What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter as if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent ?

Richard P. Feynman.

Cool past Astronomy Pictures of the Day from NASA

I regularly visit NASA's picture of the day; I've also trawled through the archive collecting links to nice pictures and classifying them in a manner of my chosing. What a remarkable universe we inhabit !

The distance light travels in a year is called a light year and its standard abbreviation is ly; applying standard SI quantifiers, we get k ly for a thousand light years, M ly for a million, G ly for a milliard of them and so on. One millionth of a light year, a µly, is 9.46 million kilometres (5.88 million miles). Light from the Sun takes 8.28 minutes (15.74 millionths of a year) to reach the Earth.

The headings of some nested portions of the following list provide links to searches in the archive. This page comes with two style-sheets: a plain one and one which folds away the parts you're not looking at – if your browser supports suitable style features, of course. The folding version (which takes some getting used to, but saves a lot of paging up and down; and provides a hierarchic approach to finding things) depends on hover, which might only work with a mouse; and only works if your browser considers all ancestors of any hovered element to be hovered (it is not clear to me whether the standards specify that).

COBE anisotropy Images of the whole sky, from one end of the spectrum to the other.
From inflation to WMAP
A pictorial history of time.
Aminated γ-Ray Sky simulation
γ-Ray Sky
Fermi's first light
Full sky in γ-rays, from a new space telescope launched 2008 June 11. Four days of observation, with plenty more to come.
Full sky showing γ-ray pulsars
Including 16 new pulsars, discovered by Fermi.
Fermi's first three months
Fermi's source catalog after 11 months
Milky Way γ-bubbles
After two years, Fermi had accumulated enough data to reveal a surprise.
Hot Gas Filaments
Chandra's X-ray view of normal matter as filaments throughout the universe.
X-Ray Sky
ROSAT Explores The X-Ray Sky
All-Sky Panorama
51 wide-angle photograph mosaic in visible light; and the same author's later update using digital images. Each is aligned so that the Milky Way runs along the centre.
2 micron sky
The 2MASS Galaxy Sky – the whole sky at two microns; also available with distance encoded by colour.
Non-random galaxies
Planck's microwave view
Background anisotropy
Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe data on the microwave background's variations. Includes an anomalous cold spot.
Cosmic Background
22 to 90 GHz, with galactic foreground and the Doppler yin-yang (below) eliminated.
Cosmic Yin-Yang
COBE dipole Doppler dipole dominates variation in the cosmic microwave background.
Infrared Sky
COBE's DIRBE instrument; sky at 3.5 microns. Cool stars in our galaxy and dust in the solar system are prominent.
Far Infrared Sky
Our Dusty Universe
COBE's picture of the dusty background (far IR)
Radio Sky @408MHz
Radio Hydrogen
A Sky Full Of (atomic) Hydrogen, seen in the (21cm, 1.42GHz) radio emissions from flipping the electron and proton spins between opposite and same.
Deep Field
Part of the ultra-deep field If you stare into an apparently empty bit of sky for long enough, you'll see stars; they're just further away than the others.
Hubble Ultra Deep Field
Includes link to HDF, which links to HDF South. Later revisited in near infra-red to catch ancient galaxies with red-shifts likely around 8.
Chandra Deep Field
Hubble's Deep Field South in X-rays
Hubble Deep Field
A ten-day exposure of a dark corner of Ursa Major
Hubble Deep South
A Deep Field In The Southern Sky
The Hubble Deep Field in infra-red
Spitzer's deep background
Showing a diffuse IR glow suspected of coming from the first generation of stars, 13ish G yr ago and hundreds of times as massive as our Sun.
NTT SUSI Deep Field
Galaxy @ z=4.92
Behind CL1358+62: A New Farthest Object
GRBs and Quasars
Galaxy-powered cannon or gamma-ray bursts and quasi-stellar objects, to give them their proper names. Distant things of extreme brightness, implying spectacularly energetic sources. GRBs have proven so elusive that a dedicated satellite, Swift, if constantly on the look out for them, to alert other telescopes to look at their sources before they can fade back into obscurity.
Galaxy-powered cannon
Quasar 3C175 emits relativistic jets of particles
spat ?
Did galaxy NGC 4319 eject Quasar Markarian 205 at high speed ? Or are they merely randomly juxtaposed on our view of the sky ?
6 Portraits
A Quasar Portrait Gallery
Micro-Quasar Puffs
GRS1915 is a small black hole on the far side of our Galaxy; here seen expelling gas jets at .9 c
GRB080319B in X and UV
The most distant thing ever seen by the naked eye, 7.5 G ly away.
Dancing black holes
As two galaxies merge, their super-massive central black holes orbit one another, 25 k ly apart, while moving at c/250 relative to their surroundings.
GRB090423, .63 Gyr after the Big Bang, z = 8.2
Hanny's Voorwerp
IC2497's extra-galactic glowy blob shines in Oxygen-ion green, probably due to light emitted by a quasar that's now shut down.
GRB110328A, z = 0.351
Central Perseus Groups, clusters and collisions.
Bulls Eye Einstein Ring
Einstein Cross
Cluster acting as a lens
The Sloan Great Wall
… and other structures on a scale that dwarfs superclusters – clusters of clusters of galaxies.
The Bird
A collision of three galaxies, with relative speeds up to 0.4 Mm/s
ACO 3627, near the center of the Great Attractor
Close neighbours and the mess between them
Galaxies tend to keep one another company.
One behind the other
NGC 3314: When Galaxies Overlap
Spiral and Ellipse
c. .35 G ly away
The dance of M81 and M82
A spiral and an ellipse; the latter is also known as the cigar galaxy. Each is stirred up by the tidal stresses of their mutual orbit, about 12 M ly away in Ursa Major.
Extra-galactic dust
Intergalactic dust lane
NGC 1410/1409: Intergalactic Pipeline, 300 M ly away, 20 k ly apart
NGC 5905 and 5908
Two spiral neighbours, one face-on, the other edge-on
The Leo Triplet
Groups and clusters
When they get crowded, things can get quite intense. Clusters tend to comprise tens or hundreds of galaxies; groups are smaller. On a truly cosmic scale, clusters can band together to form superclusters. When many galaxies hang around close together, the intergalactic gas is apt to contribute significantly to the total mass (of normal matter – dwarfed by the accompanying dark matter) and is often hot enough to emit X-rays.
Hydra Cluster
Four of Stephan's Quintet
Seyfert's Sextet
Abell S0740
0.45 G ly away and most of a M ly across
Pandora's cluster
Abell 2744, with its misaligned dark matter and X-ray-emitting gases.
Markarian's chain
Several galaxies moving together, and a few more imaged near them, within the Virgo cluster which, being only about 48 M ly away, is the nearest cluster to (and has a definite gravitational effect on) our local group; there are over 2000 galaxies in the cluster, which spans about 10 degrees on Earth's sky, so it's 8 to 12 M ly across.
The bullet cluster
Showing separation between its (non-dark and dark) matter distributions.
Coma Cluster
MACSJ0025: cluster collision
6 G ly away in Cetus, two large clusters, spanning about 3 M ly, are colliding – and their dark matter gets dislocated from the normal matter.
The Hercules Cluster
a.k.a. Abell 2151, likely similar to some of the universe's earliest clusters.
JKCS041: ancient cluster
At a red-shift of 1.9, the earliest cluster yet identified, c. 10 G yr ago.
NGC 7769–7771
A stately dance of merger, spanning hundreds of mega-years.
The trouble with Abell 1689
Hickson's compact groups
HCG 90 Paul Hickson and colleagues catalogued compact groups of galaxies, often in the process of merging. They can be dramatic or, like clouds, suggest the shapes of more familiar objects.
HCG 90: a motor-bike !
HCG 40
HCG 87
Hickson Compact Group 87 – two spirals and at least one elliptical – with a spiral in their back-ground.
HCG 44
a.k.a. NGC 3190; several spirals and an ellipse, 60 M ly away, including NGC 3190
HCG 31
The Perseus Cluster
Dominated by central NGC 1275 (a.k.a. Perseus A; over 100 k ly across, so only slightly wider than our galaxy, but rather more massive), the Perseus cluster is roughly a quarter G ly away.
Many galaxies
… and a wider field view of roughly the same portion of the centre of the Perseus cluster.
X-Ray Skull
The Perseus Cluster's X Ray Skull; image of intracluster gas, more massive than all the cluster's galaxies.
Ribbons of Perseus
Unusual gas filaments surround NGC 1275, shown here in pink.
X-Ray: Perseus cluster core
250 M ly away; a very dangerous place to be
Hubble's visible NGC 1275
… combined, when hovered, with Chandra's X-ray and radio from the Very Large Array.
Colliding Galaxies
Mice When galaxies collide, the stars miss one another but the interstellar gas and dust clouds get pummelled into bouts of star-forming. Violent prettiness ensues.
NGC 4676, The Mice
Long tails resembling warring jelly-fish or a celestial acrobat with feet gripping a trapeze at the top of a swing.
The Antennae collision
The galactic fire-ball in the middle also looks impressive in near infrared and X-Ray.
NGC 4038 and NGC 4039; c. 60 M ly away towards Corvus, the tails span c. 0.5 M ly.
NGC 3256: mid-collision
Two galaxies appearing to be one, as they pass through one another; 0.1 M ly across, 100 M ly away in the Hydra-Centaurus supercluster.
Spiral Galaxy NGC 3310
Whirlpool Pair
Spiral M51 (NGC 5194) and blob NGC 5195.
Sharper Whirlpool Pair
High resolution image of M51 from Hubble's ACS.
Arp 188: Tadpole's Tidal Tail
Arp 271: Colliding spirals
Arp 272: collision in progress
a.k.a. NGC 6050, IC 1179, 450 M ly away in the Hercules cluster.
Arp 273: a pretty pair
Arp 274: another nice pair, with decorations
Arp 295: linked galaxies
Linked by a trail of stars and debris 250 k ly long; 270 M ly away
Stretched giant NGC 6872
Later viewed in colour. Over 400 k ly across and about 200 M ly away.
Fornax A's Radio Lobes
The Giant Radio Lobes of Fornax A – NGC 1316's jets, spanning 100 M ly.
Arp 230: United spirals?
Apparently one galaxy, suspected of being the result of two that collided
NGC 520
a.k.a. Arp 157; 100 M ly away, 100 k ly across.
Arp 147's pair of rings
NGC 2623 (a.k.a. Arp 243)
Spans 50 k ly, is 250 M ly away.
Supermassive black holes formed in galactic mergers
Keenan's pair, Arp 104
NGC 5216 and NGC 5218, linked by a string of debris 22 k ly long.
ARP 286: Virgo triplet
ARP 273 (a.k.a. UGC 1810)
Ripples in NGC 474's smooothness
Cartwheel Individual island universes: jewels nestling deep in the velvet blackness of the sky.
Residue of a collision, with star-formation wave-front expanded out to its edge; diameter is 0.1 M ly and it's about 0.4 G ly away.
Unusual giant galaxy NGC 1316 – elliptical, but with dust lanes and a disk, suspected remants of a spiral that collided with it.
X-Ray Cygnus A
Galaxy belting out jets
Hoag's Strange Ring
Elegant Ring AM 0644-741
300 M ly away, 150 k ly across; ripple of star-formation caused by earlier collision.
Alchymic whirlpool fumes
NGC 4388 Expels Huge Gas Cloud
Helix galaxy
NGC 2685 / Arp 336: polar ring galaxy; disk galaxy except for the bits in orbit in a perpendicular plane. 50 k ly across, 40 M ly away, in Ursa Major.
Black hole power
NGC 4696, a large globular galaxy (150 M ly away) with a super-massive black hole in it, generating huge amounts of energy which the galaxy radiates in X and radio.
Beyond Blue
Starburst galaxy M94 / NGC 4736: contrasting a spiral in red and UV.
Colourful whirl-pool; technically a spiral, but not in the classic pattern.
NGC 660: Polar Ring
A spiral orbited by rings perpendicular to its plane.
Polar Ring NGC 4650A
I Zwicky 18
59 M ly away and initially mistaken for a very young galaxy.
Edge-on thin lenticular NGC 4452
Irregular galaxies
Some galaxies are just a mess.
Starburst NGC 1313
Only 15 M ly away, almost spiral, but distincly messed up – yet with no evident neighbour to mess it up.
Irregular NGC 55
Believed to be an analogue of our neighbour, the large Magellanic cloud; but seen edge-on, instead of face-on.
NGC 4449: small and irregular
Similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud; 12 k ly across, 20 M ly away in the Canes I group.
Nearby starburst dwarf NGC 1569
Only 11 M ly away (practicaly in the Local Group) and about 8 k ly across, an irregular dwarf undergoing a burst of star formation.
Centaurus A
A globular galaxy (60 k ly across, 10 or 13 M ly away) with an anomalous centre, about 1 k ly across, suspected of being the remains of a spiral galaxy swallowed up about 0.1 G yr ago.
In context
Rippling outer shells
Dusty heart
Center: natural colour, showing dust clutter well
Color and Mystery (X-ray)
Galaxy inside
Spitzer image, in infra-red.
