Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2015 March 5
Enhanced Color Caloris
Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins Univ. APL, Arizona State U., CIW
Explanation: The sprawling Caloris basin on Mercury is one of the solar system’s largest impact basins, created during the early history of the solar system by the impact of a large asteroid-sized body. The multi-featured, fractured basin spans about 1,500 kilometers in this enhanced color mosaic based on image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. Mercury’s youngest large impact basin, Caloris was subsequently filled in by lavas that appear orange in the mosaic. Craters made after the flooding have excavated material from beneath the surface lavas. Seen as contrasting blue hues, they likely offer a glimpse of the original basin floor material. Analysis of these craters suggests the thickness of the covering volcanic lava to be 2.5-3.5 kilometers. Orange splotches around the basin’s perimeter are thought to be volcanic vents.
Mars has been playing its frequent outlaw-oriented cosmic role now since New Year’s Day when the red planet opposed King of the Gods benefactor-in-chief Jupiter. Last Friday and Saturday, Mars exchanged stellar darts with Uranus and Pluto by stepping on their current zodiacal midpoint in the heavens — thereby angering both Titans of the outer-reaches of our solar system. Yesterday Mars picked a 90-degree fight with its fellow malefic planet — Saturn — as stipulated by medieval and ancient astrologers who didn’t know of the existence of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (all of whom have the capacity to stir up gigantic earthly troubles). Meanwhile, Mars is now trying to make us believe he is a friendly fellow by stepping off the accelerator pedal in his rivalry with Saturn, but the truth is that Mars is only going to gather its reserve strength to converge with idealistic, visionary, and dream-enchanting Neptune on Monday January 19. You may want to see today as a waiting game under a Scorpio Moon compromised by its square pattern with Jupiter in Leo (6:30AM). While Mercury cozies up to Saturn via an inspirational, 72-degree link (1:51PM and offering some possible gains on the business front) and the Moon aligns favorably in a supportive, 60-degree alliance with the Sun (3:53PM), this latter sky configuration also begins a void lunar cycle that continues until 12:02AM on Friday morning when fiery Sagittarius grabs the lunar baton for a 2-day jaunt through the ninth sign of the zodiac. The monthly lunar shift from Scorpio to Sagittarius can be one of the most emotionally-draining of Moon transfers from sign to sign during every 27.3-day lunar orbit through the zodiac. Therefore, know where you are going and what you are doing to avoid creating any unnecessary detours on your road to eventual worldly accolades and achievements. [Note to readers: All times are calculated for Pacific Standard Time. Be sure to adjust all times according to your own local time so the alignments noted above will be exact for your location.]
Exactly a year ago, 2014 began with a Capricorn New Moon conjunct underworld-ruler Pluto. Sun-Pluto unions happen annually, but the last time this rendezvous of the source of all life in our solar system with the planet of extremes, death-rebirth, and metamorphosis occurred when billions of human souls on Planet Earth were sending out fervent hopes and prayers for a positive start to a New Year would have been 247 years before. Plus, for the universe to toss in our midst a New Moon (with Mercury close by, and Mars, Jupiter and Uranus making the configuration into an intense Grand Cross in the heavens) was pretty much adding insult to injury. The net result of 2014 beginning with the cosmic bang described above was that world-wide terrorism, the virulent plague of Ebola, an increasing monstrosity of global warming and weird weather gyrations, as well as a higher-than-usual assortment of social-political-business-educational ills seemed to engulf our world. Right now the Chicken Littles of Spaceship Earth should take a back seat as the celestial dice are being thrown more haphazardly. There is actually a modicum of happy tidings passing through the material plane — courtesy of the Moon exalted in Taurus forming a harmonious trine of 120-degrees to Venus in career-oriented Capricorn (4:20AM). The hours beforehand can signify a creative-artistic whirlwind taking place, although this Moon-Venus liaison also begins a void lunar uncertainty zone that lasts until 9:10AM when the Moon enters airy Gemini. One rule of thumb during a void-of-course Moon cycle is to finish old business on a high not while steering clear of launching bold, new plans. Once the Moon escapes its void condition and energizes Gemini, pursue your favorite crafts and hobbies with a vengeance. The main potential obstacle to contentment on the relationship front arrives at 11:50AM when Mars in Aquarius makes a somewhat infrequent opposition to Jupiter retrograding in Leo. Projecting anger on dear ones is taboo. Put egocentric attitudes in mothballs. Tweak this polarity by revving up your exercise program and enhancing athletic skills. [Note to readers: All times are calculated for Pacific Standard Time. Be sure to adjust all times according to your own local time so the alignments noted above will be exact for your location.]
If you are looking for significant days of this month, this is definitely one near the top of your list. Not only is this a second day of distributing to humanity the enlightening vibrations coming from this past Saturday’s Full Moon, but giant Jupiter — the largest planet in our solar system — is pausing in the zodiac at 23 degrees of Leo to begin a four-month retrograde cycle (12:42PM). In addition, several other major alignments are taking place as well. The Sun-Mercury Superior Conjunction — where these two celestial bodies are united at 17 degrees of Sagittarius — begins today’s celestial festivities at 1:52AM. Consider this to be a Full Mercury — as named by the eminent astrologers Dr. Marc Edmund Jones and Dane Rudhyar many decades ago. Eager human minds should be ready to receive ingenious ideas that are now more abundant than usual. Meditation and reflection are also being encouraged — in synchronicity with the Moon in Cancer moving into a harmonious trine configuration with Chiron in Pisces (10:38AM). Plus, it is a good time to emotionally empower your primary partnerships as first Mercury and then the Sun make trines to Juno (2:47PM and 10:18PM, respectively). Regarding Jupiter being officially motionless (12:42PM), accentuate the various themes and archetypes of this crucial planet, for example faith and trust, providence and benevolence, philosophy of life, higher education, good fortune and golden opportunities, your place in society, Big Business, wealth creation, but also pride, arrogance, and overdoing a good thing. This is a day when it is wise to know what you are doing and where you are going in order to avoid stumbling into unnecessary large-scale problems that you have unwittingly helped to create. [Note to readers: All times are calculated for Pacific Standard Time. Be sure to adjust all times according to your own local time so the alignments noted above will be exact for your location.]
The two days following any Full Moon constitute a 48-hour time-period to distribute the enlightening vibrations just received on the mental, emotional, etheric, and physical planes of experience. Playing the role of goodwill ambassador to loved ones, friends, and associates is the right thing to do and in complete alignment with the divine agents seeking to turn Earth into a sacred planet in our solar system. A slight and yet not overwhelming impediment to your forward progress has to do with a void lunar cycle in Gemini that begins during the monthly Moon-Venus opposition (1:53AM) and lasts until 9:35AM. Complete odds and ends during this 7+ hour limbo time-span. Once the clock strikes 9:35AM and the lunar orb enters its natural abode of watery Cancer, home and family concerns top the charts. Make your kitchen and bath areas glow again. Learn more about your ancestral tree as the Moon in the fourth sign of the zodiac places a great emphasis on heritage and roots. Your overall productivity is once again back in the headlines — courtesy of a flowing trine between asteroids Ceres and Juno (4:32PM). This nurturing and comforting alliance can also empower your primary partnerships and offer insights about parental figures or how to more effectively be a parent. Dietary and nutritional interests are also back on center stage. Enjoy experimenting with a digital or video camera while the Moon trines visionary Neptune in water signs (6:53PM). [Note to readers: All times are calculated for Pacific Standard Time. Be sure to adjust all times according to your own local time so the alignments noted above will be exact for your location.]
