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  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- NGC 4631: The Whale Galaxy

    06/03/2016 3:14:49 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 4 replies
    NASA ^ | Friday, June 03, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: NGC 4631 is a big beautiful spiral galaxy. Seen edge-on, it lies only 25 million light-years away in the well-trained northern constellation Canes Venatici. The galaxy's slightly distorted wedge shape suggests to some a cosmic herring and to others its popular moniker, The Whale Galaxy. Either way, it is similar in size to our own Milky Way. In this sharp color image, the galaxy's yellowish core, dark dust clouds, bright blue star clusters, and red star forming regions are easy to spot. A companion galaxy, the small elliptical NGC 4627 is just above the Whale Galaxy. Faint star streams...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Surface of Europa

    05/19/2016 10:17:59 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | Thursday, May 19, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: An enhanced-color view, this image covers a 350 by 750 kilometer swath across the surface of Jupiter's tantalizing moon Europa. The close-up combines high-resolution image data with lower resolution color data from observations made in 1998 by the Galileo spacecraft. Smooth ice plains, long fractures, and jumbled blocks of chaos terrain are thought to hide a deep ocean of salty liquid water beneath. Though the ice-covered alien ocean world is outside the Solar System's habitable zone, new studies show the potential chemistry driving its oxygen and hydrogen production, a key indicator of the energy available for life, could produce...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Raging Storm System on Saturn

    04/28/2013 9:10:21 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | April 28, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: It was one of the largest and longest lived storms ever recorded in our Solar System. † First seen in late 2010, the above cloud formation in the northern hemisphere of Saturn started larger than the Earth and soon spread completely around the planet. The storm was tracked not only from Earth but from up close by the robotic Cassini spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn. Pictured above in false colored infrared in February, orange colors indicate clouds deep in the atmosphere, while light colors highlight clouds higher up. The rings of Saturn are seen nearly edge-on as the thin blue...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- M64: The Black Eye Galaxy

    04/04/2013 4:41:18 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | April 04, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This beautiful, bright, spiral galaxy is Messier 64, often called the Black Eye Galaxy or the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy for its heavy-lidded appearance in telescopic views. M64 is about 17 million light-years distant in the otherwise well-groomed northern constellation Coma Berenices. In fact, the Red Eye Galaxy might also be an appropriate moniker in this colorful composition of narrow and wideband images. The enormous dust clouds obscuring the near-side of M64's central region are laced with the telltale reddish glow of hydrogen associated with star forming regions. But they are not this galaxy's only peculiar feature. Observations show that...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- M42: Inside the Orion Nebula

    03/20/2013 3:37:27 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | March 20, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image in assigned colors highlighted by emission in oxygen and hydrogen, wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Herschel's Andromeda

    02/02/2013 9:46:25 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | February 02, 2013 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This infrared view from the Herschel Space Observatory explores the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way. Only 2.5 million light-years distant, the famous island universe is also known to astronomers as M31. Andromeda spans over 200,000 light-years making it more the twice the size of the Milky Way. Shown in false color, the image data reveal the cool dust lanes and clouds that still shine in the infrared but are otherwise dark and opaque at visual wavelengths. Red hues near the galaxy's outskirts represent the glow of dust heated by starlight to a...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- AE Aurigae and the Flaming Star Nebula

    01/07/2013 4:52:59 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | January 07, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: AE Aurigae is called the flaming star. The surrounding nebula IC 405 is named the Flaming Star Nebula and the region seems to harbor smoke, but there is no fire. Fire, typically defined as the rapid molecular acquisition of oxygen, happens only when sufficient oxygen is present and is not important in such high-energy, low-oxygen environments. The material that appears as smoke is mostly interstellar hydrogen, but does contain smoke-like dark filaments of carbon-rich dust grains. The bright star AE Aurigae, visible near the nebula center, is so hot it is blue, emitting light so energetic it knocks electrons...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Polar Ring Galaxy NGC 660

    11/10/2012 9:57:08 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | November 10, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: NGC 660 is featured in this cosmic snapshot, a sharp composite of broad and narrow band filter image data from the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea. Over 20 million light-years away and swimming within the boundaries of the constellation Pisces, NGC 660's peculiar appearance marks it as a polar ring galaxy. A rare galaxy type, polar ring galaxies have a substantial population of stars, gas, and dust orbiting in rings nearly perpendicular to the plane of the galactic disk. The bizarre-looking configuration could have been caused by the chance capture of material from a passing galaxy by a...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Red Spider Planetary Nebula

    10/29/2012 12:33:23 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | October 29, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Oh what a tangled web a planetary nebula can weave. The Red Spider Planetary Nebula shows the complex structure that can result when a normal star ejects its outer gases and becomes a white dwarf star. Officially tagged NGC 6537, this two-lobed symmetric planetary nebula houses one of the hottest white dwarfs ever observed, probably as part of a binary star system. Internal winds emanating from the central stars, visible in the center, have been measured in excess of 1000 kilometers per second. These winds expand the nebula, flow along the nebula's walls, and cause waves of hot gas...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant

    10/09/2012 3:52:11 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | October 09, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: It's easy to get lost following the intricate filaments in this detailed mosaic image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147 (S147). Also cataloged as Sh2-240, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That's about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud's estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. Anchoring the frame at the right, bright star Elnath (Beta Tauri) is seen towards the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, almost exactly opposite the galactic center in planet Earth's sky. This sharp composite includes image data taken through a narrow-band filter to highlight emission from hydrogen...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- At the Heart of Orion

