Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Astro Advent 2020 - 12/01/20 12:08 AM

[Linked Image from]An advent calendar can be fun. I hope you will enjoy my Astro Advent calendar. Starting tomorrow, I'll be offering some some interesting tidbits and beautiful images.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/01/20 02:41 PM


Thomas Kasts's Painting the Sky is the winner of the Skyskapes category of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020. The competition runs annually at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in England.

The image isn't a painting, but a photo with subtle processing to enhance a beautiful display of polar stratospheric clouds in Kilpisjärvi, Enontekiö, Finland. These clouds are a rare winter phenomenon of high latitudes, breaking up light into colours rather like oil on water.

Painting the Sky
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/02/20 07:54 AM


The World At Night (TWAN) is an international project to promote high quality astrophotos set in varied landscapes. Jeff Dai captured this atmospheric scene in southwestern China during the Leonid meteor shower of mid-November 2011. Mars was a few months from opposition and already quite bright.

In addition to Mars shining like a beacon, just below it is a meteor streak. The Leonids occur when Earth passes through the debris stream of Comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Mars and Meteor over Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/03/20 08:20 AM


Jeff Hellermann photographed The Very Large Array at Moonset, the dish antennas standing proudly in the New Mexico desert. It looks like a setting Sun, but if it were sunset we wouldn't see the Milky Way and a skyful of stars.

The radio telescope was inaugurated in 1980, but renamed in 2012 as the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array. Jansky, an American physicist and radio engineer, was one of the founders of radio astronomy. The VLA antennas can be configured in different ways – the tracks you see in the picture allow them to be moved around.

The Very Large Array at Moonset
Posted By: Lestie4containergardens Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/03/20 08:40 AM
Hello Mona,

This is an amazing photograph. Interpreting all the data collected must take some concentration.

Anyway, thanks
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/03/20 01:39 PM

Lestie, you've realised the big problem with data collection. Telescopes can now collect it much faster than humans could possibly process it. But there are some smart folk that understand both what's wanted from the data and how to write a computer program to do the grunt work.

The big deal now seems to be AI - artificial intelligence, as it's commonly known. But in two talks I've seen about it, the astronomers preferred to call it "augmented intelligence" where the humans will be able to make use of the ability of the computer to process large amounts of data to complement the human side. (Rather than letting the computer take over the world!)
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/04/20 06:01 AM


Typical of the many fantastic images from the Hubble Space Telescope is this portrait of NGC 5643, a nearby spiral galaxy. It's about 55 million light years away – that is nearby in galactic terms.

NGC 5643, in the southern constellation Lupus (the Wolf), is some 100,000 light years across. Blue spiral arms dominate the picture, showing active star formation producing hot young blue stars. But also notice the glowing centre. NGC 5643 is an “active” galaxy with hot gas falling into a massive central black hole.

Spiral galaxy NGC 5643
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/05/20 04:52 AM


Here's Comet NEOWISE which caused some excitement in 2020. There can't have been many people that found the comet in as dramatic a setting as Constantine Emmanouilidi did – the Vikos Gorge in northern Greece. [APOD]

The sky is speckled with stars, but you should easily be able to pick out the asterism of the Big Dipper (the Plough in Britain). Millions of years of erosion by the Voidomatis River created this spectacularly deep gorge.

Comet NEOWISE over Vikos Gorge
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/06/20 01:53 PM


Australian photographer Peter Ward won the Stars and Nebulae category of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020 for Cosmic Inferno. The nebula is NGC 3576, discovered nearly two centuries ago by John Herschel.

Nebulae are sites of stellar creation and destruction. But Ward removed the stars from the image using software, and mapped the nebula itself onto a false color palette. It made for a dramatic photo which also evoked the bushfires that burned over 46 million acres and destroyed thousands of homes in Australia in 2019-2020.

Cosmic Inferno
Posted By: Lestie4containergardens Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/07/20 12:54 PM
Ah Mona! What a present this calendar is - thank you.
Posted By: Angie Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/07/20 01:50 PM
the heavens provide quite a canvas for artwork.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/07/20 02:02 PM


The Japan space agency JAXA provided this artist's impression of Hayabusa2 (“Peregrine Falcon”) at the asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft has had a busy six years. It's been to an asteroid, studied it, taken samples, and a few days ago brought the samples back to Earth.

Asteroids are of interest because they're original celestial bodies that can tell us about the origin of the Solar System. In addition, some of them are potential dangers to Earth.

Hayabusa2 at Ryugu

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/08/20 05:00 AM


Joe Randall captured a skyscape much closer to home than a turbulent nebula light years away. These are storm clouds that brought a summer lightning storm to Colorado Springs in Colorado, USA.

Lightning is an electrical discharge that's hotter than the Sun, and it creates a supersonic shockwave. Boom! That's thunder. This photo isn't a lucky snap of the storm, but was created from a series of 5 dozen stacked images.

