Beautiful Space Photos

Here are some beautiful space photos and videos that have been posted on the Internet recently.  The photos are from  NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day.”  Enjoy!

The Tadpole Galaxy
The Tadpole Galaxy

In this stunning vista, based on image data from the Hubble Legacy Archive, distant galaxies form a dramatic backdrop for disrupted spiral galaxy Arp 188, the Tadpole Galaxy. The cosmic tadpole is a mere 420 million light-years distant toward the northern constellation Draco. Its eye-catching tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features massive, bright blue star clusters. One story goes that a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188 – from right to left in this view – and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their gravitational attraction. During the close encounter, tidal forces drew out the spiral galaxy’s stars, gas, and dust forming the spectacular tail. The intruder galaxy itself, estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the Tadpole, can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper right. Following its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older, the tail’s star clusters forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy.

The Trapezium
The Trapezium — four bright stars within the Orion Nebula

Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta-1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region’s entire visible glow. About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a recent dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier age may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. The presence of a black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars. The Orion Nebula’s distance of some 1500 light-years would make it the closest known black hole to planet Earth.  Being able to clearly see the Trapezium is a sign of a good telescope!

On October 12, 2012, Felix Baumgartner — an Austrian parachutist — jumped from the edge of space, and thereby set the world records for the highest ever balloon flight, the highest ever parachute jump, and the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound without using powered flight.  His flight occurred over Roswell, New Mexico.  See Red Bull Stratos for more information.

NGC 2623
NGC 2623

NGC 2623 is really two galaxies that are becoming one. Seen to be in the final stages of a titanic galaxy merger, the pair lies some 300 million light-years distant toward the Name A Star Live constellation Cancer. The violent encounter between two galaxies that may have been similar to the Milky Way has produced widespread star formation near a luminous core and along eye-catching tidal tails. Filled with dust, gas, and young blue star clusters, the opposing tidal tails extend well over 50,000 light-years from the merged nucleus. Likely triggered by the merger, accretion by a supermassive black hole drives activity within the nuclear region. The star formation and its active galactic nucleus make NGC 2623 bright across the spectrum. This sharp cosmic snapshot of NGC 2623 (aka Arp 243) is based on Hubble Legacy Archive image data that also reveals even more distant background galaxies scattered through the field of view.

November’s Stars and Planets

The night sky puts on some neat shows this month.  And for those of you in the Land Down Under, you can look forward to an eclipse of the sun!

Shortly before dawn on November 26, Venus and Saturn appear very close together:

Chart showing planets and stars
Saturn and Venus appear to kiss shortly before sunrise on November 26. Go out about 45 minutes before sunrise that morning and face East-Southeast to see these two, bright planets.  If you’re lucky, you might also see the planet Mercury hugging the horizon.  You’ll also see the bright, binary star Spica, located in the Name A Star Live constellation Virgo.

The evening of November 27 also presents a wonderful show:

Star Chart for November 27
Look for the Moon and the planet Jupiter toward the East-Northeast the evening of November 27. Both of these solar system objects will be in the Name A Star Live constellation Taurus. Jupiter will be near the V-shaped group of stars (called “The Hyades”), marked by the star Aldebaran. Look above the Moon for the beautiful group of stars known as “The Pleiades,” which are often confused with The Little Dipper, which is a different group of stars altogether.

Those of you in Australia are in for a real treat this month: An eclipse of the sun!  The sun will be totally eclipsed by the moon along a narrow path across the Northern Territory and Queensland.  But those of you in the rest of Australia will see a partial eclipse (local weather permitting).

Australian map showing eclipse path
Australians will be able to see a solar eclipse the morning of November 14, 2012, weather permitting. A total eclipse of the sun will be visible along the path highlighted in red. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout the remainder of Australia, as well as all of New Zealand.

Never look at the sun directly, even during an eclipse!  For more information about the eclipse, including how to observe it safely, read “Australia counts down to solar eclipse” appearing in Australia’s Cosmos magazine.  Those of you in New Zealand might want to check out the Stardome Observatory’s webpage about the eclipse.  Also, no matter where you live, you can watch the eclipse live, online.

