Astronomy

light of cygnus a is incredible
Via NASA
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Via NASA:

Celebrating astronomy in this International Year of Light, the detailed image reveals spectacular active galaxy Cygnus A in light across the electromagnetic spectrum. Incorporating X-ray data ( blue) from the orbiting Chandra Observatory, Cygnus A is seen to be a prodigious source of high energy x-rays. But it is actually more famous at the low energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum. One of the brightest celestial sources visible to radio telescopes, at 600 million light-years distant Cygnus A is the closest powerful radio galaxy. Radio emission ( red) extends to either side along the same axis for nearly 300,000 light-years powered by jets of relativistic particles emanating from the galaxy's central supermassive black hole. Hot spots likely mark the ends of the jets impacting surrounding cool, dense material. Confined to yellow hues, optical wavelength data of the galaxy from Hubble and the surrounding field in the Digital Sky Survey complete a remarkable multiwavelength view.
atlas v rocket launches into the night sky past Sirus
Via NASA
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Via NASA:

Blasting skyward an Atlas V rocket carrying a U.S. Navy satellite pierces a cloud bank in this starry night scene captured on January 20. On its way to orbit from Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, planet Earth, the rocket streaks past brightest star Sirius, as seen from a dark beach at Canaveral National Seashore. Above the alpha star of Canis Major, Orion the Hunter strikes a pose familiar to northern winter skygazers. Above Orion is the V-shaped Hyades star cluster, head of Taurus the Bull, and farther still above Taurus it's easy to spot the compact Pleiades star cluster. Of course near the top of the frame you'll find the greenish coma and long tail of Comet Lovejoy, astronomical darling of these January nights.
comet lovejoy has a complex tail
Via NASA
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Via NASA:

What causes the structure in Comet Lovejoy's tail? Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), which is currently at naked-eye brightness and near its brightest, has been showing an exquisitely detailed ion tail. As the name implies, the ion tail is made of ionized gas -- gas energized by ultraviolet light from the Sun and pushed outward by the solar wind. The solar wind is quite structured and sculpted by the Sun's complex and ever changing magnetic field. The effect of the variable solar wind combined with different gas jets venting from the comet's nucleus accounts for the tail's complex structure. Following the wind, structure in Comet Lovejoy's tail can be seen to move outward from the Sun even alter its wavy appearance over time. The blue color of the ion tail is dominated by recombining carbon monoxide molecules, while the green color of the coma surrounding the head of the comet is created mostly by a slight amount of recombiningdiatomic carbon molecules.
view of the witch head nebula
Via NASA
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Via NASA:

By starlight this eerie visage shines in the dark, a crooked profile evoking its popular name, the Witch Head Nebula. In fact, this entrancing telescopic portrait gives the impression the witch has fixed her gaze on Orion's bright supergiant star Rigel. Spanning over 50 light-years, the dusty cosmic cloud strongly reflects nearby Rigel's blue light, giving it the characteristic color of a reflection nebula.
Two More Planets May Exist Out Past Pluto in Our Solar System
Via NBC
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Via NBC:

"Planet X" might actually exist — and so might "Planet Y."

At least two planets larger than Earth likely lurk in the dark depths of space far beyond Pluto, just waiting to be discovered, a new analysis of the orbits of "extreme trans-Neptunian objects" (ETNOs) suggests.

Researchers studied 13 ETNOs — frigid bodies such as the dwarf planet Sedna that cruise around the sun at great distances in elliptical paths.

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This conversation will hurt your brain.

QVC is not typically the go-to place for spirited discussions about the mysteries and marvels of space, but this week host Shawn Killinger and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi turned it into one.

Killinger was presenting a "Cherry Blossom Print Boyfriend Cardigan" design by Mizrahi which she thinks looks like the Earth "when you're a bazillion miles away from the planet moon."

And from this point forward we realize our education system has failed us, at least in the science department.

"From the planet moon…" repeats Mizrahi.

"Isn't the moon a star?" she asks, questioning herself.

"No the moon is a planet darling," he says, but Killinger isn't so sure anymore.

"The sun is a star. Is the moon really a planet?" She wonders.

It goes on like this for while. They get people to Google it for them off camera, and Killinger makes a joke about having a blonde moment.

Maybe QVC can book Neil deGrasse Tyson next week to set everyone straight, and while he's at it, pitch his own line of celestial vests and ties.

comet lovejoy screams across the sky
Via Pri.org
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Via PRI:

Comet Lovejoy, a bright celestial ball of dust and ice probably born in the Oort Cloud, is currently traveling across the skies of the Northern Hemisphere. While photographer Gerald Rhemann snagged a shot of Lovejoy on December 22 (from the Southern Hemisphere), casual observers in the top half of the world might be able to enjoy the show into February.

"Comets this bright [appear only] every few years, on average," says Matthew Knight, a research scientist who studies comets at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Indeed, some viewers with keen sight might be able to spy it with the naked eye from a location far from urban lights— think the Arizona desert or Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
venus and mercury at sunset
Via NASA
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Via NASA:

Inner planets Venus and Mercury can never wander far from the Sun in Earth's sky. This week you've probably seen them both gathered near the western horizon just after sunset, a close conjunction of bright celestial beacons in the fading twilight. The pair are framed in this early evening skyview captured on January 13 from the ruins of Szarvasko Castle in northwestern Hungary.