Rare “Red Sprites” Seen From ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile

This picture, taken from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows bright red streaks known as red sprites. Credit: Zdenek Bardon/ESO.

This new image taken of the skies above Chile’s Atacama Desert near the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) La Silla Observatory, shows bright red streaks in the sky known as red sprites. Red sprites are large-scale electrical discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, usually triggered by the discharges of positive lightning between an underlying thundercloud and the ground. However, the red sprites appear high in Earth’s atmosphere, sometimes 50-90 km in altitude.

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Here's the Final Shortlist for Astrophotographer of the Year 2022

The starry sky over the world's highest national highway by Yang Sutie - Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022 People & Space.

We look forward to this every year! The Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition showcases and recognizes some of the most stunning views of the night sky and astronomical objects. The shortlisted images from this year’s competition have now been released, and they include awe-inspiring scenes of the Milky Way, colliding galaxies, stellar nurseries, planets, nebula and the always photogenic Moon.

We’re featuring some of our favorites from this year’s competition here. The contest is operated by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, in cooperation with Liberty Specialty Markets and in association with BBC Sky at Night Magazine. In 2022, the competition received over three thousand entries from passionate amateur and dedicated professional photographers, submitted from sixty-seven countries.

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The Galactic Beauty of Star Formation

Image of Galaxy NGC 3627 located in the constellation LEO. The golden gas glow corresponds to clouds of ionized hydrogen, while the bluish regions reveal the distribution of slightly older stars. Credit: ESO/PHANGS

I’d never seen galaxy images like this before. Nobody had! These images highlight star forming regions in nearby(ish) galaxies. There are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding how star formation actually occurs. To answer those questions, we are observing galaxies that are actively forming stars within giant clouds of gas. Until recently, we didn’t have the resolution needed to clearly image the individual gas clouds themselves. But images released by a project called PHANGS (Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS) in a collaboration between the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope and the Atacama Large millimeter/submillmeter Array (ALMA) have provided never before seen detail of star forming clouds in other galaxies.

This image combines observations of the nearby galaxies NGC 1300, NGC 1087, NGC 3627 (top, from left to right), NGC 4254 and NGC 4303 (bottom, from left to right) taken with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). Each individual image is a combination of observations conducted at different wavelengths of light to map stellar populations and warm gas.. Image and Image Description PHANGS/ESO. Original Image
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A High Resolution, Cross-Eyed Look at the Entire Surface of Mars

Mars global map.

A group of amateur and professional astronomers have collaborated to create what may be the highest resolution global map of Mars ever created with images taken from Earth.

The images were taken with the 1-meter telescope at the Pic-du-Midi observatory in the Pyrenees of France, during several nights in October and November, 2020 when Mars was at opposition, or its closest approach to Earth.

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You’re Looking at an Actual Image of a White Dwarf Feeding on Material from a Larger Red Giant, 650 Light Years from Earth.

This image is from the SPHERE/ZIMPOL observations of R Aquarii, and shows the binary star itself, with the white dwarf feeding on material from the Mira variable, as well as the jets of material spewing from the stellar couple. Image Credit: ESO/Schmid et al.
This image is from the SPHERE/ZIMPOL observations of R Aquarii, and shows the binary star itself, with the white dwarf feeding on material from the Mira variable, as well as the jets of material spewing from the stellar couple. Image Credit: ESO/Schmid et al.

The SPHERE planet-hunting instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope captured this image of a white dwarf feeding on its companion star, a type of Red Giant called a Mira variable. Most stars exist in binary systems, and they spend an eternity serenely orbiting their common center of gravity. But something almost sinister is going on between these two.

Astronomers at the ESO have been observing the pair for years and have uncovered what they call a “peculiar story.” The Red Giant is a Mira variable, meaning it’s near the end of its life, and it’s pulsing up to 1,000 times as bright as our Sun. Each time it pulses, its gaseous envelope expands, and the smaller White Dwarf strips material from the Red Giant.

Continue reading “You’re Looking at an Actual Image of a White Dwarf Feeding on Material from a Larger Red Giant, 650 Light Years from Earth.”

This Beautiful Photo of Galaxy NGC 3981 was Taken by the Most Powerful Telescope in the World for no Scientific Reason at all. Just Because it’s Pretty

This image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3981 was captured by the FORS2 instrument on the ESO's VLT. NGC 3981 is in the Crater constellation. Image: ESO

The world’s most powerful telescopes have a lot of work to do. They’re tasked with helping us unravel the mysteries of the universe, like dark matter and dark energy. They’re burdened with helping us find other habitable worlds that might host life. And they’re busy with a multitude of other tasks, like documenting the end of a star’s life, or keeping an eye on meteors that get too close to Earth.

But sometimes, they have to take a break.
Continue reading “This Beautiful Photo of Galaxy NGC 3981 was Taken by the Most Powerful Telescope in the World for no Scientific Reason at all. Just Because it’s Pretty”

Incredible Solar Eclipse Images From Our Readers

Totality of the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse, as seen from Waterloo, Illinois. Credit and copyright: Rob Sparks.