Across the spectrum
A composite of radio, visible and X-ray, showing a 13 k ly jet of plasma coming away from a black hole in its core.
whirl-pool galaxy The elegant class of peers of our own Milky Way; galaxies in which most of the stars lie in a disk and circulate in a common sense around its centre (although, in some cases, there are two populations of stars, circulating in opposite senses); they are usually dominated by dark dust lanes and a few arms, in the form of equiangular spirals. If they sometimes look like a pool of water swirling round on its way to go down a plug-hole in the middle, that's because the black hole in the middle is indeed a kind of cosmic sink-hole.
M101 in UV
A giant spiral galaxy, seen by the light of its hottest stars.
The classic view.
M74: Perfect Spiral
Archetype of the spiral
M77 (NGC 1068) and its outskirts
NGC 1309 and Friends
M74 with ULXs
Ultra-luminous X-ray sources – 1e4 Sun.mass black holes – and a pretty face-on spiral.
UV Ring in NGC 6782
Barred spiral, 80 k ly across, 180 M ly away towards Pavo
Starburst M94, in Canes Venatici
39 k ly across, c. 15 M ly away in the Canes I group; turns out to have faint outer spiral arms.
Barred spiral M95
A bright and shiny Catherine-wheel
Fried egg
NGC 7742, a Seyfert spiral; has highly active (and variable) central region.
From IR to UV; NGC 1512.
NGC 1232
M63: Sunflower (a.k.a. NGC 5055)
Sunflower's star-stream
The Whirlpool, M51
Host of supernovae in 1994, 2005 and 2011.
M51/NGC 5194 in Dust and Stars, combining images from Kitt Peak and Hubble.
Whirlpool's dust in infra-red
M51 highlighting Hydrogen
Gangly NGC 3184
face on, with plenty of blue sparkles in its arms
Detailed Pinwheel
Wispy Pinwheel
M101: The Pinwheel Galaxy. 25 M ly away, c. 170 k ly across.
Spitzer: M101 in infra-red
M101 in colour
M83's dynamic centre
NGC 2997
Early image from Antu, the first of the four Very Large Telescopes of the European Southern Observatory, in Chile.
M61 in Virgo
a.k.a. NGC 4303, discovered in 1779
NGC 4314's halo
NGC 4314: A Nuclear Starburst Ring – old galaxy with new ring of purple shiny stars and an inner micro-galaxy.
One Armed NGC 4725
Infrared, 41 M ly away, .1 M ly across; or visible.
NGC 6217 and its prominent central bar
NGC 4911 falling into the Coma cluster
NGC 5584 and its Cepheid variables
Mottled MGC 2903 Naturally, very few galaxies are exactly edge-on or face-on; but many are close enough to one or the other for a rough, if somewhat arbitrary, classification. The rest fall in between.
Distant NGC 4603
Used in HST study of Hubble's constant and the Expanding Universe.
Exquisite NGC 7331
along with background galaxies.
NGC 1350
Pearly blue blob; 85 M ly away towards Fornax, 0.13 M ly across.
NGC 1365
0.2 M ly across, 60 M ly away; a dominant member of the Fornax cluster
View through M96
… a dominant member of the Leo I galaxy group, with a more distant edge-on spiral visible through its outer spiral arm.
Distorted NGC 2442 in Volans
Normal Spiral
NGC 300. Very pretty, and studied in great detail.
NGC 3370
Sharp view from Hubble ACS
Dusty NGC 7049
M65 in the Leo Triplet
M66 in the Leo Triplet
M66 with its faint extensions
NGC 2841
… and a close-up of its centre. It's 64 Mly away and about 150 kly across.
Blotchy NGC 3521, also in Leo
Mottled NGC 2903
M64: the black eye
17 M ly away, 80 k ly across, with a central part 6 k ly across rotating in the opposite sense to the outer parts.
Arp 77 and its satellite
A spiral, a.k.a. NGC 1097, with long arms tangling with a satellite about 43 k ly from the spiral's centre. NGC 1097 is a Seyfert galaxy, 45 M ly away in Fornax, and turns out to be emitting mysterious jets.
One-armed Arp 78 (NGC 772)
M106 in Canes Venatici
Seyfert active galaxy, a.k.a. NGC 4258, 30 k ly across, 21 M ly away, in the constellation of Hunting Dogs.
Deep view of M106
M106's extra arms, in X-ray and radio
Sleeping Beauty
NGC 613 from Paranal
65 M ly away, 0.1 M ly across, with a bar and rather more arms than usual; in Sculptor.
NGC 3621: 22 M ly away
NGC 4651, with its umbrella
M81, a.k.a. NGC 3031
It's 11.8 M ly away, 70 k ly across and the principle member of a small group (comparable to our local group). Its dance with the cigar galaxy, eliptical M82, shall doubtless end in a union. Our view of it is partially obscured by barely visible dust clouds just outside our own galaxy, the integrated flux nebula (named after the subtle technique needed to observe it), but individual stars are discernible.
Through the integrated flux nebula
Deep image
Hubble resolves individual stars
Across the spectrum
From IR to X-ray, highlighting its voracious black holes.
Hot young stars in UV
Showing its satellite, Holmberg IX.
Arp's loop
Initially thought to be a stream of debris from M81's interaction with neighbours, this patch of light turns out to be part of the fore-ground, close to our own galaxy, coincidentally superimposed on M81.
IR Sombrero The view that best exposes (often photogenic) dust-lanes.
NGC 5866
60 k ly across, 44 M ly away towards Draco and lenticular
Supernova beside Spiral
Rumors of a Strange Universe
NGC 1531–1532, on the banks of Eridanus
Leo Sideways
NGC 3628 in the Leo triplet (which also includes spirals M66 and M65)
NGC 4013 and its tidal tail
Knife-edge or splinter: NGC 5907
NGC 4565, in Coma Berenices, only 40 M ly away, .1 M ly diameter and similar to the Milky Way.
NGC 4631: the Whale
Panoramic Whale
Bubbling Cauldron
NGC 3079, expelling pillars of dust from its centre at c/180 or so.
Warped ESO 510-13
ESO 510-13 in context
NGC 253: dusty star-burst
Hubble's ACS's close-up of NGC 253
– and a later composite with better contrast.
NGC 253 in fine detail
Also known as the silver dollar galaxy or (after the constellation it's in, and the eponymous group, of which it's the largest member) Sculptor galaxy.
NGC 891 sideways
Dust Bunnies
NGC 891 showing dust kicked up by supernovae.
NGC 4216 and the remnants of its recent meals
The Sombrero Galaxy, M104.
One of the finest examples of an edge-on spiral, with a dusty rim; 28 M ly away, at the southern edge of the Virgo Cluster.
Across the spectrum
IR Sombrero
Hubble remix
Local Group
Nearby spiral M33 Our Milky Way Galaxy has a few travelling companions: one larger spiral galaxy, Andromeda, and an assortment of about 30 smaller galaxies out to about 10 M ly away.
A dwarf spheroidal galaxy with only about a million stars.
NGC 404: Mirach's Ghost
Almost drowned out by a foreground star's brightness, it's 10 M ly away and I'm not sure whether it's counted in the Local Group.
NGC 2366 nurseries
Bright stars, dim galaxy – a small irregular galaxy, scarcely more than a pair of star-forming clusters; but mighty powerful with it; 10 M ly away.
Sextans A
A seemingly square galaxy; small dwarf irregular, 5 k ly across, 10 M ly away.
The Aquarius Dwarf
3 M ly away in the local group
Leo A
Dwarf Irregular, 10 k ly across, 2.5 M ly away towards Leo.
Barnard's NGC 6822
A dwarf irregular galaxy, roughly rectangular, with many emission nebulae; a.k.a. Barnard's Galaxy; 1.5 M ly away, towards Sagittarius.
IC 10: starburst dwarf
2.3 M ly away and only 5 k ly across; in Cassiopeia, view obscured by our own galaxy
Andromeda's Satellites
Galaxies move slowly, so it can be hard to work out whether one is gravitationally bound to another. But it looks like Andromeda has a few satellites.
Dwarf elliptical M32
Elliptical M110
15 k ly across; has young stars and dust clouds, atypically for ellipticals.
Dwarf elliptical NGC 205, a.k.a. M110
Central M33 in HII
Also available in combination with broad-band filters or in visible light.
Sparse spiral M33 in O and H
Also known as triangulum (and pinwheel, for bonus confusion with M101); may be orbiting Andromeda (M31). Over 50 k ly across, the third largest member of the local group (a quarter of the size of the first two) is about 3 M ly away.
Small dwarf spheroidal, probably orbits M31; c. 2 k ly across.
M31 M31: the even bigger member of our local group, 2.5 M ly away, with over twice the diameter of the Milky Way and a million million stars, compared to 0.4 times that for the Milky Way.
Edwin Hubble's proof of Andromeda's distance
Long exposure
Infra-red from Spitzer
Infra-red from WISE
With Hale-Bopp
The Comet and the Galaxy
With Ikeya-Zhang
Comet + Galaxy
Compared to Selene
Infra-red and X-ray
Showing the material of which future stars shall be made and the carcasses of old stars.
Satellites of the Milky Way
Counting only the galaxies: the galactic halo is also home to about 150 to 200 globular clusters.
Canis Major Dwarf
Closest of the dwarfs being swallowed up by the Milky Way; only 42 k ly from the Galactic center, and so spread out it's more a stream of debris than a galaxy.
Sagittarius Dwarf
Our 2nd closest neighbour, an ancient irregular galaxy.
SagDIG Tidal Stream
An artist's depiction of the stream of detritus around our galaxy, left as it tears apart the Sagittarius Dwarf.
Magellan's clouds
LMC; next day SMC.
LMC deep field
LMC in H-α
LMC gas profile in HSO
LMC close-up
Stellar Laboratories in the LMC.
SMC and 47 Tucanae
SMC's tail
The Magellanic Stream
Leo I
A young dwarf spheroidal galaxy, only just orbiting the Milky Way, about a quarter M pc (.8 M ly) away.
Other nearby galaxies
NGC 2915 Not quite close enough to be gravigationally bound to the group, some galaxies are, none the less, close enough to interact with it. Parenthetical distances here are how far away each is. See also: M81, Centaurus A and irregular galaxies.
IC 342 not quite hidden (7 M ly)
… behind the Milky Way; and a more recent, clearer picture from Kitt Peak.
IC 342 through the Milky Way (7 M ly)
NGC 6946 (10 M ly)
Also known as the Fireworks Galaxy.
Spiral NGC 2403 from Subaru (10 M ly)
Just outside the local group; has open clusters, dust lanes, a tight nucleus and some cute blobbiness.
Southern Pinwheel (12 M ly)
M83, a.k.a. the thousand-ruby galaxy, the closest of a group of galaxies, around 15 M ly away, that includes Centaurus A and NGC 5253.
Dwingeloo 1 Emerges (12ish M ly)
Nearby galaxy (only five times as distant as Andromeda) almost obscured by our own Milky Way.
Ghostly NGC 2915 (15 M ly)
A dwarf galaxy surrounded by a full galaxy-sized cloud of (atomic) Hydrogen; just outside our local group.
Side-on neighbour (15ish M ly)
Nearby Spiral Galaxy NGC 4945, only six times as far away as Andromeda.
Our Galaxy
Gamma-ray halo The smaller of the two big spirals dominating our local group.
Milky Way Band
Panoramic mosaic across 90 degrees.
Seen, with Jupiter, from the high Andes
The galactic plane in infra-red
Wide angle deep exposure
Seen in breadth and detail from Chile
IR model
Loop I in Northern Sky
Large-scale structure in our galaxy, shown in rather pretty blobby false-colour X-ray.
Gamma-Ray Halo
Nearby dust tapestry in IR
Ursus Minor's tail: Polaris
The Plough
Whole-sky details
Two hemispheres, juxtaposed
Star Clusters
M45+NGC1499 Like its peers, our galaxy has a halo of globular clusters orbitting it (about 200 of them, in fact); and where a large cloud of dust and gas has collapsed down to stars, once these have finished blowing away the remnants of the cloud, the resulting open cluster (a.k.a. galactic cluster) is often a beautiful sight, shining like jewels in a box.
Globular cluster M55
A tenth of a million stars, 20 k ly away, about 100 ly across.
NGC 1818: LMC globular cluster
Unlike the globular clusters in our galaxy, typically 12 G yr old, this one's actually young; about 40 M yr.
Omega Centauri, NGC 5139
The largest globular cluster orbiting the Milky Way, c. 10 million stars, 150 ly across, 15 or 18 k ly away and including stars about 12 G yr old – so it dates from when the universe was about a seventh of its present age – yet it includes newer stars, suggesting it may be the last remains of a small galaxy captured by the Milky Way.
NGC 104, a.k.a. 47 Tuc
13 k ly away, 120 ly across and containing several million stars.
Globular NGC 2419
300 k ly away, almost twice as distant as the LMC
Open cluster pair
NGC 869 and NGC 884, a.k.a. h Persei and χ Perseii, about 100 ly apart, 7 k ly away and of roughly equal age: a double cluster.
The Pleiades
(a.k.a. seven sisters or M45); an open cluster of over 3000 stars, 400 ly away, 13 ly across; only several degrees away from the California nebula.
Twinkle, twinkle M3 stars
RR Lyrae stars in M3, varying in brightness during the course of a night.
