This composited series of images follows the Moon on January 10, the first Full Moon of 2020, in Hungarian skies. The lunar disk is in mid-eclipse at the center of the sequence though. It looks only slightly darker there as it passes through the light outer shadow or penumbra of planet Earth. In fact during this penumbral lunar eclipse the Moon almost crossed into the northern edge of Earth’s dark central shadow or umbra. Subtle and hard to see, this penumbral lunar eclipse was the first of four lunar eclipses in 2020, all of which will be penumbral lunar eclipses.
Get out your red/blue glasses and check out this awesome stereo view of another world. The scene was recorded by Apollo 17 mission commander Eugene Cernan on December 11, 1972, one orbit before descending to land on the Moon. The stereo anaglyph was assembled from two photographs (AS17-147-22465, AS17-147-22466) captured from his vantage point on board the Lunar Module Challenger as he and Dr. Harrison Schmitt flew over Apollo 17’s landing site in the Taurus-Littrow Valley. The broad, sunlit face of the mountain dubbed South Massif rises near the center of the frame, above the dark floor of Taurus-Littrow to its left. Beyond the mountains, toward the lunar limb, lies the Moon’s Mare Serenitatis. Piloted by Ron Evans, the Command Module America is visible in orbit in the foreground against the South Massif’s peak.
About 70,000 light-years across, NGC 247 is a spiral galaxy smaller than our Milky Way. Measured to be only 11 million light-years distant it is nearby though. Tilted nearly edge-on as seen from our perspective, it dominates this telescopic field of view toward the southern constellation Cetus. The pronounced void on one side of the galaxy’s disk recalls for some its popular name, the Needle’s Eye galaxy. Many background galaxies are visible in this sharp galaxy portrait, including the remarkable string of four galaxies just below and left of NGC 247 known as Burbidge’s Chain. Burbidge’s Chain galaxies are about 300 million light-years distant. NGC 247 itself is part of the Sculptor Group of galaxies along with the shiny spiral NGC 253.
Why would these clouds multi-colored? A relatively rare phenomenon in clouds known as iridescence can bring up unusual colors vividly or even a whole spectrum of colors simultaneously. These polar stratospheric clouds clouds, also known as nacreous and mother-of-pearl clouds, are formed of small water droplets of nearly uniform size. When the Sun is in the right position and, typically, hidden from direct view, these thin clouds can be seen significantly diffracting sunlight in a nearly coherent manner, with different colors being deflected by different amounts. Therefore, different colors will come to the observer from slightly different directions. Many clouds start with uniform regions that could show iridescence but quickly become too thick, too mixed, or too angularly far from the Sun to exhibit striking colors. The featured image and an accompanying video were taken late last year over Ostersund, Sweden. Follow APOD in English on: Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter
Are volcanoes still active on Venus? More volcanoes are known on Venus than Earth, but when Venusian volcanoes last erupted is not directly known. Evidence bolstering very recent volcanism on Venus has recently been uncovered, though, right here on Earth. Lab results showed that images of surface lava would become dim in the infrared in only months in the dense Venusian atmosphere, a dimming not seen in ESA’s Venus Express images. Venus Express entered orbit around Venus in 2006 and remained in contact with Earth until 2014. Therefore, the infrared glow (shown in false-color red) recorded by Venus Express for Idunn Mons and featured here on a NASA Magellan image indicates that this volcano erupted very recently — and is still active today. Understanding the volcanics of Venus might lead to insight about the volcanics on Earth, as well as elsewhere in our Solar System. New: APOD now available in Turkish from Turkey
A good place to see a ring-of-fire eclipse, it seemed, would be from a desert. In a desert, there should be relatively few obscuring clouds and trees. Therefore late last December a group of photographers traveled to the United Arab Emirates and Rub al-Khali, the largest continuous sand desert in world, to capture clear images of an unusual eclipse that would be passing over. A ring-of-fire eclipse is an annular eclipse that occurs when the Moon is far enough away on its elliptical orbit around the Earth so that it appears too small, angularly, to cover the entire Sun. At the maximum of an annular eclipse, the edges of the Sun can be seen all around the edges of the Moon, so that the Moon appears to be a dark spot that covers most — but not all — of the Sun. This particular eclipse, they knew, would peak soon after sunrise. After seeking out such a dry and barren place, it turned out that some of the most interesting eclipse images actually included a tree in the foreground, because, in addition to the sand dunes, the tree gave the surreal background a contrasting sense of normalcy, scale, and texture. Explore the Universe: Random APOD Generator
Cosmic dust clouds and young, energetic stars inhabit this telescopic vista, less than 500 light-years away toward the northern boundary of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. The dust clouds effectively block light from more distant background stars in the Milky Way. But the striking complex of reflection nebulae cataloged as NGC 6726, 6727, and IC 4812 produce a characteristic blue color as light from the region’s young hot stars is reflected by the cosmic dust. The dust also obscures from view stars still in the process of formation. At the left, smaller yellowish nebula NGC 6729 bends around young variable star R Coronae Australis. Just below it, glowing arcs and loops shocked by outflows from embedded newborn stars are identified as Herbig-Haro objects. On the sky this field of view spans about 1 degree. That corresponds to almost 9 light-years at the estimated distance of the nearby star forming region. Video: Best of APOD 2019 for the Night Sky Network