Thursday, June 28, 2007

Astronomy Picture of the Day

A Visit from Atlantis

Credit & Copyright: Ron Dantowitz, Marek Kozubal, Clay Center Observatory Dexter and Southfield Schools

Explanation: This remarkable image of the space shuttle orbiter Atlantis docked with the International Space Station (ISS) was taken at a range of 190 nautical miles. To record the fast moving pair, last week astronomers at Clay Center Observatory, near Boston, Massachusetts, planet Earth, used a satellite tracking system and 25-inch diameter telescope in combination with a digital video camera. In the sharp picture, Atlantis is below and left of center. The aft view shows three main engines just below its vertical tail glinting in the sunlight. With the Sun shining from below, the body of the orbiter casts a long shadow across the ISS itself and impressive details of the ISS solar arrays used for power generation are easily visible. The large set of solar arrays installed at the lower right was delivered during this visit from Atlantis.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Astronomy Picture of the Day-Double Header

Dust Sculptures in the Rosette Nebula

Explanation: What creates the cosmic dust sculptures in the Rosette Nebula? Noted for the common beauty of its overall shape, parts of the Rosette Nebula, also known as NGC 2244, show beauty even when viewed up close. Visible above are globules of dark dust and gas that are slowly being eroded away by the energetic light and winds by nearby massive stars. Left alone long enough, the molecular-cloud globules would likely form stars and planets. The above image was taken in very specific colors of Sulfur (shaded red), Hydrogen (green), and Oxygen (blue). The Rosette Nebula spans about 50 light-years across, lies about 4,500 light-years away, and can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros).

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Jet Approaching a Crescent Moon

Credit & Copyright: Vincent Jacques

Explanation: No natural clouds appear in this picture. On the left, an airplane cruises through the atmosphere leaving a contrail in its wake. The contrail would normally appear white, but the large volume of air toward the setting Sun preferentially knocks away blue light, giving the reflected trail a bright orange hue. Far in the distance, to the right of the plane, is the young Moon. This vast world shows only a sliver of itself because the Sun is nearly lined up behind it. The above image is framed by an eerie gray sky, too far from day to be blue, too far from night to be black. Within minutes the impromptu sky show ended. The plane crossed the Moon. The contrail dispersed. The Sun set. The Moon set. The sky faded to black, only to reveal thousands of stars that had been hiding below the gray din.

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