Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD)Crossing The Ring Plane
"I do not know what to say in a case so surprising, so unlooked for and so novel." announced Galileo when Saturn's rings appeared to vanish in 1612. In fact, every 15 years Saturn's rings seem to almost disappear as viewed from the Earth.
Exploring Saturn's Rings
By watching a star flicker and fade as it passed behind Saturn's rings, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft was able explore the ring system in amazing detail. Data produced by Voyager's instruments...
The Rings of Saturn
Saturn's spectacular system of bright rings has been the subject of study and wonder since Galileo first turned his telescope on the ringed planet in 1610. To Galileo, the blurry image produced by his small telescope was confusing. Saturn appeared to him to have "ear-like" appendages which he thought might be large moons.
M27: The Dumbbell Nebula
The Dumbbell Nebula is a beautiful red and blue planetary nebula in the constellation of Vulpecula. It is the 27th object on Charles Messier's list of diffuse sky objects, and so is referred to as M27. Its high surface brightness makes it a good target for small telescopes.
M82: An Irregular Galaxy
Not all galaxies have spiral structure like our Milky Way. Many have smooth elliptical shapes, but also many have irregular shapes such as the bright sky object M82, the 82nd object on Messier's list.
M57: The Ring Nebula
A star with mass similar to that of our Sun will throw off its outer gasses after fusion has stopped in its core. Possibly the most visually spectacular of these planetary nebula is the pictured Ring Nebula. The appearance as a ring is really an illusion of projection - the nebula is actually a spherical shell.
M15: A Great Globular Cluster
A globular cluster is a system of about one million stars that together orbit a galaxy. One of the brightest globular clusters in our Milky Way galaxy is the pictured M15, the fifteenth object on Messier's list of diffuse objects on our sky.
M1: The Crab Nebula
In the year 1054 a star in the constellation of Taurus exploded in a spectacular supernova so bright it appeared to dominate the sky except for the Sun and Moon for many days. It left behind one of the most brilliant nebulae, listed first in Charles Messier's list of nebulous sky objects.
M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it.
M20: The Trifid Nebula
The vivid blue and violet colors present in the Trifid Nebula result from the abundance of young stars there. The light from young massive stars is quite blue and has the ability to remove electrons from surrounding gas. When these electrons re-combine with the gas, radiation rich in blue and violet light is emitted.