What are those streaks across Orion? Most are reflections of sunlight from numerous Earth-orbiting Starlink satellites. Appearing by eye as a series of successive points floating across a twilight sky, the increasing number of SpaceX Starlink communication satellites are causing concern among many astronomers. On the positive side, Starlink and similar constellations make the post-sunset sky more dynamic, satellite-based global communications faster, and help provide digital services to currently underserved rural areas. On the negative side, though, these low Earth-orbit satellites make some deep astronomical imaging programs more difficult, in particular observing programs that need images taken just after sunset and just before dawn. Planned future satellite arrays that function in higher orbits may impact investigations of the deep universe planned for large ground-based telescopes at any time during the night. The featured picture, taken in 2019 December, is a digital combination of over 65 3-minutes exposures, with some images taken to highlight the background Orion Nebula, while others to feature the passing satellites.

Tadpole Galaxy.

What created these unusual clouds? At the center of this 2021 Hubble image sits AG Carinae, a supergiant star located about 20,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. The star’s emitted power is over a million times that of the Sun, making AG Carinae one of the most luminous stars in our Milky Way galaxy. AG Carinae and its neighbor Eta Carinae belong to the scarce Luminous Blue Variable (LBV) class of stars, known for their rare but violent eruptions. The nebula that surrounds AG Car is interpreted as a remnant of one or more such outbursts. This nebula measures 5 light-years across, is estimated to contain about 10 solar masses of gas, and to be at least 10,000 years old. This Hubble image, taken to commemorate Hubble’s 31st launch anniversary, is the first to capture the whole nebula, offering a new perspective on its structure and dust content. The LBVs represent a late and short stage in the lives of some supergiant stars, but explaining their restlessness remains a challenge to humanity’s understanding of how massive stars work.

Arp 273 is a pair of interacting galaxies, lying 300 million light years away in the constellation Andromeda | Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA.

Near the heart of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster the string of galaxies known as Markarian’s Chain stretches across this deep telescopic field of view. Anchored in the frame at bottom center by prominent lenticular galaxies, M84 (bottom) and M86, you can follow the chain up and to the right. Near center you’ll spot the pair of interacting galaxies NGC 4438 and NGC 4435, known to some as Markarian’s Eyes. Its center an estimated 50 million light-years distant, the Virgo Cluster itself is the nearest galaxy cluster. With up to about 2,000 member galaxies, it has a noticeable gravitational influence on our own Local Group of Galaxies. Within the Virgo Cluster at least seven galaxies in Markarian’s Chain appear to move coherently, although others may appear to be part of the chain by chance.

Expansive Utopia Planitia on Mars is strewn with rocks and boulders in this 1976 image. Constructed from the Viking 2 lander’s color and black and white image data, the scene approximates the appearance of the high northern martian plain to the human eye. For scale, the prominent rounded rock near center is about 20 centimeters (just under 8 inches) across. Farther back on the right side of the frame the a dark angular boulder spans about 1.5 meters (5 feet). Also in view are two trenches dug by the lander’s sampler arm, the ejected protective shroud that covered the soil collector head, and one of the lander’s dust covered footpads at the lower right. On May 14, China’s Zhurong Mars rover successfully touchdown on Mars and has returned the first images of` its landing site in Utopia Planitia.

In 1716, English astronomer Edmond Halley noted, “This is but a little Patch, but it shews itself to the naked Eye, when the Sky is serene and the Moon absent.” Of course, M13 is now less modestly recognized as the Great Globular Cluster in Hercules, one of the brightest globular star clusters in the northern sky. Sharp telescopic views like this one reveal the spectacular cluster’s hundreds of thousands of stars. At a distance of 25,000 light-years, the cluster stars crowd into a region 150 light-years in diameter. Approaching the cluster core upwards of 100 stars could be contained in a cube just 3 light-years on a side. For comparison, the closest star to the Sun is over 4 light-years away. The remarkable range of brightness recorded in this image follows stars into the dense cluster core. Distant background galaxies in the medium-wide field of view include NGC 6207 at the lower right.

Daily Interacting Galaxies #2 (Antenna Galaxies).