Lightning over Colorado

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/09/20 06:15 AM


Mark Polsen's Tranquility Base was the overall winner of the 2020 astrophotography competition of the Central West Astronomical Society of Australia, the “David Malin Awards”. Malin himself, astronomer and renowned astrophotographer, judged the photographs.

The citation for the photo read: "Mark Polsen's Tranquillity Base has it all, perfect setting, under a beautiful sky with the moon and Venus peeping through the trees. The delicate sky and horizon colours of twilight are mirrored in the water, behind the trees."

Tranquility Base

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/10/20 01:35 PM


From the Hubble Legacy Archive comes Wings of a Butterfly Nebula (M2-9). A dying sunlike star has sloughed off its gaseous disk which has taken a bipolar appearance. [Processing: Judy Schmidt]

When sunlike stars run out of nuclear fuel, they collapse into white dwarfs. Over a period of time they also lose their outer envelopes, creating what's called a planetary nebula. These come in all kinds of shapes and colors.

Wings of a Butterfly Nebula

Posted By: Angie Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/10/20 03:59 PM
Nature is beautiful.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/11/20 05:57 AM


Patrick Cullis caught a Geminid Fireball over the Flatirons of Boulder, Colorado, USA in December 2012.

The December Geminid meteor shower is a splendid one. The meteors may be of different colors and often produce these exceptionally bright ones called fireballs. The 2020 shower is expected to peak on the night of December 13/14.

Geminid Fireball
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/12/20 10:42 AM


Terry Robison's Starburst Galaxy in Sculptor was shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2020. Caroline Herschel discovered the galaxy in 1783, but the fuzzy blob she saw wouldn't match this image obtained from 34 hours of exposure.

The Sculptor Galaxy is catalogued as NGC 253. Located in the southern constellation Sculptor, it's is one of the brightest spiral galaxies we can see. It's currently undergoing intense star formation.

Starburst Galaxy in Sculptor
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/13/20 04:01 PM


Robert Oliver's A Giant's Star Trail was shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014. The star trails were captured over the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Several images were used to create the photograph. (Click on the photo to get the best effect.)

As the Earth rotates, stars appear to move in concentric circles centered on the pole star Polaris. The Giant's Causeway is made up of thousands of interlocking basalt columns, most of them hexagonal. Legend has it that it was built by a giant to cross the sea to get at his rival. Geology has it that it was formed 50-60 million years ago during a volcanic eruption.

A Giant's Star Trail

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/14/20 07:26 AM


Frederic Church was a 19th-century American landscape painter. In the Catskills in 1860 he painted a breathtaking string of fireball meteors in an Earth-grazing meteor procession. This was probably the event referred to in Walt Whitman's poem “Year of Meteors”.

An Earth-grazing meteor occurs when a meteor's trajectory takes it through the atmosphere and back out into space, not hitting the ground. A meteor procession is a very rare sight. It happens when a meteor breaks up as it enters the atmosphere, creating multiple meteors in nearly identical paths.

Meteor of 1860
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/15/20 04:44 PM


What color is the Moon? Marcella Giulia Pace has been photographing the Moon for more than a decade and she has captured it in numerous colors, including shades of blue, pink, orange and even a pale green

The Moon itself, viewed from space, is pretty much shades of grey. The colors we see from Earth depend primarily on various effects in our atmosphere. For example, red and pink are common when the Moon is low in the sky. Particles of a certain size in the air can give the blue colors. Lunar eclipses give shades of red, which can be darkened by volcanic eruptions.

Colors of the Moon

Posted By: mary-tea1 Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/15/20 08:06 PM
Dear Mona,

I saw this in my newspaper, it was so beautiful! I recall actually seeing some of those colors and still never realized how different the many phases were.

Mary Caliendo
Tea Editor
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/16/20 05:52 PM


My favorite star cluster is the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters, in the constellation Taurus. They're hot blue stars, as you can see in Raul Villaverde Fraile's photograph. The surrounding dust cloud creates a swirl of mystery around them.

In Greek mythology the Pleiades are the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas and the Oceanid Pleione. But you'll notice that there are more than seven stars in the photo. The cluster has over 800 stars, but few of them are visible to the naked eye. Usually, people see no more than six, so there are are also stories about a missing Pleiad.

Pleiades: The Seven Sisters Star Cluster

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/17/20 05:24 PM


In 2020 there were two solar eclipses. One was on June 21st, the summer solstice, an annular eclipse. Somak Raychaudhury took a picture showing dozens of images of the partial eclipse in Pune, India. The images are on the ground in a bamboo grove.

The leaves of the bamboo let sunlight through as they formed a set of pinholes. Each little gap projected an image of the eclipsing Sun. If Pune had been along the path of totality, the ground would have been full of images of bright rings. An annular eclipse occurs when the new Moon doesn't completely block the Sun's disk, leaving a ring, often called the “ring of fire”.

