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#936540 06/30/22 06:05 AM
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What links the USA's Independence Day holiday, the Crab Nebula and NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft? What links the American War of Independence with the planet Uranus? And what is the Fireworks Galaxy? Here's the story.

Cosmic 4th of July


Mona Evans
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Henrietta Leavitt isn't a well known name, but a century ago she made one of the most important discoveries of 20th century astronomy. Previously, astronomers could only measure distances up to 100 light years, but her discovery extended that distance to 10 million light years. She was born on the Fourth of July in Lancaster, Massachusetts.

Henrietta Swan Leavitt

In the early 20th century an astronomer made a revolutionary discovery. Yet her life left almost no footprints on history. "Miss Leavitt's Stars" contrasts the solidity of her professional accomplishment with the butterfly touch of her life. Miss Leavitt isn't even the star of her own biography.

Miss Leavitt's Stars - book review


Mona Evans
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You don't get much more spectacular than this . . . .

July 4, 1054: The Crab Nebula made a spectacular debut in the heavens. Chinese astronomers mark the beginning of Supernova 1054, heralding the birth of what will become known as the Crab Nebula.

Planning on watching fireworks? Here’s an astronomical firework to help you start the celebrations! In the images above, the top left shows the 3 GHz data from the Very Large Array (radio). Moving clockise, the radio data (shown in red) is composited with: infrared data from Spitzer Space Telescope, optical continuum from Hubble Space Telescope, 500-nm optical data from Hubble, and ultraviolet data from XMM-Newton. The final two images are of the nebula center, and they are composites of the radio image with X-ray data from Chandra and near-infrared data from Hubble. [American Astronomical Association]


Mona Evans
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On July 4, 2005, NASA's Deep Impact released a probe that crashed into Comet Tempel-1 with an energy equivalent to about five tons of TNT.

But for fireworks on a grand scale, the Antenna Galaxies in the constellation Corvus (the Crow) are more dramatic. There are two galaxies interacting and this has caused lots of starburst activity. The X-ray image shows the hot gases surrounding the galaxies. [Image: Hubble Space Telescope]

And can fireworks in the park match the cosmic show of Supernova 1987A? This light show has had astronomers studying it for three and a half decades. This vivid ring of material, seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, was probably shed by the original star about 20,000 years before it exploded. [Image: NASA, ESA, P. Challis and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics]


Mona Evans
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Chris Schur photographed a beautiful red, white and blue sky which appeared on the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) on July 4, 2017.

Contrasting colors in this beautiful sunset sky were captured . . . from Clear Creek Canyon Observatory in central Arizona, USA. The twilight scene includes brilliant Venus as the evening star, with a bright Saturn just above it, shining through thin clouds. Regulus, alpha star of the constellation Leo, is above and to the left of the close planetary pairing.

Credit & Copyright: Chris Schur


Mona Evans
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Celestial Fireworks . . . . . Celestial Fireworks

On the fourth of July 2017, Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) presented a magnificent visualization of the of the star cluster Westerlund 2. The 1-minute video provides fireworks unmatched on Earth - and won't terrify the neighborhood pets! Expand to full screen for the best effect.

Note: You can watch this video on YouTube, but if you use the APOD page, you miss the advertising.


Mona Evans
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