Photographic Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
During a recent calibration exercise, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured a remarkable view of Earth and its moon from a distance of 127 million miles (205 million kilometers).
It’s so clear, you can even make out our planet’s continents.
To calibrate the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Orbiter, NASA scientists needed to scan an object other than the Red Planet.
Seeing as Earth is right next door, that was an obvious choice.
The image is a combination of two separate exposures taken on November 20, 2016, and have been moderately adjusted to make both objects appear equally as bright (otherwise the Earth would have appeared too dark).
The combined view shows the correct positions and sizes of the two celestial bodies relative to each other.
The planet Uranus is spectacularly far away. Even when viewed from Saturn, the next planet in, icy Uranus is still just a few pixels of blue in an inky black sky.
This photo was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft while the probe was 2,659,800,000 miles away from Uranus.
Here, Saturn’s A and F rings arc across the foreground. Uranus is in the upper left. With the equivalent of 14.5 Earth-masses of material, the planet is considered an ice giant (its neighbor Neptune is, too) since it’s primarily made of water, ammonia, and methane ices.
It looks blue in photographs because the methane in its atmosphere absorbs red wavelengths and reflects blue.
Like Saturn, Uranus has rings and moons.
But unlike Saturn — and indeed every other planet in the solar system — the ice giant is tipped on its side. In other words, rather than spinning like a top as it circles the sun, Uranus rolls around on its side.
It’s not exactly clear why this is the case, but one of the more popular theories suggests that early on, a pair of giant impacts pummeled the planet and knocked it over.
This strange configuration isn’t the only enigma in cool, blue Uranus’ clutches, though: The planet’s moon Miranda is one of the strangest objects in the solar system, a tiny world that looks like it’s been blasted apart and put back together again.
In this incredible image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, we are witness to the birth of a star.
This Hubble image shows IRAS 14568-6304, a young star that is cloaked in a haze of golden gas and dust.
It appears to be embedded within an intriguing swoosh of dark sky, which curves through the image and obscures the sky behind.
This dark region is known as the Circinus molecular cloud. This cloud has a mass around 250 000 times that of the Sun, and it is filled with gas, dust and young stars.
Within this cloud lie two prominent and enormous regions known colloquially to astronomers as Circinus-West and Circinus-East. Each of these clumps has a mass of around 5000 times that of the Sun, making them the most prominent star-forming sites in the Circinus cloud.
The clumps are associated with a number of young stellar objects, and IRAS 14568-6304, featured here under a blurry fog of gas within Circinus-West, is one of them.
IRAS 14568-6304 is special because it is driving a protostellar jet, which appears here as the “tail” below the star. This jet is the leftover gas and dust that the star took from its parent cloud in order to form.
While most of this material forms the star and its accretion disc — the disc of material surrounding the star, which may one day form planets — at some point in the formation process the star began to eject some of the material at supersonic speeds through space.
This phenomenon is not only beautiful, but can also provide us with valuable clues about the process of star formation.
On February 18, 1930, Clyde W. Tombaugh, an assistant at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, discovered Pluto. For over seven decades, Pluto was considered the ninth planet of our solar system.
It was American astronomer Percival Lowell who first thought there might be another planet somewhere near Neptune and Uranus.
Lowell had noticed that the gravitational pull of something large was affecting the orbits of those two planets.
However, despite looking for what he called “Planet X” from 1905 until his death in 1916, Lowell never found it.
Thirteen years later, the Lowell Observatory decided to recommence Lowell’s search for Planet X.
They had a more powerful, 13-inch telescope built for this sole purpose. The Observatory then hired 23-year-old Clyde W. Tombaugh to use Lowell’s predictions and the new telescope to search the skies for a new planet.
It took a year of detailed, painstaking work, but Tombaugh did find Planet X.
The discovery occurred on February 18, 1930 while Tombaugh was carefully examining a set of photographic plates created by the telescope.
Despite Planet X being discovered on February 18, 1930, the Lowell Observatory was not quite ready to announce this huge discovery until more research could be done.
After a few weeks, it was confirmed that Tombaugh’s discovery was indeed a new planet.
On what would have been Percival Lowell’s 75th birthday, March 13, 1930, the Observatory publicly announced to the world that a new planet had been discovered.
Pluto was re-classified as a Dwarf Planet in 2006, thus losing its planetary status.