NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, or APOD, is a collection of some of our universe’s greatest scenes. This is a list of the best APOD has to offer for October. This month’s pictures include spiraling nebulae, colliding galaxies, and astonishing explosions. All these pictures project one message: The universe is a beautiful place.
This is a picture of two full moon sized pieces of sky in the direction of the Pegasus constellation. The refraction spikes coming from the corners of the stars are caused by the reflecting telescope, but the eerie fog and bright spots are no mistake. These are stars beyond ours.
This is a picture of the Orion Nebula, and the four star system, or Trapezium, contained within. The stars inside Orion’s gaseous guts power most of its glow, and they are predicted to orbit a black hole in an area of about 1.5 light years across. This star system and nebula are unlike anything we’ve experienced in our solar system.
This is Simeis 147, the aftermath of a cosmic explosion known as a supernova. The red color comes from an applied filter that highlights hydrogen gas. This specific supernova’s light reached Earth an estimated 40,000 years ago, and left behind a pulsar, or star that emits high energy signals as it spins extremely fast. The fastest spinning pulsar ever recorded rotated at a whopping 716 times a second.
These two colliding galaxies are known as NGC 2623. They are undergoing what is called a titanic galaxy merger, and their movements are facilitated by a super-massive block hole at their center. The blueish tails on their sides extend over 50,000 light years away from their nucleus. The scale at which these galactic processes function is virtually unfathomable.
Taken by the new Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, this spiraling gas cloud is a beauty to behold. We know it is located about 1,500 light years toward the constellation Sculptor, but its inner structure has scientists asking questions. So far, their hypothesis assumes the existence of a companion star orbiting the red giant R Sculptoris in the middle, and its gravity is pulling gas from the giant in a spiraling motion. There is much to learn from celestial structures like these, especially what happens towards the end of stars’ lives.