Grand Spiral Galaxy or NGC 1232 (Picture of the Day)

Grand Spiral Galaxy
Grand Spiral Galaxy (or NGC 1232) is an intermediate spiral galaxy which is about 60 million light years away. in the constellation of Eridanus. The galaxy comprises of millions of bright stars and dark dust which are visible while billions of normal dim stars and vast tracts of interstellar gas which are less visible dominate the dynamics of the inner galaxy with its high mass. But, the dynamics of the outer galaxy is explained by the even greater amounts of matter known as the dark matter which are invisible.

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Sombrero Galaxy or M104 (Picture of the Day)

Sombrero Galaxy in Infrared
Sombrero Galaxy (also known as M104 or NGC 4594) is an unbarred spiral galaxy which is about 28 million light years away in the Virgo constellation. It spans about 50,000 light years in diameter and is one of the largest galaxies in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies. There is a supermassive black hole present at the center of the galaxy which is estimated to be around 1 billion times the mass of our Sun. The above image shows the infrared glow recorded from the Spitzer Space Telescope, which is superposed in false-color on an image taken by Hubble Space Telescope in optical light.

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OTS 44: Least Massive Star Discovered Yet (Fact of the Day)

Relative size of the Brown Dwarf system to our Solar system (Artist's conception)
OTS 44 is a brown dwarf which is about 550 light years away in the constellation of Chamaeleon. A brown dwarf is a cool or "failed" star, where it does not have the mass to ignite the hydrogen fusion reactions at the core of the star. It is smallest known brown dwarf and the least massive star ever discovered. It has 15 times the mass of Jupiter and only 1.5% of the mass of the Sun. The radius of OTS 44 is about one-fourth the radius of our Sun.

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Tarantula Nebula or NGC 2070 (Picture of the Day)

Tarantula Nebula or NGC 2070
The Tarantula Nebula also known as 30 Doradus or NGC 2070, named after the eight-legged spider tarantula, is an emission nebula which lies 160,000 light years away from Earth. It is one of the most luminous nebula in the sky considering its distance away from the Earth. In fact it is so luminous that, if it was the same distance away from the Earth as the Orion Nebula, then it would be bright enough to cast shadows on Earth and would take up half of the sky. It is actually the largest and the most violent star forming region known in the Local Group of galaxies.

The most prominent star cluster on the nebula is known as R136 which stretches 35 light years in distance contains many of the most massive, hottest and the brightest stars known. In addition to that, the closest supernova ever observed since the invention of telescopes has occurred at the outer edge of this nebula, named SN 1987a.


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Retina Nebula or IC 4406 (Picture of the Day)

Retina Nebula or IC 4406
IC 4406, which is otherwise known as Retina Nebula, is a planetary nebula about 600 parsecs (or 2,000 light years) away from Earth in the constellation of Lupus. The nebula is symmetrical which is a characteristic of a planetary nebula but the main question was about its shape. Usually planetary nebulae are circular but this one is rectangular. The studies have now shown that the nebula is like a hollow cylinder and we are viewing the nebula from the side. The star responsible for this structure is at the centre of the nebula and in a few million years only a white dwarf would be left.

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NGC 7822: Brightest Nebulae in the Sky (Fact of the Day)

NGC 7822
NGC 7822 is the brightest nebulae in the sky from Earth. It is a young star forming complex about 3,000 light years away in the constellation of Cepheus. The field spans about 30 light years. It is an emission type nebula powered by the energetic radiation from the hot stars, whose powerful winds and radiation sculpt and erode the denser pillar shapes. The nebula also includes one of the hottest stars discovered within 1kpc of the Sun.

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Pluto: The New Dwarf Planet (Fact of the Day)

Artist's conception of Pluto (to the right) and its moon Charon (to the left)

Pluto was the ninth planet in our solar system but was later reclassified as a dwarf planet and was given the number 134340. Now, it is the second-most-massive 'dwarf planet' in our solar system. It has a reddish-brown colour and is primarily composed of rocks and ice with traces of Methane, Nitrogen and Carbon dioxide. The surface temperature of Pluto is about 44 K. It has a mass which is one fifth the mass of our own moon. It has a highly eccentric orbit and takes 248 years to orbit the sun and it occasionally appears closer to the sun than Neptune due to it's orbital eccentricity.  It has four moons and the moon Charon is the largest of them all, which is about half the size of Pluto itself. 

