Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. provided by NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU).
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Astronomy Picture of the Day
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© Roberto Colombari

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🌌Horsehead and Orion Nebulas The dark Horsehead Nebula and the glowing Orion Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, they appear in opposite corners of the above stunning mosaic. The familiar Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alni ...
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© Franco Meconi

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🌌Deepscape at Yacoraite In this evocative night scene a dusty central Milky Way rises over the ancient Andean archaeological site of Yacoraite in northwestern Argentina. The denizens of planet Earth reaching skyward are the large Argentine saguaro cactus currently native to the arid region. The unusual yellow-hued reflection nebula above is created by dust scattering starlight around red giant s ...
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🌌Mercury-Redstone 3 Launch Sixty years ago, near the dawn of the space age, NASA controllers "lit the candle" and sent Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard arcing into space atop a Redstone rocket. His cramped space capsule was dubbed Freedom 7. Broadcast live to a global television audience, the historic Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Florida at 9:34 a.m. Easter ...
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© Mike Selby

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🌌Windblown NGC 3199 NGC 3199 lies about 12,000 light-years away, a glowing cosmic cloud in the nautical southern constellation of Carina. The nebula is about 75 light-years across in this narrowband, false-color view. Though the deep image reveals a more or less complete bubble shape, it does look very lopsided with a much brighter edge along the top. Near the center is a Wolf-Rayet star, a mass ...
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© MaryBeth Kiczenski

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🌌STEVE over Copper Harbor What creates STEVEs? Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancements (STEVEs) have likely been seen since antiquity, but only in the past five years has it been realized that their colors and shapes make them different from auroras. Seen as single bright streaks of pink and purple, the origin of STEVEs remain an active topic of research. STEVEs may be related to subaurora ...
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© Mehmet Ergün

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🌌Space Station, Solar Prominences, Sun That's no sunspot. It's the International Space Station (ISS) caught passing in front of the Sun. Sunspots, individually, have a dark central umbra, a lighter surrounding penumbra, and no Dragon capsules attached. By contrast, the ISS is a complex and multi-spired mechanism, one of the largest and most complicated spacecraft ever created by humanity. Also, ...
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🌌Apollo 11: Earth, Moon, Spaceship After the most famous voyage of modern times, it was time to go home. After proving that humanity has the ability to go beyond the confines of planet Earth, the first humans to walk on another world -- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin -- flew the ascent stage of their Lunar Module back to meet Michael Collins in the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module. Pictu ...
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© John Ebersole

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🌌Clouds of the Carina Nebula What forms lurk in the mists of the Carina Nebula? The dark ominous figures are actually molecular clouds, knots of molecular gas and dust so thick they have become opaque. In comparison, however, these clouds are typically much less dense than Earth's atmosphere. Featured here is a detailed image of the core of the Carina Nebula, a part where both dark and colorful ...
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🌌Perseverance from Ingenuity Flying at an altitude of 5 meters (just over 16 feet), on April 25 the Ingenuity helicopter snapped this sharp image. On its second flight above the surface of Mars, its color camera was looking back toward Ingenuity's current base at Wright Brothers Field and Octavia E. Butler Landing marked by the tracks of the Perseverance rover at the top of the frame. Perseveran ...
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© Alice Ross

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🌌Pink and the Perigee Moon On April 25 a nearly full moon rose just before sunset. Welcomed in a clear blue sky and framed by cherry blossoms, its familiar face was captured in this snapshot from Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. Known to some as a Pink Moon, April's full lunar phase occurred with the moon near perigee. That's the closest point in its not-quite-circular orbit around planet Earth, maki ...
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🌌Apollo 17: The Crescent Earth Our fair planet sports a curved, sunlit crescent against the black backdrop of space in this stunning photograph. From the unfamiliar perspective, the Earth is small and, like a telescopic image of a distant planet, the entire horizon is completely within the field of view. Enjoyed by crews on board the International Space Station, only much closer views of the pla ...
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© Bray Falls

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🌌North Star: Polaris and Surrounding Dust Why is Polaris called the North Star? First, Polaris is the nearest bright star toward the north spin axis of the Earth. Therefore, as the Earth turns, stars appear to revolve around Polaris, but Polaris itself always stays in the same northerly direction -- making it the North Star. Since no bright star is near the south spin axis of the Earth, there is ...
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🌌Animation: Black Hole Destroys Star What happens if a star gets too close to a black hole? The black hole can rip it apart -- but how? It's not the high gravitational attraction itself that's the problem -- it's the difference in gravitational pull across the star that creates the destruction. In the featured animated video illustrating this disintegration, you first see a star approaching the ...
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© Gabriel Rodrigues Santos

