This Gas Giant Is Pretty in Pink

If humans could travel to this giant planet, we would see a world still glowing from the heat of its formation with a color reminiscent of a dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta. via NASA

Churning Clouds on Jupiter

Where is Jupiter's ammonia? Gaseous ammonia was expected to be seen in Jupiter's upper atmosphere by the orbiting Juno spacecraft -- but in many clouds is almost absent. Recent Juno data, however, gives some clues: some high-level clouds appear to be home to an unexpected type of electrical discharge dubbed shallow lightning. Great charge separations are needed for lightning, which might be created by colliding mushballs lifted by rising updrafts of gas. Ammonia and water stick to these mushballs which rise until they get too heavy -- after which they fall deep into Jupiter's atmosphere and melt. By this process, ammonia found missing from Jupiter's upper atmosphere reappears below. Pictured by Juno, churning clouds on Jupiter show not only mesmerizing complexity but some high-level, light-colored pop-up clouds. Understanding atmospheric dynamics on Jupiter gives valuable perspective to similar atmospheric and lightning phenomena that occur on our home Earth. via NASA

One Rehearsal Away from Touching Asteroid Bennu

NASA's OSIRIS-REx is ready for touchdown on asteroid Bennu. via NASA

Perseids from Perseus

Where are all these meteors coming from? In terms of direction on the sky, the pointed answer is the constellation of Perseus. That is why the meteor shower that peaks tomorrow night is known as the Perseids -- the meteors all appear to came from a radiant toward Perseus. In terms of parent body, though, the sand-sized debris that makes up the Perseids meteors come from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The comet follows a well-defined orbit around our Sun, and the part of the orbit that approaches Earth is superposed in front of the Perseus. Therefore, when Earth crosses this orbit, the radiant point of falling debris appears in Perseus. Featured here, a composite image taken over eight nights and containing over 400 meteors from last August's Perseids meteor shower shows many bright meteors that streaked over Kolonica Observatory in Slovakia. This year's Perseids holds promise to be one of the best meteor showers of the year. via NASA

The Origin of Elements

The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. There are no other appreciable sources of hydrogen in the universe. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen. Much of the iron in your body was made during supernovas of stars that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in your jewelry was likely made from neutron stars during collisions that may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts or gravitational wave events. Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in only small amounts but are essential to the functioning of all known life. The featured periodic table is color coded to indicate humanity's best guess as to the nuclear origin of all known elements. The sites of nuclear creation of some elements, such as copper, are not really well known and are continuing topics of observational and computational research. via NASA

Crescent Saturn

From Earth, Saturn never shows a crescent phase. But when viewed from a spacecraft the majestic giant planet can show just a sunlit slice. This image of crescent Saturn in natural color was taken by the robotic Cassini spacecraft in 2007. It captures Saturn's rings from the side of the ring plane opposite the Sun -- the unilluminated side -- another vista not visible from Earth. Visible are subtle colors of cloud bands, the complex shadows of the rings on the planet, and the shadow of the planet on the rings. The moons Mimas, at 2 o'clock, and Janus 4 o'clock, can be seen as specks of light, but the real challenge is to find Pandora (8 o'clock). From Earth, Saturn's disk is nearly full now and opposite the Sun. Along with bright fellow giant planet Jupiter it rises in the early evening. via NASA

Hubble Sees Near and Far

The barred spiral galaxy known as NGC 4907 shows its starry face from 270 million light-years away to anyone who can see it from the Northern Hemisphere. Appearing in this Hubble image to shine brightly below the galaxy is a star that is actually within our own Milky Way galaxy. via NASA

The Pipe Nebula

East of Antares, dark markings sprawl through crowded star fields toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Cataloged in the early 20th century by astronomer E. E. Barnard, the obscuring interstellar dust clouds include B59, B72, B77 and B78, seen in against the starry background. Here, their combined shape suggests a pipe stem and bowl, and so the dark nebula's popular name is the Pipe Nebula. The deep and expansive view covers a full 10 by 10 degree field in the pronounceable constellation Ophiuchus. The Pipe Nebula is part of the Ophiuchus dark cloud complex located at a distance of about 450 light-years. Dense cores of gas and dust within the Pipe Nebula are collapsing to form stars. via NASA

A Starry Sky Above the Earth's Atmospheric Glow

This long-exposure photograph captures a starry sky above the Earth's atmospheric glow. via NASA

