Image Credit & Copyright: Stéphane Vetter (Nuits sacrées)
Explanation: Sometimes the sky above can become quite a show. In early September of 2010, for example, the Moon and Venus converged, creating quite a sight by itself for sky enthusiasts around the globe. From some locations, though, the sky was even more picturesque. In the above image taken last week from Spain, a crescent Moon and the planet Venus, on the far right, were captured during sunset posing against a deep blue sky. In the foreground, dark storm clouds loom across the image bottom, while a white anvil cloud shape appears above. Black specks dot the frame, caused by a flock of birds taking flight.
Explanation: What kind of cloud is next to that mountain? A lenticular. This type of cloud forms in air that passes over a mountain, rises up again, and cools past the dew point — so what molecular water carried in the air condenses into droplets. The layered nature of some lenticular clouds may make them appear, to some, as large alien spaceships. In this case, the mountain pictured is Mt. Hood located in Oregon, USA. Lenticular clouds can only form when conditions are right — for example this is first time this astrophotographer has seen a lenticular cloud at night near Mt. Hood.
Explanation: This beautiful, bright, spiral galaxy is Messier 64, often called the Black Eye Galaxy or the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy for its heavy-lidded appearance in telescopic views. M64 is about 17 million light-years distant in the otherwise well-groomed northern constellation Coma Berenices. In fact, the Red Eye Galaxy might also be an appropriate moniker in this colorful composition of narrow and wideband images. The enormous dust clouds obscuring the near-side of M64′s central region are laced with the telltale reddish glow of hydrogen associated with star forming regions. But they are not this galaxy’s only peculiar feature. Observations show that M64 is actually composed of two concentric, counter-rotating systems of stars, one in the inner 3,000 light-years and another extending to about 40,000 light-years and rotating in the opposite direction. The dusty eye and bizarre rotation is likely the result of a billion year old merger of two different galaxies.
Click to enlarge.
Explanation: What caused this outburst of V838 Mon? For reasons unknown, star V838 Mon‘s outer surface suddenly greatly expanded with the result that it became the brightest star in the entire Milky Way Galaxy in January 2002. Then, just as suddenly, it faded. A stellar flash like this had never been seen before — supernovas and novas expel matter out into space. Although the V838 Mon flash appears to expel material into space, what is seen in the above image from the Hubble Space Telescope is actually an outwardly moving light echo of the bright flash. In a light echo, light from the flash is reflected by successively more distant rings in the complex array of ambient interstellar dust that already surrounded the star.
Explanation: What in heaven’s blazes is that? Thousands of people living near the Ural Mountains in Russia saw last Friday morning one of the more spectacular meteors of modern times streak across the sky. Forceful sound waves arrived at the ground minutes later, knocking people over and breaking windows for hundreds of kilometers. The above video is a compilation of several car dashcams and includes real time footage of the meteor rampaging, smoke trails drifting, shadows quickly shifting, and even the meteor’s light reflecting off the back of a bus. The fireball is thought to have been caused by a car-sized chunk of ice and rock crashing into the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the event was captured from so many angles, the meteor’s trajectory has become determined well enough to indicate from where it came and to where any resultant pieces might have landed. It is already certain that this meteor had nothing to do with the several-times larger asteroid 2012 DA14 which passed the Earth from a different direction later the same day. If pieces of the meteor are found, they might tell humanity more about the early Solar System, when the meteor was likely formed.
Explanation: The spiral arms of bright galaxy M106 sprawl through this remarkable multiframe portrait, composed of data from ground- and space-based telescopes. Also known as NGC 4258, M106 can be found toward the northern constellation Canes Venatici. The well-measured distance to M106 is 23.5 million light-years, making this cosmic scene about 80,000 light-years across. Typical in grand spiral galaxies, dark dust lanes, youthful blue star clusters, and pinkish star forming regions trace spiral arms that converge on the bright nucleus of older yellowish stars. But this detailed composite reveals hints of two anomalous arms that don’t align with the more familiar tracers. Seen here in red hues, sweeping filaments of glowing hydrogen gas seem to rise from the central region of M106, evidence of energetic jets of material blasting into the galaxy’s disk. The jets are likely powered by matter falling into a massive central black hole.
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Kuwaiti Citizen Detained at Guantanamo since 2002
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