Finding your star in the night sky

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation. You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star. But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope. You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.

For being the twinkle in my life…

Star Field“For being the twinkle in my life” — A beautiful Star Certificate message from one of our recent customers!

When you name a star with Name A Star Live, you get a letter-size Star Certificate that displays the name of your star, the star’s astronomical coordinates, and a personal message for your gift recipient.  It’s a wonderful gift idea for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or any occasion!

Here are just some of the personal messages our customers included on their Star Certificates last week:

  1. For being the twinkle in my life.
  2. Happy Birthday little star. May your light grow to be brighter than all the stars combined with a heart that is just as big.
  3. Merry Christmas Sweetheart!  Mommy and Daddy love you very much!  Wish upon a star!
  4. Knowing you is a gift from God, and this is just a simple gift wrapped in thoughtfulness and tied with love.
  5. This is a special star in the sky that will always be watching over you, named just for you.
  6. A star is only as beautiful for whom it’s named after.
  7. It’s officially written in the stars. You’re the best boss in  and out of this world
  8. When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.  – Pinocchio    I’m glad I wished for an amazing person like you.
  9. Wishing my Baby Girl a very Happy First Christmas
  10. The Heavens shine more brightly now.

Top Ten Star Certificate Messages

Mystic MountainWhen you name a star with Name A Star Live, you get a letter-size Star Certificate that displays the name of your star, the star’s astronomical coordinates, and a personal message for your gift recipient.  It’s a wonderful gift idea for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, a birthday, anniversary, graduation or any occasion!

Here are just some of the personal messages our customers included on their Star Certificates last week:

  1. My love there are not enough stars in the sky to shine down upon you and reflect the love I have for you..
  2. Grandma and Grandpa love you so much.  Happy 1st Birthday  Hugs and Kisses to our angel
  3. Your leadership.compassion and commitment has inspired others to dream more, learn more, care more and become more. You will be greatly missed!
  4. This star was named for you, to honor my favorite shining star. I love you!!!!
  5. Happy Birthday Dad!  You are a shining star among men….
  6. This is our Deployment star, everytime your missing me and lonely just look up and we will both be looking at the same thing. I love you.
  7. I thought it would be cool for you to have your “own piece of the universe”
  8. Forever flying through space lighting up the heavens.
  9. Congratulations on your marriage.  May your star shine forever.
  10. … Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to our year.  Your Star will always be a part of our Family.

 

October’s Stars and Planets

Zodiacal Light
Zodiacal Light, a.k.a. “False Dawn”

If you’re an early riser, you’re in astronomical luck in October! While Mars is fading rapidly in the western sky during the early evening hours, Venus and Jupiter dominate the early morning eastern sky.  And if you live in mid to northern latitudes on Earth, you’re in for a special treat: the zodical light, or “false dawn.”

False Dawn

The false dawn looks like a faint, triangular-shaped light that stretches from the eastern horizon up into the sky above.  It appears during the period of time between about 1 to 2 hours before sunrise at about this time of year.  This year, the best time to view this spectacle is between October 13 and 27.  To see it, go far from city lights on a clear, moonless night.

This strange celestial display is caused by the reflection of sunlight off of tiny particles of dust in space.  The dust orbits the sun in the same way Earth does. So at this particular time of the year — when the days and nights are of roughly equal length — we view this dust when it is aligned vertically in our pre-dawn, eastern sky.  A similar thing will happen six months from now, only the triangular shape of light will appear in the western sky, after sunset.

The Planets This Month

Venus is the ‘morning star’ — the bright point of light you’ll see toward the east before sunrise.  Look for the giant planet Jupiter — in the consetllaton Taurus — toward the south, near the prominent constellation Orion, shortly before sunset.  (If you live in the southern hemisphere of Earth, Jupiter will appear toward the north shortly before sunrise.)  Jupiter will also appear as a bright ‘star’ in the night sky.

