July 16, 2016

The centre of the Milky Way Galaxy

The centre of the Milky Way Galaxy

Image of the galactic centre. For the interferometric GRAVITY observations the star IRS 16C was used as a reference star, the actual target was the star S2. The position of the centre, which harbours the (invisible) black hole known as Sgr A*,with 4 million solar masses, is marked by the orange cross.

Image Credit: ESO/MPE/S. Gillessen et al.

Puppis A

Puppis A

The destructive results of a powerful supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate tapestry of X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton.

The image shows the remains of a supernova that would have been witnessed on Earth about 3,700 years ago. The remnant is called Puppis A, and is around 7,000 light years away and about 10 light years across. This image provides the most complete and detailed X-ray view of Puppis A ever obtained, made by combining a mosaic of different Chandra and XMM-Newton observations. Low-energy X-rays are shown in red, medium-energy X-rays are in green and high energy X-rays are colored blue.

These observations act as a probe of the gas surrounding Puppis A, known as the interstellar medium. The complex appearance of the remnant shows that Puppis A is expanding into an interstellar medium that probably has a knotty structure.

Supernova explosions forge the heavy elements that can provide the raw material from which future generations of stars and planets will form. Studying how supernova remnants expand into the galaxy and interact with other material provides critical clues into our own origins.

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/IAFE/G.Dubner et al & ESA/XMM-Newton
Explanation from: http://chandra.si.edu/photo/2014/puppisa/

Earth seen by DSCOVR Observatory from 1 million miles away

Earth

DSCOVR, 1 million miles from Earth
July 5, 2016

Image Credit: NASA/NOAA

July 15, 2016

Coral reef fish

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Coral reef fish are fish which live amongst or in close relation to coral reefs. Coral reefs form complex ecosystems with tremendous biodiversity. Among the myriad inhabitants, the fish stand out as colourful and interesting to watch. Hundreds of species can exist in a small area of a healthy reef, many of them hidden or well camouflaged. Reef fish have developed many ingenious specialisations adapted to survival on the reefs.

Coral reefs occupy less than one percent of the surface area of the world oceans, but still they provide a home for 25 percent of all marine fish species. Reef habitats are a sharp contrast to the open water habitats that make up the other 99% of the world oceans.

However, loss and degradation of coral reef habitat, increasing pollution, and overfishing including the use of destructive fishing practices, are threatening the survival of the coral reefs and the associated reef fish.

Explanation from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_reef_fish

Spiral Galaxy NGC 3344

Spiral Galaxy NGC 3344

NGC 3344 is a glorious spiral galaxy around half the size of the Milky Way, which lies 25 million light-years distant. We are fortunate enough to see NGC 3344 face-on, allowing us to study its structure in detail.

The galaxy features an outer ring swirling around an inner ring with a subtle bar structure in the centre. The central regions of the galaxy are predominately populated by young stars, with the galactic fringes also featuring areas of active star formation.

Central bars are found in around two thirds of spiral galaxies. NGC 3344’s is clearly visible here, although it is not as dramatic as some.

The high density of stars in galaxies’ central regions gives them enough gravitational influence to affect the movement of other stars in their galaxy. However, NGC 3344’s outer stars are moving in an unusual manner, although the presence of the bar cannot entirely account for this, leaving astronomers puzzled. It is possible that in its past NGC 3344 passed close by another galaxy and accreted stars from it, but more research is needed to state this with confidence.

The image is a combination of exposures taken in visible and near-infrared light, using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. The field of view is around 3.4 by 3.4 arcminutes, or around a tenth of the diameter of the full Moon.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Explanation from: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1242a/

Earth and the far side of the Moon

Earth and Moon

DSCOVR, 1 million miles from Earth
July 5, 2016

Image Credit: NASA/NOAA

July 14, 2016

The Crater of Fire

Crater of Fire

The Crater of Fire (also known as Darvaza Crater) is a natural gas field in Derweze, Turkmenistan, that collapsed into an underground cavern in 1971, becoming a natural gas crater. Geologists set it on fire to prevent the spread of methane gas, and it has been burning continuously since then. The diameter of the crater is 69 metres (226 ft), and its depth is 30 metres (98 ft).

