Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA
Explanation: Plunging close to the outer edges of Saturn’s rings, on January 16 the Cassini spacecraft captured this closest yet view of Daphnis. About 8 kilometers across and orbiting within the bright ring system’s Keeler gap, the small moon is making waves. The 42-kilometer wide outer gap is foreshortened in the image by Cassini’s viewing angle. Raised by the influenced of the small moon’s weak gravity as it crosses the frame from left to right, the waves are formed in the ring material at the edge of the gap. A faint wave-like trace of ring material is just visible trailing close behind Daphnis. Remarkable details on Daphnis can also be seen, including a narrow ridge around its equator, likely an accumulation of particles from the ring.
Explanation: For reasons unknown, NGC 6357 is forming some of the most massive stars ever discovered. This complex wonderland of star formation consists of numerous filaments of dust and gas surrounding huge cavities of massive star clusters. The intricate patterns are caused by complex interactions between interstellar winds, radiation pressures, magnetic fields, and gravity. The featured image includes not only visible light taken by the UKIRT Telescope in Hawaii (blue) as part of the SuperCosmos Sky Surveys, but infrared light from NASA’s orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope (orange) and X-ray light from NASA’s orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory (pink). NGC 6357 spans about 100 light years and lies about 5,500 light years away toward the constellation of the Scorpion. Within 10 million years, the most massive stars currently seen in NGC 6357 will have exploded.
Explanation: What created the strange spiral structure on the left? No one is sure, although it is likely related to a star in a binary star system entering the planetary nebula phase, when its outer atmosphere is ejected. The huge spiral spans about a third of a light year across and, winding four or five complete turns, has a regularity that is without precedent. Given the expansion rate of the spiral gas, a new layer must appear about every 800 years, a close match to the time it takes for the two stars to orbit each other. The star system that created it is most commonly known as LL Pegasi, but also AFGL 3068. The unusual structure itself has been cataloged as IRAS 23166+1655. The featured image was taken in near-infrared light by the Hubble Space Telescope. Why the spiral glows is itself a mystery, with a leading hypothesis being illumination by light reflected from nearby stars.
Explanation: This delicate blue group of stars — actually an irregular galaxy named IC 3583 — sits some 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin). It may seem to have no discernable structure, but IC 3583 has been found to have a bar of stars running through its centre. These structures are common throughout the Universe, and are found within the majority of spiral, many irregular, and some lenticular galaxies. Two of our closest cosmic neighbours, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, are barred, indicating that they may have once been barred spiral galaxies that were disrupted or torn apart by the gravitational pull of the Milky Way. Something similar might be happening with IC 3583. This small galaxy is thought to be gravitationally interacting with one of its neighbours, the spiral Messier 90. Together, the duo form a pairing known as Arp 76. It’s still unclear whether these flirtations are the cause of IC 3583’s irregular appearance — but whatever the cause, the galaxy makes for a strikingly delicate sight in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, glimmering in the blackness of space.
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA Text Credit: European Space Agency
Explanation: What is so super about tomorrow’s supermoon? Tomorrow, a full moon will occur that appears slightly larger and brighter than usual. The reason is that the Moon’s fully illuminated phase occurs within a short time from perigee – when the Moon is its closest to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. Although the precise conditions that define a supermoon vary, tomorrow’s supermoon will undoubtedly qualify because it will be the closest, largest, and brightest full moon in over 65 years. One reason supermoons are popular is because they are so easy to see — just go outside and sunset and watch an impressive full moon rise! Since perigee actually occurs tomorrow morning, tonight’s full moon, visible starting at sunset, should also be impressive. Pictured here, a supermoon from 2012 is compared to a micromoon — when a full Moon occurs near the furthest part of the Moon’s orbit — so that it appears smaller and dimmer than usual. Given many definitions, at least one supermoon occurs each year, with another one coming next month (moon-th). However, a full moon will not come this close to Earth again until 2034.
Yukon’s general election will be held on November 7th, 2016 to choose 19 MLAs and a new government. The RASC: Yukon Centre (Yukon Astronomical Society) is new to the Yukon, but we have ideas, concerns, and three questions. Below are two letters that we felt addressed issues that are important to Yukoners, and to the Territory in general.
On October 27th 2016, the RASC: Yukon Centre (Yukon Astronomical Society) submitted two open letters, that we felt are, and continue to be, important to Yukoners and the Territory.
All political parties in the 2016 election, except the Yukon First Nation Party (we are waiting for a response), have responded. We are posting their responses, attached in four (4) separate Pdf letters below in alphabetical order:
Image Credit & Copyright: ESA, Rosetta, MPS, OSIRIS; UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Explanation: After closely following comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for 786 days as it rounded the Sun, the Rosetta spacecraft’s controlled impact with the comet’s surface was confirmed by the loss of signal from the spacecraft on September 30, 2016. One the images taken during its final descent, this high resolution view looks across the comet’s stark landscape. The scene spans just over 600 meters (2,000 feet), captured when Rosetta was about 16 kilometers from the comet’s surface. Rosetta’s descent to the comet brought to an end the operational phase of an inspirational mission of space exploration. Rosetta deployed a lander to the surface of one of the Solar System’s most primordial worlds and witnessed first hand how a comet changes when subject to the increasing intensity of the Sun’s radiation. The decision to end the mission on the surface is a result of the comet’s orbit now taking it to the dim reaches beyond Jupiter where there would be a lack of power to operate the spacecraft. Mission operators also faced an approaching period where the Sun would be close to line-of-sight between Earth and Rosetta, making radio communications increasingly difficult.
Image Credit: NASA / Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project
Explanation: August 10th was the 50th anniversary of the launch of Lunar Orbiter 1. It was the first of five Lunar Orbiters intended to photograph the Moon’s surface to aid in the selection of future landing sites. That spacecraft’s camera captured the data used in this restored, high-resolution version of its historic first image of Earth from the Moon on August 23, 1966 while on its 16th lunar orbit. Hanging almost stationary in the sky when viewed from the lunar surface, Earth appears to be setting beyond the rugged lunar horizon from the perspective of the orbiting spacecraft. Two years later, the Apollo 8 crew would record a more famous scene in color: Earthrise from lunar orbit.
Explanation: The Sun’s annual waltz through planet Earth’s sky forms a graceful curve known as an analemma. The analemma’s figure 8 shape is tipped vertically at far right in this well-composed fisheye view from Budapest, Hungary. Captured at a chosen spot on the western bank of the Danube river, the Sun’s position was recorded at 11:44 Central European Time on individual exposures over days spanning 2015 July 23 to 2016 July 4. Of course, on the northern summer solstice the Sun is at the top of the curve, but at the midpoints for the autumn and spring equinoxes. With snow on the ground, the photographer’s shadow and equipment bag also appear in the base picture used for the composite panorama, taken on 2016 January 7. On that date, just after the winter solstice, the Sun was leaving the bottom of the beautiful curve over the blue Danube.
Explanation: Comet dust rained down on planet Earth in August 2013, streaking through dark skies in the annual Perseid meteor shower. While enjoying the anticipated space weather above Zhangbei Prairie, Hebei Province, China, astronomer Xiang Zhan recorded a series of 10 second long exposures spanning four hours on the night of August 12/13 using a wide angle lens. Combining frames which captured 68 meteor flashes, he produced the above composite view of the Perseids of summer. Although the sand-sized comet particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance.
The Perseid meteor shower will burst into light this August (2016), as Earth passes through the long trail left by Comet Swift-Tuttle — and this month, it’s slated to put on a spectacular show.