Composite Messier 20 and 21

The beautiful Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, lies about 5,000 light-years away, a colorful study in cosmic contrasts. It shares this nearly 1 degree wide field with open star cluster Messier 21 (top left). Trisected by dust lanes the Trifid itself is about 40 light-years across and a mere 300,000 years old. That makes it one of the youngest star forming regions in our sky, with newborn and embryonic stars embedded in its natal dust and gas clouds. Estimates of the distance to open star cluster M21 are similar to M20’s, but though they share this gorgeous telescopic skyscape there is no apparent connection between the two. M21’s stars are much older, about 8 million years old. M20 and M21 are easy to find with even a small telescope in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. In fact, this well-composed scene is a composite from two different telescopes. Using narrowband data it blends a high resolution image of M20 with a wider field image extending to M21. via NASA

As the Sun Rises, NASA’s Global Hawk is Being Prepared for Flight

Hot summer days in Southern California’s Antelope Valley force many aircraft operations to start early in the morning before the sun rises. On a back ramp at Armstrong Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, a NASA Global Hawk goes through testing of its communication components and satellite connection links in preparation for flight. via NASA

The M81 Galaxy Group through the Integrated Flux Nebula

Distant galaxies and nearby nebulas highlight this deep image of the M81 Group of galaxies. First and foremost in this 80-exposure mosaic is the grand design spiral galaxy M81, the largest galaxy in the image, visible on the lower right. M81 is gravitationally interacting with M82 just above it, a large galaxy with an unusual halo of filamentary red-glowing gas. Around the image many other galaxies from the M81 Group of galaxies can be seen, as well as many foreground Milky Way stars. This whole galaxy menagerie is seen through the glow of an Integrated Flux Nebula (IFN), a vast and complex screen of diffuse gas and dust also in our Milky Way Galaxy. Details of the red and yellow IFN, digitally enhanced, were imaged by a new wide-field camera recently installed at the Teide Observatory in the Canary Islands of Spain. via NASA

Artistic Impression: The Surface of TRAPPIST 1f

If you could stand on the surface of the newly discovered Earth-sized exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f, what would you see? Presently, no Earthling knows for sure, but the featured illustration depicts a reasoned guess based on observational data taken by NASA’s Sun-orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope. In 2017, four more Earth-sized planets were found by Spitzer, including TRAPPIST-1f, in addition to three discovered in 2015 from the ground. From the planet’s surface, near the mild terminator between night and day, you might see water, ice, and rock on the ground, while water-based clouds might hover above. Past the clouds, the small central star TRAPPIST-1 would appear more red than our Sun, but angularly larger due to the close orbit. With seven known Earth-sized planets — many of which pass near each other — the TRAPPIST-1 system is not only a candidate to have life, but intercommunicating life — although a preliminary search has found no obvious transmissions. via NASA

The N44 Superbubble

What created this gigantic hole? The vast emission nebula N44 in our neighboring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud has a large, 250 light-year hole and astronomers are trying to figure out why. One possibility is particle winds expelled by massive stars in the bubble’s interior that are pushing out the glowing gas. This answer was found to be inconsistent with measured wind velocities, however. Another possibility is that the expanding shells of old supernovas have sculpted the unusual space cavern. An unexpected clue of hot X-ray emitting gas was recently been detected escaping the N44 superbubble. The featured image was taken in three very specific colors by the huge 8-meter Gemini South Telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile. via NASA

Markarian s Chain to Messier 64

Top to bottom, this colorful and broad telescopic mosaic links Markarian’s Chain of galaxies across the core of the Virgo Cluster to dusty spiral galaxy Messier 64. Galaxies are scattered through the field of view that spans some 20 full moons across a gorgeous night sky. The cosmic frame is also filled with foreground stars from constellations Virgo and the well-groomed Coma Berenices, and faint, dusty nebulae drifting above the plane of the Milky Way. Look carefully for Markarian’s eyes. The famous pair of interacting galaxies is near the top, not far from M87, the Virgo cluster’s giant elliptical galaxy. At the bottom, you can stare down Messier 64, also known as the Black Eye Galaxy. The Virgo Cluster is the closest large galaxy cluster to our own local galaxy group. Virgo Cluster galaxies are about 50 million light-years distant, but M64 lies a mere 17 million light-years away. via NASA