NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2008-9

CG4: A Ruptured Cometary Globule

Can a gas cloud grab a galaxy? It's not even close. The "claw" of this odd looking "creature" in the above photo is a gas cloud known as a cometary globule. This globule, however, has ruptured. Cometary globules are typically characterized by dusty heads and elongated tails. These features cause cometary globules to have visual similarities to comets, but in reality they are very much different. Globules are frequently the birthplaces of stars, and many show very young stars in their heads. The reason for the rupture in the head of this object is not completely known. The galaxy to the left of the globule is huge, very far in the distance, and only placed near CG4 by chance superposition. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080901.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide

Astronomers turn detectives when trying to figure out the cause of startling sights like NGC 1316. Their investigation indicates that NGC 1316 is an enormous elliptical galaxy that started, about 100 million years ago, to devour a smaller spiral galaxy neighbor, NGC 1317, just above it. Supporting evidence includes the dark dust lanes characteristic of a spiral galaxy, and faint swirls of stars and gas visible in this wide and deep image. What remains unexplained are the unusually small globular star clusters, seen as faint dots on the image. Most elliptical galaxies have more and brighter globular clusters than NGC 1316. Yet the observed globulars are too old to have been created by the recent spiral collision. One hypothesis is that these globulars survive from an even earlier galaxy that was subsumed into NGC 1316. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080902.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

31 Million Miles from Planet Earth

On July 4th, 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft directed a probe to impact the nucleus of Comet Tempel 1. Still cruising through the solar system, earlier this year the robotic spacecraft looked back to record a series of images of its home world 31 million miles (50 million kilometers) away. In a sequence from top left to bottom right, these four frames from the video show a rotating Earth. They combine visible and near-infrared image data with enough resolution and contrast to see clouds, oceans, and continents. They also follow a remarkable transit of Earth by its large, natural satellite, the Moon. The Moon's orbital motion carries it across the field of view from left to right. Imaging the Earth from this distant perspective allows astronomers to connect overall variations in brightness at different wavelengths with planetary features. The observations will aid in the search for earthlike planets in other planetary systems. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080903.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Spokes in the Helix Nebula

At first glance, the Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293), looks simple and round. But this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, produced near the end of the life of a sun-like star, is now understood to have a surprisingly complex geometry. Its extended loops and comet-shaped features have been explored in Hubble Space Telescope images. Still, a 16-inch diameter telescope and camera with broad and narrow band filters was used to create this sharp view of the Helix. The color composite also reveals the nebula's intriguing details, including light-year long, bluegreen radial stripes or spokes that give it the appearance of a cosmic bicycle wheel. The spoke features seem to indicate that the Helix Nebula is itself an old and evolved planetary nebula. The Helix is a mere seven hundred light years from Earth, in the constellation Aquarius. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080904.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Milky Way Road Trip

In search of planets and the summer Milky Way, astronomer Tunç Tezel took an evening road trip. Last Saturday, after driving the winding road up Uludag, a mountain near Bursa, Turkey, he was rewarded by this beautiful skyview to the south. Near the center, bright planet Jupiter outshines the city lights below and the stars of the constellation Sagittarius. Above the mountain peaks, an arcing cloud bank seems to lead to the Milky Way's own cloudy apparition plunging into the distant horizon. In Turkish, Uludag means Great Mountain. Uludag was known in ancient times as the Mysian Olympus. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080905.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

A Flock of Stars

Only a few stars can be found within ten light-years of our lonely Sun, situated near an outer spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. But if the Sun were found within one of our galaxy's star clusters, thousands of stars might occupy a similar space. What would the night sky look like in such a densely packed stellar neighborhood? When Roger Hopkins took this picture at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in the Finger Lakes region of western New York, USA, he was struck by this same notion. Appropriately, he had photographed a flock of starlings against the backdrop of a serene sunset. He then manipulated the image so that the black bird silhouettes were changed to white. The final picture dramatically suggests the tantalizing spectacle of approaching night in crowded skies above a cluster star world. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080906.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Searching for Meteorites in Antarctica

