All the Colors of the Sun | Astronomy Picture of the Day, October 2, 2013 | Image Credit & Copyright: Nigel Sharp (NSF), FTS, NSO, KPNO, AURA, NSF
It is still not known why the Sun’s light is missing some colors. Shown above are all the visible colors of the Sun, produced by passing the Sun’s light through a prism-like device. The above spectrum was created at the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory and shows, first off, that although our white-appearing Sun emits light of nearly every color, it does indeed appear brightest in yellow-green light. The dark patches in the above spectrum arise from gas at or above the Sun’s surface absorbing sunlight emitted below. Since different types of gas absorb different colors of light, it is possible to determine what gasses compose the Sun. Helium, for example, was first discovered in 1870 on a solar spectrum and only later found here on Earth. Today, the majority of spectral absorption lines have been identified - but not all.
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Rotating Moon from LRO | APOD | Gif Made By: The Science of Reality | Video Credit: LRO, Arizona State U., NASA
No one, presently, sees the Moon rotate like this. That’s because the Earth’s moon is tidally locked to the Earth, showing us only one side. Given modern digital technology, however, combined with many detailed images returned by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a high resolution virtual Moon rotation movie has now been composed. The above time-lapse video starts with the standard Earth view of the Moon. Quickly, though, Mare Orientale, a large crater with a dark center that is difficult to see from the Earth, rotates into view just below the equator. From an entire lunar month condensed into 24 seconds, the video clearly shows that the Earth side of the Moon contains an abundance of dark lunar maria, while the lunar far side is dominated by bright lunar highlands. Two new missions are scheduled to begin exploring the Moon within the year, the first of which is NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). LADEE, which launched just over a week ago, is scheduled to begin orbiting the Moon in October and will explore the thin and unusual atmosphere of the Moon. In a few months, the Chinese Chang’e 3 is scheduled to launch, a mission that includes a soft lander that will dispatch a robotic rover.
LADEE Launch Streak | APOD | Image Credit & Copyright: Jeff Berkes
On September 6, a starry night and the Milky Way witnessed the launch of a Minotaur V rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. So did a large part of the eastern United States, as the spectacular night launch was easily visible even from light polluted urban areas. This 35 second exposure captures part of the rocket’s initial launch streak and 2nd stage ignition flare along with a brilliant reflection of the fiery sky in calm waters. The stunning view faces south and west from a vantage point overlooking Sinepuxent Bay in Maryland about 20 miles north of the launch pad. Heading east over the Atlantic, the multi-stage rocket placed LADEE, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, into a highly elliptical Earth orbit to begin its journey to the Moon.
Supergiant Star Gamma Cygni
Image Credit & Copyright: Jose Francisco Hernandez (Altamira Observatory)
“Supergiant star Gamma Cygni lies at the center of the Northern Cross, a famous asterism in the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). Known by the proper name Sadr, the bright star also lies at the center of this gorgeous skyscape, featuring a complex of stars, dust clouds, and glowing nebulae along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. The field of view spans over 3 degrees (six Full Moons) on the skyand includes emission nebula IC 1318 and open star cluster NGC 6910. Left of Gamma Cygni and shaped like two glowing cosmic wings divided by a long dark dust lane, IC 1318’s popular name is understandably the Butterfly Nebula. Above and slightly left of Gamma Cygni, are the young, still tightly grouped stars of NGC 6910. Some distance estimates for Gamma Cygni place it at around 750 light-years while estimates for IC 1318 and NGC 6910 range from 2,000 to 5,000 light-years.”