What forms lurk in the mists of the Carina Nebula? The dark ominous figures are actually molecular clouds, knots of molecular gas and dust so thick they have become opaque. In comparison, however, these clouds are typically much less dense than Earth’s atmosphere. Featured here is a detailed image of the core of the Carina Nebula, a part where both dark and colorful clouds of gas and dust are particularly prominent. The image was captured in mid-2016 from Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Although the nebula is predominantly composed of hydrogen gas – here colored green, the image was assigned colors so that light emitted by trace amounts of sulfur and oxygen appear red and blue, respectively. The entire Carina Nebula, cataloged as NGC 3372, spans over 300 light years and lies about 7,500 light-years away in the constellation of Carina. Eta Carinae, the most energetic star in the nebula, was one of the brightest stars in the sky in the 1830s, but then faded dramatically.

Flying at an altitude of 5 meters (just over 16 feet), on April 25 the Ingenuity helicopter snapped this sharp image. On its second flight above the surface of Mars, its color camera was looking back toward Ingenuity’s current base at Wright Brothers Field and Octavia E. Butler Landing marked by the tracks of the Perseverance rover at the top of the frame. Perseverance itself looks on from the upper left corner about 85 meters away. Tips of Ingenuity’s landing legs just peek over the left and right edges of the camera’s field of view. Its record setting fourth flight completed on April 30, Ingenuity collected images of a potential new landing zone before returning to Wright Brothers Field. Ingenuity’s fifth flight would be one-way though as the Mars aircraft moves on to the new airfield, anticipating a new phase of operational demonstration flights.

Our fair planet sports a curved, sunlit crescent against the black backdrop of space in this stunning photograph. From the unfamiliar perspective, the Earth is small and, like a telescopic image of a distant planet, the entire horizon is completely within the field of view. Enjoyed by crews on board the International Space Station, only much closer views of the planet are possible from low Earth orbit. Orbiting the planet once every 90 minutes, a spectacle of clouds, oceans, and continents scrolls beneath them with the partial arc of the planet’s edge in the distance. But this digitally restored image presents a view so far only achieved by 24 humans, Apollo astronauts who traveled to the Moon and back again between 1968 and 1972. The original photograph, AS17-152-23420, was taken by the homeward bound crew of Apollo 17, on December 17, 1972. For now it’s the last picture of Earth from this planetary perspective taken by human hands.

What happens if a star gets too close to a black hole? The black hole can rip it apart – but how? It’s not the high gravitational attraction itself that’s the problem – it’s the difference in gravitational pull across the star that creates the destruction. In the featured animated video illustrating this disintegration, you first see a star approaching the black hole. Increasing in orbital speed, the star’s outer atmosphere is ripped away during closest approach. Much of the star’s atmosphere disperses into deep space, but some continues to orbit the black hole and forms an accretion disk. The animation then takes you into the accretion disk while looking toward the black hole. Including the strange visual effects of gravitational lensing, you can even see the far side of the disk. Finally, you look along one of the jets being expelled along the spin axis. Theoretical models indicate that these jets not only expel energetic gas, but create energetic neutrinos – one of which may have been seen recently on Earth.

Nebula IC 63 also known as The Ghost of Cassiopeia.

These three bright nebulae are often featured on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius and the crowded starfields of the central Milky Way. In fact, 18th century cosmic tourist Charles Messier cataloged two of them; M8, the large nebula below and right of center, and colorful M20 near the top of the frame. The third emission region includes NGC 6559, left of M8 and separated from the larger nebula by a dark dust lane. All three are stellar nurseries about five thousand light-years or so distant. Over a hundred light-years across the expansive M8 is also known as the Lagoon Nebula. M20’s popular moniker is the Trifid. Glowing hydrogen gas creates the dominant red color of the emission nebulae. But for striking contrast, blue hues in the Trifid are due to dust reflected starlight. The broad interstellarscape spans almost 4 degrees or 8 full moons on the sky.

Why isn’t this ant a big sphere? Planetary nebula Mz3 is being cast off by a star similar to our Sun that is, surely, round. Why then would the gas that is streaming away create an ant-shaped nebula that is distinctly not round? Clues might include the high 1000-kilometer per second speed of the expelled gas, the light-year long length of the structure, and the magnetism of the star featured here at the nebula’s center. One possible answer is that Mz3 is hiding a second, dimmer star that orbits close in to the bright star. A competing hypothesis holds that the central star’s own spin and magnetic field are channeling the gas. Since the central star appears to be so similar to our own Sun, astronomers hope that increased understanding of the history of this giant space ant can provide useful insight into the likely future of our own Sun and Earth.