Messier 20 and 21

The beautiful Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, is easy to find with a small telescope in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. About 5,000 light-years away, the colorful study in cosmic contrasts shares this well-composed, nearly 1 degree wide field with open star cluster Messier 21 (right). Trisected by dust lanes the Trifid itself is about 40 light-years across and a mere 300,000 years old. That makes it one of the youngest star forming regions in our sky, with newborn and embryonic stars embedded in its natal dust and gas clouds. Estimates of the distance to open star cluster M21 are similar to M20's, but though they share this gorgeous telescopic skyscape there is no apparent connection between the two. In fact, M21's stars are much older, about 8 million years old. via NASA

Curiosity Celebrates 8 Years on the Red Planet

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover touched down eight years ago, on Aug. 5, 2012, and will soon be joined by a second rover, Perseverance. via NASA

Ancient sun daggers will not hurt you, but they may tell you the time.  A sun dagger is a dagger-shaped gap in a shadow created by sunlight streaming through a crevice in a nearby rock. Starting over a thousand year ago, native people of the American southwest carved spiral petroglyphs into rocks that became illuminated by sun daggers in different ways as the Sun shifts in the sky. A type of sundial, where the end of the sundagger points in the spiral at high noon (for example) indicates a time of year, possibly illuminating a solstice or equinox.  Sun daggers are thought to have been used by Sun Priests during lone vigils with prayers and offerings.  Of the few known, the featured video discusses the historic Picture Rocks Sun Dagger near Tucson, Arizona, USA, likely created by a Hohokam Sun Priest around 1000 AD.  via NASA

Outbursts from a Double Star System

For decades, astronomers have known about irregular outbursts from the double star system V745 Sco, which is located about 25,000 light years from Earth. via NASA

Distorted galaxy NGC 2442 can be found in the southern constellation of the flying fish, (Piscis) Volans. Located about 50 million light-years away, the galaxy's two spiral arms extending from a pronounced central bar have a hook-like appearance in wide-field images. But this mosaicked close-up, constructed from Hubble Space Telescope and European Southern Observatory data, follows the galaxy's structure in amazing detail. Obscuring dust lanes, young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions surround a core of yellowish light from an older population of stars. The sharp image data also reveal more distant background galaxies seen right through NGC 2442's star clusters and nebulae. The image spans about 75,000 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 2442. via NASA

SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour Lifted Aboard Recovery Ship

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft as it is lifted onto the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after landing. via NASA

Did the Earth part to show us this comet? Of course not, even if this image makes it seem that way. Pictured far in the background is Comet NEOWISE as it appeared about two weeks ago over northern Greece. Above the comet are many stars including the bright stars of the Big Dipper (also the Sorcerer, in Aztec mythology), an asterism that many people around the world used to find the naked-eye comet as it hovered in the northern sky over the past month. In the foreground is Vikos Gorge, the deepest gorge on Earth, relative to its width. The gorge was slowly created by erosion from the Voidomatis River over the past few million years. Capturing this image took a lot of planning, waiting, luck, braving high winds, and avoiding local wolves. Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) continues to fade and is now best visible through binoculars as it coasts back to the outer Solar System. via NASA

Crew Dragon Safely Returns Astronauts

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico. via NASA

How different does sunset appear from Mars than from Earth? For comparison, two images of our common star were taken at sunset, one from Earth and one from Mars. These images were scaled to have same angular width and featured here side-by-side. A quick inspection will reveal that the Sun appears slightly smaller from Mars than from Earth. This makes sense since Mars is 50% further from the Sun than Earth. More striking, perhaps, is that the Martian sunset is noticeably bluer near the Sun than the typically orange colors near the setting Sun from Earth. The reason for the blue hues from Mars is not fully understood, but thought to be related to forward scattering properties of Martian dust. The terrestrial sunset was taken in 2012 March from Marseille, France, while the Martian sunset was captured in 2015 by NASA's robotic Curiosity rover from Gale crater on Mars. Last week a new rover and a helicopter -- onboard Mars 2020 -- launched for Mars. via NASA

SpaceX Crew Dragon As It Approached the Space Station

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken of NASA's Commercial Crew Program are aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon as it approaches the International Space Station. via NASA

The Elephant's Trunk Nebula in Cepheus

Like an illustration in a galactic Just So Story, the Elephant's Trunk Nebula winds through the emission nebula and young star cluster complex IC 1396, in the high and far off constellation of Cepheus. Also known as vdB 142, the cosmic elephant's trunk is over 20 light-years long. This detailed close-up view was recorded through narrow band filters that transmit the light from ionized hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the region. The resulting composite highlights the bright swept-back ridges that outline pockets of cool interstellar dust and gas. Such embedded, dark, tendril-shaped clouds contain the raw material for star formation and hide protostars within. Nearly 3,000 light-years distant, the relatively faint IC 1396 complex covers a large region on the sky, spanning over 5 degrees. This dramatic scene spans a 1 degree wide field of view though, about the size of 2 Full Moons. via NASA

Liftoff to the Red Planet!