Open cluster NGC 290
Galactic cluster M39, in Cygnus
Globular M13
The great globular cluster in Hercules
Open cluster M25
M34, towards Perseus
0.2 G yr in age, about 15 ly across and 1.8 k ly away.
Globular M72
Globular NGC 6934
Globular M15
Milky Core
In X and γ The centre of the Milky Way: a turbulent place ruled by a black hole – or, at least, the orbits of stars near the centre imply the presence of more than two million times the mass of our Sun (Swarzchild radius almost eight and a half times The Sun's radius) in a space less than 17 light hours (under 123 AU or 26.4 thousand times the Sun's radius) across.
A map
Annotated image
The Molecular Zone
1 metre wavelength, super-nova remants
The galactic centre radio arc
IR side-view
8 year IR movie
Showing fast-moving stars in the central region.
Deep infra-red
Close-up, 2 ly across, highlighting where S2 moves fast 17 light hours from the centre.
The heart of our galaxy, in mid-infrared (10 micron)
Mega-star infra-red from 2MASS
High-resolution infra-red
Spitzer's infra-red view of a 900 light-year-wide swathe of the centre, 26 k ly away.
Dusty mess in visible light
ESO: Galactic centre
ESO: composite view
In X and γ
… and theory predicts that an accretion disk can only produce γ if it involves a black hole.
X-Flash in Milky Core
Galactic Center X-Ray Flicker Indicates Black Hole
Infra-red and X-Ray Combined
Orion Our Sun is in the same spur, between the two spiral arms of the Milky Way, as the stars of Orion, after which this spur is named. Orion's Great Nebula, M42, is a major stellar nursery, conveniently visible thanks to violent winds from bright young stars, 1.5 k ly away and and 13 or so ly across.
Emission nebula
Witch Head
Wisps of dust reflecting Rigel's light, about 0.8 to 1 k ly away; a.k.a. IC 2118
Kleinmann-Low Nebula
An explosion of red, with water-maser glow.
Dust Clouds
Reflection nebulae M78 and NGC 2071.
M78 and NGC 2071 in context
M78's treasure revealed
The Great Nebula
Belt, nebula and dust
Gas bullets
South of Orion
Reflection nebula NGC 1999, partly hidden by a Bok globule
Orion's Belt
Al Nitak, Al Nilam and Mintaka: blue giants, c. 1.5 k ly away. Note horse-head in bottom left.
Fiery mess IRAS saw
In infra-red, you see the clouds rather than the stars
Star colour cones
Varying focus during an exposure to reveal colours
Hunter's profile
Canaries Sky (La Palma) showing the nebulae and their structure: Barnard's loop looks enough like a belly to make it easier to interpret the constellation as a picture of a man.
Betelgeuse's spots
Trapezium in warm Spitzer's IR
Wide view of all Orion
Around Al Nitak
Nebulosities Al Nitak (a.k.a. Zeta Orionis) lights up the Flame Nebula; not far away, a sheet of glowing gas which we see side-on serves as back-drop to another dust cloud, whose shadow evokes the shape of a horse's head.
H-α Deep Field
Composite Deep Field
Composite picture: includes Horse-head, Flame and Orion Nebulae, with Alnitak and other stars.
Through Comet SOHO
Flame and Horsehead nebulae seen through a passing comet
Flame nebula close-up
Flame nebula in infra-red
NGC 2024: Flame nebula, in close-up
Barnard 33: The Horsehead Nebula
A dark nebula, seen in silhouette against an emission nebula behind it, with a shape gently reminiscent of a horse's head.
Horsehead in context
Horsehead and Orion Nebulae
Same view, different light
Wisps around Horsehead
Horsehead Close-up
Horsehead in Pink
Knights in HII satin …
Composite horsehead
With blue emission nebula NGC 2023.
M42: The Great Nebula in Orion
Visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch – just below and to the left of Orion's belt – the Great Nebula rewards closer study. It's a stellar nursery centred on a bright open cluster called The Trapezium. It spans about 40 ly, lies about 1.5 k ly away and is expected to slowly disperse over the next 0.1 M yr.
ESO-Hubble mosaic
… from Hubble and ESO's La Silla (following day includes a detail from it), looking like something from a picture by William Blake.
Hubble Mosaic
Showing an inner region of width 2.5 light-years
Colorful Clouds
Infra-red from Spitzer
Infra-red from Subaru
Showing assorted things hidden in visible
Light and texture
Near Infra Red from VLT
Wisps in red and pink/blue
In SHO light
Hydrogen pink
Contrast balanced for detail
Pink, grey and brown dominate
Red demon, blue polyp
Trapezium clouds
In the Center of the Trapezium
Portrait with neighbours
N49 filaments When a big star reaches the end of its life, it goes out spectacularly. The remnants are often quite fascinating.
Remnant of Kepler's supernova, in X-ray
The new star (stella nova) recorded and studied by Kepler and his peers in October 1604, without the aid of telescopes, gave rise to the term nova; but it was actually what we'd now describe as a type 1a supernova. This most recent stellar explosion in our galaxy happened only 13 k ly away.
Sher 25: a pending supernova ?
Two in a distant galaxy
Star Wars in NGC 664
RCW 86 in X-Rays
8.2 k ly away and 50 ly across; quite likely the remnant of a new star recorded by Chinese astronomers in AD 185.
1994D by Galaxy NGC 4526
Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe
Pretty SNR N63A
Rampaging Supernova Remnant N63A; flames and dust
CTA 1's γ-ray pulsar
Simeis 147
Spanning 3 degrees in Taurus, this remnant is 0.1 mega years old, 150 ly across, 3 k ly away.
IC 443
From a super-nova 30 k yr ago plus 5 k ly away; includes the Jellyfish nebula; and Sharpless 249 appears nearby, between Mu and Eta Geminorum.
Colliding SNRs
DEM L316: two bubbles of hot gas bumping together.
N49's Cosmic Blast
In the LMC; it ejected a bullet of gas at almost light / 150, leaving a magnetar behind.
E0102-72 in the SMC
A pulsar's hand juggles a crown
Jellyfish nebula and Sharpless 249
SNR 0509: rippled red ribbons (and mysteries)
A super-nova about 11 k yr ago ejected a shock-wave so fast it still travells a mega-metre in about seven seconds, producing a rippled sheet of glowing gas as it hits its surroundings. This remnant's diameter is about 100 ly, so the shock-wave's average speed has been around c/220, roughly ten times its present speed.
Optical Vela
Visible Vela
Runaway Star
HD 77581 hurtling along under the influence of SNR pulsar Vela X-1
The pencil nebula
Part of the remnant, seen edge-on; 800 ly away and 5 ly long.
Whispy sails
Cygnus Loop, a.k.a. Veil Nebula
Whispy remains of a super-nova seen on Earth about 7.5 k yr ago; as the shockwave hits nearby clouds of gas and dust, it glows prettily. It's about 1.4 k ly away and around 70 ly across.
Cygnus X-1
The black hole left behind by the supernova may well be a microquasar; the relativistic jets of gas bouncing off its acretion disk cause a bubble nebula rapidly expanding outwards from it, near the Northern Cross.
HOS: Cygnus Loop
The Veil Nebula
Witch's Broom
NGC 6960, West end of Veil Nebula
Eastern Veil in HO light
Pickering's Triangle
Slightly South and East of the Witch's Broom
NGC 6992: more pretty filaments
X-Ray images of remnants
SNR 0103-72.6 in X rays Ejecta from the explosion spread outwards, bashing everything they meet so hard they dislodge even the inner electrons of heavy elements – making them bright even at high energies. Several of these images are from the Chandna observatory.
X-Rays from the remnant of the supernova Tycho saw in 1572. Looks like a sponge !
N132D and the Color of X-Rays
Small Star Explodes
Type 1a supernova, DEM L71 in LMC, white dwarf ejecting stuff that fell onto it from its companion.
SN 1006
Remnant of a star first seen a millennium ago, in X-ray, optical and radio.
Ribbon among the remnants of SN 1006
Elements in the aftermath
SNR 0103 72.6: Oxygen Supply
X-ray image of an SMC SNR. Pretty blobs of false colour ;^)
IC 443
Not only is its neutron star far off centre; its wake points in the wrong direction, suggesting vigorous flows in the remnant gas. About 5 k ly away and 65 ly across.
The crab nebula
Gyrating pulsar M1: remnant from a supernova witenessed in 1054 CE.
Gyrating pulsar
HII/X composite of pulsar
X-ray image of its wind nebula
Pulsar shrugs
HST: complex filaments
IR/visible/X composite of nebula
With the neighbourhood of the pulsar plainly visible inside
From the VLT
Animation showing difference across 28 years
Fine detail
From the Norwegian Optical Telescope.
γ flare
Cassiopeia A
Remnant of a supernova seen on Earth c.1700, ten millennia after it happened.
In X-Ray
Pretty coloured flecks in round blob
Recycling elements
Light Echoes in Infrared
The supernova of 1987
Formally known as SN1987a, in the Large Magellanic Clouds.
Mysterious rings
The neighbourhood
A Supernova Starfield
Shocked by Supernova – debris at c/18 hitting material ejected before the supernova.
Fireball Resolved
With inset images of the central explosion
Pac-Man Miscellaneous fuzzy blobs in the sky. See also: Emission Nebulae.
TT Cygni: Carbon Star
The Puzzling Cone
2.7 k ly away, near S Monocerotis
Barnard 68
The total darkness of a molecular cloud, 500 ly away and half a light year across.
Northern Cygnus
CG4: Pac-Man
A ruptured cometary globule; Pac-Man on his way to eat a galaxy; but actually one end of a larger gas cloud. Closer in, it reveals NGC 281
Dust around Polaris
Antares' dark river
Wide field around the dark river
Thackeray's globules
The dark doodad
Auriga deep field
Seagull and Duck
Star cloud IRAS 05437+2502
Aries's dust clouds and van der Bergh's stars
Zeta Ophiuchi's bow-shock
Not really a nebula, but a fuzzy blob anyway; Zeta Ophiuchi is moving fast through interstellar material, likely after being launched away by a dying partner.
AE Aurigae
and the accompanying Flaming Star Nebula, IC405. The star is actually a refugee from Orion, escaping at 90 km/s (Auriga, the charioteer, would be proud), and the Nebula is a dust cloud it just happens to be passing through.
False colour
In red
In red again
Lone star
One star is all it takes to make a dust cloud pretty.
IC 4592: head of dragon (or horse)
Nicely shows that dust cloud black just needs light to be blue.
Bubble hits cloud
Pretty Bubble Nebula
NGC 7635: 10 ly bubble blown, by bright blue Wolf-Rayet star, in a giant molecular cloud
Nova Firework
California and comet Holmes
NGC 1499: California
H-glowy cloud illuminated by Xi Persei
NGC 7023: Iris
Bright young star makes surrounding clouds of muck glowy; 1.3 k ly away, c. 6 ly across.
The brightest star yet known, Pistol star (100 sun-mass, 1e7 times as bright), and the nebula it's shed.
T Tauri and Hind's variable nebula
The cannonical T Tauri variable, beside a dust cloud in which a star is forming.
Tadpoles amid clouds Several stars together can achieve some major impact.
Pismis 24 and NGC 6357
Several big stars and an emission nebula in which stars are being born; see following day for context.
Fox Fur
Fluff round young open cluster; image with crisp stars.
Fox fur in unicorn or christmas tree
NGC 2264
Fox Fur Blur
Blur round young open cluster; image showing the cloud clearly, stars a bit dazzled.
Dust, Stars, Corona Australis
Bright blobby star light
Dust and Gas Surrounding Star R Coronae Australis
IC 410's tadpoles
Blobs with tails swept by galactic cluster 1893, which IC 410 hides: in SHO light; 70 ly across, 12 k ly away.
UV-blown dust
Hot Stars in the Southern Milky Way
IC 5067, the Pelican Nebula
an emission nebula in Cygnus, 2 k ly away; in true-colour, but hover for synthetic colour from spectra of Oxygen and Sulphur.
Pelican protostar detail
Herbig-Harro 555 in the tip of a dark tendril seen against IC 5067.
Rho Ophiuchi
The Colorful Clouds of Rho Ophiuchi
Rho Ophiuchi in IR, showing young stars
Rho Ophiuchi wide field
Dust lit up by an open cluster
NGC 6188, home to the Ara OB1 association, an open cluster whose core is called NGC 6193; all 4 k ly away in the galactic disk. Neighbour to NGC 6164.
NGC 6188 in SHO light
Dark tower NGC 6231
This cometary globule in Scorpius, shaped by NGC 6231's illumination, spans almost 40 ly and is about 5 k ly away.
The Rosette Nebula
Rosette nebula A particularly pretty fuzzy blob, 3 k ly away in the constellation Monoceros
SOH Rosette
HOS Rosette
See the above photograph link for best results ;^)
Rosette in context
Wider context
Rosette's centre
NGC 2237
Long stem
Rosette close-up
Showing dark filaments of dust cloud sculpted by hot young stars 3 k ly away.
Detail in SHO
In pink and blue
Wolf-Rayet stars and their surroundings.
Wolf-Rayet stars are so energetic they destroy themselves. In the process, they make pretty things.
WR 124: Stellar Fireball
Wolf-Rayet star, nuking itself into oblivion
NGC 3199, blown by the wind from a Wolf-Rayet star
Wolf-Rayet NGC 6888 (WR 136) in SHO light
Sulphur, Hydrogen and Oxygen light from a 25 ly-wide bubble around a hyperactive star 5 k ly away.
