Thor not only has his own day (Thursday), but a helmet in the heavens. Popularly called Thor’s Helmet, NGC 2359 is a hat-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor’s Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the cosmic head-covering is more like an interstellar bubble, blown with a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble’s center. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. NGC 2359 is located about 15,000 light-years away toward the constellation of the Great Overdog. This remarkably sharp image is a mixed cocktail of data from broadband and narrowband filters, capturing not only natural looking stars but details of the nebula’s filamentary structures. The star in the center of Thor’s Helmet is expected to explode in a spectacular supernova sometime within the next few thousand years. Almost Hyperspace: Random APOD Generator
The photographer had this shot in mind for some time. He knew that objects overhead are the brightest — since their light is scattered the least by atmospheric air. He also that knew the core of our Milky Way Galaxy was just about straight up near midnight around this time of year in South Australia. Chasing his mental picture, he ventured deep inside the Kuipto Forest where tall radiata pines blocked out much of the sky — but not in this clearing. There, through a window framed by trees, he captured his envisioned combination of local and distant nature. Sixteen exposures of both trees and the Milky Way Galaxy were recorded. Antares is the bright orange star to left of our Galaxy’s central plane, while Alpha Centauri is the bright star just to the right of the image center. The direction toward our Galaxy’s center is below Antares. Although in a few hours the Earth’s rotation moved the Galactic plane up and to the left — soon invisible behind the timber, his mental image was secured forever — and is featured here. Follow APOD on Instagram in: English, Farsi, Indonesian, Persian, Portuguese or Taiwanese
What does the Andromeda galaxy look like in ultraviolet light? Young blue stars circling the galactic center dominate. A mere 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, really is just next door as large galaxies go. Spanning about 230,000 light-years, it took 11 different image fields from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in ultraviolet light in 2003. While its spiral arms stand out in visible light images, Andromeda’s arms look more like rings in ultraviolet. The rings are sites of intense star formation and have been interpreted as evidence that Andromeda collided with its smaller neighboring elliptical galaxy M32 more than 200 million years ago. The Andromeda galaxy and our own comparable Milky Way galaxy are the most massive members of the Local Group of galaxies and are projected to collide in several billion years — perhaps around the time that our Sun’s atmosphere will expand to engulf the Earth.
Point your telescope at tonight’s first quarter Moon. Along the terminator, the shadow line between night and day, you might find these two large craters staring back at you with an owlish gaze. Alphonsus (left) and Arzachel are ancient impact craters on the north eastern shores of Mare Nubium, the lunar Sea of Clouds. The larger Alphonsus is over 100 kilometers in diameter. A low sun angle highlights the crater’s sharp 1.5 kilometer high central peak in bright sunlight and dark shadow. Scouting for potential Apollo moon landing sites, the Ranger 9 spacecraft returned closeup pictures of Alphonsus before it crashed in the crater just northeast (toward the upper left) of its central mountain in 1965. Alpetragius, between Alphonsus and Arzachel, is the small crater with the deeply shadowed floor and overly large central beak.
Venus, named for the Roman goddess of love, and Mars, the war god’s namesake, come together by moonlight in this serene skyview, recorded on July 11 from Lualaba province, Democratic Republic of Congo, planet Earth. Taken in the western twilight sky shortly after sunset the exposure also records earthshine illuminating the otherwise dark surface of the young crescent Moon. Of course the Moon has moved on. Venus still shines in the west though as the evening star, third brightest object in Earth’s sky, after the Sun and the Moon itself. Seen here above a brilliant Venus, Mars moved even closer to the brighter planet and by July 13 could be seen only about a Moon’s width away. Mars has since slowly wandered away from much brighter Venus in the twilight, but both are sliding toward bright star Regulus. Alpha star of the constellation Leo, Regulus lies off the top of this frame and anticipates a visit from Venus and then Mars in twilight skies of the coming days.