Despina Bouloukou

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APOD: Hale-Bopp: The Great Comet of 1997 (2013 Oct 13) Image Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light) Explanation: Sixteen years ago, Comet Hale-Bopp rounded the Sun and offered a dazzling spectacle in planet Earth's night. This stunning view, recorded shortly after the comet's 1997 perihelion passage, features the memorable tails of Hale-Bopp -- a whitish dust tail and blue ion tail. Here, the ion tail extends well over ten degrees across the northern sky, fading near the double star clusters in Perseus, while the head of the comet lies near Almach, a bright star in the constellation Andromeda. Do you remember Hale-Bopp? The photographer's sons do, pictured in the foreground at ages 12 and 15. In all, Hale-Bopp was reported as visible to the naked eye from roughly late May 1996 through September 1997. Currently, sky enthusiasts await Comet ISON's continued brightening in the coming weeks, unsure how interesting its first journey to the inner Solar System will be. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Stars and Dust Across Corona Australis (2013 Sep 12) Image Credit & Copyright: Ignacio Diaz Bobillo Explanation: Cosmic dust clouds sprawl across a rich field of stars in this sweeping telescopic vista near the northern boundary of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. Less than 500 light-years away the dust clouds effectively block light from more distant background stars in the Milky Way. The entire frame spans about 2 degrees or over 15 light-years at the clouds' estimated distance. Near center is a group of lovely reflection nebulae cataloged as NGC 6726, 6727, 6729, and IC 4812. A characteristic blue color is produced as light from hot stars is reflected by the cosmic dust. The dust also obscures from view stars in the region still in the process of formation. Smaller yellowish nebula NGC 6729 surrounds young variable star R Coronae Australis. Below it are arcs and loops identified as Herbig Haro objects associated with energetic newborn stars. Magnificent globular star cluster NGC 6723 is at the right. Though NGC 6723 appears to be part of the group, its ancient stars actually lie nearly 30,000 light-years away, far beyond the young stars of the Corona Australis dust clouds. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Perseid Meteors Over Ontario (2013 Aug 13) Image Credit & Copyright: Darryl Van Gaal; Annotation: Judy Schmidt Explanation: Where are all of these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Perseus. That is why the meteor shower that peaked over the past few days is known as the Perseids -- the meteors all appear to come from a radiant toward Perseus. Three dimensionally, however, sand-sized debris expelled from Comet Swift-Tuttle follows a well-defined orbit about our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the Perseus. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Perseus. Pictured above, a composite of 13 early images from this year's Pereids meteor shower shows many bright meteors that streaked through the sky the night of August 11 near Oakland, Ontario, Canada. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Moon Over Andromeda (2013 Aug 01) Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block and Tim Puckett Explanation: The Great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda (aka M31), a mere 2.5 million light-years distant, is the closest large spiral to our own Milky Way. Andromeda is visible to the unaided eye as a small, faint, fuzzy patch, but because its surface brightness is so low, casual skygazers can't appreciate the galaxy's impressive extent in planet Earth's sky. This entertaining composite image compares the angular size of the nearby galaxy to a brighter, more familiar celestial sight. In it, a deep exposure of Andromeda, tracing beautiful blue star clusters in spiral arms far beyond the bright yellow core, is combined with a typical view of a nearly full Moon. Shown at the same angular scale, the Moon covers about 1/2 degree on the sky, while the galaxy is clearly several times that size. The deep Andromeda exposure also includes two bright satellite galaxies, M32 and M110 (bottom). Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Meteors and Aurorae over Iceland (2013 Aug 07) Image Credit & Copyright: James Boardman-Woodend (Images ~ Inspired by Nature); Annotation: Judy Schmidt Explanation: What's going on behind that volcano? Quite a bit. First of all, the volcano itself, named Kirkjufell, is quite old and located in western Iceland near the town of Grundarfjörður. In front of the steeply-sloped structure lies a fjord that had just began to freeze when the above image was taken -- in mid-December of 2012. Although quite faint to the unaided eye, the beautiful colors of background aurorae became quite apparent on the 25-second exposure. What makes this image is of particular note, though, is that also captures streaks from the Geminids meteor shower -- meteors that might not have been evident were the aurora much brighter. Far in the distance, on the left, is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy, while stars from our local part of the Milky Way appear spread across the background. This weekend the Perseids meteor shower will peak and may well provide sky enthusiasts with their own memorable visual experiences. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Perseid over Albrechtsberg Castle (2013 Aug 09) Image Credit & Copyright: Sebastian Voltmer Explanation: Medieval Albrechtsberg castle is nestled in trees near the northern bank of the river Pielach and the town of Melk, Austria. In clearing night skies on August 12, 2012 it stood under constellations of the northern summer, including Aquarius, Aquila, and faint, compact Delphinus (above and right of center) in this west-looking skyview. The scene also captures a bright meteor above the castle walls. Part of the annual perseid meteor shower, its trail points back toward the heroic constellation Perseus high above the horizon in the early morning hours. Entering the atmosphere at about 60 kilometers per second, perseid meteors are swept up dust grains from the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle. Of course, this year's perseid meteors will flash through night skies this weekend. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: Perseids over Meteora (2013 Aug 10) Image Credit & Copyright: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN) Explanation: The two bright meteors flashing through this night skyscape from August 7 are part of the ongoing Perseid meteor shower. In the direction indicated by both colorful streaks, the shower's radiant in the eponymous constellation Perseus is at the upper right. North star Polaris, near the center of all the short, arcing star trails is at the upper left. But also named for its pose against the sky, the monastery built on the daunting sandstone cliffs in the foreground is part of Meteora. A World Heritage site, Meteora is a historic complex of lofty monasteries located near Kalabaka in central Greece. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD

APOD: The Magellanic Stream (2013 Aug 15) Credit: Science - NASA, ESA, A. Fox, P. Richter et al. Image - D. Nidever et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, A. Mellinger, LAB Survey, Parkes, Westerbork, and Arecibo Obs. Explanation: In an astronomical version of the search for the source of the Nile, astronomers now have strong evidence for the origin of the Magellanic Stream. This composite image shows the long ribbon of gas, discovered at radio wavelengths in the 1970s, in pinkish hues against an optical all-sky view across the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Both Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, dwarf satellite galaxies of the the Milky Way, are seen near the head of the stream at the right. Data from Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph were used to explore abundances of elements along sitelines to quasars that intersect the stream. The results indicate that most of the stream's material comes from the Small Magellanic Cloud. The Magellanic Stream is likely the result of gravitational tidal interactions between the two dwarf galaxies some 2 billion years ago, the Small Magellanic Cloud losing more material in the encounter because of its lower mass. Starship Asterisk* • APOD Discussion Page #APOD