H-Alpha Thor's Helmet
Thor's Helmet
A cloud of dust being puffed about by a big blue Wolf-Rayet star, with hints of emerald due to Oxygen in the cloud. Also known as the duck nebula.
Crescent Nebula's edge
Sharpless 308: 60 ly-wide Oxygen bubble
Radio Cygnus The birth of stars is a dramatic process – and often pretty.
Radio Cygnus
Blobs and filaments in pretty-lit clouds
N81: SMC cluster cradle
N81: Star Cradle in the SMC
Barnard 7 and friends
Dark dust clouds: where stars are conceived.
NGC 602: SMC cluster nursery
Whispy clouds left behind as new-born stars blast aside the dust-cloud in which they were born, spanning 200 ly.
IR: dusty NGC 1333
Revealing the innards of a reflection nebula, 1 k ly away towards Perseus
RCW49 in IR
Building Site, seen by Spitzer in infrared, exposing young stars and probably protoplanetary disks.
NGC 7129: newborn stars
NGC 604
The largest stellar nursery in our Local Group. Big hot young new stars blast caverns, filled with X-ray-emitting gas, in a dust cloud in spiral galaxy M33, Triangulum, a.k.a. Pinwheel.
Still Life
Dusty nebulae and hot stars in Monoceros
IC 5146 in Cygnus – puffy clouds, well lit by a 100 k yr young star, c. 4 k ly away.
NGC 3576
9 k ly away, 100 ly across, in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way.
Cradle to Grave
NGC 3603: from beginning to end, Sher 25 and its neighbours
NGC 6334: Bear Claw or Cat's Paw
NGC 6334 Massive stars forming in a cloud
All kinds of mayhem
Stars, Dust and Nebulae in NGC 6559.
NGC 2170: more mayhem
Amid the dust, blue reflections and red emissions, infra-red reveals stars forming.
Southern Crown's Coronet in radio and X-ray
Ghost Head
Hubble X
Pocket of light in the distant darkness
M17: Star facrories in SHO light
M17: Omega
a.k.a. Horseshoe, or Swan. 5.5 k ly away, 20 to 50 ly across
RCW38 in IR
Star Forming Region RCW38; looking though its dust-cloud veil using infra-red.
IC 1795 in SHO light
Detail within the heart nebula
The heart nebula, IC 1805
and its central region
Its companion, IC 1848, a.k.a. W5, in IR
200 ly across; pressure waves from the inner stars' formation are provoking the surrounding clouds to form new stars.
Heart and Soul
Two cute blobs about 6 k ly away in Cassiopeia (in the Milky Way) spanning 300 ly and full of young open clusters.
Heart and Soul in IR
Northern Trifid
NGC 1579 – not to be confused with M20. It's in Perseus, about 2.1 k ly away and about 3 ly across.
Cepheus's NGC 7822 in SHO light
SHO NGC 7822 in context
Spider (IC 417) and Fly (NGC 1931)
NGC 2174, in Orion
New-born stars shrug off their natal shroud.
North America nebula
Infra-red view shows stars through the dusty cocoons that hide them from visible view.
Jet Pillar The Carina Nebula
An even larger star-forming region than Orion, over 300 ly across, NGC 3372 looks (to me, in some views) like a flint arrow-head, with the keyhole nebula embedded in it. It's the context for Eta Carinae, which lights it up, sculpts it and may one day blow it to smithereens; so I'm glad its 7.5 k ly away.
Carina and the Jets
Visible light image of a dust pillar; with onhover equivalent in infra-red showing internal activity from a new-born star.
Jewel in the southern sky
Keyhole, NGC 3324
Mountains of dust in NGC 3324
Carina Clouds
Includes the finger
Carina's shroud
Sculpting the South Pillar
Filaments of dust and glowing gas
The Great Nebula in Carina
In SHO light
Ten degree context
Single star views
S106 When we can distinguish a single star forming, we can sometimes almost make out what's orbiting it…
Newborn LkHa101
The Hole in the Doughnut; in infra-red, the debris cloud surrounding the new star shows bright and clear. Watch closely for new planets …
S106: hourglass with wings
Star Forming Region Sharpless 106 in infra-red, home to many brown dwarves.
Sharpless 171 in SHO light
3 k ly away and 20 ly wide, seen in light from S+ (red) as red, H (actually red) as green and O++ (green) as blue.
Cosmic Tornado HH49/50
Jet blasted out by young star, hitting inter-stellar gas, 450 ly away.
RY Tauri
450 ly away, 2/3 of a ly across; a molecular cloud being blown away by the star it's created in its heart.
Stellar provocation
The winds from hot young stars, or the shock-wave from a supernova, can compress and agitate a cloud of dust and gas, provoking the formation of new stars.
Breeding Bubble
RCW 79: gas bubble, blown away by bright hot young stars, collides with interstellar muck and causes yet more stars to form.
RCW 49: Westerlund 2 in X and IR
Cygnus Wall
The Cygnus Wall of Star Formation, in the North America Nebula.
Mountains of creation
Infra-red view of cold gas and dust 7 k ly away in Cassiopeia, spanning 70 ly, with a few embedded stars.
Young Stars of NGC 346
210 k ly away in the Small Magellanic Cloud; stars can be bright even before they start fusing Hydrogen.
Henize 206
Cosmic Generations; a supernova remnant triggers new stars forming in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Eta Carinae
A star with suspected suicidal leanings, vigorously sculpting its environs.
Dust and Eta Carinae in IR
The Homunculus Nebula
A dumbel of ejecta from Eta Carinae's Victorian burst of vigour.
The Trifid Nebula
Trifid About 50 ly across and 5 k ly away, towards Sagittarius; also known as M20.
The Trifid Nebula from CFHT – very pretty.
Central region
Inner centre
Filaments of dust highlit by stars behind
Pillars and Jets in a corner of the Trifid nebula, looking like a monster's head with long straight horns.
Beautiful Trifid
Trifid Nebula, M20, seen with surrounding star-field, part of Sagittarius.
in context
from AAO. Shows neighbouring reflection nebula as well as nearby dust clouds
In RGB visible light
The Lagoon Nebula
Over 100 ly across, about 5 k ly away in Sagittarius; also known as M8.
Hydrogen and dust
In H, S, O
In H, Si, O
The busy center of the Lagoon Nebula in three colours
Gas, dust and stars
In re-mapped colours
Glowy clouds elegantly framed by dark ones.
East of Lagoon
Sagittarius triplet
Lagoon and Trifid in context
Ignoring stars
With and without stars
Mixed broad- and narrow-band image
Southern cliff, mixing visible and IR
IC 1396
Elementary 2 k ly away, about 20 ly across in the constellation Cepheus; seen at right in SHO light.
Oschin's Red and Blue
… in which, for scale, one can spot molecular cloud Barnard 163, within which stars a likely forming.
In H-Alpha
In H light
SHO light
Glowy cloud with dusty intrusions and baby stars
Elephant's Trunk in SHO light
Glowy Elephant's Trunk
An Unusual Globule in IC 1396. Nice glowiness with crisp obstacles and bright stars.
Study in brown
The Eagle nebula
M16: 20 ly wide birth-place of an open cluster, 6.5 k ly away.
In three spectral lines
In infra-red (Spitzer)
Also: in three spectral lines
X-rays and The Pillars of Creation
Infrared Star Hunt; I see a clown's face ;^)
a dust pillar sculpture
In the Large Magellanic Cloud
Superbubble N44 Assorted nurseries in one of our home galaxy's close satellites.
Fine detail from Spitzer in IR
Ten-frame mosaic
An LMC Star Cloud
N11B dust cloud with new-forming stars
Superbubble N44
Sea-horse dust cloud
Super-bubble N44, without so much context, in such light as leaves it looking like a face.
DEM192 in LMC
A Star Forming Region in the LMC; evident signs of explosions. Colour-coded by elements producing the light.
LH 95 in detail
High resolution image of a star-forming region, taken in carefully chosen spectral lines so as to glean more information about star formation.
The Tarantula Nebula
The largest, most violent star forming region known in the Local Group, it's about 1 k ly across and 180 k ly away. Also known as 30 Doradus.
Tentacles of Tarantula
Includes a link to an ESO page which lets you zoom in to see fine detail. A later edition of part of the same field links to a remarkable run-away.
Star cluster R136 emerges
Shaping the Tarantula with the force of the winds from its big hot new stars, among the hottest and brightest known.
Scientifically coloured
Tarantula's Hodge 301
Star cluster Hodge 301, a Denizen of the Tarantula Nebula, with red giants due to blow, seeding the nebula with more pressure waves to make more stars.
30 Doradus
(a.k.a. Tarantula) in X, UV and Hydrogen; supernovae in the cradle of a globular cluster.
Spitzer: Tarantula
The Tarantula Zone
and Doradus is in an area called Dorado
Tarantula's heart
Web of fillaments
Several examples, cycling Planetary Nebulae: when a star of modest size (such as our Sun) grows old, it sheds its outer layers. The results can be marvelously pretty.
Planetary Nebula Show
cycling gif, with links to lots of examples
Hen 1357: New Born Nebula
NGC 6751
Stringy iris-like nebula round old dying star
Blinking Eye
NGC 6826; planetary nebula
NGC 7027
NGC 2818 in NHO
NGC 7008: the foetus nebula
Little NGC 7027 in IR
Only 14 kAU across …
IC 4406: side-on cylinder
IC418 went boom, now it's surrounded by cute filaments of glowy stuff
The eskimo nebula Star gone boom – surrounded by fronds and glowy-ness.
Little Ghost
Eye-ball in the sky with a white dwarf in the middle, whose boom made the blob.
NGC 2440: Cocoon of a new white dwarf
NGC 2440: Hottest known white dwarf
4 k ly away, 0.2 M K hot, surrounded by a 1 ly wide planetary nebula.
NGC 6210: Turtle
Red outer cloud being blasted from within by jets of hotter gas.
NGC 6369 Donut
Anular planetary nebula in Ophiuchus
M97: Owl
Symmetric NGC 5307
Pretty blob of a planetary nebula.
NGC 7009: Saturn
The Saturn Nebula, a low-mass white dwarf
Ghost of Jupiter
1.4 k ly away, with mysterious red side-flashes
Blue Snowball
FLIERs around the Blue Snowball nebula.
The Skull Nebula
NGC 246: 2.5 ly across, produced by the dead member of the binary it surrounds, 1.6 k ly away.
Mira and its UV tail
Medusa, or Abell 21
Red Rectangle
LL Pegasi's unusual spiral, IRAS 23166+1655
Gaining a fresh layer per roughly eight centuries, as a dying star and its partner orbit one another.
Methuselah: MWP1
Ten times as old as the typical life-time of a planetary nebula.
Necklace in NOH light
Red Square nebula
The halo of NGC 2438
Bipolar lobes
Cthulu's hourglass Many planetary nebulae have a pronounced spreading along an axis.
Red Spider
Planetary Nebula, NGC 6537
Bipolar NGC 6164-5
4 ly across, 4 k ly away, complete with a few cometary knots and a halo.
Rotten Egg
aka Calabash nebula, OH231.8+4.2, in Puppis.
Mz3: The Ant
MyCn18: an hourglass
Cthulu's Eye !
Egg's Searchlight Beams
Polarized Boomerang
Pretty false-colour pattern
Butterfly Twins
NGC 2346; two stars in mutual orbit feeding a surrounding cloud
Wings of a butterfly
M2-9, 2.1 k ly away; two stars orbiting in a cloud cast off pretty results.
Butterfly close-up
NGC 6302: early image from 8.2 m Very Large Telescope in Chile.
Renewed Hubble's Butterfly
NGC 6302; compare Hubble's earlier image.
Hollow spaces
The Ring Nebula Sometimes, the star hollows out a bubble in the middle of its planetary nebula, generally with beautiful results.
NGC 3132: Eight Burst
Cloud hollowed out by star boom and glowing in its light, with decorative dust wisps to make it prettier.
Visible Helix
IR Helix and its dust
NGC 7293: Helix
Nebula of a nearby star dying, with cometary knots; seen in infra-red by Spitzer; 2 ly wide, 700 ly away in Aquarius.
Spherical Bubble
Planetary Nebula Abell 39
NGC 7635: the bubble nebula
10 ly across, 11 k ly away, blown in a molecular cloud by a star 10 to 20 times as big as our Sun. See in H-α, or in SHO.
M57: Ring
Cool glowy eye-like barrel-shaped planetary nebula.
Rosy round the Ring
M57 with its surrounding rings of glowy redness; also available in diverse shades of Hydrogen
Annular Shapley 1
M76: The Little Dumbbell
Similar in form to M27 (below), but fainter; 3 to 5 k ly away, over one ly across.
The Cat's Eye Nebula
Halo NGC 6543 is a planetary nebula, over half a light-year across, about 3 k ly away but looks a bit like a deep-sea blobby life-form. It's filamets and inner folds are marvelously intricate. It is surrounded by an outer halo that spans three light years.
X-ray and visible
Surrounding the inner details there's another layer of complex structure.
In context
Light Echoes
20 k ly away, in the constellation Monocerotis, on the edge of our galaxy, a quite unusual star, V838 Mon, had an outburst: the light from that first came to us directly in January 2002; but now we get to watch the light illuminate the surrounding cloud – the outer layers the star had previously shed.
The Echoes Begin
first signs of oddity; 2002, May and September
2004, February and October
2006, September
About 1.2 k ly away, over 2.5 ly across; also known as M27.
