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Total Solar Eclipse of 1979

From cold, clear skies over Riverton, Manitoba, Canada, planet Earth, the solar corona surrounds the silhouette of the New Moon in this telescopic snapshot of the total solar eclipse of February 26, 1979. Thirty eight years ago, it was the last total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States. The narrow path of totality ran through the northwestern states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota before crossing into Canadian provinces Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Following the upcoming August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. from coast to coast, an annular solar eclipse will be seen in the continental United States on October 14, 2023, visible along a route from Northern California to Florida. Then, the next total solar eclipse to touch the continental U.S. will track across 13 states from from Texas to Maine on April 8, 2024. via NASA
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NGC 2442: Galaxy in Volans

Distorted galaxy NGC 2442 can be found in the southern constellation of the flying fish, (Piscis) Volans. Located about 50 million light-years away, the galaxy’s two spiral arms extending from a pronounced central bar have a hook-like appearance in wide-field images. But this mosaicked close-up, constructed from Hubble Space Telescope and European Southern Observatory data, follows the galaxy’s structure in amazing detail. Obscuring dust lanes, young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions surround a core of yellowish light from an older population of stars. The sharp image data also reveal more distant background galaxies seen right through NGC 2442’s star clusters and nebulae. The image spans about 75,000 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 2442. via NASA
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Detailed View of a Solar Eclipse Corona

Only in the fleeting darkness of a total solar eclipse is the light of the solar corona easily visible. Normally overwhelmed by the bright solar disk, the expansive corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, is an alluring sight. But the subtle details and extreme ranges in the corona’s brightness, although discernible to the eye, are notoriously difficult to photograph. Pictured here, however, using multiple images and digital processing, is a detailed image of the Sun’s corona taken during the 2008 August total solar eclipse from Mongolia. Clearly visible are intricate layers and glowing caustics of an ever changing mixture of hot gas and magnetic fields. Bright looping prominences appear pink just above the Sun’s limb. A similar solar corona might be visible through clear skies in a thin swath across the USA during a total solar eclipse that occurs just one week from tomorrow. via NASA
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A Total Solar Eclipse of Saros 145

A darkened sky holds bright planet Venus, the New Moon in silhouette, and the shimmering corona of the Sun in this image of a total solar eclipse. A composite of simultaneous telephoto and wide angle frames it was taken in the path of totality 18 years ago, August 11, 1999, near Kastamonu, Turkey. That particular solar eclipse is a member of Saros 145. Known historically from observations of the Moon’s orbit, the Saros cycle predicts when the Sun, Earth, and Moon will return to the same geometry for a solar (or lunar) eclipse. The Saros has a period of 18 years, 11 and 1/3 days. Eclipses separated by one Saros period belong to the same numbered Saros series and are very similar. But the path of totality for consecutive solar eclipses in the same Saros shifts across the Earth because the planet rotates for an additional 8 hours during the cycle’s fractional day. So the next solar eclipse of Saros 145 will also be a total eclipse, and the narrow path of totality will track coast to coast across the United States on August 21, 2017. via NASA
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Night of the Perseids

This weekend, meteors will rain down near the peak of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. Normally bright and colorful, the Perseid shower meteors are produced by dust swept up by planet Earth from the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. They streak from a radiant in Perseus, above the horizon in clear predawn skies. Despite interfering light from August’s waning gibbous moon, this year’s Perseids will still be enjoyable, especially if you can find yourself in an open space, away from city lights, and in good company. Frames used in this composite view capture bright Perseid meteors from the 2016 meteor shower set against a starry background along the Milky Way, with even the faint Andromeda Galaxy just above center. In the foreground, astronomers of all ages have gathered on a hill above the Slovakian village of Vrchtepla. via NASA
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August Lunar Eclipse

August’s Full Moon is framed in this sharp, high dynamic range composition. Captured before sunrise on August 8 from Sydney, Australia, south is up and the Earth’s dark, umbral shadow is at the left, near the maximum phase of a partial lunar eclipse. Kicking off the eclipse season, this time the Full Moon’s grazing slide through Earth’s shadow was visible from the eastern hemisphere. Up next is the much anticipated total solar eclipse of August 21. Then, the New Moon’s shadow track will include North America, the narrow path of totality running coast to coast through the United States. via NASA
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Density Waves in Saturns Rings from Cassini

What causes the patterns in Saturn’s rings? The Cassini spacecraft, soon ending its 13 years orbiting Saturn, has sent back another spectacular image of Saturn’s immense ring system in unprecedented detail. The physical cause for some of Saturn’s ring structures is not always understood. The cause for the beautifully geometric type of ring structure shown here in ring of Saturn, however, is surely a density wave. A small moon systematically perturbing the orbits of ring particles circling Saturn at slightly different distances causes such a density wave bunching. Also visible on the lower right of the image is a bending wave, a vertical wave in ring particles also caused by the gravity of a nearby moon. Cassini’s final orbits are allowing a series of novel scientific measurements and images of the Solar System’s most grand ring system. via NASA
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Spiral Galaxy NGC 1512: The Inner Ring

Most galaxies don’t have any rings — why does this galaxy have two? To begin, the bright band near NGC 1512’s center is a nuclear ring, a ring that surrounds the galaxy center and glows brightly with recently formed stars. Most stars and accompanying gas and dust, however, orbit the galactic center in a ring much further out — here seen near the image edge. This ring is called, counter-intuitively, the inner ring. If you look closely, you will see this the inner ring connects ends of a diffuse central bar that runs horizontally across the galaxy. These ring structures are thought to be caused by NGC 1512’s own asymmetries in a drawn-out process called secular evolution. The gravity of these galaxy asymmetries, including the bar of stars, cause gas and dust to fall from the inner ring to the nuclear ring, enhancing this ring’s rate of star formation. Some spiral galaxies also have a third ring — an outer ring that circles the galaxy even further out. via NASA
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Gravity s Grin

Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, published over 100 years ago, predicted the phenomenon of gravitational lensing. And that’s what gives these distant galaxies such a whimsical appearance, seen through the looking glass of X-ray and optical image data from the Chandra and Hubble space telescopes. Nicknamed the Cheshire Cat galaxy group, the group’s two large elliptical galaxies are suggestively framed by arcs. The arcs are optical images of distant background galaxies lensed by the foreground group’s total distribution of gravitational mass. Of course, that gravitational mass is dominated by dark matter. The two large elliptical “eye” galaxies represent the brightest members of their own galaxy groups which are merging. Their relative collisional speed of nearly 1,350 kilometers/second heats gas to millions of degrees producing the X-ray glow shown in purple hues. Curiouser about galaxy group mergers? The Cheshire Cat group grins in the constellation Ursa Major, some 4.6 billion light-years away. via NASA
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North North Temperate Zone Little Red Spot

On July 11, the Juno spacecraft once again swung near the turbulent Jovian cloud tops. On its seventh orbital closest approach this perijove passage brought Juno within 3,500 kilometers of the Solar System’s largest planetary atmosphere. Near perijove the rotating JunoCam was able to record this stunning, clear view of one of Jupiter’s signature vortices. About 8,000 kilometers in diameter, the anticyclonic storm system was spotted in Jupiter’s North North Temperate Zone in the 1990s. That makes it about half the size of an older and better known Jovian anticyclone, the Great Red Spot, but only a little smaller than planet Earth. At times taking on reddish hues, the enormous storm system is fondly known as a North North Temperate Zone Little Red Spot. via NASA
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Pelican Nebula Close Up

The prominent ridge of emission featured in this vivid skyscape is designated IC 5067. Part of a larger emission region with a distinctive shape, popularly called The Pelican Nebula, the ridge spans about 10 light-years and follows the curve of the cosmic pelican’s head and neck. Fantastic, dark shapes inhabiting the view are clouds of cool gas and dust sculpted by energetic radiation from young, hot, massive stars. But stars are also forming within the dark shapes. Twin jets emerging from the tip of the long, dark tendril left of center are the telltale signs of an embedded protostar cataloged as Herbig-Haro 555 (HH 555). In fact, other Herbig-Haro objects indicating the presence of protostars are found within the frame. The Pelican Nebula itself, also known as IC 5070, is about 2,000 light-years away. To find it, look northeast of bright star Deneb in the high flying constellation Cygnus. via NASA
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Perseid Meteors over Turkey

The Perseid Meteor Shower, usually the best meteor shower of the year, will peak late next week. A person watching a clear sky from a dark location might see a bright meteor every minute. These meteors are actually specks of rock that have broken off Comet Swift-Tuttle and continued to orbit the Sun until they vaporize in Earth’s atmosphere. The featured composite image shows a outburst of Perseids as they appeared over Turkey during last year’s meteor shower. Enough meteors were captured to trace the shower’s radiant back to the constellation of Perseus on the far left. The tail-end of the Perseids will still be going during the total solar eclipse on August 21, creating a rare opportunity for some lucky astrophotographers to image a Perseid meteor during the day. via NASA
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Aurora Slathers up the Sky

Like salsa verde on your favorite burrito, a green aurora slathers up the sky in this June 25 snapshot from the International Space Station. About 400 kilometers (250 miles) above Earth, the orbiting station is itself within the upper realm of the auroral displays. Aurorae have the signature colors of excited molecules and atoms at the low densities found at extreme altitudes. Emission from atomic oxygen dominates this view. The tantalizing glow is green at lower altitudes, but rarer reddish bands extend above the space station’s horizon. The orbital scene was captured while passing over a point south and east of Australia, with stars above the horizon at the right belonging to the constellation Canis Major, Orion’s big dog. Sirius, alpha star of Canis Major, is the brightest star near the Earth’s limb. via NASA
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A Sagittarius Triplet

These three bright nebulae are often featured on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius and the crowded starfields of the central Milky Way. In fact, 18th century cosmic tourist Charles Messier cataloged two of them; M8, the large nebula above and left of center, and colorful M20 near the bottom of the frame. The third emission region includes NGC 6559, right of M8 and separated from the larger nebula by a dark dust lane. All three are stellar nurseries about five thousand light-years or so distant. Over a hundred light-years across the expansive M8 is also known as the Lagoon Nebula. M20’s popular moniker is the Trifid. Glowing hydrogen gas creates the dominant red color of the emission nebulae. In striking contrast, blue hues in the Trifid are due to dust reflected starlight. The colorful composite skyscape was recorded with two different telescopes to capture a widefield image of the area and individual close-ups at higher resolution. via NASA
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Int Ball Drone Activated on the Space Station

What if you were followed around by a cute floating ball that kept taking your picture? Then you might be an astronaut on today’s International Space Station (ISS). Designed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the JEM Internal Ball Camera — informally “Int-Ball” — is a bit larger than a softball, can float and maneuver by itself but also be controlled remotely, can take high resolution images and videos, and is not related to Hello Kitty. Int-Ball was delivered to the ISS in early June and is designed to allow ground-control to increase the monitoring of ISS equipment and activities while decreasing time demands on human astronauts. Int-Ball moves by turning on small internal fans and sees with a camera located between its two dark eyes. via NASA
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