Earth’s Major Telescopes Investigate GRB 130427A
Illustration Credit: NASA, DOE, Fermi LAT Collaboration
“A tremendous explosion has occurred in the nearby universe and major telescopes across Earth and space are investigating. Dubbed GRB 130427A, the gamma-ray burst was first detected by the Earth-orbiting Fermi and Swift satellites observing at high energies and quickly reported down to Earth. Within three minutes, the half-meter ISON telescope in New Mexico found the blast in visible light, noted its extreme brightness, and relayed more exact coordinates. Within the next few minutes, the bright optical counterpart was being tracked by several quickly re-pointable telescopes including the 2.0-meter P60 telescope in California, the 1.3-meter PAIRITEL telescope in Arizona, and the 2.0-meterFaulkes Telescope North in Hawaii. Within two hours, the 8.2-meter Gemini North telescope in Hawaii noted a redshift of 0.34, placing the explosion about 5 billion light years away — considered nearby in cosmological terms. Previously recorded images from the RAPTOR full-sky monitors were scanned and a very bright optical counterpart — magnitude 7.4 — was found 50 seconds before the Swift trigger. The brightest burst in recent years, a signal from GRB 130427A has also been found in low energy radio waves by the Very Large Array (VLA) and at the highest energies ever recorded by the Fermi satellite. Neutrino, gravitational wave, and telescopes designed to detect only extremely high energy photons are checking their data for a GRB 130427A signal. Pictured in the above animation, the entire gamma-ray sky is shown becoming momentarily dominated by the intense glow of GRB 130427A. Continued tracking the optical counterpart will surely be ongoing as there is a possibility that the glow of a classic supernova will soon emerge.”
Humanity Explores the Solar System
Illustration Credit & License: Olaf Frohn (The Planetary Society)
“What spacecraft is humanity currently using to explore our Solar System? Presently, every inner planet has at least one robotic explorer, while several others are monitoring our Sun, some are mapping Earth’s Moon, a few are chasing asteroids and comets, one is orbiting Saturn, and several are even heading out into deep space. The above illustration gives more details, with the inner Solar System depicted on the upper right and the outer Solar System on the lower left. Given the present armada, our current epoch might become known as the time when humanity first probed its own star system. Sometimes widely separated spacecraft act together as an InterPlanetary Network to determine the direction of distant explosions by noting when each probe detects high energy photons. Future spacecraft milestones, as indicated along the bottom of the graphic, include Dawn reaching Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt, and New Horizons reaching Pluto, both in 2015.”
The Big Dipper
Image Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light)
“Do you see it? This common question frequently precedes the rediscovery of one of the most commonly recognized configurations of stars on the northern sky: the Big Dipper. This grouping of stars is one of the few things that has likely been seen, and will be seen, by every generation. The Big Dipper is not by itself a constellation. Although part of the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major), the Big Dipper is an asterism that has been known by different names to different societies. Five of the Big Dipper stars are actually near each other in space and were likely formed at nearly the same time. Connecting two stars in the far part of the Big Dipper will lead one to Polaris, the North Star, which is part of the Little Dipper. Relative stellar motions will cause the Big Dipper to slowly change its apparent configuration over the next 100,000 years.”
NGC 1788 and the Witch’s Whiskers
Image Credit & Copyright: John Davis
“This skyscape finds an esthetic balance of interstellar dust and gas residing in the suburbs of the nebula rich constellation of Orion. Reflecting the light of bright star Rigel, Beta Orionis, the jutting, bluish chin of the Witch Head Nebula is at the upper left. Whiskers tracing the red glow of hydrogen gas ionized by ultraviolet starlight seem to connect that infamous visage with smaller nebulae, like dusty reflection nebula NGC 1788 at the right. Strong winds from Orion’s bright stars have also shaped NGC 1788, and likely triggered the formation of the young stars within. Appropriate for its location, NGC 1788 looks to some like a cosmic bat. The scene spans about 3 degrees on the sky or 6 full Moons.”
A Horizon Rainbow in Paris
Image Credit & Copyright: Bertrand Kulik
“Why is this horizon so colorful? Because, opposite the Sun, it is raining. What is pictured above is actually just a common rainbow. It’s uncommon appearance is caused by the Sun being unusually high in the sky during the rainbow's creation. Since every rainbow's center must be exactly opposite the Sun, a high Sun reflecting off of a distant rain will produce a low rainbow where only the very top is visible — because the rest of the rainbow is below the horizon. Furthermore, no two observers can see exactly the same rainbow — every person finds themselves exactly between the Sun and rainbow’s center, and every observer sees the colorful circular band precisely 42 degrees from rainbow’s center. The above image featuring the Eiffel Tower was taken in Paris, France last week. Although the intermittent thunderstorms lasted for much of the day, thehorizon rainbow lasted for only a few minutes.”