But fear not, fellow night owls, for you too can feast your eyes on some celestial treats! The planets Neptune and Uranus will be visible through binoculars and small telescopes during the evening hours this month. While you can see both Neptune and Uranus through a telescope, Uranus — strictly speaking — is just barely visible to the naked eye — but just barely! In order to see it, you’d need to go far from city lights and view it on a clear, moonless night. (And you better have good eyesight to boot!) We recommend sticking with your telescope or binocs!

Finding your star in the night sky

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation. You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star. But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope. You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.

How We Launch Your Star Name Into Space

New Frontier Flight launch
Launch of The New Frontier Flight, 2:44 am CDT, May 22, 2012 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Click the image above to view launch video provided by our sister company, Celestis, Inc. Image Credit: NASA

Many of our customers ask us, “What is this launch thing you do?  How do you launch my star name into space?  How does that all work?”

In principle, it’s rather simple.  But in practice, it’s rather complex.

Each Name A Star Live customer gets a letter-size Star Certificate that displays the name of their star, an optional personal message, and the astronomical coordinates of their star.  We store this information in our database.  We then save that database onto a computer chip, which is then placed inside a rocket.

That’s the easy part.  Arranging for, and conducting the launches is the difficult part!

Our parent company, Space Services, Inc., has contracted with various launch service providers to launch our payloads from locations around the world.  Space Services missions have blasted off from the Canary Islands, Florida, New Mexico, California, New Zealand, and even a tiny, remote island in the Pacific Ocean.

We fly as a “secondary payload” on board rockets with commercial or scientific”primary payloads,” such as communications satellites.  As a secondary payload, we have no control over when liftoff will occur.  Indeed, launch delays are common in the aerospace industry, and there are a variety of reasons that cause such delays.  For example, if there is a technical problem with the launch vehicle, or with the primary payload, we must wait until the problem is fixed before liftoff can occur.

Our payload — the computer chip that contains our database of star names, messages and astronomical coordinates — must be placed in the rocket at least weeks, and sometimes months, ahead of time.  For our November 2012 launch, we must provide our payload to the launch services provider in October 2012 — a relatively short time period.  Hence, we have a mid-October deadline for customers to name stars for inclusion on this mission.  But for our New Frontier Flight that flew into Earth orbit May 22, 2012,  we had to deliver our database back in October 2011 — approximately eight months prior to liftoff.

Being a part of a real space mission is very important to many of our customers: After the launch takes place, we provide each of our customers a complimentary Digital Launch Certificate, certifying their participation in the mission.  Usually, customers can travel to the launch site to view the launch in person.  We also are often able to webcast the liftoff live, via our website.

We do our best to keep our customers informed of the latest launch news.  We update our online launch schedule as soon as events warrant.  We encourage all of our customers to follow our launch news on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  And, of course, we issue our monthly e-newsletters.

Despite the many problems we must overcome to launch your star name into space, we enjoy providing this service: Spaceflight is our passion, and so we very much appreciate your participation.  After all, it is your purchase of Name A Star Live gift sets that help us pay for these missions into the final frontier!

See Your Star with Google Earth

Did you know you can view your star using the free Google Earth software?

Just follow these steps to find your star in Google Earth:

  • Download the Google Earth software to your computer.
  • Once you open the software you’ll see a row of icons in the toolbar at the top of the screen. Click on the icon that looks like the planet Saturn.
  • From the drop-down menu, choose “Sky.”
  • You should see some stars and constellation names appear on your computer screen.
  • Toward the upper, left-hand corner of your screen you should see two tabs under the word “Search.” Choose the “Location Search” tab.
  • Now you’ll need to enter the astronomical coordinates of your star, specifically, the star’s “Right Ascension” and “Declination,” which you’ll find on your Name A Star Live Star Certificate.
Star Certificate
Look for your star’s Right Ascension and Declination on your Star Certificate
  • You’ll need to convert the Right Ascension (RA) and Declination (DEC) values from your Star Certificate into a format Google Earth can understand. This is really easy to do! Here’s an example:
    • Suppose your star has Right Ascension 5h 8m 39s and Declination 3° 48′ 33″.
    • Then convert those numbers into the following format: 5:8:39,3:48:33
    • Note that there are no spaces between any of the numbers or other characters.
    • Also note that you must list the Right Ascension value first, followed by the Declination value.
    • Now, just enter 5:8:39,3:48:33 into the box for “Location Search” and click on the magnifying glass icon (or just hit “Enter” on your keyboard).
    • Google Earth will then zero in on your star.
  • Note that some stars are not visible in Google Earth. In this case, Google Earth will zero in on a black area of space.

