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  #856  
Παλιά 24-03-09, 07:06
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Martian Dunes and the Shadow of Opportunity
Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, JPL, NASA

Explanation: Human made robots continue to roll across the surface of Mars. Both Opportunity and its sister rover Spirit are in their sixth year on Mars, exploring the red planet for years longer than original expectations. Pictured above is a composite of recent images taken by the navigation camera on top of the Opportunity rover in Meridiani Planum. Visible are parallel rover tracks, rippling sand dunes, light-colored bedrock protrusions, metallic rover parts, and the dark shadow of the sometimes-artistic robotic photographer. Currently, Opportunity is on its way toward huge Endeavor cater, while Spirit is trying to climb an unusual rock structure known as Home Plate. If it can survive the harsh martian environment, Opportunity should arrive at Endeavor crater in about two years, at which time it may revolutionize human knowledge of this ancient martian landform.

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  #857  
Παλιά 25-03-09, 07:08
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Orcus of the Outer Solar System
Credit: M. Brown (Caltech), C. Trujillo (Gemini), D. Rabinowitz (Yale), Samuel Oschin Telescope

Explanation: A newly discovered object in the outer Solar System moves like an anti-Pluto. 90482 Orcus was first discovered in 2004 and is slightly smaller than Pluto, although still one of the largest Kuiper belt objects known. Orcus may one day have the same IAU designation as Pluto: a dwarf planet. Orcus and Pluto have similar orbits: each achieves nearly the same maximum and minimum distances from the Sun, each orbits on a similarly shaped ellipse, and each orbital ellipse is tilted toward the other planets' orbital ellipse by roughly the same angle. The great mass of Neptune causes each to circle the Sun twice for every three Neptune orbits. Orcus is like an anti-Pluto, however, because the two objects always remain across the Solar System from each other. Orcus can be found as the spot near the center of these discovery frames moving slightly down from the top. Until the end of next week, the discoverers of Orcus ask for your help in naming its newly discovered moon.

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Παλιά 26-03-09, 07:06
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Stars Young and Old
Credit & Copyright: Roth Ritter (Dark Atmospheres)

Explanation: Galactic or open star clusters are relatively young. These swarms of stars are born near the plane of the Milky Way, but their numbers steadily dwindle as cluster members are strewn through the Galaxy by gravitational interactions. This bright open cluster, known as M46, is around 300 million years young and still contains a few hundred stars within its span of 30 light-years or so. Located about 5,000 light-years away toward the constellation Puppis, M46 also seems to contain a contradiction to its youthful status. In the lovely starscape, the colorful, circular patch just below the center of M46 (also inset at upper left) is the planetary nebula NGC 2438. Planetary nebulae are a brief, final phase in the life of a solar-type star a few billion years old whose central reservoir of hydrogen fuel has been exhausted. In fact, old NGC 2438 is estimated to be only 3,000 light-years distant and moves at a different speed than M46 cluster members. It likely represents a foreground object, only by chance appearing along our line-of-sight to young M46.

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  #859  
Παλιά 27-03-09, 07:15
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The Seagull Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Frank Barrett, Steve Davis

Explanation: Images from two different cameras, a digital SLR and an astronomical ccd camera, are combined in this color starscape. Both cameras made use of the same telescope at the oceanside Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys, appropriately creating this portrait of the Seagull Nebula. The wide view covers a 4x3 degree swath across the plane of the Milky Way, near the direction of Sirius, alpha star of the constellation Canis Major. Of course, the broad region includes objects with other catalog designations: notably NGC 2327 - a compact, dusty emission region with an embedded massive star that forms the bird's head (above center), and IC 2177 - forming the sweeping arc of the seagull's wings. Dominated by the reddish glow of atomic hydgrogen, the complex of cosmic gas and dust clouds with bright young stars spans over 250 light-years at an estimated 3,800 light-year distance.

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  #860  
Παλιά 28-03-09, 07:07
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Almahata Sitta 15
Credit & Copyright: Peter Jenniskens (SETI Institute/NASA Ames)

Explanation: Small asteroid 2008 TC3 fell to Earth at dawn on October 7, 2008, tracking through the skies over the Nubian Desert in northern Sudan. That event was remarkable because it was the first time an asteroid was detected in space before crashing into planet Earth's atmosphere. It was generally assumed the asteroid itself had completely disintegrated to dust. But, based on satellite and ground observations of the atmospheric impact event, Dr. Mauwia Shaddad of the University of Khartoum, aided by Dr. Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, led an expedition of students and staff to the area, combing the desert for surviving fragments. On December 6, 2008, two hours after their search began, the first meteorite was found. The team ultimately collected some 280 small meteorites, now called Almahata Sitta, with a total mass of about 5 kilograms -- the first material recovered from a known asteroid. In stark contrast to the lighter-colored stones, the black fragment in the picture is Almahata Sitta meteorite number 15. About 4 centimeters in diameter, it is seen as it came to rest on the desert floor.