Where is the best place on Earth to find meteorites? Although meteors fall all over the world, they usually just sink to the bottom of an ocean, are buried by shifting terrain, or are easily confused with terrestrial rocks. At the bottom of the Earth, however, in East Antarctica, huge sheets of blue ice remain pure and barren. When traversing such a sheet, a dark rock will stick out. These rocks have a high probability of being true meteorites -- likely pieces of another world. An explosion or impact might have catapulted these meteorites from the Moon, Mars, or even an asteroid, yielding valuable information about these distant worlds and our early Solar System. Small teams of snowmobiling explorers so far have found thousands. Pictured above, ice-trekkers search a field 25-kilometers in front of Otway Massif in the Transantarctic Mountain Range during the Antarctic summer of 1995-1996. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080907.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Rosetta Spacecraft Passes Asteroid Steins

What's that diamond in the sky? Cruising though space, sometimes you'll come across an unusual object. Such was the case on Friday for ESA's Rosetta spacecraft on its way to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. Robotic Rosetta buzzed right by the main belt asteroid 2867 Šteins, taking many pictures, some of which have been compiled into a short video. At first glance, Steins looked like a 5-kilometer wide diamond, but as Rosetta shot by, craters and a more extended shape become evident. In the above sequence of six images, a notable chain of craters is evident vertically on the asteroid's surface, most probably caused by a chance collision with a stream of meteors. Space scientists will now study the data taken by Rosetta of asteroid Steins in an effort to better understand its composition, origin, and why the asteroid reflects light so well. As the Earth-bound scientists toil, Rosetta itself will continue to zoom across our Solar System, next swooping again by the Earth in 2009 November, flying by asteroid 21 Lutetia in 2010 July, and finally landing on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014 November. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080908.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

M110: Satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy

Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 25 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Pictured on the lower right is one of the dwarf ellipticals: NGC 205. Like M32, NGC 205 is a companion to the large M31, and can sometimes be seen to the south of M31's center in photographs. The image shows NGC 205 to be unusual for an elliptical galaxy in that it contains at least two dust clouds (at 9 and 2 o'clock - they are visible but hard to spot) and signs of recent star formation. This galaxy is sometimes known as M110, although it was actually not part of Messier's original catalog. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080909.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

The Anthe Arc around Saturn

What created this unusual partial ring around Saturn? Discovered last year, the arc was captured in clear detail only two months ago by the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft. Since the arc occupies the same orbit as the small moon Anthe, a leading hypothesis holds that the arc was created by, and is replenished by, meteor impacts on Anthe. Similar arcs have been previously discovered, including an arc associated with the small Saturnian moon Methone, one arc related to Saturn's G ring, and several arcs orbiting Neptune. Pictured above, Anthe, only two kilometers across, is seen as the bright point near the top of the Anthe arc. The Anthe arc was imaged by the robotic space probe as it swooped to within 1.5 million kilometers of the small moon. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080910.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Mountain Top Meteors

A mountain top above the clouds and light-polluted cities was a good place to go to watch this August's Perseid meteor shower. In fact, this composite picture from one of the highest points in Romania, the Omu summit (2,507 meters) in the Southern Carpathian Mountains, captures about 20 of the shower's bright streaks against a starry night sky. The cosmic debris stream that creates the shower is composed of dust particles moving along parallel paths, following the orbit of their parent comet Swift-Tuttle. Looking toward the shower's radiant point in the constellation Perseus, perspective causes the parallel meteor streaks to appear to diverge. But looking directly away from the radiant point, as in this view, perspective actually makes the Perseid meteors seem to be converging toward a point below the horizon. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080911.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Planets over Perth

A bright trio of terrestrial planets was joined by a young Moon on September 1st, in planet Earth's early evening skies. In this view of the celestial gathering from Perth, Western Australia, the Moon's sunlit crescent is nearly horizontal at Perth's southern latitude of about 32 degrees. Venus, then Mercury, and finally Mars shine above colorful city lights on the far shore of the Swan River. The six unlit towers on the left surround a large cricket stadium. For now, the planetary trio still lingers low in the west just after sunset. But in the coming days Venus will move farther from the Sun, climbing higher after sunset, while Mercury and Mars will steadily sink into the glare along the western horizon. Note: Free Astronomy Course Taught Online by an APOD Editor digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080912.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