Pretty Dumbbell
Glowy Dumbbell
Star boom left-over in glowy colours
In [Hα,O,Hβ]-light
In H+O synthetic colour
In context, again in H+O colours
Alien Planets
As the Sun is just an ordinary star, surely other stars may have satellites like the planets of our solar system. As our astronomical equipment has improved, we have begun to catch glimpses of these companions; and even launched specialist space probes to look for them; for example, in 1/400 of the sky, the Kepler probe has found over 1200 possible exoplanets (and it can only see ones whose orbital planes pass through us).
β Pictoris
A star 50 ly away, with a debris disk like our Kuiper belt and a probable planet (giant) in an orbit roughly as large as Saturn's.
Formalhaut's visible planet
Only 25 ly away, Formalhaut is young: its surrounding debris ring hasn't stabilized into the serene splendour of a system of planets, but one planet is visible among it, about three times as massive as Jupiter, with 14 times the orbital radius.
Young star, hot planet
500 ly away a newly-formed sun-like star is observed, in infra-red, (and later confirmed) to have a companion. Estimated to be about 8 times as massive as Jupiter, it's 330 AU (1.9 light days) from its star – 63.4 time as far as Jupiter is from our Sun.
Gliese 581's habitable zone
It's only a red dwarf, but (to the best of 2007's knowledge) has a planet a bit bigger than Earth orbiting it once every 13 days, at such a radius as to have a likely surface temperature of zero to 40 Celsius. With a mass estimated to be 5 times that of Earth, and a diameter 1.5 times that of Earth, its surface gravity is about twice that of Earth. This is 20 ly from home.
Gliese 581g: Zarmina's world
Further study of Gliese 581's system of planets had, by 2010, identified a planet (not sure if this is better data on the same as above, or a different one) in circular orbit with period 37 days; relative to the matching properties of Earth, its mass is 3.1, orbital radius 0.15, body radius 1.5, surface gravity between 1.1 and 1.7.
Several planets, one star
Rather further afield, 130 ly away, HR 8799 has 1.5 times the mass of our Sun and is seen (in infra-red) to be orbited by at least three gas giants, likely bigger than Jupiter, all with orbital radii larger than that of Neptune.
CoRoT and its rocky planet 7b
Kepler 11's compact solar system
Near Neighbours
Sol's neighbourhood We can more readilly learn about stars nearer to us.
Sol's Local Bubble
Our Galactic Neighborhood (schematic); and the local fluff.
The Gum Nebula
Named after Stanley Gum (1924–1960); a near-by ancient super-nova remnant, from 450 to 1500 ly away.
Proxima Centauri
The nearest star to the Sun, 4.22 light years away; so faint it wasn't found until 1915, despite being in orbit around the fourth brightest star in the night sky.
Our Sun
Today's X-ray It looks so serene and perfect until you study it closely and discover that it's a raging inferno in perpetual turmoil. Galileo was the first to see it thus; since 1995 the SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory, in Earth's L1 Lagrange point, has hugely enriched our knowledge of our nearest star's tumult.
ISS's spotless transit
Stereo Sun
in red and blue
Great Ball of Fire
A Great Day For SOHO – returned to service.
Plasma flows
Solar surface and near-surface plasma flows relative to an average rate of surface rotation.
Spicules: hot plasma jets
Coronal Holes
Helios Helium
Solstice Celebration
Blue by inverting H-α
Blue in Fe11+ UV
In X-ray
With links to daily images of the sun.
Close-up details of surface activity
In Iron's ions' light at equinox
Spots, flares, prominences and coronal mass ejections
Despite the fierce gravity at the Sun's surface, there's so much activity at the surface that some of the matter escapes; some even hangs suspended above the surface – known as prominences when seen at The Sun's limb, against the dark back-drop of space, or as filaments when seen against the The Sun itself.
Escaping prominence
Prominence Erupts
Eruption on the hellish surface, in He UV.
Prominence in profile
again, in He UV, from STEREO (Ahead).
Hovering prominence
Coronal Rain, Solar Storm
Sun Inferno
A Solar Filament Lifts Off
Plasma Slinky
AR9077: Solar Magnetic Arcade
Sunspot 875 flares
Plasma TRACE
An Active Region of the Sun
Neutrino image
Super Kamiokande's 500 day exposure
Surface ripple
Solar flares cause sun-quakes
Mega-Kelvin TRACEs
Sun-spot side-view from Hinode
Sun-spot in UV
Showing violent electromagnetic activity around AR 9169 on a quiet day in September 2000.
Huge prominence suddently erupts
Extreme UV from the SDO
Filament in SDO's extreme UV
Big complex flare up, from SDO
Solar prominence, from SOHO
SDO movie of a long filament erupting
Plasma splurge
Solar eclipse By a happy coincidence, we are living in an epoch in which the Moon's distance from the Earth (which slowly increases) is in the same ratio to the Moon's diameter as the ratio of the Earth's distance from the Sun to the diameter of the Sun – to an approximation good enough that routine variations in the distances involved suffice to make each ratio sometimes larger than the other. Consequently, when the Moon passes between Earth and Sun, it can exactly mask out the whole of the Sun's body, revealing its magnificent corona.
Crescent Sun: Solstice Eclipse
Eclipse Corona
Annular, behind palm trees, 1992
Corona, Mercury, stars
Both edges of totality
The last moment before, and first after, a total eclipse, seen from Novosibirsk. The Sun shines through lunar valleys.
The corona in all its glory
Eclipse over China's Great Wall
With all but Jupiter of the classical planets visible.
Moon and Eclipse corona
Eclipse over Zambia
Antarctic eclipse, 2003
Eclipse over Turkey
Time-series showing the moon encroach on, hide and move away from the Sun.
Diamond ring and Bailey's beads
Time-series from Novosibirsk, showing the effect of the Sun shining through the Moon's valleys.
Silhouettes over Goa
Six minutes and fourty-two seconds
Bailey's beads pierce clouds
Rising over Poseidon's temple
Detailed view of the Corona
Total eclipse behind Easter Island Maoi
… and as a a time-series.
Same eclipse, over the Andes
… and the shadow cone it cast there.
Same eclipse, high dynamic range
Revealing details from the bright corona to the lunar surface seen in full-Earth-light.
Diamond rings refracted to shadow bands
Rising eclipse over Graz
Hiding the midnight Sun
Satellites of our Sun which: are big enough that their own gravitation obliges them to be roughly spherical, and; constitute most of the mass in orbits near their own; are classified as planets – or major planets, to distinguish them from Pluto, which also gets described (mainly thanks to historical accident) as a planet. The eight major planets fall into two groups, separated by the asteroid belt: the four outer planets are gas giants, of low density thanks to vast amounts of Hydrogen in their atmospheres; the four inner planets are much smaller balls of rock, with atmospheres (where present) dominated by less cosmically abundant – but weightier – substances.
Mercury Named for the messenger of the gods. Has negligible atmosphere. NASA's Messenger probe has, in early 2008, made the first of a series of fly-bys that shall ultimately put it into a mapping orbit on 2011, March 18th; it has already greatly expanded on the limited data from the one earlier visitor, Mariner 10, in 1974. In 2013, Europe and Japan shall launch a joint mission to Mercury, Bepi-Colombo, which shall include X-ray sensing.
Transit: crossing the Sun's face, amid clouds
Mariner composite
Full disc, with obvious alien landing-strip.
Mariner 10, 1974
Degas Ray Crater
The other half
Messenger's first look at what Mariner 10 missed.
Craters close up, from terminator to horizon
Coloured crescent
Colour-enhanced Caloris
A view from Messenger's second fly-by
Rayed crater
Rembrandt impact basin
Mysteriously dark crater-hub
Double ring's surprisingly smooth interior
Messenger's first view from orbit
Close-up exaggerating contrast
Degas crater
Venus Named for the godess of love. Venus is a common way-station for space-craft heading out to the gas giants and beyond; it provides a handy gravity-assist. Its atmosphere is apallingly corrosive, immensely thick and hot – the first few space-craft we sent there were destroyed before the reached ground level !
Venus Transient
At intervals of a bit over a century, Venus and Earth manage to line up twice, eight years apart, in such a way that observers on Earth see Venus pass across the face of the Sun. It happened in 2004 and it'll happen again in 2012.
Atete Corona and surrounding features
Rock domes
The surface was once molten, as Magellan's radar made clear
en passant
Galileo's fly-by picture of Venus
Surface mess; fractures forming concentric ovals and complex networks; resemble spider-webs.
Radar surface
View through Venus' clouds thanks to Magellan's imaging radar, with a bit of help from Arecibo. Resolution is 3 km.
Our home's boiling cloudy twin.
by Magellan's radar, naturally.
Phase variation
UV×4 from Stereo Ahead
Sulphuric acid clouds
Noticed by ESA's Venus Express probe.
Atmosphere revealed in crescent
South polar vortex
Home sweet home The planet on which I was born.
Big Blue Marble
Earth at Night
That famous planet-wide composite …
True Color
Cloudless daylight composite
In gamma-ray
Gravity Map
Earth and Moon
Seen from afar
Moon passing Earth, seen from 50 Gm away by Deep Impact.
Two South Poles
Earth and Moon seen by NEAR
Apollo 17's view
A Passing Spaceship Views Earth, on its way from Mathilde to Eros
View from the moon ;^)
Ocean Planet Pole To Pole – false colour skewed to emphasise phytoplankton.
Methane Clouds
Big Ozone Hole, 1998
Double Ozone Hole, 2002
False colour maps of ozone levels
Water Vapor
Image in 6.7 micron IR.
El Nino Water Rhythm
Pacific warm-water picture.
Temperature Map
With link to updates
Clementine's mosaic
Antarctic summer
As seen by Galileo during 1990 fly-by
Barringer Crater
Sahara: Richat Structure
Sahara: Terkezi Oasis
Bay Area from Landsat
Landsat 7 Views Planet Earth
Katrina making waves
Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico, as seen from GOES-12. Very neat central hole.
Ivan the Terrible
2004's Hurricane Ivan, seen from the ISS.
Crescent view
Seen by Rosetta, on its way out to rendezvous with a comet.
With Moon, as seen from near Mercury
During an eclipse, as seen by Mir
Valles Marineris Named for the god of war. When at its closest to us (in opposition, i.e. opposite the Sun), Mars shows us its full day-lit face; given how thin its atmosphere is, this has given us a nice clear view of its surface. When the best telescopes couldn't quite resolve the details, but nearly could, its surface features looked tantalizing almost comprehensible – leading to some rather fanciful guess-work.
Pathfinder's rusty sunset
A rock called Yogi
Martian Analemma
Gale crater: Curiosity's target
Viking views
What our first robots found when they got there.
Valles Marineris
The Grand Canyon of Mars
Viking Mars
Seems to be the complement of the Valles Marineris picture. Provides links to lots of on-line literature about Mars.
Schiparelli-centred full face
Big crater.
Phobos Over Mars
Viking Olympus
The infamous face
Among thousands of hill-ish shapes in pictures, it should be no surprise that at least one vaguely resembled a pattern our brains are hard-wired never miss, at the expense of sporadic false positives. Sure enough, more recent pictures show a less surprising mesa.
Seasonal water ice
Global Survey
Topography In 1997, NASA's dedicated survey mission arrived and went to work – now we have really good pictures of all of Mars, from close up.
Olympus Mons
Sun-set over a 24 km tall extinct volcano that's 64 km across.
Rock strata in Marineris
Stratified rock visible in mountain (amid dust desert).
Marineris detail
In A Grand Canyon On Mars
Victoria Crater
800 metres across, 70 metres deep, c/o Opportunity rover
Schiaparelli Coastline
Ancient Layered Rocks on Mars, in Schiaparelli Crater.
Volcano and clouds
Volcano Apollinaris Patera
Nanedi Vallis
Martian River Bed ?
Proctor crater's dunes
Mars Global Surveyor's view of blobby dune array.
Thawing dunes
Distorted image from Global Surveyor at noon
Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter chart
Thermal Map
Layered hills of Arabia Terra
Mars Express
Water ice in crater ESA's orbiting observer arrived at the end of 2003. Its passenger, the Beagle 2 lander, failed; but the satellite has sent back some fine imagery.
Vales Marineris
4 km cliffs at Echus Chasma
Ice-pool in Crater
Water Ice in a Maritan Crater – just begging to be domed over and warmed to make a lake.
Steep cliffs
North polar region, in a mish-mash of materials, with cliffs approaching 2 km in height.
Cydonian mesas
Mars express image, including The Face, which was shown in closer detail the previous day.
Sprit and Opportunity
Also in 2003, NASA sent two Mars Exploration Rovers, which (having landed safely, unlike Beagle 2) have been sending back excellent images long after their original design lifetimes of 90 days. They travelled separately but both landed in January 2004. Spirit explores rocks and hills within Gusev Crater while Opportunity, half a world away, visits a selection of smaller craters.
Gusev Crater
Sprit's landing site
Inside Eagle Crater
Opportunity's landing hole, a small crater in Meridiani Planum.
Tiny hematite spherules
Bonneville Crater panorama
Layered rock in Endurance Crater
Opportunity's heat shield's crater
… and a nearby metalic rock
Friendly dust devils
Sunset over Gusef Crater
View from Husband Hill
Bumpy Boulder
found at Spirit's winter quarters
Spirit's doodles on Engineering Flats
The rocky road to Victoria Crater
On the brink
Opportunity studies the cliffs beside which it'll make its fateful descent.
