Astronomy Photos
Most of these are from Astronomy Picture of the Day


NGC 7293.  The Helix Nebula


Spiral Galaxy NGC 253

  Lunar Eclipse
This planetary nebula is 650 light years away in the constellation Aquarius.  It is destined to become a white dwarf star.  10-May-03   In the southern hemisphere this sideways spiral galaxy can be seen with a good pair of binoculars.  28-May-03  

This is a montage of telescopic images of the Moon sliding through planet Earth's shadow on May 15, 2003 taken from Quebec, Canada.  22-May-03



Valles Marineris - The Grand Canyon of Mars   Big Mars from Hubble   Crab Nebula from VLT

This valley is the largest one in the solar system.  It is 3000 km long compared to the Grand Canyon in Arizona which is 800 km long.   24-Aug-03


This picture of Mars taken by Hubble on Aug. 26, 2003 shows the white south polar cap.  It is made of frozen carbon dioxide.  27-Aug-03


This nebula is the result of a spectacular supernova that exploded in 1054 AD.  In the center lies a pulsar rotating 30 times per sec.  14-Sep-03

Sombrero Galaxy from Hubble   Aurora in Oklahoma   Superwind from the Cigar Galaxy
This is M104.  Spectacular dust rings harbor many young bright stars.  Old stars cause the diffuse glow of the extended central bulge.  08-Oct-03   Following the recent intense solar activity, Dave Ewoldt captured this photograph that includes the stars of the Big Dipper.  13-Nov-03  

This is M82, a galaxy that was stirred up during a pass of the large spiral galaxy M81.  Ionized hydrogen gas is emitting the red light.  23-Nov-03

An Orion Deep Field   Variable Star V838 Monocerotis   Ring Galaxy AM 0644-741
This digital composite picture shows the glowing Orion nebula (M42) and the dark Horsehead nebula.  15-Jan-04   Light from the stellar flash echoes across and illuminates pre-existing dust shells around this star which is 20,000 light years from Earth.  5-Mar-04  

This immense galaxy is 150,000 light years in diameter. It is made of newly formed, extremely bright, massive stars.  26-Apr-04

Saturn's Rings in Natural Color   Cat's Eye Planetary Nebula, NGC 6543   Orion Nebula M42
This picture was taken by the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn.  The ring particles are mostly light water-ice.  23-Jul-04   This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions.  10-Sep-04  

This nebula is a busy neighborhood of young stars, hot gas, and dark dust.  27-Sep-04

Comet Machholz (C/2204 Q2)   Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300   Auroras on Saturn
The "green" comet is shown here near the Pleiades star cluster. Lionel Bernardi of Nice, France took this picture on January 7, 2005.   Blue and red supergiant stars and star clusters are shown in the spiral arms and dust lanes.  27-Jan-05  

Saturn's auroras make total or partial rings around magnetic poles. These auroras persist for days, as opposed to only minutes on Earth.  22-Feb-05


Enceladus from Cassini   Barnard's Loop Around Orion   Whirlpool Galaxy M51
The Cassini spacecraft captured this false-color view of Saturn's moon Enceladus, which shows the wide variety of this icy moon's geology.  7-Apr-05   A diffuse ring of unknown origin surrounds the three stars of Orion's belt.  High resolution image.

The winding arms of spiral galaxy M51 are long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust.  28-Apr-05

Milky Way Bar   Spiral Galaxy NGC 1350   Dione from Cassini
This artist's rendering shows a view of our own Milky Way Galaxy and its central bar as it might appear if viewed from above.  25-Aug-05   This beautiful galaxy is about the size of the Milky Way.  It reveals many background galaxies.  It is 85 million light-years from Earth.  6-Oct-05  

This is one of Saturn's moons - Dione.  Saturn's thin rings are shown across the  bottom.  They are casting arcing shadows across Saturn's cloud tops.  21-Oct-05

Gravitational Tractor   The 37 Cluster   A Digital Opportunity Rover on Mars
A hypothetical 20 ton nuclear-electric spacecraft tows an asteroid by simply hovering near it.  Using ion thrusters it could change the course of the asteroid so it would avoid hitting Earth.  10-Nov-05   This open cluster forms a numerical asterism that looks like "37".  Also called NGC 2169, the stars of this cluster are young, having formed about 8 million years ago.  They are 3600 light years from Earth. 18-Nov-05  

This is a digital image of the Opportunity rover added to a real image taken of the Endurance Crater on Mars taken by the Opportunity itself.  14-Dec-05

