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  #946  
Παλιά 24-06-09, 08:25
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Noctilucent Clouds Over Germany
Credit & Copyright: Christoph Rollwagen

Explanation: Sometimes it's night on the ground but day in the air. As the Earth rotates to eclipse the Sun, sunset rises up from the ground. Therefore, at sunset on the ground, sunlight still shines on clouds above. Under usual circumstances, a pretty sunset might be visible, but unusual noctilucent clouds float so high up they can be seen well after dark. Pictured above last week, a network of noctilucent clouds cast an eerie white glow after dusk, beyond a local field near Potsdam, Germany. Although noctilucent clouds are thought to be composed of small ice-coated particles, much remains unknown about them. Satellites launched to help study these clouds includes Sweden's Odin and NASA's AIM. Recent evidence indicates that at least some noctilucent clouds result from freezing water exhaust from Space Shuttles.

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  #947  
Παλιά 25-06-09, 09:31
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Sarychev Peak Volcano in Stereo
Credit: Expedition 20 Crew - International Space Station, NASA
Stereo Image: Patrick Vantuyne

Explanation: From 400 kilometers above planet Earth, the Expedition 20 Crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS) was able to witness a remarkable event from a remarkable vantage point -- the June 12 eruption of the Sarychev Peak Volcano. The active volcano is located in Russia's Kuril Island chain, stretching to the northeast of Japan. Emphasizing the orbital perspective, this stunning color stereo view was made by combining two images from the ISS and is intended to be viewed with red/blue glasses (red for the left eye). Punching upwards into the atmosphere at an early stage of the eruption, the volcanic plume features a brown column of ash topped with a smooth, bubble-like, white cloud that is likely water condensation. Below, a cloud of denser grey ash slides down the volcanic slope. About 1.5 kilometers of the island coastline is visible at ground level. The evolving ash plume posed no danger to the Expedition 20 crew, but commercial airline flights were diverted away from the region to minimize the danger of engine failures from ash intake.

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Παλιά 26-06-09, 08:17
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Solstice to Solstice Solargraph
Credit & Copyright: Maciej Zapiór

Explanation: This six month long exposure compresses the time from solstice to solstice (~ December 21, 2008 to June 20, 2009) into a single point of view. Dubbed a solargraph, the unconventional picture was recorded with a pinhole camera made from an aluminum can lined with a piece of photographic paper. Fixed to a single spot for the entire exposure, the simple camera continuously records the Sun's daily path as a glowing trail burned into the photosensitive paper. Breaks and gaps in the trails are caused by cloud cover. In this case, the spot was chosen to look out from inside a radio telescope at the Ondrejov Observatory in the Czech Republic. At the end of the exposure, the paper was removed from the can and immediately scanned digitally. Contrasts and colors were then enhanced and added to the digital image. Of course, in December, the Sun trails begin lower down at the northern hemisphere's winter solstice. The trails climb higher in the sky as the June 21st summer solstice approaches.

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  #949  
Παλιά 27-06-09, 08:54
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Saharan Starry Night
Credit & Copyright: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)

Explanation: This panoramic image of a starry night looks across a dry, desolate landscape. The magnificent view was recorded from Tassili National Park, in the heart of the Sahara desert in southern Algeria. Rising above eroded sandstone cliffs, the celestial menagerie of constellations includes Draco the Dragon, Cygnus the Swan, Aquila the Eagle, and Scorpius the Scorpion. Ruling planet Jupiter shines through clouds very close to the horizon near picture center, while star clouds of the Milky Way arc through Sagittarius above the rocks at the far right. Bright blue stars Deneb, in Cygnus, and Altair, in Aquila, also shine in the starry night along with Scorpius' bright yellowish star Antares, the rival of Mars. Prehistoric skygazers surely witnessed a similar sky. In addition to dramatic sandstone formations, the Tassili region is noted for rock art and archaeological sites dating to Neolithic times when the local climate was wetter.

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  #950  
Παλιά 28-06-09, 10:10
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Fresh Tiger Stripes on Saturn's Enceladus
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: Do underground oceans vent through the tiger stripes on Saturn's moon Enceladus? Long features dubbed tiger stripes are known to be spewing ice from the moon's icy interior into space, creating a cloud of fine ice particles over the moon's South Pole and creating Saturn's mysterious E-ring. Evidence for this has come from the robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn. Pictured above, a high resolution image of Enceladus is shown from a close flyby. The unusual surface features dubbed tiger stripes are visible on in false-color blue. Why Enceladus is active remains a mystery, as the neighboring moon Mimas, approximately the same size, appears quite dead. Most recently, an analysis of dust captured by Cassini found evidence for sodium as expected in a deep salty ocean. Conversely however, recent Earth-based observations of ice ejected by Enceladus into Saturn's E-Ring showed no evidence of the expected sodium. Such research is particularly interesting since such an ocean would be a candidate to contain life.