Holy moly, that was awesome! Incredible, fantastic, amazing…there just aren’t the words to describe what it is like to experience totality. While I’m trying to come down to Earth and figure out how to explain how wonderful this was, enjoy the beautiful images captured by our readers from across the US and those from across the world who traveled to capture one of nature’s most spectacular events: a total solar eclipse.

The images from those seeing partial eclipses are wonderful, as well, and we’ll keep adding them as they come in (update, we just got some from Europe too). Great job everyone!

Eclipse panorama. Got some cool Baily’s Beads and that prominence is nuts! Shot at 2000mm on an old Celestron 8in telescope! Credit and copyright: Kenneth Brandon.

2017 Solar Eclipse from Clayton GA, USA.
Celestron C8 Telescope on CGEM. Canon T3i (Modified IR enhanced), Solar Filter. Credit and copyright: Michael Bee.

The August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse over the Grand Tetons as seen from the Teton Valley in Idaho, near Driggs. ..This is from a 700-frame time-lapse and is of second contact just as the diamond ring is ending and the dark shadow of the Moon is approaching from the west at right, darkening the sky at right, and beginning to touch the Sun. The peaks of the Tetons are not yet in the umbral shadow and are still lit by the partially eclipsed Sun. ..With the Canon 6D and 14mm SP Rokinon lens at f/2.5 for 1/10 second at ISO 100. Credit and copyright: Alan Dyer.

Total Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017 as seen from Tellico Plains, Tennessee. New City Expedition, photo by Igor Kuskovsky.

Total Solar Eclipse, Aug. 21, 2017, as seen from Charleston, South Carolina. Credit and copyright: Jason Major

Partial Eclipse montage from Charlottesville, Virginia. Credit and copyright: David Murr.

Partial Solar Eclipse August 21st 2017, as seen from Fullerton California USA. Sky: Partially Cloudy. Telescope: Nexstar 102 SLT Refractor, Camera: Fujifilm X-T1 @ Prime Focus. Credit and copyright: Jimmy CD.

From the total solar eclipse as seen in Columbia, Missouri, on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit and copyright: Wildhaven Creative.

Total Eclipse from Shaw Air Force Base (August 21, 2017). It was magical. Credit and copyright: Michael Seeley.

Partial solar eclipse, seen from the west coast of France, August 21, 2017. Credit and copyright: Frank Tyrlik.

Great American Eclipse, 21-08-2017. Silver Falls Oregon 10:17-10:19 local time. Raw straight out of the camera. 65mm Refractor / Canon 700D. Credit and copyright: Alexandra Hart.

Gorgeous Images of the August 2017 Partial Lunar Eclipse

The partial lunar eclipse on August 7, 2017 as seen from Bucharest, Romania. Credit and copyright: Loredana Jucan.

Just to get you in the mood for the upcoming total solar eclipse — now less than two weeks away — our Solar System put on a little eclipse display of the lunar kind on August 7. The full Moon passed through part of the Earth’s umbral shadow, and the timing made this partial lunar eclipse visible in parts of Europe and Africa.

Thanks to our friends around the world who posted in Universe Today’s Flickr page, we’ve got images to share! Enjoy the views! Click on all the images to see larger versions of them on Flickr. The lead image link is here.

And for those of you in the path of the August 21 solar eclipse, please feel free to share your images on our Flickr page, and we may feature them in an upcoming article.

A composite of images take during the August 2017 lunar eclipse, as see from Kuala Lumpur. Credit and copyright: Shahrin Ahmad.

Partial lunar eclipse seen from Lausanne’s lakeshore in Switzerland … The Moon had just moved up from behind the Tour d’Aï Peaks. Credit and copyright: Hicham Dennaoui.

Partial Eclipse of Moon over the Church of Our Lady of the Bell in Casarano, Sicily, Italy. Single photo taken with a Konus 80/400 telescope and Canon 700d camera. Credit and copyright: Gianluca Belgrado.


Eclipsed full moon over the eastern horizon as seen from Treppendorf, Brandenburg, Germany. Credit and copyright: Andreas Schnabel.

Partial lunar eclipse of August 7th 2017, as seen from Bavaria, Germany at around 19:17 UTC. Shot with an EOS 550D mounted to a Meade ETX 70 Telescope. Exposure was 1/125 seconds with ISO 100. Credit and copyright:
Stephan Haverland.

The partial lunar eclipse as see from Czolpino, Pomerania, Poland. Credit and copyright:
Pawel Warchal.

A view of the partial lunar eclipse on August 7, 2017 as seen from Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit and copyright: Leonard Ellul-Mercer.

Here is a video of additional images from Leonard Mercer:

You can watch a reply of a live webcast from the Virtual Telescope Project of the partial lunar eclipse seen from Rome:

November 2016 Super Moon Images from Around the World

Moonrise over the London, as see from Waterloo Bridge on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Owen Llewellyn.

