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Australia, July 2021. The Central West Astronomical Society held its annual astrophotography competition, open to amateur astronomers and photographers from around Australia to submit their astrophotographs for consideration in the "David Malin Awards".

This Nightscape photo by Ian Inverarity won the Photo Editor's Choice award for its "wonderful balance between the night sky & such an iconic and majestic tree in a unique Australian outback landscape. The balance created with the human lighting up the detail of the age in the trunk and outer branches helps create an extra dimension to the image while also giving scale to the overall scene. A cracking picture."

Sheltering from the Starlight


Mona Evans
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December 4, 2021 produced a total solar eclipse. But to see the eclipse from land, you had to be in Antarctica. Other choices were sailing in the Southern Ocean or flying above it. Oh, and a very select few, i.e., astronauts on the International Space Station, saw the Moon's shadow on the Earth.

Petr Horálek, ESO Photo Ambassador, got a splendid photo. You can see the wing and engine of the plane as well as another aircraft. The dark area around the eclipsed Sun is the shadow cone created by the Moon's shadow.

Eclipse at the bottom of the world [APOD]


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Located in the constellation Cetus the whale, the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 1055 is crossed by a dark lane of gas and dust. The colorful stars around the galaxy are actually in the foreground and inside the Milky Way. They make the picture look like a cosmic smiley.

The photo was taken by Nicolas Rolland and Martin Pugh in Río Hurtado, Coquimbo Region, Chile. It was Highly Commended by the judges in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021 competition at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England.

A Smiley in Space


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In this image of the Lunae Planum region of Mars, we see a triplet of medium-sized impact craters with a sprinkling of small impact craters all around them.

The image was taken by a camera on the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). The TGO is studying the planet's atmospheric gases and mapping the Martian surface for water-rich locations. It will also provide data relay services for the second ExoMars mission due in 2023.

A Martian Trio


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Astrophotographer Yang Sutie was in Murmansk, Russia, just north of the Arctic Circle. He was planning to take a series of northern lights images to make a time-lapse video. But something unexpected happened.

It was the night after the Geminids Meteor Shower peaked. A brilliant meteor streaked across the sky, and his aurora camera captured it. A meteor of this brightness is called a fireball. Its track was not only bright, but visible for several seconds. [NOTE: The 2021 Geminids peak on the night of December 13/14, but the peak isn't the only time you might see one.]

Fireball in the Arctic [APOD]


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An image of the California Nebula (NGC 1499) won the Stars & Nebulae category in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021 competition. It's an unusual take on a red nebula whose shape resembles California. Terry Hancock photographed it over seven nights using a set of filters to get a rainbow of colors that highlighted the different gases in the nebula.

The competition is organized by the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England. One of the judges commented that “the composition of the photograph almost looks like a splash of paint against the starry background.”

California Dreaming


Mona Evans
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It's not an abstract painting. It was ESA's Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite looking down on the Earth from space. The photo was taken over the Amazon in March 2019. The river rises in the Andes and travels through six South American countries before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.

The image was processed to show bodies of water in blue. One tributary – the Javari River – is the thinner blue line weaving through the tropical rainforest. It flows for 870 km before joining the Amazon. Cities and built-up areas are in cyan. Yellow and orange show the rainforest.

A view from space


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Sunspots are cooler than the rest of the Sun's surface. It's why they look darker. However, the regions above sunspots are hotter, sometimes up to a hundred times hotter. No one knows why. NASA used the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) to study this aspect of the Sun.

In the image below, ultraviolet light from SDO is shown in red. The green and blue are for emission bands of high-energy X-rays taken by NuSTAR. [Image Credit: NASA, SDO, NuSTAR]

The Sun in X-rays from NuSTAR [APOD]


Mona Evans
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Jeffrey Lovelace took this image in Death Valley National Park, California. It won the Skyscapes category of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021 competition. It's described as “a floating crescent Moon, flowing sand dunes, an empty wilderness.”

Lovelace said, "I hiked deep into the dunes and eventually found the foreground I had imagined for this shot. As I set up my gear, the red of the sunset faded into the blue twilight. Once everything was assembled, I looked up and there hung a shining sliver of a crescent moon.”

Luna Dunes


Mona Evans
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Many people think this nebula resembles a cat's eye. Others see it more like a great conch shell. Certainly, it's one of the brightest and most beautiful of all the known planetary nebulae. The outer concentric shells were probably produced when the dying star's outer layers were sloughed off in a series of convulsions. The formation of the inner structures is still a mystery.

A Hubble Space Telescope optical image was combined with X-ray data from the Chandra Observatory to produce this picture. Processing & copyright: Rudy Pohl.

Cat's Eye Nebula [APOD]


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