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.



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