A Waterspout in Florida

What’s happening over the water? Pictured here is one of the better images yet recorded of a waterspout, a type of tornado that occurs over water. Waterspouts are spinning columns of rising moist air that typically form over warm water. Waterspouts can be as dangerous as tornadoes and can feature wind speeds over 200 kilometers per hour. Some waterspouts form away from thunderstorms and even during relatively fair weather. Waterspouts may be relatively transparent and initially visible only by an unusual pattern they create on the water. The featured image was taken in 2013 July near Tampa Bay, Florida. The Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida is arguably the most active area in the world for waterspouts, with hundreds forming each year. via NASA https://ift.tt/2LCcaxs

The Dark River to Antares

A dark river seems to flow through this sky from the horizon toward colorful clouds near red giant star Antares. Murky looking, the dark river is a dusty nebula obscuring background starlight near the central Milky Way, although the dark dust nebula contains mostly hydrogen molecular gas. Dust scattering starlight around Antares, alpha star of Scorpius, creates the unusual yellow-hued reflection nebula. Above it, bright blue double star Rho Ophiuchi is embedded in more typical dusty bluish reflection nebulae, with red emission nebulae also scattered through the interstellar space. Globular star cluster M4 looks almost like a bright star just above and right of Antares, though it lies far behind the colorful clouds, at a distance of some 7,000 light-years. The dark river itself is about 500 light years away. To create the startling night sky view, all background and foreground exposures were made back to back with the same camera and telephoto lens on the same night from the same location. In combination they produce a stunning image that reveals a range of brightness and color that your eye can’t quite perceive. Recorded in the early hours of January 31, the composite also captures Mars still near the eastern horizon and rising to join rival Antares on the celestial stage. Bright Mars and its watery reflection are left of a lonely tree in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, planet Earth. via NASA https://ift.tt/3fSo97V

Galaxy Wars: M81 and M82

These two galaxies are far far away, 12 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear. On the left, with grand spiral arms and bright yellow core is spiral galaxy M81, some 100,000 light-years across. On the right marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. The pair have been locked in gravitational combat for a billion years. Gravity from each galaxy has profoundly affected the other during a series of cosmic close encounters. Their last go-round lasted about 100 million years and likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81’s spiral arms. M82 was left with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic the galaxy glows in X-rays. In the next few billion years, their continuing gravitational encounters will result in a merger, and a single galaxy will remain. via NASA https://ift.tt/3cKThUE

Comet Halley vs Comet SWAN

The pre-dawn hours of May 3rd were moonless as grains of cosmic dust streaked through southern skies above Reunion Island. Swept up as planet Earth plowed through dusty debris streams left behind periodic Comet 1/P Halley, the annual meteor shower is known as the Eta Aquarids. This inspired exposure captures a bright aquarid meteor flashing left to right over a sea of clouds. The meteor streak points back to the shower’s radiant in the constellation Aquarius, well above the eastern horizon and off the top of the frame. Known for speed Eta Aquarid meteors move fast, entering the atmosphere at about 66 kilometers per second, visible at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so. Then about 6 light-minutes from Earth, the pale greenish coma and long tail of Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN were not to be left out of the celestial scene, posing above the volcanic peaks left of center. Now in the northern sky’s morning twilight near the eastern horizon Comet SWAN has not become as bright as anticipated though. This first time comet made its closest approach to planet Earth only two days ago and reaches perihelion on May 27. via NASA https://ift.tt/2y0UdFr

Jupiter in Infrared from Gemini

In infrared, Jupiter lights up the night. Recently, astronomers at the Gemini North Observatory in Hawaii, USA, created some of the best infrared photos of Jupiter ever taken from Earth’s surface, pictured. Gemini was able to produce such a clear image using a technique called lucky imaging, by taking many images and combining only the clearest ones that, by chance, were taken when Earth’s atmosphere=/a?>
was the most calm. Jupiter’s jack-o’-lantern-like appearance is caused by the planet’s different layers of clouds. Infrared light can pass through clouds better than visible light, allowing us to see deeper, hotter layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere, while the thickest clouds appear dark. These pictures, together with ones from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Juno spacecraft, can tell us a lot about weather patterns on Jupiter, like where its massive, planet-sized storms form. via NASA https://ift.tt/2T1dXjE

