The Blue Horsehead Nebula in Infrared


The Blue Horsehead Nebula looks quite different in infrared light. In visible light, the reflecting dust of the nebula appears blue and shaped like a horse's head. In infrared light, however, a complex labyrinth of filaments, caverns, and cocoons of glowing dust and gas emerges, making it hard to even identify the equine icon. The featured image of the nebula was created in three infrared colors (R=22, G=12, B=4.6 microns) from data taken by NASA's orbiting Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. The nebula is cataloged as IC 4592 and spans about 40 light years, lying about 400 light years away toward the constellation Scorpius along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. IC 4592 is fainter but covers an angularly greater region than the better known Horsehead Nebula of Orion. The star that predominantly illuminates and heats the dust is Nu Scorpii, visible as the yellow star left of center.

Meteor Over Crater Lake


Did you see it? One of the more common questions during a meteor shower occurs because the time it takes for a meteor to flash is typically less than the time it takes for a head to turn. Possibly, though, the glory of seeing bright meteors shoot across and knowing that they were once small granules on another world might make it all worthwhile, even if your observing partner(s) could not share in every particular experience. Peaking late tonight, a dark sky should enable the Lyrids meteor shower to exhibit as many as 20 visible meteors per hour from some locations. In the featured composite of nine exposures taken during the 2012 shower, a bright Lyrid meteor streaks above picturesque Crater Lake in Oregon, USA. Snow covers the foreground, while the majestic central band of our home galaxy arches well behind the serene lake. Other meteor showers this year -- and every year -- include the Perseids in mid-August and the Leonids in mid-November.

TESS Launch Close Up


NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) began its search for planets orbiting other stars by leaving planet Earth on April 18. The exoplanet hunter rode to orbit on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 is so designated for its 9 Merlin first stage engines seen in this sound-activated camera close-up from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In the coming weeks, TESS will use a series of thruster burns to boost it into a high-Earth, highly elliptical orbit. A lunar gravity assist maneuver will allow it to reach a previously untried stable orbit with half the orbital period of the Moon and a maximum distance from Earth of about 373,000 kilometers (232,000 miles). From there, TESS will carry out a two year survey to search for planets around the brightest and closest stars in the sky.

NGC 7635: The Bubble Nebula


Blown by the wind from a massive star, this interstellar apparition has a surprisingly familiar shape. Cataloged as NGC 7635, it is also known simply as The Bubble Nebula. Although it looks delicate, the 7 light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Above and left of the Bubble's center is a hot, O-type star, several hundred thousand times more luminous and some 45 times more massive than the Sun. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud. The intriguing Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex lie a mere 7,100 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia. This sharp, tantalizing view of the cosmic bubble is a composite of Hubble Space Telescope image data from 2016, reprocessed to present the nebula's intense narrowband emission in an approximate true color scheme.

Milky Way over Deadvlei in Namibia


What planet is this? It is the only planet currently known to have trees. The trees in Deadvlei, though, have been dead for over 500 years. Located in Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia (Earth), saplings grew after rainfall caused a local river to overflow, but died after sand dunes shifted to section off the river. High above and far in the distance, the band of our Milky Way Galaxy forms an arch over a large stalk in this well-timed composite image, taken last month. The soil of white clay appears to glow by reflected starlight. Rising on the left, under the Milky Way's arch, is a band of zodiacal light -- sunlight reflected by dust orbiting in the inner Solar System. On the right, just above one of Earth's larger sand dunes, an astute eye can find the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our galaxy. Finding the Small Magellanic Cloud in the featured image, though, is perhaps too hard.

The Blue Horsehead Nebula in Infrared

The Blue Horsehead Nebula looks quite different in infrared light. In visible light, the reflecting dust of the nebula appears blue and sha...