Explanation: This clear night skyscape captures the colorful glow of aurora australis, the southern lights, just outside the port city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, planet Earth. As if staring into the dreamlike scene, the Tasmanian Earth Resources Satellite Station poses in the center, illuminated by nearby city lights. Used to receive data from spacebased Earth observing instruments, including NASA’s MODIS and SeaWiFS, the station was decommissioned in 2011 and dismantled only recently, shortly after the picture was taken on April 30. Still shining in southern skies though, the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy and two bright satellite galaxies the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds appear in the frame. The Small Magellanic Cloud shines through the fainter red auroral band.
Explanation: The gorgeous, gaseous shroud of a dying sunlike star, planetary nebula Abell 36 lies a mere 800 light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. At that distance it spans over 1.5 light-years in this sharp telescopic view. Shrugging off its outer layers, the nebula’s central star is contracting and becoming hotter, evolving towards a final white dwarf phase. In fact, in Abell 36, the central star is estimated to have a surface temperature of over 73,000 K, compared to the Sun’s present 6,000 K temperature. As a result, the intensely hot star is much brighter in ultraviolet light, compared to its visual appearance here. The invisible ultraviolet light ionizes hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the nebula and ultimately powers the beautiful visible light glow.