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NASA - Astronomy Picture of the Day


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Today's image 15-10-2022:

GRB 221009A

 

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Explanation: Gamma-ray burst GRB 221009A likely signals the birth of a new black hole, formed at the core of a collapsing star long ago in the distant universe. The extremely powerful blast is depicted in this animated gif constructed using data from the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope. Fermi captured the data at gamma-ray energies, detecting photons with over 100 million electron volts. In comparison visible light photons have energies of about 2 electron volts. A steady, high energy gamma-ray glow from the plane of our Milky Way galaxy runs diagonally through the 20 degree wide frame at the left, while the transient gamma-ray flash from GRB 221009A appears at center and then fades. One of the brightest gamma-ray bursts ever detected GRB 221009A is also close as far as gamma-ray bursts go, but still lies about 2 billion light-years away. In low Earth orbit Fermi’s Large Area Telescope recorded gamma-ray photons from the burst for more than 10 hours as high-energy radiation from GRB 221009A swept over planet Earth last Sunday, October 9.

Image Credit: NASA

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Today's image 16-10-2022:

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300

 

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Explanation: Across the center of this spiral galaxy is a bar. And at the center of this bar is smaller spiral. And at the center of that spiral is a supermassive black hole.  This all happens in the big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy cataloged as NGC 1300, a galaxy that lies some 70 million light-years away toward the constellation of the river Eridanus. This Hubble Space Telescope composite view of the gorgeous island universe is one of the most detailed Hubble images ever made of a complete galaxy. NGC 1300 spans over 100,000 light-years and the Hubble image reveals striking details of the galaxy's dominant central bar and majestic spiral arms. How the giant bar formed, how it remains, and how it affects star formation remains an active topic of research.

Image Credit: NASA

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Today's image 18-10-2022:

Milky Way Auroral Flower

 

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Explanation: Could the stem of our Milky Way bloom into an auroral flower? No, not really, even though it may appear that way in today’s featured all-sky image. On the left, the central plane of our home galaxy extends from the horizon past the middle of the sky. On the right, an auroral oval also extends from the sky's center -- but is dominated by bright green-glowing oxygen. The two are not physically connected, because the aurora is relatively nearby, with the higher red parts occurring in Earth's atmosphere only about 1000 kilometers high. In contrast, an average distance to the stars and nebulas we see in the Milky Way more like 1000 light-years away - 10 trillion times further. The featured image composite was taken in early October across a small lake in Abisko, northern Sweden. As our Sun's magnetic field evolves into the active part of its 11-year cycle, auroras near both of Earth's poles are sure to become more frequent.

Image Credit: Göran Strand

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Today's image 19-10-2022:

A Galaxy Beyond Stars, Gas, Dust

 

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Explanation: Do we dare believe our eyes? When we look at images of space, we often wonder whether they are "real", and just as often the best answer varies. In this case, the scene appears much as our eyes would see it, because it was obtained using RGB (Red, Green, Blue) filters like the cone cells in our eyes, except collecting light for 19 hours, not a fraction of a second. The featured image was captured over six nights, using a 24-inch diameter telescope in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in California, USA. The bright spiral galaxy at the center (NGC 7497) looks like it is being grasped by an eerie tendril of a space ghost, and therein lies the trick. The galaxy is actually 59 million light years away, while the nebulosity is MBM 54, less than one thousand light years away, making it one of the nearest cool clouds of gas and dust -- galactic cirrus -- within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Both are in the constellation of Pegasus, which can be seen high overhead from northern latitudes in the autumn.

Image Credit: Howard Trottier

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Today's image 21-10-2022:

Andromeda in Southern Skies

 

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Explanation: Looking north from southern New Zealand, the Andromeda Galaxy never gets more than about five degrees above the horizon. As spring comes to the southern hemisphere, in late September Andromeda is highest in the sky around midnight though. In a single 30 second exposure this telephoto image tracked the stars to capture the closest large spiral galaxy from Mount John Observatory as it climbed just over the rugged peaks of the south island's Southern Alps. In the foreground, stars are reflected in the still waters of Lake Alexandrina. Also known as M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is one of the brightest objects in the Messier catalog, usually visible to the unaided eye as a small, faint, fuzzy patch. But this clear, dark sky and long exposure reveal the galaxy's greater extent in planet Earth's night, spanning nearly 6 full moons.

