Globular star cluster Omega Centauri packs about 10 million stars much older than the Sun into a volume some 150 light-years in diameter. Also known as NGC 5139, at a distance of 15,000 light-years it's the largest and brightest of 200 or so known globular clusters that roam the halo of our Milky Way galaxy. Though most star clusters consist of stars with the same age and composition, the enigmatic Omega Cen exhibits the presence of different stellar populations with a spread of ages and chemical abundances. In fact, Omega Cen may be the remnant core of a small galaxy merging with the Milky Way. With a yellowish hue, Omega Centauri's red giant stars are easy to pick out in this sharp telescopic view. A two-decade-long exploration of the dense star cluster with the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed evidence for a massive black hole near the center of Omega Centauri.



Found among the rich starfields of the Milky Way, star cluster NGC 7789 lies about 8,000 light-years away toward the constellation Cassiopeia. A late 18th century deep sky discovery of astronomer Caroline Lucretia Herschel, the cluster is also known as Caroline's Rose. Its visual appearance in small telescopes, created by the cluster's complex of stars and voids, is suggestive of nested rose petals. Now estimated to be 1.6 billion years young, the galactic or open cluster of stars also shows its age. All the stars in the cluster were likely born at the same time, but the brighter and more massive ones have more rapidly exhausted the hydrogen fuel in their cores. These have evolved from main sequence stars like the Sun into the many red giant stars shown with a yellowish cast in this color composite. Using measured color and brightness, astronomers can model the mass and hence the age of the cluster stars just starting to "turn off" the main sequence and become red giants. Over 50 light-years across, Caroline's Rose spans about half a degree (the angular size of the Moon) near the center of the sharp telescopic image.



A glow from the summit of Mount Etna, famous active stratovolcano of planet Earth, stands out along the horizon in this mountain and night skyscape. Bands of diffuse light from congeries of innumerable stars along the Milky Way galaxy stretch across the sky above. In silhouette, the Milky Way's massive dust clouds are clumped along the galactic plane. But also familiar to northern skygazers are bright stars Deneb, Vega, and Altair, the Summer Triangle straddling dark nebulae and luminous star clouds poised over the volcanic peak. The deep combined exposures also reveal the light of active star forming regions along the Milky Way, echoing Etna's ruddy hue in the northern hemisphere summer's night.



Big, bright, and beautiful, spiral galaxy M83 lies a mere twelve million light-years away, near the southeastern tip of the very long constellation Hydra. About 40,000 light-years across, M83 is known as the Southern Pinwheel for its pronounced spiral arms. But the wealth of reddish star forming regions found near the edges of the arms' thick dust lanes, also suggest another popular moniker for M83, the Thousand-Ruby Galaxy. This new deep telescopic digital image also records the bright galaxy's faint, extended halo. Arcing toward the bottom of the cosmic frame lies a stellar tidal stream, debris drawn from massive M83 by the gravitational disruption of a smaller, merging satellite galaxy. Astronomers David Malin and Brian Hadley found the elusive star stream in the mid 1990s by enhancing photographic plates.



Not a paradox, Comet 13P/Olbers is returning to the inner Solar System after 68 years. The periodic, Halley-type comet will reach its next perihelion or closest approach to the Sun on June 30 and has become a target for binocular viewing low in planet Earth's northern hemisphere night skies. But this sharp telescopic image of 13P is composed of stacked exposures made on the night of June 25. It easily reveals shifting details in the bright comet's torn and tattered ion tail buffeted by the wind from an active Sun, along with a broad, fanned-out dust tail and slightly greenish coma. The frame spans over two degrees across a background of faint stars toward the constellation Lynx.



Rising opposite the setting Sun, June's Full Moon occurred within about 28 hours of the solstice. The Moon stays close to the Sun's path along the ecliptic plane and so while the solstice Sun climbed high in daytime skies, June's Full Moon remained low that night as seen from northern latitudes. In fact, the Full Moon hugs the horizon in this June 21 rooftop night sky view from Bursa, Turkey, constructed from exposures made every 10 minutes between moonrise and moonset. In 2024 the Moon also reached a major lunar standstill, an extreme in the monthly north-south range of moonrise and moonset caused by the precession of the Moon's orbit over an 18.6 year cycle. As a result, this June solstice Full Moon was at its southernmost moonrise and moonset along the horizon.



Not a paradox, Comet 13P/Olbers is returning to the inner Solar System after 68 years. The periodic, Halley-type comet will reach its next perihelion or closest approach to the Sun on June 30 and has become a target for binocular viewing low in planet Earth's northern hemisphere night skies. But this sharp telescopic image of 13P is composed of stacked exposures made on the night of June 25. It easily reveals shifting details in the bright comet's torn and tattered ion tail buffeted by the wind from an active Sun, along with a broad, fanned-out dust tail and slightly greenish coma. The frame spans over two degrees across a background of faint stars toward the constellation Lynx.