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  #951  
Παλιά 29-06-09, 09:28
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Kaguya Spacecraft Crashes into the Moon
Credit & Copyright: SELENE Team, JAXA, NHK

Explanation: Japan's Kaguya spacecraft crashed into the Moon last week, as planned. Officially named the Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), the spacecraft was given the nickname Kaguya after the princess in the Japanese folklore story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Pictured above is a movie taken by Kaguya during the last orbit of its twenty-month lunar mission. A desolate, hilly, and cratered terrain passes underneath as the spacecraft barely clears a few peaks. At the movie's end, the spacecraft disappears into darkness near GILL crater. Robotic SELENE carried thirteen scientific instruments and two HDTV cameras. The groundbreaking mission took data on lunar topology and composition that are being used to better understand the origin and history of Earth's unique and ancient companion. Data and images from Kayuga and the recently launched Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter could be used to choose good locations to land future Moon-exploring astronauts.

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  #952  
Παλιά 30-06-09, 08:13
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The North America and Pelican Nebulae
Credit & Copyright: Danny Lee Russell

Explanation: Here are some familiar shapes in unfamiliar locations. This emission nebula on the left is famous partly because it resembles Earth's continent of North America. To the right of the North America Nebula, cataloged as NGC 7000, is a less luminous nebula that resembles a pelican dubbed the Pelican Nebula. The two emission nebula measure about 50 light-years across, are located about 1,500 light-years away, and are separated by a dark absorption cloud. This spectacular image captures the nebulas, bright ionization fronts, and fine details of the dark dust. The nebulae can be seen with binoculars from a dark location. Look for a small nebular patch north-east of bright star Deneb in the constellation of Cygnus. It is still unknown which star or stars ionize the red-glowing hydrogen gas.

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  #953  
Παλιά 01-07-09, 08:27
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Three Galaxies in Draco
Credit & Copyright: Giovanni Benintende

Explanation: This intriguing trio of galaxies is sometimes called the Draco Group, located in the northern constellation of (you guessed it) Draco. From left to right are edge-on spiral NGC 5981, elliptical galaxy NGC 5982, and face-on spiral NGC 5985 -- all within this single telescopic field of view spanning a little more than half the width of the full moon. While the group is far too small to be a galaxy cluster and has not been cataloged compact group, these galaxies all do lie roughly 100 million light-years from planet Earth. On close examination with spectrographs, the bright core of the striking face-on spiral NGC 5985 shows prominent emission in specific wavelengths of light, prompting astronomers to classify it as a Seyfert, a type of active galaxy. Not as well known as other tight groupings of galaxies, the contrast in visual appearance makes this triplet an attractive subject for astrophotographers. This impressively deep exposure of the region also reveals faint and even more distant background galaxies.

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  #954  
Παλιά 02-07-09, 08:39
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Lyman Alpha Blob
Credit: NASA / ESA, CXC, JPL-Caltech, STScI, NAOJ, J.E. Geach (Univ. Durham) et al.
Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Explanation: Dubbed a Lyman-alpha blob, an enormous cloud of hydrogen gas spans several hundred thousand light-years in this remarkable image (left), a composite of x-ray, optical, and infrared data from space and ground based observatories. The gigantic, amoeba-like structure is seen as it was when the universe was a mere 2 billion years old (about 12 billion years ago). Lyman-alpha blobs are so called because they strongly emit radiation due to the Lyman-alpha emission line of hydrogen gas. Normally, Lyman-alpha emission is in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, but Lyman-apha blobs are so distant, their light is redshifted to (longer) optical wavelengths. X-ray data (blue) indicates the presence of a supermassive black hole feeding at the center of an active galaxy embedded in the blob. Illustrated close up in the right hand panel, radiation and outflows from the active galaxy are thought to be a source for energizing and heating the blob's hydrogen gas. In fact, Lyman-alpha blobs could represent an early phase in galaxy formation where the heating is so great it begins to limit further rapid growth of active galaxies and their supermassive black holes.

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  #955  
Παλιά 03-07-09, 09:24
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Perihelion and Aphelion
Credit & Copyright: Enrique Luque Cervigón

Explanation: This year Aphelion, the point in Earth's elliptical orbit when it is farthest from the Sun, occurs tomorrow, July 4th. Of course, that doesn't affect the seasons on our fair planet. Those are determined by the tilt of Earth's axis of rotation and not Earth's distance from the Sun, so July is still winter in the south and summer in northern hemisphere. But it does mean that on July 4th the Sun will be at its smallest apparent size. This composite neatly compares two pictures of the Sun taken with the same telescope and camera on the dates of Perihelion (closest approach) and Aphelion in 2008. The image labels include Earth's distance in kilometers from the Sun on the two dates. Otherwise difficult to notice, the change in the Sun's apparent diameter between Perihelion and Aphelion is clear. The difference amounts to a little over 3 percent.

