#PPOD: The Dolphin Nebula | Also designated as Sharpless 308, RCW 11, or LBN 1052, this nebula is blown by hot winds from a massive star. About 60 light-years across, it covers an area about the size of a full Moon in our skies. The nebula is about 4,530 light-years away from Earth. Image Credit: Chilescope 2, Pleaides Astrophotography Team (Peking U.)
This panoramic selfie was taken on 9 April 2016 by ESO Photo Ambassador Petr Horálek. Petr was in the Chilean Atacama Desert as a member of ESO’s Fulldome Expedition team, a select group of photographers who captured an array of stunning, ultra-high-definition visuals for use primarily in the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre.
Humans have gazed up at the skies for a very long time, fascinated by the flowing shape of the Milky Way, the bright lights of the stars and planets, and the dark patches that obscure regions of sky. Different cultures had various names for these features; this Picture of the Week shows one object that has taken on several different identities over time, alongside an antenna of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).
Our Sun has its home within the Milky Way's Orion Arm, only about 1,000 light-years from the California Nebula. Also known as NGC 1499, the classic emission nebula is around 100 light-years long. On the featured image, the most prominent glow of the California Nebula is the red light characteristic of hydrogen atoms recombining with long lost electrons, stripped away (ionized) by energetic starlight. The star most likely providing the energetic starlight is the bright, hot, bluish Xi Persei.
Even after the Sun has set over ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, the site is not truly dark. Although light pollution is practically non-existent at the remote site high up in the Atacama Desert, as daylight disappears the flowing dunes are instead illuminated by the dazzling light streaming from the stars above. The only artificial illumination for miles around comes from Paranal’s facilities, including the telescopes themselves and the Residencia, photographed here.
This beautiful photograph of the southern sky was taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Petr Horálek from ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. Petr was not alone at Paranal. Standing to the bottom left of the image, next to an Auxiliary Telescope of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), are astrophotographers Yuri Beletsky and Babak Tafreshi, both of whom are also Photo Ambassadors for ESO. The duo are seen beneath a sky filled with stunning phenomena.
The road to ESO’s La Silla Observatory in the Chilean Atacama Desert appears to curve around the mountain and collide with the downward slope of the Milky Way in this Picture of the Week. Small yellow bulbs light up the road at regular intervals; it is prohibited to use headlights on these roads between dusk and dawn, as even dim lights can interfere significantly with telescope observations. The site enjoys some of the darkest night skies on Earth.
The Southern Cross is best seen from Earth's Southern Hemisphere. The featured image was taken last month in Chile and captures the Southern Cross just to the left of erupting Villarrica, one of the most active volcanos in our Solar System. Connecting the reddest Southern Cross star Gacrux through the brightest star Acrux points near the most southern location in the sky: the South Celestial Pole (SCP), around which all southern stars appear to spin as the Earth turns.
Far from civilisation, deep in the barren, mountainous terrain of Chile’s Atacama Desert, stand four pillars of modern astronomy: the enormous and angular enclosures of the Unit Telescopes (UTs) of ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The Sun’s diffuse orange glow peeking over the horizon is no match for the light display filling the sky above. Containing hundreds of billions of stars, the great bow of the Milky Way stretches across the panorama, dipping down to touch the horizon.
The night sky is filled with stories. Cultures throughout history have projected some of their most enduring legends onto the stars above. Generations of people see these stellar constellations, hear the associated stories, and pass them down. Featured here is the perhaps unfamiliar constellation of the Old Man, long recognized by the Tupi peoples native to regions of South America now known as Brazil.
From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming. Already visible are several young bright blue stars.
Two days ago Jupiter and Saturn passed a tenth of a degree from each other in what is known a Great Conjunction. Although the two planets pass each other on the sky every 20 years, this was the closest pass in nearly four centuries. Taken early in day of the Great Conjunction, the featured multiple-exposure combination captures not only both giant planets in a single frame, but also Jupiter's four largest moons (left to right) Callisto, Ganymede, Io, and Europa - and Saturn's largest moon Titan.
Saturn and Jupiter are moving closer and will soon appear in almost exactly the same direction. Coincidentally, on the night of the December solstice - the longest night of the year in the north and the longest day in the south - the long-awaited Great Conjunction will occur. Then about six days from now, Saturn and Jupiter will be right next to each other -- as they are every 20 years. But this juxtaposition is not just any Great Conjunction, well less than the apparent diameter of a full moon.
