Messier 43 is a large star forming region and the companion of the famous Orion Nebula about 1,500 light-years away. This close-up of it was made while testing one of the twin 6.5 meter Magellan telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory in the Chilean Andes. The composite image shifts the otherwise invisible infrared wavelengths to blue, green, and red colors.

Here are some details:

credit: Yuri Beletsky (Carnegie Las Campanas Obs.), Igor Chilingarian (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

ALMA Milky Way

This alluring all-skyscape was taken 5,100 meters above sea level, from the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. Viewed through the site’s rarefied atmosphere at about 50% sea level pressure, the gorgeous Milky Way stretches through the scene. Its cosmic rifts of dust, stars, and nebulae are joined by Venus, a brilliant morning star immersed in a strong band of predawn Zodiacal light. Still not completely dark even at this high altitude, the night sky’s greenish cast is due to airglow emission from oxygen atoms. Around the horizon the dish antenna units of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA, explore the universe at wavelengths over 1,000 times longer than visible light.

Image credit & copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution)


Earth’s darkest night skies aren’t black at all

“In other words, there’s a limit to what any telescope, in principle, can see. But the spaces between those galaxies – at least to ultraviolet, visible and infrared eyes (the type of light produced by stars) – is truly black. But only, that is, if you view it from space. The spectacular image gracing the top of this article was taken by Yuri Beletsky at the European Southern Observatory, and showcases just how colorful the skies of Earth truly are. Some of what you see is intuitive, while other portions may be quite surprising, and they rely on some intricate physics. Yet that single image encapsulates a whole slew of reasons why the Earth’s night sky is never completely dark.”

Even on the darkest night skies from the most pristine locations on Earth, the night sky is never truly dark. Not even if you look away from the plane of the galaxy, on a moonless night, between the stars and away from any human-made or nature-made sources of illumination. Unlike the views that a telescope like Hubble can get from space, nothing on Earth is ever devoid of photons that have their origin in starlight. That’s because, unlike from space, even the highest-altitude, lowest-turbulence and most pristine locations on Earth still have to contend with our atmosphere. This atmosphere still reflects and refracts light – even if it’s starlight, not sunlight – and exhibits the effect of airglow due to air circulation and interactions with the Sun during the day. No matter where you are on Earth, there’s no escape from 100% of the light.

Via All Science All the Tine’s new page, Science That:

So, it’s 2014, and astronomy is looking really good this year! In fact, we’ve gone ahead and put together some of the most notable events right here for you, courtesy of Universe Today. Be sure to mark your calendars and keep your eyes on the sky! One of the most exciting events may be a possible meteor shower, courtesy of the remains of would-be comet of the century ISON. Want more? Find all 101 Astronomical events of 2014 here:

Credits for images used in graphic:

Top row, right to left: 
1) Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona
2) David Kingham/DavidKinghamPhotography
3) ESO/Y. Beletsky,

Bottom row, right to left: 
3) Podgorsek

Planet Earth’s horizon stretches across this recent Solar System group portrait, seen from the southern hemisphere’s Las Campanas Observatory. Taken before dawn it traces the ecliptic with a line-up familiar to November’s early morning risers. Toward the east are bright planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter as well as Regulus, alpha star of the constellation Leo. Of course the planets are immersed in the faint glow of zodiacal light, visible from the dark site rising at an angle from the horizon. Sometimes known as the false dawn, it’s no accident the zodiacal light and planets both lie along the ecliptic. Formed in the flattened protoplanetary disk, the Solar System’s planet’s all orbit near the ecliptic plane, while dust near the plane scatters sunlight, the source of the faint zodiacal glow.

Image Credit & Copyright: Yuri Beletsky (Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory, TWAN)

A Snapshot of the Jewel Box cluster with the ESO VLT

The FORS1 instrument on the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory was used to take this exquisitely sharp close up view of the colourful Jewel Box cluster, NGC 4755. The telescope’s huge mirror allowed very short exposure times: just 2.6 seconds through a blue filter (B), 1.3 seconds through a yellow/green filter (V) and 1.3 seconds through a red filter ®. The field of view spans about seven arcminutes.

Credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky

Tentacles of the Tarantula Nebula

The largest, most violent star forming region known in the whole Local Group of galaxies lies in our neighboring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Were the Tarantula Nebula at the distance of theOrion Nebula – a local star forming region – it would take up fully half the sky. Also called 30 Doradus, the red and pink gas indicates a massive emission nebula, although supernova remnants and dark nebula also exist there. The bright knot of stars left of center is called R136 and contains many of the most massive, hottest, and brightest stars known. The above image taken with the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) Wide Field Imager is one of the most detailed ever of this vast star forming region. A recent Hubble image of part of the nebula has uncovered a very massive star escaping from the region.

Image credit: ESO; Acknowledgments: J. Alves (Calar Alto), B. Vandame, and Y. Beletsky (ESO); Processing by B. Fosbury (ST-ECF)