Cartwheel Galaxy   Galaxy wars:  M81 vs. M82   Comet 73P meets the Ring Nebula
The rim of this galaxy is caused by the collision of a small intruder galaxy passing through the larger one.  The photo is a composite taken by four observatories - X-ray, ultraviolet, visible and infrared.  18-Jan-06   Galaxy M81 on the left is surrounded by blue spiral arms. It has been locked in gravitational combat with M82 on the right for the past billion years.  15-Apr-06  

On May 8, 2006 fragment C of broken comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 appears to be passing near M57, the Ring Nebula.  It is actually only 30 light-seconds from Earth.  11-May-06




Disk Galaxy NGC 5866


International Space Station - July, 2006

  Green Aurora over Lake Superior
The edge-on view of this galaxy shows a subtle, reddish bulge surrounding a bright nucleus, a blue disk of stars running parallel to the dust lane, and a transparent outer halo.  7-Jun-06   This view is from the Space Shuttle Discovery at the conclusion of a 12 day visit.  It shows numerous modules, trusses, and long wing-like solar panels.  24-Jul-06  

Electrons and protons from the Sun impact air molecules that temporarily lose electrons. When oxygen molecules reacquire these electrons, they emit green light.  6-Sep-06



Mars Express Close-Up of the Face on Mars


In the shadow of Saturn

  Outburst of Variable Star V838
This famous Martian rock mesa is known as the Face of Mars because of its appearance when viewing it from straight down.  Here it is shown as a digital-perspective image and looks quite natural.  25-Sep-06   This is an eclipse of the Sun by Saturn as photographed by the orbiting Cassini spacecraft flying through the shadow.  The night side of Saturn is partly lit by light from its own ring system.

This picture spans 14 light-years.  It show swirls of dust illuminated by light from the outburst of the binary star V838 near the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, 20,000 light-years from the Sun. 3-Nov-06


Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula

  Aurora - Saylorville Lake, Iowa    Aurora and the Big Dipper - near the Quad Cities
The bright star to the left of center is Rigel.  It is in the constellation Orion.  Light from Rigel is illuminating the dust of the Witch Head Nebula. They are about 1000 light-years from Earth.
  Stan Richard took this picture of the aurora on Dec. 14, 2006 at Saylorville Lake north of Des Moines, Iowa.  He reports lots of movement and pulsations, nice flowing curtains and some beautiful red beams.  

At 8:00 pm on Dec. 14, 2006, David Renneke took this picture of the aurora and the big dipper a few miles northwest of Davenport, Iowa.  Click here for further information and for more pictures.


First Images from STEREO


Upgrading the International Space Station

  Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) from Australia
These are four pictures of the Sun taken on Dec. 4, 2006 from STEREO, a pair of NASA satellites that will use stereoscopic (3D) vision to create a global picture of the Sun and its influences.  Here the false-colors represent temperatures in the upper solar atmosphere.  22-Dec-06   The International Space Station is being constructed piecemeal.  Here Robert Curbeam (USA) and Christer Fuglesang (Sweden) work to attach a new truss segment and begin to upgrade the power grid.

The Great Comet of 2007 is now sweeping past the Sun and may be seen in the Southern Hemisphere.  It is the brightest comet in decades.  Many excellent pictures taken in January in both hemispheres are shown in this Comet Gallery.

Jupiter's moon Io   Big Auroras on Jupiter   Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672
Two sulfurous eruptions are visible on Jupiter's volcanic moon Io in this color composite image from the robotic Galileo spacecraft that orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003.  11-Feb-07   The purple ring at Jupiter's north pole traces X-ray auroras that were observed by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.  Jupiter's polar regions are crackling with electricity and this sets the stage for non-stop auroras.  29-Mar-07  

This Hubble image shows young clusters of bright blue stars, red emission nebulas of glowing hydrogen gas, a long bright bar of stars across the center, and a bright active nucleus that may contain a supermassive black hole.  18-Apr-07

International Space Station in June 2007   Dark Lunar Eclipse   Iapetus in Black and White

With the recent visit of the space shuttle Atlantis the ISS has now expanded to include a second long array of solar panels.  Also shown are several modules, a robotic arm and a supply ship.


During this total lunar eclipse on Aug. 28, 2007, the Moon remained visible, reflecting reddened light filtering into the Earth's shadow. The light comes from all the sunsets and sunrises around the edges of a silhouetted Earth as viewed from the Moon.


