Explanation: During a total solar eclipse, the Sun’s extensive outer atmosphere, or corona, is an inspirational sight.Streamers and shimmering features that engage the eye span a brightness range of over 10,000 to 1, making them notoriously difficult to capture in a single photograph. But this composite of 29 telescopic images covers a wide range of exposure times to reveal the crown of the Sun in all its glory. The aligned and stacked digital frames were recorded in the cold, clear skies above the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, Norway during the Sun’s total eclipse on March 20 and also show solar prominences extending just beyond the edge of the solar disk. Remarkably, even small details on the dark night side of the New Moon can be made out, illuminated by sunlight reflected from a Full Earth. Of course, fortunes will be reversed on April 4 as a Full Moon plunges into the shadow of a New Earth, during a total lunar eclipse.
Explanation: The central bulge of our Milky Way Galaxy rises above a sea of clouds in this ethereal scene. An echo of the Milky Way’s dark dust lanes, the volcanic peak in foreground silhouette is on France’s Réunion Island in the southern Indian Ocean.
Taken in February, the photograph was voted the winner of the 2014 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest’s Beauty of the Night Sky Category. This and other winning and noteable images from the contest were selected from over a thousand entries from 55 countries around planet Earth. Also featured in the contest compilation video (vimeo), the moving images are a testament to the importance and beauty of our world at night.
Saturn, for example, has an odd hexagonal pattern in the clouds at its north pole, and when the planet tilted enough to illuminate it, the light revealed a giant hurricane embedded in the center of the hexagon. Scientists think the immense storm may have been there for years.
The photo below was taken by the Cassini orbiter in June of 2013.
NASA’s explanation: Wind and spaceweather are transformed in this haunting night skyscape. The prairie windmill and colorful auroral display were captured on October 1, from central South Dakota, USA, as a good season for aurora hunters came with longer autumn nights. From green to rarer reddish hues, the northern lights are sparked by the geomagnetic storms caused by solar activity. These extend far above the cloud bank to altitudes well over 100 kilometers, against the backdrop of distant stars in the northern night. Visual double star Mizar, marking the middle of the Big Dipper’s handle, is easy to spot at the left edge of the frame. The dipper’s North Celestial Pole pointers Merak and Dubhe line up vertically near picture center.