The crater is a popular tourist attraction. In the past five years 50,000 tourists have visited the site. The gas crater has a total area of 5,350 m2, the size of an American football field. The surrounding area is also popular for wild desert camping.

Image Credit: Tormod Sandtorv
Explanation from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crater_of_Fire

SNR 0519-69.0

SNR 0519-69.0

When a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, it left behind an expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0. Here, multimillion degree gas is seen in X-rays from Chandra (blue). The outer edge of the explosion (red) and stars in the field of view are seen in visible light from Hubble.

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO

Artist’s impression of the water snowline around the young star V883 Orionis

Artist’s impression of the water snowline around the young star V883 Orionis

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has made the first ever resolved observation of a water snow line within a protoplanetary disc. This line marks where the temperature in the disc surrounding a young star drops sufficiently low for snow to form. A dramatic increase in the brightness of the young star V883 Orionis flash heated the inner portion of the disc, pushing the water snow line out to a far greater distance than is normal for a protostar, and making it possible to observe it for the first time.

Young stars are often surrounded by dense, rotating discs of gas and dust, known as protoplanetary discs, from which planets are born. The heat from a typical young solar-type star means that the water within a protoplanetary disc is gaseous up to distances of around 3 au from the star — less than 3 times the average distance between the Earth and the Sun — or around 450 million kilometres. Further out, due to the extremely low pressure, the water molecules transition directly from a gaseous state to form a patina of ice on dust grains and other particles. The region in the protoplanetary disc where water transitions between the gas and solid phases is known as the water snow line.

But the star V883 Orionis is unusual. A dramatic increase in its brightness has pushed the water snow line out to a distance of around 40 au (about 6 billion kilometres or roughly the size of the orbit of the dwarf planet Pluto in our Solar System). This huge increase, combined with the resolution of ALMA at long baselines, has allowed a team led by Lucas Cieza (Millennium ALMA Disk Nucleus and Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile) to make the first ever resolved observations of a water snow line in a protoplanetary disc.

The sudden brightening that V883 Orionis experienced is an example of what occurs when large amounts of material from the disc surrounding a young star fall onto its surface. V883 Orionis is only 30% more massive than the Sun, but thanks to the outburst it is experiencing, it is currently a staggering 400 times more luminous — and much hotter.

Lead author Lucas Cieza explains: “The ALMA observations came as a surprise to us. Our observations were designed to look for disc fragmentation leading to planet formation. We saw none of that; instead, we found what looks like a ring at 40 au. This illustrates well the transformational power of ALMA, which delivers exciting results even if they are not the ones we were looking for.”

The bizarre idea of snow orbiting in space is fundamental to planet formation. The presence of water ice regulates the efficiency of the coagulation of dust grains — the first step in planet formation. Within the snow line, where water is vapourised, smaller, rocky planets like our own are believed to form. Outside the water snow line, the presence of water ice allows the rapid formation of cosmic snowballs, which eventually go on to form massive gaseous planets such as Jupiter.

The discovery that these outbursts may blast the water snow line to about 10 times its typical radius is very significant for the development of good planetary formation models. Such outbursts are believed to be a stage in the evolution of most planetary systems, so this may be the first observation of a common occurrence. In that case, this observation from ALMA could contribute significantly to a better understanding of how planets throughout the Universe formed and evolved.

Image Credit: A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
Explanation from: https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1626/

July 13, 2016

Earth from Mars & Mars from Earth

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This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky. Earth is a little left of center in the image, and our moon is just below Earth.

Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014). The image has been processed to remove effects of cosmic rays.

A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright "evening stars."

The distance between Earth and Mars when Curiosity took the photo was about 99 million miles (160 million kilometers).

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU
Explanation from: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17936

The Omega Nebula

Omega Nebula

The Omega Nebula, sometimes called the Swan Nebula, is a dazzling stellar nursery located about 5500 light-years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer). An active star-forming region of gas and dust about 15 light-years across, the nebula has recently spawned a cluster of massive, hot stars. The intense light and strong winds from these hulking infants have carved remarkable filigree structures in the gas and dust.

