If you put your ear to Mars, what would you hear? To find out, and to explore the unknown interior of Mars, NASA’s Insight Lander deployed SEIS late last year, a sensitive seismometer that can detect marsquakes. In early April, after hearing the wind and motions initiated by the lander itself, SEIS recorded an unprecedented event that matches what was expected for a marsquake. This event can be heard on this YouTube video. Although Mars is not thought to have tectonic plates like the Earth, numerous faults are visible on the Martian surface which likely occurred as the hot interior of Mars cooled — and continues to cool. Were strong enough marsquakes to occur, SEIS could hear their rumbles reflected from large structures internal to Mars, like a liquid core, if one exists. Pictured last week, SEIS sits quietly on the Martian surface, taking in some Sun while light clouds are visible over the horizon. Create a Distant Legacy: Send your name to Mars
A payload on board the International Space Station, the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) twists and turns to track cosmic sources of X-rays as the station orbits planet Earth every 93 minutes. During orbit nighttime, its X-ray detectors remain on. So as NICER slews from target to target bright arcs and loops are traced across this all-sky map made from 22 months of NICER data. The arcs tend to converge on prominent bright spots, pulsars in the X-ray sky that NICER regularly targets and monitors. The pulsars are spinning neutron stars that emit clock-like pulses of X-rays. Their timing is so precise it can be used for navigation, determining spacecraft speed and position. This NICER X-ray, all-sky, map is composed in coordinates with the celestial equator horizontally across the center.
Stars are forming in Lynds Dark Nebula (LDN) 1251. About 1,000 light-years away and drifting above the plane of our Milky Way galaxy, the dusty molecular cloud is part of a complex of dark nebulae mapped toward the Cepheus flare region. Across the spectrum, astronomical explorations of the obscuring interstellar clouds reveal energetic shocks and outflows associated with newborn stars, including the telltale reddish glow from scattered Herbig-Haro objects seen in this sharp image. Distant background galaxies also lurk on the scene, visually buried behind the dusty expanse. The deep telescopic field of view imaged with broadband filters spans about two full moons on the sky, or 17 light-years at the estimated distance of LDN 1251.
A prominent impact site anchored in the lunar Oceanus Procellarum, Copernicus crater is at the center of this telescopic portrait in light and shadow. Caught in stacked and sharpened video frames recorded on April 14 at 3:30am UTC, the lunar terminator, or boundary between night and day, cuts across the middle of the 93 kilometer diameter crater. Sunlight is just beginning to strike its tall western walls but doesn’t yet shine on lower terrain nearby, briefly extending the crater’s outline into the lunar nightside. At that moment standing at Copernicus crater you could watch the sunrise, an event that happens at Copernicus every 29.5 days. Of course that corresponds to a lunar month or a lunation, the time between consecutive Full Moons as seen from planet Earth.
Why do some spiral galaxies have a ring around the center? First and foremost, M95 is one of the closer examples of a big and beautiful barred spiral galaxy. Visible in the featured combination of images from Hubble and several ground based telescopes are sprawling spiral arms delineated by open clusters of bright blue stars, lanes of dark dust, the diffuse glow of billions of faint stars, and a short bar across the galaxy center. What intrigues many astronomers, however, is the circumnuclear ring around the galaxy center visible just outside the central bar. Although the long term stability of this ring remains a topic of research, observations indicate its present brightness is at least enhanced by transient bursts of star formation. M95, also known as NGC 3351, spans about 50,000 light-years, lies about 30 million light years away, and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Lion (Leo). Almost Hyperspace: Random APOD Generator
Star formation can be colorful. This chromatic cosmic portrait features glowing gas and dark dust near some recently formed stars of NGC 3572, a little-studied star cluster near the Carina Nebula. Stars from NGC 3572 are visible near the bottom of the image, while the expansive gas cloud above is likely what remains of their formation nebula. The image’s striking hues were created by featuring specific colors emitted by hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur, and blending them with images recorded through broadband filters in red, green, and blue. This nebula near NGC 3572 spans about 100 light years and lies about 9,000 light years away toward the southern constellation of the Ship’s Keel (Carina). Within a few million years the pictured gas will likely disperse, while gravitational encounters will likely disperse the cluster stars over about a billion years. Astrophysicists: Browse 1,900+ codes in the Astrophysics Source Code Library
Sometimes it’s hard to decide which is more impressive — the land or the sky. On the land of the featured image, for example, the Volcano of Fire (Volcán de Fuego) is seen erupting topped by red-hot, wind-blown ash and with streams of glowing lava running down its side. Lights from neighboring towns are seen through a thin haze below. In the sky, though, the central plane of our Milky Way Galaxy runs diagonally from the upper left, with a fleeting meteor just below, and the trail of a satellite to the upper right. The planet Jupiter also appears toward the upper left, with the bright star Antares just to its right. Much of the land and the sky were captured together in a single, well-timed, 25-second exposure taken in mid-April from the side of Fuego’s sister volcano Acatenango in Guatemala. The image of the meteor, though, was captured in a similar frame taken about 30 minutes earlier — when the volanic eruption was not as photogenic — and added later digitally. Follow APOD on: Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter
What bizarre planet are these alien creatures from? It’s only planet Earth, of course. The planet’s home galaxy the Milky Way stretches across a dark sky in the panoramic, fisheye all-sky projection composed with a wide lens. But the imposing forms gazing skyward probably look strange to many denizens of Earth. Found on the Canary Island of Tenerife in the Teide National Park, they are red tajinastes, flowering plants that grow to a height of up to 3 meters. Among the rocks of the volcanic terrain, tajinastes bloom in spring and early summer and then die after a week or so as their seeds mature. A species known as Echium wildpretii, the terrestrial life forms were individually lit by flashlight during the wide-angle exposures.
An abundance of boulders litters the surface asteroid 101955 Bennu in this dramatic close-up from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Taken on March 28 from a distance of just 3.4 kilometers (2.1 miles) the field of view is about 50 meters across while the light colored boulder at top right is 4.8 meters tall. Likely a loose conglomerate rubble pile asteroid, Bennu itself spans less than 500 meters. That’s about the height of the Empire State Building. Mapping the near Earth asteroid since the spacecraft’s arrival in December of 2018, the OSIRIS-REx mission plans a TAG (Touch-and-Go) maneuver for July 2020 to sample Bennu’s rugged surface, returning the sample to planet Earth in September 2023. Citizen scientists have been invited to help choose the sample collection site.