(via APOD: 2012 December 12)
Milky Way Over Quiver Tree Forest
Image Credit & Copyright: Florian Breuer
Are you ready for some botany with your astronomy?
Those are quiver trees in the foreground. Occuring primarily in southern Africa, these ones are in the Quiver Tree Forest in southern Namibia. But, they’re not trees.
Huh?
Nope. They’re actually succulent aloe plants that grow really, really big. The fact that they’re succulents is actually where their name comes from. Cut off a branch and hollow it, and you’ve got a nice quiver for, say, your darts. (It’s a little easier to carve out the middle of a succulent than a wooden tree branch.)
In any case, the town of Keetmanshoop, Namibia provides the bright glow in the background, beneath the arch of the Milky Way band. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds sit on the left of the image.

(via APOD: 2012 December 12)

Milky Way Over Quiver Tree Forest

Image Credit & Copyright: Florian Breuer

Are you ready for some botany with your astronomy?

Those are quiver trees in the foreground. Occuring primarily in southern Africa, these ones are in the Quiver Tree Forest in southern Namibia. But, they’re not trees.

Huh?

Nope. They’re actually succulent aloe plants that grow really, really big. The fact that they’re succulents is actually where their name comes from. Cut off a branch and hollow it, and you’ve got a nice quiver for, say, your darts. (It’s a little easier to carve out the middle of a succulent than a wooden tree branch.)

In any case, the town of Keetmanshoop, Namibia provides the bright glow in the background, beneath the arch of the Milky Way band. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds sit on the left of the image.

(via APOD: 2012 October 12 - Pan STARRS and Nebulae)
Click through. Just do it. I’m going to leave the explanation to the APOD editors:
Pan-STARRS and Nebulae Image Credit: PS1 Science Consortium - Processing: Nigel Metcalfe, Gene Magnier and Peter Draper

Explanation: A single image from the world’s most powerful survey instrument captured this spectacular skyview. Looking toward Sagittarius, the scene spans nearly 3 degrees or six times the width of the Full Moon. At bottom, upper right, and lower left it covers the Lagoon Nebula (M8), the Trifid Nebula (M20), and NGC 6559, in the crowded, dusty starfields of the central Milky Way. The adopted color scheme shows dust reddened starlight in red hues and normally red emission from hydrogen atoms in green. Built and operated by the Pan-STARRS project, the instrument features a 1.4 gigapixel (billion pixel) digital camera and telescope. Pan-STARRS, the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, is intended to scan the skies for potentially dangerous near-earth asteroids and comets, exploring the Universe with a unique high resolution, wide field view

(via APOD: 2012 October 12 - Pan STARRS and Nebulae)

Click through. Just do it. I’m going to leave the explanation to the APOD editors:

Pan-STARRS and Nebulae 
Image Credit: PS1 Science Consortium - Processing: Nigel Metcalfe, Gene Magnier and Peter Draper

Explanation: A single image from the world’s most powerful survey instrument captured this spectacular skyview. Looking toward Sagittarius, the scene spans nearly 3 degrees or six times the width of the Full Moon. At bottom, upper right, and lower left it covers the Lagoon Nebula (M8), the Trifid Nebula (M20), and NGC 6559, in the crowded, dusty starfields of the central Milky Way. The adopted color scheme shows dust reddened starlight in red hues and normally red emission from hydrogen atoms in green. Built and operated by the Pan-STARRS project, the instrument features a 1.4 gigapixel (billion pixel) digital camera and telescope. Pan-STARRS, the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, is intended to scan the skies for potentially dangerous near-earth asteroids and comets, exploring the Universe with a unique high resolution, wide field view

(via ESO - eso1141 - VISTA Finds New Globular Star Clusters)
The VISTA telescope is an optimized infrared telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Being IR-optimized means that it can take wide-field images through the dust and gas that normally blocks our view of the other side of the galaxy.
What it has found in a recent survey (the Via Lactea/VVV survey) is some star clusters, two globular and one open, that we could never have seen before.
The main picture is of VVV CL001, the faint globular cluster on the left half of the frame, just above and to the right of the foreground star (with diffraction spikes). The larger, brighter globular cluster on the right has been known for some time. It is UKS 1, and the two clusters may actually be gravitationally bound to each other. While it looks quite bright in this shot, it was known previously as the dimmest globular cluster, because all the dust obscured and reddened the light. However, in IR it shines very brightly.
Not sure what I mean? Here, ESO gives you a comparison of visible light (top, from the Digitized Sky Survey II) and infrared (bottom, from VISTA):

See how much “pops out” with the infrared “bypassing” the obscuring dust?
Amazing enough already, right? Well, it turns out that there are a couple more in the VISTA survey:
VVV CL002 is the closest globular cluster to the center of the galaxy:

And finally, there’s VVV CL003, an open cluster about 15,000 light-years beyond the galactic center:

Click through to the story on the ESO’s website to get the images and even some great video (zooming in on the cluster and a transition of the view from visible to infrared).