Opportunity's desolate panorama
Three years later, on its way to Endeavour crater, checking up on a possibly other-worldly boulder.
Intrepid Crater
Still en route to Endeavour, another small discovery.
Spirit's last panorama: Gusev crater
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Launched in August 2005, the MRO is dedicated to looking for signs that there was ever persistent water on Mars's surface. It reached Mars in March 2006 and has since been sending back a wealth of excellent images from its high resolution cameras, notably including HiRISE.
Opportunity's way down
Seen from above while searching for a route down into Victoria Crater.
Sprit in the Columbia Hills
A hole
… in Mars – not Blackburn, Lancashire. A later close-up revealed near-vertical walls.
Layered rocks in Aureum Chaos
The sandy layers of Chasma Boreale
Vast buried glaciers ?
Suspected mud volcano
Barchan dunes flowing down-wind
Melting dunes near the North Pole
Proctor crater's dunes
Views from Earth
Mars or, at least, from Earth Orbit – mostly from the Hubble space telescope:
Halloween '95
Spring arrives
1996 September
Summer starts
HST scouting in March '97 ready for Pathfinder and Global Surveyor.
Summer's End
View from Hubble a week before Pathfinder landed, 1997 June 27
Autumn Begins
1997 September 12
HST pair
Images about a quarter turn apart.
Wet Infrared
Storm brewing
The Great Sand-Storm of 2001
Spring storm, 2010
Spring on Mars usually implies dust-storms; Northern spring happened in 2010 just after opposition, giving a good view.
Jupiter Named for the king of the gods.
Rings, discovered by Voyager
Eclipsed Galileo's ring-side view
Cylindrical projection.
Jupiter's pole with a crown of auroral light.
Direct hit
Jupiter Swallows Comet Shoemaker Levy 9
A later impact scar
Results of a comet-strike, causing a dark patch tracked during the subsequent months.
… and a close-up view, c/o Hubble.
Jove's Clouds
from Cassini, and from New Horizons.
Infra-red cloud view
Showing off the power of adaptive optics to improve ground-based observation.
Sofia's first light
Comparing Jupiter in visible light and IR, the latter seen from Earth's stratosphere, clear of the troposphere's water vapour.
The Great Red Spot
Amid its bands of stormy clouds, fast-spinning Jupiter sports a giant storm; Hooke (1664) and Cassini (1665) first described such features, one of which may be the same as has been consistently observed since the 1830s. With extents of 12–14 Mm in latitude and 24–40 Mm in longitude, the area it covers is roughly equal to the total surface area of the Earth.
Great Red Spot movie
Approaching Jupiter, Voyager 1 took a succession of pictures of the GRS; one of these has since been enhanced.
Storm's tail
West Of The Great Red Spot, colour-coded to show cloud height and thickness.
Storm clouds over The Spot
Galileo close-up of Red Spot
Computed, from three filtered images, to get true colour.
Red Spot Conjunction
The Great Red Spot has a companion (2006) and they've even passed quite close to one another.
Spots: three red, two white
A third red spot had developed by May 2008; all three are seen together here, along with a couple of white spots.
RIP Baby Red Spot, May–July 2008
Eaten by the Great Red Spot during a three-way collision with Red Spot Jr.
Jove and its satellites
Various probes visiting Jupiter have captured excellent pictures of the planet, often accompanied by its moons.
Io (snitch), by Jove
Io over Jove's clouds (B+W)
Voyager 1 pic from 5 Million Miles From Io looking down on Jupiter, in black and white.
With Io, from New Horizons as it passed by
Rich color, with Io
and Ganymede's shadow, too.
Ganymede, by Jove
Jupiter eclipsing Ganymede
Triple Eclipse
Io, Callisto and Ganymede together
Europa and Callisto, by Jove
Europa rising
Jove and Family
Jupiter and its four Gallilean satellites.
Saturn's North-polar aurora Named after the father of Jupiter.
In true colour, with Titan
From beyond
Looking over Saturn's shoulder in 1980 just after passing it; Voyager 1 outbound.
au naturel
Saturn in true colour, with Enceladus dot in front of it; as seen by Hubble, while Cassini was en route.
Hubble: infrared
Cassini (VIMS): across the infrared spectrum
In infrared, with aurora showing
Colours, rings and moons
Moons in transit
Enceladus, Dione, Titan and Mimas, as the rings approach edge-on.
Stormy Weather
Long-lived electrical storm
Wider than the Earth and over three months old.
Dragon Storm
South polar storm
Slightly bigger than the Earth, with winds over 150 m/s (550 km/hr); and it's probably been going for giga-years.
Serpent Storm
Spanning a band in the Northern hemisphere from late 2010.
Cloud systems around the South Pole
Seen by Lunar Limb
Grazing Lunar Limb
Seen from above a pole
North pole's hexagonal cloud ring
Aurora over north polar cloud glow
Yearly variation in tilt
Crescent view just after equinox
The Rings
Saturn Visible, even with early telescopes, from Earth: we now know that the other gas giants have ring systems, too, but we knew about Saturns's first.
A Wavemaker Moon in Saturn's Rings (Keeler gap).
Ring particle size map
Particle Sizes in Saturn's Rings – Cassini sent radio waves home; reception revealed data on particle sizes in the centimeter range; there may well be bigger ones …
From deep in Saturn's shadow, Cassini looked towards the sun and caught a beautiful view.
Epimetheus, rings and Titan
Dark side of the rings
Ring through-scatter
Saturn's Rings from the Other Side – seen with sun behind camera but on the other side of the ring plane.
Earth seen through the rings
Spokes near equinox
Intricate details at equinox
The huge enveloping dust ring
Newly discovered in late 2009, with a radius over fifty times that of Saturn's E-ring and thicker than several times Saturn's radius.
… and their shadows
The rings cast shadows on Saturn, with often pretty effects. As a bonus, near Saturn's equinox (2009/August), Saturn's moons and the rings cast shadows on the rings themselves, revealing details of their structure that would otherwise be hard to see.
Ring-side view
Cassini spacecraft crosses Saturn's ring plane.
By the light of the razor ring
Polarized IR revealing how much a 1 km thick band of rubble can scatter.
Thin vertical line
Tethys, Rings and Shadows
Excellent crisp image; separate rings' shadows form a neat pattern of lines on Saturn. Crescent Tethys shows its clear disk just sun-ward of the Planet's terminator.
Shadows on the rings as equinox approaches
Jagged shadows, alongside that of Mimas, of the rings on the rings.
Shadows almost at equinox
Uranus Named after a mythical character from the ancient pagen world, father of Saturn.
Infrared Uranus
Uranus, ring and its Moon 18
IR: Moons and rings
IR: Moons, rings and clouds
With ring system
Neptune Named after the god of the sea.
Crescents of Neptune and Triton
Voyager 2's passing view
Neptune and Triton from Palomar
Southern Hemisphere
Composite view from Voyager 2, passing over the south pole.
Neptune's Weather
Pretty blue and green, with a smudge of red-yellow
The late great dark spot
In 1989, Voyager 2 saw this giant storm with 24 Mm/s winds; but it didn't last.
Southern springtime in Blue
Heavy Blue Giant
High cirrus clouds
One day, a year after discovery
Some planets have moons (also called satellites) trapped in orbit around them; and there are assorted other stray lumps of matter floating around the solar system.
Selene Better known as The Moon, Earth's constant companion, always keeping the same face towards Earth. Its unprotected surface, bombarded by cosmic rays, shines brightly in γ-rays, brighter by far than The Sun.
Twenty full moons
May 2005 to Dec 2006, showing size variation and libration
Animated Lunation
Exaggerated colour
Lunar close-up
Moon Mare and Montes
Earth-lit Moon, Pleiades
Crescent moon over-exposed to show dark side by Earth-light, with Pleiades alongside.
Far Side
The parts we never see from Earth
Apollo 11 panorama by East Crater
Bay of rainbows
Lunar close-up
from Apollo 17, 1972; Eratosthenes and Copernicus craters.
Panorama with Shorty crater
Taurus-Littrow valley, moon rover and impressive crater, from the last human visit to the Moon, Apollo 17.
Man, Boulder
Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt beside a boulder in the Taurus-Littrow area.
Copernicus Crater in 1966–1967
93 km wide, as seen from the Lunar Orbiter reconnaissance missions
So near horizon its light is reddened; complete with a red flash at its lower edge.
N Polar Ice
S Polar Ice
S Polar Ice by neutron-mapping
X-Ray Moon
Largest Impact Crater
Illusory X of craters
As the Sun rises, as seen from the Moon, it illuminates crater rims before their floors, revealing height variations.
A microscopic lunar spherule
Lunar seismography since 1969
South polar shading
Sunrise shadow of Tycho's central peak
Lunar eclipses
Peep-show The Earth's shadow comprises, as one moves away from the Sun, a slowly narrowing cone of total darkness, where Earth hides all of the Sun, within a slowly widening cone of partial darkness, where at least some of the Sun is hidden. Selene's diameter is less than that of either, at the distance of her orbit, so she easilly fits into the shadow, when her path happens to take her through it. When the whole of the moon is inside the cone of total darkness, it's a total eclipse of the moon; when otherwise at least partially within the cone of partial darkness, it's a partial eclipse.
Twelve lunar eclipses, 2006 to 2008
In visible light
In infra-red
Lunar peep-show
Sequence of images of Selene sliding through Earth's shadow during a total eclipse.
Lingering Lunar Eclipse
Moon eclipsed red
Time-lapse lunar eclipse
And similar from the South Pole.
Kalamalka time-lapse
… and how Aristarchus estimated the distance to the Moon.
Eclipse Moon Trail
Long exposure, showing the Moon pass through Earth's shadow.
Earth's shadow
Eclipsed Moon rising
Over a house in Huddersfield
Blue Moon eclipse
Winter solstice eclipse
… preceded by an anticipation of its sky context; followed by a composite showing the setting eclipse.
With Milky Way as back-drop
With lightning in the foreground
Tiny Deimos Mars has two natural mooons, both suspected of being captured asteroids, plus a variable population of man-made visitors.
Stickney Crater, on Phobos
Dust Hip Deep on Phobos
Doomed Phobos
About 5.8 Mm above Mars, orbitting in under 8 hours.
Phobos's North and South poles
Close-ups from Mars Express.
Tiny by the standards of moons, only 15 km (c. 9 miles) across.
Deimos close-up
Viking 2 picture, from 18 miles close.
Deimos from MRO
Ida and Dactyl Stray lumps of rock in roughly circular orbits about the Sun are known as minor planets; those which orbit (mostly) closer than Jupiter are known as asteroids; the ones caught at Jupiter's Lagrange points (leading and trailing Jupiter by turn/6) are known as Trojans; those orbiting (mostly) between Jupiter and Neptune are known as Centaurs. Beyond Neptune, there's a zone known as the Kuiper belt (sometimes: Edgeworth-Kuiper belt) in which many similar bodies orbit; including Pluto, king of the minor planets (though not actually the largest of them). The asteroids of the inner solar system attract plenty of attention, now that we've realised how close some of them come to hitting Earth.
Dog-Bone Asteroid
216, Kleopatra, between Mars and Jupiter.
Stereo Eros
Eros craters and boulders
With regolith in the craters
Asteroid 433 close-up; 40×14×14 km, visited by NEAR Shoemaker, whose eventual terrain map has been used to produce a simulated image.
Second largest, half a Mm across. Old telescopic views are now superseded by images from the robotic Dawn mission's visit, 2011.
Vesta height map
False colour representation of Vesta.
Near opposition
Dawn approaches
Full-frame view
Ida and Dactyl
Little Dactyl's a mile across (looks less to me); Ida's 36 miles long, 14 across and lumpy.
NEAR 253 Mathilde
60 km across, with at least one 20 km crater that's about 10 km deep.
951: Gaspra
Gaspra Colour-enhanced, main-belt asteroid; about 11 miles long.
Sylvia, Romulus and Remus
First observed triple asteroid; 380 km Sylvia; 710 km, 33 hr orbit for 7 km Remus; 1360 km, 87.6 hr orbit for 18 km Romulus. Rhea Sylvia was the wolf-cubs' mother.
P/2010 A2
Looking like a comet-tail, this is suspected of being the residue of a collision between asteroids.
Visitor gallery
A gallery of the asteroids and comets visited by our space-craft, to date, to mark the occasion of ESA's Rosetta's fly-by of 21 Lutetia, the largest in the gallery.
An Earth-crossing asteroid visited by Japan's Hayabusa probe (2005 to 2006).
The Approach
Successive views, in-bound, 2005/September
Hayabusa's shadow
Two months later, in orbit; Itokawa is 300 m across
No Craters
Rubble and slush with no visible cratering.
Puzzlingly Smooth
Ceres and Vesta
Ceres, first and largest
The first asteroid found, Ceres (933 km in diameter), filled a gap in the Titius-Bode sequence: start with 0 and 0.3, then double at each subsequent step to get 0.6, 1.2 and so on; add 0.4 to each entry in that sequence; you now have 0.4, 0.7, 1.0, 1.6, 2.8, 5.2, 10.0, 19.6; which are respectably close to the orbital radii of the planets out to Uranus (measured as multiples of Earth's orbital radius), save for the entry between Mars (1.52296 ≅ 1.5) and Jupiter (5.1998 ≅ 5.2). Once this coincidence had been noticed, astronomers went looking for a planet orbitting at the missing radius – after the satisfying success of finding Ceres (on the first day of the nineteenth century, in an orbit with radius 2.77 times as big as Earth's), they were a little surprised to find it was (rather small and) not alonePallas, Vesta and Juno showed up soon after.
