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APOD, a partnership between NASA and Michigan Technological University, presents daily cosmic marvels to global sky enthusiasts. Featuring captivating astronomy-related images with concise explanations, APOD sparks curiosity about the universe's scientific, artistic, and historical facets. From stunning nebulae to distant galaxies and intriguing solar events, APOD inspires and educates daily. Below we display 10 random images from their API. Videos, and images that aren't public domain have been left out.

2021-05-12, A Meteor and the Gegenschein

Is the night sky darkest in the direction opposite the Sun? No. In fact, a rarely discernable faint glow known as the gegenschein (German for "counter glow") can be seen 180 degrees around from the Sun in an extremely dark sky. The gegenschein is sunlight back-scattered off small interplanetary dust particles. These dust particles are millimeter sized splinters from asteroids and orbit in the ecliptic plane of the planets. Pictured here from last March is one of the more spectacular pictures of the gegenschein yet taken. The deep exposure of an extremely dark sky over Teide Observatory in Spain's Canary Islands shows the gegenschein as part of extended zodiacal light. Notable background objects include a bright meteor (on the left), the Big Dipper (top right), and Polaris (far right). The meteor nearly points toward Mount Teide, Spain's highest mountain, while the Pyramid solar laboratory is visible on the right. During the day, a phenomenon like the gegenschein called the glory can be seen in reflecting air or clouds opposite the Sun from an airplane.

A Meteor and the Gegenschein

1997-12-22, David N. Schramm 1945-1997

David N. Schramm effectively combined the very big with the very small. Among his many scientific achievements, Schramm and collaborators successfully used Big Bang cosmology to predict that only three families of elementary particles exist in the universe, which was subsequently confirmed by high energy particle accelerators. Schramm and collaborators realized that current relative elemental abundance measurements, when combined with nuclear reaction rates, constrain the amount of normal matter to be much less than that implied by the movements of stars and galaxies. Therefore, most of the universe might be made of some sort of dark matter. Schramm was a champion wrestler, a mountain climber, an inspiration to scientists and students, and was alone piloting a plane when it crashed last Friday.

David N. Schramm 1945-1997

2015-10-02, Charon: Moon of Pluto

A darkened and mysterious north polar region informally known as Mordor Macula caps this premier high-resolution portrait of Charon, Pluto's largest moon. Captured by New Horizons near its closest approach on July 14, the image data was transmitted to Earth on September 21. The combined blue, red, and infrared data is processed to enhance colors, following variations in surface properties with a resolution of about 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles). In fact, Charon is 1,214 kilometers (754 miles) across, about 1/10th the size of planet Earth but a whopping 1/2 the diameter of Pluto itself. That makes it the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system. This remarkable image of Charon's Pluto-facing hemisphere shows a clearer view of an apparently moon-girdling belt of fractures and canyons that seems to separate smooth southern plains from varied northern terrain.

Charon: Moon of Pluto

2004-02-20, SN1987A's Cosmic Pearls

In February 1987, light from the brightest stellar explosion seen in modern times reached Earth -- supernova SN1987A. This Hubble Space Telescope image from the sharp Advanced Camera for Surveys taken in November 2003 shows the explosion site over 16 years later. The snap shot indicates that the supernova blast wave continues to impact a pre-existing, one light-year wide ring of material, and the nascent central supernova remnant continues to expand. Like pearls on a cosmic necklace, bright hot spots produced as the blast wave heats material up to millions of degrees began to appear on the ring in the mid 1990s and have been followed across the spectrum by astronomers ever since. Supernova SN1987A lies in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy some 170,000 light-years away. That really does mean that the explosive event - the core collapse and detonation of a star about 20 times as massive as the Sun - occurred 170,000 years before February 1987.


2002-01-10, X-Ray Milky Way

If you had x-ray vision, the center regions of our Galaxy would not be hidden from view by immense cosmic dust clouds opaque to visible light. Instead, the Milky Way toward Sagittarius might look something like this stunning mosaic of images from the orbiting Chandra Observatory. Pleasing to look at, the gorgeous false-color representation of the x-ray data shows high energy x-rays in blue, medium energies in green, and low energies in red. Hundreds of white dwarf stars, neutron stars, and black holes immersed in a fog of multimillion-degree gas are included in the x-ray vista. Within the white patch at the image center lies the Galaxy's central supermassive black hole. Chandra's sharp x-ray vision will likely lead to a new appreciation of our Milky Way's most active neighborhood and has already indicated that the hot gas itself may have a temperature of a mere 10 million degrees Celsius instead of 100 million degrees as previously thought. The full mosaic is composed of 30 separate images and covers a 900 by 400 light-year swath at the galactic center.

