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APOD: Millions of Stars in Omega Centauri (2014 May 29) Image Credit & Copyright: CEDIC Team, Processing - Christoph Kaltseis Explanation: Globular star cluster Omega Centauri, also known as NGC 5139, is some 15,000 light-years away. The cluster is packed with about 10 million stars much older than the Sun within a volume about 150 light-years in diameter, the largest and brightest of 200 or so known globular clusters that roam the halo of our Milky Way galaxy. Though most star clusters consist of stars with the same age and composition, the enigmatic Omega Cen exhibits the presence of different stellar populations with a spread of ages and chemical abundances. In fact, Omega Cen may be the remnant core of a small galaxy merging with the Milky Way. This astronomically sharp color image of the classic globular cluster was recorded in March under Chilean skies from Hacienda Los Andes. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Planetary Nebula Abell 36 (2014 May 30) Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, Univ. Arizona Explanation: The gorgeous, gaseous shroud of a dying sunlike star, planetary nebula Abell 36 lies a mere 800 light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. At that distance it spans over 1.5 light-years in this sharp telescopic view. Shrugging off its outer layers, the nebula's central star is contracting and becoming hotter, evolving towards a final white dwarf phase. In fact, in Abell 36, the central star is estimated to have a surface temperature of over 73,000 K, compared to the Sun's present 6,000 K temperature. As a result, the intensely hot star is much brighter in ultraviolet light, compared to its visual appearance here. The invisible ultraviolet light ionizes hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the nebula and ultimately powers the beautiful visible light glow. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Satellite Station and Southern Skies (2014 May 31) Image Credit & Copyright: James Garlick Explanation: This clear night skyscape captures the colorful glow of aurora australis, the southern lights, just outside the port city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, planet Earth. As if staring into the dreamlike scene, the Tasmanian Earth Resources Satellite Station poses in the center, illuminated by nearby city lights. Used to receive data from spacebased Earth observing instruments, including NASA's MODIS and SeaWiFS, the station was decommissioned in 2011 and dismantled only recently, shortly after the picture was taken on April 30. Still shining in southern skies though, the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy and two bright satellite galaxies the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds appear in the frame. The Small Magellanic Cloud shines through the fainter red auroral band. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: The Cone Nebula from Hubble (2014 May 28) Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA - Processing & Licence: Judy Schmidt Explanation: Stars are forming in the gigantic dust pillar called the Cone Nebula. Cones, pillars, and majestic flowing shapes abound in stellar nurseries where natal clouds of gas and dust are buffeted by energetic winds from newborn stars. The Cone Nebula, a well-known example, lies within the bright galactic star-forming region NGC 2264. The Cone was captured in unprecedented detail in this close-up composite of several observations from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. While the Cone Nebula, about 2,500 light-years away in Monoceros, is around 7 light-years long, the region pictured here surrounding the cone's blunted head is a mere 2.5 light-years across. In our neck of the galaxy that distance is just over half way from the Sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, the Alpha Centauri star system. The massive star NGC 2264 IRS, seen by Hubble's infrared camera in 1997, is the likely source of the wind sculpting the Cone Nebula and lies off the top of the image. The Cone Nebula's reddish veil is produced by glowing hydrogen gas. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Halo of the Cat's Eye (2014 Jun 01) Image Credit & Copyright: R. Corradi (Isaac Newton Group), Nordic Optical Telescope Explanation: The Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae in the sky. Its haunting symmetries are seen in the very central region of this stunning false-color picture, processed to reveal the enormous but extremely faint halo of gaseous material, over three light-years across, which surrounds the brighter, familiar planetary nebula. Made with data from the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands, the composite picture shows extended emission from the nebula. Planetary nebulae have long been appreciated as a final phase in the life of a sun-like star. Only much more recently however, have some planetaries been found to have halos like this one, likely formed of material shrugged off during earlier active episodes in the star's evolution. While the planetary nebula phase is thought to last for around 10,000 years, astronomers estimate the age of the outer filamentary portions of this halo to be 50,000 to 90,000 years. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: A Green Flash from the Sun (2014 Jun 04) Image Credit & Copyright: Daniel López (El Cielo de Canarias) Explanation: Many think it is just a myth. Others think it is true but its cause isn't known. Adventurers pride themselves on having seen it. It's a green flash from the Sun. The truth is the green flash does exist and its cause is well understood. Just as the setting Sun disappears completely from view, a last glimmer appears startlingly green. The effect is typically visible only from locations with a low, distant horizon, and lasts just a few seconds. A green flash is also visible for a rising Sun, but takes better timing to spot. A dramatic green flash, as well as an even more rare red flash, was caught in the above photograph recently observed during a sunset visible from the Observatorio del Roque de Los Muchachos in the Canary Islands, Spain. The Sun itself does not turn partly green or red -- the effect is caused by layers of the Earth's atmosphere acting like a prism. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 (2014 Jun 05) Image Credit: NASA, ESA, H.Teplitz and M.Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst(ASU), Z. Levay (STScI) Explanation: Galaxies like colorful pieces of candy fill the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014. The dimmest galaxies are more than 10 billion times fainter than stars visible to the unaided eye and represent the Universe in the extreme past, a few 100 million years after the Big Bang. The image itself was made with the significant addition of ultraviolet data to the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, an update of Hubble's famous most distant gaze toward the southern constellation of Fornax. It now covers the entire range of wavelengths available to Hubble's cameras, from ultraviolet through visible to near-infrared. Ultraviolet data adds the crucial capability of studying star formation in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field galaxies between 5 and 10 billion light-years distant. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: WR 104: A Pinwheel Star System (2014 Jun 03) Image Credit & Copyright: P. Tuthill (U. Sydney) & J. Monnier (U. Michigan), Keck Obs., ARC, NSF Explanation: Might this giant pinwheel one-day destroy us? Probably not, but investigation of the unusual star system Wolf-Rayet 104 has turned up an unexpected threat. The unusual pinwheel pattern has been found to be created by energetic winds of gas and dust that are expelled and intertwine as two massive stars orbit each other. One system component is a Wolf-Rayet star, a tumultuous orb in the last stage of evolution before it explodes in a supernova -- and event possible anytime in the next million years. Research into the spiral pattern of the emitted dust, however, indicates the we are looking nearly straight down the spin axis of the system -- possibly the same axis along which a powerful jet would emerge were the supernova accompanied by a gamma-ray burst. Now the WR 104 supernova itself will likely be an impressive but harmless spectacle. Conversely, were Earth really near the center of the powerful GRB beam, even the explosion's 8,000 light year distance might not be far enough to protect us. Currently, neither WR 104 nor GRB beams are understood well enough to know the real level of danger. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study finds

Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as "remarkable".<p>Although fasting diets have been criticised by nutritionists for being unhealthy, new research suggests starving the body kick-starts …

Immune System