Eclipse under the Bamboo
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/18/20 02:50 PM


Wow! Is this a supermoon? Or is the picture photoshopped? Kelvin Hennessey entered it in the astrophotography competition of the Central West Astronomical Society in Australia. Cape Byron, in northern New South Wales, is the most easterly point of mainland Australia.

”Supermoon” is just a name given to a full moon at perigee, i.e., when it's closest to the Earth. It doesn't look particularly bigger than other full moons. The photo is real, not photoshopped. But if you were actually near the Byron Bay Lighthouse, the Moon wouldn't look like this. To get the giant Moon you have to be quite some distance away, have a long lens, and know what you're doing.

Cape Byron Moonrise
Posted By: Monika R Canada Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/18/20 04:10 PM
Wow! That moon is amazing. Almost as if you could touch it. When I lived in the middle of the prairies and the harvest moon rose in September or October it was always larger than life. Amazing really.

Thanks for posting those great images and articles.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/18/20 11:06 PM

Monika, thank you for your comments and kind words. Seeing the Moon over the prairie sounds like a wonderful sight.
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/19/20 12:40 PM


This strange image by Marcin Zajac looks like a scene from science fiction, but it is indeed a view of the Milky Way from Earth. You can also see Jupiter and Saturn in the lower left part of the picture. It's from 2008, but in 2020 Jupiter and Saturn appear close together in the sky and will seem to merge at the winter solstice.

This glorious image wasn't taken as a one-shot snap. It's a composite, but both foreground and background shots were taken from the same location. The place was the badlands of the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness in New Mexico's San Juan Wilderness. The “alien throne” is a kind of rock formation known as a hoodoo. [APOD]

Alien Throne
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/20/20 03:38 PM


The aurora borealis – northern lights – are one of nature's most extraordinary sights. This photo of a fantastic light show above a Norwegian fishing village was taken by Andreas Ettl. It was short-listed for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.

An aurora is created by atomic particles from the Sun being funnelled along Earth's magnetic field lines. Slamming into our atmosphere at the poles, collisions with particles of the upper atmosphere makes it glow like a fluorescent lamp. An aurora australis is produced in the southern hemisphere at the same time.

Hamnøy Lights
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/21/20 10:08 AM


Cyril Byrne has photographed the rising solstice Sun illuminating the inside of a 5000-year-old megalithic tomb in Newgrange, in County Meath, Ireland. The tomb is aligned with the solstice Sun which shines down an 18-meter tunnel.[Irish Times/APOD]

The 2020 winter solstice – summer solstice in the southern hemisphere – occurs on December 21st at 10.02 UTC. This is when North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun and the South Pole has its maximum tilt towards the Sun.

Solstice at Newgrange
Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/22/20 03:38 PM


The European Southern Observatory (ESO) featured this scene of the Paranal Observatory in Chile, taken by Yuri Beletsky . “Resembling a river of light flowing through the dry otherworldly landscape, the road to the observatory is a lifeline for the facility. It can only be accessed by this road.”

What do we see on the distant mountain called Cerro Paranal? It's the four telescopes that make up the VLT Survey Telescope – each unit has a mirror that spans over eight meters. The photo was taken from an adjacent peak in the Atacama Desert where ESO's VISTA telescope is located. Just look at that sky!

River of light in the high desert

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/23/20 01:14 PM


In which direction does the Sun rise? We know that, don't we? In the east. But not due east. Zaid M. Al-Abbadi shows the sunrise direction for each month of 2019, as seen from near the city of Amman, Jordan. He took the images with the camera always facing due east, north toward the left and south toward the right. [APOD]

The Sun rises precisely due east at the equinoxes in March and September. But you can see that at the winter solstice the Sun is rising in the southeast and at the summer solstice, in the northeast.

Sunrises around the Year

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/24/20 06:33 AM


Here's a splendid selection of heavenly images. They're composites, each including data from the Chandra X-ray telescope plus data from other telescopes.

From left to right top row: M82, an edge-on galaxy undergoing bursts of star formation. Abell 2744, a cluster of galaxies. Supernova 1987A occurred in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the brightest supernova for several centuries.

From left to right bottom row: Eta Carinae, a volatile system of two massive stars in close orbits in the Milky Way. Cartwheel galaxy, object that had a smaller galaxy pass through the middle of it triggering a lot of star formation. Helix Nebula, planetary nebula created by a dying sunlike star.

Heavenly images

Posted By: Mona - Astronomy Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/25/20 11:09 AM

Christmas Day

On the righthand side you'll easily spot the Cone Nebula, which is shaped like a stylized Christmas tree. The stars around it are called the Christmas Tree Cluster. One bright star even looks to me as though it's the star on top of the tree.

Christmas Tree Cluster
Posted By: Krztypie Re: Astro Advent 2020 - 12/30/20 10:24 AM
Amazing! I wonder what's really out there.
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