Jets of material blasting from newborn stars, are captured in this James Webb Space Telescope close-up of the Serpens Nebula. The powerful protostellar outflows are bipolar, twin jets spewing in opposite directions. Their directions are perpendicular to accretion disks formed around the spinning, collapsing stellar infants. In the NIRcam image, the reddish color represents emission from molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide produced as the jets collide with the surrounding gas and dust. The sharp image shows for the first time that individual outflows detected in the Serpens Nebula are generally aligned along the same direction. That result was expected, but has only now come into clear view with Webb's detailed exploration of the active young star-forming region. Brighter foreground stars exhibit Webb's characteristic diffraction spikes. At the Serpens Nebula's estimated distance of 1,300 light-years, this cosmic close-up frame is about 1 light-year across.



Returning to science operations on June 14, the Hubble Space Telescope used its new pointing mode to capture this sharp image of spiral galaxy NGC 1546. A member of the Dorado galaxy group, the island universe lies a mere 50 million light-years away. The galactic disk of NGC 1546 is tilted to our line-of-sight, with the yellowish light of the old stars and bluish regions of newly formed stars shining through the galaxy's dust lanes. More distant background galaxies are scattered throughout this Hubble view. Launched in 1990, Hubble has been exploring the cosmos for more than three decades, recently celebrating its 34th anniversary.



Returning to science operations on June 14, the Hubble Space Telescope used its new pointing mode to capture this sharp image of spiral galaxy NGC 1546. A member of the Dorado galaxy group, the island universe lies a mere 50 million light-years away. The galactic disk of NGC 1546 is tilted to our line-of-sight, with the yellowish light of the old stars and bluish regions of newly formed stars shining through the galaxy's dust lanes. More distant background galaxies are scattered throughout this Hubble view. Launched in 1990, Hubble has been exploring the cosmos for more than three decades, recently celebrating its 34th anniversary.



Last April's Full Moon shines through high clouds near the horizon, casting shadows in this garden-at-night skyscape. Along with canine sentinel Sandy watching the garden gate, the wide-angle snapshot also captured the bright Moon's 22 degree ice halo. But June's bright Full Moon will cast shadows too. This month, the Moon's exact full phase occurs at 01:08 UTC June 22. That's a mere 28 hours or so after today's June solstice (at 20:51 UTC June 20), the moment when the Sun reaches its maximum northern declination. Known to some as a Strawberry Moon, June's Full Moon is at its southernmost declination, and of course will create its own 22 degree halos in hazy night skies.



This colorized and sharpened image of the Sun is composed of frames recording emission from hydrogen atoms in the solar chromosphere on May 15. Approaching the maximum of solar cycle 25, a multitude of active regions and twisting, snake-like solar filaments are seen to sprawl across the surface of the active Sun. Suspend in the active regions' strong magnetic fields, the filaments of plasma lofted above the Sun's edge appear as bright solar prominences. The large prominences seen near 4 o'clock, and just before 9 o'clock around the solar limb are post flare loops from two powerful X-class solar flares that both occurred on that day. In fact, the 4 o'clock prominence is associated with the monster active region AR 3664 just rotating off the Sun's edge.



From the 1960 astronomical catalog of Rodgers, Campbell and Whiteoak, emission region RCW 85 shines in southern night skies between bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri. About 5,000 light years distant, the hazy interstellar cloud of glowing hydrogen gas and dust is faint. But detailed structures along well-defined rims within RCW 85 are traced in this cosmic skyscape composed of 28 hours of narrow and broadband exposures. Suggestive of dramatic shapes in other stellar nurseries where natal clouds of gas and dust are sculpted by energetic winds and radiation from newborn stars, the tantalizing nebula has been called the Devil's Tower. This telescopic frame would span around 100 light-years at the estimated distance of RCW 85.



Blown by fast winds from a hot, massive star, this cosmic bubble is huge. Cataloged as Sharpless 2-308 it lies some 5,000 light-years away toward the well-trained constellation Canis Major and covers slightly more of the sky than a Full Moon. That corresponds to a diameter of 60 light-years at its estimated distance. The massive star that created the bubble, a Wolf-Rayet star, is the bright one near the center of the nebula. Wolf-Rayet stars have over 20 times the mass of the Sun and are thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova phase of massive star evolution. Fast winds from this Wolf-Rayet star create the bubble-shaped nebula as they sweep up slower moving material from an earlier phase of evolution. The windblown nebula has an age of about 70,000 years. Relatively faint emission captured by narrowband filters in the deep image is dominated by the glow of ionized oxygen atoms mapped to a blue hue. Presenting a mostly harmless outline, SH2-308 is also known as The Dolphin-head Nebula.