Image Credit: Ian Griffin

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Today's image 24-10-2022:

Clouds Around Galaxy Andromeda

 

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Explanation: What are those red clouds surrounding the Andromeda galaxy? This galaxy, M31, is often imaged by planet Earth-based astronomers. As the nearest large spiral galaxy, it is a familiar sight with dark dust lanes, bright yellowish core, and spiral arms traced by clouds of bright blue stars. A mosaic of well-exposed broad and narrow-band image data, this deep portrait of our neighboring island universe offers strikingly unfamiliar features though, faint reddish clouds of glowing ionized hydrogen gas in the same wide field of view. Most of the ionized hydrogen clouds surely lie in the foreground of the scene, well within our Milky Way Galaxy. They are likely associated with the pervasive, dusty interstellar cirrus clouds scattered hundreds of light-years above our own galactic plane. Some of the clouds, however, occur right in the Andromeda galaxy itself, and some in M110, the small galaxy just below.

Image Credit: Andrew Fryhover

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Today's image 26-10-2022:

Cocoon Nebula Wide Field

 

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Explanation: When does a nebula look like a comet? In this crowded starfield, covering over two degrees within the high flying constellation of the Swan (Cygnus), the eye is drawn to the Cocoon Nebula. A compact star forming region, the cosmic Cocoon punctuates a nebula bright in emission and reflection on the left, with a long trail of interstellar dust clouds to the right, making the entire complex appear a bit like a comet. Cataloged as IC 5146, the central bright head of the nebula spans about 10 light years, while the dark dusty tail spans nearly 100 light years. Both are located about 2,500 light years away. The bright star near the bright nebula's center, likely only a few hundred thousand years old, supplies power to the nebular glow as it helps clear out a cavity in the molecular cloud's star forming dust and gas. The long dusty filaments of the tail, although dark in this visible light image, are themselves hiding stars in the process of formation, stars that can be seen at infrared wavelengths.

Image Credit: Andy Ermolli

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Today's image 28-10-2022:

Seven Years of Halley Dust

 

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Explanation: History's first known periodic comet Halley (1P/Halley) returns to the inner Solar System every 75 years or so. The famous comet made its last appearance to the naked-eye in 1986. But dusty debris from Comet Halley can be seen raining through planet Earth's skies twice a year during two annual meteor showers, the Eta Aquarids in May and the Orionids in October. Including meteors near the shower maximum on October 21, this composite view compiles Orionid meteors captured from years 2015 through 2022. About 47 bright meteors are registered in the panoramic night skyscape. Against a starry background extending along the Milky Way, the Orionid meteors all seem to radiate from a point just north of Betelgeuse in the familiar constellation of the Hunter. In the foreground are mountains in eastern Slovakia near the city of Presov.

Image Credit: Petr Horalek

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Today's image 29-10-2022:

LDN 673: Dark Clouds in Aquila

 

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Explanation: Part of a dark expanse that splits the crowded plane of our Milky Way galaxy, the Aquila Rift arcs through planet Earth's skies near bright star Altair. In eerie silhouette against the Milky Way's faint starlight, its dusty molecular clouds likely contain raw material to form hundreds of thousands of stars and astronomers search the dark clouds for telltale signs of star birth. This telescopic close-up looks toward the region at a fragmented Aquila dark cloud complex identified as LDN 673, stretching across a field of view slightly wider than the full moon. In the scene, visible indications of energetic outflows associated with young stars include the small red tinted nebulosity RNO 109 above and right of center, and Herbig-Haro object HH32 below. These dark clouds might look scary, but they're estimated to be some 600 light-years away. At that distance, this field of view spans about 7 light-years.

Image Credit: Capella Observatory Team

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Today's image 30-10-2022:

Night on a Spooky Planet

 

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Explanation: What spooky planet is this? Planet Earth of course, on a dark and stormy night in 2013 at Hverir, a geothermally active area along the volcanic landscape in northeastern Iceland. Triggered by solar activity, geomagnetic storms produced the auroral display in the starry night sky. The ghostly towers of steam and gas are venting from fumaroles and danced against the eerie greenish light. For now, auroral apparitions are increasing as our Sun approaches a maximum in its 11 year solar activity cycle. And pretty soon, ghostly shapes may dance in your neighborhood too.

