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Phenomenal photos from Astronomy Picture of the Day site

Here are some incredible pictures from Astronomy Picture of the Day website.  All sources and links provided.

Roll Cloud Over Wisconsin
Image Credit: 
Pierre cbWikipedia

Explanation: What kind of cloud is this? A type of arcus cloud called a roll cloud. These rare long clouds may form near advancing cold fronts. In particular, a downdraft from an advancing storm front can cause moist warm air to rise, cool below its dew point, and so form a cloud. When this happens uniformly along an extended front, a roll cloud may form. Roll clouds may actually have air circulating along the long horizontal axis of the cloud. A roll cloud is not thought to be able to morph into atornado. Unlike a similar shelf cloud, a roll cloud is completely detached from their parent cumulonimbus cloud. Pictured above, a roll cloud extends far into the distance as a storm approached in 2007 in Racine, Wisconsin, USA.

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A Pileus Iridescent Cloud Over Ethiopia 

Image Credit & Copyright: Esther Havens (Light the World)

Explanation: Yes, but how many dark clouds have a multicolored lining? Pictured, behind this darker cloud, is a pileus iridescent cloud, a group of water droplets that have a uniformly similar size and so together diffract different colors of sunlight by different amounts. The above image was taken just after the picturesque sight was noticed by chance by a photographer in Ethiopia. A more detailed picture of the same cloud shows not only many colors, but unusual dark and wavy bands whose origins are thought related to wave disturbances in the cloud.

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Aurora Over Greenland 

Image Credit: CopyrightJuan Carlos Casado (TWAN)

Explanation: This aurora arched from horizon to horizon. During the current Shelios expedition to observe and learn about the northern lights, the sky last weekend did not disappoint. After sunset and some careful photographic planning, the above image was taken from the expedition’s Qaleraliq campsite in southern Greenland. Visible straight through the center of the aurora, found with a careful eye, is the Big Dipper and the surrounding constellation of the Big Bear (Ursa Major). The brightest orb on the far right is the Moon, while Jupiter can be seen even further to the right. The Shelios expedition is scheduled to last until the end of August and include live broadcasts of ongoing auroras.

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The Fairy of Eagle Nebula 

Image Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESANASA

Explanation: The dust sculptures of the Eagle Nebula are evaporating. As powerful starlight whittles away these cool cosmic mountains, the statuesque pillars that remain might be imagined as mythical beasts. Pictured above is one of several striking dust pillars of the Eagle Nebula that might be described as a gigantic alien fairy. This fairy, however, is ten light years tall and spews radiation much hotter than common fire. The greater Eagle Nebula, M16, is actually a giant evaporating shell of gas anddust inside of which is a growing cavity filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an open cluster of stars. The above image in scientifically re-assigned colors was released in 2005 as part of the fifteenth anniversary celebration of thelaunch of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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A Sun Pillar Over Ontario 

Image Credit & Copyright: Rick Stankiewicz (Peterborough Astronomical Association)

Explanation: What is that on the horizon? No, it’s not an alien starship battling distant Earthlings, but rather a sun pillar. When driving across Ontario, Canada in early June, the photographer was surprised to encounter such an “eerie and beautiful” vista, and immediately took pictures. When the atmosphere is cold, ice sometimes forms flat six-sided crystals as it falls from high-level clouds. Air resistance then causes these crystals to lie nearly flat much of the time as they flutter to the ground. If viewed toward a rising or setting Sun, these flat crystals will reflect sunlight and create an unusual column of light — a sun pillar as seen above. Such columns of light are not uncommon to see, and a retrospective of past APODs that have featured picturesque sun pillars can be found here.

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