Explanation: Blown by the wind from a massive star, this interstellar apparition has a surprisingly familiar shape. Cataloged as NGC 7635, it is also known simply as The Bubble Nebula. Although it looks delicate, the 7 light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Above and left of the Bubble’s center is a hot, O-type star, several hundred thousand times more luminous and some 45 times more massive than the Sun. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surroundingmolecular cloud. The intriguing Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex lie a mere 7,100 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia. This sharp, tantalizing view of the cosmic bubble is a composite of Hubble Space Telescope image data from 2016, reprocessed to present the nebula’s intense narrowband emission in an approximate true color scheme.
Explanation: What would it look like to fly over the North Pole of Jupiter? A fictional animation made from real images and data captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft shows an answer. Since the pole is presently in shadow, the video uses infrared light emitted by Jupiter — specifically an infrared color where the hottest features glows the brightest. As the animation starts, Juno zooms in on the enormous world. Soon, one of the eight cyclones orbiting the North Pole is featured. One by one, all eight cyclones circling the pole are inspected, each the size of an entire continent on Earth, and each containing bumpy and fragmented spiral walls. The virtual trip ends with a zoom out. Studying Jovian cyclones helps humanity to better understand dangerous storm systems that occur here on Earth. Juno has recently concluded another close pass by Jupiter — Perijove 12 — and seems healthy enough to complete several more of the two-month orbits.
Explanation: Wandering through the constellation Sagittarius, bright planets Mars and Saturn appeared together in early morning skies over the last weeks. They are captured in this 3 degree wide field-of-view from March 31 in a close celestial triangle with large globular star cluster Messier 22. Of course M22 (bottom left) is about 10,000 light-years distant, a massive ball of over 100,000 stars much older than our Sun. Pale yellow and shining by reflected sunlight, Saturn (on top) is about 82 light-minutes away. Look carefully and you can spot large moon Titan as a pinpoint of light at about the 5 o’clock position in the glare of Saturn’s overexposed disk. Slightly brighter and redder Mars is 9 light-minutes distant. While both planets are moving on toward upcoming oppositions, by July Mars will become much brighter still, with good telescopic views near its 2018 opposition a mere 3.2 light-minutes from planet Earth.