Image Credit: Stéphane Vetter

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Today's image 31-10-2022:

LDN 43: The Cosmic Bat Nebula

 

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Explanation: What is the most spook-tacular nebula in the galaxy? One contender is LDN 43, which bears an astonishing resemblance to a vast cosmic bat flying amongst the stars on a dark Halloween night. Located about 1400 light years away in the constellation Ophiuchus, this molecular cloud is dense enough to block light not only from background stars, but from wisps of gas lit up by the nearby reflection nebula LBN 7. Far from being a harbinger of death, this 12-light year-long filament of gas and dust is actually a stellar nursery. Glowing with eerie light, the bat is lit up from inside by dense gaseous knots that have just formed young stars.

Image Credit: Mark Hanson

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Today's image 04-11-2022:

InSight's Final Selfie

 

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Explanation: The Mars InSight lander returned its first image from the Red Planet's flat, equatorial Elysium Planitia after a successful touchdown on November 26, 2018. The history making mission to explore the martian Interior using Seismic investigations, geodesy, and heat transport has been operating for over 1,400 martian days or sols. In that time the InSight mission has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes and recorded data from Mars-shaking meteoroid impacts, observing how the seismic waves travel to provide a glimpse inside Mars. Analyzing the archive of data collected is expected to yield discoveries for decades. But InSight's final operational sol is likely not far off. The reason is evident in this selfie recorded earlier this year showing its deck and large, 2-meter-wide solar panels covered with dust. Kicked up by martian winds the dust continues to accumulate and drastically reduce the power that can be generated by InSight's solar panels.

Image Credit: NASA

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Today's image 05-11-2022:

Lunar Eclipse at the South Pole

 

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Explanation: Last May 16 the Moon slid through Earth's shadow, completely immersed in the planet's dark umbra for about 1 hour and 25 minutes during a total lunar eclipse. In this composited timelapse view, the partial and total phases of the eclipse were captured as the Moon tracked above the horizon from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. There it shared a cold and starry south polar night with a surging display of the aurora australis and central Milky Way. In the foreground are the BICEP (right) and South Pole telescopes at the southernmost station's Dark Sector Laboratory. But while polar skies can be spectacular, you won't want to go to the South Pole to view the total lunar eclipse coming up on November 8. Instead, that eclipse can be seen from locations in Asia, Australia, the Pacific, the Americas and Northern Europe. It will be your last chance to watch a total lunar eclipse until 2025.

Image Credit: Aman Chokshi

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Today's image 08-11-2022:

Galaxies: Wild's Triplet from Hubble

 

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Explanation: How many galaxies are interacting here? This grouping of galaxies is called the Wild Triplet, not only for the discoverer, but for the number of bright galaxies that appear. It had been assumed that all three galaxies, collectively cataloged as Arp 248, are interacting, but more recent investigations reveal that only the brightest two galaxies are sparring gravitationally: the big galaxies at the top and bottom. The spiral galaxy in the middle of the featured image by the Hubble Space Telescope is actually far in the distance, as is the galaxy just below it and all of the other numerous galaxies in the field. A striking result of these giants jousting is a tremendous bridge of stars, gas, and dust that stretches between them -- a bridge almost 200,000 light-years long. Light we see today from Wild's Triplet left about 200 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. In perhaps a billion years or so, the two interacting galaxies will merge to form a single large spiral galaxy.

Image Credit: ESA

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Today's image 09-11-2022:

The Asymmetric Nebula Surrounding Wolf-Rayet Star 18

 

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Explanation: Why does the nebula around the star WR-18 shine brighter on one side? Also known as NGC 3199, this active star and its surrounding nebula lie about 12,000 light-years away toward the nautical southern constellation of Carina. The featured deep image has been highly processed to bring out filamentary details of the glowing gas in the bubble-shaped nebula. The nebula is about 75 light-years across. Near the nebula's center is a Wolf-Rayet star, WR-18, which is a massive, hot, short-lived star that generates an intense and complex stellar wind. In fact, Wolf-Rayet stars are known to create nebulas with interesting shapes as their powerful winds sweep up surrounding interstellar material. In this case, the bright right edge was initially thought to indicate that a bow shock was being produced as the star plowed through a uniform medium, like a boat through water. Recent measurements and analyses, however, have shown the star is not moving quickly toward the bright edge. A more likely explanation has emerged that the material surrounding the star is not uniform, but clumped and denser near the bright edge.