Io The moons of Jupiter caused quite a stir when Galileo first noticed them. More recently, they've proven even more interesting when seen from closer range.
Inner Moons
Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea and Thebe; all in the electromagnetic storm within Io's orbit.
Hot, sulphurous and volcanic, it vaguely resembles the golden snitch from a game of quiddich, but the yellow colour is due to sulphur, not gold.
Prometheus Plume
Tvashtar's eruption
Seen by New Horizons, passing on its way to Pluto
Spinning Io
In shadow
Io lit by aurora and volcanic plumes in Jove's electromagnetic maelstrom, seen while passing through that giant's shadow.
Pele region before and after a Pillan Patera eruption.
Sodium cloud
In triplicate
Three Galileo images, plain and digitally enhanced, showing colour diversity.
Ra Patera erupts
Crescent Io seen by Galileo, with blue volcanic plume at its edge.
Spin Icy on the outside, but might there be life in oceans within ?
Full face
Galileo using natural colour
Ice shapes
Cracks and Ridges on Europa
Ice Cusps
possible evidence of tectonic activity
Pwyll Crater
Ice jigsaw
Oceans under Europa's surface? Following day shows ice rafts, this one shows the ice sheet with lots of cracks.
Impact crater over-laid with cracks.
Galileo: 560 Kilometers Above Europa, showing lumpy terrain
Cracked ice plains
Crater chain The largest moon in the Solar System – bigger than Mercury and Pluto.
Messy surface
Mysterious Features on Ganymede – a non-crater circular arc, cut by a linear crater chain, beside a broad linear feature.
Crater chain
Crater Chain on Ganymede, left by a Torn Comet.
Galileo orbiter's mineral analysis.
Contrast-enhanced mosaic
Also available enlarged.
A jagged ice-field with possible sub-surface ocean
A dark face, full of spots
Too cool to re-arrange its surface and hide the impact scars left by everything that's hit it.
Showing big crater Valhalla; previous day has same view in true colour.
Big cliff
Enceladus by rings Saturn has plenty of moons plus a beautiful system of rings. It also has an artificial satellite, called Cassini, which has sent us back lots of delightful pictures.
Prometheus Remastered
Prometheus knocks stripes off the F-ring
80 km wide, partner to Prometheus; together they shepherd the F ring
Epimetheus and Janus
Twin moons with orbital radii within 50 km, 91 Mm above Saturn's cloud-tops, doing a perpetual dance – swapping orbits every four years and sheperding the A ring. Epimetheus is about 115 km across; Janus is about 190 km across, with a shape reminiscent of a potato.
Epimetheus and Janus
Seen together beside the rings
Mimas' nipple
Mimas (not the death star from Star Wars) seen (c/o Cassini) half-face, with its (130 km span) huge nippled crater, Herschel, facing us on the terminator.
Herschel crater close-up
Anthe and its arc
Enceladus and Mimas passing Rhea
An ice-ball with clean surface, stripey in places, and geysers.
Ring Enceladus
Creating the E ring
Saturn, rings and Enceladus
Saturnian Moon and Rings
Spots and stripes
Tiger stripes
Fountain of Ice
Enceladus crescent view, showing what those tiger stripes are up to.
Crescent plums over Saturn's strata
Tiger strips from 1.7 Mm close
Geyser close-up
Labtayt Sulci
Vast canyon, about 1 km deep.
Fresh tiger stripes
Tethys, Telesto and Calypso
Sharing an orbit; Telesto inhabits Tethys's forward Lagrange point, Calypso its lagging one.
Smooth Telesto
24 km across in Tethys's forward Lagrange.
Unusually smooth Calypso
Only 20 km long, irregular in shape.
The Great Basin on Tethys
Tethys and rings
With its Great Basin making Tethys look disturbingly like the death star from Star Wars.
Ithaca Chasma
Tethys: cratered ice cliffs
Cassini fly-by view from 32 Mm away; ball (mostly) of ice is c. 1 Mm in diameter.
Dione and Helene
Ringside Dione Another Lagrange pair, just outside the E ring. Dione is mostly water ice, but has enough rock to make it perceptibly heavy. Icy Polydeuces occupies the rear Lagrange point.
Lagrange companion ahead of Dione; now available in glorous 3-D.
Dione, rings and their shadow
Ringside Dione
White streaks and craters
Dione close-up
Showing scratches and craters; a 23 km wide patch seen from 4.5 Mm away.
Dione's bright cliffs cut craters
Dione and Titan
Second largest, tidally locked, more heavilly cratered on leading face.
Rhea up close
as seen by Cassini from 620 km away
Rhea's Great White Spot
Rhea and the rings
Southern Rhea
Passing Epimetheus
Through rings, with Janus
Saturn's largest moon (second largest in the Solar system, behind Jupiter's Ganymede) has an atmosphere, so Cassini took Huygens to visit Titan and get us some more detailed information. Most of the following are images Cassini itself took, using radar to see through the atmosphere, during its many fly-bys. Titan's surface temperature is about 93 K and its atmosphere is dominated by methane.
Is it a cloud ? Is it a volcano ?
Titan has an odd spot which stays in the same place …
Dome-shaped feature resembling volcano, may be with ice-CH4-NH3 slurry for lava.
Radar image from Cassini; Titan appears to have hydrocarbon seas.
Lake District
Suspected methane lakes seen in radar images.
Tethis behind Titan
Spongy Hyperion
Hyperion close-up
Sponge Moon, caver's delight ? Tidal effects make its spin chaotic.
One side is so dark its discoverer, Cassini, noted that it was only visible when on one side of Saturn.
Messy Iapetus
Vanishing Iapetus
The dark side of Iapetus
Close-up of Iapetus' equatorial ridge
Irregular dark surface, retrograde orbit, low density – suspect Kuiper belt refugee, now in Saturn's orbit. Looks just like the Clangers' home planet ;^)
Ariel Much remains to be seen of Uranus and its environs; but we know it also has rings.
Miranda's rugged face
Chevron, and Alonso. Miranda also has a canyon perhaps 12 miles deep – wow !
Ariel: Valley World
Dark Umbriel
Titania's Trenches
Uranus' largest moon.
with crater Hamlet in plain view
Oberon: Impact World
Proteus Neptune is so far away we can't see its moons very well; it has (at least) six, plus a system of rings.
Despina and her shadow
So dark we didn't notice it until Voyager 2 visited; and almost big enough for its gravity to make it spherical, but not quite.
Neptune's Largest Moon
Triton's geysers
Hale-Bopp Some of the dirty snow-balls that populate the outer reaches of the solar system get disturbed into highly eccentric orbits that bring them sporadically into the inner solar system; this exposes them to The Sun's heat, causing them to partially evaporate, thereby releasing loose dust and debris, which reflect the Sun's light and produce a spectacular bright appearance, often visible to the naked eye from Earth. These transient visitors are known as comets (the word comes from a latin word for hair, comes) and give photographers an excuse to capture them against often beautiful foregrounds.
Halley's nucleus
Comet Ikeya-Zhang
tail wriggles
Comet Holmes
Late in 2007, as it was heading away from the sun, Comet 17P/Holmes surprised everyone by flaring up and growing to be bigger than the Sun, but with only the faintest of tails. It made a fine sight for several months.
Comet Breaks Up
Comet SWAN brightens and flares
Comet, planetary nebula and galaxy
Fragment C of 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3; passing almost directly in front of the Ring Nebula (M57), and faint spiral galaxy IC 1296.
Hyakutake, the Great Comet of 1996
Night sky with Hale-Bopp
Hale-Bopp from Indian Cove in California's Joshua Tree National Forest. Nice fore-ground rocks, sky full of stars plus double-tailed comet.
Comet McNaught over Catalonia
January 2007 saw the brightest comet since 1965, C/2006 P1, providing photographers with an excellent subject.
STEREO's SECCHI instrument's first subject
Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) also managed to arrive just as some new equipment was deployed to study The Sun and things passing near it.
McNaught's tail
After passing the sun, C/2006 P1 McNaught showed a particularly splendid tail, including striae (i.e. stripes).
Green Lulin's two tails
SOHO 6 taking after Icarus
A sungrazer comet, destroyed by getting too close to the Sun.
Lulin and Saturn near opposition
Notably, Lulin goes round the Sun the opposite way to the planets, so moved unusually fast across the sky.
C/2009 R1 McNaught
Same discoverer, new comet; came into easy view in June 2010.
comet Hartley 2 (103/P Hartley) and pac-man
EPOXI's close-up of Hartley 2
A later mission for the same craft as Deep Impact, revealing gas jets and snow-balls.
Hartley 2 between M46 and M47
Pojmanski (C/2006 A1) in colour
Tempel 1
This comet was chosen as the target for the Deep Impact probe, which deliberately crashed into it, to help us learn more about cometary structure. Images below are of the comet's solid nucleus.
Landscape close-up before Deep Impact
Hubble's view of the impact
Composite of close-up views
Used as illustration for a terse write-up of what the probe revealed.
Follow-up visit, a few years later
The Outer Reaches
Pluto and its moons When first seen, Pluto was classified as a planet. Its apparent size had to be revised downwards (it's actually smaller than several moons of other planets, including our own) when it was discovered that its apparent diameter and the amount of light apparently from it arose from its having a relatively large moon, Charon. It's since emerged that plenty of other bodies are in orbits similar to its (eccentric, tilted from the ecliptic and in a resonance with Neptune's orbit), constituting the inner class of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). The orbits of these, in turn, overlap with those of a second population of similar bodies in roughly circular orbits; this population matches fairly well with what Edgeworth and Kuiper postulated to explain the origin of comets. Beyond this (but again overlapping its orbits) are further bodies in elliptical orbits, reaching far out towards the cold depths of inter-stellar space. Among these three populations, folk have found assorted bodies of size comparable with, and bigger than, Pluto. With Pluto thus revealed as merely a prominent member of one of several populations of TNOs, it was downgraded from planet status in 2006, just as Ceres had been when it turned out to be merely the biggest of another population – the asteroids. TNOs are generally dirty snow-balls; the comets, above, are ones that have been dislodged into unusual orbits.
Pluto's Charon-wards face
Suspected extra moons for Pluto
Pluto, Charon, Nix, Hydra and P4
Pluto, the frozen (minor) planet, and its companions.
2001 KX76
Comparing Pluto's size to other known Kuiper belt objects.
Another minor planet in the Kuiper belt.
2003 UB313, now known as Eris
Twice as distant as Pluto – and bigger, thereby forcing the issue of what criteria a body must satisfy to deserve to be deemed a planet. Once that was resolved, in August of 2006, Pluto was a dwarf planet and the body which had provoked its demotion was given the name Eris (goddess of discord – warmonger, the cause of conflict, the source of competitive rivalry – not of chaos, as some prefer to think). Apparently she has a moon, Dysnomia (goddess of lawlessness; perhaps those who identify Eris with chaos should credit her with the virtue of disobedience). Eris was, before being officially named, nick-named Zena, after a character (in the eponymous television program) played by Lucy Lawless.
New Horizons sets off
With so much to learn about the outer reaches, a probe is now on its way to study them from close-up. Launched in January 2006 and faster than any probe before it, it'll still take until 2015 to reach Pluto.
Views from home
Pastoral summer night in Iran Distant things seen alongside the veiwer's context.
Mars lines up with Pollux and Castor
Lunar crepuscular rays
Kemble's cascade
Pleasant Bay's night sky
Planets with The Moon
The simple, regular wanderer and those that dance behind her.
System Rise
Solar System Rising Over Fire Island, with Light-house at dawn as fore-ground.
Jupiter watches Selene embrace Venus
Brisbane Water reflects Jove and Venus with Selene
Jove in Selene's halo, over Spain's San Sebastian
Salt Lake Horizon
Utah's Great Salt Lake at sun-set, with human fore-ground and astronomical back-ground.
Mercury, Venus, Saturn and Selene
Goddard remembered
Mars, Venus and Earth-lit Moon seen through trees
Full moon, Jupiter and a church tower
Moon and Mars over pre-dawn Mullica
Hyakutake, Venus, Orion and Pond
Missouri night view
Selene de-occluding Saturn
Almodovar, Moon and Venus
Moon eclipses Venus
Moon and Venus over Mauna Kea storm clouds
Moon and Venus: Sun-set evening view
Crescents of Moon And Venus
Crescents of Selene and the Morning Star
Crescents of Venus and Selene
In the day-time sky; or at night.
Twilight calm with Moon and Venus
Sunset with crescent Moon and Mercury
Mercury, crescent Moon and Earth-lit dark side
Mercury, Venus and Moon
Mt. Wilson 60″ centenary
Jupiter, Venus, Selene and pollution over Los Angeles
Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars over Tuggerah Lake
Crescent Moon, Pleiades and Mercury framed by clouds
Birds, clouds, crescent Moon and Venus
Harvest moon and Jupiter in opposition over a Hungarian ruin at equinox
Crescents of Venus and Selene
Mars emerges from occultation
Selene alone
moon-set Seen from the world she helps keep stable.