    10/06/2012 1:07:39 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | October 06, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta 1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region's entire visible glow. About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a recent dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Colorful Clouds Near Rho Ophiuchi

    08/28/2012 2:52:46 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 19 replies
    NASA ^ | August 28, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why is the sky near Antares and Rho Ophiuchi so colorful? The colors result from a mixture of objects and processes. Fine dust illuminated from the front by starlight produces blue reflection nebulae. Gaseous clouds whose atoms are excited by ultraviolet starlight produce reddish emission nebulae. Backlit dust clouds block starlight and so appear dark. Antares, a red supergiant and one of the brighter stars in the night sky, lights up the yellow-red clouds on the lower center. Rho Ophiuchi lies at the center of the blue nebula near the top. The distant globular cluster M4 is visible just...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- M16: Pillars of Creation

    07/22/2012 7:18:25 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 12 replies
    NASA ^ | July 22, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: It was one of the most famous images of the 1990s. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, shows evaporating gaseous globules (EGGs) emerging from pillars of molecular hydrogen gas and dust. The giant pillars are light years in length and are so dense that interior gas contracts gravitationally to form stars. At each pillars' end, the intense radiation of bright young stars causes low density material to boil away, leaving stellar nurseries of dense EGGs exposed. The Eagle Nebula, associated with the open star cluster M16, lies about 7000 light years away. The pillars of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Orion Nebula: The Hubble View

    07/15/2012 2:41:20 PM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 12 replies
    NASA ^ | July 15, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula. Also known as M42, the nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula's energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view - providing an intimate look at a range of ongoing stages of starbirth and evolution. This detailed image of...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- M51: The Whirlpool Galaxy

    06/02/2012 3:23:23 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | June 02, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Follow the handle of the Big Dipper away from the dipper's bowl until you get to the handle's last bright star. Then, just slide your telescope a little south and west and you might find this stunning pair of interacting galaxies, the 51st entry in Charles Messier famous catalog. Perhaps the original spiral nebula, the large galaxy with well defined spiral structure is also cataloged as NGC 5194. Its spiral arms and dust lanes clearly sweep in front of its companion galaxy (top), NGC 5195. The pair are about 31 million light-years distant and officially lie within the angular...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Lantern Saturn

    05/31/2012 5:57:23 AM PDT · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | May 31, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Known for its bright ring system and many moons, gas giant Saturn looks strange and unfamiliar in this false-color view from the Cassini spacecraft. In fact, in this Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) mosaic the famous rings are almost invisible, seen edge-on cutting across picture center. The most striking contrast in the image is along the terminator or boundary between night and day. To the right (day side) blue-green hues are visible sunlight reflected from Saturn's cloud tops. But on the left (night side) in the absence of sunlight, the lantern-like glow of infrared radiation from the planet's...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Dust of the Orion Nebula

    02/06/2012 4:26:18 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 6 replies
    NASA ^ | February 06, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What surrounds a hotbed of star formation? In the case of the Orion Nebula -- dust. The entire Orion field, located about 1600 light years away, is inundated with intricate and picturesque filaments of dust. Opaque to visible light, dust is created in the outer atmosphere of massive cool stars and expelled by a strong outer wind of particles. The Trapezium and other forming star clusters are embedded in the nebula. The intricate filaments of dust surrounding M42 and M43 appear brown in the above image, while central glowing gas is highlighted in red. Over the next few million...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Grand Spiral Galaxy NGC 1232

    01/07/2012 2:17:12 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 18 replies · 1+ views
    NASA ^ | January 07, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Galaxies are fascinating not only for what is visible, but for what is invisible. Grand spiral galaxy NGC 1232, captured in detail by one of the new Very Large Telescopes, is a good example. The visible is dominated by millions of bright stars and dark dust, caught up in a gravitational swirl of spiral arms revolving about the center. Open clusters containing bright blue stars can be seen sprinkled along these spiral arms, while dark lanes of dense interstellar dust can be seen sprinkled between them. Less visible, but detectable, are billions of dim normal stars and vast tracts...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Wide Field Image of the Galactic Center

    01/06/2012 2:27:26 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 15 replies
    NASA ^ | January 06, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: From Sagittarius to Scorpius, the central Milky Way is a truly beautiful part of planet Earth's night sky. The gorgeous region is captured in this wide field image spanning about 30 degrees. The impressive cosmic vista, taken in 2010, shows off intricate dust lanes, bright nebulae, and star clusters scattered through our galaxy's rich central starfields. Starting on the left, look for the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae, the Cat's Paw, while on the right lies the Pipe dark nebula, and the colorful clouds of Rho Ophiuchi and Antares (right). The actual center of our Galaxy lies about 26,000 light...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Starburst Galaxy IC 10

    01/04/2012 7:09:59 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 30 replies
    NASA ^ | January 04, 2012 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Lurking behind dust and stars near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, IC 10 is a mere 2.3 million light-years distant. Even though its light is dimmed by intervening dust, the irregular dwarf galaxy still shows off vigorous star-forming regions that shine with a telltale reddish glow in this colorful skyscape. In fact, also a member of the Local Group of galaxies, IC 10 is the closest known starburst galaxy. Compared to other Local Group galaxies, IC 10 has a large population of newly formed stars that are massive and intrinsically very bright, including a luminous X-ray binary...