Wednesday, August 31, 2016


The southernmost part of Pluto that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft could “see” during closest approach in July 2015 contains a range of fascinating geological features, and offers clues into what might lurk in the regions shrouded in darkness during the flyby.

The area shown above is south of Pluto’s dark equatorial band informally named Cthulhu Regio, and southwest of the vast nitrogen ice plains informally named Sputnik Planum or Sputnik Planitia, as the mission team recently redesignated the area to more accurately reflect the low elevation of the plains. North is at the top; in the western portion of the image, a chain of bright mountains extends north into Cthulhu Regio. The mountains reveal themselves as snowcapped—something hauntingly familiar from our Earthbased experience. But New Horizons compositional data indicate the bright snowcap material covering these mountains isn’t water, but atmospheric methane that has condensed as frost onto these surfaces at high elevation. Between some mountains are sharply cut valleys – indicated by the white arrows below. These valleys are each a few miles across and tens of miles long.

A similar valley system in the expansive plains to the east (blue arrows) appears to be branched, with smaller valleys leading into it. New Horizons scientists think flowing nitrogen ice that once covered this area -- perhaps when the ice in Sputnik was at a higher elevation -- may have formed these valleys. The area is also marked by irregularly shaped, flat-floored depressions (green arrows) that can reach more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) across and almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep. The great widths and depths of these depressions suggest that they may have formed when the surface collapsed, rather than through the sublimation of ice into the atmosphere.


ANNULAR SOLAR ECLIPSE OVER NEW MEXICO Image Credit & Copyright: Colleen Pinski

What is this person doing? In 2012 an annular eclipse of the Sun was visible over a narrow path that crossed the northern Pacific Ocean and several western US states. In an annular solar eclipse, the Moon is too far from the Earth to block out the entire Sun, leaving the Sun peeking out over the Moon's disk in a ring of fire. To capture this unusual solar event, an industrious photographer drove from Arizona to New Mexico to find just the right vista. After setting up and just as the eclipsed Sun was setting over a ridge about 2.5 kilometers away, a person unknowingly walked right into the shot. Although grateful for the unexpected human element, the photographer never learned the identity of the silhouetted interloper. It appears likely, though, that the person is holding a circular device that would enable them to get their own view of the eclipse. The shot was taken at sunset on 2012 May 20 at 7:36 pm local time from a park near Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. Tomorrow another annular solar eclipse will become visible, this time along a path crossing Africa and Madagascar.

THE GREEN FLASH ON THE SETTING SUN Taken by Thomas Mitchell on August 27, 2016 @ North Wales, UK

MARS, SATURN, SAGITTARIUS, SCORPIUS Taken by Ihor Khomych on August 8, 2016 @ Carpathian Mountains, Ukraine

OBJECT TRANSIT THE SUN Taken by Phil Miles on August 30, 2016 @ Australia

M57 RING NEBULA Taken by Patrick Bosschaerts on August 31, 2016 @ Antwerp / Belgium

ANNULAR ECLIPSE: THE RING OF FIRE Credit & Copyright: Dennis L. Mammana (TWAN)

Tomorrow, a few lucky people may see a "ring of fire." That's a name for the central view of an annular eclipse of the Sun by the Moon. At the peak of this eclipse, the middle of the Sun will appear to be missing and the dark Moon will appear to be surrounded by the bright Sun. This will only be visible, however, from a path that crosses the southern Indian Ocean. From more populated locations, southern Africa and parts of Australia, most of the Moon will only appear to take a bite out the Sun. Remember to never look directly at the Sun even during an eclipse. An annular eclipse occurs instead of a total eclipse when the Moon is on the far part of its elliptical orbit around the Earth. The next annular eclipse of the Sun will take place in 2010 January, although a total solar eclipse will occur this July. Pictured above, a spectacular annular eclipse was photographed behind palm trees on 1992 January.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Director Roland Emmerich is moving forward with a new trilogy of Stargate movies, but in the meantime, we have to give some props to the centerpiece of an exhibit in Belgium's Musée royal de Mariemont called "From Stargate to Comics: Egyptian Gods In Geek Culture." With a build time of over 1,000 hours, a team constructed a 20-foot-tall 3D printed replica of the gate from the original movie, and this version is comprised of over 2,000 individual pieces.

This will be on display until November 20th, 2016, so our Belgian readers near Mariemont should try to go check it out in person!



Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CEA/T. Wang et al; Infrared: ESO/UltraVISTA; Radio: ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/ALMA

A new record for the most distant galaxy cluster has been set using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes. This galaxy cluster may have been caught right after birth, a brief, but important stage of evolution never seen before.

The galaxy cluster is called CL J1001+0220 (CL J1001 for short) and is located about 11.1 billion light years from Earth. The discovery of this object pushes back the formation time of galaxy clusters – the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity – by about 700 million years.

“This galaxy cluster isn’t just remarkable for its distance, it’s also going through an amazing growth spurt unlike any we’ve ever seen,” said Tao Wang of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA)  who led the study.

The core of CL J1001 contains eleven massive galaxies – nine of which are experiencing an impressive baby boom of stars. Specifically, stars are forming in the cluster’s core at a rate that is equivalent to over 3,000 Suns forming per year, a remarkably high value for a galaxy cluster, including those that are almost as distant, and therefore as young, as CL J1001.

The diffuse X-ray emission detected by Chandra and ESA’s XMM-Newton Observatory comes from a large amount of hot gas, one of the defining features of a true galaxy cluster.

“It appears that we have captured this galaxy cluster at a critical stage just as it has shifted from a loose collection of galaxies into a young, but fully formed galaxy cluster,” said co-author David Elbaz from CEA.

Previously, only these loose collections of galaxies, known as protoclusters, had been seen at greater distances than CL J1001.

