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NASA.jpg The Butterfly Nebula from Hubble_Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, HLA:
Reprocessing & Copyright:
Jesús M.Vargas & Maritxu Poyal
Explanation: The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth's night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up of the dying star's nebula was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope and is presented here in reprocessed colors. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot star's dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius).

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Image Credit: NOAA, NASA

Explanation: Launched last November 19 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the satellite now known as GOES-16 can now observes planet Earth from a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the equator. Its Advanced Baseline Imager captured this contrasting view of Earth and a gibbous Moon on January 15. The stark and airless Moon is not really the focus of GOES-16, though. Capable of providing a high resolution full disk image of Earth every 15 minutes in 16 spectral channels, the new generation satellite's instrumentation is geared to provide sharper, more detailed views of Earth's dynamic weather systems and enable more accurate weather forecasting. Like previous GOES weather satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon over our fair planet as a calibration target.


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Image Credit & Copyright: Data - ESO/INAF/R. Colombari/E. Recurt, Processing - R. Colombari+-

Explanation: South of Antares, in the tail of the nebula-rich constellation Scorpius, lies emission nebula IC 4628. Nearby hot, massive stars, millions of years young, irradiate the nebula with invisible ultraviolet light, stripping electrons from atoms. The electrons eventually recombine with the atoms to produce the visible nebular glow, dominated by the red emission of hydrogen. At an estimated distance of 6,000 light-years, the region shown is about 250 light-years across, spanning over three full moons on the sky. The nebula is also cataloged as Gum 56 for Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum, but seafood-loving astronomers might know this cosmic cloud as the Prawn Nebula. The tantalizing color image is a new astronomical composition using data from the European Southern Observatory's wide field OmegaCAM and amateur images made under dark skies on the Canary Island of Tenerife.

Number one can be found here!

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It is astonishing to me how zooming in just keeps going and going. Space is incredible!!

Taken from here at Hubble Space Telescope
This sequence takes the viewer from a wide view of the Milky Way to the central regions, where many bright star forming regions and star clusters can be seen. The final view is a close-up of the sky around the star cluster Terzan 5 taken with Hubble, the Very Large Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and the Keck Telescope.

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I know no one EVER clicks ALL the links associated with these NASA posts but, if you only have time for a couple, please click 'Earth dwellers' and 'imaged together'. I do click ALL of the links associated with the images I post hoping to find just the kind of images these two links lead to. I adore their sense of whimsy and fun interspersed among all the amazing information.
Image Credit & Copyright:
Alex Cherney (Terrastro, TWAN) Taken on August 16, 2016
  Explanation: It is not a coincidence that planets line up. That's because all of the planets orbit the Sun in (nearly) a single sheet called the plane of the ecliptic. When viewed from inside that plane -- as Earth dwellers are likely to do -- the planets all appear confined to a single band. It is a coincidence, though, when several of the brightest planets all appear in nearly the same direction. Such a coincidence was captured last week. Featured above, six planets and Earth's Moon were all imaged together last week, just after sunset, from Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. A second band is visible across the top of this tall image -- the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy.


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In a mere minute and a half, Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Jeff Williams sums up what ISS has accomlished to date. A truly international effort, this mission proves how, when motivated, the world can come together to create something utterly amazing.

May ISS have at least another 100,000 orbits!!
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FROM NASA Goddard YouTube Channel
Around 13 times per century, Mercury passes between Earth and the sun in a rare astronomical event known as a planetary transit. The 2016 Mercury transit occurred on May 9, between roughly 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m. EDT.

You know the planets are real but seeing them like this, in transit, makes them seem even more so. Such a little world tranversing the face of our beautiful star.

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This one sent to me by Lauren. Keep up the good work ISS.

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From: NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Explanation: When did Orion become so flashy? This colorful rendition of part of the constellation of Orion comes from red light emitted by hydrogen and sulfur (SII), and blue-green light emitted by oxygen (OIII). Hues on the featured image were then digitally reassigned to be indicative of their elemental origins -- but also striking to the human eye.

The breathtaking composite was painstakingly composed from hundreds of images which took nearly 200 hours to collect. Pictured, Barnard's Loop, across the image bottom, appears to cradle interstellar constructs including the intricate Orion Nebula seen just right of center. The Flame Nebula can also be quickly located, but it takes a careful eye to identify the slight indentation of the dark Horsehead Nebula. As to Orion's flashiness -- a leading explanation for the origin of Barnard's Loop is a supernova blast that occurred about two million years ago.

