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Sh2-308: A Dolphin Shaped Star Bubble - 2023-03-29
Which star created this bubble? It wasn't the bright star on the bubble's right. And it also wasn't a giant space dolphin. It was the star in the blue nebula's center, a famously energetic Wolf-Rayet star. Wolf-Rayet stars in general have over 20 times the mass of our Sun and expel fast particle winds that can create iconic looking nebulas. In this case, the resulting star bubble spans over 60 light years, is about 70,000 years old, and happens to look like the head of a dolphin. Named Sh2-308 and dubbed the Dolphin-Head Nebula, the gas ball lies about 5,000 light years away and covers as much sky as the full moon -- although it is much dimmer. The nearby red-tinged clouds on the left of the featured image may owe their glow and shape to energetic light emitted from the same Wolf-Rayet star.
A Multiple Green Flash Sunset - 2023-03-28
Yes, but can your green flash do this? A green flash at sunset is a rare event that many Sun watchers pride themselves on having seen. Once thought to be a myth, a green flash is now understood to occur when the Earth's atmosphere acts like both a prism and a lens. Different atmospheric layers create altitude-variable refraction that takes light from the top of the Sun and disperses its colors, creates two images, and magnifies it in just the right way to make a thin sliver appear green just before it disappears. Pictured, though, is an even more unusual sunset. From the high-altitude Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile one day last April, the Sun was captured setting beyond an atmosphere with multiple distinct thermal layers, creating several mock images of the Sun. This time and from this location, many of those layers produced a green flash simultaneously. Just seconds after this multiple-green-flash event was caught by two well-surprised astrophotographers, the Sun set below the clouds.
Aurora Over Arctic Henge - 2023-03-27
Reports of powerful solar flares started a seven-hour quest north to capture modern monuments against an aurora-filled sky. The peaks of iconic Arctic Henge in Raufarhöfn in northern Iceland were already aligned with the stars: some are lined up toward the exact north from one side and toward exact south from the other. The featured image, taken after sunset late last month, looks directly south, but since the composite image covers so much of the sky, the north star Polaris is actually visible at the very top of the frame. Also visible are familiar constellations including the Great Bear (Ursa Major) on the left, and the Hunter (Orion) on the lower right. The quest was successful. The sky lit up dramatically with bright and memorable auroras that shimmered with amazing colors including red, pink, yellow, and green -- sometimes several at once.
Wanderers - 2023-03-26
How far out will humanity explore? If this video's fusion of real space imagery and fictional space visualizations is on the right track, then at least the Solar System. Some of the video's wondrous sequences depict future humans drifting through the rings of Saturn, exploring Jupiter from a nearby spacecraft, and jumping off a high cliff in the low gravity of a moon of Uranus. Although no one can know the future, wandering and exploring beyond boundaries -- both physical and intellectual -- is part of the human spirit and has frequently served humanity well in the past.
Venus and the Da Vinci Glow - 2023-03-25
On March 23 early evening skygazers could watch Venus and a young crescent moon, both near the western horizon. On that date Earth's brilliant evening star, faint lunar night side and slender sunlit crescent were captured in this telephoto skyscape posing alongside a church tower from Danta di Cadore, Dolomiti, Italy. Of course the subtle lunar illumination is earthshine, earthlight reflected from the Moon's night side. A description of earthshine, in terms of sunlight reflected by Earth's oceans illuminating the Moon's dark surface, was written over 500 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci. On March 24, from some locations the Moon could be seen to occult or pass in front of Venus. Around the planet tonight, a waxing lunar crescent will appear near the Pleiades star cluster.
Outbound Comet ZTF - 2023-03-24
Former darling of the northern sky Comet C/2022E3 (ZTF) has faded. During its closest approach to our fair planet in early February Comet ZTF was a mere 2.3 light-minutes distant. Then known as the green comet, this visitor from the remote Oort Cloud is now nearly 13.3 light-minutes away. In this deep image, composed of exposures captured on March 21, the comet still sports a broad, whitish dust tail and greenish tinted coma though. Not far on the sky from Orion's bright star Rigel, Comet ZTF shares the field of view with faint, dusty nebulae and distant background galaxies. The telephoto frame is crowded with Milky Way stars toward the constellation Eridanus. The influence of Jupiter's gravity on the comet's orbit as ZTF headed for the inner solar system, may have set the comet on an outbound journey, never to return.
Spiral Galaxy NGC 2841 - 2023-03-23
A mere 46 million light-years distant, spiral galaxy NGC 2841 can be found in planet Earth's night sky toward the northern constellation of Ursa Major. This sharp image centered on the gorgeous island universe also captures spiky foreground Milky Way stars and more distant background galaxies within the same telescopic field of view. It shows off the bright nucleus of NGC 2841, along with its inclined galactic disk, and faint outer regions. Dust lanes, small star-forming regions, and young star clusters are embedded in the galaxy's patchy, tightly wound spiral arms. In contrast, many other spirals exhibit broader, sweeping arms with large star-forming regions. NGC 2841 has a diameter of over 150,000 light-years, making it even larger than our own Milky Way. X-ray images suggest that extreme outflows from giant stars and stellar explosions create plumes of hot gas extending into a halo around NGC 2841.