The results suggest that elliptical galaxies in galaxy clusters like CL J1001 may form their stars during shorter and more violent outbursts than elliptical galaxies that are outside clusters. Also, this discovery suggests that much of the star formation in these galaxies happens after the galaxies fall onto the cluster, not before.

In comparing their results to computer simulations of the formation of clusters performed by other scientists, the team of astronomers found that CL J1001 has an unexpectedly high amount of mass in stars compared to the cluster’s total mass. This may show that the build-up of stars is more rapid in distant clusters than simulations imply, or it may show that clusters like CL J1001 are so rare that they are not found in today’s largest cosmological simulations.

“We think we’re going to learn a lot about the formation of clusters and the galaxies they contain by studying this object,” said co-author Alexis Finoguenov of the University of Helsinki in Finland, “and we’re going to be searching hard for other examples.”

The result is based on data from a large group of observatories in space and on the ground including Chandra, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, ESA’s XMM-Newton and Herschel Space Observatory, the NSF’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) , the Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique Northern Extended Millimeter Array (IRAM NOEMA), and ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

A paper describing these results will appear in The Astrophysical Journal on August 30th and is available online. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

Read More from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

Molly Porter
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Megan Watzke
Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.


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NEREID, THIRD LARGEST OF NEPTUNE’S MOONS (M18.69) Taken by Dennis Simmons on August 28, 2016 @ Brisbane, Qld, Australia

Using the NASA (JPL) Horizons system (, I generated an ephemeris for Nereid covering 27th to 28th August 2016 and plotted the calculated positions in The Sky X Pro, to determine the location of this faint mag 18.69 satellite of Neptune.

The attached images were taken using a Tak Mewlon 210, Tak x0.8 Reducer/Flattener and an ATIK 414 EX camera. I captured 75x60 sec frames on 27th Aug and 37x120 secs on 28th Aug. Images were calibrated, aligned and stacked using CCDStack2 and finished in CS6.

The full size originals have a FOV of 15.2 x 11.3 arcmin at 0.65 arcsec/pixel. The 1024x768 crops have a FOV of 13 x 9.7 arcmin.

Nereid is the third largest of Neptune’s moons, and the second to have been discovered. It was discovered on 1st May, 1949 by the Dutch American astronomer Gerard P. Kuiper (for whom the Kuiper Belt is named) using photographic plates from the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. It is named after the numerous daughters, called Nereids, of the sea god Nereus in Greek mythology.

Almost everything we know about Nereid comes from the images taken by Voyager 2 in 1989; its closest approach was approximately 4.7 million km.

Nereid has a diameter of about 340 km (210 miles). It revolves around Neptune with a period of just over 360 days in a highly elliptical orbit—the most eccentric of any known moon—that is inclined by more than 7° to the planet’s equator. Its mean distance from Neptune is 5,513,400 km (3,425,900 miles), which is about 15 times farther from Neptune than Triton. Nereid is exceedingly faint, making observations with even the largest Earth-based telescopes very difficult.

Neptune now has 14 recognized satellites, and in honour of their parent planet, all are named for minor water deities in Greek mythology.

I have also included a 800x600 pixel animation to reveal the orbital motions of Neptune, Triton and Nereid.



ANTARES, MARS, SATURN AND THE MILKY WAY Taken by David Clapp on August 31, 2016 @ Namibia

NAKED-EYE PLANETS Taken by Mike White on August 30, 2016 @ Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury, New Zealand

M17, OMEGA NEBULA Taken by José J. Chambó on August 6, 2016 @ Valencia (Spain)

AURORA BOREALIS Taken by Yuichi Takasaka on August 29, 2016 @ Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

AURORA, A METEOR Taken by Derek Demeter on August 29, 2016 @ Jasper, Albera

M27 DUMBBELL NEBULA Taken by Patrick Bosschaerts on August 30, 2016 @ Antwerp / Belgium

I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST A SUNSET, BUT! THE SUN HAD A SPOT Taken by Jackie Nicholson on May 21, 2009 @ 26 Mayflower Crescent, Hallett Cove Beach, South Australia

Monday, August 29, 2016

YOUNG SUNS OF NGC 7129 Image Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler, Roberto Colombari, Eric Recurt, Adam Block - Additional Data: Subaru (NAOJ)

Young suns still lie within dusty NGC 7129, some 3,000 light-years away toward the royal constellation Cepheus. While these stars are at a relatively tender age, only a few million years old, it is likely that our own Sun formed in a similar stellar nursery some five billion years ago. Most noticeable in the sharp image are the lovely bluish dust clouds that reflect the youthful starlight. But the compact, deep red crescent shapes are also markers of energetic, young stellar objects. Known as Herbig-Haro objects, their shape and color is characteristic of glowing hydrogen gas shocked by jets streaming away from newborn stars. Paler, extended filaments of reddish emission mingling with the bluish clouds are caused by dust grains effectively converting the invisible ultraviolet starlight to visible red light through photoluminesence. Ultimately the natal gas and dust in the region will be dispersed, the stars drifting apart as the loose cluster orbits the center of the Galaxy. The processing of this remarkable composite image has revealed the faint red strands of emission at the upper right. They are recently recognized as a likely supernova remnant and are currently being analyzed by Bo Reipurth (Univ. Hawaii) who obtained the image data at the Subaru telescope. At the estimated distance of NGC 7129, this telescopic view spans over 40 light-years.

JUPITER AND VENUS CONJUNCTION Taken by Kurt Fanus on August 27, 2016 @ Outer Banks North Carolina USA


.. en una tarde alucinante-mente tranquila ..

.. y nos acompaño musicalmente ..

.. gracias Gus por soportar mis Orcas super chillouts ..

.. La pasamos BOMBA ! ..