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.

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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.



A mere 280 light-years from Earth, tidally locked, Jupiter-sized exoplanet WASP-43b orbits its parent star once every 0.8 Earth days. That puts it about 2 million kilometers (less than 1/25th the orbital distance of Mercury) from a small, cool sun. Still, on a dayside always facing its parent star, temperatures approach a torrid 2,500 degrees F as measured at infrared wavelengths by the MIRI instrument on board the James Webb Space Telescope. In this illustration of the hot exoplanet's orbit, Webb measurements also show nightside temperatures remain above 1,000 degrees F. That suggests that strong equatorial winds circulate the dayside atmospheric gases to the nightside before they can completely cool off. Exoplanet WASP-43b is now formally known as Astrolábos, and its K-type parent star has been christened Gnomon. Webb's infrared spectra indicate water vapor is present on the nightside as well as the dayside of the planet, providing information about cloud cover on Astrolábos.



If the Sun is up but the sky is dark and the horizon is bright all around, you might be standing in the Moon's shadow during a total eclipse of the Sun. In fact, the all-sky Moon shadow shown in this composited panoramic view was captured from a farm near Shirley, Arkansas, planet Earth. The exposures were made under clear skies during the April 8 total solar eclipse. For that location near the center line of the Moon's shadow track, totality lasted over 4 minutes. Along with the solar corona surrounding the silhouette of the Moon planets and stars were visible during the total eclipse phase. Easiest to see here are bright planets Venus and Jupiter, to the lower right and upper left of the eclipsed Sun.



In northern hemisphere spring, bright star Regulus is easy to spot above the eastern horizon. The alpha star of the constellation Leo, Regulus is the spiky star centered in this telescopic field of view. A mere 79 light-years distant, Regulus is a hot, rapidly spinning star that is known to be part of a multiple star system. Not quite lost in the glare, the fuzzy patch just below Regulus is diffuse starlight from small galaxy Leo I. Leo I is a dwarf spheroidal galaxy, a member of the Local Group of galaxies dominated by our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). About 800 thousand light-years away, Leo I is thought to be the most distant of the known small satellite galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. But dwarf galaxy Leo I has shown evidence of a supermassive black hole at its center, comparable in mass to the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.



Located some 3 million light-years away in the arms of nearby spiral galaxy M33, giant stellar nursery NGC 604 is about 1,300 light-years across. That's nearly 100 times the size of the Milky Way's Orion Nebula, the closest large star forming region to planet Earth. In fact, among the star forming regions within the Local Group of galaxies, NGC 604 is second in size only to 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Cavernous bubbles and cavities in NGC 604 fill this stunning infrared image from the James Webb Space Telescope's NIRCam. They are carved out by energetic stellar winds from the region's more than 200 hot, massive, young stars, all still in early stages of their lives.



When the dark shadow of the Moon raced across North America on April 8, sky watchers along the shadow's narrow central path were treated to a total solar eclipse. During the New Moon's shadow play diamonds glistened twice in the eclipse-darkened skies. The transient celestial jewels appeared immediately before and after the total eclipse phase. That's when the rays of a vanishing and then emerging sliver of solar disk are just visible behind the silhouetted Moon's edge, creating the appearance of a shiny diamond set in a dark ring. This dramatic timelapse composite from north-central Arkansas captures both diamond ring moments of this total solar eclipse. The diamond rings are separated by the ethereal beauty of the solar corona visible during totality.



From our vantage point in the Milky Way Galaxy, we see NGC 1232 face-on. Nearly 200,000 light-years across, the big, beautiful spiral galaxy is located some 47 million light-years away in the flowing southern constellation of Eridanus. This sharp, multi-color, telescopic image of NGC 1232 includes remarkable details of the distant island universe. From the core outward, the galaxy's colors change from the yellowish light of old stars in the center to young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions along the grand, sweeping spiral arms. NGC 1232's apparent, small, barred-spiral companion galaxy is cataloged as NGC 1232A. Distance estimates place it much farther though, around 300 million light-years away, and unlikely to be interacting with NGC 1232. Of course, the prominent bright star with the spiky appearance is much closer than NGC 1232 and lies well within our own Milky Way.



Only those along the narrow track of the Moon's shadow on April 8 saw a total solar eclipse. But most of North America still saw a partial eclipse of the Sun. From Clearwater, Florida, USA this single snapshot captured multiple images of that more widely viewed celestial event without observing the Sun directly. In the shade of a palm tree, criss-crossing fronds are projecting recognizable eclipse images on the ground, pinhole camera style. In Clearwater the maximum eclipse phase was about 53 percent.

Solar Eclipse Imagery: Notable Submissions to APOD


Baily's beads often appear at the boundaries of the total phase of an eclipse of the Sun. Pearls of sunlight still beaming through gaps in the rugged terrain along the lunar limb silhouette, their appearance is recorded in this dramatic timelapse composite. The series of images follows the Moon's edge from beginning through the end of totality during April 8's solar eclipse from Durango, Mexico. They also capture pinkish prominences of plasma arcing high above the edge of the active Sun. One of the first places in North America visited by the Moon's shadow on April 8, totality in Durango lasted about 3 minutes and 46 seconds.

