This high cliff occurs not on a planet, not on a moon, but on a comet. It was discovered to be part of the dark nucleus of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (CG) by Rosetta, a robotic spacecraft launched by ESA that rendezvoused with the Sun-orbiting comet in 2014. The ragged cliff, as featured here, was imaged by Rosetta in 2014. Although towering about one kilometer high, the low surface gravity of Comet CG would likely make it an accessible climb -- and even a jump from the cliff survivable. At the foot of the cliff is relatively smooth terrain dotted with boulders as large as 20 meters across. Data from Rosetta indicates that the ice in Comet CG has a significantly different deuterium fraction -- and hence likely a different origin -- than the water in Earth's oceans. Rosetta ended its mission with a controlled impact onto Comet CG in 2016. Comet CG has just completed another close approach to Earth and remains visible through a small telescope.



Big, beautiful spiral galaxy M101 is one of the last entries in Charles Messier's famous catalog, but definitely not one of the least. About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is enormous, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way. M101 was also one of the original spiral nebulae observed by Lord Rosse's large 19th century telescope, the Leviathan of Parsontown. Assembled from 51 exposures recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope in the 20th and 21st centuries, with additional data from ground based telescopes, this mosaic spans about 40,000 light-years across the central region of M101 in one of the highest definition spiral galaxy portraits ever released from Hubble. The sharp image shows stunning features of the galaxy's face-on disk of stars and dust along with background galaxies, some visible right through M101 itself. Also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major, about 25 million light-years away.



Why are the regions above sunspots so hot? Sunspots themselves are a bit cooler than the surrounding solar surface because the magnetic fields that create them reduce convective heating. It is therefore unusual that regions overhead -- even much higher up in the Sun's corona -- can be hundreds of times hotter. To help find the cause, NASA directed the Earth-orbiting Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite to point its very sensitive X-ray telescope at the Sun. Featured here is the Sun in ultraviolet light, shown in a red hue as taken by the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Superimposed in false-colored green and blue is emission above sunspots detected by NuSTAR in different bands of high-energy X-rays, highlighting regions of extremely high temperature. Clues about the Sun's atmospheric heating mechanisms come from NuSTAR images like this and shed light on solar nanoflares and microflares as brief bursts of energy that may drive the unusual heating.



Rain clouds passed and the dome of the Lick Observatory's 36 inch Great Refractor opened on November 19. The historic telescope was pointed toward a partially eclipsed Moon. Illuminated by dim red lighting to preserve an astronomer's night vision, telescope controls, coordinate dials, and the refractor's 57 foot long barrel were captured in this high dynamic range image. Visible beyond the foreshortened barrel and dome slit, growing brighter after its almost total eclipse phase, the lunar disk created a colorful halo through lingering clouds. From the open dome, the view of the clearing sky above includes the Pleiades star cluster about 5 degrees from Moon and Earth's shadow.

Notable APOD Submissions: Lunar Eclipse of 2021 November 19


Shaped like a cone tapering into space, the Earth's dark central shadow or umbra has a circular cross-section. It's wider than the Moon at the distance of the Moon's orbit though. But during the lunar eclipse of November 18/19, part of the Moon remained just outside the umbral shadow. The successive pictures in this composite of 5 images from that almost total lunar eclipse were taken over a period of about 1.5 hours. The series is aligned to trace part of the cross-section's circular arc, with the central image at maximum eclipse. It shows a bright, thin sliver of the lunar disk still beyond the shadow's curved edge. Of course, even within the shadow the Moon's surface is not completely dark, reflecting the reddish hues of filtered sunlight scattered into the shadow by Earth's atmosphere.

Notable APOD Submissions: Lunar Eclipse of 2021 November 19


Shaped like a cone tapering into space, the Earth's dark central shadow or umbra has a circular cross-section. It's wider than the Moon at the distance of the Moon's orbit though. But during the lunar eclipse of November 18/19, part of the Moon remained just outside the umbral shadow. The successive pictures in this composite of 5 images from that almost total lunar eclipse were taken over a period of about 1.5 hours. The series is aligned to trace part of the cross-section's circular arc, with the central image at maximum eclipse. It shows a bright, thin sliver of the lunar disk still beyond the shadow's curved edge. Of course, even within the shadow the Moon's surface is not completely dark, reflecting the reddish hues of filtered sunlight scattered into the shadow by Earth's atmosphere.