Saturn's third largest moon, Iapetus, is sometimes called the yin-yang moon because its leading hemisphere is very dark, reflecting about 5 percent of the Sun's light, while its trailing hemisphere is almost as bright as snow. This recent Cassini spacecraft flyby image spans about 35 kilometers across a cratered transition zone between bright and dark terrain.  14-Sep-07

Comet Holmes   Medusa Nebula in Gemini   Columbus Lab - International Space Station

This is a composite image of exploding Comet 17P/Holmes. German astrophotographer Sebastian Voltmer combined various exposures taken through his 4.1-inch refracting telescope and processed the composite to highlight the comet's bright golden core (with jets and streamers), its gossamer green halo and an emerging faint blue tail.  Local photos.


This shows the evolution of a low mass star from a red giant to a hot white dwarf. In the process it shrugs off its outer layers and exhibits a glowing gas. This nebula in the constellation Gemini is about 4 light-years across and is 1,500 light-years from Earth.  23-Nov-07


In February, 2008 the Columbus laboratory was added to the International Space Station. During its 10-year projected lifespan, scientists will be able to conduct thousands of experiments in life sciences, materials science, fluid physics and a whole host of other disciplines, all in the weightlessness of orbit.

Martian moon Phobos   Jupiter's Red Spots   New Discoveries at Mercury

This stunning, enhanced-color image of Stickney Crater and surroundings was recorded by a camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it passed within 6000 km of Phobos in March 2008.


A third red spot has appeared alongside the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. (first seen in 2006) in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere.  This new red spot was previously a white oval-shaped storm. The change to a red color indicates its swirling storm clouds are rising to heights like the clouds of the Great Red Spot. This is a Hubble photo taken on 9-May-08.


On Jan. 14, 2008, the MESSENGER spacecraft passed 200 kilometers above Mercury's surface. It imaged the surface, measured its magnetic field discovering that its dipolar, and observed atoms of hydrogen, helium, sodium, potassium, and calcium in the exosphere. Here we see a color image of the Caloris basin. Orange hues just inside the Caloris basin rim mark the locations of features thought to be volcanic.  3-Jul-08

Exploring M57 - The Ring Nebula   Double Ring Galaxies - The Perfect 10   The Universe, Yours to Discover

The Ring Nebula is about 2000 light-years away.  This shows looping filaments of glowing gas extending from M57's central star.  The red emission is from hydrogen atoms, but the pronounced blue/green color is due to emission from oxygen atoms at higher temperatures within the rings.  The central ring is about 1 light-year across.  18-Sep-08


These two galaxies of Arp 147 collided and passed through one another.  The rim of the blue galaxy pictured on the right shows an immense ring-like structure 30,000 light years in diameter.  The rim is composed of newly formed, extremely bright, massive stars.  This picture was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.  4-Nov-08


The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) has begun. It occurs 400 years after Galileo turned one of the first telescopes toward the heavens. Peering through that small window, Galileo discovered that the Moon has craters, Venus has phases, Jupiter has moons, and Saturn has rings. The slogan is "The Universe, Yours to Discover".

Comet Lulin and Distant Galaxies   International Space Station Expands Again   Eskimo Nebula

This is a composite of telescopic exposures of galaxies aligned with the both the stars and Comet Lulin. The comet was photographed on Feb. 28, 2009 when it was 3.6 light-minutes from Earth.


The Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery visited the ISS in March, 2009 and added components that included a new truss and new solar panels.  Also visible above are many different types of modules, a robotic arm, and a supply ship. Construction began on the ISS in 1998.        6-Apr-09


This is a planetary nebula that lies in our Milky Way Galaxy about 3,000 light years from Earth.  The inner filaments are being ejected by a strong wind of particles from the central star. The outer disk contains unusual light-year long orange filaments.

