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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

On Halloween fear and dread will stalk your night skies, also known as Phobos and Deimos the moons of Mars. The 2020 opposition of Mars was on October 13, so the Red Planet will still rise shortly before sunset. Near Halloween's Full Moon on the sky, its strange yellowish glow will outshine other stars throughout the night. But the two tiny Martian moons are very faint and in close orbits, making them hard to spot, even with a small telescope. You can find them in this carefully annotated composite view though. The overexposed planet's glare is reduced and orbital paths for inner moon Phobos and outer moon Deimos are overlayed on digitally combined images captured on October 6. The diminutive moons of Mars were discovered in August of 1877 by astronomer Asaph Hall at the US Naval Observatory using the Great Equatorial 26-inch Alvan Clark refractor

Photo by Dennis Simmons

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Inspired by the halloween season, this telescopic portrait captures a cosmic cloud with a scary visage. The interstellar scene lies within the dusty expanse of reflection nebula IC 2118 in the constellation Orion, the Hunter. IC 2118 is about 800 light-years from your neighborhood, close to bright bluish star Rigel at Orion's foot. Often identified as the Witch Head nebula for its appearance in a wider field of view it now rises before the witching hour. With spiky stars for eyes, the ghoulish apparition identified here seems to extend an arm many light-years long toward Orion's hot supergiant star. The source of illumination for IC 2118, Rigel is just beyond this frame at the upper left.

Photo by Casey Good/Steve Timmons

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Why is the Lobster Nebula forming some of the most massive stars known? No one is yet sure. Cataloged as NGC 6357, the Lobster Nebula houses the open star cluster Pismis 24 near its center -- a home to unusually bright and massive stars. The overall blue glow near the inner star forming region results from the emission of ionized hydrogen gas. The surrounding nebula, featured here, holds a complex tapestry of gas, dark dust, stars still forming, and newly born stars. The intricate patterns are caused by complex interactions between interstellar winds, radiation pressures, magnetic fields, and gravity. NGC 6357 spans about 400 light years and lies about 8,000 light years away toward the constellation of the Scorpion.

Photo by Steven Mohr

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What would an erupting volcano on Venus look like? Evidence of currently active volcanoes on Venus was announced earlier this year with the unexplained warmth of regions thought to contain only ancient volcanoes. Although large scale images of Venus have been taken with radar, thick sulfuric acid clouds would inhibit the taking of optical light vistas. Nevertheless, an artist's reconstruction of a Venusian volcano erupting is featured. Volcanoes could play an important role in a life cycle on Venus as they could push chemical foods into the cooler upper atmosphere where hungry microbes might float. Pictured, the plume from an erupting volcano billows upwards, while a vast lava field covers part of the hot and cracked surface of Earth's overheated twin. The possibility of airborne microbial Venusians is certainly exciting, but currently controversial. An APOD Described on TikTok: By astrokirsten

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Do any shapes seem to jump out at you from this interstellar field of stars and dust? The jeweled expanse, filled with faint, starlight-reflecting clouds, drifts through the night in the royal constellation of Cepheus. Far from your own neighborhood on planet Earth, these ghostly apparitions lurk along the plane of the Milky Way at the edge of the Cepheus Flare molecular cloud complex some 1,200 light-years away. Over two light-years across and brighter than the other spooky chimeras, VdB 141 or Sh2-136 is also known as the Ghost Nebula, seen at toward the bottom of the featured image. Within the reflection nebula are the telltale signs of dense cores collapsing in the early stages of star formation.

