Space and Astronomy Megathread (MERGED) - Part 1


M1: The Crab Nebula
Image Credit:
NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Tea Temim (Princeton University)

Explanation: The Crab Nebula is cataloged as M1, the first object on Charles Messier's famous 18th century list of things which are not comets. In fact, the Crab is now known to be a supernova remnant, debris from the death explosion of a massive star witnessed by astronomers in the year 1054. This sharp image from the James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) and MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) explores the eerie glow and fragmented strands of the still expanding cloud of interstellar debris in infrared light. One of the most exotic objects known to modern astronomers, the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning 30 times a second, is visible as a bright spot near the nebula's 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 a mere 6,500 light-years away in the head-strong constellation Taurus.

Nightlights in Qeqertaq
Image Credit & Copyright:
Dennis Lehtonen

Explanation: Light pollution is usually not a problem in Qeqertaq. In western Greenland the remote coastal village boasted a population of 114 in 2020. Lights still shine in its dark skies though.During planet Earth's recent intense geomagnetic storm, on November 6 these beautiful curtains of aurora borealis fell over the arctic realm. On the eve of the coming weeks of polar night at 70 degrees north latitude, the inspiring display of northern lights is reflected in the waters of Disko Bay. In this view from the isolated settlement a lone iceberg is illuminated by shore lights as it drifts across the icy sea.

IC 342: Hidden Galaxy in Camelopardalis
Image Credit & Copyright:
Steve Cannistra

Explanation: Similar in size to large, bright spiral galaxies in our neighborhood, IC 342 is a mere 10 million light-years distant in the long-necked, northern constellation Camelopardalis. A sprawling island universe, IC 342 would otherwise be a prominent galaxy in our night sky, but it is hidden from clear view and only glimpsed through the veil of stars, gas and dust clouds along the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy. Even though IC 342's light is dimmed and reddened by intervening cosmic clouds, this sharp telescopic image traces the galaxy's own obscuring dust, young star clusters, and glowing star forming regions along spiral arms that wind far from the galaxy's core. IC 342 has undergone a recent burst of star formation activity and is close enough to have gravitationally influenced the evolution of the local group of galaxies and the Milky Way.

LBN 86: The Eagle Ray Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright:
Vikas Chander

Explanation: This eagle ray glides across a cosmic sea. Officially cataloged as SH2-63 and LBN 86, the dark nebula is composed of gas and dust that just happens to appear shaped like a common ocean fish. The interstellar dust nebula appears light brown as it blocks and reddens visible light emitted behind it. Dark nebulas glow primarily in infrared light, but also reflect visible light from surrounding stars. The dust in dark nebulas is usually sub-millimeter chunks of carbon, silicon, and oxygen, frequently coated with frozen carbon monoxide and nitrogen. Dark nebulas are also known as molecular clouds because they also contain relatively high amounts of molecular hydrogen and larger molecules. Previously unnamed, the here dubbed Eagle Ray Nebula is normally quite dim but has been imaged clearly over 20 hours through dark skies in Chile.

Milky Way Rising
Image Credit & Copyright:
José Rodrigues

Explanation: The core of the Milky Way is rising beyond the Chilean mountain-top La Silla Observatory in this deep night skyscape. Seen toward the constellation Sagittarius, our home galaxy's center is flanked on the left, by the European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope which pioneered the use of active optics to accurately control the shape of large telescope mirrors. To the right stands the ESO 3.6-meter Telescope, home of the exoplanet hunting HARPS and NIRPS spectrographs. Between them, the galaxy's central bulge is filled with obscuring clouds of interstellar dust, bright stars, clusters, and nebulae. Prominent reddish hydrogen emission from the star-forming Lagoon Nebula, M8, is near center. The Trifid Nebula, M20, combines blue light of a dusty reflection nebula with reddish emission just left of the cosmic Lagoon. Both are popular stops on telescopic tours of the galactic center. The composited image is a stack of separate exposures for ground and sky made in April 2023, all captured consecutively with the same framing and camera equipment.
Depending on latitude (in the northern hemisphere)… Around this date, we reach our earliest sunset. So if you check your local sunset times, you’ll notice that they appear “stuck” for the next week or so — no longer getting earlier, but not getting any later either. Finally, a few days before the solstice, the sun starts setting a tad later.

Meanwhile, the sunrises continue to occur later, which counteracts the later sunsets. This is why, overall, the days continue to get shorter until after the solstice. (It’s usually early January before sunrises start happening earlier.)

Nothing freaky going on. It’s all because our local clocks aren’t perfectly aligned with the ways of the Cosmos.
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NGC 6888: The Crescent Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: Joe Navara, Glenn Clouder, Russell Discombe

Explanation: NGC 6888, also known as the Crescent Nebula, is an about 25 light-years across blown by winds from its central, bright, massive star. A triumvirate of astroimagers (Joe, Glenn, Russell) created this sharp portrait of the cosmic bubble. Their telescopic collaboration collected over 30 hours of narrow band image data isolating light from hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The oxygen atoms produce the blue-green hue that seems to enshroud the detailed folds and filaments. Visible within the nebula, NGC 6888's central star is classified as a Wolf-Rayet star (WR 136). The star is shedding its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind, ejecting the equivalent of the Sun's mass every 10,000 years. The nebula's complex structures are likely the result of this strong wind interacting with material ejected in an earlier phase. Burning fuel at a prodigious rate and near the end of its stellar life this star should ultimately go out with a bang in a spectacular supernova explosion. Found in the nebula rich constellation Cygnus, NGC 6888 is about 5,000 light-years away.

Pic du Pleiades
Image Credit & Copyright:
Jean-Francois Graffand

Explanation: Near dawn on November 19 the Pleiades stood in still dark skies over the French Pyrenees. But just before sunrise a serendipitous moment was captured in this single 3 second exposure; a bright meteor streak appeared to pierce the heart of the galactic star cluster. From the camera's perspective, star cluster and meteor were poised directly above the mountain top observatory on the Pic du Midi de Bigorre. And though astronomers might consider the Pleiades to be relatively close by, the grain of dust vaporizing as it plowed through planet Earth's upper atmosphere actually missed the cluster's tight grouping of young stars by about 400 light-years. While recording a night sky timelapse series, the camera and telephoto lens were fixed to a tripod on the Tour-de-France-cycled slopes of the Col du Tourmalet about 5 kilometers from the Pic du Midi.

Aurora and Milky Way over Norway - Image Credit & Copyright: Giulio Cobianchi

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