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APOD: Jupiter's Great Red Spot from Voyager 1 (2014 May 18) Image Credit: NASA, JPL; Digital processing: Björn Jónsson (IAAA) Explanation: What will become of Jupiter's Great Red Spot? Recorded as shrinking since the 1930s, the rate of the Great Red Spot's size appears to have accelerated just in the past few years. A hurricane larger than Earth, the Great Red Spot has been raging at least as long as telescopes could see it. Like most astronomical phenomena, the Great Red Spot was neither predicted nor immediately understood after its discovery. Although small eddies that feed into the storm system seem to play a role, a more full understanding of the gigantic storm cloud remains a topic of continued research, and may result in a better understanding of weather here on Earth. The above image is a digital enhancement of an image of Jupiter taken in 1979 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it zoomed by the Solar System's largest planet. NASA's Juno spacecraft is currently heading toward Jupiter and will arrive in 2016. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: A Supercell Storm Cloud Forming over Wyoming (2014 May 21) Video Credit: Basehunters (BasehuntersChasing) Music: Empire (Shakira) Explanation: How do supercell storm clouds form? Pictured above is a time-lapse video taken last Sunday detailing the formation of one such violent supercell in eastern Wyoming, USA. Starting as part of a large and dark thunderstorm complex, the supercell comes together along with a large rotating updraft of air known as a mesocyclone. Mesocyclones form during rapid changes in wind speed and direction with height and can produce torrential rain, damaging hail, swirling winds, and sometimes tornadoes. Storm watchers are seen studying, imaging, and ultimately running from the developing storm cloud during the video. During the middle part of the video, the kilometer-wide supercell can be seen swirling ominously with a nearly flat bottom. Toward the end of the video, another swirling supercell cloud forms but then quickly dissipates. Starship Asterisk* Poll: Have you seen this video before? Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: M16 and the Eagle Nebula (2014 Jun 07) Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, Univ. Arizona Explanation: Young star cluster M16 is surrounded by natal clouds of dust and glowing gas also known as The Eagle Nebula. This beautifully detailed image of the region includes cosmic sculptures made famous in Hubble Space Telescope close-ups of the starforming complex. Described as elephant trunks or Pillars of Creation, dense, dusty columns rising near the center are light-years in length but are gravitationally contracting to form stars. Energetic radiation from the cluster stars erodes material near the tips, eventually exposing the embedded new stars. Extending from the left edge of the frame is another dusty starforming column known as the Fairy of Eagle Nebula. M16 and the Eagle Nebula lie about 7,000 light-years away, an easy target for binoculars or small telescopes in a nebula rich part of the sky toward the split constellation Serpens Cauda (the tail of the snake). Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: V838 Light Echo: The Movie (2014 Jun 17) Image Credit: ESA, NASA, Hubble Space Telescope; Music: The Driving Force (Jingle Punks) Explanation: What caused this outburst of V838 Mon? For reasons unknown, star V838 Mon suddenly became one of the brightest stars in the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Then, just a few months later, it faded. A stellar flash like this has never been seen before -- supernovas and novas expel a tremendous amount of matter out into space. Although the V838 Mon flash appeared to expel some material into space, what is seen in the above eight-frame movie, interpolated for smoothness, is actually an outwardly moving light echo of the flash. The actual time-span of the above movie is from 2002, when the flash was first recorded, to 2006. In a light echo, light from the flash is reflected by successively more distant ellipsoids in the complex array of ambient interstellar dust that already surrounded the star. Currently, the leading model for V838's outburst was the orbital decay and subsequent merging of two relatively normal stars. V838 Mon lies about 20,000 light years away toward the constellation of Monoceros, while the largest light echo above spans about six light years in diameter. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: NGC 6334: The Cat's Paw Nebula (2014 Jun 18) Image Credit & Copyright: Roberto Colombari and SONEAR Obs.; Color data: Robert Gendler & Ryan Hannahoe Explanation: Nebulas are perhaps as famous for being identified with familiar shapes as perhaps cats are for getting into trouble. Still, no known cat could have created the vast Cat's Paw Nebula visible in Scorpius. At 5,500 light years distant, Cat's Paw is an emission nebula with a red color that originates from an abundance of ionized hydrogen atoms. Alternatively known as the Bear Claw Nebula or NGC 6334, stars nearly ten times the mass of our Sun have been born there in only the past few million years. Pictured above is a deep field image of the Cat's Paw nebula. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: The Iris Nebula in a Field of Dust (2014 Jun 24) Image Credit & Copyright: Mikel Martínez Explanation: What flowers in this field of dark star dust? The Iris Nebula. The striking blue color of the Iris Nebula is created by light from the bright star SAO 19158 reflecting off of a dense patch of normally dark dust. Not only is the star itself mostly blue, but blue light from the star is preferentially reflected by the dust -- the same affect that makes Earth's sky blue. The brown tint of the pervasive dust comes partly from photoluminescence -- dust converting ultraviolet radiation to red light. Cataloged as NGC 7023, the Iris Nebula is studied frequently because of the unusual prevalence there of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), complex molecules that are also released on Earth during the incomplete combustion of wood fires. The bright blue portion of the Iris Nebula spans about six light years. The Iris Nebula, pictured above, lies about 1300 light years distant and can be found with a small telescope toward the constellation of Cepheus. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Galaxy Cove Vista Revisited (2014 Jun 29) Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors) Explanation: To see a vista like this takes patience, hiking, and a camera. Patience was needed in searching out just the right place and waiting for just the right time. A short hike was needed to reach this rugged perch above a secluded cove in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in California, USA. And a camera was needed for the long exposure required to bring out the faint light from stars and nebulae in the background Milky Way galaxy. Moonlight illuminated the hidden beach and inlet behind nearby trees in the above composite image taken last month. Usually obscured McWay Falls is visible just below the image center, while the Pacific Ocean is in view to its right. The above image is a high-resolution sequel to a similar image that appeared last year. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD