Astronomy Picture Of the Day (APOD)Hale Bopp: The Great Comet of 1997
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.
Bright-rimmed, flowing shapes gather near the center of this rich starfield toward the boarders of the nautical southern constellations Pupis and Vela. Composed of interstellar gas and dust, the grouping of light-year sized cometary globules is about 1300 light-years distant.
NGC 891 Edge On
This sharp cosmic portrait features NGC 891. The spiral galaxy spans about 100 thousand light-years and is seen almost exactly edge-on from our perspective. In fact, about 30 million light-years distant in the constellation Andromeda, NGC 891 looks a lot like our Milky Way.
M78: Stardust and Starlight
Interstellar dust clouds and bright nebulae abound in the fertile constellation of Orion. One of the brightest, M78, is just left of center in this colorful telescopic view, covering an area north of Orion's belt. At a distance of about 1,500 light-years, the bluish nebula itself is about 5 light-years across.
This telescopic snapshot records a cosmic moment in the tumultuous lives of large spiral galaxy NGC 3227 and smaller elliptical NGC 3226. Catching them in the middle of an ongoing gravitational dance, the sensitive imaging also follows faint tidal star streams flung from the galaxies in their repeated close encounters.
The Bubble and M52
To the eye, this cosmic composition nicely balances the Bubble Nebula at the lower left with open star cluster M52 above it and to the right. The pair would be lopsided on other scales, though.
Comet ISON Approaches
How impressive will Comet ISON become? No one is sure, but unfortunately, as the comet approaches the inner Solar System, it is brightening more slowly than many early predictions. Pictured above, Comet ISON is seen about two weeks ago as it continued to develop a tail.
Hubble Remix: Active Galaxy NGC 1275
Active galaxy NGC 1275 is the central, dominant member of the large and relatively nearby Perseus Cluster of Galaxies. Wild-looking at visible wavelengths, the active galaxy is also a prodigious source of x-rays and radio emission.
October Aurora in Prairie Skies
Wind and spaceweather are transformed in this haunting night skyscape. The prairie windmill and colorful auroral display were captured on October 1, from central South Dakota, USA, as a good season for aurora hunters came with longer autumn nights.
The Densest Galaxy
The bright core and outer reaches of giant elliptical galaxy M60 (NGC 4649) loom large at the upper left of this sharp close-up from the Hubble Space Telescope. Some 54 million light-years away and 120,000 light-years across, M60 is one of the largest galaxies in the nearby Virgo Cluster.