Astronomy Picture of the Day for June 15

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 June 15

M65 and M66

Image Credit & Copyright: Bill Snyder (Heavens Mirror Observatory)

Explanation: Nearby and bright, spiral galaxies M65 (top) and M66 stand out in this engaging cosmic snapshot. The pair are just 35 million light-years distant and around 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own spiral Milky Way. While both exhibit prominent dust lanes sweeping along their broad spiral arms, M66 in particular is a striking contrast in red and blue hues; the telltale pinkish glow of hydrogen gas in star forming regions and young blue star clusters. M65 and M66 make up two thirds of the well-known Leo Triplet of galaxies with warps and tidal tails that offer evidence of the group’s past close encounters. The larger M66 has been host to four supernovae discovered since 1973.

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 June 9

Venus at the Edge

Image Credit: JAXANASA, Lockheed Martin  

Explanation: As its June 6 2012 transit begins Earth’s sister planet crosses the edge of the Sun in this stunning view from the Hinode spacecraft. The timing of limb crossings during the rare transits was used historically to triangulate the distance to Venus and determine a value for the Earth-Sun distance called the astronomical unit. Still, modern space-based views like this one show the event against an evocative backdrop of the turbulent solar surface with prominences lofted above the Sun’s edge by twisting magnetic fields. Remarkably, the thin ring of light seen surrounding the planet’s dark silhouette is sunlight refracted by Venus’ thick atmosphere.

The Path Of The Air Witch (Part 2)

The Path Of The Air Witch

(Part 2)

If you are friends with an Air Witch, prepare to be inspired. She wants her friends and loved ones to achieve their desired level of success just as badly as they do. The Air Witch gives herself to her friends selflessly. However, once betrayed, she will never trust that person again. The Air Witch is all about movement and she refuses to get caught in other people’s hand-ups. She is not one to give second chances. Because of her willingness to please, and the fact that she strives to make all things just, she may actually say that she will grant someone a second chance and then try to, but rarely can she do it in her heart. Once trust is gone for her, it is gone. She moves on.

The Air Witch is optimistic and energetic. She always starts off strong, even if her efforts dwindle later. It is the same in all areas of her life. Her first magick is the strongest, and she usually instinctually knows her element instantly. The only part of her life where this factor does not enter into the equation is in the case of first love. Once a relationship is over for her, it is over. The Air Witch does not live in the past, but in the present. The love she has now is the only one that matters.

The Air Witch can maintain her stamina to complete a project if she perceives it to be a challenge. Telling an Air Witch that she can’t do something is a sure way to see to it that she does. However, if she guesses that she is being manipulated in this fashion, she will erupt into a tantrum. She despises manipulative games and tends to see through them quickly, due to her own manipulative nature.

Because the air blankets the Earth and water, the Air Witch frequently has a large ego. She sees herself as above others and counts on her sister elements  to keep this ego in check. A key lesson for the windy ones is learning that they are not the only creatures that count. However, this position also grants the Air Witch the ability to see all sides of a situation. She is very just.

(continued on The Path Of The Air Witch, Part 3)

The Path Of The Water Witch

The Path Of The Water Witch 

Water Witches are sometimes called Sea Witches, but many of them find a calling with inland creeks, rivers, and lakes. It is rare for them to limit themselves to any one type of body of water. They generally align with all forms, including rain.

In most mythologies, human sprang from the Earth, but the gods themselves came from water. Egyptian theory states that the sun god Re was born from the primordial waters. Today, scientists can back that theory, NASA scientists theorize that water exists in heavy quantities in the universe. It works as a coolant. The water vapors in outer space for the condensing of clouds. Once a cloud condenses enough, it becomes a star.

Water reflects, the Water Witch does the same. If you yell at her, she will yell back at you. If you are kind to her well, she will be kind and treat you well in return. She is very fair. She shares many qualities with her sister Earth Witch, as the Earth is 90 percent water. Among those qualities is the core belief of taking complete responsibility for her actions. The Water Witch accepts that every move she makes can cause ripples across the surface of the water and moves accordingly.

Water is considered a feminine force, and the Water Witch may prefer an alliance with the Goddess, all the while recognizing and maintaining that the God is within the Goddess. She cans sometimes relate closely to Dianic Witches in this preference.

