Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD)Asteroid Gaspra's Best Face
Above is the best yet color image of the asteroid Gaspra based on data returned by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. Color variations have been added to high resolution images and enhanced to highlight changes in reflectivity, surface structure and composition. The illuminated portion of the asteroid is about 11 miles long.
Globular Cluster M5
The globular cluster M5, pictured above, contains roughly 100,000 stars. These stars formed together and are gravitationally bound. Stars orbit the center of the cluster, and the cluster orbits the center of our Galaxy. So far, about 160 globular clusters are known to exist in a roughly spherical halo around the Galactic center.
A Storm on Saturn
The white wisp shown on Saturn's cloud tops is actually a major storm system only discovered in December of 1994. Saturn's clouds are composed of primarily hydrogen and helium, but the storm's white clouds are actually ammonia ice crystals that have frozen upon upheaval to the top of the atmosphere.
Galaxy Dwingeloo 1 Emerges
If you look closely at the center of the above photograph, you will see a spiral galaxy behind the field of stars. Named Dwingeloo 1, this nearby galaxy was only discovered recently (1994) because much of its light was obscured by dust, gas and bright stars of our own Milky Way galaxy.
Starburst Galaxy M94
The spiral galaxy M94 is somewhat unusual in that it shows a great ring of bright young stars particularly apparent when observed in ultraviolet light, as shown above. Such a high abundance of these young blue stars may cause a galaxy to be designated a starburst galaxy.
Iapetus: Saturn's Disappearing Moon
Iapetus has an unusual surface, one half of which is very dark, the other half very light. This caused it's discoverer Cassini to remark that Iapetus could only be seen when on one side of Saturn but not the other. The reason for the difference between hemispheres is presently unknown.
Rhea: Saturn's Second Largest Moon
Rhea is the second largest moon of Saturn, behind Titan, and the largest without an atmosphere. It is composed mostly of water ice, but has a small rocky core. Rhea's rotation and orbit are locked together (just like Earth's Moon) so that one side always faces Saturn.
Jupiter, Io, and Ganymede's Shadow
Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet, is seen here next to Io, its closest Galilean moon. On the cloud tops of Jupiter near the left edge of the picture can be seen a dark circular spot which is caused by the shadow of Jupiter's largest moon Ganymede.
HH-47 Star Jet
The star masked by a dust cloud at the left of the above photo is expelling an energetic beam of charged particles into interstellar space. This jet, moving from left to right, has burrowed through much interstellar material, and now expands out into the interstellar space.
LMC Star Clouds
Pictured above are clouds of young stars forming an arc in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, the nearest galaxy to the our Milky Way Galaxy. These stars are situated in a star forming region known as N 51.