Astronomy Pictures Of The Day – March 21-31, 2018

Here are the 11 beautiful pictures selected for the period March 21 through March 31, 2018 by the highly recommended website Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) provided by NASA and Michigan Technological University (MTU). Each day a different image, photograph, or video of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. Amazing cosmos !

Astronomy Pictures Of The Day – March 21 31, 2018
Camera Orion || Image Credit & Copyright: Derrick Lim || Explanation: Do you recognize this constellation? Although it is one of the most recognizable star groupings on the sky, Orion’s icons don’t look quite as colorful to the eye as they do to a camera. In this 20-image digitally-composed mosaic, cool red giant Betelgeuse takes on a strong orange tint as the brightest star at the upper left. Orion’s hot blue stars are numerous, with supergiant Rigel balancing Betelgeuse at the lower right, and Bellatrix at the upper right Lined up in Orion’s belt are three stars all about 1,500 light-years away, born from the constellation’s well-studied interstellar clouds. Below Orion’s belt a reddish and fuzzy patch that might also look familiar — the stellar nursery known as Orion’s Nebula. Finally, just barely visible to the unaided eye but quite striking here by camera is Barnard’s Loop — a huge gaseous emission nebula surrounding Orion’s Belt and Nebula discovered over 100 years ago by the pioneering Orion photographer E. E. Barnard. – More Info
Astronomy Pictures Of The Day – March 21 31, 2018
NGC 253: Dusty Island Universe || Image Credit & Copyright: Stefano Cancelli, Paul Mortfield || Explanation: Shiny NGC 253 is one of the brightest spiral galaxies visible, and also one of the dustiest. Some call it the Silver Dollar Galaxy for its appearance in small telescopes, or just the Sculptor Galaxy for its location within the boundaries of the southern constellation Sculptor. Discovered in 1783 by mathematician and astronomer Caroline Herschel, the dusty island universe lies a mere 10 million light-years away. About 70 thousand light-years across, NGC 253 is the largest member of the Sculptor Group of Galaxies, the nearest to our own Local Group of Galaxies. In addition to its spiral dust lanes, tendrils of dust seem to be rising from a galactic disk laced with young star clusters and star forming regions in this sharp color image. The high dust content accompanies frantic star formation, earning NGC 253 the designation of a starburst galaxy. NGC 253 is also known to be a strong source of high-energy x-rays and gamma rays, likely due to massive black holes near the galaxy’s center. Take a trip through extragalactic space in this short video flyby of NGC 253. – More Info
Astronomy Pictures Of The Day – March 21 31, 2018
Sharpless 249 and the Jellyfish Nebula || Image Credit & Copyright: Albert Barr || Explanation: Normally faint and elusive, the Jellyfish Nebula is caught in this alluring telescopic image. Centered in the scene it’s anchored right and left by two bright stars, Mu and Eta Geminorum, at the foot of the celestial twin. The Jellyfish Nebula is the brighter arcing ridge of emission with dangling tentacles. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astrophysical waters the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, the Jellyfish Nebula is known to harbor a neutron star, the remnant of the collapsed stellar core. An emission nebula cataloged as Sharpless 249 fills the field at the upper left. The Jellyfish Nebula is about 5,000 light-years away. At that distance, this image would be about 300 light-years across. – More Info
Astronomy Pictures Of The Day – March 21 31, 2018
NGC 602 and Beyond || Image Credit: X-ray: Chandra: NASA/CXC/Univ.Potsdam/L.Oskinova et al; Optical: Hubble: NASA/STScI; Infrared: Spitzer: NASA/JPL-Caltech || Explanation: Near the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy some 200 thousand light-years distant, lies 5 million year young star cluster NGC 602. Surrounded by natal gas and dust, NGC 602 is featured in this stunning Hubble image of the region, augmented by images in the X-ray by Chandra, and in the infrared by Spitzer. Fantastic ridges and swept back shapes strongly suggest that energetic radiation and shock waves from NGC 602’s massive young stars have eroded the dusty material and triggered a progression of star formation moving away from the cluster’s center. At the estimated distance of the Small Magellanic Cloud, the Picture spans about 200 light-years, but a tantalizing assortment of background galaxies are also visible in this sharp multi-colored view. The background galaxies are hundreds of millions of light-years or more beyond NGC 602. – More Info
Astronomy Pictures Of The Day – March 21 31, 2018
Announcing Nova Carinae 2018 || Image Credit & Copyright: A. Maury & J. Fabrega || Explanation: How bright will Nova Carinae 2018 become? The new nova was discovered only last week. Although novas occur frequently throughout the universe, this nova, cataloged as ASASSN-18fv, is so unusually bright in the skies of Earth that it is now easily visible through binoculars in the southern hemisphere. Identified by the arrow, the nova occurs near the direction of the picturesque Carina Nebula. A nova is typically caused by a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a white dwarf star that is accreting matter from a binary companion, although details of this outburst are currently unknown. Both professional and amateur astronomers will be monitoring this unusual stellar outburst in the coming weeks, looking to see how Nova Carinae 2018 evolves, including whether it becomes bright enough to be visible to the unaided eye. – More Info

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