Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD)Neptune through Adaptive Optics
From the Earth's surface, Neptune usually appears as a fuzzy blotch. The blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere deny clearer images. By distorting mirrors in the telescope itself in time with the changing atmosphere, however, these effects can be greatly reduced.
New Shocks For Supernova 1987A
In February of 1987, astronomers witnessed the brightest supernova of modern times - supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Mysterious rings of material surrounding the expanding stellar debris were soon emitting a visible glow excited by intense light from the explosion.
Eros From Orbit
On February 14th, the NEAR spacecraft became the first artificial moon of an asteroid. Captured by the gentle gravity of a 20 mile long slipper-shaped mountain of rock, NEAR recorded this premier image while orbiting asteroid 433 Eros at a distance of about 200 miles.
M106: A Spiral Galaxy with a Strange Core
What's happening at the center of spiral galaxy M106? A swirling disk of stars and gas, M106's appearance is dominated by two bright spiral arms and dark dust lanes near the nucleus. Bright newly formed stars near their outer tips distinguish the spiral arms in the above photograph.
An Unexpected Asteroid Valentine
Maybe the Moon owns our hearts, but this won't stop the occasional asteroid from sending us a valentine. Friday, to the surprise of many, the NEAR mission on approach to asteroid 433 EROS photographed what appears to be a heart-shaped depression.
The planet Mercury resembles a moon. Mercury's old surface is heavily cratered like many moons. Mercury is larger than most moons but smaller than Jupiter's moon Ganymede and Saturn's moon Titan. Mercury is much denser and more massive than any moon, though, because it is made mostly of iron.
Get out your red/blue glasses and launch yourself into this stereo picture of Saturn! The picture is actually composed from two images recorded weeks apart by the Voyager 2 spacecraft during its visit to the Saturnian System in August of 1981.
XMM-Newton First Light: X-Rays From The LMC
Recently the European Space Agency released this and other spectacular "first light" pictures from its new orbiting x-ray observatory, christened XMM-Newton. A churning region of star birth and death in our small neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), this field was one of several chosen to test out XMM-Newton's x-ray imaging capabilities.
Eros Encounter Nears
After an unanticipated extra trip around the Sun, the NEAR spacecraft is now politely approaching asteroid 433, Eros, at a respectful relative speed of about 20 miles per hour. Still nearly 2,000 miles distant, NEAR will close to within approximately 200 miles by February 14th - Valentine's Day.
Galaxy Wars: M81 Versus M82
In the left corner, wearing a red nucleus surrounded by blue spiral arms, is M81. In the right corner, sporting light stars and dark dust lanes, is M82. These two mammoth galaxies have been locked in gravitational combat for the past billion years.