Editor's note: In Arabic, Almahata Sitta is "Station Six": a railway stop in the Nubian desert where witnesses reported seeing the bright fireball meteor.

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  #861  
Παλιά 29-03-09, 08:28
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Signals of a Strange Universe
Credit: High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA

Explanation: Eleven years ago results were first presented indicating that most of the energy in our universe is not in stars or galaxies but is tied to space itself. In the language of cosmologists, a large cosmological constant is directly implied by new distant supernovae observations. Suggestions of a cosmological constant (lambda) were not new -- they have existed since the advent of modern relativistic cosmology. Such claims were not usually popular with astronomers, though, because lambda is so unlike known universe components, because lambda's value appeared limited by other observations, and because less- strange cosmologies without lambda had previously done well in explaining the data. What is noteworthy here is the seemingly direct and reliable method of the observations and the good reputations of the scientists conducting the investigations. Over the past eleven years, independent teams of astronomers have continued to accumulate data that appears to confirm the existence of dark energy and the unsettling result of a presently accelerating universe. The above picture of a supernova that occurred in 1994 on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy was taken by one of these collaborations.

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  #862  
Παλιά 30-03-09, 08:13
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Possible Mud Volcanoes on Mars
Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Explanation: Is this a mud volcano on Mars? If so, could it be dredging up martian microbes? This strange possibility has been suggested recently and seems to fit several recent observations of Mars. First of all, hills like this seem to better resemble mud volcanoes on Earth than lava volcanoes and impact craters on Mars. Next, the pictured dome has an unusually textured surface consistent with fractured ice. Infrared images from space indicate that hills like this cool more quickly than surrounding rock, consistent with a dried mud composition. The hills also reflect colors consistent with a composition that formed in the presence of water. Finally, unusual plumes of gas containing methane have been found on Mars with unknown origin. These gas plumes could conceivably have been liberated by mud volcanoes, were the initially warm mud to contain methane-producing microbes drifting in a previously unobservable underground lake. A candidate mud volcano over 100 meters across is pictured above in the northern plains of Mars.

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Παλιά 31-03-09, 07:50
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In the Heart of the Tarantula Nebula
Credit: ESA, NASA, ESO, & Danny LaCrue

Explanation: In the heart of monstrous Tarantula Nebula lies huge bubbles of energetic gas, long filaments of dark dust, and unusually massive stars. In the center of this heart, is a knot of stars so dense that it was once thought to be a single star. This star cluster, labeled as R136 or NGC 2070, is visible just above the center of the above image and home to a great number of hot young stars. The energetic light from these stars continually ionizes nebula gas, while their energetic particle wind blows bubbles and defines intricate filaments. The above representative-color picture of this great LMC nebula details its tumultuous center. The Tarantula Nebula, also known as the 30 Doradus nebula, is one of the largest star-formation regions known, and has been creating unusually strong episodes of star formation every few million years.

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  #864  
Παλιά 01-04-09, 08:06
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Astronaut's Head Upgraded During Spacewalk
Credit: NASA

Explanation: First, a new truss was added. Then, new solar panels were installed. Now, as part of the planned upgrade of the International Space Station, an Expedition 18 astronaut has upgraded her own head. The Human Extended Analog Device 9000 was attached with only minor delays, making the astronaut's remaining spacewalks over 40 percent more efficient. With the HEAD 9000 attached, an astronaut can now directly access 4 Gigabytes of computer flash memory with their own brain, perform complex mathematics by "directed thinking", and play a pre-installed game of Tetris at no additional charge. Happy April Fools' Day from the folks at APOD. In reality, the space shuttle Discovery's mission to upgrade the International Space Station ended Saturday after upgrading only the space station. The above image of astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper handling the box-like Nitrogen Tank Assembly was actually taken last November. For some reason, however, Astronaut Stefanyshyn-Piper can now factor 11 digit prime numbers in her head.

