Starburst Galaxy M94 from Hubble

Why does this galaxy have a ring of bright blue stars? Beautiful island universe Messier 94 lies a mere 15 million light-years distant in the northern constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici). A popular target for Earth-based astronomers, the face-on spiral galaxy is about 30,000 light-years across, with spiral arms sweeping through the outskirts of its broad disk. But this Hubble Space Telescope field of view spans about 7,000 light-years across M94’s central region. The featured close-up highlights the galaxy’s compact, bright nucleus, prominent inner dust lanes, and the remarkable bluish ring of young massive stars. The ring stars are all likely less than 10 million years old, indicating that M94 is a starburst galaxy that is experiencing an epoch of rapid star formation from inspiraling gas. The circular ripple of blue stars is likely a wave propagating outward, having been triggered by the gravity and rotation of a oval matter distributions. Because M94 is relatively nearby, astronomers can better explore details of its starburst ring. via NASA

The Eagle Rises

Get out your red/blue glasses and check out this stereo view from lunar orbit. The 3D anaglyph was created from two photographs (AS11-44-6633, AS11-44-6634) taken by astronaut Michael Collins during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. It features the lunar module ascent stage, dubbed The Eagle, rising to meet the command module in lunar orbit on July 21. Aboard the ascent stage are Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first to walk on the Moon. The smooth, dark area on the lunar surface is Mare Smythii located just below the equator on the extreme eastern edge of the Moon’s near side. Poised beyond the lunar horizon is our fair planet Earth. via NASA

SOFIA s Southern Lights

SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a large reflecting telescope into the stratosphere. The ability of the airborne facility to climb above about 99 percent of Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere has allowed researchers to observe from almost anywhere over the planet. On a science mission flying deep into the southern auroral oval, astronomer Ian Griffin, director of New Zealand’s Otago Museum, captured this view from the observatory’s south facing starboard side on July 17. Bright star Canopus shines in the southern night above curtains of aurora australis, or southern lights. The plane was flying far south of New Zealand at the time at roughly 62 degrees southern latitude. Unfortunately, after a landing at Christchurch severe weather damaged SOFIA requiring repairs and the cancellation of the remainder of its final southern hemisphere deployment. via NASA