Solar Eclipse Imagery: Notable Submissions to APOD


Start at the upper left above and you can follow the progress of April 8's total eclipse of the Sun in seven sharp, separate exposures. The image sequence was recorded with a telescope and camera located within the narrow path of totality as the Moon's shadow swept across Newport, Vermont, USA. At center is a spectacular view of the solar corona. The tenuous outer atmosphere of the Sun is only easily visible to the eye in clear dark skies during the total eclipse phase. Seen from Newport, the total phase for this solar eclipse lasted about 3 minutes and 26 seconds.

Monday's Eclipse Imagery: Notable Submissions to APOD


Changes in the alluring solar corona are detailed in this creative composite image mapping the dynamic outer atmosphere of the Sun during two separate total solar eclipses. Unwrapped from the complete circle of the eclipsed Sun's edge to a rectangle and mirrored, the entire solar corona is shown during the 2017 eclipse (bottom) seen from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the 2023 eclipse from Exmouth, Western Australia. While the 2017 eclipse was near a minimum in the Sun's 11 year activity cycle, the 2023 eclipse was closer to solar maximum. The 2023 solar corona hints at the dramatically different character of the active Sun, with many streamers and pinkish prominences arising along the solar limb. Of course, the solar corona is only easily visible to the eye while standing in the shadow of the Moon.

NASA Coverage: Total Solar Eclipse of 2024 April 8


In dark evening skies over June Lake, northern hemisphere, planet Earth, Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks stood just above the western horizon on March 30. Its twisted turbulent ion tail and diffuse greenish coma are captured in this two degree wide telescopic field of view along with bright yellowish star Hamal also known as Alpha Arietis. Now Pons-Brooks has moved out of the northern night though, approaching perihelion on April 21. On April 8 you might still spot the comet in daytime skies. But to do it, you will have to stand in the path of totality and look away from the spectacle of an alluring solar corona and totally eclipsed Sun.

NASA Coverage: Total Solar Eclipse of 2024 April 8


Discovered by accident, this manuscript page provides graphical insight to astronomy in medieval times, before the Renaissance and the influence of Nicolaus Copernicus, Tycho de Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo. The intriguing page is from lecture notes on astronomy compiled by the monk Magister Wolfgang de Styria before the year 1490. The top panels clearly illustrate the necessary geometry for a lunar (left) and solar eclipse in the Earth-centered Ptolemaic system. At lower left is a diagram of the Ptolemaic view of the Solar System with text at the upper right to explain the movement of the planets according to Ptolemy's geocentric model. At the lower right is a chart to calculate the date of Easter Sunday in the Julian calendar. The illustrated manuscript page was found at historic Melk Abbey in Austria.



A tiny moon with a scary name, Phobos emerges from behind the Red Planet in this timelapse sequence from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Over 22 minutes the 13 separate exposures were captured near the 2016 closest approach of Mars to planet Earth. Martians have to look to the west to watch Phobos rise, though. The small moon is closer to its parent planet than any other moon in the Solar System, about 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the Martian surface. It completes one orbit in just 7 hours and 39 minutes. That's faster than a Mars rotation, which corresponds to about 24 hours and 40 minutes. So on Mars, Phobos can be seen to rise above the western horizon 3 times a day. Still, Phobos is doomed.



The southern winter Milky Way sprawls across this night skyscape. Looking due south, the webcam view was recorded near local midnight on March 11 in dry, dark skies over the central Chilean Atacama desert. Seen below the graceful arc of diffuse starlight are satellite galaxies of the mighty Milky Way, also known as the Large and Small Magellanic clouds. In the foreground is the site of the European Southern Observatory's 40-metre-class Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). Under construction at the 3000 metre summit of Cerro Armazones, the ELT is on track to become planet Earth's biggest Eye on the Sky.



What phase of the Moon is 3.14 radians from the Sun? The Full Moon, of course. Even though the Moon might look full for several days, the Moon is truly at its full phase when it is Pi radians (aka 180 degrees) from the Sun in ecliptic longitude. That's opposite the Sun in planet Earth's sky. Rising as the Sun set on March 9, 2020, only an hour or so after the moment of its full phase, this orange tinted and slightly flattened Moon still looked full. It was photographed opposite the setting Sun from Teide National Park on the Canary Island of Tenerife. Also opposite the setting Sun, seen from near the Teide volcano peak about 3,500 meters above sea level, is the mountain's rising triangular shadow extending into Earth's dense atmosphere. Below the distant ridge line on the left are the white telescope domes of Teide Observatory. Again Pi radians from the Sun, on March 25 the Full Moon will dim slightly as it glides through Earth's outer shadow in a penumbral lunar eclipse.



As spring approaches for northern skygazers, Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks is growing brighter. Currently visible with small telescopes and binoculars, the Halley-type comet could reach naked eye visibility in the coming weeks. Seen despite a foggy atmosphere, the comet's green coma and long tail hover near the horizon in this well-composed deep night skyscape from Revuca, Slovakia recorded on March 5. In the sky above the comet, the Andromeda (right) and Triangulum galaxies flank bright star Mirach, beta star of the constellation Andromeda. The two spiral galaxies are members of our local galaxy group and over 2.5 million light-years distant. Comet Pons-Brooks is a periodic visitor to the inner Solar System and less than 14 light-minutes away. Reaching its perihelion on April 21, this comet should be visible in the sky during the April 8 total solar eclipse.