Image Credit & Copyright: Paolo Lazzarotti
This was one strange sunset. For one thing, the typically round Sun appeared distorted, geometrically, and multiply layered. For another, some of these layers appeared unusually green. The Sun, of course, was just fine -- its odd appearance was caused entirely by its light refracting in the Earth's atmosphere. When layers of the Earth's atmosphere are unusually warm, layers of the Sun may appear distorted or even seen multiple times. The effect is most strong nearest sunrise and sunset when terrestrial inversion layers occupy distinct altitudes above the horizon. Different colors of the Sun may also become deflected by significantly different amounts, so that the uppermost superior image may appear momentarily green -- a phenomenon known as a green flash. The featured image was taken in February from Porto Venere, Italy, with San Pietro church situated in the foreground.
Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, Univ. Arizona
Ridges of glowing interstellar gas and dark dust clouds inhabit the turbulent, cosmic depths of the Lagoon Nebula. Also known as M8, The bright star forming region is about 5,000 light-years distant. But it still makes for a popular stop on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius, toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Dominated by the telltale red emission of ionized hydrogen atoms recombining with stripped electrons, this stunning, deep view of the Lagoon's central reaches is about 40 light-years across. Near the center of the frame, the bright hourglass shape is gas ionized and sculpted by energetic radiation and extreme stellar winds from a massive young star.
Image Credit: GALEX, JPL-Caltech,
A mere 2.5 million light-years away the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, really is just next door as large galaxies go. So close and spanning some 260,000 light-years, it took 11 different image fields from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite's telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in ultraviolet light. While its spiral arms stand out in visible light images of Andromeda, the arms look more like rings in the GALEX ultraviolet view, a view dominated by the energetic light from hot, young, massive stars. As sites of intense star formation, the rings have been interpreted as evidence Andromeda collided with its smaller neighboring elliptical galaxy M32 more than 200 million years ago. The large Andromeda galaxy and our own Milky Way are the most massive members of the local galaxy group.
Image Credit & Copyright: Amit Kamble (Auckland Astronomical Society); Rollover Annotation: Judy Schmidt
It is the object to the left of the big tree that's generating much recent excitement. If you look closely, there you can see Comet PanSTARRS, complete with two tails. During July, this comet has increased markedly in brightness and has just passed its closest approach to Earth. The statuesque tree in the center is a Norfolk Island Pine, and to either side of this tree are New Zealand Pohutukaw trees. Over the trees, far in the distance, are bright Venus and an even brighter crescent Moon. If you look even more closely, you can find Jupiter hidden in the branches of the pine. The featured image was taken a few days ago in Fergusson Park, New Zealand, looking over Tauranga Harbour Inlet. In the coming days and weeks, Comet C/2014 Q1 (PANSTARRS) will slowly move away from the Sun and the Earth, drift deep into southern skies, and fade.
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