Image Credit: Alex Woronow

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Today's image 10-11-2022:

Total Lunar Eclipse

 

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Explanation: The beginning, middle, and end of a journey through planet Earth's colorful umbral shadow is captured in this timelapse composite image of a total lunar eclipse. Taken on November 8 from Kitt Peak National Observatory this eclipse's 1 hour and 25 minute long total phase starts on the right and finishes on the left. Reddened sunlight, scattered into the central shadow by Earth's dusty atmosphere produces the dramatic dark red hues reflected by the lunar disk. For this eclipse, additional reddening is likely due to scattering from ash lingering in the atmosphere after a large volcanic eruption in the southern Pacific earlier this year. Seen at the right and left, the Earth's shadow is still lighter along its edge though. That faint bluish fringe along the lunar limb is colored by sunlight filtered through Earth's stratospheric ozone layer.

Image Credit: KPNO / NOIRLab

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Today's image 11-11-2022:

Blood Moon, Ice Giant

 

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Explanation: On November 8 the Full Moon turned blood red as it slid through Earth's shadow in a beautiful total lunar eclipse. During totality it also passed in front of, or occulted, outer planet Uranus for eclipse viewers located in parts of northern America and Asia. For a close-up and wider view these two images were taken just before the occultation began, captured with different telescopes and cameras from the same roof top in Shanghai, China. Normally very faint compared to a Full Moon, the tiny, pale, greenish disk of the distant ice giant is just to the left of the Moon's edge and about to disappear behind the darkened, red lunar limb. Though only visible from certain locations across planet Earth, lunar occultations of planets are fairly common. But for this rare "lunar eclipse occultation" to take place, at the time of the total eclipse the outer planet had to be both at opposition and very near the ecliptic plane to fall in line with Sun, Earth, and Moon.

Image Credit: Ryan Han

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Today's image 12-11-2022:

Eclipse in the City

 

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Explanation: A darker Moon sets over Manhattan in this night skyscape. The 16 frame composite was assembled from consecutive exposures recorded during the November 8 total lunar eclipse. In the timelapse sequence stars leave short trails above the urban skyline, while the Moon remains immersed in Earth's shadow. But the International Space Station was just emerging from the shadow into the sunlit portion of its low Earth orbit. As seen from New York City, the visible streak of this ISS flyover starts near a star in Taurus and tracks right to left, through the belt of Orion and over Sirius, alpha star of Canis Major. Gaps along the bright trail of the fast moving orbital outpost (and an aircraft flying closer to the horizon) mark the time between individual exposures in the sequence. The trail of bright planet Mars is at the top of the frame. Pleiades star cluster trails are high over the eclipsed Moon and Empire State Building.

Image Credit: Stan Honda

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Today's image 13-11-2022:

Flying Saucer Crash Lands in Utah Desert

 

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Explanation: A flying saucer from outer space crash-landed in the Utah desert after being tracked by radar and chased by helicopters. The year was 2004, and no space aliens were involved. The saucer, pictured here, was the Genesis sample return capsule, part of a human-made robot Genesis spaceship launched in 2001 by NASA itself to study the Sun. The unexpectedly hard landing at over 300 kilometers per hour occurred because the parachutes did not open as planned. The Genesis mission had been orbiting the Sun collecting solar wind particles that are usually deflected away by Earth's magnetic field. Despite the crash landing, many return samples remained in good enough condition to analyze. So far, Genesis-related discoveries include new details about the composition of the Sun and how the abundance of some types of elements differ across the Solar System. These results have provided intriguing clues into details of how the Sun and planets formed billions of years ago.

Image Credit: USAF 388th

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Today's image 14-11-2022:

NGC 7380: The Wizard Nebula

 

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Explanation: What powers are being wielded in the Wizard Nebula? Gravitation strong enough to form stars, and stellar winds and radiations powerful enough to create and dissolve towers of gas. Located only 8,000 light years away, the Wizard nebula, featured here, surrounds developing open star cluster NGC 7380. Visually, the interplay of stars, gas, and dust has created a shape that appears to some like a fictional medieval sorcerer. The active star forming region spans 100 about light years, making it appear larger than the angular extent of the Moon. The Wizard Nebula can be located with a small telescope toward the constellation of the King of Aethiopia (Cepheus). Although the nebula may last only a few million years, some of the stars being formed may outlive our Sun.

