It looks like a big space diamond -- but with craters. It's 162173 Ryugu (Dragon's Castle), and Japan's robotic Hayabusa2 mission is now arriving at this near-Earth asteroid. Ambitious Hayabusa2 is carrying an armada of separable probes, including two impactors, four small close-proximity hoverers, three small surface hoppers, and the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) which will land, study, and move around on Ryugu's surface. Most of these are equipped with cameras. Moreover, Hayabusa2 itself is scheduled to collect surface samples and return these samples to Earth for a detailed analysis near the end of 2020. Previously, what was known about asteroid Ryugu was its orbit, that it spans about one kilometer, and that it has a dark surface that reflects unusual colors. Studying Ryugu could tell humanity not only about Ryugu's surface and interior, but about what materials were available in the early Solar System for the development of life. Pictured, a series of approach images shows features suggestive of large boulders and craters.

Palacio Hasht Behesht, Isfahán, Irán, 2016-09-20, DD 75-77 HDR.jpg

Ceiling in one of the rooms of Hasht Behesht, Isfahan, Iran. The palace, built in 1669, and which name means "Eight Heavens" is the only one left today out of forty mansions that existed during the rule of Safavids.

Why would the shadow of a space shuttle launch plume point toward the Moon? In early 2001 during a launch of Atlantis, the Sun, Earth, Moon, and rocket were all properly aligned for this photogenic coincidence. First, for the space shuttle's plume to cast a long shadow, the time of day must be either near sunrise or sunset. Only then will the shadow be its longest and extend all the way to the horizon. Finally, during a Full Moon, the Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of the sky. Just after sunset, for example, the Sun is slightly below the horizon, and, in the other direction, the Moon is slightly above the horizon. Therefore, as Atlantis blasted off, just after sunset, its shadow projected away from the Sun toward the opposite horizon, where the Full Moon happened to be.

Wilder Kaiser, Tirol, Panorama, 160624, ako.jpg

Panorama of Kaisergebirge, Tyrol, Austria. View from south. In the foreground the town of Ellmau can be seen.

Winds on Mars can't actually blow spacecraft over. But in the low gravity, martian winds can loft fine dust particles in planet-wide storms, like the dust storm now raging on the Red Planet. From the martian surface on sol 2082 (June 15), this self-portrait from the Curiosity rover shows the effects of the dust storm, reducing sunlight and visibility at the rover's location in Gale crater. Made with the Mars Hand Lens Imager, its mechanical arm is edited out of the mosaicked images. Curiosity's recent drill site Duluth can be seen on the rock just in front of the rover on the left. The east-northeast Gale crater rim fading into the background is about 30 kilometers away. Curiosity is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator and is expected to be unaffected by the increase in dust at Gale crater. On the other side of Mars, the solar-powered Opportunity rover has ceased its operations due to the even more severe lack of sunlight at its location on the west rim of Endeavour crater.

Pfarrkirche Going, 160623, ako.jpg

Interior of the roman-catholic parish church in Going am Wilden Kaiser (Tyrol, Austria).


This image captures swirling cloud belts and tumultuous vortices within Jupiter’s northern hemisphere.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft took this color-enhanced image at 10:23 p.m. PDT on May 23, 2018 (1:23 a.m. EDT on May 24), as the spacecraft performed its 13th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time, Juno was about 9,600 miles (15,500 kilometers) from the planet's cloud tops, above a northern latitude of 56 degrees.

The region seen here is somewhat chaotic and turbulent, given the various swirling cloud formations. In general, the darker cloud material is deeper in Jupiter’s atmosphere, while bright cloud material is high. The bright clouds are most likely ammonia or ammonia and water, mixed with a sprinkling of unknown chemical ingredients.

A bright oval at bottom center stands out in the scene. This feature appears uniformly white in ground-based telescope observations. However, with JunoCam we can observe the fine-scale structure within this weather system, including additional structures within it. There is not significant motion apparent in the interior of this feature; like the Great Red Spot, its winds probably slows down greatly toward the center.

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager.

JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at      

More information about Juno is at: and 

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt /Seán Doran


A small crystal ball seems to hold a whole galaxy in this creative snapshot. Of course, the galaxy is our own Milky Way. Its luminous central bulge marked by rifts of interstellar dust spans thousands of light-years. On this long southern hemisphere night it filled dark Chilean skies over Paranal Observatory. The single exposure image did not require a Very Large Telescope, though. Experiments with a digital camera on a tripod and crystal ball perched on a handrail outside the Paranal Residencia produced the evocative, cosmic marble portrait of our home galaxy.

Kaliningrad 05-2017 img74 new stadium.jpg

Aerial photo of Kaliningrad Stadium during construction in May 2017. Kaliningrad, Russia.

Orbiting Solar Observatory launch

On June 21, 1975, NASA successfully launched the eighth Orbiting Solar Observatory aboard a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

This satellite, the final in a series of spacecraft specifically designed to look at the Sun in high-energy wavelength bands that scientists cannot see on Earth, gathered data on energy transfer in the Sun's hot, gaseous atmosphere and its 11-year sunspot cycle. Sunspots are cooler regions that appear as dark patches in the visible surface of the Sun and are more plentiful at 11-year intervals. Flares and other powerful solar events that sometimes wreak havoc with Earth's communications systems also are associated with heightened sunspot activity. In addition to looking at the Sun, the satellite investigated celestial sources of X-rays in the Milky Way and beyond.

Our newest mission to observe our Sun, the Parker Solar Probe, is slated to launch later this year.