Lyrid Meteors from the Constellation Lyra

Where are all of these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Small Harp (Lyra). That is why the famous meteor shower that peaks every April is known as the Lyrids — the meteors all appear to came from a radiant toward Lyra. In terms of parent body, though, the sand-sized debris that makes up the Lyrid meteors come from Comet Thatcher. The comet follows a well-defined orbit around our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of Lyra. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Lyra. Featured here, a composite image containing over 33 meteors (can you find them all?) from last month’s Lyrid meteor shower shows several bright meteors that streaked over a shore of SeÄ Lake in the Czech Republic. Also visible are the bright stars Vega and Altair, the planet Jupiter, and the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. via NASA https://ift.tt/3fIeznM

Behind Betelgeuse

What’s behind Betelgeuse? One of the brighter and more unusual stars in the sky, the red supergiant star Betelgeuse can be found in the direction of famous constellation Orion. Betelgeuse, however, is actually well in front of many of the constellation’s other bright stars, and also in front of the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Numerically, light takes about 700 years to reach us from Betelgeuse, but about 1,300 years to reach us from the Orion Nebula and its surrounding dust and gas. All but the largest telescopes see Betelgeuse as only a point of light, but a point so bright that the inherent blurriness created by the telescope and Earth’s atmosphere make it seem extended. In the featured long-exposure image, thousands of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy can be seen in the background behind Betelgeuse, as well as dark dust from the Orion Molecular Cloud, and some red-glowing emission from hydrogen gas on the outskirts of the more distant Lambda Orionis Ring. Betelgeuse has recovered from appearing unusually dim over the past six months, but is still expected to explode in a spectacular supernova sometime in the next (about) 100,000 years. via NASA https://ift.tt/2SWxIc4

The Porpoise Galaxy from Hubble

What’s happening to this spiral galaxy? Just a few hundred million years ago, NGC 2936, the upper of the two large galaxies shown, was likely a normal spiral galaxy — spinning, creating stars — and minding its own business. But then it got too close to the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below and took a dive. Dubbed the Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the close gravitational interaction. A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the right of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye. Alternatively, the galaxy pair, together known as Arp 142, look to some like a penguin protecting an egg. Either way, intricate dark dust lanes and bright blue star streams trail the troubled galaxy to the lower right. The featured re-processed image showing Arp 142 in unprecedented detail was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope last year. Arp 142 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation, coincidently, of the Water Snake (Hydra). In a billion years or so the two galaxies will likely merge into one larger galaxy. via NASA https://ift.tt/35KezPT

Full Flower Moonrise

Rising as the Sun set, the Moon was bright and full in planet Earth skies on May 7 and known to some as a Flower Moon. Near the horizon it does seem to take on rose pink hues of reddened sunlight in this reflective twilight scene. In fact one of the brighter Full Moons of the year, this month’s full lunar phase occurred within about 32 hours of perigee. That’s the closest point in the Moon’s elliptical orbit. Flooded field and ruined church tower are near the municipality of Casaleggio Novara, Piedmont Region of northern Italy.
via NASA https://ift.tt/3cfRiru

Long Tailed Comet SWAN

Blowing in the solar wind the spectacular ion tail of Comet SWAN (C/2020 F8) extends far across this 10 degree wide telephoto field of view. Captured on May 2 its greenish coma was about 6 light-minutes from Earth. The pretty background starfield lies near the border of the constellations Cetus and Aquarius. This comet SWAN was discovered at home by Australian amateur Michael Mattiazzo by checking images from the Sun-staring SOHO spacecraft’s SWAN (Solar Wind ANisotropies) camera. The comet has now become just visible to the naked-eye as it sweeps from southern to northern skies. Appearing in morning twilight near the eastern horizon, Comet SWAN will make its closest approach to planet Earth on May 12 and reach perihelion on May 27.
via NASA https://ift.tt/2SLFEgl