What’s happening in the sky? The pre-dawn sky first seemed relatively serene yesterday morning over Indian Harbor Beach in Florida, USA. But then it lit up with a rocket launch. Just to the north, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 Mission blasted into space aboard a powerful Falcon 9 rocket. The featured time-lapse video – compressing 12-minutes into 8-seconds – shows the bright launch plume starting on the far left. The rocket rises into an increasingly thin atmosphere, causing its plume to spread out just as it is lit by the rising Sun. As the Crew-2 capsule disappears over the horizon, the landing plume of the returning first stage of the Falcon 9 descending toward the SpaceX barge in the Atlantic Ocean can be seen. Up in space, the Endeavour crew capsule is expected to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) this morning, delivering four astronauts. The Crew-2 astronauts join Expedition 65 to help conduct, among other tasks, drug tests using tissue chips – small microfluidic chips that simulate human organs – that run rapidly in ISS’s microgravity.

As NASA’s Perseverance rover begins its search for ancient life on the surface of Mars, a new study suggests that the Martian subsurface might be a good place to look for possible present-day life on the Red Planet.

The study, published in the journal Astrobiology, looked at the chemical composition of Martian meteorites — rocks blasted off of the surface of Mars that eventually landed on Earth. The analysis determined that those rocks, if in consistent contact with water, would produce the chemical energy needed to support microbial communities similar to those that survive in the unlit depths of the Earth. Because these meteorites may be representative of vast swaths of the Martian crust, the findings suggest that much of the Mars subsurface could be habitable.

“The big implication here for subsurface exploration science is that wherever you have groundwater on Mars, there’s a good chance that you have enough chemical energy to support subsurface microbial life,” said Jesse Tarnas, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who led the study while completing his Ph.D. at Brown University. “We don’t know whether life ever got started beneath the surface of Mars, but if it did, we think there would be ample energy there to sustain it right up to today.”

When galaxies collide – what happens to their magnetic fields? To help find out, NASA pointed SOFIA, its flying 747, at galactic neighbor Centaurus A to observe the emission of polarized dust – which traces magnetic fields. Cen A’s unusual shape results from the clash of two galaxies with jets powered by gas accreting onto a central supermassive black hole. In the resulting featured image, SOFIA-derived magnetic streamlines are superposed on ESO (visible: white), APEX (submillimeter: orange), Chandra (X-rays: blue), and Spitzer (infrared: red) images. The magnetic fields were found to be parallel to the dust lanes on the outskirts of the galaxy but distorted near the center. Gravitational forces near the black hole accelerate ions and enhance the magnetic field. In sum, the collision not only combined the galaxies’ masses – but amplified their magnetic fields. These results provide new insights into how magnetic fields evolved in the early universe when mergers were more common.

What’s the best way to explore Mars? Perhaps there is no single best way, but a newly demonstrated method shows tremendous promise: flight. Powered flight has the promise to search vast regions and scout out particularly interesting areas for more detailed investigation. Yesterday, for the first time, powered flight was demonstrated on Mars by a small helicopter named Ingenuity. In the featured video, Ingenuity is first imaged by the Perseverance rover sitting quietly on the Martian surface. After a few seconds, Ingenuity’s long rotors begin to spin, and a few seconds after that – history is made as Ingenuity actually takes off, hovers for a few seconds, and then lands safely. More tests of Ingenuity’s unprecedented ability are planned over the next few months. Flight may help humanity better explore not only Mars, but Saturn’s moon Titan over the next few decades.

Light rays from accretion disks around a pair of orbiting supermassive black holes make their way through the warped space-time produced by extreme gravity in this stunning computer visualization. The simulated accretion disks have been given different false color schemes, red for the disk surrounding a 200-million-solar-mass black hole, and blue for the disk surrounding a 100-million-solar-mass black hole. That makes it easier to track the light sources, but the choice also reflects reality. Hotter gas gives off light closer to the blue end of the spectrum and material orbiting smaller black holes experiences stronger gravitational effects that produce higher temperatures. For these masses, both accretion disks would actually emit most of their light in the ultraviolet though. In the video, distorted secondary images of the blue black hole, which show the red black hole’s view of its partner, can be found within the tangled skein of the red disk warped by the gravity of the blue black hole in the foreground. Because we’re seeing red’s view of blue while also seeing blue directly, the images allow us to see both sides of blue at the same time. Red and blue light originating from both black holes can be seen in the innermost ring of light, called the photon ring, near their event horizons. Astronomers expect that in the not-too-distant future they’ll be able to detect gravitational waves, ripples in space-time, produced when two supermassive black holes in a system much like the one simulated here spiral together and merge.