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  #865  
Παλιά 02-04-09, 08:21
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100 Hours of Astronomy Begins
Credit & Copyright: Tamas Ladanyi (TWAN)

Explanation: Today, 100 Hours of Astronomy begins, a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 celebrating the 400th anniversary of Gallileo's original telescopic exploration of the sky. Running from April 2 through April 5, many different public programs are planned worldwide as part of the project, starting with today's opening event at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Featuring one of Galileo's two remaining telescopes, the event will be webcast live. Of course, the sky examined by Galileo can still be appreciated today, with much more capable instruments that are widely available. But this skyward view from a private observatory in Veszprem Hungary also includes objects Galileo did not see when he gazed into the night. Recorded on March 26, the image captures the paired trails of the International Space Station (the brighter trail) and the shuttle orbiter Discovery in low Earth orbit, as well as the streak of a passing airplane.

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Παλιά 03-04-09, 07:55
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Around the World in 80 Telescopes
Illustration Credit & Copyright: ESO / 100 Hours of Astronomy

Explanation: Want to go on an extraordinary voyage? Today you can, by watching Around the World in 80 Telescopes. The 24-hour long webcast is organized by the European Southern Observatory for the International Year of Astronomy cornerstone project 100 Hours of Astronomy. As suggested in this astronomically intense composite, the webcast event follows night and day around the globe to visit some of the most advanced observatories on Earth and in space, exploring the universe in visible light and beyond. The Gemini North Telescope (Hawaii, USA) and the large observatories at the summit of volcanic Mauna Kea are scheduled for the first stops in the program beginning April 3 at 09:00 UT. Others on the schedule include the Swift Satellite and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Himalayan Chandra Telescope (Hanle, India), and the 10-meter South Pole Telescope and IceCube Neutrino Telescope (South Pole, Antarctica).

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Παλιά 04-04-09, 08:05
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Star Party on Planet Earth
Image Credit & Copyright: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)

Explanation: As twilight sweeps around planet Earth tonight (April 4), many amateur astronomers will set up their telescopes for a 24-hour global star party. The planetwide star party is part of 100 Hours of Astronomy (100HA), a project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. To join the party, members of the public can find a nearby organized event or planned webcast by consulting the schedules on the 100HA website. What could you see through a telescope tonight? For starters, a bright Moon will shine in the evening sky, offering telescopic observers spectacular views of impact craters, mountains, and lava-flooded mare. Tonight's other celestial targets include the crowd pleasing planet Saturn surrounded by its own moons, its rings tilted nearly edge-on.

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  #868  
Παλιά 05-04-09, 09:09
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Orange Sun Oozing
Credit: Bruno Sánchez-Andrade Nuño et al. (IAG & MPS, Germany)

Explanation: The Sun's surface keeps changing. Click the central arrow and watch how the Sun's surface oozes during a single hour. The Sun's photosphere has thousands of bumps called granules and usually a few dark depressions called sunspots. The above time-lapse movie centered on Sunspot 875 was taken in 2006 by the Vacuum Tower Telescope in the Canary Islands of Spain using adaptive optics to resolve details below 500 kilometers across. Each of the numerous granules is the size of an Earth continent, but much shorter lived. A granule slowly changes its shape over an hour, and can even completely disappear. Hot hydrogen gas rises in the bright center of a granule, and falls back into the Sun along a dark granule edge. The above movie and similar movies allows students and solar scientists to study how granules and sunspots evolve as well as how magnetic sunspot regions produce powerful solar flares.

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  #869  
Παλιά 06-04-09, 08:39
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International Space Station Expands Again
Credit: STS-119 Shuttle Crew, NASA

Explanation: The developing International Space Station (ISS) has changed its appearance again. In a recently completed mission, the Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery visited the ISS and added components that included a new truss and new solar panels. The entire array of expansive solar panels is visible in the above picture taken by the Discovery Crew after leaving the ISS to return to Earth. The world's foremost space outpost can be seen developing over the past several years by comparing the above image to past images. Also visible above are many different types of modules, a robotic arm, and a supply ship. Construction began on the ISS in 1998.

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  #870  
Παλιά 07-04-09, 07:10
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The Colliding Spiral Galaxies of Arp 274
Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio (STScI) and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Explanation: Two galaxies are squaring off in Virgo and here are the latest pictures. When two galaxies collide, the stars that compose them usually do not. This is because galaxies are mostly empty space and, however bright, stars only take up only a small fraction of that space. But during the collision, one galaxy can rip the other apart gravitationally, and dust and gas common to both galaxies does collide. If the two galaxies merge, black holes that likely resided in each galaxy center may eventually merge. Because the distances are so large, the whole thing takes place in slow motion -- over hundreds of millions of years. Besides the two large spiral galaxies, a smaller third galaxy is visible on the far left of the above image of Arp 274, also known as NGC 5679. Arp 274 spans about 200,000 light years across and lies about 400 million light years away toward the constellation of Virgo.

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