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Meet Steve, a New Kind of Aurora Borealis

Meet Steve, or Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. It’s a new kind of aurora spotted over the skies of Canada, characterized by purple arches and green features—two elements that have never been seen before.

Happy belated Pi Day! Scientists use pi, 3.141592653589793238… and so on to infinity, to figure out how circular a crater is, which in turn tells them a lot about its formation. Even Mars gets to celebrate!

This image of the Crab Nebula is a composite made from light via three different telescopes. The blues and whites show the X-ray light captured by the Chandra Observatory; the purples are visible light captured by the Hubble Space Telescope; and the pinks show the infrared detected NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. This nebula is heavily studied in part because it’s powered by a highly magnetized and fast-spinning neutron star called a pulsar. As this dense star spins, it spits out a wind of X-rays, shown here in white.

This diffuse, glowing galaxy is unique as far as galaxies are concerned, because it’s made up of mostly aging stars that are around 10 billion years old. That’s only 3 billion years younger than the age of the universe! Scientists study relics like this one, called NGC 1277, to better understand how galaxies formed when the universe was still new. Astronomers were searching for one of these close to our own stellar neighborhood, unsure if they’d ever find one, when they spotted NGC 1277. Having such an ancient piece of cosmic history nearby will help astronomers understand how these objects came into being so long ago.

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope is backlit here by the speckled light of stars across the night sky. The telescope is located in Cerro Paranal, Chile, where the skies are notoriously clear and free of light pollution. It’s so dark here, in fact, that if you take a look between the two left telescopes, you’ll see a smudge—that’s the Andromeda Galaxy, which is usually difficult to see with the naked eye.

This stunning galaxy is called NGC 1015. It’s a barred spiral galaxy, named for its spiraling arms like our own Milky Way. Unlike our galaxy, though, it has a central bar made of gas and stars that stretches out from the core bulge. This glowing beauty is located 118 million light years from Earth in the constellation Cetus, or the Whale.


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