Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 January 31
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

The Helix Nebula from the VISTA Telescope
Credit: ESO/VISTA/J. Emerson; Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit  



Explanation: Will our Sun look like this one day? The Helix Nebula is one of brightest and closest examples of a planetary nebula, a gas cloud created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The outer gasses of the star expelled into space appear from our vantage point as if we are looking down a helix. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The Helix Nebula, given a technical designation of NGC 7293, lies about 700 light-years away towards the constellation of the Water Bearer (Aquarius) and spans about 2.5 light-years. The above picture was taken three colors on infrared light by the 4.1-meter Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. A close-up of the inner edge of the Helix Nebula shows complex gas knots of unknown origin.


Cosmic Calendar for Monday, January 30

For the most part – after several days of exhausting celestial shenanigans – you can now breathe a sigh of relief during the last two days of January. The first piece of good news comes in the form of the monthly Moon-Jupiter union in Taurus (3:30AM PST). Although this occurs officially early in the day, its influence can last for many hours. The power of positive thinking, good luck and auspicious vibrations are your bridge to worldly achievements. Some challenging situations may pop up to test your faith and resolve since the Moon squares Mercury (8:16AM PST), Mercury then makes a frictional, 45-degree tie to Venus (8:48AM PST) while the tension-creating First Quarter Sun-Moon Phase (energizing 11 degrees of Aquarius and Taurus) clocks in at 8:11PM PST. Moving too far too fast – particularly with an air of superiority (a la Jupiter on steroids) – will foil your higher plans. It is always wise to be humble instead of succumbing to the sin (hubris or pride) of mythological Icarus – whose wings melted because he flew to close to the Sun. Helping you stay more creative and artistic – in a deep and powerful manner – is an enlightening, 72-degree link from Venus to Pluto (6:50PM PST). Try to tweak the Taurus Moon tendency to be stubborn into the more admirable trait to be a Rock of Gibraltar when friends and loved ones need someone to lean on.

New Moon Report for Jan 27th – Mercury in Aquarius

New Moon Report

by Jeff Jawer


Mercury in Aquarius

Friday, January 27, 10:12 am PST, 1:12 pm EST

Intelligence matters with clever Mercury in cerebral Aquarius. We can break out of our usual patterns of perception to understand the world from different angles. Cooler heads allow us to step out of the shadows of emotion and discover new concepts. However, friendly conversations may stimulate minds but could be less successful at touching hearts.

Cosmic Calendar for January 25th

Strange forces are very much on the prowl in the early going today as the Moon makes its monthly union with Neptune in Aquarius (12:34AM PST) – simultaneously launching a short void lunar cycle that lasts until 1:12AM PST when the Moon enters Piscean waters. Watch your dreams for clues about the future and don’t be surprised if maternal archetypes are present in your soul-wanderings since the Moon is also parallel to Ceres (1:10AM PST). Healing forces are making a comeback since the Moon forms its monthly conjunction with Chiron in Pisces (7:14AM PST) while the lunar orb is also parallel to Chiron (8:57AM PST). This double emphasis on Chiron reminds you to meditate for clarity and peace of mind. Learn more about advances in the field of alternative medicine. Be more of a bridge-builder between your multi-faceted personality and spirit realms. Pisces Moon gives you an opportunity to lend a helping hand to the truly disenfranchised and abandoned. Tough it out this evening when Venus forms a frictional, 135-degree tie to Saturn (7:04PM PST). This aspect can bring the big chill into affairs of the heart on a temporary basis. Dance away the blues as the Moon in the last sign of the zodiac can give you a dose of happy feet.

Lunar Almanac for Wednesday, January 25th

Moon & Witch Comments & Graphics

Lunar Almanac for Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waxing, New Moon Age: 2 ¾ days.
Ascending Node is at 11° Sagittarius.
Moon in 10th degree of the Sign Pisces, the Fishes;
also in 13th deg. of the Constellation Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.
Moonrise: 8:16 morn. Midheaven: 2:10 eve. Moonset: 8:14 eve.


~Magickal Graphics~

New Moon Report for Jan. 22 – New Moon in Aquarius

New Moon Report for January 22

by Jeff Jawer

New Moon in Aquarius

Sunday, January 22, 11:39 pm PST, Monday, January 23, 2:39 am EST

The New Moon in brainy Aquarius opens minds to fresh ways of seeing and enlightens us with brilliant ideas. Broadening visions of the future can reveal unexpected professional opportunities and help establish strategies for meeting long-term goals. Enthusiasm may rise and fall with skeptical Saturn and optimistic Jupiter’s 90-degree squares to this lunation. A supportive sextile from innovative Uranus in Aries, though, reveals alternative ways to express ourselves and contribute to the well-being of the community.

The Aquarius New Moon is like entering a laboratory where objective thinking permits us to observe life without prejudice or prejudgment. Learning comes with sudden flashes of insight that arise from being in unfamiliar positions. Stepping outside our comfort zones feels alienating, yet exploring alternatives permits new vistas of awareness to open.