(via ESO - eso1141 - VISTA Finds New Globular Star Clusters)

The VISTA telescope is an optimized infrared telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Being IR-optimized means that it can take wide-field images through the dust and gas that normally blocks our view of the other side of the galaxy.

What it has found in a recent survey (the Via Lactea/VVV survey) is some star clusters, two globular and one open, that we could never have seen before.

The main picture is of VVV CL001, the faint globular cluster on the left half of the frame, just above and to the right of the foreground star (with diffraction spikes). The larger, brighter globular cluster on the right has been known for some time. It is UKS 1, and the two clusters may actually be gravitationally bound to each other. While it looks quite bright in this shot, it was known previously as the dimmest globular cluster, because all the dust obscured and reddened the light. However, in IR it shines very brightly.

Not sure what I mean? Here, ESO gives you a comparison of visible light (top, from the Digitized Sky Survey II) and infrared (bottom, from VISTA):

See how much “pops out” with the infrared “bypassing” the obscuring dust?

Amazing enough already, right? Well, it turns out that there are a couple more in the VISTA survey:

VVV CL002 is the closest globular cluster to the center of the galaxy:

And finally, there’s VVV CL003, an open cluster about 15,000 light-years beyond the galactic center:

Click through to the story on the ESO’s website to get the images and even some great video (zooming in on the cluster and a transition of the view from visible to infrared).

(via APOD: 2012 August 14 - Perseid Meteors and the Milky Way)
Image Credit & Copyright: Jens Hackmann
A digital composite of the skies over Weikersheim, Germany shows some of the Perseid meteors streaking across the sky with the Milky Way band as background.
I only managed to see about ten an hour when I was watching, but that was from my driveway in the Chicago ‘burbs. A bit of light pollution from the city, even if I managed to keep my viewing place fairly dark.
Upcoming meteor showers for the year from EarthSky.org:
October 7, 2012 DraconidsThe radiant point for the Draconid meteor shower almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky. That’s why the Draconids are best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere. The Draconid shower is a real oddity, in that the radiant point stands highest in the sky as darkness falls. Unlike many meteor showers, the Draconids are more likely to fly in the evening hours than in the morning hours after midnight. This shower is usually a sleeper, producing only a handful of languid meteors per hour in most years. But watch out if the Dragon awakes! In rare instances, fiery Draco has been known to spew forth many hundreds of meteors in a single hour. With no moon to interfere during the evening hours, try watching at nightfall and early evening on October 7 and 8.
October 21, 2012, before dawn. OrionidsWith the waxing crescent moon setting before midnight (on October 20), that means a dark sky between midnight and dawn, or during the best viewing hours for the Orionid meteors. On a dark, moonless night, the Orionids exhibit a maximum of about 15 meteors per hour. These fast-moving meteors occasionally leave persistent trains and bright fireballs. If you trace these meteors backward, they seem to come from the Club of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter. You might know Orion’s bright, ruddy star Betelgeuse. The radiant is north of Betelgeuse. The Orionids have a broad and irregular peak that isn’t easy to predict. More meteors tend to fly after midnight, and the Orionids are typically at their best in the wee hours before dawn. The best viewing for the Orionids in 2012 will probably be before dawn on October 21..

(via APOD: 2012 August 14 - Perseid Meteors and the Milky Way)

Image Credit & Copyright: Jens Hackmann

A digital composite of the skies over Weikersheim, Germany shows some of the Perseid meteors streaking across the sky with the Milky Way band as background.

I only managed to see about ten an hour when I was watching, but that was from my driveway in the Chicago ‘burbs. A bit of light pollution from the city, even if I managed to keep my viewing place fairly dark.