Photo by Bogdan Jarzyna

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Is our universe haunted? It might look that way on this dark matter map. The gravity of unseen dark matter is the leading explanation for why galaxies rotate so fast, why galaxies orbit clusters so fast, why gravitational lenses so strongly deflect light, and why visible matter is distributed as it is both in the local universe and on the cosmic microwave background. The featured image from the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium previous Space Show Dark Universe highlights one example of how pervasive dark matter might haunt our universe. In this frame from a detailed computer simulation, complex filaments of dark matter, shown in black, are strewn about the universe like spider webs, while the relatively rare clumps of familiar baryonic matter are colored orange. These simulations are good statistical matches to astronomical observations. In what is perhaps a scarier turn of events, dark matter -- although quite strange and in an unknown form -- is no longer thought to be the strangest source of gravity in the universe. That honor now falls to dark energy, a more uniform source of repulsive gravity that seems to now dominate the expansion of the entire universe.

Photo by Tom AbelRalf KaehlerKIPACSLACAMNH

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Globular star cluster 47 Tucanae is a jewel of the southern sky. Also known as NGC 104, it roams the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy along with some 200 other globular star clusters. The second brightest globular cluster (after Omega Centauri) as seen from planet Earth, it lies about 13,000 light-years away and can be spotted naked-eye close on the sky to the Small Magellanic Cloud in the constellation of the Toucan. The dense cluster is made up of hundreds of thousands of stars in a volume only about 120 light-years across. Red giant stars on the outskirts of the cluster are easy to pick out as yellowish stars in this sharp telescopic portrait. Tightly packed globular cluster 47 Tuc is also home to a star with the closest known orbit around a black hole.

Photo by Jose Mtanous

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 2525 lies 70 million light-years from the Milky Way. It shines in Earth's night sky within the boundaries of the southern constellation Puppis. About 60,000 light-years across, its spiral arms lined with dark dust clouds, massive blue stars, and pinkish starforming regions wind through this gorgeous Hubble Space Telescope snapshot. Spotted on the outskirts of NGC 2525 in January 2018, supernova SN 2018gv is the brightest star in the frame at the lower left. In time-lapse, a year long series of Hubble observations followed the stellar explosion, the nuclear detonation of a white dwarf star triggered by accreting material from a companion star, as it slowly faded from view. Identified as a Type Ia supernova, its brightness is considered a cosmic standard candle. Type Ia supernovae are used to measure distances to galaxies and determine the expansion rate of the Universe.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

On October 20, after a careful approach to the boulder-strewn surface, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's arm reached out and touched asteroid Bennu. Dubbed a Touch-And-Go (TAG) sampling event, the 30 centimeter wide sampling head (TAGSAM) appears to crush some of the rocks in this snapshot. The close-up scene was recorded by the spacecraft's SamCam some 321 million kilometers from planet Earth, just after surface contact. One second later, the spacecraft fired nitrogen gas from a bottle intended to blow a substantial amount of Bennu's regolith into the sampling head, collecting the loose surface material. Data show the spacecraft spent approximately 5 more seconds in contact with Bennu's Nightingale sample site and then performed its back-away burn. Timelapse frames from SamCam reveal the aftermath.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

How many famous sky objects can you find in this image? The featured dark sky composite combines over 60 exposures spanning over 220 degrees to create a veritable menagerie of night sky wonders. Visible celestial icons include the Belt of Orion, the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, the California Nebula, and bright stars Sirius and Betelgeuse. You can verify that you found these, if you did, by checking an annotated version of the image. A bit harder, though, is finding Polaris and the Big Dipper. Also discernible are several meteors from the Quandrantids meteor shower, red and green airglow, and two friends of the astrophotographer. The picture was captured in January from Sardinia, Italy. You can see sky wonders in your own night sky tonight -- including more meteors than usual -- because tonight is near peak of the yearly Orionids meteor shower. News: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid

Photo by Tomáš Slovinský

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Saturn and Jupiter are getting closer. Every night that you go out and check for the next two months, these two bright planets will be even closer together on the sky. Finally, in mid-December, a Great Conjunction will occur -- when the two planets will appear only 0.1 degrees apart -- just one fifth the angular diameter of the full Moon. And this isn't just any Great Conjunction -- Saturn (left) and Jupiter (right) haven't been this close since 1623, and won't be nearly this close again until 2080. This celestial event is quite easy to see -- already the two planets are easily visible toward the southwest just after sunset -- and already they are remarkably close. Pictured, the astrophotographer and partner eyed the planetary duo above the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks of Lavaredo) in the Italian Alps about two weeks ago. Follow: Live coverage of today's OSIRIS-REx attempted touchdown-and-go on asteroid Bennu