Also, consider ordering an Astrophoto of your star!  This is a beautiful, letter-size photo of the constellation (the area of the night sky) in which your star is located.  We highlight the area of the constellation where your star is, and include an inset showing your star and its neighboring stars.  Finally, we personalize the Astrophoto with your star’s name and astronomical coordinates.   You can have the Astrophoto e-mailed to you in a PDF format for easy downloading and printing.  Or we can ship a Printed or Framed Astrophoto to you in the mail.  Contact us today to order your Astrophoto!

Astrophoto Thumbnail Image
This is an example of an Astrophoto for a star in the constellation Scorpius.

Beautiful Space Photos

Here are some beautiful space photos and videos that have been posted on the Internet recently.  The photos are from  NASA’s “Astronomy Picture of the Day.”  Enjoy!

 

IC1396
IC 1396: Emission Nebula in Cepheus Image Credit: Digitized Sky Survey, ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator, Color Composite: Davide De Martin (Skyfactory)

Stunning emission nebula IC 1396 mixes glowing cosmic gas and dark dust clouds in the high and far off constellation of Cepheus. Energized by the bright, bluish central star seen here, this star forming region is 3,000 light-years from planet Earth.

 

View of Lunar Surface from Apollo 11
Apollo 11 Landing Site Panorama
Credit: Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11, NASA – Panorama by Syd Buxton

Assembled from high-resolution scans of the original film frames, this panorama sweeps across the magnificent desolation of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. Taken by Neil Armstrong looking out his window of the Eagle Lunar Module, the frame at the far left (AS11-37-5449) is the first picture taken by a person on another world.

 

M72
M72: A Globular Cluster of Stars
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, HPOW

Globular clusters of stars, such as M72, once ruled the Milky Way. Back in the old days, back when our Galaxy first formed, perhaps thousands of globular clusters roamed our Galaxy. Today, there are less than 200 left. Many globular clusters were destroyed over the eons by repeated fateful encounters with each other or the Galactic center. Surviving relics are older than any Earth fossil, older than any other structures in our Galaxy, and limit the universe itself in raw age. There are few, if any, young globular clusters in our Milky Way Galaxy because conditions are not ripe for more to form. Pictured above by the Hubble Space Telescope are about 100,000 of M72’s stars. M72, which spans about 50 light years and lies about 50,000 light years away, can be seen with a small telescope toward the Name A Star Live constellation Aquarius (the Water Bearer).

 

This is the ultimate cute, space video — “A Toy Train in Space” — a story of a father who sends his son’s toy train to the edge of space.

 

This is an absolutely beautiful video called “Purely Pacific Northwest” that features views of the Northern Lights and the Milky Way. View this one after a hard day’s work!

A Stellar Show for Early Birds!

If you’re an early riser, you’re in astronomical luck in September!  While Mars and Saturn are fading rapidly in the western sky during the early evening hours, Venus and Jupiter dominate the early morning eastern sky.

Jupiter in the east
This image shows the night sky in mid-September, facing east, shortly before sunrise.  Look for Jupiter near the V-shaped group of stars known as “The Hyades,” which are a part of the Name A Star Live constellation Taurus (the bull). The beautiful Pleiades are also part of Taurus, and are often confused with the Little Dipper.  While you’re at it, look for the prominent Name A Star Live constellation Orion (the hunter).  The three stars of Orion’s belt are easy to spot.  The bright planet Venus will be well below Jupiter, near the eastern horizon.
But fear not, fellow night owls, for you too can feast your eyes on some celestial treats!  The planets Neptune and Uranus will be visible through binoculars and small telescopes during the evening hours this month. In fact, now is a particularly good time to observe these two (not so bright) planets.  Uranus reaches what’s called “opposition” on September 29: That’s when the Earth is between Uranus and the Sun.  In other words, Uranus is on the opposite side of Earth than the Sun on September 29.  Neptune was at opposition last month, but is still a nice site to see through a telescope or binoculars.  While you can see both Neptune and Uranus through a telescope, Uranus — strictly speaking — is just barely visible to the naked eye — but just barely!  In order to see it, you’d need to go far from city lights and view it on a clear, moonless night.  (And you better have good eyesight to boot!)  We recommend sticking with your telescope or binocs!
Uranus and Neptune
This image shows the locations of Uranus and Neptune in mid-September.  Look for Uranus in the Name A Star Live constellation Pisces, and look for Neptune in the Name A Star Live constellation Aquarius this month.

