Part of a 360 degree panorama, this view looks out from the Mars rover Curiosity’s current location on the Red Planet dubbed Teal Ridge. The mosaicked scene was captured by the rover’s Mastcam on Earth calendar date June 18, 2019. That corresponds to Curiosity’s sol 2440, or 2,440th martian day on the surface. Since landing seven years ago on August 6, 2012 in Gale Crater, Curiosity has traveled some 21 kilometers (13 miles). On the right, the rover’s tracks lead back toward Vera Rubin Ridge with the Gale Crater rim visible in the distance. The robotic rover leaves wheel tracks about 3 meters (10 feet) apart. During its mission, Curiosity has had great successes exploring the history of water in the martian environment. In fact, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is largely based on the Mars Curiosity rover design. Watch: Perseid Meteor Shower
This is a good month to see Jupiter. To find our Solar System’s largest planet in your sky, look toward the southeast just after sunset — Jupiter should be the brightest object in that part of the sky. If you have a binoculars or a small telescope, you should be able to see Jupiter’s four brightest moons right nearby, and possibly some cloud bands. The featured image was taken about a month ago from the Persian Gulf. The image shows Jupiter just to the right of the nearly vertical band of the central disk of our Milky Way Galaxy. The unnamed rock formations appear in projection like the jaws of a giant monster ready to engulf the Jovian giant. When you see Jupiter, it may be interesting to know that NASA’s robotic Juno spacecraft is simultaneously visiting and studying the giant planet. Saturn is also visible this month, and although it is nearby to Jupiter, it is not as bright.
What does our region of the Universe look like? Since galaxies are so spread out over the sky, and since our Milky Way Galaxy blocks part of the distant sky, it has been hard to tell. A new map has been made, however, using large-scale galaxy motions to infer what massive objects must be gravitating in the nearby universe. The featured map, spanning over 600 million light years on a side, shows that our Milky Way Galaxy is on the edge of the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies, which is connected to the Great Attractor — an even larger grouping of galaxies. Also nearby are the massive Coma Cluster and the extensive Perseus-Pisces Supercluster. Conversely, we are also on the edge of huge region nearly empty of galaxies known as the Local Void. The repulsive push by the Local Void combined with the gravitational pull toward the elevated galaxy density on the other side of the sky explains part of the mysteriously high speed our Galaxy has relative to the cosmic microwave background — but not all. To explore the local universe yourself, as determined by Cosmicflows-3, you are invited to zoom in and spin around this interactive 3D visualization.
If you saw a total solar eclipse, would you do a double-take? One astrophotographer did just that — but it took a lake and a bit of planning. Realizing that the eclipse would be low on the horizon, he looked for a suitable place along the thin swath of South America that would see, for a few minutes, the Moon completely block the Sun, both directly and in reflection. The day before totality, he visited an Argentine lake called La Cuesta Del Viento (The Slope of the Wind) and, despite its name, found so little wind that the lake looked like a mirror. Perfect. Returning the day of the eclipse, though, there was a strong breeze churning up the water — enough to ruin the eclipse reflection shot. Despair. But wait! Strangely, about an hour before totality, the wind died down. This calmness may have been related to the eclipse itself, because eclipsed ground heats the air less and reduces the amount rising warm air — which can dampen and even change the wind direction. The eclipse came, his tripod and camera were ready, and so was the lake. The featured image of this double-eclipse came from a single exposure lasting just one fifteenth of a second. Soon after totality, the winds returned and the water again became choppy. No matter — this double-image of the 2019 July total solar eclipse had been captured forever.