Bright elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87) is home to the supermassive black hole captured by planet Earth’s Event Horizon Telescope in the first ever image of a black hole. Giant of the Virgo galaxy cluster about 55 million light-years away, M87 is the large galaxy rendered in blue hues in this infrared image from the Spitzer Space telescope. Though M87 appears mostly featureless and cloud-like, the Spitzer image does record details of relativistic jets blasting from the galaxy’s central region. Shown in the inset at top right, the jets themselves span thousands of light-years. The brighter jet seen on the right is approaching and close to our line of sight. Opposite, the shock created by the otherwise unseen receding jet lights up a fainter arc of material. Inset at bottom right, the historic black hole image is shown in context, at the center of giant galaxy and relativistic jets. Completely unresolved in the Spitzer image, the supermassive black hole surrounded by infalling material is the source of enormous energy driving the relativistic jets from the center of active galaxy M87.

Researchers are fairly certain that we gained our favorite satellite, the Moon, after a planet, Theia, collided with the proto-Earth 4.5 billion years ago. What’s not certain are the details surrounding Theia’s fate. Was it a hit-and-run, or did the mantles of the two planets merge?

Qian Yuan, Earth scientist at Arizona State University, and his colleagues recently suggested a new line of evidence to support the latter hypothesis, suggesting that Theia not only merged with Earth, but we might know right where the remnants of its mantle reside in Earth.

As humanity stretches into orbit and beyond, experts are still grappling with how rights afforded to workers on Earth apply to those living in space.

This supernova shock wave plows through interstellar space at over 500,000 kilometers per hour. Near the middle and moving up in this sharply detailed color composite, thin, bright, braided filaments are actually long ripples in a cosmic sheet of glowing gas seen almost edge-on. Cataloged as NGC 2736, its elongated appearance suggests its popular name, the Pencil Nebula. The Pencil Nebula is about 5 light-years long and 800 light-years away, but represents only a small part of the Vela supernova remnant. The Vela remnant itself is around 100 light-years in diameter, the expanding debris cloud of a star that was seen to explode about 11,000 years ago. Initially, the shock wave was moving at millions of kilometers per hour but has slowed considerably, sweeping up surrounding interstellar material. In the featured narrow-band, wide field image, red and blue colors track, primarily, the characteristic glows of ionized hydrogen and oxygen atoms, respectively.

What lights up the Flame Nebula? Fifteen hundred light years away towards the constellation of Orion lies a nebula which, from its glow and dark dust lanes, appears, on the left, like a billowing fire. But fire, the rapid acquisition of oxygen, is not what makes this Flame glow. Rather the bright star Alnitak, the easternmost star in the Belt of Orion visible on the far left, shines energetic light into the Flame that knocks electrons away from the great clouds of hydrogen gas that reside there. Much of the glow results when the electrons and ionized hydrogen recombine. The featured picture of the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) was taken across three visible color bands with detail added by a long duration exposure taken in light emitted only by hydrogen. The Flame Nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a star-forming region that includes the famous Horsehead Nebula.

What happens when two black holes collide? This extreme scenario occurs in the centers of many merging galaxies and multiple star systems. The featured video shows a computer animation of the final stages of such a merger, while highlighting the gravitational lensing effects that would appear on a background starfield. The black regions indicate the event horizons of the dynamic duo, while a surrounding ring of shifting background stars indicates the position of their combined Einstein ring. All background stars not only have images visible outside of this Einstein ring, but also have one or more companion images visible on the inside. Eventually the two black holes coalesce. The end stages of such a merger is now known to produce a strong blast of gravitational radiation, providing a new way to see our universe.

Close to the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and surrounded by the stars of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici), this celestial wonder was discovered in 1781 by the metric French astronomer Pierre Mechain. Later, it was added to the catalog of his friend and colleague Charles Messier as M106. Modern deep telescopic views reveal it to be an island universe - a spiral galaxy around 30 thousand light-years across located only about 21 million light-years beyond the stars of the Milky Way. Along with a bright central core, this stunning galaxy portrait, a composite of image data from amateur and professional telescopes, highlights youthful blue star clusters and reddish stellar nurseries tracing the galaxy’s spiral arms. It also shows off remarkable reddish jets of glowing hydrogen gas. In addition to small companion galaxy NGC 4248 at bottom right, background galaxies can be found scattered throughout the frame. M106, also known as NGC 4258, is a nearby example of the Seyfert class of active galaxies, seen across the spectrum from radio to X-rays. Active galaxies are powered by matter falling into a massive central black hole.