Notable APOD Submissions: Lunar Eclipse of 2021 November 19

Hubble image of elongated rusty and blue nebula

Mounded, luminous clouds of gas and dust glow in this Hubble image of a Herbig-Haro object known as HH 45. Herbig-Haro objects are a rarely seen type of nebula that occurs when hot gas ejected by a newborn star collides with the gas and dust around it at hundreds of miles per second, creating bright shock waves. In this image, blue indicates ionized oxygen (O II) and purple shows ionized magnesium (Mg II). Researchers were particularly interested in these elements because they can be used to identify shocks and ionization fronts.

This object is located in the nebula NGC 1977, which itself is part of a complex of three nebulae called The Running Man. NGC 1977 –  like its companions NGC 1975 and NGC 1973 – is a reflection nebula, which means that it doesn’t emit light on its own, but reflects light from nearby stars, like a streetlight illuminating fog.

Hubble observed this region to look for stellar jets and planet-forming disks around young stars, and examine how their environment affects the evolution of such disks.

Lower left: full view of the blue-white nebula with wispy purple edges Right side: Hubble image of elongated rusty and blue nebula "fingers" whose tips are bright-blue and white
hubble_ngc1977_hh45b_inset_display.jpg
Hubble imaged a small section of the Running Man Nebula, which lies close to the famed Orion Nebula and is a favorite target for amateur astronomers to observe and photograph.
Credits: NASA, ESA, J. Bally (University of Colorado at Boulder), and DSS; Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)
 

Main Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Bally (University of Colorado at Boulder); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Media Contact:
Claire Andreoli
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
301-286-1940


Source: www.nasa.gov
Historical stylization — Slavic of the 12-13th centuries, Karoling Club Ruza.jpg

Training in preparation for Slavic festivals of the 12-13th centuries in the Ruza urban district of Moscow Oblast.



Why are the regions above sunspots so hot? Sunspots themselves are a bit cooler than the surrounding solar surface because the magnetic fields that create them reduce convective heating. It is therefore unusual that regions overhead -- even much higher up in the Sun's corona -- can be hundreds of times hotter. To help find the cause, NASA directed the Earth-orbiting Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite to point its very sensitive X-ray telescope at the Sun. Featured here is the Sun in ultraviolet light, shown in a red hue as taken by the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Superimposed in false-colored green and blue is emission above sunspots detected by NuSTAR in different bands of high-energy X-rays, highlighting regions of extremely high temperature. Clues about the Sun's atmospheric heating mechanisms come from NuSTAR images like this and shed light on solar nanoflares and microflares as brief bursts of energy that may drive the unusual heating.


dark nebula looking like a flame rising through the center of the image against a turquoise and blue glowing nebula, stars dotted throughout

The Flame Nebula, also called NGC 2024, is a large star-forming region in the constellation Orion that lies about 1,400 light-years from Earth. It’s a portion of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which includes such famous nebulae as the Horsehead Nebula and Orion Nebula. This image focuses on the dark, dusty heart of the nebula, where a star cluster resides, mostly hidden from view. Nearby (but not visible in this image) is the bright star Alnitak, the easternmost star in the Belt of Orion. Radiation from Alnitak ionizes the Flame Nebula’s hydrogen gas. As the gas begins to cool from its higher-energy state to a lower-energy state, it emits energy in the form of light, causing the visible glow behind the swirled wisps of dust.