Starburst Galaxy M94   Ares-1 Rocket and Shock Collar   Star trails from Nepal

This face-on spiral galaxy is 30,000 light years across and is 15 million light years distant.  Its remarkable features include prominent dust lanes, a bright, point-like nucleus, and a bright, bluish ring dominated by the light of young, massive stars.   17-Jul-09


NASA recently test fired a new rocket called Ares-1. It is longer than a football field and accelerates from zero to over 100 km/h in less than 8 s.  In this photo the top part of the rocket is engulfed in a shock collar of water droplets likely created by the sudden drop of air pressure.             2-Nov-09


The Earth's rotation about its axis has caused the concentric star trails shown in this time exposure. The North Celestial Pole is at the center of all the star trail arcs. The star Polaris made the very short and bright arc closest to the North Celestial Pole.  28-Nov-09

WISE Infrared Andromeda   Martian Moon Deimos   HGC 87 - A Small Group of Galaxies

This false-color infrared image of the spiral Andromeda galaxy (M31) was taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite.  Dust heated by Andromeda's young stars is shown in yellow and red.  Older stars appear as a bluish haze.  Andromeda is 2.5 million light years from Earth.   19-Feb-10


Mars has two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos.  Deimos is one of the smallest moons in the Solar System measuring only 15 kilometers across.  This photo was taken by the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars-orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.


The galaxies of HGC 87 will slowly self-destruct.  They are gravitationally stretching each other during their 100-million year orbits around a common center.   7-Jul-10

Planetary Nebula MWP1   Earth-view from the ISS Cupola   Fireworks Galaxy NGC 6946

This nebula lies about 4,500 light years away in the northern constellation Cygnus the Swan. One of the largest planetary nebulae known, it spans about 15 light years. Based on its expansion rate the nebula has an age of 150 thousand years. Planetary nebulae ordinarily only last for 10 to 20 thousand years.   21-Oct-10


Peering out of the windows of the cupola of the International Space Station, astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson takes in a view of Earth from orbit a distance of 350 km (217 miles) from the surface.


This spiral galaxy exhibits a furious rate of star formation. Nearly 40,000 light-years across, this spiral is fittingly referred to as the Fireworks Galaxy. Over the last 100 years, at least nine supernovae were discovered in NGC 6946. By comparison, the average rate for supernovae in the Milky Way is about 1 per century.    1-Jan-11

Six Worlds for Kepler-11   The Antennae - NGC 4038 and NGC 4039   Stereo Vesta

Scientists using the Kepler space telescope recently discovered six planets made of a mix of rock and gases orbiting a single sun-like star, known as Kepler-11, which is located approximately 2,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.   3-Feb-11


This shows the collision of the dust clouds of two galaxies occurring 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus. It is triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center and has flung matter far from the center into two large arcs. 29-Apr-11


Here is the asteroid Vesta in 3-D (use red/blue glasses) as viewed by the ion-driven spacecraft Dawn.  After a year exploring the asteroid from orbit, Dawn is scheduled to depart, beginning its journey to the dwarf planet Ceres.   20-Aug-11

Ghost of the Cepheus Flare   Farside of the Moon   Comet Garradd and M92

Spooky shapes seem to haunt this starry expanse, drifting through the night in the royal constellation Cepheus. The shapes are cosmic dust clouds faintly visible in dimly reflected starlight. They lurk at the edge of the Cepheus Flare molecular cloud complex some 1,200 light-years away.  31-Oct-11


This colorful topographical map of the Moon is centered on the lunar farside, the side not seen from planet Earth. This image was produced using the laser altimeter of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, The colors white, red, green, and purple represent progressively lower elevations. The large purple circular splotch at the bottom is about 2500 km in diameter and over 12 km deep.  18-Nov-11


Comet Garradd (C2009/P1) passed within about 0.5 degrees of globular star cluster M92 on February 3. This shows the broad fan shaped dust tail and a much narrower ion tail that extends up and beyond the right edge of the frame. Pushed out by the pressure of sunlight, the dust tail tends to trail the comet along its orbit while the ion tail, blown by the solar wind, streams away from the comet in the direction opposite the Sun. M92 is over 25,000 light-years away. Comet Garradd is 12.5 light-minutes from planet Earth.   4-Feb-12

Auroras from Earth Orbit   Trifid Nebula - M20   All the Water on Planet Earth

Glowing green and red, shimmering hypnotically across the night sky, the aurora borealis is a wonder to behold. High above our planet, astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been enjoying an up-close view of auroras outside their windows as the ISS flys through geomagnetic storms.      5-Mar-12


Clouds of glowing gas mingle with dust lanes in the Trifid Nebula, a star forming region that spans 10 light years and is 9000 light years from Earth. In the center, the three prominent dust lanes that give the Trifid its name all come together.    28-Jan-13


This illustrates what would happen if all of the water on or near the surface of the Earth were bunched up into a ball. The radius of this ball would be only about 700 kilometers, less than half the radius of the Earth's Moon. Although oceans of water cover about 70% of Earth's surface, these oceans are shallow compared to the Earth's radius.