The multicolor, stereo imaging Mastcam-Z on the Perseverance rover zoomed in to captured this 3D close-up (get out your red/blue glasses) of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter on mission sol 45, April 5. That’s only a few sols before the technology demonstrating Ingenuity will attempt to fly in the thin martian atmosphere, making the first powered flight on another planet. The historic test flight is planned for no earlier than Sunday, April 11. Casting its shadow on the martian surface, Ingenuity is standing alone on four landing legs next to the rover’s wheel tracks. The experimental helicopter’s solar panel, charging batteries that keep it warm through the cold martian nights and power its flight, sits above its two 1.2 meter (4 foot) long counter-rotating blades.

Found in far southern skies, deep within the boundaries of the constellation Dorado, NGC 1947 is some 40 million light-years away. In silhouette against starlight, obscuring lanes of cosmic dust thread across the peculiar galaxy’s bright central regions. Unlike the rotation of stars, gas, and dust tracing the arms of spiral galaxies, the motions of dust and gas don’t follow the motions of stars in NGC 1947 though. Their more complicated disconnected motion suggest this galaxy’s visible threads of dust and gas may have come from a donor galaxy, accreted by NGC 1947 during the last 3 billion years or so of the peculiar galaxy’s evolution. With spiky foreground Milky Way stars and even more distant background galaxies scattered through the frame, this sharp Hubble image spans about 25,000 light-years near the center of NGC 1947.

Is this just a lonely tree on an empty hill? To start, perhaps, but look beyond. There, a busy universe may wait to be discovered. First, physically, to the left of the tree, is the planet Mars. The red planet, which is the new home to NASA’s Perseverance rover, remains visible this month at sunset above the western horizon. To the tree’s right is the Pleiades, a bright cluster of stars dominated by several bright blue stars. The featured picture is a composite of several separate foreground and background images taken within a few hours of each other, early last month, from the same location on Vinegar Hill in Milford, Nova Scotia, Canada. At that time, Mars was passing slowly, night after night, nearly in front of the distant Seven Sisters star cluster. The next time Mars will pass angularly as close to the Pleiades as it did in March will be in 2038.

Wisps like this are all that remain visible of a Milky Way star. About 7,000 years ago that star exploded in a supernova leaving the Veil Nebula. At the time, the expanding cloud was likely as bright as a crescent Moon, remaining visible for weeks to people living at the dawn of recorded history. Today, the resulting supernova remnant, also known as the Cygnus Loop, has faded and is now visible only through a small telescope directed toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). The remaining Veil Nebula is physically huge, however, and even though it lies about 1,400 light-years distant, it covers over five times the size of the full Moon. The featured picture is a Hubble Space Telescope mosaic of six images together covering a span of only about two light years, a small part of the expansive supernova remnant. In images of the complete Veil Nebula, even studious readers might not be able to identify the featured filaments.

Four moons are visible on the featured image – can you find them all? First – and farthest in the background – is Titan, the largest moon of Saturn and one of the larger moons in the Solar System. The dark feature across the top of this perpetually cloudy world is the north polar hood. The next most obvious moon is bright Dione, visible in the foreground, complete with craters and long ice cliffs. Jutting in from the left are several of Saturn’s expansive rings, including Saturn’s A ring featuring the dark Encke Gap. On the far right, just outside the rings, is Pandora, a moon only 80-kilometers across that helps shepherd Saturn’s F ring. The fourth moon? If you look closely inside Saturn’s rings, in the Encke Gap, you will find a speck that is actually Pan. Although one of Saturn’s smallest moons at 35-kilometers across, Pan is massive enough to help keep the Encke gap relatively free of ring particles. After more than a decade of exploration and discovery, the Cassini spacecraft ran low on fuel in 2017 and was directed to enter Saturn’s atmosphere, where it surely melted.