Photo by Giorgia Hofer

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Are you willing to wait to see the largest and oldest known storm system in the Solar System? In the featured video, Jupiter's Great Red Spot finally makes its appearance 2 minutes and 12 seconds into the 5-minute video. Before it arrives, you may find it pleasing to enjoy the continually changing view of the seemingly serene clouds of Jupiter, possibly with your lights low and sound up. The 41 frames that compose the video were captured in June as the robotic Juno spacecraft was making a close pass over our Solar System's largest planet. The time-lapse sequence actually occurred over four hours. Since arriving at Jupiter in 2016, Juno's numerous discoveries have included unexpectedly deep atmospheric jet streams, the most powerful auroras ever recorded, and water-bearing clouds bunched near Jupiter's equator. Follow: Live coverage of tomorrow's OSIRIS-REx attempted touchdown-and-go on asteroid Bennu

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What's happening to this spiral galaxy? Although details remain uncertain, it surely has to do with an ongoing battle with its smaller galactic neighbor. The featured galaxy is labelled UGC 1810 by itself, but together with its collisional partner is known as Arp 273. The overall shape of UGC 1810 -- in particular its blue outer ring -- is likely a result of wild and violent gravitational interactions. This ring's blue color is caused by massive stars that are blue hot and have formed only in the past few million years. The inner galaxy appears older, redder, and threaded with cool filamentary dust. A few bright stars appear well in the foreground, unrelated to UGC 1810, while several galaxies are visible well in the background. Arp 273 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation of Andromeda. Quite likely, UGC 1810 will devour its galactic sidekick over the next billion years and settle into a classic spiral form. APOD in world languages: Arabic, Catalan, Chinese (Beijing), Chinese (Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Montenegrin, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish, Turkish, Turkish, and Ukrainian

Photo by Domingo Pestana

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

These clouds of gas and dust drift through rich star fields along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the high flying constellation Cygnus. Caught within the telescopic field of view are the Soap Bubble (lower left) and the Crescent Nebula (upper right). Both were formed at a final phase in the life of a star. Also known as NGC 6888, the Crescent was shaped as its bright, central massive Wolf-Rayet star, WR 136, shed its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind. Burning through fuel at a prodigious rate, WR 136 is near the end of a short life that should finish in a spectacular supernova explosion. Discovered in 2013, the Soap Bubble Nebula is likely a planetary nebula, the final shroud of a lower mass, long-lived, sun-like star destined to become a slowly cooling white dwarf. Both stellar shrouds are 5,000 light-years or so distant. The larger Crescent Nebula is around 25 light-years across.

Photo by Wissam Ayoub

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Planetary nebula Abell 78 stands out in this colorful telescopic skyscape. In fact the colors of the spiky Milky Way stars depend on their surface temperatures, both cooler (yellowish) and hotter (bluish) than the Sun. But Abell 78 shines by the characteristic emission of ionized atoms in the tenuous shroud of material shrugged off from an intensely hot central star. The atoms are ionized, their electrons stripped away, by the central star's energetic but otherwise invisible ultraviolet light. The visible blue-green glow of loops and filaments in the nebula's central region corresponds to emission from doubly ionized oxygen atoms, surrounded by strong red emission from electrons recombining with hydrogen atoms. Some 5,000 light-years distant toward the constellation Cygnus, Abell 78 is about three light-years across. A planetary nebula like Abell 78 represents a very brief final phase in stellar evolution that our own Sun will experience ... in about 5 billion years.

