The Milky Way over Monument Valley
Image Credit & Copyright: Tom Masterson
Explanation: You don't have to be at Monument Valley to see the Milky Way arc across the sky like this -- but it helps. Only at Monument Valley USA would you see a picturesque foreground that includes these iconic rock peaks called buttes. Buttes are composed of hard rock left behind after water has eroded away the surrounding soft rock. In the featured image taken in 2012, the closest butte on the left and the butte to its right are known as the Mittens, while Merrick Butte can be seen farther to the right. Green airglow fans up from the horizon. High overhead stretches a band of diffuse light that is the central disk of our spiral Milky Way Galaxy. The band of the Milky Way can be spotted by almost anyone on almost any clear night when far enough from a city and surrounding bright lights, but a sensitive digital camera is needed to capture these colors in a dark night sky.
Apollo 11: Catching Some Sun
Image Credit: Apollo 11, NASA (Image scanned by Kipp Teague)
Explanation: Bright sunlight glints and long dark shadows mark this image of the lunar surface. It was taken July 20, 1969 by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first to walk on the Moon. Pictured is the mission's lunar module, the Eagle, and spacesuited lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin unfurling a long sheet of foil also known as the Solar Wind Composition Experiment. Exposed facing the Sun, the foil trapped particles streaming outward in the solar wind, catching a sample of material from the Sun itself. Along with moon rocks and lunar soil samples, the solar wind collector was returned for analysis in earthbound laboratories.
Thunder Moon over Pisa
Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Meniero
Explanation: What's wrong with this picture? If you figure it out, you may then realize where the image was taken. The oddity lies actually in one of the buildings -- it leans. The Leaning Tower of Pisa has been an iconic legend since shortly after its construction began in the year 1173. Now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, folklore holds that Galileo used the leaning tower to dramatically demonstrate the gravitational principle that objects of different mass fall the same. Between the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the right and Pisa Cathedral and the Pisa Baptistery on the left, a full "Thunder" moon was visible last week when the image was taken. Using modern analyses, the tower has been successfully stabilized and, barring the unexpected, should hold its present tilt for the next 200 years.
Image Credit & Copyright: Stephen Mudge
Explanation: On July 3rd, planet Earth reached aphelion, the farthest point in its elliptical orbit around the Sun. Each year, this day of the most distant Sun happens to occur during winter in the southern hemisphere. That's where this aphelion sunrise from 2015 was captured in a time series composite against the skyline of Brisbane, Australia. Of course, seasons for our fair planet are not determined by distance to the Sun, but by the tilt of Earth's rotational axis with respect to the ecliptic, the plane of its orbit. Fondly known as the obliquity of the ecliptic, the angle of the tilt is about 23.4 degrees from perpendicular to the orbital plane. So the most distant sunrise occurs during northern summer, when the planet's north pole is tilted toward the Sun and the north enjoys longer, warmer days.
The Summer Triangle over the Great Wall
Image Credit & Copyright: Steed Yu & NightChina.net
Explanation: Have you ever seen the Summer Triangle? The bright stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair form a large triangle on the sky that can be seen rising in the northern spring during the morning, and rising in the northern fall during the evening. During summer months, the triangle can be found nearly overhead near midnight as three of the brightest stars on the sky. Featured here, along with the arch of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, the Summer Triangle asterism was captured this spring over the Great Wall of China. This part of the Great Wall, a World Culture Heritage Site, was built during the 6th century on the Yan Mountains. At the summit is Wangjinglou Tower from which, on a clear night, the lights of Beijing are visible in the distance.
🛰🚀 Some says it's the moon, but NASA says Northern Summer on Titan 🚀🛰
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA
Explanation: While yesterday's solstice brought summer to planet Earth's northern hemisphere, a northern summer solstice arrived for ringed planet Saturn nearly a month ago on May 24. Following the Saturnian seasons, its large moon Titan was captured in this Cassini spacecraft image from June 9. The near-infrared view finds bright methane clouds drifting through Titan's northern summer skies as seen from a distance of about 507,000 kilometers. Below Titan's clouds, dark hydrocarbon lakes sprawl near the large moon's now illuminated north pole.
Firefall by Moonlight
Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors)
Explanation: On certain dates in February, an elusive firefall can be spotted at sunset in Yosemite National Park, when the weather cooperates and the direction to the setting Sun is just right. Often photographed from vantage points below, at the right moment the park's seasonal Horsetail Fall is isolated in the shadows of the steep walls of El Capitan. Then, still illuminated with rays of sunlight reflected by the angled rockface directly behind the flow, the waterfall briefly takes on a dramatic, fiery appearance. The Horsetail firefall is more rarely photographed at moonset under a starry night sky, though. Even more elusive by moonlight, the firefall effect can also be seen when skies are clear and a bright Moon sets at the right direction along the western horizon. Skies were clear and stars were shining for this well-planned photograph of the Horsetail firefall lit by a gibbous Moon setting in the early morning hours of May 9.