Out of the frying pan and into the fire! There is no rest for the weary on Spaceship Earth as you jump through more challenging hoops orchestrated by the planetary pranksters of the solar system. Now you have to deal with excess emotion and potential volatility coming from the monthly Moon-Mars union, right now in Capricorn (12:07AM). Venus is an all-day presence as this celestial body forms a subtle and yet still supportive, 30-degree liaison with Pluto (12:29AM), a union with productivity-enhancing Ceres at 13 degrees of Sagittarius (4:50AM), a flowing trine to Uranus in fire signs (4:24PM), and a possibly abrasive square to wounded-healer Chiron (9:34PM). While 2 or 3 of the Venus alignments can enhance your artistic, social, and business opportunities, you still have to contend with the unsettled nature of Capricorn Moon being void from 7:31AM to 11:24AM (when Aquarius Moon arrives on the scene), Mercury forming a dicey, 135-degree tie with radical-change agent Uranus (9:36AM), and the most confusing-chaotic aspect of the day — the Sun making one of two, annual squares to Neptune (8:20PM). It won’t be easy to move through this 24-hour time-period without a few missteps and errors of judgment. However, by knowing the specific timing and general qualities of the sky patterns, you can do your best to tweak today’s stellar configurations to your advantage. With the Sun striving to illuminate Neptunian archetypes via their 90-degree interaction, one of your jobs is to re-vitalize a daily meditation practice or the frequent use of affirmations and visualization exercises. [Note to readers: All times are calculated for Pacific Standard Time. Be sure to adjust all times according to your own local time so the alignments noted above will be exact for your location.]
Tread lightly and softly as the fourth workweek in September gets underway. Nervous tensions may be soaring as the Moon parallels Uranus (1:17AM) and Venus (3:28AM) while the two largest celestial bodies in our solar system — the Sun and Jupiter — play a game of frictional, 45-degree contact (4:48AM). This wouldn’t be so challenging except these three sky patterns are happening on the same day that Pluto pauses to shift from reverse to forward at 11 degrees of Capricorn (5:37PM) while the Sun leaves earthy Virgo to enter airy Libra (7:30PM) at one of the four main turning points of the year, the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. While the Pluto halt in the heavens is considered to be precise at 5:37PM, as explained in yesterday’s calendar entry, this outer planet has really been virtually motionless for the last couple of days and will stay motionless for the next few days. All Pluto themes — death-rebirth, spiritual willpower, mental concentration, laser technology, in-depth research, psychology, purification, transformation, metamorphosis, atomic and nuclear energy, hypnosis, reincarnation, the underworld, phobias, repressed emotions and extremes of any kind — are activated throughout the day. Do everything you can to bypass intense problems and temperamental individuals who could put you on the defensive and wreak havoc in your life. On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who thrives under pressure and can be the Rock of Gibraltar for family members, friends or associates on the skids, then this may be a day when you can shine your light while many souls are lost in the shadows. Consider that while the Sun is beginning a new, 30-day cycle in sociable and artistic Libra, the dark-of-the-moon monthly cycle is simultaneously at work — suggesting the need to complete old business over the next 24 hours and until the Libra New Moon is a reality. [Note to readers: All times are calculated for Pacific Daylight Time. Be sure to adjust all times according to your own local time so the alignments noted above will be exact for your location.]
If you are looking for a reasonably down-to-earth day to accomplish some key tasks and errands, this is probably it — for the time-being. Before you know it, the cosmic pranksters of our solar system will be churning up societal disarray and wreaking havoc through a wide swath of the human population — starting tomorrow and lasting until Thursday August 11. Right now you can tweak a potentially frictional, 45-degree tie from Mercury to Saturn (3:20AM) to your advantage by learning from esteemed mentors and being logical on the business front. In addition, the monthly Moon-Pluto union in Capricorn (9:57AM) — an alignment that always has a disturbing edge to it — doesn’t have to put your emotions in a tightening vice, but could be a catalyst to tune into your spiritual willpower and mental concentration via the kinds of laser beams used in medicine and industrial work. Rewards can begin piling up for your all-around benefit during one of two, monthly trines between the Moon and Sun (11:46AM). Get set this evening for the onslaught of stormy celestial conditions arriving on the scene tomorrow. [Note to readers: All times are calculated for Pacific Daylight Time. Be sure to adjust all times according to your own local time so the alignments noted above will be exact for your location.]