Researchers have used Hubble to measure the mass of stars in the cluster as they search for brown dwarfs, a type of dim object that’s too hot and massive to be classified as a planet but also too small and cool to shine like a star.

dark nebula looking like a flame rising through the center of the image against a turquoise and blue glowing nebula, stars dotted throughout
hubble_ngc2024_flame1_wfc3_ir_inset_display.jpg
The Flame Nebula, also called NGC 2024, is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex and is found near the Horsehead Nebula.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and N. Da Rio (University of Virginia), ESO, DSS2, and D. De Martin; Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Main Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and N. Da Rio (University of Virginia); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

Media Contact:
Claire Andreoli
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
301-286-1940


Source: www.nasa.gov

Why is the Moon on top of this building? Planning. It took the astrophotographer careful planning -- including figuring out exactly where to place the camera and exactly when to take the shot -- to create this striking superposition. The single image featured was taken in the early morning hours of November 19, near the peak of the partial lunar eclipse that was occurring as the Moon passed through the Earth's shadow. At this time, almost the entire Moon -- 99.1 percent of its area -- was in the darkest part of the Earth's shadow. The building is the Gran Torre Santiago building in Chile, the tallest building in South America. Although the entire eclipse lasted an impressive six hours, this image had to be taken within just a few seconds to get the alignment right -- the Earth's rotation soon moved the building out of alignment. The next Earth-Moon eclipse will be a total eclipse of the Sun that will occur on December 4 -- but only be visible from the bottom of our world.

APOD Editor (RJN) Online Monday: NASA's Best Space Images (& Videos)
Notable APOD Submissions: Lunar Eclipse of 2021 November 19


Here comes Comet Leonard. Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) was discovered as a faint smudge in January 2021 when it was out past Mars -- but its orbit will take the giant shedding ice-ball into the inner Solar System, passing near both Earth and Venus in December before it swoops around the Sun in early January 2022. Although comets are notoriously hard to predict, some estimations have Comet Leonard brightening to become visible to the unaided eye in December. Comet Leonard was captured just over a week ago already sporting a green-tinged coma and an extended dust tail. The featured picture was composed from 62 images taken through a moderate-sized telescope -- one set of exposures tracking the comet, while another set tracking the background stars. The exposures were taken from the dark skies above the Eastern Sierra Mountains, near June Lake in California, USA. Soon after passing near the Earth in mid-December, the comet will shift from northern to southern skies.

APOD Editor (RJN) Online Monday: NASA's Best Space Images (& Videos)


Predawn hours of November 19 found the Moon in partly cloudy skies over Cancun, Mexico. Captured in this telephoto snapshot, the lunar disk is not quite entirely immersed in Earth's dark umbral shadow during a long partial lunar eclipse. The partial eclipse was deep though, deep enough to show the dimmed but reddened light in Earth's shadow. That's a sight often anticipated by fans of total lunar eclipses. Wandering through the constellation Taurus, the eclipsed Moon's dimmer light also made it easier to spot the Pleiades star cluster. The stars of the Seven Sisters share this frame at the upper right, with the almost totally eclipsed Moon.

Notable APOD Submissions (so far): Lunar Eclipse of 2021 November 19


Returning along its 6.4 year orbit, periodic comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) is caught in this telescopic frame from November 7. Sweeping past background stars in the constellation Gemini the comet's dusty tail stretches toward the upper right to Upsilon Geminorum. Also known as Pollux, Beta Geminorum, Gemini's brightest star, shines just off the upper left edge of the field-of-view. Churyumov-Gerasimenko reached its 2021 perihelion or closest approach to the Sun on November 2. At perigee, its closest approach to planet Earth on November 12, this comet was about 0.42 astronomical units away, though it remains too faint to be seen by eye alone. The well-studied comet was explored by robots from planet Earth during its last trip through the inner solar system. It's now famous as the final resting place for the historic Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander.



In visible light the stars have been removed from this narrow-band image of NGC 281, a star forming region some 10,000 light-years away toward the constellation Cassiopeia. Stars were digitally added back to the resulting starless image though. But instead of using visible light image data, the stars were added with X-ray data (in purple) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and infrared data (in red) from the Spitzer Space Telescope. The merged multiwavelength view reveals a multitude of stars in the region's embedded star cluster IC 1590. The young stars are normally hidden in visible light images by the natal cloud's gas and obscuring dust. Also known to backyard astro-imagers as the Pacman Nebula for its overall appearance in visible light, NGC 281 is about 80 light-years across.


A pair of U.S. spacesuits are pictured inside the U.S. Quest airlock

Looking much like ghosts, a pair of U.S. spacesuits are pictured inside the International Space Station's Quest airlock ready for an upcoming spacewalk to be conducted by NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron.

