Nathan Grognet

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APOD: Orion in Gas, Dust, and Stars (2014 Nov 11) Image Copyright: Roberto Colombari, Robert Gendler & Federico Pelliccia; Data: DSS PLOSS II Explanation: The constellation of Orion holds much more than three stars in a row. A deep exposure shows everything from dark nebula to star clusters, all embedded in an extended patch of gaseous wisps in the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The brightest three stars on the far left are indeed the famous three stars that make up the belt of Orion. Just below Alnitak, the lowest of the three belt stars, is the Flame Nebula, glowing with excited hydrogen gas and immersed in filaments of dark brown dust. Below and left of the frame center and just to the right of Alnitak lies the Horsehead Nebula, a dark indentation of dense dust that has perhaps the most recognized nebular shapes on the sky. On the upper right lies M42, the Orion Nebula, an energetic caldron of tumultuous gas, visible to the unaided eye, that is giving birth to a new open cluster of stars. Immediately to the left of M42 is a prominent bluish reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man that houses many bright blue stars. The featured image covers an area with objects that are roughly 1,500 light years away and spans about 75 light years. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: The Double Dust Disks of HD 95086 (2014 Nov 17) Illustration Credit: Spitzer Space Telescope, JPL, NASA Explanation: What do other star systems look like? To help find out, astronomers are carrying out detailed observations of nearby stars in infrared light to see which have dust disks that might be forming planets. Observations by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and ESA's Herschel Space Observatory have found that planetary system HD 95086 has two dust disks: a hot one near the parent star and a cooler one farther out. An artist's illustration of how the system might appear is featured here, including hypothetical planets with large rings that orbit between the disks. The planets may have created the large gap between the disks by absorbing and deflecting dust with their gravity. HD 95086 is a blue star about 60 percent more massive than our Sun that lies about 300 light years from Earth and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of Carina. Studying the HD 95086 system may help astronomers better understand the formation and evolution of our own Solar System as well as the Earth. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Bright Spiral Galaxy M81 (2014 Nov 19) Image Credit: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope; Processing & Copyright: Roberto Colombari & Robert Gendler Explanation: One of the brightest galaxies in planet Earth's sky is similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy: big, beautiful M81. This grand spiral galaxy can be found toward the northern constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). This superbly detailed view reveals M81's bright yellow nucleus, blue spiral arms, and sweeping cosmic dust lanes with a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Hinting at a disorderly past, a remarkable dust lane actually runs straight through the disk, to the left of the galactic center, contrary to M81's other prominent spiral features. The errant dust lane may be the lingering result of a close encounter between M81 and its smaller companion galaxy, M82. Scrutiny of variable stars in M81 has yielded one of the best determined distances for an external galaxy -- 11.8 million light-years. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Solar Flare from a Sharper Sun (2014 Nov 22) Image Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/AIA, NASA GSFC; Processing: NAFE by Miloslav Druckmuller (Brno University of Technology) Explanation: Solar active region AR2192 was the largest recorded sunspot group of the last 24 years. Before rotating off the Earth-facing side of the Sun at the end of October, it produced a whopping six energetic X-class flares. Its most intense flare was captured on October 24 in this stunning view from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. The scene is a color combination of images made at three different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light; 193 angstroms shown in blue, 171 angstroms in white, and 304 angstroms in red. The emission, from highly ionized Iron and Helium atoms, traces magnetic field lines looping through the hot plasma of the Sun's outer chromosphere and corona. Beneath, the cooler solar photosphere appears dark at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. The exceptionally sharp composite image has been processed with a new mathematical algorithm (NAFE) that adapts to noise and brightness in extreme ultraviolet image data to reliably enhance small details. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD