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  #646  
Παλιά 08-09-08, 08:08
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Rosetta Spacecraft Passes Asteroid Steins
Credit & Copyright: Rosetta Team, ESA

Explanation: What's that diamond in the sky? Cruising though space, sometimes you'll come across an unusual object. Such was the case on Friday for ESA's Rosetta spacecraft on it's way to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. Robotic Rosetta buzzed right by the main belt asteroid 2867 Šteins, taking many pictures, some of which have been compiled into a short video. At first glance, Steins looked like a 5-kilometer wide diamond, but as Rosetta shot by, craters and a more extended shape become evident. In the above sequence of six images, a notable chain of craters is evident vertically on the asteroid's surface, most probably caused by a chance collision with a stream of meteors. Space scientists will now study the data taken by Rosetta of asteroid Steins in an effort to better understand its composition, origin, and why the asteroid reflects light so well. As the Earth-bound scientists toil, Rosetta itself will continue to zoom across our Solar System, next swooping again by the Earth in 2009 November, flying by asteroid 21 Lutetia in 2010 July, and finally landing on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014 November.

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Παλιά 09-09-08, 07:55
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M110: Satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy
Credit & Copyright: Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT) & Giovanni Anselmi (Coelum Astronomia), Hawaiian Starlight

Explanation: Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 25 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Pictured on the lower right is one of the dwarf ellipticals: NGC 205. Like M32, NGC 205 is a companion to the large M31, and can sometimes be seen to the south of M31's center in photographs. The image shows NGC 205 to be unusual for an elliptical galaxy in that it contains at least two dust clouds (at 9 and 2 o'clock - they are visible but hard to spot) and signs of recent star formation. This galaxy is sometimes known as M110, although it was actually not part of Messier's original catalog.

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  #648  
Παλιά 10-09-08, 10:02
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The Anthe Arc around Saturn
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: What created this unusual partial ring around Saturn? Discovered last year, the arc was captured in clear detail only two months ago by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft. Since the arc occupies the same orbit as the small moon Anthe, a leading hypothesis holds that the arc was created by, and is replenished by, meteor impacts on Anthe. Similar arcs have been previously discovered, including an arc associated with the small Saturnian moon Methone, one arc related to Saturn's G ring, and several arcs orbiting Neptune. Pictured above, Anthe, only two kilometers across, is seen as the bright point near the top of the Anthe arc. The Anthe arc was imaged by the robotic space probe as it swooped to within 1.5 million kilometers of the small moon.

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  #649  
Παλιά 11-09-08, 08:43
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Mountain Top Meteors
Credit & Copyright: Alex Tudorica, Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy
Faculty of Physics, Bucharest University

Explanation: A mountain top above the clouds and light-polluted cities was a good place to go to watch this August's Perseid meteor shower. In fact, this composite picture from one of the highest points in Romania, the Omu summit (2,507 meters) in the Southern Carpathian Mountains, captures about 20 of the shower's bright streaks against a starry night sky. The cosmic debris stream that creates the shower is composed of dust particles moving along parallel paths, following the orbit of their parent comet Swift-Tuttle. Looking toward the shower's radiant point in the constellation Perseus, perspective causes the parallel meteor streaks to appear to diverge. But looking directly away from the radiant point, as in this view, perspective actually makes the Perseid meteors seem to be converging toward a point below the horizon.

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  #650  
Παλιά 12-09-08, 09:17
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Planets over Perth
Credit & Copyright: John Goldsmith, Celestial Visions exhibition, TWAN

Explanation: A bright trio of terrestrial planets were joined by a young Moon on September 1st, in planet Earth's early evening skies. In this view of the celestial gathering from Perth, Western Australia, the Moon's sunlit crescent is nearly horizontal at Perth's southern latitude of about 32 degrees. Venus, then Mercury, and finally Mars shine above colorful city lights on the far shore of the Swan River. The six unlit towers on the left surround a large cricket stadium. For now, the planetary trio still lingers low in the west just after sunset. But in the coming days Venus will move farther from the Sun, climbing higher after sunset, while Mercury and Mars will steadily sink into the glare along the western horizon.