When seen through a small telescope the nebula has a shape that reminds some observers of the final letter of the Greek alphabet, omega, while others see a swan with its distinctive long, curved neck. Yet other nicknames for this evocative cosmic landmark include the Horseshoe and the Lobster Nebula.

Swiss astronomer Jean-Philippe Loys de Chéseaux discovered the nebula around 1745. The French comet hunter Charles Messier independently rediscovered it about twenty years later and included it as number 17 in his famous catalogue. In a small telescope, the Omega Nebula appears as an enigmatic ghostly bar of light set against the star fields of the Milky Way. Early observers were unsure whether this curiosity was really a cloud of gas or a remote cluster of stars too faint to be resolved. In 1866, William Huggins settled the debate when he confirmed the Omega Nebula to be a cloud of glowing gas, through the use of a new instrument, the astronomical spectrograph.

In recent years, astronomers have discovered that the Omega Nebula is one of the youngest and most massive star-forming regions in the Milky Way. Active star-birth started a few million years ago and continues through today. The brightly shining gas shown in this picture is just a blister erupting from the side of a much larger dark cloud of molecular gas. The dust that is so prominent in this picture comes from the remains of massive hot stars that have ended their brief lives and ejected material back into space, as well as the cosmic detritus from which future suns form.

The released image, obtained with the EMMI instrument attached to the ESO 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT) at La Silla, Chile, shows the central region of the Omega Nebula in exquisite detail. In 2000, another instrument on the NTT, called SOFI, captured another striking image of the nebula in the near-infrared, giving astronomers a penetrating view through the obscuring dust, and clearly showing many previously hidden stars. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has also imaged small parts of this nebula (heic0305a and heic0206d) in fine detail.

At the left of the image a huge and strangely box-shaped cloud of dust covers the glowing gas. The fascinating palette of subtle colour shades across the image comes from the presence of different gases (mostly hydrogen, but also oxygen, nitrogen and sulphur) that are glowing under the fierce ultraviolet light radiated by the hot young stars.

Image Credit: ESO
Explanation from: https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso0925/

Rocky Mountains

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The Rocky Mountains, commonly known as the Rockies, are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States. Within the North American Cordillera, the Rockies are somewhat distinct from the Pacific Coast Ranges and the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada which all lie further to the west.

The Rocky Mountains were initially formed from 80 million to 55 million years ago during the Laramide orogeny, in which a number of plates began to slide underneath the North American plate. The angle of subduction was shallow, resulting in a broad belt of mountains running down western North America. Since then, further tectonic activity and erosion by glaciers have sculpted the Rockies into dramatic peaks and valleys. At the end of the last ice age, humans started to inhabit the mountain range. After Europeans, such as Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and Americans, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition, started to explore the range, minerals and furs drove the initial economic exploitation of the mountains, although the range itself never became densely populated.

Currently, much of the mountain range is protected by public parks and forest lands, and is a popular tourist destination, especially for hiking, camping, mountaineering, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding.

Explanation from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocky_Mountains

July 12, 2016

Planetary Nebula NGC 5189

Planetary Nebula NGC 5189

Planetary nebulae represent the final brief stage in the life of a medium-sized star like our Sun. While consuming the last of the fuel in its core, the dying star expels a large portion of its outer envelope. This material then becomes heated by the radiation from the stellar remnant and radiates, producing glowing clouds of gas that can show complex structures, as the ejection of mass from the star is uneven in both time and direction.

A spectacular example of this beautiful complexity is seen in the bluish lobes of NGC 5189. Most of the nebula is knotty and filamentary in its structure. As a result of the mass-loss process, the planetary nebula has been created with two nested structures, tilted with respect to each other, that expand away from the center in different directions.

This double bipolar or quadrupolar structure could be explained by the presence of a binary companion orbiting the central star and influencing the pattern of mass ejection during its nebula-producing death throes. The remnant of the central star, having lost much of its mass, now lives its final days as a white dwarf. However, there is no visual candidate for the possible companion.