Cosmic Calendar for January 22

If you were able to move through yesterday’s celestial labyrinth without too much trouble, give yourself a pat on the back. You still have to deal with the galloping intensity of the dark-of-the-moon vibrations – when the lunar orb is nearing its monthly rendezvous with the Sun, but which is pushed back in time to 11:40PM PST tonight with the New Moon energizing 3 degrees of Aquarius. The 23+ hours before this moment sees an increasing wave that suggests the need to close down old business and projects on a high note. However, this implies that it is extra hard to utilize this morning’s Moon-Mercury union in Capricorn (4:03AM PST) in a forward-moving, assertive manner. Instead, you can sharpen some of your communication and literary skills. This is amplified several hours later when Venus forms a parallel with Saturn (1:21PM PST). This Venus-Saturn contact also gives you a partial boost with business, artistic and professional matters. Make note of the short void lunar cycle that starts at 5:39PM PST and ends at 6:54PM PST when the Moon enters service-oriented Aquarius. As mentioned earlier in this calendar entry, the moment of the New Moon – 11:40PM PST – is the key time when the dark-of-the-moon vibes dissolve and the universe recharges your electro-magnetic batteries, urging you to join others in group, team and community activities that have a ring of goodwill surrounding them.

Cosmic Calendar for Jan. 21st

turday, January 21, 2012


Are worries and nervous tension giving you a psychic headache that won’t seem to dissipate? You may be tuning into Monday’s upcoming Mars turnaround – where the red planet shifts from moving forward in Virgo to doing backflips for approximately 80 days. Helping you cope with the increasing martial energy-field are a Moon-Venus supportive, 60-degree tie (6:01AM PST) and a similar hook-up between the Sun and Uranus (5:22PM PST). However, these two favorable sky patterns are separated by nearly half the day and they may not be able to neutralize discordant vibes coming from the monthly Moon-Pluto union in Capricorn (4:33AM PST), Pallas making an abrasive, 45-degree tie to Pluto (7:32PM PST), an off-kilter, 150-degree link from Mars to Pallas (8:29PM PST), the Moon parallel to Pluto (10:04PM PST) and a feisty, unsettling Sun-Jupiter square from Aquarius to Taurus (10:36PM PST). The cosmos is clearly ruffling many of its feathers, and the shadowy, dark-of-the-moon monthly cycle is also gaining power as the next New Moon happens late tomorrow night. Do your best to make some breakthroughs in higher consciousness and tap into Uranian-endowed flashes of genius along the way. The Moon in Capricorn continues to stimulate your overall urge to reach loftier career milestones.

AQUARIUS, Jan 20 – Feb 18

Zodiac Comments 

AQUARIUS, Jan 20 – Feb 18
RULER: Uranus …
SYMBOL: The Water Bearer
ATTRACTED TO: … Gemini … Libra
LUCKY NUMBERS: 17, 11, 30 …
TAROT CARD: Queen of Pentacles

You are a charitable and public minded person who is ambitious, energetic, determined, dedicated, but can be opinionated and strongly affected by outside events that are unexpected or out of their hands. You are usually very honest and forthright. Your word is your bond. Once given, you stand by your word and your decisions. You do not have a problem with other people’s right to their own beliefs and you think everyone is entitled to their own approach in life. You are very considerate of others. You are very independent. You are an individualist. You find it hard to team up with others and tend to go your own way. You have an active imagination, sometimes letting it run away with you. You are usually 50 years ahead of your time. You have high Morals and values, and are compassionate and friendly. You are happiest in work like teaching, writing, painting, inventing.

~Magickal Graphics~

Cosmic Calendar for Friday, Jan. 20th

Some strong changes are in the air – especially as the Sun enters Aquarius (8:11AM PST) for the next 30-day solar cycle in the zodiac. There is always an emphasis on group projects, team sports, community activities and humanitarian movements that are global in nature whenever the Sun activates this sign of the zodiac. Helping you make the most of this transition from the earth sign Capricorn is an inspirational, 72-degree rapport from Mercury to Ceres (12:26AM PST), a similar aspect from Mercury to Uranus (6:46PM PST) while Venus forms a supportive, 60-degree association with Pluto (12:33PM PST). Your productivity in arts, crafts and hobbies can rise while your emotional bonds with dear ones are strengthened. Breakthroughs in consciousness can become more the rule than the exception. Adding to your gains on the productivity front is a constructive, 60-degree alliance of the Sun with Ceres (5:49PM PST). The main challenge comes from a relatively short lunar void cycle that runs from 1:50PM PST to 2:41PM PST (when the Moon shifts from Sagittarius into Capricorn). Hopes should be able to drown out any chorus of fears as the Moon in Capricorn trines Jupiter in Taurus (5:18PM PST) – creating a strong and positive psychic backdrop to the evening hours.