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  #956  
Παλιά 04-07-09, 08:32
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Mount Rushmore's Starry Night
Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka (TWAN)

Explanation: This starry night sky sparkles above the Black Hills of South Dakota and the United States' Mount Rushmore National Park. The historic site features enormous sculptures of four US presidents; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, carved into the southeast face of granite cliffs. Above the monumental symbols of the country's independence and early history, the night features stars and constellations familiar to northern skygazers around the world. Most noticeable are the stars of Ursa Major and the asterism known as the Big Dipper, almost resting upright along the cliff edge near picture center. Follow the arc of the Big Dipper's handle to get to Arcturus, the bright yellowish star in the lower left corner. Of course, a line extending through the dipper's two right most stars points to the upper right toward Polaris, planet Earth's North Star.

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  #957  
Παλιά 05-07-09, 09:14
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Genesis Mission's Hard Impact
Credit: Genesis Mission, NASA

Explanation: A flying saucer from outer space crash-landed in the Utah desert in 2004 after being tracked by radar and chased by helicopters. No space aliens were involved, however. The saucer, pictured above, was the Genesis sample return capsule, part of a human-made robot Genesis spaceship launched in 2001 by NASA itself to study the Sun. The unexpectedly hard landing at over 300 kilometers per hour occurred because the parachutes did not open as planned. The Genesis mission had been orbiting the Sun collecting solar wind particles that are usually deflected away by Earth's magnetic field. Despite the crash landing, many return samples remained in good enough condition to analyze and research is ongoing. So far, discoveries include new details about the composition of the Sun and the effects of the solar wind on unprotected material.

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  #958  
Παλιά 06-07-09, 09:26
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Unknown Dark Material on Mercury
Credit: MESSENGER, NASA, JHU APL, CIW

Explanation: What is that strange material on Mercury? When flying by Mercury last October, the robotic MESSENGER spacecraft imaged much of the solar system's innermost planet in unprecedented detail. As common in science, new data bring new mysteries. Pictured above on the lower right, a large crater -- about 100 kilometers across -- has unusual dark material of unknown composition near its center. The material's darkness does not appear to be caused by shadows, as the Sun was near zenith when the image was taken. One origin hypothesis is that the dark material was uncovered from beneath Mercury's surface during the impact that created the surrounding crater. If so, the composition of the dark mound might be similar to the composition of some mysterious dark rings also recently discovered on Mercury. Alternatively, the dark material could be related to an unusual composition of the impacting rock. MESSENGER will buzz past Mercury again later this year before entering orbit in 2011.

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  #959  
Παλιά 07-07-09, 08:22
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The Trifid Nebula in Stars and Dust
Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona

Explanation: Unspeakable beauty and unimaginable bedlam can be found together in the Trifid Nebula. Also known as M20, this photogenic nebula is visible with good binoculars towards the constellation of Sagittarius. The energetic processes of star formation create not only the colors but the chaos. The red-glowing gas results from high-energy starlight striking interstellar hydrogen gas. The dark dust filaments that lace M20 were created in the atmospheres of cool giant stars and in the debris from supernovae explosions. Which bright young stars light up the blue reflection nebula is still being investigated. The light from M20 we see today left perhaps 3,000 years ago, although the exact distance remains unknown. Light takes about 50 years to cross M20.

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  #960  
Παλιά 08-07-09, 08:36
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The Dark River to Antares
Credit & Copyright: Jason Jennings

Explanation: Connecting the Pipe Nebula to the colorful regon near bright star Antares is a dark cloud dubbed the Dark River, flowing from the picture's left edge. Murky looking, the Dark River's appearance is caused by dust obscuring background starlight, although the dark nebula contains mostly hydrogen and molecular gas. Surrounded by dust, Antares, a red supergiant star, creates an unusual bright yellowish reflection nebula. Above it, bright blue double star Rho Ophiuchi is embedded in one of the more typical bluish reflection nebulae, while red emission nebulae are also scattered around the region. Globular star cluster M4 is just seen above and right of Antares, though it lies far behind the colorful clouds, at a distance of some 7,000 light-years. The Dark River itself is about 500 light years away. The colorful skyscape is a mosaic of telescopic images spanning nearly 10 degrees (20 Full Moons) across the sky in the constellation Scorpius.

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