Upcoming meteor showers for the year from EarthSky.org:

October 7, 2012 Draconids
The radiant point for the Draconid meteor shower almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky. That’s why the Draconids are best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere. The Draconid shower is a real oddity, in that the radiant point stands highest in the sky as darkness falls. Unlike many meteor showers, the Draconids are more likely to fly in the evening hours than in the morning hours after midnight. This shower is usually a sleeper, producing only a handful of languid meteors per hour in most years. But watch out if the Dragon awakes! In rare instances, fiery Draco has been known to spew forth many hundreds of meteors in a single hour. With no moon to interfere during the evening hours, try watching at nightfall and early evening on October 7 and 8.

October 21, 2012, before dawn. Orionids
With the waxing crescent moon setting before midnight (on October 20), that means a dark sky between midnight and dawn, or during the best viewing hours for the Orionid meteors. On a dark, moonless night, the Orionids exhibit a maximum of about 15 meteors per hour. These fast-moving meteors occasionally leave persistent trains and bright fireballs. If you trace these meteors backward, they seem to come from the Club of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter. You might know Orion’s bright, ruddy star Betelgeuse. The radiant is north of Betelgeuse. The Orionids have a broad and irregular peak that isn’t easy to predict. More meteors tend to fly after midnight, and the Orionids are typically at their best in the wee hours before dawn. The best viewing for the Orionids in 2012 will probably be before dawn on October 21..

(via APOD: 2012 August 1 - The Milky Way Over Monument Valley)
Image Credit & Copyright: Wally Pacholka (AstroPics.com, TWAN)
Far enough away from light pollution, and anyone can see the Milky Way band, the light from the dense collection of stars in the line of sight of the central disk of the galaxy.
Of course, if you’re out in Monument Valley, you also get this picturesque view of the band arcing over the buttes. The two at left and middle are known as The Mittens. (Which should bring joy and a series of “dumb as a rock” jokes to the Mitt Romeny == Mittens crowd, and you can just say he’s the butte of your jokes. *rimshot*)

(via APOD: 2012 August 1 - The Milky Way Over Monument Valley)

Image Credit & CopyrightWally Pacholka (AstroPics.com, TWAN)

Far enough away from light pollution, and anyone can see the Milky Way band, the light from the dense collection of stars in the line of sight of the central disk of the galaxy.

Of course, if you’re out in Monument Valley, you also get this picturesque view of the band arcing over the buttes. The two at left and middle are known as The Mittens. (Which should bring joy and a series of “dumb as a rock” jokes to the Mitt Romeny == Mittens crowd, and you can just say he’s the butte of your jokes. *rimshot*)

(via APOD: 2012 June 1 - A Sagittarius Triplet)
At the top is NGC 6559, separated from the Lagoon Nebula by a dust lane, with M8 dominating the frame (that’s the Lagoon’s Messier designation), and the multi-colored Trifid Nebula, M20, off to the right.
All three of these are star-forming regions in Sagittarius, the centaur archer shooting his arrow at Antares, the heart of Scorpio. It happens that Sagittarius sits over the central Milky Way, so there is a lot of dust and gas.
As a final bonus, M21, an open star cluster, is sitting just above the Trifid. (The Trifid, in case you are wondering, is named as such because it shows off all three types of nebulae: emission (red), reflection (blue), dark (lack of light, obscured by dust).)
Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh

(via APOD: 2012 June 1 - A Sagittarius Triplet)

At the top is NGC 6559, separated from the Lagoon Nebula by a dust lane, with M8 dominating the frame (that’s the Lagoon’s Messier designation), and the multi-colored Trifid Nebula, M20, off to the right.

All three of these are star-forming regions in Sagittarius, the centaur archer shooting his arrow at Antares, the heart of Scorpio. It happens that Sagittarius sits over the central Milky Way, so there is a lot of dust and gas.

As a final bonus, M21, an open star cluster, is sitting just above the Trifid. (The Trifid, in case you are wondering, is named as such because it shows off all three types of nebulae: emission (red), reflection (blue), dark (lack of light, obscured by dust).)

Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh

(via Parallel worlds | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)
Image credit: Tommy Eliassen.
Oh Phil, “skewting star”? Really?
In any case, just marvel at the parallel lines of the Milky Way band and the aurora borealis. Phil’s pun refers to the meteor streaking through the middle of the shot, which is, in fact, probably the closest non-cloud sky-feature in this shot, given how high up the green aurorae are.

