Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD)Vesta Near Opposition
Main belt asteroid 4 Vesta is at its brightest now. The small world is near opposition (opposite the Sun in the sky) and closest to Earth. But even at its brightest, Vesta is just too faint to spot with the naked-eye.
An Unusually Smooth Surface on Saturns Calypso
Why is this moon of Saturn so smooth? This past weekend, humanity's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft passed as close to Saturn's small moon Calypso as it ever has, and imaged the small moon in unprecedented detail. Pictured above is an early return, raw, unprocessed image of the 20-km long irregularly shaped moon.
Dark Shuttle Approaching
What's that approaching? Astronauts on board the International Space Station first saw it far in the distance. Soon it enlarged to become a dark silhouette. As it came even closer, the silhouette appeared to be a spaceship.
Cassini Spacecraft Crosses Saturn's Ring Plane
If this is Saturn, where are the rings? When Saturn's "appendages" disappeared in 1612, Galileo did not understand why. Later that century, it became understood that Saturn's unusual protrusions were rings and that when the Earth crosses the ring plane, the edge-on rings will appear to disappear.
Field of Rosette
What surrounds the florid Rosette nebula? To better picture this area of the sky, the famous flowery emission nebula on the far right has been captured recently in a deep and dramatic wide field image that features several other sky highlights.
Waterway to Orbit
The 32nd shuttle mission to the International Space Station, STS-130, left planet Earth on February 8. Its early morning launch to orbit from Kennedy Space Center's pad 39A followed the long, graceful, eastward arc seen in this 2 minute time exposure.
Teide Sky Trails
The snow capped Teide volcano is reflected in a pool of water in this nearly symmetric night sky view from the Canary Island Tenerife. Bright north star Polaris stands above the peak in an exposure that also captures the brilliant trail of a polar orbiting Iridium satellite.
Star Cluster M34
This pretty open cluster of stars, M34, is about the size of the Full Moon on the sky. Easy to appreciate in small telescopes, it lies some 1,800 light-years away in the constellation Perseus. At that distance, M34 physically spans about 15 light-years.
Sakurajima Volcano with Lightning
Why does a volcanic eruption sometimes create lightning? Pictured above, the Sakurajima volcano in southern Japan was caught erupting early last month. Magma bubbles so hot they glow shoot away as liquid rock bursts through the Earth's surface from below.
Night Launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour
Sometimes, the space shuttle launches at night. Pictured above, the space shuttle Endeavour lifted off in yesterday's early morning hours from Launch Pad 39A in Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA, bound for the International Space Station (ISS).