The bright golden ring that twists and tilts through the image is made up of a large collection of radial filaments and cometary knots. These are usually formed by the combined action of photo-ionizing radiation and stellar winds.

This image was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on July 6, 2012, in filters tuned to the specific colors of fluorescing sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Broad filters in the visible and near-infrared were used to capture the star colors.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Explanation from: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/49/image/a/

Spiral Galaxy MCG+07-33-027

Spiral Galaxy MCG+07-33-027

This image was taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and shows a starburst galaxy named MCG+07-33-027. This galaxy lies some 300 million light-years away from us, and is currently experiencing an extraordinarily high rate of star formation — a starburst. Normal galaxies produce only a couple of new stars per year, but starburst galaxies can produce a hundred times more than that! As MCG+07-33-027 is seen face-on, the galaxy’s spiral arms and the bright star-forming regions within them are clearly visible and easy for astronomers to study.

In order to form newborn stars, the parent galaxy has to hold a large reservoir of gas, which is slowly depleted to spawn stars over time. For galaxies in a state of starburst, this intense period of star formation has to be triggered somehow — often this happens due to a collision with another galaxy. MCG+07-33-027, however, is special; while many galaxies are located within a large cluster of galaxies, MCG+07-33-027 is a field galaxy, which means it is rather isolated. Thus, the triggering of the starburst was most likely not due to a collision with a neighbouring or passing galaxy and astronomers are still speculating about the cause.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA and N. Grogin (STScI)
Explanation from: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1628a/

Orion Nebula in the Infrared

Orion Nebula in the Infrared

This spectacular image of the Orion Nebula star-formation region was obtained from multiple exposures using the HAWK-I infrared camera on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. This is the deepest view ever of this region and reveals more very faint planetary-mass objects than expected.

Image Credit: ESO/H. Drass et al.

Pufferfish

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Tetraodontidae is a family of primarily marine and estuarine fish of the order Tetraodontiformes. The family includes many familiar species, which are variously called pufferfish, puffers, balloonfish, blowfish, bubblefish, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, toadies, honey toads, sugar toads, and sea squab. They are morphologically similar to the closely related porcupinefish, which have large external spines (unlike the thinner, hidden spines of Tetraodontidae, which are only visible when the fish has puffed up). The scientific name refers to the four large teeth, fused into an upper and lower plate, which are used for crushing the shells of crustaceans and mollusks, their natural prey.


Natural defenses

The puffer's unique and distinctive natural defenses help compensate for its slow locomotion. It moves by combining pectoral, dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. This makes it highly maneuverable, but very slow, and therefore a comparatively easy predation target. Its tail fin is mainly used as a rudder, but it can be used for a sudden evasive burst of speed that shows none of the care and precision of its usual movements. The puffer's excellent eyesight, combined with this speed burst, is the first and most important defense against predators.

Its backup defense mechanism, used if successfully pursued, is to fill its extremely elastic stomach with water (or air when outside the water) until it is much larger and almost spherical in shape. Even if they are not visible when the puffer is not inflated, all puffers have pointed spines, so a hungry predator may suddenly find itself facing an unpalatable, pointy ball rather than a slow, tasty fish. Predators which do not heed this warning (or which are "lucky" enough to catch the puffer suddenly, before or during inflation) may die from choking, and predators that do manage to swallow the puffer may find their stomachs full of tetrodotoxin, making puffers an unpleasant, possibly lethal, choice of prey. This neurotoxin is found primarily in the ovaries and liver, although smaller amounts exist in the intestines and skin, as well as trace amounts in muscle. It does not always have a lethal effect on large predators, such as sharks, but it can kill humans.

Not all puffers are necessarily poisonous; the flesh of the northern puffer is not toxic (a level of poison can be found in its viscera). Takifugu oblongus, for example, is a fugu puffer that is not poisonous, and toxin level varies wildly even in fish that are. A puffer's neurotoxin is not necessarily as toxic to other animals as it is to humans, and puffers are eaten routinely by some species of fish, such as lizardfish and tiger sharks.