The antennas comprising the ALMA Observatory appear to emit an eerie, vivid shade of green light. Situated on the isolated Chajnantor plateau in Chile, ALMA seems like the perfect place for friendly extraterrestrials to discreetly land and make contact…but something far more mundane is responsible for this green glow. The light emanates from indicator lights, which show whether or not it is safe for staff to approach the antennas. A green light as pictured indicates that it’s safe to approach.
It's easy to get lost following the intricate looping filaments in this detailed image of supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240 it goes by the popular nickname, the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years.
The bright object at the centre of the frame is the Moon — slightly to its upper left is the ringed planet Saturn, while rocky Mercury sits to the lower left. Saturn and Mercury in conjunction can be difficult to see with the naked eye from some latitudes, but this breathtaking image captures them beautifully, despite the relatively bright light from the nearby Moon. The dusty Milky Way appears to split the sky horizontally and any famous nebulae are visible across this cosmic curtain.
Our #AstroPhotoFriday picture this week is from Jason Swassing, who imaged the Elephant's Trunk Nebula, seen just below the center star. It winds through the emission nebula and young star cluster complex IC 1396, in the constellation of Cepheus. The "trunk" is over 20 light-years long, and the entire complex is nearly 3,000 light-years distant. Imaged over three nights equally in SHO from the rural skies of Cascade, ID using a ZWO ASI1600mm-Pro camera and Williams Optics Spacecat51 telescope.
Resembling a river of light flowing through the dry, otherworldly landscape of northern Chile, the road to ESO’s Paranal Observatory is a lifeline for the facility. Sited in one of the most remote locations in the world to benefit from the extremely low light pollution there, the observatory can only be accessed by this road, which winds its solitary way through the calm, barren terrain.
How many of our followers have had the opportunity to see the Milky Way with their own eyes? It's difficult for a lot of people due to the light pollution of cities. Fortunately, we have amazing photographers who take the time to capture the wonder of our home galaxy in gorgeous pictures such as this one. Taken from California and submitted by Mohammad Arsalan (IG/arsalan7m), who took advantage of a moonless night, this #AstroPhotoFriday image shows the Milky Way in all its overhead glory.
Most star clusters are singularly impressive. Open clusters NGC 869 and NGC 884, however, could be considered doubly impressive. Also known as "h and chi Persei", this unusual double cluster, shown above, is bright enough to be seen from a dark location without even binoculars. The Greek astronomer Hipparchus notably cataloged the double cluster. The clusters are over 7,000 light years distant toward the constellation of Perseus, but are separated by only hundreds of light years.
To the right of this image captured in northern Chile, the eye-catching arc of the Milky Way soars above the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner. The image also shows, on the arc to the left, a faint brightening of the night sky in the region of the ecliptic directly opposite the Sun. This phenomenon is known as gegenschein (German for “countershine”) and is created as interplanetary dust in the outer part of the Solar System scatters incoming sunlight.
This #AstroPhotoFriday submission of the Pleiades from Harish Krishnakumar (IG/hk.astro) consists of 28 hours of exposure taken over the last month from their backyard in Redmond, WA. This is probably the most recognizable star cluster and is visible from even the most light polluted areas. The Pleiades is surrounded by nebulosity, which is illuminated by stars in the background. Camera: ZWO ASI 1600mm. Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80.
At first glance, this image looks both awesome and intimidating, with the enormous beams of light resembling some terrible cosmic weapon. Fortunately, that is not the case! This ESO Picture of the Week shows something far more benign — a mixture of gas, dust, and powerful lasers. Among the largest nebulae in the southern night sky, the Carina Nebula is a perfect viewing target for ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). In this image, the nebula appears as a stunning pink cloud in the clear sky.
For this week, we turn our #AstroPhotoFriday to the Andromeda galaxy, as imaged by Jeffrey Horne (IG/jeffreyhorne) in Nashville, TN. "Andromeda is the closest large galaxy to our own Milky Way, but it's so far away (2.5 million light years) that in this photo you don't actually see any of the individual one trillion stars that it contains. Every individual star that you see in the first photo is in our own Milky Way galaxy." | Camera: ASI2600MC-Pro; Telescope: Celestron RASA 8"
This week's #AstroPhotoFriday submission is from Hüseyin Avcu (IG/hsyns_astro), who used the IG/telescope.live remote observatory to capture this image. His description: The Tarantula Nebula is an ionized hydrogen (H II) region in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Since it is a H II region you can see blue bright newborn stars everywhere near the clouds of Tarantula Nebula. You can also see some remains of the stellar material that was used to make these big bright blue stars.