Learn about star-gazing on our blog, check out the views from our telescopes during live webcasts from our Public Observatory, explore the history of astronomy through our artifact collection, and more.
Dr. David Devorkin works on final preparations before the opening of the Public Observatory Project (POP) to the public. Daytime observations of the Sun, Moon and Venus have already been conducted as part of the preparations and all is working well.
Sun - July 28, 2012
In 2005 the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa imaged the rugged terrain of Itokawa, a small asteroid 550 meters (about 1800 feet) across. After experiencing some difficulties, Hayabusa was able to land on the asteroid, collect a small sample, and return it to Earth in 2010.
These are among the first clear images, taken from the distance of Earth, to show aurorae on the planet Uranus. Aurorae are produced when high-energy particles from the Sun cascade along magnetic field lines into a planet's upper atmosphere. This causes the planet's atmospheric gasses to fluoresce. The ultraviolet images were taken at the time of heightened solar activity in November 2011 that successively buffeted the Earth, Jupiter, and Uranus with a gusher of charged particles from the Sun. Because Uranus' magnetic field is inclined 59 degrees to its spin axis, the auroral spots appear far from the planet's north and south poles. This composite image combines 2011 Hubble observations of the aurorae in visible and ultraviolet light, 1986 Voyager 2 photos of the cyan disk of Uranus as seen in visible light, and 2011 Gemini Observatory observations of the faint ring system as seen in infrared light.
The immense Andromeda galaxy is captured in full in this image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.
In the most active starburst region in the local universe lies a cluster of brilliant, massive stars, known to astronomers as Hodge 301. Hodge 301, seen in the lower right hand corner of this image, lives inside the Tarantula Nebula in our galactic neighbor, the Large Magellanic Cloud.
This mosaic image, one of the largest ever taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of the Crab Nebula, is a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star's supernova explosion. Japanese and Chinese astronomers witnessed this violent event nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans.
The orange filaments are the tattered remains of the star and consist mostly of hydrogen. The rapidly spinning neutron star embedded in the center of the nebula is the dynamo powering the nebula's eerie interior bluish glow. The blue light comes from electrons whirling at nearly the speed of light around magnetic field lines from the neutron star. The neutron star, the crushed ultra-dense core of the exploded star, like a lighthouse, ejects twin beams of radiation that appear to pulse 30 times a second due to the neutron star's rotation. The colors in the image indicate the different elements that were expelled during the explosion. Blue in the filaments in the outer part of the nebula represents neutral oxygen, green is singly-ionized sulfur, and red indicates doubly-ionized oxygen.
Saturn's softly glowing rings shine in scattered sunlight.