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The total lunar eclipse of September 1996 disappointed many observers in North America who were cursed with cloudy skies. However, the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) satellite had a spectacular view from Earth orbit and SPIRIT III, an on board infrared telescope, was used to repeatedly image the moon during the eclipse. Above is one of the images taken during the 70 minute totality, the Moon completely immersed in the Earth's shadow. Infrared light has wavelengths longer than visible light - humans can not see it but feel it as heat. The bright spots correspond to the warm areas on the lunar surface, dark areas are cooler. The brightest spot below and left of center is the crater Tycho, the dark region at the upper right is the Mare Crisium. The series of SPIRIT III images allow the determination of cooling rates for geologically different areas, exploring the physical properties of the Moon's surface.
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From northern Patagonia, morning skies were clear and blue on Sunday, February 26. This sweeping composite scene, overlooking Hermoso Valle, Facundo, Chubut, Argentina, follows the Sun after sunrise, capturing an annular solar eclipse. Created from a series of exposures at three minute intervals, it shows the year's first solar eclipse beginning well above the distant eastern horizon. An exposure close to mid-eclipse recorded the expected ring of fire, the silhouette of the New Moon only slightly too small to cover the bright Sun. At that location on planet Earth, the annular phase of the eclipse lasted a brief 45 seconds.
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What do auroras look like from space? From the ground, auroras dance high above clouds, frequently causing spectacular displays. The International Space Station (ISS) orbits just at the same height as many auroras, though. Therefore, sometimes it flies over them, but also sometimes it flies right through. The auroral electron and proton streams are too thin to be a danger to the ISS, just as clouds pose little danger to airplanes. ISS Science Officer Don Pettit captured a green aurora, pictured above in a digitally sharpened image. From orbit, Dr. Pettit reports, changing auroras can appear to crawl around like giant green amoebas. Far below, on planet Earth, the Manicouagan Impact Crater can be seen in northern Canada. Have you seen today's: Space Station Science Picture of the Day?
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How did spiral galaxy ESO 510-13 get bent out of shape? The disks of many spirals are thin and flat, but not solid. Spiral disks are loose conglomerations of billions of stars and diffuse gas all gravitationally orbiting a galaxy center. A flat disk is thought to be created by sticky collisions of large gas clouds early in the galaxy's formation. Warped disks are not uncommon, though, and even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a small warp. The causes of spiral warps are still being investigated, but some warps are thought to result from interactions or even collisions between galaxies. ESO 510-13, pictured above, is about 150 million light years away and about 100,000 light years across.
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On July 3rd, planet Earth reached aphelion, the farthest point in its elliptical orbit around the Sun. Each year, this day of the most distant Sun happens to occur during winter in the southern hemisphere. That's where this aphelion sunrise from 2015 was captured in a time series composite against the skyline of Brisbane, Australia. Of course, seasons for our fair planet are not determined by distance to the Sun, but by the tilt of Earth's rotational axis with respect to the ecliptic, the plane of its orbit. Fondly known as the obliquity of the ecliptic, the angle of the tilt is about 23.4 degrees from perpendicular to the orbital plane. So the most distant sunrise occurs during northern summer, when the planet's north pole is tilted toward the Sun and the north enjoys longer, warmer days.

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