(via Parallel worlds | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine)

Image credit: Tommy Eliassen.

Oh Phil, “skewting star”? Really?

In any case, just marvel at the parallel lines of the Milky Way band and the aurora borealis. Phil’s pun refers to the meteor streaking through the middle of the shot, which is, in fact, probably the closest non-cloud sky-feature in this shot, given how high up the green aurorae are.

(via APOD: 2012 May 8 - The Light of Stars)

Video Credit & Copyright: Daniel López (El Cielo de Canarias); Music: La Busqueda de Ianna (Epic Soul Factory)

I don’t think I can do this video any more justice than the APOD editors:

Explanation: What’s moving? Time lapse videos of the sky can be quite spectacular when they last long enough for stars, planets, aurora, and clouds to appear to move in just a few seconds. Pictured above, however, astrovideographer Daniel López not only treats us to several inspiring time lapse videos of the night sky, but shows us how he used sliders and motorized cranes to move the imaging cameras themselves, creating a thrilling three-dimensional sense of depth. The video sequences were taken from Tenerife on the Canary Islandsof Spain over the past two months, and show scenes including sunset shadows approaching Observatorio de Tiede, the Milky Way shifting as the sky rotates, bright planets Venus and trailing Jupiter setting, a reddened Moon rising through differing layers of atmospheric refraction, the MAGIC gamma-ray telescopes slewing to observe a new source, and unusual foreground objects including conic Echium wildpretii plants, unusual rock formations, and a spider moving about its web. The video concludes by showing the Belt of Venusdescending on Mt. Teide as the morning sun rises.

Just amazing!

(via APOD: 2012 April 5 - Zodiacal Light Panorama)
Jaw. Dropped. On the floor.
This is the zodiacal glow. It’s an effect of sunlight reflection off dust in the atmosphere. The plane of the Milky Way is the angular band just above either horizon.
Taken on Mauna Kea with east to the left and west to the right. The lights of Hilo are visible in the east, and the Subaru and Keck telescopes are in the west.
Saturn sits at the 180-degree mark in the “gegenschein” a brightening in the zodiacal band. Interestingly, the gegenschein is 180-degrees angularly along the ecliptic away from the Sun.
Image Credit & Copyright: Miloslav Druckmüller (UM FSI, Brno Univ. of Technology), Shadia Habbal (IfA, Univ. of Hawaii)

(via APOD: 2012 April 5 - Zodiacal Light Panorama)

Jaw. Dropped. On the floor.

This is the zodiacal glow. It’s an effect of sunlight reflection off dust in the atmosphere. The plane of the Milky Way is the angular band just above either horizon.

Taken on Mauna Kea with east to the left and west to the right. The lights of Hilo are visible in the east, and the Subaru and Keck telescopes are in the west.

Saturn sits at the 180-degree mark in the “gegenschein” a brightening in the zodiacal band. Interestingly, the gegenschein is 180-degrees angularly along the ecliptic away from the Sun.

Image Credit & CopyrightMiloslav Druckmüller (UM FSI, Brno Univ. of Technology), Shadia Habbal (IfA, Univ. of Hawaii)

(via APOD: 2012 March 29 - Rocket Trails in the Milky Way)
NASA ATREX experiment, designed to help better understand the high-altitude jet stream, 60-65 miles up, in the ionosphere, where meteors tend to burn up, and if they managed to leave a good trail, it sometimes sticks, and gets whipped about by the winds that the NASA experiment was designed to study.
This lovely shot includes the chemical trails that the NASA rockets left (5 were launched consecutively from Wallops Flight Facility in VA), some constellations (including Sagittarius and Scorpio), and the white band of the Milky Way.
Image Credit & Copyright: Jerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light)

(via APOD: 2012 March 29 - Rocket Trails in the Milky Way)

NASA ATREX experiment, designed to help better understand the high-altitude jet stream, 60-65 miles up, in the ionosphere, where meteors tend to burn up, and if they managed to leave a good trail, it sometimes sticks, and gets whipped about by the winds that the NASA experiment was designed to study.

This lovely shot includes the chemical trails that the NASA rockets left (5 were launched consecutively from Wallops Flight Facility in VA), some constellations (including Sagittarius and Scorpio), and the white band of the Milky Way.

Image Credit & CopyrightJerry Lodriguss (Catching the Light)