Have a great weekend!
Explanation: One of the most identifiable nebulae in the sky, the Horsehead Nebula in Orion, is part of a large, dark, molecular cloud. Also known as Barnard 33, the unusual shape was first discovered on a photographic plate in the late 1800s. The red glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis. The darkness of the Horsehead is caused mostly by thick dust, although the lower part of the Horsehead’s neck casts a shadow to the left. Streams of gas leaving the nebula are funneled by a strong magnetic field. Bright spots in the Horsehead Nebula’s base are young stars just in the process of forming. Light takes about 1,500 years to reach us from the Horsehead Nebula. The above image was taken with the 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Explanation: What lights up this castle of star formation? The familiar Eagle Nebula glows bright in many colors at once. The above image is a composite of three of these glowing gas colors. Pillars of dark dust nicely outline some of the denser towers of star formation. Energetic light from young massive stars causes the gas to glow and effectively boils away part of the dust and gas from its birth pillar. Many of these stars will explode after several million years, returning most of their elements back to the nebula which formed them. This process is forming an open cluster of stars known as M16.
Explanation: How can the same Sun rise three times? Last month on Friday, 2009 July 10, a spectacular triple sunrise was photographed at about 4:30 am over Gdansk Bay in Gdansk, Poland. Clearly, our Sun rises only once. Some optical effect is creating at least two mirages of the Sun — but which effect? In the vast majority of similarly reported cases, mirages of the brightest object in the frame can be traced to reflections internal to the camera taking the images. Still, the above image is intriguing because a sincere photographer claims the effect was visible to the unaided eye, and because the photographer took several other frames that show variants of the same effect. Therefore, polite readers are invited to debate whether the above image captures a particularly spectacular example of common reflections inside a standard digital camera, shows one of the most spectacular examples of atmospheric lensing yet recorded, or was caused by something completely different. If the discussion converges, the consensus will be posted here at a later date.
Explanation: Earth’s Moon and planet Jupiter made a beautiful pairing in the night sky late last week. This skyscape recorded on July 11 from Brittany in north western France captures the bright conjunction through a cloud bank. The clouds add drama and mystery to the scene but they were also positioned to reduce the intense moonlight. As a result, the exposure captures Jupiter’s own Galilean moons (lower right) as tiny pinpricks of light, lined up and hugging both sides of the solar system’s ruling gas giant. Later this week, the Moon is headed for a conjunction with Mars and Venus in the dawn sky.
Explanation: Noctilucent or night-shining clouds lie near the edge of space. From about 80 kilometers above Earth’s surface, the icy clouds can still reflect sunlight even though the Sun itself is below the horizon as seen from the ground. Usually occurring at high latitudes in summer months, the diaphanous apparitions are also known as polar mesospheric clouds and may be connected to global change in the lower atmosphere. This impressive 360 degree panorama made from 34 separate images captures an impressive display of noctilucent clouds all over the sky. It was recorded last month from Vallentuna, Sweden. The photographer reports that the display was like a noctilucent cloud storm, one of the best he’s ever witnessed.
Have you witnessed any spectacular astrological displays lately? Hope you had an Induro tripod handy!
Oh, it’s Friday and it’s hot where I am. Is it hot where you are, too? Seems like we should cool off a bit. We had some Antarctica shots on the blog recently, and I thought we’d keep the icy theme going with some from the always great Nick Cobbing. Cobbing’s images of the ice formations in Greenland, many of them aerials, are timeless and stunning and I can’t get enough.
So I thought I’d share.
Without further ado:
Have a great weekend! And check out more of Cobbing’s work, here.