Image Credit: NASA


Skies after the near-solstice sunset on June 17 are reflected in this calm lake. The tranquil twilight scene was captured near Bashaw, Alberta, Canada, northern planet Earth. Usually spotted at high latitudes in summer months, night shining or noctilucent clouds hang just above the horizon, transfusing light into a darker sky. Near the edge of space, the icy apparitions are condensations on meteoric dust or volcanic ash still in sunlight at extreme altitudes. Also near the edge of space on this short northern night, solar activity triggered the lovely apparition of aurora borealis or northern lights.

Solstice Today: 10:07 UTC

Bare-faced curassow (Crax fasciolata) female head.JPG

Bare-faced curassow Crax fasciolata, to celebrate Ladies Day (Gold Cup Day) at Royal Ascot

Sand Dunes on Mars

Sand dunes often accumulate in the floors of craters. In this region of Lyot Crater, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows a field of classic barchan dunes on Jan. 24, 2018.

Just to the south of the group of barchan dunes is one large dune with a more complex structure. This particular dune, appearing like turquoise blue in enhanced color, is made of finer material and/or has a different composition than the surrounding.

The map is projected above at a scale of 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) per pixel. [The original image scale is 34.7 centimeters (13.7 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning); objects on the order of 104 centimeters (40.9 inches) across are resolved.] North is up.

This is a stereo pair with ESP_053406_2295.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizon

Image download options


Newborn stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula. Gravitationally contracting in pillars of dense gas and dust, the intense radiation of these newly-formed bright stars is causing surrounding material to boil away. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in near infrared light, allows the viewer to see through much of the thick dust that makes the pillars opaque in visible light. The giant structures are light years in length and dubbed informally the Pillars of Creation. Associated with the open star cluster M16, the Eagle Nebula lies about 6,500 light years away. The Eagle Nebula is an easy target for small telescopes in a nebula-rich part of the sky toward the split constellation Serpens Cauda (the tail of the snake).

APOD Event: APOD Editor to speak at Fermilab on August 8

No.2 'Dolgoch'.jpg

Steam locomotive No.2 Dolgoch at Nant Gwernol railway station, Talyllyn Railway, Wales

The Moon begins to rise behind the ARADS rover in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The Milky Way is visible in the night sky.

The Moon begins to rise behind the ARADS rover during the 2017 season of field tests in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The Milky Way is visible in the night sky.


The Atacama Rover and Astrobiology Drilling Studies, or ARADS, project is designing tools and techniques that could be used to search for life one day on Mars or other places in the Solar System. The team’s prototype rover combines the ability to move across the surface, drill down to collect soil samples, and feed them to several life-detection instruments on board. The extreme conditions of Chile’s Atacama Desert provide one of the most Mars-like environments on Earth, where the team can test and refine these technologies and methods.


ARADS is led by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Partners include NASA centers Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, as well as Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, Honeybee Robotics in New York, the University of Antofagasta and CampoAlto SpA, both in Chile, and Spain’s Center for Astrobiology.

Credit: NASA/CampoAlto/Victor Robles


They may look like round rocks, but they're alive. Moreover, they are modern versions of one of the oldest known forms of life: stromatolites. Fossils indicate that stromatolites appeared on Earth about 3.7 billion years ago -- even before many of the familiar stars in the modern night sky were formed. In the featured image taken in Western Australia, only the ancient central arch of our Milky Way Galaxy formed earlier. Even the Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies of our Milky Way and visible in the featured image below the Milky Way's arch, didn't exist in their current form when stromatolites first grew on Earth. Stromatolites are accreting biofilms of billions of microorganisms that can slowly move toward light. Using this light to liberate oxygen into the air, ancient stromatolites helped make Earth hospitable to other life forms including, eventually, humans.

Almost Hyperspace: Random APOD Generator

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia, 2016-02-02, DD 71-73 PAN.JPG

Panoramic view of the Laguna Colorada, located in the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, Bolivia. The shallow salt lake has a surface of 60 km2 (23 sq mi) and is located at 4,278 m (14,035 ft) over the sea level. The red color is caused by red sediments and pigmentation of some algae.

Ricky Arnold

"Space was our office yesterday. #EVA51," said International Space Station astronaut Ricky Arnold on Friday, the day after his latest spacewalk during which he upgraded cameras on the orbital platform.

Arnold and Station Commander Drew Feustel completed the sixth spacewalk at the station this year, which lasted lasting 6 hours, 49 minutes. The two astronauts installed new high-definition cameras that will provide enhanced views during the final phase of approach and docking of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner commercial crew spacecraft that will soon begin launching from American soil.

They also swapped a camera assembly on the starboard truss of the station, closed an aperture door on an external environmental imaging experiment outside the Japanese Kibo module, and completed two additional tasks to relocate a grapple bar to aid future spacewalkers and secured some gear associated with a spare cooling unit housed on the station’s truss.

Image Credit: NASA

2016 Yamaha XV1600 Wild Star.jpg

Hand made model of motorcycle Yamaha XV1600 «Wild Star», scale 1:12

What's happened to Mars? In 2001, Mars underwent a tremendous planet-wide dust storm -- one of the largest ever recorded from Earth. To show the extent, these two Hubble Space Telescope storm watch images from late June and early September (2001) offer dramatically contrasting views of the martian surface. At left, the onset of smaller "seed" storms can be seen near the Hellas basin (lower right edge of Mars) and the northern polar cap. A similar surface view at right, taken over two months later, shows the fully developed extent of the obscuring global storm. Although this storm eventually waned, in recent days a new large dust storm has been taking hold of the red planet.