April 30, 2017

Cooling Neutron Star


The bright source near the center is a neutron star, the incredibly dense, collapsed remains of a massive stellar core. Surrounding it is supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A), a comfortable 11,000 light-years away. Light from the Cas A supernova, the death explosion of a massive star, first reached Earth about 350 years ago. The expanding debris cloud spans about 15 light-years in this composite X-ray/optical image. Still hot enough to emit X-rays, Cas A's neutron star is cooling. In fact, years of observations with the orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory find that the neutron star is cooling rapidly -- so rapidly that researchers suspect a large part of the neutron star's core is forming a frictionless neutron superfluid. The Chandra results represent the first observational evidence for this bizarre state of neutron matter. via NASA http://ift.tt/2pxcinZ

April 28, 2017

Arches of Spring


Two luminous arches stretched across the dome of the sky on this northern spring night. After sunset on March 29, the mountain view panorama was captured in 57 exposures from Chopok peak in central Slovakia at an altitude of about 2,000 meters. The arc of the northern Milky Way is visible toward the right, but only after it reaches above the terrestrial lights from the mountain top perspective. Though dusk has passed, a bright patch of celestial light still hovers near the horizon and fades into a second luminous arch of Zodiacal Light, crossing near the center of the Milky Way. Dust in the ecliptic plane reflects sunlight to create the Zodiacal glow, typically prominent after sunset in clear, dark, skies of the northern spring. Almost opposite the Sun, Jupiter shines brightly near the horizon toward the left. Since Jupiter lies near the ecliptic, it appears within the slight brightening of the Zodiacal band also opposite the Sun called the Gegenschein. via NASA http://ift.tt/2pG0XTC

April 27, 2017

Exploring the Antennae


Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies are colliding. Stars in the two galaxies, cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, very rarely collide in the course of the ponderous cataclysm that lasts for hundreds of millions of years. But the galaxies' large clouds of molecular gas and dust often do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage. Spanning over 500 thousand light-years, this stunning view also reveals new star clusters and matter flung far from the scene of the accident by gravitational tidal forces. The remarkable mosaicked image was constructed using data from the ground-based Subaru telescope to bring out large-scale and faint tidal streams, and Hubble Space Telescope data of extreme detail in the bright cores. The suggestive visual appearance of the extended arcing structures gives the galaxy pair its popular name - The Antennae. via NASA http://ift.tt/2pklrho

April 26, 2017

Lyrids in Southern Skies


Earth's annual Lyrid meteor shower peaked before dawn on April 22nd, as our fair planet plowed through dust from the tail of long-period comet Thatcher. Seen from the high, dark, and dry Atacama desert a waning crescent Moon and brilliant Venus join Lyrid meteor streaks in this composited view. Captured over 5 hours on the night of April 21/22, the meteors stream away from the shower's radiant, a point not very far on the sky from Vega, alpha star of the constellation Lyra. The radiant effect is due to perspective as the parallel meteor tracks appear to converge in the distance. In the foreground are domes of the Las Campanas Observatory housing (left to right) the 2.5 meter du Pont Telescope and the 1.3 meter Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) telescope. via NASA http://ift.tt/2p2Mr6N

April 25, 2017

Mt. Etna Lava Plume


Mt. Etna has been erupting for hundreds of thousands of years. Located in Sicily, Italy, the volcano produces lava fountains over one kilometer high. Mt. Etna is not only one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, it is one of the largest, measuring over 50 kilometers at its base and rising nearly 3 kilometers high. Pictured in mid-March, a spectacular lava plume erupts upwards, dangerous molten volcanic bombs fly off to the sides, while hot lava flows down the volcano's exterior. The Earth's rotation is discernable on this carefully time, moon-lit, long duration image as star trails. via NASA http://ift.tt/2oZGTK0

April 24, 2017

A Split Ion Tail for Comet Lovejoy E4


What's happened to Comet Lovejoy? In the pictured image, a processed composite, the comet was captured early this month after brightening unexpectedly and sporting a long and intricate ion tail. Remarkably, the typically complex effect of the Sun's wind and magnetic field here caused the middle of Comet Lovejoy's ion tail to resemble the head of a needle. Comet C/2017 E4 (Lovejoy) was discovered only last month by noted comet discoverer Terry Lovejoy. The comet reached visual magnitude 7 earlier this month, making it a good target for binoculars and long duration exposure cameras. What's happened to Comet Lovejoy (E4) since this image was taken might be considered even more remarkable -- the comet's nucleus appeared to be disintegrating and fading as it neared its closest approach to the Sun two days ago. via NASA http://ift.tt/2p9Ccfd

