Dwight Valdez

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Crazy but true: Messenger spacecraft spots ice at Mercury's north pole

NASA's Messenger spacecraft has sent back its first visible-light images of water ice on Mercury, the tiny charbroiled planet that orbits closest to the sun.<p>The findings, described in the journal Geology, reveal that the ice deposits look surprisingly "fresh" – and hint that water could have been …

APOD: Aurora and Volcanic Light Pillar (2014 Sep 23) Image Credit & Copyright: Stéphane Vetter (Nuits sacrées) http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140923.html Explanation: That's no sunset. And that thin red line just above it -- that's not a sun pillar. The red glow on the horizon originates from a volcanic eruption, and the red line is the eruption's reflection from fluttering atmospheric ice crystals. This unusual volcanic light pillar was captured over Iceland earlier this month. The featured scene looks north from Jökulsárlón toward the erupting volcano Bárðarbunga in the Holuhraun lava field. Even the foreground sky is picturesque, with textured grey clouds in the lower atmosphere, shimmering green aurora in the upper atmosphere, and bright stars far in the distance. Although the last eruption from Holuhraun was in 1797, the present volcanic activity continues. http://www.nuitsacrees.fr/ Land and Skyscapes Wall Calendar: http://friendsofapod.org/?page_id=42 Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=140923 #APOD

APOD: A Launch and a Landing (2014 Sep 27) Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140927.html Explanation: Taken from an Atlantic beach, Cape Canaveral, planet Earth, four identically framed digital images are combined in this night skyscape. Slightly shifted short star trails dot the sky, but the exposure times were adjusted to follow the flight of a Falcon 9 rocket. The September 21 launch delivered a Dragon X capsule filled with supplies to the International Space Station. Above the bright flare seen just after launch, the rocket's first stage firing trails upward from the left. After separation, the second stage burn begins near center with the vehicle climbing toward low Earth orbit. At the horizon, the flare near center records the re-ignition and controlled descent of the Falcon 9's first stage to a soft splashdown off the coast. http://www.mikekillianphotography.com/ http://www.americaspace.com/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=140927 #APOD

APOD: The Butterfly Nebula from Hubble (2014 Oct 01) Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team; Reprocessing & Copyright: Francesco Antonucci http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141001.html Explanation: The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth's night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up of the dying star's nebula was recorded in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and is presented here in reprocessed colors. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot star's dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius). http://www.nasa.gov/ http://www.spacetelescope.org/ http://hubblesite.org/servicing_mission_4/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=141001 #APOD

APOD: The Bubble Nebula (2014 Oct 02) Image Credit & Copyright: Bernard Michaud http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141002.html Explanation: Blown by the wind from a massive star, this interstellar apparition has a surprisingly familiar shape. Cataloged as NGC 7635, it is also known simply as The Bubble Nebula. Although it looks delicate, the 10 light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Above and left of the Bubble's center is a hot, O star, several hundred thousand times more luminous and around 45 times more massive than the Sun. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud. The intriguing Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex lie a mere 11,000 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia. This tantalizing view of the cosmic bubble is composed from narrowband image data, recording emission from the region's ionized hydrogen and oxygen atoms. To create the three color image, hydrogen and oxygen emission were used for red and blue and combined to create the green channel. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=141002 #APOD

APOD: Aurora and Milky Way in a Little Sky (2014 Oct 03) Image Credit & Copyright: Göran Strand http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141003.html Explanation: Stepping stones seem to lead to the Milky Way as it stretches across this little sky. Of course, the scene is really the northern hemisphere's autumnal equinox night. Water and sky are inverted by a top to bottom, around the horizon stereographic projection centered on the zenith above Lake Storsjön in Jämtland, Sweden. In the north the Milky Way arcs from east to west overhead as fall begins, but the season is also a good time for viewing aurora. Geomagnetic storms increase in frequency near the equinox and produce remarkable displays of northern lights at high latitudes, like the eerie greenish glow reflected in this watery cosmos. http://www.astrofotografen.se/ Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page http://asterisk.apod.com/discuss_apod.php?date=141003 #APOD