The Water Witch can see things that those on other paths cannot. In fact, the human sense of sight belongs in her realm. Just as the seas teem with life that we have yet to discover and understand, the Water Witch know s that there is much more to our world than what is within our eyesight! While she can be highly superstitious, for the most part she simply knows that there is more just waiting to be discovered, as well as some things that humanity has known about and forgotten over the ages. The old phrase “out of the blue” speaks volumes about the ability of the Water Witch to tune in to her intuition. She is often very gifted in divination practices. Tarot is usually her divinatory tool of choice, but she also has a talent for dowsing.

The Water Witch sees little that she considers an obstacle. She understands that her fate is in her hands, and if she cannot flow through something, she will flow around it. Once her mind is made up, very little can stop her from obtaining what she wants. Because water exists in three forms on Earth, The Water Witch can be considered a formidable force. She will not admit to any weaknesses.

The Water Witch has a close link to the feminine side of nature. She understands reproduction and is akin to her sister Earth Witch in this manner as well. Menstruation falls in the realm of the Water Witch. Because of this, she is instrumental in moon-lodge practices and coming-of-age rites. Her sister Earth Witch may focus more on the rebirth cycle, while the Water Witch is more in touch with creation.

The Water Witch specializes in healing, cleansing, beauty, emotions, intuition and energy. Her magickal style is usually based on instinct. If the feeling hits her to perform a cleansing, she will. She does not necessarily worry about correspondences and timing. Her timing is completely her own–she will not be rushed by others into decisions or action. Schooled in water magick, ice magick and snow magick, the Water Witch can tell you all about the role of water in the metaphysical and physical realms.

Winter is the season when the Water Witch’s power is at its peak. She holds within herself the ability to transform fluidity to solid form during the winter, the same way that water turns to ice. It is during this season that the Water Witch should turn her view inward and evaluate her goals. She often redefines herself through the process. Because of this, a Water Witch grows stronger every year. She understands that just as dry ice is sticky, it is her role to hold thing together.

Throughout the winter months, the Water Witch is abnormally busy, even for her active lifestyle. Because she is at her highest power and incarnated in all three of her forms during these months, she may be short of temper. When you add to that the fact that artificial heat (fire, an evaporating influence on water) is usually pumped into the home during this time and families tend to be cooped up in the same space, you may have one cranky, stressed-out Water Witch on your hands. She longs for room to spread out and flow. A simple snowfall can ease her mind and soothe her spirit; she draws strength from it. If that is not an option, a long bath or a cup of hot tea usually helps. Rest assured that if you visit her in the winter months, she will be a very gracious hostess, regardless of the timing. The Water Witch is known for her generous hospitality.

Her home décor is usually unthemed, with whimsy being the main rule. The Water Witch may have a quirky collection of glass objects, prisms (she tends to like sparkly things), tons of throw pillows and an aquarium. Cool blues and greens are often primary colors in both her wardrobe and her home.

Due to her busy lifestyle, the Water Witch frequently has to let the housework slide somewhat. Although she prefers all things to be clean, she also understands that there must be “salt in the sea.” In other words, a small amount of dirt is inevitable, and she is able to live with that comfortably. She absolutely cannot stand clutter, though. It drives her to distraction.

Another common trait of the Water Witch is a quirky sense of humor. It simply cannot be defined. Some of the things she says seem to come from outer space in their relation to the topic, yet they can make you laugh as nothing else will. This is intentional–the Water Witch is lighthearted. But just when you begin to think she has never had a deep thought in her life, she will prove you wrong. When it comes to serious conversation, the Water Witch can often put her finger on an aspect of the situation that the other Elemental Witches do not see. The Water Witch is very wise.

Like her mythical brethren the mermaids and water nymphs, the Water Wise tends to love long hair. She may keep it pulled back in a ponytail due to a lack of time, but she lets it grow nonetheless. The effects that water has on the body are directly in line with the metaphysical attributes of the Water Witch. Usually beautiful, she is often younger looking in appearance than in age and has a long memory and attention span and bright, shining eyes.

Because the Water Witch always considers every side of an argument before making up her mind, she may be slow to assume a position. Rest assured that when a Water Witch states her opinion., it has been well thought out. She open-minded and fair. Her strength lies in her dual nature an a ability to see the points or view of others. And like water, she will find her way into all of the small nooks and crannies of a situation. She may initially choose an answer based on instinct but if new facts come to light, she will often change her mind. She is flexible.

