Comet Garradd Has Close Encounter with Star Cluster

The cosmic close encounter featured the comet Garradd and bright globular star cluster M92. It was photographed by astronomer Conrad Jung with the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, Calif. Jung used a 5-inch refractor telescope to snap a 10-minute exposure of comet Garradd as it zipped close by M92 on February 3. Both objects were in the constellation Hercules at the time. While comet Garradd and star cluster appeared close to each other, it was only a trick of perspective. Star cluster M92 is actually about 27,000 light-years from Earth, while comet Garradd is currently zipping through our inner solar system.

French Skywatcher Photo Reveals NGC 1333 Nebula Blue Glow

This image of NGC 1333 nebula which was taken by French skywatcher Jean-Pierre Brahic, in December 2011, reveals nebula’s blue glow.The reflection nebula is located in the constellation Perseus. A reflection nebula is a cloud of dust visible with the help of energy from a nearby star or stars. These nebula are typically blue in color because the carbon dust particles reflect blue light more efficiently than red light. NGC 1333 is 1,000 light-years away at the edge of a large star-forming cloud. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

Nebula That Burns Bright in Skywatcher Photo

The North America Nebula lies in the constellation Cygnus, and it takes its name from a supposed resemblence to the continent. This image was taken by Jean-Luc Dauvergne in August 2007 from the observatory at the Pic du Midi mountain in the French Pyrenees. The skyscape in the image glowing most brightly is the most active part of the nebula, a region astronomers call the Cygnus Wall. Here, hydrogen gas burns where new stars are forming. The North America Nebula, also known as NGC 7000, is roughly 1,800 light-years away and perhaps 100 light-years in diameter.

Moon and Constellation Gemini

On February 4 and 5, 2012, the moon passes in front of the zodiacal constellation Gemini the Twins. Though the constellation figure won’t be easy to depict in the moonlight glare, you should be able to make out Gemini’s two brightest stars, Castor and Pollux.

Helix Nebula Glows Like Giant Golden Eye

The Helix Nebula glows like a giant golden eye in the sky in the image, released on January 19, 2012 by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). This picture, taken in infrared light, reveals strands of cold nebular gas that are invisible in images taken in visible light, and brings to light a rich background of stars and galaxies. The picture was captured by ESO’s VISTA telescope, at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The Helix Nebula is one of the closest and most remarkable examples of a planetary nebula. The Helix Nebula lies in the constellation of Aquarius, about 700 light-years away from Earth. This strange object formed when a star like the sun was in the final stages of its life.

Air Force Launches New Military Communications Satellite

An unmanned rocket lit up the Florida night sky on January 19 as it launched a vital new communications satellite into orbit for the U.S. military, the first major American space launch of the year. The Delta 4 rocket roared spaceward from a Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad carrying the Wideband Global SATCOM 4 satellite, the latest addition to the military’s highest capacity communications system in history. Liftoff occurred on time at 7:38 p.m. EST (0038 Jan. 20 GMT). Built by Boeing, the $464 million WGS-4 satellite is the fourth in a growing constellation of high-capacity satellites that provide tactical communications to and between ground forces, as well as relay data and imagery from surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

Spitzer New Image Shows Space Nursery

Most stars, likely including our own sun, grew up in cosmic turmoil, as illustrated in this new image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The image shows one of the most active and turbulent regions of star birth in our Milky Way galaxy, a region called Cygnus X. The choppy cloud of gas and dust lies 4,500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus or the “Swan.” It is home to thousands of massive stars and many more stars around the size of our sun or smaller. Spitzer has captured an infrared view of the entire region, bubbling with star formation. Most stars are thought to form in huge star-forming regions like Cygnus X.

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