Who knows what evil lurks in the eyes of galaxies? The Hubble knows – or in the case of spiral galaxy M64 – is helping to find out. Messier 64, also known as the Evil Eye or Sleeping Beauty Galaxy, may seem to have evil in its eye because all of its stars rotate in the same direction as the interstellar gas in the galaxy’s central region, but in the opposite direction in the outer regions. Captured here in great detail by the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, enormous dust clouds obscure the near-side of M64’s central region, which are laced with the telltale reddish glow of hydrogen associated with star formation. M64 lies about 17 million light years away, meaning that the light we see from it today left when the last common ancestor between humans and chimpanzees roamed the Earth. The dusty eye and bizarre rotation are likely the result of a billion-year-old merger of two different galaxies.

Braided and serpentine filaments of glowing gas suggest this nebula’s popular name, The Medusa Nebula. Also known as Abell 21, this Medusa is an old planetary nebula some 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Gemini. Like its mythological namesake, the nebula is associated with a dramatic transformation. The planetary nebula phase represents a final stage in the evolution of low mass stars like the sun as they transform themselves from red giants to hot white dwarf stars and in the process shrug off their outer layers. Ultraviolet radiation from the hot star powers the nebular glow. The Medusa’s transforming star is the faint one near the center of the overall bright crescent shape. In this deep telescopic view, fainter filaments clearly extend above and right of the bright crescent region. The Medusa Nebula is estimated to be over 4 light-years across.

Why does so much of Jupiter’s lightning occur near its poles? Similar to Earth, Jupiter experiences both aurorae and lightning. Different from Earth, though, Jupiter’s lightning usually occurs near its poles – while much of Earth’s lightning occurs near its equator. To help understand the difference, NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently orbiting Jupiter, has observed numerous aurora and lightning events. The featured image, taken by Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit camera on 2018 May 24, shows Jupiter’s northern auroral oval and several bright dots and streaks. An eye-catching event is shown in the right inset image – which is a flash of Jupiter’s lightning – one of the closest images of aurora and lightning ever. On Earth (which is much nearer to the Sun than Jupiter), sunlight is bright enough to create, by itself, much stronger atmospheric heating at the equator than the poles, driving turbulence, storms, and lightning. On Jupiter, in contrast, atmospheric heating comes mostly from its interior (as a remnant from its formation), leading to the hypothesis that more intense equatorial sunlight reduces temperature differences between upper atmospheric levels, hence reducing equatorial lightning-creating storms.

What’s up in the sky from Auriga to Orion? Many of the famous stars and nebulas in this region were captured on 34 separate images, taking over 430 hours of exposure, and digitally combined to reveal the featured image. Starting on the far upper left, toward the constellation of Auriga (the Chariot driver), is the picturesque Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405). Continuing down along the bright arc of our Milky Way Galaxy, from left to right crossing the constellations of the Twins and the Bull, notable appearing nebulas include the Tadpole, Simeis 147, Monkey Head, Jellyfish, Cone and Rosette nebulas. In the upper right quadrant of the image, toward the constellation of Orion (the hunter), you can see Sh2-264, the half-circle of Barnard’s Loop, and the Horsehead and Orion nebulas. Famous stars in and around Orion include, from left to right, orange Betelgeuse (just right of the image center), blue Bellatrix (just above it), the Orion belt stars of Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak, while bright Rigel appears on the far upper right. This stretch of sky won’t be remaining up in the night very long – it will be setting continually earlier in the evening as mid-year approaches.

The first known interstellar object to pass through our solar system is likely a piece of a Pluto-like planet from another solar system, according to a new study published as a pair of papers today in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, AGU’s journal for research on the formation and evolution of the planets, moons and objects of our solar system and beyond.

Stars fill this infrared view, spanning 4 light-years across the center of the Lagoon Nebula. Visible light images show the glowing gas and obscuring dust clouds that dominate the scene. But this infrared image, constructed from Hubble Space Telescope data, peers closer to the heart of the active star-forming region revealing newborn stars scattered within, against a crowded field of background stars toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. This tumultuous stellar nursery’s central regions are sculpted and energized by the massive, young Herschel 36, seen as the bright star near center in the field of view. Herschel 36 is actually a multiple system of massive stars. At over 30 times the mass of the Sun and less than 1 million years old, the most massive star in the system should live to a stellar old age of 5 million years. Compare that to the almost 5 billion year old Sun which will evolve into a red giant in only another 5 billion years or so. The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8, lies about 4,000 light-years away within the boundaries of the constellation Sagittarius.