Photo of the day

Very cool photo of the Southern sky in the Slate “Bad Astronomy” blog:

Southern skies over the Very Large Telescope

The southern stars of Carina and Crux hang over the Very Large Telescope.

Image credit: ESO/Babak Tafreshi

What grabs your attention right away is the stunning starscape. This picture was taken in Chile, at a latitude of 24 degrees south. Many of the stars seen here never rise for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere; the Earth is forever in the way. We’re looking in a direction toward the Milky Way, so we see lots of stars scattered about—it’s like looking toward the downtown of a city from a suburb.

Most of the stars you see here are part of the constellation Carina, representing the keel of a ship. The brightest star in the picture, though, the blue one on the right, is called Acrux, one of the stars in Crux, the famous Southern Cross. Crux is a kite-shaped figure, with Acrux at the top and the other three to the lower left.

Dominating the shot is the ruddy glow of the mighty Carina Nebula, a vast, sprawling complex of gas and dust so large, so massive, that it’s hard to describe, let alone grasp.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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