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The Rosette Nebula or Caldwell 49 (Picture of the Day)

The Rosette Nebula
The Rosette Nebula (or Caldwell 49) is an emission nebula which is about 5,000 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Monoceros. The nebulas spans about 130 light years in diameter and the central cavity of the nebula is about 50 light years in diameter. The symmetric shape of the petals are sculpted by the winds and radiation from the hot young stars in the central region.

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HAT-P-32b: Largest Planet Discovered Yet (Fact of the Day)

Picture showing the scale of the planets according to their masses
HAT-P-32b is an exoplanet which orbits the star HAT-P-32, approximately 1,044 light years away from Earth located in the constellation of Andromeda. The discovery of this planet was reported on June 2011 and it is the largest discovered planet yet. The radius of the planet is about 2.037 times the radius of the Jupiter and the mass of the planet is about 0.941 times the mass of Jupiter. In other words, it is twice the size of radius but slightly less massive than Jupiter. 


HAT-P-32b is about 0.0344 AU away from the parent star and it completes an orbit around the star in about 2.15 days. It has an equilibrium temperature of about 1888 K which is almost 15 times hotter than Jupiter. All these characteristics of the planet have been estimated with the assumption that it has an elliptical orbit than a circular orbit.


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Ring Nebula or M57 (Picture of the Day)

Ring Nebula or M57
The Ring Nebula (M57 or NGC 6720) is a planetary nebula which is about 2,000 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Lyra. This is one of the brightest planetary nebula on the sky. The nebula spans about 1 light year in diameter. The shell of the nebula is made of ionized gases expelled by a red giant star, which is in the last stage of evolution before becoming a white dwarf.

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Largest Black Hole Ever Discovered (Fact of the Day)

NGC 4889
The largest black hole was believed to be the black hole at the centre of the giant elliptical galaxy Messier 87, which is about 6.3 billion solar masses. But, the latest discovery has showed two black holes which are more massive than the black hole of the Messier 87. Now, the second largest black hole is in the galaxy of NGC 3842 which is about 9.7 billion solar masses.

The largest black hole now is at the heart of galaxy NGC 4889, which is also the brightest galaxy in the Coma cluster. This black hole is about 21 billion times the mass of the Sun. It is about 336 million light years away from Earth.

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The Great Carina Nebula or NGC 3372 (Picture of the Day)

The Great Carina Nebula
The Great Carina Nebula (or NGC3372) is one of the largest star forming regions in our Milky way galaxy and also one of the largest diffuse nebulas in our skies. It spans over 300 light years and is almost 7,500 light years away from Earth. This nebula is also popular for some of the young and massive stars including Eta Carinae. Eta Carinae is a star which is more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. It appears in the constellation of Carina.

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Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights (Picture of the Day)

Aurora Borealis over Canada
An aurora is a light in the sky which can be viewed with naked eye. Aurora which could be seen in the northern hemisphere is called the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. It is caused when the highly-charged particles radiated from the sun, called solar wind, interacts with the Earth's magnetic field. Although most particles are deflected by the Earth's magnetic field, some particle enters the earth through the gap in the magnetic field near the poles. As these particles approach the upper atmosphere (magnetosphere),  it collides with the gas particles and produce these coloured lights. The colour of the light varies depending on the type of gas particle it collides with - Oxygen emits either a greenish-yellow light or a red light; nitrogen generally gives off a blue light. The blending of these colors can also produce purple, pink or even white coloured lights. This is the most visible Sun's effect in the Earth's atmosphere. Most of the auroras occur in between 50 miles and 200 miles above Earth's surface.


The picture above is taken from the International Space Station. The Aurora Borealis is above the city of Winnipeg, Canada.

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Biggest Solar Flare in History (Fact of the Day)

Picture of the 2012 Solar flares
A flare is a sudden, rapid and intense variation in brightness and a solar flare occurs when the magnetic energy that is stored in the solar atmosphere is released suddenly. The radiation released in the flares can range from long wavelength radio waves to short wavelength x-rays. These solar flares release a huge amount of energy. The first ever recorded solar flare is on September 1, 1859 and it is also believed to be the biggest solar flare ever recorded in history.

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