NASA Astronomy Pictures of the Week (3/2010).
► Eclipse over the Temple of Poseidon
The Moon moved to partly block the Sun for a few minutes last week as a partial solar eclipse became momentarily visible across part of planet Earth. In the above single exposure image, meticulous planning enabled careful photographers to capture the partially eclipsed Sun well posed just above the ancient ruins of the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio, Greece.
► Dust Sculptures in the Rosette Nebula
Noted for the common beauty of its overall shape, parts of the Rosette Nebula, also known as NGC 2237, show beauty even when viewed up close. Visible above are globules of dark dust and gas that are slowly being eroded away by the energetic light and winds by nearby massive stars. Left alone long enough, the molecular-cloud globules would likely form stars and planets. The Rosette Nebula spans about 50 light-years across and lies about 4,500 light-years away.
► Watch Jupiter Rotate
What would it be like to coast by Jupiter and watch it rotate? This was just the experience of the New Horizons spacecraft as it approached and flew by Jupiter. Visible above in the extensive atmosphere of the Solar System’s largest planet are bands and belts of light and dark clouds, as well as giant rotating storm systems seen as ovals. The robotic New Horizons spacecraft continues to speed toward the outer Solar System and has recently passed the halfway point between Earth and Pluto.
► NGC 6992: Filaments of the Veil Nebula
Wisps like this are all that remain visible of a Milky Way star. About 7,500 years ago that star exploded in a supernova leaving the Veil Nebula, also known as the Cygnus Loop. At the time, the expanding cloud was likely as bright as a crescent Moon, remaining visible for weeks to people living at the dawn of recorded history. Today, the resulting supernova remnant has faded.
► Dark Sand Cascades on Mars
They might look like trees on Mars, but they’re not. Groups of dark brown streaks have been photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on melting pinkish sand dunes covered with light frost. The image was taken near the North Pole of Mars. At that time, dark sand on the interior of Martian sand dunes became more and more visible as the spring Sun melted the lighter carbon dioxide ice. When occurring near the top of a dune, dark sand may cascade down the dune leaving dark surface streaks — streaks that might appear at first to be trees standing in front of the lighter regions, but cast no shadows.
► Eclipses in the Shade
Eclipses are everywhere in this shady scene. The picture was taken on the Indian Ocean atoll island of Ellaidhoo, Maldives, in January 2010, during the longest annular solar eclipse for the next 1,000 years. Tall palm trees provided the shade. Their many crossed leaves created gaps that acted like pinhole cameras, scattering recognizable eclipse images across the white sands of a tropical garden near the beach. From this idyllic location near the centerline of the Moon’s shadow track, the ring of fire or annular phase of the eclipse lasted about 10 minutes and 55 seconds.
► Dust and the NGC 7771 Group
Some 200 million light-years distant toward the constellation Pegasus, NGC 7771 is the large, edge-on spiral near center, about 75,000 light-years across, with two smaller galaxies just below it. Large spiral NGC 7769 is seen face-on to the right. Galaxies of the NGC 7771 group are interacting, making repeated close passages that will ultimately result in galaxy-galaxy mergers on a cosmic timescale.
► Millennium Annular Solar Eclipse
The Moon’s shadow raced across planet Earth on January 15. Observers within the central shadow track were able to witness an annular solar eclipse as the Moon’s apparent size was too small to completely cover the Sun. A visually dramatic ring of fire, the annular phase lasted up to 11 minutes and 8 seconds depending on location, the longest annular solar eclipse for the next 1,000 years. This picture of the Moon’s silhouette just before mid-eclipse was taken within the eclipse path from the city of Kanyakumari at the southern tip of India.
► Himalayan Skyscape
Capella, alpha star of the constellation Auriga, rises over Mt. Everest in this panoramic view of the top of the world at night.
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