Milky Way over Moon Valley : Our Milky Way Galaxy arcs over a desolate landscape in this fantastic panoramic night skyview. The otherworldly scene looks across the arid, eroded terrain of the Valle de la Luna in the Chilean Atacama desert. Just along the horizon are lights from San Pedro, Chile, as well as the small villages of Socaire and Toconao, and a tortuous road from the city of Calama to San Pedro. Taken on October 18th, the five panel mosaic also features the four galaxies easily visible from our fair planet’s dark sky regions. At the far left, satellite galaxies known as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are framed by their terrestrial namesakes. Much fainter and at the right, beyond the Milky Way’s central bulge, is the Andromeda Galaxy. The most distant in view, Andromeda lies some 2.5 million light-years away. via NASA

Sharpless 249 and the Jellyfish Nebula : Normally faint and elusive, the Jellyfish Nebula is caught in this alluring telescopic mosaic. The scene is anchored right and left by two bright stars, Mu and Eta Geminorum, at the foot of the celestial twin while the Jellyfish Nebula is the brighter arcing ridge of emission with dangling tentacles below and right of center. In fact, the cosmic jellyfish is part of bubble-shaped supernova remnant IC 443, the expanding debris cloud from a massive star that exploded. Light from the explosion first reached planet Earth over 30,000 years ago. Like its cousin in astrophysical waters the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, the Jellyfish Nebula is known to harbor a neutron star, the remnant of the collapsed stellar core. An emission nebula cataloged as Sharpless 249 fills the field at the upper left. The Jellyfish Nebula is about 5,000 light-years away. At that distance, this narrowband composite image would be about 300 light-years across. via NASA

December 19, 1972: The Apollo 17 Mission Ends



On this day in 1972, the Apollo 17 crew returned to earth after a 12-day mission, ending the last manned mission to the moon. It was the most ambitious moon mission, breaking records for the longest manned lunar landing and flight, the longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities, the largest lunar samples, and the longest time in lunar orbit. Apollo 17 also had the first night launch. 


Commander, Eugene A. Cernan and Lunar Module pilot, Harrison H. Schmitt are still the last people to walk on the moon.

Read NOVA’s interview with Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon.

Photo: Apollo 17 post-landing recovery operations (NASA). 

The Flame Nebula in Visible and Infrared  : What lights up the Flame Nebula? Fifteen hundred light years away towards the constellation of Orion lies a nebula which, from its glow and dark dust lanes, appears, on the left, like a billowing fire. But fire, the rapid acquisition of oxygen, is not what makes this Flame glow. Rather the bright star Alnitak, the easternmost star in the Belt of Orion visible just to the right of the nebula, shines energetic light into the Flame that knocks electrons away from the great clouds of hydrogen gas that reside there. Much of the glow results when the electrons and ionized hydrogen recombine. The above false-color picture of the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) was taken is a composite of both visible and infrared light, the later energy band being where a young star cluster becomes visible. The Flame Nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a star-forming region that includes the famous Horsehead Nebula. via NASA