Another Saturday has arrived, and you can start the weekend by checking out the latest astronomical images that NASA has selected and published on the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) website. The compilation at the time brings several photos, including a beautiful photo taken in Russia, which could have been simple, but ended up showing the Milky Way, Saturn, a satellite and even one of the brightest stars in the sky — can you find all these objects? Another prominent record shows a colorful, fuzzy formation in the sky, perhaps reminiscent of a distant, fuzzy nebula, but actually something quite different.
Incidentally, the selection also includes images ranging from a collision between galaxies, which happened millions of years ago, to a picture of what exists in the vicinity of the Andromeda galaxy. Finally, you’ll also check out a sequence of photos of the Earth and Moon, taken by the Galileo spacecraft, and even an incredible record of comet 67P, which is where the Rosetta probe made history when it landed.
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Saturday (4) – Looks like a nebula, but it’s not
Anyone who was at Space View Park, Florida, on August 29, could observe this colorful cloud in the sky during the night. It formed after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which carried a ship loaded with scientific supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. Thus, the colored cloud is the result of the interaction between the exhaust plumes of the two stages of the rocket, while the first one performed the maneuver to reverse its trajectory and thus return to land on the vessel “A Short Fall of Gravitas”.
This is the third robot ship developed by SpaceX which, like its predecessors — which have the cute names “Of Course I Still Love You” and “Just Read the Instructions” — will serve as a landing base at sea for receive the thrusters. This vessel was developed to be fully automated, that is, it does not need a tugboat to reach the ocean. To find the rocket stages in the image, just look for the orange dots: at the top is the propeller, while the one at the bottom is the second stage following its journey into low Earth orbit.
Sunday (5) — Portraits of the Earth and Moon
In 1989, NASA launched the Galileo spacecraft bound for Jupiter. It spent nearly eight years in the gas giant’s orbit and made close overflights to all of its large moons, providing us with unprecedented discoveries — for example, Galileo made the first and only observation (at least for now) of a comet colliding with the atmosphere of a planet. While on her journey to Jupiter, she made some records of our planetary system, which were gathered in the video above.
This animation shows the 52 photos that Galileo took during the Earth-Moon conjunction, in December 1992. In the beginning, the probe was 6.15 million kilometers from Earth, and in the final images it reached 6.58 million kilometers. km. As the Moon orbits Earth less than 400,000 km away, it was only 6% closer to the probe in the sequence — which is why the relative size differences of the Moon and Earth are evident. The original images were filtered, so the photos above received improvements in color and contrast.
Monday (6) — The Milky Way, Saturn and more
The photographer made this record in Primorsky Krai, Russia, with a relatively simple idea in mind: he planned to capture the pine tree in the foreground with the Milky Way filling the background of the image. Well, the plan was more than successful: in addition to the central band of our galaxy appearing in the background, the photo included several other interesting objects. One of them is the star Altair, which appears in the upper left corner of the photo. This is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle, and is also considered the 12th brightest in the night sky. It is about 1.8 times the mass of the Sun and 11 times the luminosity of our star.
If you look at the left corner of the image, just above the horizon, you’ll find Saturn — while the star Altair is 16.7 light-years from us, the gas giant is 1.2 billion km at the closest point in orbit and 1.7 billion km at the farthest point. In the upper right corner, you will see the luminous trail of a satellite in Earth orbit, which was registered during the 25 seconds of exposure. Finally, also notice that there are greenish regions in the sky, which are the Earth’s atmosphere that appears with surprising visibility. In case you’re wondering about the yellow dots in the foreground, know that it’s a firefly that was passing by.
Tuesday (7) — Galactic Interaction
About 300 million years ago, the disks of two galaxies began to collide, and the result is the formation that appears in the image above, called NGC 520. Taken by the Hubble telescope, this image shows the details of this process, with dust following in the vertical direction by the structure of the galaxies. Although the stars of NGC 520 are moving at very high speed, they are quite far apart, so this “conflicting pair” is unlikely to change shape — at least while we’re here. This pair of spiral galaxies is 105 million light years away from us in the constellation Pisces, the Pisces.
In the distant future, a similar collision is likely to happen with the Milky Way and Andromeda, our larger galactic neighbor. When this happens, it is possible that the two will eventually merge, giving rise to a single elliptical galaxy. In any case, the exact future of the Milky Way, as well as that of the other members of the Local Group, should continue to yield varied studies for years to come.
Wednesday (8) — The surroundings of the Andromeda Galaxy
The Milky Way has a big neighbor: the Andromeda galaxy (M31), which is approximately 2.5 million light-years from Earth and is considered one of the brightest objects cataloged by the French astronomer Charles Messier. It can be observed with the naked eye on New Moon nights and even in places with greater light pollution. Like the Milky Way, the Andromeda galaxy is also part of the so-called Local Group, formed by more than 50 galaxies, being surrounded by some small satellite galaxies — and the image above shows us some of the details of its surroundings.
If you look at the top right corner of the photo, you will find the Triangle Galaxy, a spiral galaxy three million light-years from us and considered the third largest in the Local Group, as well as being the most distant object that can be observed in the sky. night to the naked eye. Below it is the star Mirach, the brightest in the constellation Andromeda. In the middle of the image is the galaxy M31 and, in the lower part, the nebula Sh2-126, which appears with its reddish filaments. It was possible to bring these various objects together as a result of the digital accumulation of a series of long exhibitions, made from 2018 to 2021.
Thursday (9) — The Eagle Nebula
The image above shows an object that, for some, is one of the most beautiful and impressive ever recorded: it is the M16 nebula, also known as the Eagle Nebula. It faces the constellation Serpens the Serpent, approximately 7,000 light-years from us, and is home to several interesting structures, such as emission nebulae — dark nebulae that, as the name suggests, eventually dim the light emitted by objects behind them, and which appears in the central part of the image.
These are called the “Pillars of Creation”, a region formed by columns of gas and dust that act as incubators for new stars. Within them, there are globules and nodes of denser gas, called “evaporating gas globules,” that hold forming stars. These “cosmic pillars” extend for a few light years, and the columns contract and form new stars. Afterwards, the radiation from the cluster causes those present at the ends of them to be exposed.
Friday (10) — Comet 67P
In 2004, the European Space Agency launched the Rosetta mission, which sent a probe to the comet in this image. This is Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P), which, here, appears traveling while the stars of the constellation Taurus, the Taurus, appear in the background, along with distant and dim galaxies. Comet 67P measures about 4 km and is an object originating from the Kuiper Belt. This is a region that extends about 30 astronomical units from Neptune, and it is where several objects dating from the period when the Solar System formed are located.
While most asteroids are mostly rock and metal, most Belt objects contain volatile compounds such as methane, ammonia and water. After traveling beyond Jupiter’s orbit, 67P is now returning to its 6.4-year period orbit, and will make its closest pass to the Sun on November 2nd. On the 12th of that month, the comet will pass through the closest point to Earth, just 0.42 astronomical units from our planet. Anyone who wants to observe it will need to use a telescope, even when the object is brighter.
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