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  #651  
Παλιά 13-09-08, 08:23
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M33: Triangulum Galaxy
Credit & Copyright: Paul Mortfield, Stefano Cancelli

Explanation: The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp, detailed image nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions that trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe.

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  #652  
Παλιά 14-09-08, 09:46
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The Heart and Soul Nebulas
Credit: Digitized Sky Survey, ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator;
Color Composite: Davide De Martin (Skyfactory)

Explanation: Is the heart and soul of our Galaxy located in Cassiopeia? Possibly not, but that is where two bright emission nebulas nicknamed Heart and Soul can be found. The Heart Nebula, officially dubbed IC 1805 and visible in the above zoomable view on the right, has a shape reminiscent of a classical heart symbol. Both nebulas shine brightly in the red light of energized hydrogen. Several young open clusters of stars populate the image and are visible above in blue, including the nebula centers. Light takes about 6,000 years to reach us from these nebulas, which together span roughly 300 light years. Studies of stars and clusters like those found in the Heart and Soul Nebulas have focussed on how massive stars form and how they affect their environment.

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  #653  
Παλιά 15-09-08, 08:16
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SN 1006: A Supernova Ribbon from Hubble
Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgement: W. Blair et al. (JHU)

Explanation: What created this unusual space ribbon? Most assuredly, one of the most violent explosions ever witnessed by ancient humans. Back in the year 1006 AD, light reached Earth from a stellar explosion in the constellation of the Wolf (Lupus), creating a "guest star" in the sky that appeared brighter than Venus and lasted for over two years. The supernova, now cataloged at SN 1006, occurred about 7,000 light years away and has left a large remnant that continues to expand and fade today. Pictured above is a small part of that expanding supernova remnant dominated by a thin and outwardly moving shock front that heats and ionizes surrounding ambient gas. SN 1006 now has a diameter of nearly 60 light years. Within the past year, an even more powerful explosion occurred far across the universe that was visible to modern humans, without any optical aide, for a few seconds.

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  #654  
Παλιά 16-09-08, 08:27
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W5: Pillars of Star Creation
Credit: Lori Allen, Xavier Koenig (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) et al., JPL-Caltech, NASA

Explanation: How do stars form? A study of star forming region W5 by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope provides clear clues by recording that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars. The triggered star formation occurs when hot outflowing gas compresses cooler gas into knots dense enough to gravitationally contract into stars. Spectacular pillars, left slowly evaporating from the hot outflowing gas, provide further visual clues. In the above scientifically-colored infrared image, red indicates heated dust, while white and green indicate particularly dense gas clouds. W5 is also known as IC 1848, and together with IC 1805 form a complex region of star formation popularly dubbed the Heart and Soul Nebulas. The above image highlights a part of W5 spanning about 2,000 light years that is rich in star forming pillars. W5 lies about 6,500 light years away toward the constellation of Cassiopeia.

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  #655  
Παλιά 17-09-08, 08:38
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MACSJ0025: Two Giant Galaxy Clusters Collide
Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, M. Bradac (UCSB) & S. Allen (Stanford)

Explanation: What happens when two of the largest objects in the universe collide? No one was quite sure, but the answer is giving clues to the nature of mysterious dark matter. In the case of MACSJ0025.4-1222, two huge clusters of galaxies have been found slowly colliding over hundreds of millions of years, and the result has been imaged by both the Hubble Space Telescope in visible light and the Chandra Space Telescope in X-ray light. Once the above visible image was recorded, the location and gravitational lens distortions of more distant galaxies by the newly combined galaxy cluster allowed astronomers to computationally determine what happened to the clusters' dark matter. The result indicates that this huge collision has caused the dark matter in the clusters to become partly separated from the normal matter, confirming earlier speculation. In the above combined image, dark matter is shown as the diffuse purple hue, while a smoothed depiction of the X-ray hot normal matter is shown in pink. MACSJ0025 contains hundreds of galaxies, spans about three million light years, and lies nearly six billion light years away (redshift 0.59) toward the constellation of Monster Whale (Cetus).

