Camera Orion

Do you recognize this constellation? Although it is one of the most recognizable star groupings on the sky, Orion’s icons don’t look quite as colorful to the eye as they do to a camera. In this 20-image digitally-composed mosaic, cool red giant Betelgeuse takes on a strong orange tint as the brightest star at the upper left. Orion’s hot blue stars are numerous, with supergiant Rigel balancing Betelgeuse at the lower right, and Bellatrix at the upper right Lined up in Orion’s belt are three stars all about 1,500 light-years away, born from the constellation’s well-studied interstellar clouds. Below Orion’s belt a reddish and fuzzy patch that might also look familiar — the stellar nursery known as Orion’s Nebula. Finally, just barely visible to the unaided eye but quite striking here by camera is Barnard’s Loop — a huge gaseous emission nebula surrounding Orion’s Belt and Nebula discovered over 100 years ago by the pioneering Orion photographer E. E. Barnard. via NASA

Space Station Bound!

Workers are seen on the launch pad as the Soyuz rocket arrives after being rolled out by train, Monday, March 19, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. via NASA

Going for Atmospheric GOLD

In late Jan. 2018, NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) instrument was launched into space aboard a commercial satellite. via NASA

The Nebra Sky Disk

It is considered the oldest known illustration of the night sky. But what, exactly, does it depict, and why was it made? The Nebra sky disk was found with a metal detector in 1999 by treasure hunters near Nebra, Germany, in the midst of several bronze-age weapons. The ancient artifact spans about 30 centimeters and has been associated with the Unetice culture that inhabited part of Europe around 1600 BC. Reconstructed, the dots are thought to represent stars, with the cluster representing the Pleiades, and the large circle and the crescent representing the Sun and Moon. The purpose of the disk remains unknown — hypotheses including an astronomical clock, a work of art, and a religious symbol. Valued at about $11 million, some believe that the Nebra sky disk is only one of a pair, with the other disk still out there waiting to be discovered. via NASA

Rotating Moon from LRO

No one, presently, sees the Moon rotate like this. That’s because the Earth’s moon is tidally locked to the Earth, showing us only one side. Given modern digital technology, however, combined with many detailed images returned by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a high resolution virtual Moon rotation movie has been composed. The above time-lapse video starts with the standard Earth view of the Moon. Quickly, though, Mare Orientale, a large crater with a dark center that is difficult to see from the Earth, rotates into view just below the equator. From an entire lunar month condensed into 24 seconds, the video clearly shows that the Earth side of the Moon contains an abundance of dark lunar maria, while the lunar far side is dominated by bright lunar highlands. Currently, over 20 new missions to the Moon are under active development from four different countries, most of which have expected launch dates either this year or next. via NASA

The Crab from Space

The Crab Nebula is cataloged as M1, the first object on Charles Messier’s famous list of things which are not comets. In fact, the Crab is now known to be a supernova remnant, expanding debris from the death explosion of a massive star. This intriguing false-color image combines data from space-based observatories, Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer, to explore the debris cloud in X-rays (blue-white), optical (purple), and infrared (pink) light. One of the most exotic objects known to modern astronomers, the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning 30 times a second, is the bright spot near picture center. Like a cosmic dynamo, this collapsed remnant of the stellar core powers the Crab’s emission across the electromagnetic spectrum. Spanning about 12 light-years, the Crab Nebula is 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. via NASA

Rose-Colored Jupiter

This image captures a close-up view of a storm with bright cloud tops in the northern hemisphere of Jupiter. via NASA

The Seagull and The Duck

Seen as a seagull and a duck, these nebulae are not the only cosmic clouds to evoke images of flight. But both are winging their way across this broad celestial landscape, spanning almost 7 degrees across planet Earth’s night sky toward the constellation Canis Major. The expansive Seagull (top center) is itself composed of two major cataloged emission nebulae. Brighter NGC 2327 forms the head with the more diffuse IC 2177 as the wings and body. Impressively, the Seagull’s wingspan would correspond to about 250 light-years at the nebula’s estimated distance of 3,800 light-years. At the lower right, the Duck appears much more compact and would span only about 50 light-years given its 15,000 light-year distance estimate. Blown by energetic winds from an extremely massive, hot star near its center, the Duck nebula is cataloged as NGC 2359. Of course, the Duck’s thick body and winged appendages also lend it the slightly more dramatic popular moniker, Thor’s Helmet. via NASA

The Aurora Named STEVE

What’s in a name? If your name is Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement aka STEVE, then there’s quite bit behind the name. via NASA

Catalog Entry Number 1

Every journey has first step and every catalog a first entry. First entries in six well-known deep sky catalogs appear in these panels, from upper left to lower right in chronological order of original catalog publication. From 1774, Charles Messier’s catalog entry number 1 is M1, famous cosmic crustacean and supernova remnant the Crab Nebula. J.L.E. Dreyer’s (not so new) New General Catalog was published in 1888. A spiral galaxy in Pegasus, his NGC 1 is centered in the next panel. Just below it in the frame is another spiral galaxy cataloged as NGC 2. In Dreyer’s follow-on Index Catalog (next panel), IC 1 is actually a faint double star, though. Now recognized as part of the Perseus molecular cloud complex, dark nebula Barnard 1 begins the bottom row from Dark Markings of the Sky, a 1919 catalog by E.E. Barnard. Abell 1 is a distant galaxy cluster in Pegasus, from George Abell’s 1958 catalog of Rich Clusters of Galaxies. The final panel is centered on vdB 1, from Sidney van den Bergh’s 1966 study. The pretty, blue galactic reflection nebula is found in the constellation Cassiopeia. via NASA