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I don't know about you guys, but I LOVE this stuff :)

Both are from: Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive

Rainbow Airglow over the Azores_Image Credit & Copyright: Miguel Claro (TWAN); Rollover Annotation: Judy Schmidt

Explanation: Why would the sky glow like a giant repeating rainbow? Airglow. Now air glows all of the time, but it is usually hard to see. A disturbance however -- like an approaching storm -- may cause noticeable rippling in the Earth's atmosphere. These gravity waves are oscillations in air analogous to those created when a rock is thrown in calm water. The long-duration exposure nearly along the vertical walls of airglow likely made the undulating structure particularly visible. OK, but where do the colors originate? The deep red glow likely originates from OH molecules about 87-kilometers high, excited by ultraviolet light from the Sun. The orange and green airglow is likely caused by sodium and oxygen atoms slightly higher up. The featured image was captured during a climb up Mount Pico in the Azores of Portugal. Ground lights originate from the island of Faial in the Atlantic Ocean. A spectacular sky is visible through this banded airglow, with the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy running up the image center, and M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, visible near the top left.

Hickson 91 in Piscis Austrinus_Image Credit & Copyright: CHART32 Team, Processing - Johannes Schedler

Explanation: Scanning the skies for galaxies, Canadian astronomer Paul Hickson and colleagues identified some 100 compact groups of galaxies, now appropriately called Hickson Compact Groups (HCGs). This sharp telescopic image captures one such galaxy group, HCG 91, in beautiful detail. The group's three colorful spiral galaxies at the center of the field of view are locked in a gravitational tug of war, their interactions producing faint but visible tidal tails over 100,000 light-years long. Their close encounters trigger furious star formation. On a cosmic timescale the result will be a merger into a large single galaxy, a process now understood to be a normal part of the evolution of galaxies, including our own Milky Way. HCG 91 lies about 320 million light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. But the impressively deep image also catches evidence of fainter tidal tails and galaxy interactions close to 2 billion light-years distant.

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To Quote
The International Space Station is a phenomenal laboratory, an unparalleled test bed for new invention and discovery. Yet I often thought, while silently gazing out the window at Earth, that the actual legacy of humanity's attempts to step into space will be a better understanding of our current planet and how to take care of it. Chirs Hadfiled, First Canadian in space, he was also a commander of ISS.
To Unquote

This is a lovely little five minute compliation of Kely's time on the International Space Station. Many of the images from aboard the space station are so beautiful. I especially love the floating bouquet of flowers, one of Kelly's responsibilities as a prelude to growing fruits and veggies in space. And I especially like the use of Coldplay's Speed of Sound as sound track.

FROM the NASA Johnson YouTube Channel
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 27, 2015. With a successful landing 340 days later on March 1, 2016, the pair completed one of the most ambitious missions in the history of the International Space Station and opened a new chapter in human exploration.

During their record-setting mission, nearly 400 investigations were conducted that advance NASA’s mission to reach new heights, reveal the unknown, and benefit all of humanity. Kelly and Kornienko participated in dozens of studies to provide new insights into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight, which will include the Journey to Mars. Kelly’s twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, participated in parallel twin studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects on the body and mind in space.

The completion of the one-year mission and its studies will help guide the next steps in planning for long-duration deep space missions that will be necessary as humans move farther into the solar system. Kelly and Kornienko’s mission will inform future decisions and planning for other long-duration missions, whether they are aboard the space station, a deep space habitat in lunar orbit, or a mission to Mars.

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One hundred years after Einstein predicted that gravitional waves would be creted with the interaction of two massive bodies, there is now direct confirmation. So very cool as is the simulation video below of the two colliiding black holes 1.3 billion years ago from Caltech Ligo.

I include the following little list from BBC News online because it's a nice quick summary

  • Gravitational waves are prediction of the Theory of General Relativity

  • Their existence has been inferred by science but only now directly detected

  • They are ripples in the fabric of space and time produced by violent events

  • Accelerating masses will produce waves that propagate at the speed of light

  • Detectable sources ought to include merging black holes and neutron stars

  • Ligo fires lasers into long, L-shaped tunnels; the waves disturb the light

  • Detecting the waves opens up the Universe to completely new investigations

FROM: YouTube
Published on Feb 11, 2016

A computer simulation shows the collision of two black holes, a tremendously powerful event detected for the first time ever by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO. LIGO detected gravitational waves, or ripples in space and time generated as the black holes spiraled in toward each other, collided, and merged. This simulation shows how the merger would appear to our eyes if we could somehow travel in a spaceship for a closer look. It was created by solving equations from Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity using the LIGO data.

The two merging black holes are each roughly 30 times the mass of the sun, with one slightly larger than the other. Time has been slowed down by a factor of about 100. The event took place 1.3 billion years ago.

Image credit: SXS
The stars appear warped due to the incredibly strong gravity of the black holes. The black holes warp space and time, and this causes light from the stars to curve around the black holes in a process called gravitational lensing. The ring around the black holes, known as an Einstein ring, arises from the light of all the stars in a small region behind the holes, where gravitational lensing has smeared their images into a ring.

The gravitational waves themselves would not be seen by a human near the black holes and so do not show in this video, with one important exception. The gravitational waves that are traveling outward toward the small region behind the black holes disturb that region’s stellar images in the Einstein ring, causing them to slosh around, even long after the collision. The gravitational waves traveling in other directions cause weaker, and shorter-lived sloshing, everywhere outside the ring.