Puffers are able to move their eyes independently, and many species can change the color or intensity of their patterns in response to environmental changes. In these respects, they are somewhat similar to the terrestrial chameleon. Although most puffers are drab, many have bright colors and distinctive markings, and make no attempt to hide from predators. This is likely an example of aposematism.

Explanation from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetraodontidae

The Flame Nebula, The Horsehead Nebula and NGC 2023

The Flame Nebula, The Horsehead Nebula and NGC 2023

This mosaic image taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, features three nebulae that are part of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud-the Flame nebula, the Horsehead nebula and NGC 2023.

Despite its name, there is no fire roaring in the Flame nebula. What makes this nebula shine is the bright blue star seen to the right of the central cloud. This star, Alnitak, is the easternmost star in Orion's belt. Wind and radiation from Alnitak blasts away electrons from the gas in the Flame nebula, causing it to become ionized and glow in visible light. The infrared glow seen by WISE is from dust warmed by Alnitak's radiation.

The famous Horsehead nebula appears in this image as a faint bump on the lower right side of the vertical dust ridge. In visible light, this nebula is easily recognizable as a dramatic silhouette in the shape of a horse's head. It is classified as a dark nebula because the dense cloud blocks out the visible light of the glowing gas behind it. WISE's infrared detectors can peer into the cloud to see the glow of the dust itself.

A third nebula, NGC 2023, can be seen as a bright circle in the lower half of the image. NGC 2023 is classified as a reflection nebula, meaning that the dust is reflecting the visible light of nearby stars. But here WISE sees the infrared glow of the warmed dust itself.

Color in this image represents specific infrared wavelengths. Blue represents light emitted at 3.4-micron wavelengths, mainly from hot stars. Relatively cooler objects, such as the dust of the nebulae, appear green and red. Green represents 4.6-micron light and red represents 12-micron light. This image was made from data collected after WISE began to run out of its supply of solid hydrogen cryogen in August 2010. Cryogen is a coolant used to make infrared detectors more sensitive. WISE mapped the entire sky by July using four infrared detectors, but during the period from August to October 2010, while the cryogen was depleting, WISE had only three detectors operational, and the 12-micron detector was less sensitive. This turned out to be a good thing in the case of this image, because the less-sensitive detector reduced the glare of the Flame portion of the nebula enough to bring out details of the rest of the nebula.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Explanation from: https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1830.html

Earth and the Moon seen by DSCOVR Observatory

Earth and Moon

On July 5, 2016, the Moon passed between NOAA's DSCOVR satellite and Earth. NASA's EPIC camera aboard DSCOVR snapped these images over a period of about four hours. In this set, the far side of the moon, which is never seen from Earth, passes by. In the backdrop, Earth rotates, starting with the Australia and Pacific and gradually revealing Asia and Africa.

Image Credit: NASA/NOAA

July 11, 2016

Narwhal - the Unicorn of the Sea

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The narwhal, or narwhale (Monodon monoceros), is a medium-sized toothed whale that possesses a large "tusk" from a protruding canine tooth. It lives year-round in the Arctic waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia. It is one of two living species of whale in the Monodontidae family, along with the beluga whale. The narwhal males are distinguished by a long, straight, helical tusk, which is an elongated upper left canine. The narwhal was one of many species described by Carl Linnaeus in his publication Systema Naturae in 1758.

Like the beluga, narwhals are medium-sized whales. For both sexes, excluding the male's tusk, the total body size can range from 3.95 to 5.5 m (13.0 to 18.0 ft); the males are slightly larger than the females. The average weight of an adult narwhal is 800 to 1,600 kg (1,800 to 3,500 lb). At around 11 to 13 years old, the males become sexually mature; females become sexually mature at about 5 to 8 years old. Narwhals do not have a dorsal fin, and their neck vertebrae are jointed like those of other mammals, not fused as in dolphins and most whales.

