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Gazing up at night sky can often take your breath away. But capturing that ethereal view can be difficult. Luckily, there are many talented astroimagers across the globe that use their cameras to turn the heavens into art. This year, 1,122 entries were submitted to the “Capture the Dark” contest, which was broken into several categories and sponsored by the International Dark-Sky Association and Lowell Observatory. Photographers from 68 different countries scattered across the globe participated in the competition, but only a select few were chosen as winners for each category. Below are the winning and runner-up shots, along with the honorable mentions, from this year’s contest. For more information about how to enter next year’s "Capture the Dark" contest, visit darksky.org   Connecting to the Dark: 1st Place - “In the Search of the Core” by Egon Filter   In their own words: "The night is really a beautiful moment to enjoy all...

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The Sky This Week: View the Blue Sturgeon Moon

Monday, August 23rd 2021 09:40 AM

  Saturn and its satellite Titan: Saturn and its largest moon, Titan, float against the dark sky in this image taken through an 11-inch scope. This week, Titan will appear directly south of the planet. Friday, August 20 The Moon passes 4° south of Saturn at 6 P.M. EDT. By sunset, the pair is 4.5° apart and rising in the southeast. An hour later, the pair has separated by another 0.2° and is easy to pick out in central Capricornus. Just two weeks past opposition, Saturn is magnitude 0.2 and remains visible all night long. To really make the most of the view, use a telescope to get a closer look at the planet’s stunning ring system. Although they stretch far to either side of the planet, the rings are extremely thin, some 100 yards (91 meters) thick! We have a great view for now, while they’re tilted 18° to our line of sight. When our perspective gives us a view of the rings edge-on, called a ring plane crossing, they virtually disappear. The next rin...

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Image of the Day

Friday, August 20th 2021 09:38 AM

  The International Space Station was orbiting 263 miles above the southeast coast of Brazil on the Atlantic Ocean into an orbital sunrise when this photograph was taken. The orbital platform has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and hosts a variety of research and experiments that benefit the whole of humanity.   Image Credit: NASA

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When NASA's James Webb Space Telescope begins science operations in 2022, one of its first tasks will be an ambitious program to map the earliest structures in the universe. Called COSMOS-Webb, this wide and deep survey of half-a-million galaxies is the largest project Webb will undertake during its first year.   The COSMOS-Webb survey will map 0.6 square degrees of the sky—about the area of three full Moons—using the James Webb Space Telescope’s Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument, while simultaneously mapping a smaller 0.2 square degrees with the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The jagged edges of the Hubble field’s outline are due to the separate images that make up the survey field. With more than 200 hours of observing time, COSMOS-Webb will survey a large patch of the sky—0.6 square degrees—with the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam). That's the size of three full moons. It will simultaneously map a smaller area with the Mid-Infrared In...

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The Sky This Week: Jupiter reaches opposition

Wednesday, August 18th 2021 09:30 AM

Catch a conjunction of Mars and Mercury and see Jupiter at its best from August 13 to 20.   King of the planets: The solar system’s largest planet, mighty Jupiter, reaches opposition this week. It’s the best time to turn your gaze toward the planet and its moons.   Friday, August 13 Although the Perseids peaked yesterday, today is still a great time to catch some of the shower’s plentiful shooting stars. In fact, the Perseids are often considered one of the year’s best meteor showers and, depending on the time and location you step outside to take in the sky, you can expect to see somewhere between about 20 and 90 meteors per hour. If you do plan to catch the show tonight, wait until the Moon has set (or nearly set) to reduce background light. Choose a comfortable, dark viewing location and look northeast, where the constellation Perseus is rising. The constellation’s brightest star is magnitude 1.8 Mirfak, and the Perseids’ radiant s...

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Image of the Day

Tuesday, August 17th 2021 02:47 PM

  In this image, a NASA Black Brant XII suborbital sounding rocket was launched at 8:44 p.m. EDT, Sunday, May 16, 2021, from the Wallops Flight Facility. The four stage rocket carried the KiNETic-scale energy and momentum transport eXperiment, or KiNet-X, designed to study a very fundamental problem in space plasmas, namely, how are energy and momentum transported between different regions of space that are magnetically connected. These student-designed projects are a mix of technology and science experiments, including the development of a 360-degree camera for use on sounding rockets; space debris removal concepts; a solar array deployment system for CubeSats; and collection of particles in space for research on the origins of life.   Image Credit: NASA Wallops/Terry Zaperach  

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Image of the Day

Monday, August 16th 2021 09:27 AM

  Nestled among the vast clouds of star-forming regions like this one lie potential clues about the formation of our own solar system. This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features AFGL 5180, a beautiful stellar nursery located in the constellation of Gemini (the Twins). At the center of the image, a massive star is forming and blasting cavities through the clouds with a pair of powerful jets, extending to the top right and bottom left of the image. Light from this star is mostly escaping and reaching us by illuminating these cavities, like a lighthouse beacon piercing the storm clouds. Stars are born in dusty environments and although this dust makes for spectacular images, it can prevent astronomers from seeing stars embedded in it. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) instrument is designed to capture detailed images in both visible and infrared light, meaning that the young stars hidden in vast star-forming regions like AFGL 5180 can be seen much more c...

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Image of the Day

Friday, August 13th 2021 09:08 AM

  This image, taken from aboard the International Space Station, shows the aurora australis as it streams across the Earth's atmosphere as the station orbited 271 miles above the southern Indian Ocean in between Asia and Antarctica. Named for the Roman goddess of dawn, the aurora is a captivating display of light in the night sky. The aurora borealis and aurora australis — also called the northern lights and southern lights — occur at the northern and southern poles.   Image Credit: NASA

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Image of the Day

Wednesday, August 11th 2021 09:29 AM

In this 30-second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, as seen from Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Learn more about the annual Perseid meteor shower. Find out how you can see them in skies across North America!   Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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The Sky This Week: The Perseids peak

Tuesday, August 10th 2021 09:29 AM

Friday, August 6   Perseid meteors and stars: The photographer shot this unique image by combining several photos, leaving the stars in without affecting the look of the meteors. Tonight, let’s try for an easy binocular object: the globular cluster M56, located in the constellation Lyra. This dense knot of stars sits about halfway from Sulafat (Gamma [γ] Lyrae) to Albireo, which denotes the head of Cygnus the Swan and lies to Gamma’s southeast. Both constellations will be high in the east by the time darkness falls, well out of the turbulent layer of atmosphere closest to the ground. Through binoculars, M56 should be easy to spot with a magnitude of 8.3 and a span of 8.8'. M56’s core isn’t particularly bright and some may see it as a more uniform ball of fluff, but sharper-eyed or experienced observers may notice its denser core, which dissolves into a haze of stars at its edges. While you’re in the area, go ahead and scan all the way to Al...

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