Magnificent island universe NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Some 10 million light-years distant and about 50,000 light-years across, the spiral galaxy also seems to have more than its fair share of giant star forming HII regions, marked by the telltale reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas. The giant HII regions are energized by clusters of hot, massive stars that explode as bright supernovae at the end of their short and furious lives. A member of the M81 group of galaxies, NGC 2403 closely resembles a galaxy in our own local galaxy group with an abundance of star forming regions, M33, the Triangulum Galaxy. Spiky in appearance, bright stars in this portrait of NGC 2403 are in the foreground, within our own Milky Way. Also in the foreground of the deep, wide-field, telescopic image are the Milky Way's dim and dusty interstellar clouds also known as galactic cirrus or integrated flux nebulae. But faint features that seem to extend from NGC 2403 itself are likely tidal stellar streams drawn out by gravitational interactions with neighboring galaxies.



Made with narrowband filters, this cosmic snapshot covers a field of view over twice as wide as the full Moon within the boundaries of the constellation Cygnus. It highlights the bright edge of a ring-like nebula traced by the glow of ionized hydrogen and oxygen gas. Embedded in the region's expanse of interstellar clouds, the complex, glowing arcs are sections of shells of material swept up by the wind from Wolf-Rayet star WR 134, brightest star near the center of the frame. Distance estimates put WR 134 about 6,000 light-years away, making the frame over 100 light-years across. Shedding their outer envelopes in powerful stellar winds, massive Wolf-Rayet stars have burned through their nuclear fuel at a prodigious rate and end this final phase of massive star evolution in a spectacular supernova explosion. The stellar winds and final supernova enrich the interstellar material with heavy elements to be incorporated in future generations of stars.



Graceful star trail arcs reflect planet Earth's daily rotation in this colorful night skyscape. To create the timelapse composite, on May 12 consecutive exposures were recorded with a camera fixed to a tripod on the shores of the Ashokan Reservoir, in the Catskills region of New York, USA. North star Polaris is near the center of the star trail arcs. The broad trail of a waxing crescent Moon is on the left, casting a strong reflection across the reservoir waters. With intense solar activity driving recent geomagnetic storms, the colorful aurora borealis or northern lights, rare to the region, shine under Polaris and the north celestial pole.

AuroraSaurus: Report your aurora observations


This well-composed composite panoramic view looks due south from Banks Peninsula near Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island. The base of a tower-like rocky sea stack is awash in the foreground, with stars of the Southern Cross at the top of the frame and planet Earth's south celestial pole near center. Still, captured on May 11, vibrant aurora australis dominate the starry southern sea and skyscape. The shimmering southern lights were part of extensive auroral displays that entertained skywatchers in northern and southern hemispheres around planet Earth, caused by intense geomagnetic storms. The extreme spaceweather was triggered by the impact of coronal mass ejections launched from powerful solar active region AR 3664.

AuroraSaurus: Report your aurora observations


A familiar sight from Georgia, USA, the Moon sets near the western horizon in this rural night skyscape. Captured on May 10 before local midnight, the image overexposes the Moon's bright waning crescent at left in the frame. A long irrigation rig stretches across farmland about 15 miles north of the city of Bainbridge. Shimmering curtains of aurora shine across the starry sky though, definitely an unfamiliar sight for southern Georgia nights. Last weekend, extreme geomagnetic storms triggered by the recent intense activity from solar active region AR 3664 brought epic displays of aurora, usually seen closer to the poles, to southern Georgia and even lower latitudes on planet Earth. As solar activity ramps up, more storms are possible.

AuroraSaurus: Report your aurora observations


For the mostly harmless denizens of planet Earth, the brighter stars of open cluster NGC 2169 seem to form a cosmic 37. Did you expect 42? From our perspective, the improbable numerical asterism appears solely by chance. It lies at an estimated distance of 3,300 light-years toward the constellation Orion. As far as galactic or open star clusters go, NGC 2169 is a small one, spanning about 7 light-years. Formed at the same time from the same cloud of dust and gas, the stars of NGC 2169 are only about 11 million years old. Such clusters are expected to disperse over time as they encounter other stars, interstellar clouds, and experience gravitational tides while hitchhiking through the galaxy. Over four billion years ago, our own Sun was likely formed in a similar open cluster of stars.

Gallery: Earth Aurora from Solar Active Region 3664


Despite their resemblance to R2D2, these three are not the droids you're looking for. Instead, the enclosures house 1.8 meter Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) at Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert region of Chile. The ATs are designed to be used for interferometry, a technique for achieving extremely high resolution observations, in concert with the observatory's 8 meter Very Large Telescope units. A total of four ATs are operational, each fitted with a transporter that moves the telescope along a track allowing different arrays with the large unit telescopes. To work as an interferometer, the light from each telescope is brought to a common focal point by a system of mirrors in underground tunnels. Above these three ATs, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are the far, far away satellite galaxies of our own Milky Way. In the clear and otherwise dark southern skies, planet Earth's greenish atmospheric airglow stretches faintly along the horizon.