This simulation was created by the multi-university SXS (Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes) project. For more information, visit

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From: NASA site
Image Credit & Copyright: Jose Antonio Hervás
Please note that the photo was taken from Ibiza, Spain which, if you are (or were) a part of the QAF fandome, is meaningful :)
Also, the image can by clicked upon to make it much larger in case you actually want to see Mercury.

'Explanation: As January closes and in the coming days of February, early morning risers can spot the five naked-eye planets before dawn. Though some might claim to see six planets, in this seaside panoramic view all five celestial wanderers were found above the horizon along with a bright waning gibbous Moon on January 27. Nearly aligned along the plane of the ecliptic, but not along a line with the Sun, the five planets are spread well over 100 degrees across the sky. Just arriving on the predawn scene, fleeting Mercury stands above the southeastern horizon in the golden light of the approaching sunrise.'

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Taken from the NASA Astromony Picture of the Day site
Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, Univ. Arizona

Reflections on the 1970s
Explanation: The 1970s are sometimes ignored by astronomers, like this beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae in Orion - NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 - usually overlooked in favor of the substantial glow from the nearby stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along Orion's sword just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these reflection nebulae are also associated with Orion's giant molecular cloud about 1,500 light-years away, but are dominated by the characteristic blue color of interstellar dust reflecting light from hot young stars. In this sharp color image a portion of the Orion Nebula appears along the bottom border with the cluster of reflection nebulae at picture center. NGC 1977 stretches across the field just below center, separated from NGC 1973 (above right) and NGC 1975 (above left) by dark regions laced with faint red emission from hydrogen atoms. Taken together, the dark regions suggest to many the shape of a running man.


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Explanation: On the Moon, the Earth never rises -- or sets. If you were to sit on the surface of the Moon, you would see the Earth just hang in the sky. This is because the Moon always keeps the same side toward the Earth. Curiously, the featured image does picture the Earth setting over a lunar edge. This was possible because the image was taken from a spacecraft orbiting the Moon - specifically the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). In fact, LRO orbits the Moon so fast that, from the spacecraft, the Earth appears to set anew about every two hours. The featured image captured one such Earthset about three months ago. By contrast, from the surface of the Earth, the Moon sets about once a day -- with the primary cause being the rotation of the Earth. LRO was launched in 2009 and, while creating a detailed three dimensional map of the Moon's surface, is also surveying the Moon for water and possible good landing spots for future astronauts.

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Video Credit & Copyright: Ken Murphy (MurphLab); Music: Ariel (Moby)

Explanation: Can you find which day is the winter solstice? Each panel shows one day. With 360 movie panels, the sky over (almost) an entire year is shown in time lapse format as recorded by a video camera on the roof of the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, California. The camera recorded an image every 10 seconds from before sunrise to after sunset and from mid-2009 to mid-2010. A time stamp showing the local time of day is provided on the lower right.
          The videos are arranged chronologically, with July 28 shown on the upper left, and January 1 located about half way down. In the videos, darkness indicates night, blue depicts clear day, while gray portrays pervasive daytime cloud cover. Many videos show complex patterns of clouds moving across the camera's wide field as that day progresses.
          The initial darkness in the middle depicts the delayed dawn and fewer daylight hours of winter. Although every day lasts 24 hours, nighttime lasts longest in the northern hemisphere in December and the surrounding winter months. Therefore, finding the panel with the longest night will locate the day of winter solstice -- which happens to be today in the northern hemisphere. As the videos collectively end, sunset and then darkness descend first on the winter days just above the middle, and last on the mid-summer near the bottom.

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A fun little vid that explains just how cool snowflakes really are!!

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I get a little update from NASA on the weekly happenings aboard the International Space Station where amazing things go on all the time we never her about. Today's short 2 minute vid wraps up this past week.

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Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI,JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: Saturn's icy moon Enceladus poses above the gas giant's icy rings in this Cassini spacecraft image. The dramatic scene was captured on July 29, while Cassini cruised just below the ring plane, its cameras looking back in a nearly sunward direction about 1 million kilometers from the moon's bright crescent. At 500 kilometers in diameter, Enceladus is a surprisingly active moon though, its remarkable south polar geysers are visible venting beyond a dark southern limb. In fact, data collected during Cassini's flybys and years of images have recently revealed the presence of a global ocean of liquid water beneath this moon's icy crust. Demonstrating the tantalizing liquid layer's global extent, the careful analysis indicates surface and core are not rigidly connected, with Enceladus rocking slightly back and forth in its orbit.


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From NASA:
NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren plays Amazing Grace on the bagpipes from the International Space Station. Kjell is a member of the Expedition 44/45 crew.

He bothered to take his bagpipes with him to the spacestation. Just so cool!!!



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