Did you get a chance to see the supermoon? Don’t worry if you didn’t.
Two merging galaxies located 140 million light-years from Earth resemble a giant celestial mask in this false-color image. The ice-blue eyes are actually the galaxies’ cores, and the mask is their spiral arms. The galaxies, called NGC 2207 and IC 2163, began their gravitational tango about 40 million years ago and will eventually meld into one.
Above this boreal landscape, the arc of the Milky Way and shimmering aurorae flow through the night. Like an echo, below them lies Iceland’s spectacular Godafoss, the Waterfall of the Gods. Shining just below the Milky Way, bright Jupiter is included in the panoramic nightscape recorded on March 9. Faint and diffuse, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) appears immersed in the auroral glow. The digital stitch of four frames is a first place winner in the 2013 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance organized by The World at Night. An evocative record of the beauty of planet Earth’s night sky, all the contest’s winning entries are featured in this video.
This picture postcard of a giant stellar nursery, released May 23, celebrates 15 years since the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile first opened its eye to the universe.
IC 2944 is a giant nebula in the southern constellation Centaurus, sitting 5,900 light-years away from Earth. The nebula is filled with dense clumps of dark gas and dust thought to be associated with star formation.
These dark clouds of dust, called Thackery’s Globules, are each less than two light-years across and are seen here silhouetted against the brightly lit nebula.
Considered an iconic deep-sky object for generations of stargazers, the famed Ring Nebula is given a makeover in this composite portrait—released May 23—taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona.
Located 2,000 light-years away from Earth in the summer constellation Lyra, this psychedelic cloud of expanding gas and dust was formed from material thrown off by a dying, sun-like star. (Learn about the Lyrid meteor showers.)
While the April 25 partial lunar eclipse was one of the smallest and shallowest in decades, it still produced some spectacular photographic opportunities. Peter Rosén captured the full moon during mid-eclipse posing next to the double-steeple church Högalid in central Stockholm, Sweden.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth, and moon align. During total lunar eclipses, the entire moon is engulfed in Earth’s darkest shadow. But during partial eclipses, like last week’s, the moon never completely goes dark or turns red—only a portion of its disk appears to go dim. (Related: "‘Rare’ Lunar Eclipse Wednesday—Longest in a Decade.")
Keen-eyed skywatchers saw a tiny (less than two percent) sliver of the moon slip into the Earth’s darkest shadow for less than half an hour—making this the shortest lunar disappearing act until 2034.
The entire eclipse event was visible across half the globe—throughout the Indian Ocean, Central Asia, western Australia, Africa, and Europe. (Related video:"Moon 101.")
This bat-like apparition does not shine on clouds passing over Gotham city. Instead, the cloud bank in silhouette against a colorful lunar corona was spotted on the evening of May 18 over Cochem, Germany from the banks of the river Moselle. The lunar corona is formed as bright moonlight is diffracted by water droplets in thin clouds drifting in front of the lunar disk. Below it lies the region’s historic Cochem Castle dating from the 11th century, and not Wayne Manor. Still, regardless of your location on planet Earth it is well worth scanning the evening skies this weekend, as a Full Moon rises and bright planets gather in the west.
This composite image of a galaxy illustrates how the intense gravity of a supermassive black hole can be tapped to generate immense power. The image contains X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), optical light obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (gold) and radio waves from the NSF’s Very Large Array (pink).
This multi-wavelength view shows 4C+29.30, a galaxy located some 850 million light years from Earth. The radio emission comes from two jets of particles that are speeding at millions of miles per hour away from a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. The estimated mass of the black hole is about 100 million times the mass of our Sun. The ends of the jets show larger areas of radio emission located outside the galaxy.
The X-ray data show a different aspect of this galaxy, tracing the location of hot gas. The bright X-rays in the center of the image mark a pool of million-degree gas around the black hole. Some of this material may eventually be consumed by the black hole, and the magnetized, whirlpool of gas near the black hole could in turn, trigger more output to the radio jet.
Most of the low-energy X-rays from the vicinity of the black hole are absorbed by dust and gas, probably in the shape of a giant doughnut around the black hole. This doughnut, or torus blocks all the optical light produced near the black hole, so astronomers refer to this type of source as a hidden or buried black hole. The optical light seen in the image is from the stars in the galaxy.
What’s that in the sky? It is a rarely seen form of lightning confirmed only about 25 years ago: a red sprite. Recent research has shown that following a powerful positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike, red sprites may start as 100-meter balls of ionized air that shoot down from about 80-km high at 10 percent the speed of light and are quickly followed by a group of upward streaking ionized balls. The above image, taken a few days ago above central South Dakota, USA, captured a bright red sprite, and is a candidate for the first color image ever recorded of a sprite and aurora together. Distant storm clouds cross the bottom of the image, while streaks of colorful aurora are visible in the background. Red spritestake only a fraction of a second to occur and are best seen when powerful thunderstorms are visible from the side.