Photo by Bernhard Hubl

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

This sharp telescopic view reveals galaxies scattered beyond the stars of the Milky Way, at the northern boundary of the high-flying constellation Pegasus. Prominent at the upper right is NGC 7331. A mere 50 million light-years away, the large spiral is one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier's famous 18th century catalog. The disturbed looking group of galaxies at the lower left is well-known as Stephan's Quintet. About 300 million light-years distant, the quintet dramatically illustrates a multiple galaxy collision, its powerful, ongoing interactions posed for a brief cosmic snapshot. On the sky, the quintet and NGC 7331 are separated by about half a degree.

Photo by Robert Eder

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The many spectacular colors of the Rho Ophiuchi (oh'-fee-yu-kee) clouds highlight the many processes that occur there. The blue regions shine primarily by reflected light. Blue light from the Rho Ophiuchi star system and nearby stars reflects more efficiently off this portion of the nebula than red light. The Earth's daytime sky appears blue for the same reason. The red and yellow regions shine primarily because of emission from the nebula's atomic and molecular gas. Light from nearby blue stars - more energetic than the bright star Antares - knocks electrons away from the gas, which then shines when the electrons recombine with the gas. The dark brown regions are caused by dust grains - born in young stellar atmospheres - which effectively block light emitted behind them. The Rho Ophiuchi star clouds, well in front of the globular cluster M4 visible here on the upper right, are even more colorful than humans can see - the clouds emits light in every wavelength band from the radio to the gamma-ray. Astrophysicists: Browse 2,200+ codes in the Astrophysics Source Code Library

Photo by Amir H. Abolfath

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Three very different -- and very famous -- objects were all captured in a single frame last month. On the upper left is the bright blue Pleiades, perhaps the most famous cluster of stars on the night sky. The Pleiades (M45) is about 450 light years away and easily found a few degrees from Orion. On the upper right is the expansive Andromeda Galaxy, perhaps the most famous galaxy -- external to our own -- on the night sky. Andromeda (M31) is one of few objects visible to the unaided eye where you can see light that is millions of years old. In the middle is bright red Mars, perhaps the most famous planet on the night sky. Today Mars is at opposition, meaning that it is opposite the Sun, with the result that it is visible all night long. In the foreground is an ancient tomb in the Phygrian Valley in Turkey. The tomb, featuring two stone lions, is an impressive remnant of a powerful civilization that lived thousands of years ago. Mars, currently near its brightest, can be easily found toward the east just after sunset.

Photo by Cem Özkeser

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What would it be like to land on an asteroid? Although no human has yet done it, NASA's robotic OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to attempt to touch the surface of asteroid 101955 Bennu next week. The goal is to collect a sample from the nearby minor planet for return to Earth for a detailed analysis in 2023. The featured video shows what it looks like to descend toward the 500-meter diamond-shaped asteroid, based on a digital map of Bennu's rocky surface constructed from image and surface data taken by OSIRIS-REx over the past 1.5 years. The video begins by showing a rapidly spinning Bennu -- much faster than its real rotation period of 4.3 hours. After the rotation stops, the virtual camera drops you down to just above the rugged surface and circles a house-sized rock outcrop named Simurgh, with the flatter outcrop Roc visible behind it. If the return sample reaches Earth successfully, it will be scrutinized for organic compounds that might have seeded a young Earth, rare or unusual elements and minerals, and clues about the early history of our Solar System.

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

What strange world is this? Earth. In the foreground of the featured image are the Pinnacles, unusual rock spires in Nambung National Park in Western Australia. Made of ancient sea shells (limestone), how these human-sized picturesque spires formed remains unknown. In the background, just past the end of the central Pinnacle, is a bright crescent Moon. The eerie glow around the Moon is mostly zodiacal light, sunlight reflected by dust grains orbiting between the planets in the Solar System. Arching across the top is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. Many famous stars and nebulas are also visible in the background night sky. The featured 29-panel panorama was taken and composed in 2015 September after detailed planning that involved the Moon, the rock spires, and their corresponding shadows. Even so, the strong zodiacal light was a pleasant surprise.

Photo by Michael Goh

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