M33: Triangulum Galaxy

The small, northern constellation Triangulum harbors this magnificent face-on spiral galaxy, M33. Its popular names include the Pinwheel Galaxy or just the Triangulum Galaxy. M33 is over 50,000 light-years in diameter, third largest in the Local Group of galaxies after the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and our own Milky Way. About 3 million light-years from the Milky Way, M33 is itself thought to be a satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy and astronomers in these two galaxies would likely have spectacular views of each other's grand spiral star systems. As for the view from planet Earth, this sharp, detailed image nicely shows off M33's blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions that trace the galaxy's loosely wound spiral arms. In fact, the cavernous NGC 604 is the brightest star forming region, seen here at about the 1 o'clock position from the galaxy center. Like M31, M33's population of well-measured variable stars have helped make this nearby spiral a cosmic yardstick for establishing the distance scale of the Universe. Note: Free Astronomy Course Taught Online by an APOD Editor digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080913.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

The Heart and Soul Nebulas

Is the heart and soul of our Galaxy located in Cassiopeia? Possibly not, but that is where two bright emission nebulas nicknamed Heart and Soul can be found. The Heart Nebula, officially dubbed IC 1805 and visible in the above zoomable view on the right, has a shape reminiscent of a classical heart symbol. Both nebulas shine brightly in the red light of energized hydrogen. Several young open clusters of stars populate the image and are visible above in blue, including the nebula centers. Light takes about 6,000 years to reach us from these nebulas, which together span roughly 300 light years. Studies of stars and clusters like those found in the Heart and Soul Nebulas have focussed on how massive stars form and how they affect their environment. Note: Free Astronomy Course Taught Online by an APOD Editor digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080914.html'; digg_skin ='compact';

SN 1006: A Supernova Ribbon from Hubble

What created this unusual space ribbon? Most assuredly, one of the most violent explosions ever witnessed by ancient humans. Back in the year 1006 AD, light reached Earth from a stellar explosion in the constellation of the Wolf (Lupus), creating a "guest star" in the sky that appeared brighter than Venus and lasted for over two years. The supernova, now cataloged at SN 1006, occurred about 7,000 light years away and has left a large remnant that continues to expand and fade today. Pictured above is a small part of that expanding supernova remnant dominated by a thin and outwardly moving shock front that heats and ionizes surrounding ambient gas. SN 1006 now has a diameter of nearly 60 light years. Within the past year, an even more powerful explosion occurred far across the universe that was visible to modern humans, without any optical aid, for a few seconds. Note: Free Astronomy Course Taught Online by an APOD Editor digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080915.html'; digg_skin ='compact';

W5: Pillars of Star Creation

How do stars form? A study of star forming region W5 by the sun-orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope provides clear clues by recording that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars. The triggered star formation occurs when hot outflowing gas compresses cooler gas into knots dense enough to gravitationally contract into stars. Spectacular pillars, left slowly evaporating from the hot outflowing gas, provide further visual clues. In the above scientifically-colored infrared image, red indicates heated dust, while white and green indicate particularly dense gas clouds. W5 is also known as IC 1848, and together with IC 1805 form a complex region of star formation popularly dubbed the Heart and Soul Nebulas. The above image highlights a part of W5 spanning about 2,000 light years that is rich in star forming pillars. W5 lies about 6,500 light years away toward the constellation of Cassiopeia. Note: Free Astronomy Course Taught Online by an APOD Editor digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080916.html'; digg_skin ='compact';

MACSJ0025: Two Giant Galaxy Clusters Collide

What happens when two of the largest objects in the universe collide? No one was quite sure, but the answer is giving clues to the nature of mysterious dark matter. In the case of MACSJ0025.4-1222, two huge clusters of galaxies have been found slowly colliding over hundreds of millions of years, and the result has been imaged by both the Hubble Space Telescope in visible light and the Chandra Space Telescope in X-ray light. Once the above visible image was recorded, the location and gravitational lens distortions of more distant galaxies by the newly combined galaxy cluster allowed astronomers to computationally determine what happened to the clusters' dark matter. The result indicates that this huge collision has caused the dark matter in the clusters to become partly separated from the normal matter, confirming earlier speculation. In the above combined image, dark matter is shown as the diffuse purple hue, while a smoothed depiction of the X-ray hot normal matter is shown in pink. MACSJ0025 contains hundreds of galaxies, spans about three million light years, and lies nearly six billion light years away (redshift 0.59) toward the constellation of Monster Whale (Cetus). Note: Free Astronomy Course Taught Online by an APOD Editor digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080917.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Exploring the Ring