X-Ray Milky Way

2015-02-02, Titan Seas Reflect Sunlight

Why would the surface of Titan light up with a blinding flash? The reason: a sunglint from liquid seas. Saturn's moon Titan has numerous smooth lakes of methane that, when the angle is right, reflect sunlight as if they were mirrors. Pictured here in false-color, the robotic Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn imaged the cloud-covered Titan last summer in different bands of cloud-piercing infrared light. This specular reflection was so bright it saturated one of Cassini's infrared cameras. Although the sunglint was annoying -- it was also useful. The reflecting regions confirm that northern Titan houses a wide and complex array of seas with a geometry that indicates periods of significant evaporation. During its numerous passes of our Solar System's most mysterious moon, Cassini has revealed Titan to be a world with active weather -- including times when it rains a liquefied version of natural gas.

Titan Seas Reflect Sunlight

1996-07-28, Huck Finn's New Sky View

"We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened." (from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) Explanation: Even the faintest stars Huck and Jim could see as their raft drifted down the Mississippi were in our own Galaxy. The faintest objects astronomers can see today are the distant galaxies -- entire systems of stars comparable to our own Milky Way, which fill the Universe. Despite the advances, the sense of wonder so simply expressed in Huck's musing is still the same.

Huck Finn

2020-09-28, Filaments of the Cygnus Loop

What lies at the edge of an expanding supernova? Subtle and delicate in appearance, these ribbons of shocked interstellar gas are part of a blast wave at the expanding edge of a violent stellar explosion that would have been easily visible to humans during the late stone age, about 20,000 years ago. The featured image was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope and is a closeup of the outer edge of a supernova remnant known as the Cygnus Loop or Veil Nebula. The filamentary shock front is moving toward the top of the frame at about 170 kilometers per second, while glowing in light emitted by atoms of excited hydrogen gas. The distances to stars thought to be interacting with the Cygnus Loop have recently been found by the Gaia mission to be about 2400 light years distant. The whole Cygnus Loop spans six full Moons across the sky, corresponding to about 130 light years, and parts can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus).

Filaments of the Cygnus Loop

2020-04-25, Hubble's Cosmic Reef

These bright ridges of interstellar gas and dust are bathed in energetic starlight. With its sea of young stars, the massive star-forming region NGC 2014 has been dubbed the Cosmic Reef. Drifting just off shore, the smaller NGC 2020, is an expansive blue-hued structure erupting from a single central Wolf-Rayet star, 200,000 times brighter than the Sun. The cosmic frame spans some 600 light-years within the Large Magellanic Cloud 160,000 light-years away, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. A magnificent Hubble Space Telescope portrait, the image was released this week as part of a celebration to mark Hubble's 30th year exploring the Universe from Earth orbit.


2021-12-18, Stephan's Quintet

The first identified compact galaxy group, Stephan's Quintet is featured in this eye-catching image constructed with data drawn from the extensive Hubble Legacy Archive. About 300 million light-years away, only four of these five galaxies are actually locked in a cosmic dance of repeated close encounters. The odd man out is easy to spot, though. The interacting galaxies, NGC 7319, 7318A, 7318B, and 7317 have an overall yellowish cast. They also tend to have distorted loops and tails, grown under the influence of disruptive gravitational tides. But the predominantly bluish galaxy, NGC 7320, is closer, just 40 million light-years distant, and isn't part of the interacting group. Stephan's Quintet lies within the boundaries of the high flying constellation Pegasus. At the estimated distance of the quartet of interacting galaxies, this field of view spans about 500,000 light-years. But moving just beyond this field, up and to the right, astronomers can identify another galaxy, NGC 7320C, that is also 300 million light-years distant. Including it would bring the interacting quartet back up to quintet status.


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