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NASAs Picture of the Day API. Photos for the whole week!
A Total Eclipse of the Sun - 2021-12-09
Few were able to stand in the Moon's shadow and watch the December 4 total eclipse of the Sun. Determined by celestial mechanics and not geographical boundaries, the narrow path of totality tracked across planet Earth's relatively inaccessible southernmost continent. Still, some enthusiastic and well-insulated eclipse chasers were rewarded with the dazzling spectacle in Antarctica's cold but clear skies. Taken just before the brief totality began, this image from a ground-based telescope inside the edge of the shadow path at Union Glacier catches a glimmer of sunlight near the top of the silhouetted lunar disk. Look closely for the pinkish solar prominences arcing above the Sun's limb. During totality, the magnificent solar corona, the Sun's outer atmosphere, made its much anticipated appearance, seen in the composite view streaming far from the Sun's edge.
Comet Hale-Bopp Over Val Parola Pass - 2021-12-08
Comet Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997, became much brighter than any surrounding stars. It was seen even over bright city lights. Away from city lights, however, it put on quite a spectacular show. Here Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed above Val Parola Pass in the Dolomite mountains surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Comet Hale-Bopp's blue ion tail, consisting of ions from the comet's nucleus, is pushed out by the solar wind. The white dust tail is composed of larger particles of dust from the nucleus driven by the pressure of sunlight, that orbit behind the comet. Comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1) remained visible to the unaided eye for 18 months -- longer than any other comet in recorded history. The large comet is next expected to return around the year 4385. This month, Comet Leonard is brightening and may soon become visible to the unaided eye.
Ninety Gravitational Wave Spectrograms and Counting - 2021-12-07
very time two massive black holes collide, a loud chirping sound is broadcast out into the universe in gravitational waves. Humanity has only had the technology to hear these unusual chirps for the past seven years, but since then we have heard about 90 -- during the first three observing runs. Featured above are the spectrograms -- plots of gravitational-wave frequency versus time -- of these 90 as detected by the giant detectors of LIGO (in the USA), VIRGO (in Europe), and KAGRA (in Japan). The more energy received on Earth from a collision, the brighter it appears on the graphic. Among many science firsts, these gravitational-radiation chirps are giving humanity an unprecedented inventory of black holes and neutron stars, and a new way to measure the expansion rate of our universe. A fourth gravitational wave observing run with increased sensitivity is currently planned to begin in 2022 December.
Space Station Silhouette on the Moon - 2021-12-06
What's that unusual spot on the Moon? It's the International Space Station. Using precise timing, the Earth-orbiting space platform was photographed in front of a partially lit gibbous Moon last month. The featured composite, taken from Payson, Arizona, USA last month, was intricately composed by combining, in part, many 1/2000-second images from a video of the ISS crossing the Moon. A close inspection of this unusually crisp ISS silhouette will reveal the outlines of numerous solar panels and trusses. The bright crater Tycho is visible on the upper left, as well as comparatively rough, light colored terrain known as highlands, and relatively smooth, dark colored areas known as maria. On-line tools can tell you when the International Space Station will be visible from your area.
Total Solar Eclipse Below the Bottom of the World - 2021-12-05
Yesterday there was a total solar eclipse visible only at the end of the Earth. To capture the unusual phenomenon, airplanes took flight below the clouded seascape of Southern Ocean. The featured image shows one relatively spectacular capture where the bright spot is the outer corona of the Sun and the eclipsing Moon is seen as the dark spot in the center. A wing and engine of the airplane are visible across the left and bottom of the image, while another airplane observing the eclipse is visible on the far left. The dark area of the sky surrounding the eclipsed Sun is called a shadow cone. It is dark because you are looking down a long corridor of air shadowed by the Moon. A careful inspection of the eclipsed Sun will reveal the planet Mercury just to the right. The next total solar eclipse shadow will cross parts of Australia and Indonesia in April of 2023, while the one after that will cross North America in April of 2024. Notable Eclipse Submissions to APOD: Total Solar Eclipse of 2021 December
Iridescent by Moonlight - 2021-12-04
In this snapshot from November 18, the Full Moon was not far from Earth's shadow. In skies over Sicily the brightest lunar phase was eclipsed by passing clouds though. The full moonlight was dimmed and momentarily diffracted by small but similar sized water droplets near the edges of the high thin clouds. The resulting iridescence shines with colors like a lunar corona. On that night, the Full Moon was also seen close to the Pleiades star cluster appearing at the lower left of the iridescent cloud bank. The stars of the Seven Sisters were soon to share the sky with a darker, reddened lunar disk.
Comet Leonard and the Whale Galaxy - 2021-12-03
Sweeping through northern predawn skies, on November 24 Comet Leonard (C/2021 A1) was caught between two galaxies in this composite telescopic image. Sporting a greenish coma the comet's dusty tail seems to harpoon the heart of NGC 4631 (top) also known as the Whale Galaxy. Of course NGC 4631 and NGC 4656 (bottom, aka the Hockey Stick) are background galaxies some 25 million light-years away. On that date the comet was about 6 light-minutes from our fair planet. Its closest approach to Earth (and even closer approach to Venus) still to come, Comet Leonard will grow brighter in December. Already a good object for binoculars and small telescopes, this comet will likely not return to the inner Solar System. Its perihelion, or closest approach to the Sun, will be on January 3, 2022.