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Thursday, July 30, 2020. via NASA

A Different View of the Mars Perseverance Launch

The engines fired as a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover onboard launched from Space Launch Complex 41, Thursday, July 30, 2020. via NASA

Mars 2020 from 5,000 Feet

On Thursday this snapshot from a small plane 5,000 feet above Florida's Space Coast caught a rocket's trail rising into the blue morning sky. It was July's third launch of a mission from planet Earth bound for Mars. The Atlas V rocket left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from Space Launch Complex 41 at 7:50am EDT carrying NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover. The car-sized Perseverance is headed for a landing at Jezero Crater on the Red Planet in February 2021. On board the sophisticated rover is the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. via NASA

Mars Perseverance: Prepared for Launch to the Red Planet

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard is seen illuminated by spotlights on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41. via NASA

The Red Planet Mars

Mars looks pretty sharp in this backyard telescope image captured on July 23 from Hoegaarden, Belgium, planet Earth. The Red Planet's bright south polar cap is bathed in sunlight at the top of the inverted view, while the dark feature known as Syrtis Major extends toward the right (eastern) edge. Rising around midnight for now, the Red Planet is months away from its own opposition in early October. Telescopic views will improve even more as Earth, in its faster orbit, catches up to Mars, the ruddy disk growing larger and brighter still. The martian Jezero Crater is within the Syrtis Major region. That's the landing site for NASA's 2020 Mars Rover Perseverance, scheduled for launch today. via NASA

Countdown to Mars

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41. via NASA

The Giants of Summer

As Comet NEOWISE sweeps through northern summer skies, Jupiter and Saturn are shining brightly, near opposition. With Jupiter opposite the Sun on July 14 and Saturn on July 21, the giant planets are still near their closest to planet Earth in 2020. Sharing the constellation Sagittarius they are up all night, and offer their best and brightest views at the telescope. Both captured on July 22 from a balcony in Paris these two sharp telescopic images don't disappoint, showing off what the giant planets are famous for, Saturn's bright rings and Jupiter's Great Red Spot. These giants of the Solar System are worth following during 2020. On December 21, skygazers can watch the once-in-20-year great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. via NASA

Jezero Crater, Landing Site for the Mars Perseverance Rover

This image of Jezero Crater, the landing site for the Mars Perseverance Rover, was taken by instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. via NASA

Carrying a Telescope Aloft

Carried by a balloon the size of a football stadium, ASTHROS will use a telescope to observe wavelengths of light that aren't visible from the ground. via NASA

Normally, Steamboat Point looks cool -- but not this cool. Every day, the iconic peak of the Bighorn Mountains is an interesting sight, in particular from US Highway 14 in Wyoming. On some rare days, the rocky vertical ridges look even more incredible when seen in front of a distant lightning storm. Earlier this month, though, something even more unusual happened -- the naked-eye Comet NEOWISE rose above it in the middle of the night. Just as a distant lightning storm was occurring in the background. Recognizing a rare opportunity, a determined astrophotographer spent a sleepless night capturing over 1400 images of this unusual triple conjunction. The featured image is among the best of them, with the foreground lit by the Moon off to the right. Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now headed back to the outer Solar System, destined to return only in about 6700 years. via NASA

What would it look like to fly through the distant universe? To find out, a team of astronomers estimated the relative distances to over 5,000 galaxies in one of the most distant fields of galaxies ever imaged: the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). Because it takes light a long time to cross the universe, most galaxies visible in the featured video are seen when the universe was only a fraction of its current age, were still forming, and have unusual shapes when compared to modern galaxies. No mature looking spiral galaxies such as our Milky Way or the Andromeda galaxy yet exist. Toward the end of the video the virtual observer flies past the farthest galaxies in the HUDF field, recorded to have a redshift past 8. This early class of low luminosity galaxies likely contained energetic stars emitting light that transformed much of the remaining normal matter in the universe from a cold gas to a hot ionized plasma. via NASA