April 21, 2017

Between the Rings


On April 12, as the Sun was blocked by the disk of Saturn the Cassini spacecraft camera looked toward the inner Solar System and the gas giant's backlit rings. At the top of the mosaicked view is the A ring with its broader Encke and narrower Keeler gaps visible. At the bottom is the F ring, bright due to the viewing geometry. The point of light between the rings is Earth, 1.4 billion kilometers in the distance. Look carefully and you can even spot Earth's large moon, a pinprick of light to the planet's left. Today Cassini makes its final close approach to Saturn's own large moon Titan, using Titan's gravity to swing into the spacecraft's Grand Finale, the final set of orbits that will bring Cassini just inside Saturn's rings. via NASA http://ift.tt/2p31Pk2

April 19, 2017

Asteroid 2014 JO25


A day before its closest approach, asteroid 2014 JO25 was imaged by radar with the 70-meter antenna of NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California. This grid of 30 radar images, top left to lower right, reveals the two-lobed shape of the asteroid that rotates about once every five hours. Its largest lobe is about 610 meters across. On the list of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, this space rock made its close approach to our fair planet on April 19, flying safely past at a distance of 1.8 million kilometers. That's over four times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. The asteroid was a faint and fast moving speck visible in backyard telescopes. Asteroid 2014 JO25 was discovered in May 2014 by the Catalina Sky Survey, a project of NASA's Near-Earth Objects Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona. via NASA http://ift.tt/2oNWfQr

April 12, 2017

Moons and Jupiter


On April 10, a Full Moon and Jupiter shared this telephoto field of view. Both were near opposition, opposite the Sun in Earth's night sky. Captured when a passing cloud bank dimmmed the bright moonlight slightly, the single exposure reveals the familiar face of our fair planet's own large natural satellite, along with a line up of the ruling gas giant's four Galilean moons. Labeled top to bottom, the tiny pinpricks of light above bright Jupiter are Callisto, Europa, Ganymede, and Io. Closer and brighter, our own natural satellite appears to loom large. But Callisto, Ganymede, and Io are physically larger than Earth's Moon, while water world Europa is only slightly smaller. In fact, of the Solar System's six largest planetary satellites, only Saturn's moon Titan is missing from the scene. via NASA http://ift.tt/2prWH5V

April 11, 2017

Leo Trio


This group is popular in the northern spring. Famous as the Leo Triplet, the three magnificent galaxies gather in one field of view. Crowd pleasers when imaged with even modest telescopes, they can be introduced individually as NGC 3628 (left), M66 (bottom right), and M65 (top). All three are large spiral galaxies but they tend to look dissimilar because their galactic disks are tilted at different angles to our line of sight. NGC 3628 is seen edge-on, with obscuring dust lanes cutting across the plane of the galaxy, while the disks of M66 and M65 are both inclined enough to show off their spiral structure. Gravitational interactions between galaxies in the group have also left telltale signs, including the warped and inflated disk of NGC 3628 and the drawn out spiral arms of M66. This gorgeous view of the region spans about one degree (two full moons) on the sky. The field covers over 500 thousand light-years at the trio's estimated distance of 30 million light-years. via NASA http://ift.tt/2p3iAJs

April 10, 2017

Man, Dog, Sun


This was supposed to be a shot of trees in front of a setting Sun. Sometimes, though, the unexpected can be photogenic. During some planning shots, a man walking his dog unexpected crossed the ridge. The result was so striking that, after cropping, it became the main shot. The reason the Sun appears so large is that the image was taken from about a kilometer away through a telephoto lens. Scattering of blue light by the Earth's atmosphere makes the bottom of the Sun appear slightly more red that the top. Also, if you look closely at the Sun, just above the man's head, a large group of sunspots is visible. The image was taken just last week in Bad Mergentheim, Germany. via NASA http://ift.tt/2nw42oh