A familiar sight for northern hemisphere astronomers, the Ring Nebula (M57) is some 2,000 light-years away in the musical constellation Lyra. The central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from two different telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. This composite image includes over 16 hours of narrow-band data intended to record the red emission from hydrogen atoms, but the pronounced blue/green color is due to emission from oxygen atoms at higher temperatures within the ring. The much more distant spiral galaxy IC 1296 is also visible at the upper right. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080918.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Companion of a Young, Sun-like Star

Located just 500 light-years away toward the constellation Scorpius, this star is only slightly less massive and a little cooler than the Sun. But it is much younger, a few million years old compared to the middle-aged Sun's 5 billion years. This sharp infrared image shows the young star has a likely companion positioned above and left - a hot planet with about 8 times the mass of Jupiter, orbiting a whopping 330 times the Earth-Sun distance from its parent star. The young planetary companion is still hot and relatively bright in infrared light due to the heat generated during its formation by gravitational contraction. In fact, such newborn planets are easier to detect before they age and cool, becoming much fainter. Though over 300 extrasolar planets have been found using other techniques, this picture likely represents the first direct image of a planet belonging to a star similar to the Sun. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080919.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

A Darkened Sky

For a moment on August 1st, the daytime sky grew dark along the path of a total solar eclipse. While watching the geocentric celestial event from Mongolia, photographer Miloslav Druckmuller recorded multiple images with two separate cameras as the Moon blocked the bright solar disk and darkened the sky. This final composition consists of 55 frames ranging in exposure time from 1/125 to 8 seconds. It spans nearly 12 degrees, with the relative position of the Moon and Sun corresponding to mid-eclipse. On the left is bright planet Mercury, but many stars are also visible, including the Praesepe star cluster (also known as M44 or the Beehive cluster) in Cancer, above and to the right of the silhouetted Moon. Remarkably, the nearly perfect conditions and wide range in individual exposures allow the composite picture to register the lunar surface and follow the delicate solar corona out to a distance of nearly 20 times the radius of the Sun. In fact, the composite presents a range in brightness beyond what the eye could see during the eclipse. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080920.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Egging On the Autumnal Equinox

Tomorrow is the autumnal equinox -- should eggs be able to stand on end? This long-standing myth loses much of its mystique after a demonstration that eggs can be made to stand on end during any day of the year. Pictured above, Dr. Phil Plait, acting as the Bad Astronomer balanced three raw eggs on end in late October 1998. Later, more modestly, his wife balanced five more. The little-appreciated fact that most eggshells have small bumps on them makes this seemingly impossible task achievable. Although, during an equinox, every place on Earth experiences an equal length day and night (12 hours each), this fact has no practical effect on egg stability. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080921.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Equinox: The Sun from Solstice to Solstice

Today is an equinox, a date when day and night are equal. Tomorrow, and every day until the next equinox, the night will be longer than the day in Earth's northern hemisphere, and the day will be longer than the night in Earth's southern hemisphere. An equinox occurs midway between the two solstices, when the days and nights are the least equal. The picture is a composite of hourly images taken of the Sun above Bursa, Turkey on key days from solstice to equinox to solstice. The bottom Sun band was taken during the winter solstice in 2007 December, when the Sun could not rise very high in the sky nor stay above the horizon very long. This lack of Sun caused winter. The top Sun band was taken during the summer solstice in 2008 June, when the Sun rose highest in the sky and stayed above the horizon for more than 12 hours. This abundance of Sun caused summer. The middle band was taken during the Vernal Equinox in 2008 March, but it is the same sun band that Earthlings will see today, the day of the Autumnal Equinox. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080922.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Haumea of the Outer Solar System

One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System was classified as a dwarf planet last week and given the name Haumea. This designation makes Haumea the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea's smooth but oblong shape make it extremely unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Illustrated above, an artist visualizes Haumea as a nearly featureless ellipsoid. Quite possibly, however, Haumea has interesting craters and surface features that currently remain unknown. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was recently renamed by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, recently renamed Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080923.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Active Region 1002 on an Unusually Quiet Sun

Why has the Sun been so quiet recently? No one is sure. Our Sun has shown few active regions -- that house even fewer associated sunspots -- for over a year now, and such a period of relative calm is quite unusual. What is well known is that our Sun is in a transitional period between solar cycles called a Solar Minimum, where solar activity has historically been reduced. The stark lack of surface tumult is unusual even during a Solar Minimum, however, and activity this low has not been seen for many decades. A few days ago, however, a bona-fide active region -- complete with sunspots --appeared and continues to rotate across the Sun's face. Visible above, this region, dubbed Active Region 1002 (AR 1002), was imaged in ultraviolet light yesterday by the SOHO spacecraft, which co-orbits the Sun near the Earth. Besides the tranquility on the Sun's surface, recent data from the Ulysses spacecraft, across the Solar System, indicate that the intensity of the solar wind blowing out from the Sun is at a fifty year low. Predictions hold, however, that our Sun will show more and more active regions containing more and more sunspots and flares until Solar Maximum occurs in about four years. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080924.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

