The North Celestial Tower : If you climbed to the top of this 13th century stone tower, it looks like you could reach out and touch the North Celestial Pole, the point at the center of all the star trail arcs. The well-composed image with scattered meteor streaks was recorded over a period of five and half hours as a series of 45 second long exposures spanning the dark of the night on July 7/8. The exposures were made with a digital camera fixed to a tripod near Marathon, Greece, planet Earth. Of course, the graceful star trails reflect the Earth’s daily rotation around its axis. By extension, the axis of rotation leads to the center of the concentric arcs in the night sky. Convenient for northern hemisphere night sky photographers and celestial navigators alike, the bright star Polaris is very close to the North Celestial Pole and so makes the short bright trail in the tower’s central gap. via NASA

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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Our solar system is huge, let us break it down for you. Here are a few things you should know this week: 

1. Closeup of a King

For the first time since it entered orbit around Jupiter in July, our Juno spacecraft has flown close to the king of planets—this time with its eyes wide open. During the long, initial orbit, Juno mission managers spent time checking out the spacecraft “from stem to stern,” but the science instruments were turned off as a precaution. During this latest pass, Juno’s camera and other instruments were collecting data the whole time. Initial reports show that all went well, and the team has released a new close-up view that Juno captured of Jupiter’s north polar region. We can expect to see more close-up pictures of Jupiter and other data this week.

+Check in with Juno

2. Getting Ready to Rocket

Our OSIRIS-REx mission leaves Earth next week, the first leg of a journey that will take it out to an asteroid called Bennu. The mission will map the asteroid, study its properties in detail, then collect a physical sample to send back home to Earth. The ambitious endeavor is slated to start off on Sept. 8.

+See what it takes to prep for a deep space launch

3. New Moon Rising

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has already mapped the entire surface of Earth’s moon in brilliant detail, but the mission isn’t over yet. Lunar explorers still have questions, and LRO is poised to help answer them.

+See what’s next for the mission

4. A Mock-Eclipse Now

We don’t have to wait until next year to see the moon cross in front of the sun. From its vantage point in deep space, our Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) sometimes sees just that. Such an event is expected on Sept. 1.

+See the latest sun pictures from SDO

5. Jupiter’s Cousins

Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around. Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE

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Newborn stars are forming in the Eagle Nebula. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, shows evaporating gaseous globules (EGGs) emerging from pillars of molecular hydrogen gas and dust. The giant pillars are light years in length and are so dense that interior gas contracts gravitationally to form stars. At each pillars’ end, the intense radiation of bright young stars causes low density material to boil away, leaving stellar nurseries of dense EGGs exposed. The Eagle Nebula, associated with the open star cluster M16, lies about 7000 light years away. The pillars of creation were imaged again in 2007 by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared light, leading to the conjecture that the pillars may already have been destroyed by a local supernova, but light from that event has yet to reach the Earth.

Object Names: Pillars Of Star Creation

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: J.Hester, P. Scowen (ASU), HST, NASA

Time And Space