April 8, 2017

Comet Hale Bopp Over Val Parola Pass


Comet Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997, became much brighter than any surrounding stars. It was seen even over bright city lights. Away from city lights, however, it put on quite a spectacular show. Here Comet Hale-Bopp was photographed above Val Parola Pass in the Dolomite mountains surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Comet Hale-Bopp's blue ion tail, consisting of ions from the comet's nucleus, is pushed out by the solar wind. The white dust tail is composed of larger particles of dust from the nucleus driven by the pressure of sunlight, that orbit behind the comet. Comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1) remained visible to the unaided eye for 18 months -- longer than any other comet in recorded history. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Comet Hale-Bopp's last trip to the inner Solar System. The large comet is next expected to return around the year 4385. via NASA http://ift.tt/2o9Fi2t

April 7, 2017

Zeta Oph: Runaway Star


Like a ship plowing through cosmic seas, runaway star Zeta Ophiuchi produces the arcing interstellar bow wave or bow shock seen in this stunning infrared portrait. In the false-color view, bluish Zeta Oph, a star about 20 times more massive than the Sun, lies near the center of the frame, moving toward the left at 24 kilometers per second. Its strong stellar wind precedes it, compressing and heating the dusty interstellar material and shaping the curved shock front. What set this star in motion? Zeta Oph was likely once a member of a binary star system, its companion star was more massive and hence shorter lived. When the companion exploded as a supernova catastrophically losing mass, Zeta Oph was flung out of the system. About 460 light-years away, Zeta Oph is 65,000 times more luminous than the Sun and would be one of the brighter stars in the sky if it weren't surrounded by obscuring dust. The image spans about 1.5 degrees or 12 light-years at the estimated distance of Zeta Ophiuchi. via NASA http://ift.tt/2o860IV

April 6, 2017

Castle Eye View


The best known asterism in northern skies, The Big Dipper is easy to recognize, even when viewed upside down, though some might see a plough or wagon. The star names and the familiar outlines appear framed in the ruined tower walls of the French Chateau du Morimont if you just slide your cursor over the image or follow this link. Dubhe, alpha star of the dipper's parent constellation Ursa Major is at the lower left. Together with beta star Merak the two form a line pointing the way to Polaris and the North Celestial Pole, hidden from view by the stones. Since the image was captured on March 30, you can follow a line from dipper stars Phecda and Megrez to spot the faint greenish glow of Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak below center, still within the castle eye view. The periodic comet made a remarkable close approach to planet Earth on April 1. via NASA http://ift.tt/2oFThzz

April 5, 2017

Project: Anderson Powerpole Polarity Checker - W3OW's Build

W3OW (Bruce Patterson) shared his build of the Project: Anderson Powerpole Polarity Checker.  Bruce's design incorporated a bicolored red/green LED.  He repurposed a coax connector cover and added a hole for the LED with a touch of his soldering iron.

W3OW's Anderson PowerPole Tester

The resulting tester came out looking really terrific.  Well done Bruce!

Have you built your own?  Please send me an email with your build of the Anderson Powerpole Polarity Checker and I will post them here on my website.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X



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April 3, 2017

Plane Contrail and Sun Halo


What's happened to the sky? Several common features of the daytime sky are interacting in uncommon ways. First, well behind the silhouetted hills, is the typically bright Sun. In front of the Sun are thin clouds, possibly the home to a layer of hexagonal ice crystals that together are creating the 22 degree halo of light surrounding the Sun. The unusual bent line that crosses the image is a contrail -- a type of cloud created by a passing airplane. Much of the contrail must actually be further away than the thin cloud because it casts a shadow onto the cloud, giving an unusual three-dimensional quality to the featured image. The featured image was taken in late January in the city of Patras in West Greece. via NASA http://ift.tt/2oBgY9q

April 1, 2017

NGC 602 and Beyond


Near the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy some 200 thousand light-years distant, lies 5 million year young star cluster NGC 602. Surrounded by natal gas and dust, NGC 602 is featured in this stunning Hubble image of the region, augmented by images in the X-ray by Chandra, and in the infrared by Spitzer. Fantastic ridges and swept back shapes strongly suggest that energetic radiation and shock waves from NGC 602's massive young stars have eroded the dusty material and triggered a progression of star formation moving away from the cluster's center. At the estimated distance of the Small Magellanic Cloud, the Picture spans about 200 light-years, but a tantalizing assortment of background galaxies are also visible in this sharp multi-colored view. The background galaxies are hundreds of millions of light-years or more beyond NGC 602. via NASA http://ift.tt/2oKD0Ws