The Case of the Very Dusty Binary Star

For astronomers, close binary star system BD+20 307 originally stood out because it is extremely dusty. A substantial amount of warm dust surrounding it causes the system to appear exceptionally bright at infrared wavelengths. Of course, dust associated with planet formation is often detected around young stars, stars only a few million years old. But the BD+20 307 system has now been found to be at least a few billion years old, an age comparable to the age of our own Solar System. The large amount of warm dust is likely the debris from a relatively recent collision of planet-sized objects on the scale of, say, Earth and Venus, in the BD+20 307 system. Reminiscent of the classic scifi novel When Worlds Collide, the dramatic illustration offers a depiction of the catastrophic event. Ironically, this indirect evidence of a destructive planetary collision could also be the first indication that planetary systems can form around close binary stars. BD+20 307 is about 300 light-years distant toward the headstrong constellation Aries. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080925.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Moon Rays over Byurakan Observatory

On September 7th, the first quarter Moon and passing clouds contributed to a dramatic night sky over the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory. This panoramic view begins at the left looking toward the eastern horizon and the rising stars of the constellation Perseus. Sweeping your gaze to the right (south), you'll find the large observatory dome, housing a 2.6 meter diameter telescope, backlit by lights from nearby Yerevan, capital city of Armenia. Fittingly poised above the observatory dome is the bright, giant star Enif in the high-flying constellation Pegasus. Farther to the right, the brightest celestial beacon just above the clouds is our Solar System's ruling gas giant Jupiter. At the far right, the Moon is nearly hidden by an approaching cloudbank, but the clouds themselves actually cast shadows in the bright moonlight, creating the effect of Moon rays across the evening sky. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080926.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

M83: The Thousand-Ruby Galaxy

Big, bright, and beautiful, spiral galaxy M83 lies a mere twelve million light-years away, near the southeastern tip of the very long constellation Hydra. Prominent spiral arms traced by dark dust lanes and blue star clusters lend this galaxy its popular name of the Southern Pinwheel. But reddish star forming regions that dot the sweeping arms highlighted in this sparkling color composite also suggest another nickname, The Thousand-Ruby Galaxy. About 40,000 light-years across, M83 is a member of a group of galaxies that includes active galaxy Centaurus A. The core of M83 itself is bright at x-ray energies, showing a high concentration of neutron stars and black holes left from an intense burst of star formation. The sharp image, based on archival data from the European Southern Observatory's Wide Field Imager camera, also features spiky foreground Milky Way stars and distant background galaxies. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080927.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

Young Stars of NGC 346

The massive stars of NGC 346 are short lived, but very energetic. The star cluster is embedded in the largest star forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud, some 210,000 light-years distant. Their winds and radiation sweep out an interstellar cavern in the gas and dust cloud about 200 light-years across, triggering star formation and sculpting the region's dense inner edge. Cataloged as N66, the star forming region also appears to contain a large population of infant stars. A mere 3 to 5 million years old and not yet burning hydrogen in their cores,the infant stars are strewn about the embedded star cluster. In the above false-color Hubble Space Telescope image, visible and near-infrared light are seen as blue and green, while light from atomic hydrogen emission is red. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080928.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

A True Image from False Kiva

Is there any place in the world you could see a sight like this? Yes! This digital mosaic shows the night sky as seen from False Kiva in Canyonlands National Park, eastern Utah, USA. Diving into the Earth far in the distance is part of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. Much closer, the planet Jupiter is visible as the bright point just to band's left. Closer still are the park's picturesque buttes and mesas lit by a crescent moon. In the foreground is the cave housing a stone circle of unknown origin named False Kiva. The cave itself was briefly lit by flashlight during the exposure. Astrophotographer Wally Pacholka reports that getting to the cave was no easy trek. Also, mountain lions were a concern while waiting alone in the dark to record the mosaic. digg_url = 'http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080929.html'; digg_skin = 'compact';

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