Image Credit: NASA


Source: www.nasa.gov

A photographer in silhouette stands in bright moonlight as the Full Moon rises in this well-planned telephoto image. Of course, the Full Moon is normally the brightest lunar phase. But on November 18/19, the Full Moon's light will be dimmed during a deep partial lunar eclipse seen across much of planet Earth. At maximum eclipse only a few percent of the lunar disk's diameter should remain outside the Earth's dark umbral shadow when the Moon slides close to the shadow's southern edge. Near apogee, the farthest point in its orbit, the Moon's motion will be slow. That should make this second lunar eclipse of 2021 an exceptionally long partial lunar eclipse. For most of North America the eclipse partial phases will be visible in predawn hours. Since eclipses tend to come in pairs, this lunar eclipse will be followed by a solar eclipse in two weeks on December 4.



Why doesn't the nearby galaxy create a gravitational lensing effect on the background galaxy? It does, but since both galaxies are so nearby, the angular shift is much smaller than the angular sizes of the galaxies themselves. The featured Hubble image of NGC 3314 shows two large spiral galaxies which happen to line up exactly. The foreground spiral NGC 3314a appears nearly face-on with its pinwheel shape defined by young bright star clusters. Against the glow of the background galaxy NGC 3314b, though, dark swirling lanes of interstellar dust can also be seen tracing the nearer spiral's structure. Both galaxies appear on the edge of the Hydra Cluster of Galaxies, a cluster that is about 200 million light years away. Gravitational lens distortions are much easier to see when the lensing galaxy is smaller and further away. Then, the background galaxy may even be distorted into a ring around the nearer. Fast gravitational lens flashes due to stars in the foreground galaxy momentarily magnifying the light from stars in the background galaxy might one day be visible in future observing campaigns with high-resolution telescopes.



Where are all of these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Gemini. That is why the major meteor shower in December is known as the Geminids -- because shower meteors all appear to come from a radiant toward Gemini. Three dimensionally, however, sand-sized debris expelled from the unusual asteroid 3200 Phaethon follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the constellation of Gemini. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Gemini. Featured here, a composite of many images taken during the 2020 Geminids meteor shower shows over 200 bright meteorss that streaked through the sky during the night December 14. The best meteor shower in November, the Leonids, peaks tonight and tomorrow. Unfortunately, this year, dim meteors during the early-morning peak will be hard to see against a sky lit by a bright gibbous moon. Still, a few bright Leonid meteors should be visible each hour.



What happening above that volcano? Something very unusual -- a volcanic light pillar. More typically, light pillars are caused by sunlight and so appear as a bright column that extends upward above a rising or setting Sun. Alternatively, other light pillars -- some quite colorful -- have been recorded above street and house lights. This light pillar, though, was illuminated by the red light emitted by the glowing magma of an erupting volcano. The volcano is Italy's Mount Etna, and the featured image was captured with a single shot a few hours after sunset in mid-June. Freezing temperatures above the volcano's ash cloud created ice-crystals either in cirrus clouds high above the volcano -- or in condensed water vapor expelled by Mount Etna. These ice crystals -- mostly flat toward the ground but fluttering -- then reflected away light from the volcano's caldera.

Explore Your Universe: Random APOD Generator


What is that light in the sky? Perhaps one of humanity's more common questions, an answer may result from a few quick observations. For example -- is it moving or blinking? If so, and if you live near a city, the answer is typically an airplane, since planes are so numerous and so few stars and satellites are bright enough to be seen over the din of artificial city lights. If not, and if you live far from a city, that bright light is likely a planet such as Venus or Mars -- the former of which is constrained to appear near the horizon just before dawn or after dusk. Sometimes the low apparent motion of a distant airplane near the horizon makes it hard to tell from a bright planet, but even this can usually be discerned by the plane's motion over a few minutes. Still unsure? The featured chart gives a sometimes-humorous but mostly-accurate assessment. Dedicated sky enthusiasts will likely note -- and are encouraged to provide -- polite corrections.

Chart translations: Spanish, Italian, Polish, Kannada, Latvian, Norwegian, and Turkish