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.
2018 March 16
Explanation: Seen as a seagull and a duck, these nebulae are not the only cosmic clouds to evoke images of flight. But both are winging their way across this broad celestial landscape, spanning almost 7 degrees across planet Earth’s night skytoward the constellation Canis Major. The expansive Seagull (top center) is itself composed of two major cataloged emission nebulae. Brighter NGC 2327 forms the head with the more diffuse IC 2177 as the wings and body. Impressively, the Seagull’s wingspan would correspond to about 250 light-years at the nebula’s estimated distance of 3,800 light-years. At the lower right, the Duck appears much more compact and would span only about 50 light-years given its 15,000 light-year distance estimate. Blown by energetic winds from an extremely massive, hot star near its center, the Duck nebula is cataloged as NGC 2359. Of course, the Duck’s thick body and winged appendages also lend it the slightly more dramatic popular moniker, Thor’s Helmet.
Westward shift of Orion and all the stars
We always get this question at this time of year:
Orion seems to have moved and turned considerably in the last two weeks. Will Orion disappear before summer?
The answer is yes, it’ll soon disappear into the sun’s glare. And – although you might notice it more easily with this particularly bright and noticeable constellation – the fact is that, like Orion, all the stars and constellations shift westward as the seasons pass. Unless they’re in the far northern or southern sky – and so circumpolar – all stars and constellations spend some portion of each year hidden in the sun’s glare. In other words, like blooms on trees or certain flowers or even specific animals in your locale, stars have their own seasons of visibility.
Why does Orion go into the sun’s glare each year at this same time? Only because – each year, as we orbit continually around the sun – our motion in orbit brings the sun between us and Orion at this same time each year.
Of course, stars and their constellations also move westward in the course of a single night, due to Earth’s spin. Orion is no exception.
Exactly when Orion will disappear from your evening sky – into the sunset – depends on your latitude. The farther south you are, the longer you can see Orion. But for the central U.S., Orion is lost in the sun’s glare by early to mid-May (depending on how carefully you look for it).
And for all of us in the U.S., Orion is gone by the time of the summer solstice in June.
If you want to notice the westward shift of the constellations due to the passage of the seasons, be sure to watch at the same time every night. If you want to watch their westward shift throughout the night, just pull up a lawn chair and watch.
Either way, you can easily notice Orion moving steadily westward.
Bottom line: Why the constellation Orion – and all the stars – shift westward as the seasons pass.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.
Published on EarthSky
Moon in Pisces
The Moon is traveling through Pisces today. You may feel disconnected. Serve others. Listen to music. Paint a picture. Daydream.
We are not inclined to want to face reality while the Moon is in dreamy, impressionable Pisces. It can be a wistful, sensitive, intuitive, and compassionate time. We are especially imaginative, and our intuition reigns under this influence. Boundaries and walls come down, as Pisces energy merges and blends. It’s a time when details are overlooked and feelings defy description.
The Moon in Pisces generally favors the following activities: Imaginative undertakings, mystical or spiritual pursuits, inner development, music and drama, going on a retreat, activities involving water.
Your Current Moon Phase for March 16th
The Moon today is in a Waning Crescent phase. In this phase the Moon’s illumination is growing smaller each day until the New Moon. During this phase the Moon is getting closer to the Sun as viewed from Earth and the night side of the Moon is facing the Earth with only a small edge of the Moon being illuminated. This phase is best viewed an hour or 2 before the sunrise and can be quite beautiful if you’re willing to get up early. It can also be a great time to see the features of the Moon’s surface. Along the edge where the illuminated portion meets the dark side, the craters and mountains cast long shadows making them easier to observe with a telescope or binoculars.
PHASE DETAILS FOR – FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2018
Moon Age: 28.51 days
Moon Angle: 0.51
Moon Distance: 394,350.88 km
Sun Angle: 0.54
Sun Distance: 148,840,249.24 km
The Wisdom of Buddha
Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.
Consulting the Psychic Eight Ball….
Query: How will our weekend be?
Informative as ever, lol!
It’s a baby! A Baby Turtle! I wonder if he is looking at the person holding him wondering, “Are you Mommie?”