Why does this galaxy have such a long tail? In this stunning vista, based on image data from the Hubble Legacy Archive, distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop for disrupted spiral galaxy Arp 188, the Tadpole Galaxy. The cosmic tadpole is a mere 420 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation of the Dragon (Draco). Its eye-catching tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features massive, bright blue star clusters. One story goes that a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188 – from right to left in this view – and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their gravitational attraction. During the close encounter, tidal forces drew out the spiral galaxy’s stars, gas, and dust forming the spectacular tail. The intruder galaxy itself, estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the Tadpole, can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper right. Following its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older, the tail’s star clusters forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy. APOD in world languages: Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Beijing), Chinese (Taiwan), Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Montenegrin, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Spanish, Taiwanese, Turkish, Turkish, and Ukrainian

Today the Sun reaches its northernmost point in planet Earth’s sky. Called a solstice, many cultures mark this date as a change of seasons — from spring to summer in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere and from fall to winter in Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. Precisely, the single time of solstice occurs today for some parts of the world, but tomorrow for other regions. The featured image was taken during the week of the 2008 summer solstice at Stonehenge in United Kingdom, and captures a picturesque sunrise involving fog, trees, clouds, stones placed about 4,500 years ago, and a 4.5 billion year old large glowing orb. Even given the precession of the Earth’s rotational axis over the millennia, the Sun continues to rise over Stonehenge in an astronomically significant way.

Nights grow shorter and days grow longer as the summer solstice approaches in the north. Usually seen at high latitudes in summer months, noctilucent or night shining clouds begin to make their appearance. Drifting near the edge of space about 80 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, these icy clouds were still reflecting the sunlight on June 14. Though the Sun was below the horizon as seen north of Forrest, Manitoba, Canada, they were caught in a single exposure of a near midnight twilight sky. Multiple exposures of the foreground track the lower altitude flash of fireflies, another fleeting apparition shining in the summer night.

Atmospheric refraction flattened the solar disk and distorted its appearance in this telescopic view of an Atlantic sunrise on June 10. From Belmar, New Jersey on the US east coast, the scene was recorded at New Moon during this season’s annular solar eclipse. The Moon in partial silhouette gives the rising Sun its crescent shape reminding some of the horns of the devil (or maybe a flying canoe …). But at its full annular phase this eclipsed Sun looked like a ring of fire in the heavens. June’s annular solar eclipse followed on the heels of the total lunar eclipse of late May’s Full Moon. Of course, that total lunar eclipse was a dramatic red Blood Moon eclipse.

NGC 6888, also known as the Crescent Nebula, is a about 25 light-years across blown by winds from its central, bright, massive star. A triumvirate of astroimagers ( Joe, Glenn, Russell) created this sharp portrait of the cosmic bubble. Their telescopic collaboration collected over 30 hours of narrow band image data isolating light from hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The oxygen atoms produce the blue-green hue that seems to enshroud the detailed folds and filaments. Visible within the nebula, NGC 6888’s central star is classified as a Wolf-Rayet star (WR 136). The star is shedding its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind, ejecting the equivalent of the Sun’s mass every 10,000 years. The nebula’s complex structures are likely the result of this strong wind interacting with material ejected in an earlier phase. Burning fuel at a prodigious rate and near the end of its stellar life this star should ultimately go out with a bang in a spectacular supernova explosion. Found in the nebula rich constellation Cygnus, NGC 6888 is about 5,000 light-years away.