Finding your star in the night sky

Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation. You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star.  But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope. You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.

Follow Mars Curiosity with Virtual Planetarium

While the Olympics are dominating the news right now, NASA will be making some exciting news of its own this weekend: NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on the Red Planet at 1:31 am EDT (5:31 am GMT) Monday, August 6.  Our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software can keep you up-to-date with the rover and its discoveries on the Red Planet!

The dramatic landing of Curiosity rivals anything the Olympics offers!  In a period of time described as “7 minutes of terror,” the spacecraft must slow down from 13,000 mph (21,000 km/h) as it enters the Martian atmosphere to 0 mph, soft-landing in a particular crater, next to a large Martian mountain.  During those 7 minutes the spacecraft will go through a very complex set of maneuvers, which are illustrated in this NASA video.  Moreover, the spacecraft will do this all by itself: Because it takes 14 minutes for radio signals to travel from Mars to Earth, ground controllers cannot possibly control the spacecraft effectively through those crucial 7 minutes.  Instead, the spacecraft will use an onboard computer and radar to guide Curiosity to a precision landing.

Virtual Planetarium
You can follow the rover as it traverses Mars with our Virtual Planetarium software. This is a screenshot from the software's Solar System Update module showing an artist's rendition of the rover on the Martian surface.

Name A Star Live can keep you up-to-date with our Virtual Planetarium software!

A $39.95 value, Virtual Planetarium is seven great programs in one: interactive sky maps; a huge library of stunning astronomy imagery; information and images of the solar system and latest space events; and space weather reports about sun spots, auroras and more.

How to Update Virtual Planetarium

The software’s Solar System Update module already features information about Curiosity (see screenshot above).  Once Curiosity starts sending images back to Earth, Virtual Planetarium will display the more interesting Martian imagery and portal you to the latest online news from NASA.  All you’ll need to do is click on the “UPDATE DATA” button to keep up with all the new discoveries!  Here are even more detailed instructions:

  1. Open up “Space Update” ( or “Virtual Planetarium”) program. (It must be installed on your hard drive, not just on the DVD).
  2. Select “Solar system”
  3. In the upper right corner, select “Update Data”
  4. If it says “Outdated files detected” you can choose to “delete” or “keep” .  (Say “delete” to get rid of the old MSL caption – it will save it in a folder)
  5. It will then say “comparing old and new data”.  If you have a recent addition, it will find 16 new files (if you have an old edition, it may find more!)
  6. Select “Install new”. It shouldn’t take long to download.
  7. Close solar system part of the app.  (You can go to astronomy, for example).  Then when you return to solar system, the new images will be available.
  8. The new images can be seen by choosing solar system ->  Mars -> Missions -> Mars Science Laboratory

Virtual Planetarium sale!

In celebration of Curiosity‘s bold mission to Mars, we are offering a limited-time sale on Virtual Planetarium.  Click here where you can buy the software for only $29.95 from now through August 10!  You can order Virtual Planetarium delivered to you via a DVD, or for download off of our website.

How to Register Virtual Planetarium

Note that there are two ways to register your copy of Virtual Planetarium:

  1. If you install the software using the DVD, you’ll find the serial number written on the DVD.  The serial number starts with the letters “VP”.
  2. If you install the software via download from our website, then the registration key and serial number are made available to you at the moment you download. You can also retrieve these numbers by visiting our homepage (NameAStarLive.com) and logging in to the “My Account” section of our website.