NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2003-9

A Beautiful Trifid

The beautiful Trifid Nebula (aka M20), a photogenic study in cosmic contrasts, lies about 5,000 light-years away toward the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. A star forming region in the plane of our galaxy, the Trifid alone illustrates three basic types of astronomical nebulae; red emission nebulae dominated by light from hydrogen atoms, blue reflection nebulae produced by dust reflecting starlight, and dark absorption nebulae where dense dust clouds appear in silhouette. The bright emission nebula on the right, separated into three parts by obscuring dust lanes, lends the nebula its popular name. Many details are apparent in this gorgeous high-resolution image of the Trifid. For example, light-year long pillars and jets sculpted by newborn stars - visible here in the upper right-hand corner of the emission nebula - appear in Hubble Space Telescope close-up images of the region.

Contemplating Mars

Is that really another world? Thousands of people the world over lined up last week to see Mars through a telescope as the red planet and Earth passed unusually close together in their orbits around the Sun. Reviews of Mars were mixed, with some people disappointed that Mars still appeared somewhat blurry. Veteran sky gazers appeared somewhat surprised by the popularity of the phenomenon, as it seemed to many that Mars was not very much brighter than it frequently appears, and the event held little promise for real discovery. Most observers, though, appeared quietly pleased to take advantage of a unique opportunity and see such an uncommon sight. Many were awed by the simple enormity of being able to see the face of a completely different world with their own eyes. Pictured above, a youngster peered toward Mars last week at an East Antrim Astronomical Society star party at the Big Collin Picnic Area north of Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK.

Galactic Supernova Remnant IC 443

About 8000 years ago, a star in our Galaxy exploded. Ancient humans might have noticed the supernova as a temporary star, but modern humans can see the expanding shell of gas even today. Pictured above, part of the shell of IC 443 is seen to be composed of complex filaments, some of which are impacting an exis