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  #656  
Παλιά 18-09-08, 08:16
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Exploring the Ring
Credit & Copyright: Astro-Cooperation - Stefan Heutz/Wolfgang Ries

Explanation: A familiar sight for northern hemisphere astronomers, the Ring Nebula (M57) is some 2,000 light-years away in the musical constellation Lyra. The central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from two different telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. This composite image includes over 16 hours of narrow-band data intended to recorded the red emission from hydrogen atoms, but the pronounced blue/green color is due to emission from oxygen atoms at higher temperatures within the ring. The much more distant spiral galaxy IC 1296 is also visible at the upper right.

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Παλιά 19-09-08, 08:50
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Companion of a Young, Sun-like Star
Credit Gemini Observatory, D. Lafreniere, R. Jayawardhana, M. van Kerkwijk (Univ. Toronto)

Explanation: Located just 500 light-years away toward the constellation Scorpius, this star is only slightly less massive and a little cooler than the Sun. But it is much younger, a few million years old compared to the middle-aged Sun's 5 billion years. This sharp infrared image shows the young star has a likely companion positioned above and left - a hot planet with about 8 times the mass of Jupiter, orbiting a whopping 330 times the Earth-Sun distance from its parent star. The young planetary companion is still hot and relatively bright in infrared light due to the heat generated during its formation by gravitational contraction. In fact, such newborn planets are easier to detect before they age and cool, becoming much fainter. Though over 300 extrasolar planets have been found using other techniques, this picture likely represents the first direct image of a planet belonging to a star similar to the Sun.

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  #658  
Παλιά 20-09-08, 09:36
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A Darkened Sky
Credit & Copyright: Miloslav Druckmuller (Brno University of Technology), Peter Aniol, Vojtech Rusin

Explanation: For a moment on August 1st, the daytime sky grew dark along the path of a total solar eclipse. While watching the geocentric celestial event from Mongolia, photographer Miloslav Druckmuller recorded multiple images with two separate cameras as the Moon blocked the bright solar disk and darkened the sky. This final composition consists of 55 frames ranging in exposure time from 1/125 to 8 seconds. It spans nearly 12 degrees, with the relative position of the Moon and Sun corresponding to mid-eclipse. On the left is bright planet Mercury, but many stars are also visible, including the Praesepae star cluster (also known as M44 or the Beehive cluster) in Cancer, above and to the right of the silhouetted Moon. Remarkably, the nearly perfect conditions and wide range in individual exposures allow the composite picture to register the lunar surface and follow the delicate solar corona out to a distance of nearly 20 times the radius of the Sun. In fact, the composite presents a range in brightness beyond what the eye could see during the eclipse.

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  #659  
Παλιά 22-09-08, 08:29
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Equinox: The Sun from Solstice to Solstice
Credit & Copyright: Tunç Tezel (TWAN)

Explanation: Today is an equinox, a date when day and night are equal. Tomorrow, and every day until the next equinox, the night will be longer than the day in Earth's northern hemisphere, and the day will be longer than the night in Earth's southern hemisphere. An equinox occurs midway between the two solstices, when the days and nights are the least equal. The picture is a composite of hourly images taken of the Sun above Bursa, Turkey on key days from solstice to equinox to solstice. The bottom Sun band was taken during the winter solstice in 2007 December, when the Sun could not rise very high in the sky nor stay above the horizon very long. This lack of Sun caused winter. The top Sun band was taken during the summer solstice in 2008 June, when the Sun rose highest in the sky and stayed above the horizon for more than 12 hours. This abundance of Sun caused summer. The middle band was taken during the Vernal Equinox in 2008 March, but it is the same sun band that Earthlings will see today, the day of the Autumnal Equinox.

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  #660  
Παλιά 23-09-08, 09:07
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Haumea of the Outer Solar System
Illustration Credit: NASA

Explanation: One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System was classified as a dwarf planet last week and given the name Haumea. This designation makes Haumea the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea's smooth but oblong shape make it extremely unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Illustrated above, an artist visualizes Haumea as a nearly featureless ellipsoid. Quite possibly, however, Haumea has interesting craters and surface features that currently remain unknown. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was recently renamed by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, recently renamed Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess.

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