Tianwen 1 Mission to Mars

On July 23, this Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket rose into a blue morning sky from China's Hainan Island Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The rocket carried an orbiter, lander, and rover to ask Heavenly Questions on the ambitious Tianwen-1 mission to Mars. In fact Tianwen-1 was the second of three missions scheduled for a July departure to the Red Planet. The United Arab Emirates launched its Amal (Hope) Mars probe on July 19. NASA's launch of its Mars Perseverance Rover from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, USA is scheduled for July 30. That is the last planned Mars launch for 2020 though. The minimum-energy launch window for an expedition to Mars is coming to a close in 2020 and will reopen in 2022. via NASA

Apollo 11 Aboard the USS Hornet

This image, taken on July 24, 1969, shows the Apollo 11 command codule and the Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) are photographed aboard the USS Hornet via NASA


The multi-mirror, 17 meter-diameter MAGIC telescopes reflect this starry night sky from the Roque de los Muchachos European Northern Observatory on the Canary Island of La Palma. MAGIC stands for Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov and the telescopes can see the brief flashes of optical light produced in particle air showers as high-energy gamma rays impact the Earth's upper atmosphere. On July 20, two of the three telescopes in view were looking for gamma rays from the center of our Milky Way galaxy. In reflection they show the bright stars of Sagittarius and Scorpius near the galactic center to the southeast. Beyond the segmented-mirror arrays, above the northwest horizon and below the Big Dipper is Comet NEOWISE. NEOWISE stands for Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. That's the Earth-orbiting satellite used to discover the comet designated C/2020 F3, but you knew that. via NASA

Comet NEOWISE Streaks Across the Sky Above Lone Pine Lake

Comet NEOWISE streaked across the sky above the tree line of Lone Pine Lake, located on the Mount Whitney Trail in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. via NASA

Fairytale NEOWISE

Comet dust falls through a twilight sky in this dream-like scene, but it's not part of a fairytale movie. Still, Castle Neuschwanstein, nestled in the Bavarian Alps, did inspire Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle. Captured on July 20, the bright streak above the castle towers is likely a Perseid meteor. Though it peaks near mid-August, the annual summer meteor shower is active now. The meteor trail over the fairytale castle can be traced back to the shower's radiant in the heroic constellation Perseus off the top right of the frame. Perseid meteors are produced by dust from periodic Comet Swift-Tuttle. With its own broad dust tail now sweeping through northern skies the celestial apparition above the distant horizon is planet Earth's current darling, Comet NEOWISE. via NASA

Developing Technologies to Send Humans to Mars

NASA is developing technologies to send humans to the Red Planet. via NASA

What is creating the structure in Comet NEOWISE's tails? Of the two tails evident, the blue ion tail on the left points directly away from the Sun and is pushed out by the flowing and charged solar wind. Structure in the ion tail comes from different rates of expelled blue-glowing ions from the comet's nucleus, as well as the always complex and continually changing structure of our Sun's wind. Most unusual for Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), though, is the wavy structure of its dust tail. This dust tail is pushed out by sunlight, but curves as heavier dust particles are better able to resist this light pressure and continue along a solar orbit. Comet NEOWISE's impressive dust-tail striations are not fully understood, as yet, but likely related to rotating streams of sun-reflecting grit liberated by ice melting on its 5-kilometer wide nucleus. The featured 40-image conglomerate, digitally enhanced, was captured three days ago through the dark skies of the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia, China. Comet NEOWISE will make it closest pass to the Earth tomorrow as it moves out from the Sun. The comet, already fading but still visible to the unaided eye, should fade more rapidly as it recedes from the Earth. via NASA

Apollo 11: Returning from the Moon

On July 21, 1969, command and service module pilot Michael Collins photographed this close-up view of the docking target on the Apollo 11 Lunar Module from the Command Module. via NASA

Iron in the Butterfly Nebula

Can stars, like caterpillars, transform themselves into butterflies? No, but in the case of the Butterfly Nebula -- it sure looks like it. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years and its estimated surface temperature exceeds 200,000 degrees, C, the dying central star of NGC 6302, the featured planetary nebula, has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in visible and ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope and is reprocessed here to show off the remarkable details of the complex planetary nebula, highlighting in particular light emitted by iron, shown in red. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius). Planetary nebulas evolve from outer atmospheres of stars like our Sun, but usually fade in about 20,000 years. via NASA