Moonset over clouds
From the space shuttle Columbia, in 1990
Antarctic Moon
… setting in the North
Poseidon's temple
Moonrise, Cape Sounion, Greece, with a nice classical ruin in the foreground.
Parthenon Rising
In Mauna Kea's shadow
Paranal Moonset
Fullest of 2009 over Breil-sur-Roya
Crestent over Istanbul
Eiffel lunar eclipse
Lick's full moon, rising
Moon River
Crescent moon over the St Lawrence River
Full Moon over French castle
Full Moon, Lake, and Leonid
Crescent Moon from low-Earth orbit
Autumn Moon
Ansel Adams' famous 'photo re-created; from Glacier Point, Yosemite.
Hallowe'en moon
About to occult the Pleiades
As back-drop to a passing air-craft
Above Mt. Teide's triangular shadow
Comets and Planets
Mars, Orion and Monument valley Wandering stars and the world that wonders about them.
Comet McNaught over Chile
Comet Holmes amidst the trees
of Breil-sur-Roya in southern France, with a satellite pasing over-head.
Turkish dawn with Venus and comet
Jupiter at Ephesus
Planets Over Stonehenge
Laguna Beach planet triangle
Moon, Saturn and Venus
Venus and Jupiter at dawn
Venus, Jupiter and Milky Way over Chile
Mars and Orion over Monument Valley
A geminid over Monument Valley
Crowded sky mirrored
Reflections on the Inner Solar System – Moon, Venus and Mercury low in the sky over a still lake at dusk.
Mars over Nevada
Valley of Fire in Nevada, aesthetic rocks in fore-ground, Mars in the haze.
Jupiter and Milky Way over the Turkish coast
Venus, Mercury and a wind-pump
Venus, Mercury and Nôtre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Saturn, Mars and Leo over Kurdistan
Mercury, Regulus, Venus, Mars and Saturn over Java's sunset
Venus, Mars and Saturn over Iranian sand dunes
Jupiter and Uranus together at opposition
Venus rising under Mesa Arch
Repeated or prolonged exposures to show the path of Sun, Moon, planet or stars.
Oak and star-trails over Haute-Provence
Star Trails Over Vienna
A bit of digital trickery to turn star-trail arcs into full circles, over a Viennese castle.
Mercury's arc at sunset
Tyrrhenian solstice
Clifton Suspension Bridge Solargraph
Solar Analemma
over ancient Nemea, or over Athens' Porch of Maidens; or the other way round (possibly different time of day ?) over the temple of Olympian Zeus at Athens; and a morning one from New Jersey.
Tutulemma: eclipse analemma
Solar analemma in which one frame, which supplies the background, was a total eclipse – and Venus was visible in it.
Lunar Analemma
Moon at nearly-same place in sky (at intervals of 1 day + 51 minutes) over the course of a month.
Retrograde Mars
As Earth passes between Mars and the Sun, over-taking Mars, Mars appears to travel backwards in Earth's sky.
Evening space-chase
Tracks of the ISS and shuttle on their way to a rendez-vous.
Venus and Mercury: eight evenings together
Star trails over Mudgeee, NSW
Venus analemma
44 superposed images at constant time of day, at five day intervals, showing Venus's movement in the evening sky.
Star trails over a viking church ruin, with geminid
Full moon set over Rio
Starry skies
Moonlit mountain and stars Distant lights against homely fore-grounds.
Big Dipper Castle
Horizon to horizon
The Big Picture
Moonlit mountain and stars
Clouds near and far
Orion over Mt. Nemrut's ancient sculptures
Antipodean sky
With space debris burning up on re-entry in the fore-ground.
Sky Panorama over blue Lake Salda
Spring sky over Hirsau Abbey
Constellations over Brazil
Saharan panorama
Pastoral summer night in Iran
Orion: scene from two hemispheres
All around the shrunken Earth
Jupiter and Uranus in opposition at equinox
Sirius, Orion, Pleiades and a frosted leaf
Orion over Irish snow
The Milky Way
It spans the sky, so the horizon is its context.
Over Alps
Over Creux du Van
Over Utah rocks
Death Valley Darkness
Reflected in one of Ontario's lakes
Flagstaff's darkness
Mysian Olympic view
Alborz mountains panorama
Cerro Tololo
Arcing over Mauna Kea
From Mauna Kea, arcing along the horizon
From inside a cave, False Kiva
Patagonia, comet McNaught and three galaxies
Over Uluru with a fire-ball meteor
Over Devil's Tower
Over South Dakota's Badlands
From Mt. Whitney
Arcing gracefully over the Cascade range
Over Ignaçu Falls
Over Alamut fortress
Over Pulpit Rock
With perseid and Jupiter, over ruins
Radiating perseids
Loch Ard Gorge's shadows in Milky-Way-light
Fish-eye view, through trees
Over the erupting Piton de la Fournaise
Over Teide volcano, Tenerife
From Venus to eclipsed Selene
… arching over the Very Large Telescope in Chile.
Milky Way and Zodiacal Light
Contrasted, from Tenerife
Side-by-side, from Laguna Verde
Over-arching, from Tenerife
Double-act, over Namibia
Sun pillar The atomosphere is crucial to our existence and survival: it also produces really pretty optical effects.
Irridescent cloud
Ice halos
Sundogs and 22 degree halo
Sun halo over Cambodia
Noctilucent Clouds
After sun-set on ground, high clouds still lit.
Whole-sky noctilucent cloud display
Circum-horizontal arc
a.k.a. fire rainbow
Kiwi lenticular cloud
Mt. Rainier's lenticular clouds
Morning Glory Clouds
Michigan Sun-set
A Seemingly Square Sun, setting over Lake Michigan
Anticrepuscular rays
Over Florida and Colorado
Sun Pillar in Red and Violet
Accompanied by pretty pink clouds, over mountains, reflected in Lake Tahoe.
Sun pillar over North Carolina
Sun pillar over Wyoming
Light pillars over Latvian street lamps
Misty morning vineyard sky
Taken in Northern California's Valley of the Moon, showing the Belt of Venus nice and clearly.
A triple sun-rise
Roll cloud over Uruguay
Lunar fog-bow
Like a rainbow in fog, but from Selene's light, with Mars on the horizon.
Atmospheric layers in profile
Approaching shuttle seen from ISS, with troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere in silhouette as background.
Labelled layers at sun-set
Many morning glory hoops
The Belt of Venus over Uluru
Moon rising in Mauna Kea's shadow
Halos and sun-dogs over Stockholm
Meteors and Meteorites
When little bits of space rubble hit the atmosphere, they burn up in quick streaks of light. Comets fill their orbits with dust and grit, which manifest as meteor showers when Earth passes through a comet's orbit.
Leonid Sunrise
Sky Full of Leonids
Meteor Colours
Fireball, Smoke Trail, Meteor Storm
Raining Perseids
Milky Way with meteors streaking out of Perseus.
Quadrantid and faint Comet Lulin
Fireball meteor
A chance picture – along with news of a metre-scale asteroid, 2008 TC3, discovered less than a day before its destruction on hitting Earth's atmosphere; it was very intensely studied in that brief interval.
1972 Earth-grazer's daytime fire-ball
Lyrid meteor, Milky Way
Sky-map of meteor origins
Geminid Fireball over the Mojave Desert
Lightning, perseid, Jove, pleiades and Andromeda
Geminid over the Mojave desert
Over Alaska Earth's magnetic field focuses the solar wind onto the poles, creating pretty glowiness where it hits the outermost wisps of the atmosphere.
Superior Green
Comet and Aurora
Ikeya-Zhang and spring aurora over Alaska
Starry Aurora
Alaskan Aurora, through which we can see stars
Over Alaska
Alaskan lake view
Auroras over Lake
Aurora over Iowa
Bipolar Auroras
Ice-reflected alongside Selene
ISS Aurora
Green aurora seen from ISS, which orbits so low it passes through them
X-Ray Aurora
Aurora with alleged Perseids
Auroral Perseid
Perseid Aurora
… and another in the same green, pink, purple sky.
Purple Aurora over Norway
Aurora Above
Looking up an aurora's multi-coloured skirts !
Aurora Astern
Australis from shuttle Endeavour
Aurora with Mars and Pleiades
Green, purple and white fore-ground, spotty back-ground.
Floral Aurora Corona
Over Yellowknife
With bonus Geminid fireball over Kvaløya
Green Aurora Australis Ribbon
From the ISS, c. 350 km above the Indian Ocean.
Over Prelude Lake, Canada
Over Tromsø
Over moon-lit Alaska
Yellowknife aurora series
Over Icesland
Mostly Harmless
Earth-rise … at least according to the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Forking Lightning
Blue Jet Lightning
Red Sprite Lightning
Lightning over Athens
Mt. Etna spits magma
50 km across, 3 km high, basalt; big and active
Anak Krakatau
Slowly building an island.
Tungurahua Erupts
Ecuador's volcano, with a roughly ninety year cycle
Sarychev erupting
Forest Fire
Elk stand in river as fire sweeps by
Everest's Panorama
Himalayan night sky
Fire in the sky down below
Sunrise Over Kilimanjaro – or, rather, under the cloud layer around it.
Eclipse pair
2008 August's two eclipses; the new moon covering the sun and the full moon in Earth's shadow; each with a watery foreground.
Orbital sunrise
Earth Rise
from Apollo 8, 1968/Dec/24. See also Kaguya's.
First Earth-rise
In 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 looked back across the moon at Earth. Only black-and-white, but the detailed fore-ground Moon makes up for the blurry Earth. And it was first. Better still, it's even been restored, bringing out more detail.
Equinox sunset over Lake Balaton, Hungary
Full moon behind Old Faithful
Annapurna and star trails
Swill pine, Mars and neighbours
Eyjafjallajökull halts Atlantic air travel
Laser zaps galactic centre
Fossil nuclear reactors at Oklo, Gabon
Supercell thunderstorm over Montana
Surreal Swiss Sunrise
with Moon and Venus, as backdrop to a mountain valley blanketed in cloud underlit by the towns below.
Space Craft
Lunokhod Stuff humanity has made, or considered making, to send off-planet.
July 1950; Bumper 2
Cape Canaveral's first launch, a modified V-2 with second stage to reach 400 km altitude, but not orbit.
Sputnik 1
First to orbit; 1957, October 4th
Von Braun's Wheel
Russian Moon Robot from 1970; 0.9 tonnes of machinery that explored Mare Imbrium.
The Voyagers' Message
Both copies of which are now clear of the solar system.
First space-walk
Armstrong climbing down a ladder
Eagle rising, homeward bound from the moon
Apollo 11's Lunar Module, on its way back to the Command Module, heading home from its historic mission, with Earth on the horizon. See also a stereoscopic anaglyph from a few moments before or after.
High Chair
Manned Maneuvering Unit in low Earth orbit.
… and again, being repaired.
Mir, Moon and Clouds
Descent To Jupiter
Artist's impression of Galileo's probe parchuting down through the clouds.
STS 123: Endeavour's night-time launch
Kepler's launch
The start of a mission to search for habitable Earth-like planets of nearby stars.
Ares 1-X test flight
Incoming Soyuz, from the ISS
Apollo 13's damage
Delta IV Heavy launch
Rockets capable of lifting 23 tonnes into low Earth orbit.
STS 135: Atlantis ends the shuttle era
Outer reachers
Orbiting the Earth once every 90 minutes or so at an altitude of about 350 km, with several nations collaborating, the International Space Station is steadilly being expanded by successive space shuttle missions since 1998.
Dextre the Magnificent
A robotic care-taker for the ISS.
Dextre preparing for Kibo
ISS over Caspian
and over the Ionian Sea, between Italy and Greece.
Seen from Earth, 2008/Dec/27
With Earth as back-drop, 2010/Feb
Seen out of its own window, 2010/Apr
Silhouetted against the Sun, with Atlantis, 2010/May/16
Final visits by Endeavour and Atlantis
EVA to unload and a final re-entry.
Art and Tech
Starry Night Stuff our species has gotten up to.
Frizion Illume
Ice crystals twisting polarized light
Twinkling colours
A spinning camera captures colour variation in Regulus's twinkling and contrasts it with Mars's steady red.
X-Ray Rainbows
A Sonic Boom
Smoke Angel
Stars and Mount Rushmore
Mt. Erebus + TIGER's Balloon
Helios flying
ERAST: Daedalus Defied
Pathfinder Plus – 270 kg of solar panel and reflector, spanning nearly 30 m, flew up to 24.7 km altitude.
Stonehenge Solstice
Before 'henge
Nabta: Older than Stonehenge, 6000 years old, Sahara.
Newgrange solstice
In County Meath, Ireland; 5 k yr old, so older than Stonehenge.
Dunhuang Star Atlas, c. 650 CE
Very Large Array
… of 27 Radio Telescopes, each 25 metres across, in New Mexico.
Cosmic calling-card
Starry Night
A painting by Vincent van Gogh, 1889; and another, over the Rhône from 1888.
7 k yr old cave painting and Milky Way
Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake
The Antikythera Orrery
Kona Galaxy Garden
The flying Spaghetti Monster

Flying Spaghetti Monster

I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an inconsiderable one, of being true.

Carl Sagan, The Burden Of Skepticism, The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 12, Fall 87

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