Now updated with more great images!

Although there’s been quite a bit of hype about the Super Moon on November 13, 2016, to many, the full Moon tonight may have appeared quite similar to other full Moon’s you’ve seen. Yes, the “super-ness” of this Moon, while noteworthy, is fairly imperceptible. While, as our own David Dickinson noted in his preview article, this full Moon is not only the closest for the year, but the nearest Full Moon for a 80 year plus span. However, the closest full moon of 2017 will be only 0.02% farther away than this one.

But any chance to get the public to look up at the night sky is a good one! And we’ll also take this opportunity to share some of the great images from around the world posted on Universe Today’s Flickr page, as well as on social media. Enjoy!

Here’s a “classic” but gorgeous look at the Moon:

The Moon just before full on November 13, 2016 imaged through cloud from London. Credit and copyright: Roger Hutchinson.
The Moon just before full on November 13, 2016 imaged through cloud from London. Credit and copyright: Roger Hutchinson.

Supermoon over Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Tim Graham/TJG Photography.
Supermoon over Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, England on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Tim Graham/TJG Photography.

Some astrophotographers took this opportunity to take close-ups of the Moon's surface. Pythagoras and Babbage Craters are seen here in this image from the UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright:  Alun Halsey.
Some astrophotographers took this opportunity to take close-ups of the Moon’s surface. Pythagoras and Babbage Craters are seen here in this image from the UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright:
Alun Halsey.

The 'Super Moon' over Rome on November 14, 2016. Credit and copyright: Gianluca Masi.
The ‘Super Moon’ over Rome on November 14, 2016. Credit and copyright: Gianluca Masi.

A view of the supermoon as seen from Lahore, Pakistan, with color added for contrast. Credit and copyright: Roshaan Bukhari.
A view of the supermoon as seen from Lahore, Pakistan, with color added for contrast. Credit and copyright: Roshaan Bukhari.

Moon and clouds as seen from the UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Sculptor Lil on Flickr.
Moon and clouds as seen from the UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Sculptor Lil on Flickr.

Pale Moon rising, as seen from North Bedfordshire, UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Dawn Sunrise on Flickr.
Pale Moon rising, as seen from North Bedfordshire, UK on Nov. 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Dawn Sunrise on Flickr.

Noted NASA photographer Bill Ingalls is in Russia for the next launch of astronauts to the International Space Station. He took this image from Baikonur, Kazakhstan and also provided some tips on photographing the Moon.

And former astronaut Clayton Anderson shared this images from Houson, Texas:

Moonrise near Keene, Ontario on November 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Rick Stankiewicz.
Moonrise near Keene, Ontario on November 13, 2016. Credit and copyright: Rick Stankiewicz.

A comparison of ‘super’ and ‘mini’ Moons and how they appear in the sky:

A perigee 'Supermoon' versus an apogee 'Minimoon'. Image credit and copyright: Raven Yu.
A perigee ‘Supermoon’ versus an apogee ‘Minimoon’. Image credit and copyright: Raven Yu.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their images, and be sure to check out UT’s Flickr pool for the most recent shots.

Link to the lead image by Owen Llewellyn can be found here.

At ISO 400,000, This 6-Minute Film Shows Why We Love the Night Sky

The pursuit of the night sky is ongoing for amateur astronomers. Credit and copyright: Ben Canales.

Obviously, you’ve seen timelapse videos of the night sky because we share them here on Universe Today all the time. But you’ve probably not seen a video like this one before. This one isn’t a timelapse, and you’ll see the night sky in all its splendor, in real time.

“I think this one may be the beginning of something damn interesting,” said filmmaker Ben Canales, who along with cohort John Waller of Uncage The Soul Productions, shot this video with new low-light technology. Using the new Canon MH20f-SH, which has the capability of shooting at 400,000 ISO, they were able to “film in the quiet moments that have been impossible to capture until now.”

“Since 2013, I’ve been tinkering with all sorts of camera/lens/software combinations trying to move beyond a long exposure still to real time video of the stars,” Canales said on Facebook. “Sooner or later, we have to move beyond a frozen photo of the stars to hear, see, feel what it is really like being out there!”

In addition to showcasing this wonderful new low-light shooting, Infinity² really captures the emotional side of amateur astronomy and the beauty of being under the night sky. He took a group of high school students out to witness the Perseid Meteor Shower in Oregon, and the students got together with the Oregon Star Party. Together, they answer the simple question “What do you feel?”

As Canales says, “Something internal and personal draws us out to the night sky.”

Check out more on Uncage The Soul Productions, Canales’ astrophoto website and Facebook.

Still image from the film Infinity ². Image Courtesy Ben Canales.
Still image from the film Infinity². Image Courtesy Ben Canales.

Still image from the film Infinity ². Image Courtesy Ben Canales.
Still image from the film Infinity ². Image Courtesy Ben Canales.

Infinity ² from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.