Found primarily in Canadian Arctic and Greenlandic and Russian waters, the narwhal is a uniquely specialized Arctic predator. In winter, it feeds on benthic prey, mostly flatfish, under dense pack ice. During the summer, narwhals mostly eat Arctic cod and Greenland halibut, with other fish such as polar cod making up the remainder of their diet. Each year, they migrate from bays into the ocean as summer comes. In the winter, the male narwhals occasionally dive up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) in depth, with dives lasting up to 25 minutes. Narwhals, like most toothed whales, communicate with "clicks", "whistles", and "knocks".

Narwhals can live up to 50 years. They are often killed by suffocation when the sea ice freezes over. Another cause of fatality, specifically among young whales, is starvation. The current population of the narwhal is about 75,000, so narwhals qualify for Near Threatened under the criterion of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Explanation from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narwhal

Tycho's Supernova Remnant

Tycho's Supernova Remnant

This composite image of the Tycho supernova remnant combines X-ray and infrared observations obtained with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope, respectively, and the Calar Alto observatory, Spain. It shows the scene more than four centuries after the brilliant star explosion witnessed by Tycho Brahe and other astronomers of that era.

The explosion has left a blazing hot cloud of expanding debris (green and yellow) visible in X-rays. The location of ultra-energetic electrons in the blast's outer shock wave can also be seen in X-rays (the circular blue line). Newly synthesized dust in the ejected material and heated pre-existing dust from the area around the supernova radiate at infrared wavelengths of 24 microns (red). Foreground and background stars in the image are white.

Oliver Krause, from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, recently studied reflected light from the supernova explosion seen by Brahe. Use of these "light echoes" - not shown in this figure - has confirmed previous suspicions that the explosion was a Type Ia supernova. This type of supernova is generally believed to be caused by the explosion of a white dwarf star in a binary star system.

Image Credit: MPIA/NASA/Calar Alto Observatory
Explanation from: http://chandra.si.edu/photo/2009/tycho/

The North America Nebula seen by Spitzer Space Telescope

The North America Nebula seen by Spitzer Space Telescope

This swirling landscape of stars is known as the North America nebula. In visible light, the region resembles North America, but in this infrared view from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the continent disappears.

Where did the continent go? The reason you don't see it in Spitzer's view has to do, in part, with the fact that infrared light can penetrate dust whereas visible light cannot. Dusty, dark clouds in the visible image become transparent in Spitzer's view. In addition, Spitzer's infrared detectors pick up the glow of dusty cocoons enveloping baby stars.

Clusters of young stars (about one million years old) can be found throughout the image. Slightly older but still very young stars (about 3 to 5 million years) are also liberally scattered across the complex, with concentrations near the "head" region of the Pelican nebula, which is located to the right of the North America nebula (upper right portion of this picture).

Some areas of this nebula are still very thick with dust and appear dark even in Spitzer's view. For example, the dark "river" in the lower left-center of the image -- in the Gulf of Mexico region -- are likely to be the youngest stars in the complex (less than a million years old).

The Spitzer image contains data from both its infrared array camera and multiband imaging photometer. Light with a wavelength of 3.6 microns has been color-coded blue; 4.5-micron light is blue-green; 5.8-micron and 8.0-micron light are green; and 24-micron light is red.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/L. Rebull (SSC/Caltech)
Explanation from: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/images/3512-ssc2011-03a1-An-Extended-Stellar-Family

July 10, 2016

One Sun, Two Worlds - Sunset on Earth & Mars

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NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the Sun setting at the close of the mission's 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15, 2015), from the rover's location in Gale Crater.

This was the first sunset observed in color by Curiosity. The image comes from the left-eye camera of the rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam). The color has been calibrated and white-balanced to remove camera artifacts. Mastcam sees color very similarly to what human eyes see, although it is actually a little less sensitive to blue than people are.

Dust in the Martian atmosphere has fine particles that permit blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than longer-wavelength colors. That causes the blue colors in the mixed light coming from the Sun to stay closer to Sun's part of the sky, compared to the wider scattering of yellow and red colors. The effect is most pronounced near sunset, when light from the Sun passes through a longer path in the atmosphere than it does at mid-day.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ.
Explanation from: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19400