Although data from Venera 13 was beamed across the inner Solar System almost 40 years ago, digital processing and merging of Venera's unusual images continues even today. Recent analyses of infrared measurements taken by ESA's orbiting Venus Express spacecraft indicate that active volcanoes may currently exist on Venus.

Photo by Donald Mitchell

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

In the constellation of the swan near the nebula of the pelican lies the gas cloud of the butterfly next to a star known as the hen. That star, given the proper name Sadr, is just to the right of the featured frame, but the central Butterfly Nebula, designated IC 1318, is shown in high resolution. The intricate patterns in the bright gas and dark dust are caused by complex interactions between interstellar winds, radiation pressures, magnetic fields, and gravity. The featured telescopic view captures IC 1318's characteristic emission from ionized sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms mapped to the red, green, and blue hues of the popular Hubble Palette. The portion of the Butterfly Nebula pictured spans about 100 light years and lies about 4000 light years away.

Photo by Alan Pham

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Yes, but have you ever heard a meteor? Usually, meteors are too far away to make any audible sound. However, a meteor will briefly create an ionization trail that can reflect a distant radio signal. If the geometry is right, you may momentarily hear -- through your radio -- a distant radio station even over static. In the featured video, the sounds of distant radio transmitters were caught reflecting from large meteor trails by a sensitive radio receiver -- at the same time the bright streaks were captured by an all-sky video camera. In the video, the bright paths taken by four fireballs across the sky near Lamy, New Mexico, USA, are shown first. Next, after each static frame, a real-time video captures each meteor streaking across the sky, now paired with the sound recorded from its radio reflection. Projecting a meteor trail down to the Earth may lead to finding its impact site (if any), while projecting its trail back into the sky may lead to identifying its parent comet or asteroid. Almost Hyperspace: Random APOD Generator

Video by Thomas AshcraftRadio Fireball Observatory

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

It appeared, momentarily, like a 50-km tall banded flag. In mid-March of 2015, an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection directed toward a clear magnetic channel to Earth led to one of the more intense geomagnetic storms of recent years. A visual result was wide spread auroras being seen over many countries near Earth's magnetic poles. Captured over Kiruna, Sweden, the image features an unusually straight auroral curtain with the green color emitted low in the Earth's atmosphere, and red many kilometers higher up. It is unclear where the rare purple aurora originates, but it might involve an unusual blue aurora at an even lower altitude than the green, seen superposed with a much higher red. Now past Solar Minimum, colorful nights of auroras over Earth are likely to increase. Follow APOD: Through the Free NASA App

Photo by Mia Stålnacke

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What's the sound of one laser zapping? There's no need to consult a Zen master to find out, just listen to the first acoustic recording of laser shots on Mars. On Perseverance mission sol 12 (March 2) the SuperCam instrument atop the rover's mast zapped a rock dubbed Ma'az 30 times from a range of about 3.1 meters. Its microphone recorded the soft staccato popping sounds of the rapid series of SuperCam laser zaps. Shockwaves created in the thin martian atmosphere as bits of rock are vaporized by the laser shots make the popping sounds, sounds that offer clues to the physical structure of the target. This SuperCam close-up of the Ma'az target region is 6 centimeters (2.3 inches) across. Ma'az means Mars in the Navajo language.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful Messier 81. Also known as NGC 3031 or Bode's galaxy for its 18th century discoverer, this grand spiral can be found toward the northern constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear. The sharp, detailed telescopic view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, pinkish starforming regions, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes. Some dust lanes actually run through the galactic disk (left of center), contrary to other prominent spiral features though. The errant dust lanes may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and the nearby galaxy M82 lurking outside of this frame. M81's faint, dwarf irregular satellite galaxy, Holmberg IX, can be seen just below the large spiral. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded a well-determined distance for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years.

Photo by Wissam Ayoub

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