Image Credit: Ioan Popa

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Today's image 15-11-2022:

Wolf's Cave Nebula

 

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Explanation: The mysterious blue reflection nebula found in catalogs as VdB 152 or Ced 201 really is very faint. It lies at the tip of the long dark nebula Barnard 175 in a dusty complex that has also been called Wolf's Cave. At the center of this deep telescopic view, the cosmic apparitions are nearly 1,400 light-years away along the northern Milky Way in the royal constellation Cepheus. Interstellar dust in the region blocks light from background stars and scatters light from the embedded bright star, giving the end nebula its characteristic blue color. Though stars do form in molecular clouds, this star seems to have only accidentally wandered into the area, as its measured velocity through space is very different from the cloud's velocity. At the image bottom is the planetary nebula Dengel-Hartl 5, while red glowing gas from an ancient supernova remnant is also visible along the image's right side.

Image Credit: Gianni Lacroce

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Today's image 16-11-2022:

In the Arms of NGC 1097

 

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Explanation: Spiral galaxy NGC 1097 shines in southern skies, about 45 million light-years away in the heated constellation Fornax. Its blue spiral arms are mottled with pinkish star forming regions in this colorful galaxy portrait. They seem to have wrapped around a small companion galaxy above and right of center, about 40,000 light-years from the spiral's luminous core. That's not NGC 1097's only peculiar feature, though. This very deep exposure hints of faint, mysterious jets, seen to extend well beyond the bluish arms. In fact, four faint jets are ultimately recognized in optical images of NGC 1097. The jets trace an X centered on the galaxy's nucleus, but probably don't originate there. Instead, they could be fossil star streams, trails left over from the capture and disruption of a much smaller galaxy in the large spiral's ancient past. A Seyfert galaxy, NGC 1097's nucleus also harbors a supermassive black hole.

Image Credit: Mike Selby

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Today's image 17-11-2022:

Planet Earth from Orion

 

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Explanation: A Space Launch System rocket left planet Earth on Wednesday, November 16 at 1:47am EST carrying the Orion spacecraft on the Artemis 1 mission, the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems. Over an hour after liftoff from Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Complex 39B, one of Orion's external video cameras captured this view of its new perspective from space. In the foreground are Orion's Orbital Maneuvering System engine and auxillary engines, at the bottom of the European Service Module. Beyond one of the module's 7-meter long extended solar array wings lies the spacecraft's beautiful home world. The Artemis 1 mission will last almost four weeks, testing capabilities to enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars. The uncrewed Orion spacecraft is expected to fly by the Moon on November 21, performing a close approach to the lunar surface on its way to a retrograde orbit 70,000 kilometers beyond the Moon. 

Image Credit: NASA

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Today's image 19-11-2022:

Artemis 1 Moonshot

 

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Explanation: When the Artemis 1 mission's Orion spacecraft makes its November 21 powered flyby of the Moon, denizens of planet Earth will see the Moon in a waning crescent phase. The spacecraft will approach to within about 130 kilometers of the lunar surface on its way to a distant retrograde orbit some 70,000 kilometers beyond the Moon. But the Moon was at last quarter for the November 16 launch and near the horizon in the dark early hours after midnight. It's captured here in skies over Kennedy Space Center along with the SLS rocket engines and solid rocket boosters lofting the uncrewed Orion to space. Ragged fringes appearing along the bright edge of the sunlit lunar nearside are caused as pressure waves generated by the rocket's passage change the index of refraction along the camera's line of sight.

Image Credit: John Kraus

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Today's image 20-11-2022:

Airglow Ripples over Tibet

 

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Explanation: Why would the sky look like a giant target? Airglow. Following a giant thunderstorm over Bangladesh in late April, giant circular ripples of glowing air appeared over Tibet, China, as pictured here. The unusual pattern is created by atmospheric gravity waves, waves of alternating air pressure that can grow with height as the air thins, in this case about 90-kilometers up. Unlike auroras powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction. More typically seen near the horizon, airglow keeps the night sky from ever being completely dark.

Image Credit: Jeff Dai

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