Comet NEOWISE and Nebulae

Would you brave wild animals to photograph this sky? One astrophotographer did -- and we all get to reap the rewards. First, thousands of stars were visible with many of the brightest impressively blue. Next, several red-glowing nebulae were discernible, including the California Nebula on the far right, and, above it, the Heart and Soul nebulae. But the real reason to brave the local wildlife was Comet NEOWISE, visible on the left. In the featured long-duration composite taken last week, Comet NEOWISE's blue-glowing ion tail points straight up, away from the rising Sun, while the Sun-reflecting dust tail trails off toward the right. The picture combines three exposures taken consecutively over 10 minutes from the same location near Miedzygórze, Poland. A moonlit dirt road shows the path ahead, while the Śnieznik Mountains is visible on the horizon. Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) passes its closest to the Earth next week, after which the 5-km wide, evaporating, icy dirtball will fade as it glides back to the outer Solar System. via NASA

Rotating Moon from LRO

No one, presently, sees the Moon rotate like this. That's because the Earth's moon is tidally locked to the Earth, showing us only one side. Given modern digital technology, however, combined with many detailed images returned by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a high resolution virtual Moon rotation movie has been composed. The featured time-lapse video starts with the standard Earth view of the Moon. Quickly, though, Mare Orientale, a large crater with a dark center that is difficult to see from the Earth, rotates into view just below the equator. From an entire lunar month condensed into 24 seconds, the video clearly shows that the Earth side of the Moon contains an abundance of dark lunar maria, while the lunar far side is dominated by bright lunar highlands. Currently, over 19 new missions to the Moon are under active development from eight different countries, most of which have expected launch dates in the next three years. via NASA


If you can see the stars of the Big Dipper, you can find comet NEOWISE in your evening sky tonight. After sunset look for the naked-eye comet below the bowl of the famous celestial kitchen utensil of the north and above your northwestern horizon. You're looking for a fuzzy 'star' with a tail, though probably not so long a tail as in this clear sky snapshot taken from Los Padres National Forest in California on the evening of July 16. Recent photographs of C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) often show this comet's broad dust tail and fainter but separate ion tail extending farther than the eye can follow. Skygazers around the world have been delighted to find NEOWISE, surprise visitor from the outer Solar System. via NASA

NEOWISE of the North

After local midnight on July 14 comet NEOWISE was still above the horizon for Goldenrod, Alberta, Canada, just north of Calgary, planet Earth. In this snapshot it makes for an awesome night with dancing displays of the northern lights. The long-tailed comet and auroral displays are beautiful apparitions in the north these days. Both show the influence of spaceweather and the wind from the Sun. Skygazers have widely welcomed the visitor from the Oort cloud, though C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is in an orbit that is now taking it out of the inner Solar System. via NASA

Apollo 11 Launches into History

At 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission launched via a Saturn V rocket on a mission to the Moon. via NASA

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project: An Orbital Partnership Is Born

On July 17, 1975, something momentous happened: two Cold War-rivals met in space. When their respective spacecraft rendezvoused and docked, a new era of cooperative ventures in space began. via NASA

The Long Tails of Comet NEOWISE

This Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) now sweeps through our fair planet's northern skies. Its long tails stretch across this deep skyview from Suchy Vrch, Czech Republic. Recorded on the night of July 13/14, the composite of untracked foreground and tracked and filtered sky exposures teases out details in the comet's tail not visible to the unaided eye. Faint structures extend to the top of the frame, over 20 degrees from the comet's bright coma. Pushed out by the pressure of sunlight itself, the broad curve of the comet's yellowish dust tail is easy to see by eye. But the fainter, more bluish tail is separate from the reflective comet dust. The fainter tail is an ion tail, formed as ions from the cometary coma are dragged outward by magnetic fields in the solar wind and fluoresce in the sunlight. Outbound NEOWISE is climbing higher in northern evening skies, coming closest to Earth on July 23rd. via NASA

Earth's Beauty from Above

The crew snapped this starry nighttime shot of Rio de Janeiro and surrounding cities on the Brazilian coast, as the International Space Station orbited above São Paolo. via NASA

Comet NEOWISE over the Swiss Alps

Comet NEOWISE has been wowing photographers around much of the world during dawn and dusk, at the margins of day and night. For the most northern residents of planet Earth, however, the comet circles the North Star and never sets. The night part of this circular arc is apparent in the featured composite of images assembled from a webcam located at a ski resort in the Swiss Alps. Images were selected at 30-minute intervals throughout the night from July 12th -13th. Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) will continue to become more accessible to northern hemisphere observers as its motion places it higher in the sky each evening after sunset over the next few weeks, as it begins its outbound journey. As with all comets, departure from the inner Solar System comes with inevitable fading. Binoculars are the best way to find and observe the comet visually. via NASA

Perseverance Rover Mated to Its Atlas V Rocket

In this image, NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover waits to be lifted onto its Atlas V launch vehicle at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 7, 2020. via NASA