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🌌A Sagittarius Triplet These three bright nebulae are often featured on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius and the crowded starfields of the central Milky Way. In fact, 18th century cosmic tourist Charles Messier cataloged two of them; M8, the large nebula below and right of center, and colorful M20 near the top of the frame. The third emission region includes NGC 6559, left of M8 ...
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🌌Planetary Nebula Mz3: The Ant Nebula Why isn't this ant a big sphere? Planetary nebula Mz3 is being cast off by a star similar to our Sun that is, surely, round. Why then would the gas that is streaming away create an ant-shaped nebula that is distinctly not round? Clues might include the high 1000-kilometer per second speed of the expelled gas, the light-year long length of the structure, and ...
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🌌Streak and Plume from SpaceX Crew-2 Launch What's happening in the sky? The pre-dawn sky first seemed relatively serene yesterday morning over Indian Harbor Beach in Florida, USA. But then it lit up with a rocket launch. Just to the north, NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 Mission blasted into space aboard a powerful Falcon 9 rocket. The featured time-lapse video -- compressing 12-minutes into 8-seconds -- ...
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🌌Flying Over the Earth at Night II Recorded during 2017, timelapse sequences from the International Space Station are compiled in this serene video of planet Earth at Night. Fans of low Earth orbit can start by enjoying the view as green and red aurora borealis slather up the sky. The night scene tracks from northwest to southeast across North America, toward the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida c ...
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🌌Planet Earth at Twilight No sudden, sharp boundary marks the passage of day into night in this gorgeous view of ocean and clouds over our fair planet Earth. Instead, the shadow line or terminator is diffuse and shows the gradual transition to darkness we experience as twilight. With the Sun illuminating the scene from the right, the cloud tops reflect gently reddened sunlight filtered through t ...
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🌌Centaurus A's Warped Magnetic Fields When galaxies collide -- what happens to their magnetic fields? To help find out, NASA pointed SOFIA, its flying 747, at galactic neighbor Centaurus A to observe the emission of polarized dust -- which traces magnetic fields. Cen A's unusual shape results from the clash of two galaxies with jets powered by gas accreting onto a central supermassive black hole ...
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🌌Ingenuity: First Flight over Mars What's the best way to explore Mars? Perhaps there is no single best way, but a newly demonstrated method shows tremendous promise: flight. Powered flight has the promise to search vast regions and scout out particularly interesting areas for more detailed investigation. Yesterday, for the first time, powered flight was demonstrated on Mars by a small helicopte ...
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🌌The Galactic Center in Infrared What does the center of our galaxy look like? In visible light, the Milky Way's center is hidden by clouds of obscuring dust and gas. But in this stunning vista, the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared cameras, penetrate much of the dust revealing the stars of the crowded galactic center region. A mosaic of many smaller snapshots, the detailed, false-color image s ...
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© Miguel ClaroTWAN Rollover Annotation: Judy Schmidt

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🌌Rainbow Airglow over the Azores Why would the sky glow like a giant repeating rainbow? Airglow. Now air glows all of the time, but it is usually hard to see. A disturbance however -- like an approaching storm -- may cause noticeable rippling in the Earth's atmosphere. These gravity waves are oscillations in air analogous to those created when a rock is thrown in calm water. The long-duration ex ...
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🌌Inside the Flame Nebula The Flame Nebula is a stand out in optical images of the dusty, crowded star forming regions toward Orion's belt and the easternmost belt star Alnitak, a mere 1,400 light-years away. Alnitak is the bright star at the right edge of this infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope. About 15 light-years across, the infrared view takes you inside the nebula's glowing gas ...
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🌌The Doubly Warped World of Binary Black Holes Light rays from accretion disks around a pair of orbiting supermassive black holes make their way through the warped space-time produced by extreme gravity in this stunning computer visualization. The simulated accretion disks have been given different false color schemes, red for the disk surrounding a 200-million-solar-mass black hole, and blue fo ...
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🌌The Galaxy, the Jet, and a Famous Black Hole Bright elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87) is home to the supermassive black hole captured by planet Earth's Event Horizon Telescope in the first ever image of a black hole. Giant of the Virgo galaxy cluster about 55 million light-years away, M87 is the large galaxy rendered in blue hues in this infrared image from the Spitzer Space telescope. Though ...
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© Utkarsh Mishra

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🌌The Pencil Nebula Supernova Shock Wave This supernova shock wave plows through interstellar space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Near the middle and moving up in this sharply detailed color composite, thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a cosmic sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge-on. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its elongated appearance suggests its popular name, the ...
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🌌Confirmed Muon Wobble Remains Unexplained How fast do elementary particles wobble? A surprising answer to this seemingly inconsequential question came out of Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, USA in 2001, and indicated that the Standard Model of Particle Physics, adopted widely in physics, is incomplete. Specifically, the muon, a particle with similarities to a heavy electron, has had ...
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© Team ARO

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