Those on the water path often find a calling in helping others. They make wonderful therapists, psychiatrists, obstetricians, pediatricians or service personnel. Often people are attracted to their soothing nature and come to them for advice. Like a waterbed, a reflecting pool , or a relaxing bath, Water Witches project an aura of serenity and comfort.

The Water Witch may be seen as moody, but like the sea herself, she is often in motion. She rarely slows down She is full of energy and always on the go. And like the sea, her moods swing with the tides. The moon holds sway over the tides, and one can easily draw a parallel between the moon and the Water Witch’s emotional patterns.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Thursday, Feb. 9th

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.

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

Nobels for a Strange Universe
Image Credit: High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA


Explanation: Thirteen years ago results were first presented indicating that most of the energy in our universe is not in stars or galaxies but is tied to space itself. In the language of cosmologists, a large cosmological constant is directly implied by new distant supernova observations. Suggestions of a cosmological constant (lambda) were not new — they have existed since the advent of modern relativistic cosmology. Such claims were not usually popular with astronomers, though, because lambda is so unlike known universe components, because lambda’s value appeared limited by other observations, and because less-strange cosmologies without lambda had previously done well in explaining the data. What is noteworthy here is the seemingly direct and reliable method of the observations and the good reputations of the scientists conducting the investigations. Over the past thirteen years, independent teams of astronomers have continued to accumulate data that appears to confirm the existence of dark energy and the unsettling result of a presently accelerating universe. This year, the team leaders were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work. The above picture of a supernova that occurred in 1994 on the outskirts of a spiral galaxy was taken by one of these collaborations.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for February 8

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 February 8
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Enceladus Backlit by Saturn
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA; Color Composite: Gordan Ugarkovic 

Explanation: This moon is shining by the light of its planet. Specifically, a large portion of Enceladus pictured above is illuminated primarily by sunlight first reflected from the planet Saturn. The result is that the normally snow-white moon appears in the gold color of Saturn’s cloud tops. As most of the illumination comes from the image left, a labyrinth of ridges throws notable shadows just to the right of the image center, while the kilometer-deep canyon Labtayt Sulci is visible just below. The bright thin crescent on the far right is the only part of Enceladus directly lit by the Sun. The above image was taken last year by the robotic Cassini spacecraft during a close pass by by the enigmatic moon. Inspection of the lower part of this digitally sharpened image reveals plumes of ice crystals thought to originate in a below-surface sea.

NASA Image of the Day for Feb. 6th

 Remnant of a Supernova

Remnant of a Supernova

Vital clues about the devastating ends to the lives of massive stars can be found by studying the aftermath of their explosions. In its more than twelve years of science operations, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has studied many of these supernova remnants sprinkled across the galaxy.

The latest example of this important investigation is Chandra’s new image of the supernova remnant known as G350.1-0.3. This stellar debris field is located some 14,700 light years from the Earth toward the center of the Milky Way.

Evidence from Chandra and from ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope suggest that a compact object within G350.1+0.3 may be the dense core of the star that exploded. The position of this likely neutron star, seen by the arrow pointing to “neutron star” in the inset image, is well away from the center of the X-ray emission. If the supernova explosion occurred near the center of the X-ray emission then the neutron star must have received a powerful kick in the supernova explosion.

Data suggest this supernova remnant, as it appears in the image, is 600 and 1,200 years old. If the estimated location of the explosion is correct, this means the neutron star has been moving at a speed of at least 3 million miles per hour since the explosion.

Another intriguing aspect of G350.1-0.3 is its unusual shape. Many supernova remnants are nearly circular, but G350.1-0.3 is strikingly asymmetrical as seen in the Chandra data in this image (gold). Infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (light blue) also trace the morphology found by Chandra. Astronomers think that this bizarre shape is due to stellar debris field expanding into a nearby cloud of cold molecular gas.

The age of 600-1,200 years puts the explosion that created G350.1-0.3 in the same time frame as other famous supernovas that formed the Crab and SN 1006 supernova remnants. However, it is unlikely that anyone on Earth would have seen the explosion because of the obscuring gas and dust that lies along our line of sight to the remnant.

These results appeared in the April 10, 2011 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/I. Lovchinsky et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech


The energies of the Moon effect the activities of the subconscious,
the intuition, dream work and the emotions. The plants attributed to
the Moon act principally on the major fluids of the body and on the
stomach (attributed to Cancer, ruled by the Moon). Their fluidic
action is primarily regulatory and eliminative. Much of the
digestive activity seems also to influence the individual’s moods –
the emotional effect of stomach action being well known so this dual
action of several of the herbs makes a great deal of sense.

Several herbs bear marked resemblances to the Moon in her various
phases, both in color and shape of plant, fruit and flower. The
white fruits of fennel grow in pairs of curved oblong shapes that
seem to represent the waxing and waning lunar crescents. The lily,
long an associate of Lunar Goddesses, has round, bell-shaped flowers
that are frequently bright white and it bears oblong to crescent
shaped leaves. The fruit of the almond generally is also pure white
and oblong to crescent shaped.

Those herbs that deal with fluidity generally act upon water and
blood most specifically even as the Moon herself controls the tides
and the flow of blood. Cucumber helps eliminate excess water from
the body and is an anti-constipatory diuretic, particularly
effective in dissolving uric acid accumulations such as kidney
stones. Fennel and lily are eliminatives, laxatives and diuretics
and while the lily acts as a digestive antispasmodic, fennel is
commonly used to stimulate the flow of milk in nursing mothers.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is particularly apt in its lunar
attribution in that in addition to its digestive and purgative
qualities, a decoction can be used quite effectively to regulate the
flow of menstrual blood.

Several Lunar herbs act on other fluids of the body (generally to
eliminate excess) as well as acting as digestives. Camphor, by
reducing fluid accumulation in the lungs and pleural sac, is an
excellent remedy for whooping cough and pleurisy. Bitter almond is
used as a cough remedy while sweet almond is used internally as a
soothing syrup and externally as an emollient. Meanwhile, white
sandalwood is used to reduce inflammation of mucosal tissue as well
as being a diuretic – a decoction of the wood can also be used for

Myrrh and Sandalwood share both astringent and stomachic properties,
but along with jasmin and bitter almond, they share qualities
ascribed to the Moon that surpass the simply medicinal. Bitter
almond and jasmin both have sedative effects, calming the nerves and
allowing a more intuitive, psychic lunar mode of brain function to
manifest. It is probably also this aspect that has earned jasmin its
reputation as an erotogen, the resultant intuitive empathy credited
with aphrodisical properties and the ability to overcome inhibition.
Almond, jasmin, sandalwood and myrrh seem when used in incense to
also possess the ability to trigger olfactorily the subtle, lunar
mode of perception that is so effective in work of intuition,
psychism and pathworking.

Magickally speaking, herbs of the Moon affect the subconscious mind.
They are a very good aid in the development of the intuition and of
psychic abilities as well as in remembering dreams. As they have
such a primary effect on the subconscious, they can be used to
successfully influence it to break old habits and to recall past
lives. Traditional Lunar herbs include anise,cabbage, camphor, cucumber,
iris, jasmine ,lettuce, lily, poppy, violet, willow,lotus, moonwort, mugwort , pumpkin and white


Earth Correspondences

Earth Correspondences

Earth is considered feminine and receptive.
Season: Spring
Magickal virtue: To Keep Silent
Direction: North
Time of day: Midnight
Sense: Touch

Fluid: Sweat
Power animals: Bears, bulls, lions, rabbits
Places of power: Caves, fields, bridges, meadows, gardens, moutains, crossroads, the home

Commonly associated colors: Brown, green rust tones
Linking items: Stones, rocks, crystals, dirt, seeds, wood, pentacles, coins

Astronomy Picture of the Day for August 8th

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.

2011 August 8

Seasonal Dark Streaks on Mars

Image Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Explanation: What is causing these dark streaks on Mars? A leading hypothesis is flowing — but quickly evaporating — water. The streaks, visible in dark brown near the image center, appear in the Martian spring and summer but fade in the winter months, only to reappear again the next summer. These are not the first markings on Mars that have been interpreted as showing the effects of running water, but they are the first to add the clue of a seasonal dependence. The above picture, taken in May, digitally combines several images from the the HiRISE instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The image is color-enhanced and depicts a slope inside Newton crater in a mid-southern region of Mars. The streaks bolster evidence that water exists just below the Martian surface in several locations, and therefore fuels speculation that Mars might harbor some sort of water-dependent life. Future observations with robotic spacecraft orbiting Mars, such as MRO, Mars Express, and Mars Odyssey will continue to monitor the situation and possibly confirm — or refute — the exciting flowing water hypothesis.