But why do they look like that? No one knows. To wit:
Many Martian dunes are known to be covered unevenly with carbon dioxide (dry ice) frost, creating patterns of light and dark areas. Carbon dioxide doesn’t melt, but sublimates, turning directly into a gas. Carbon dioxide is also a greenhouse material even as a solid, so it can trap heat under the ice and sublimate from the bottom up, causing geyser-like eruptions. During Martian spring, these eruptions can cause a pattern of dark defrosting spots, where the darker sand is exposed. The featured image, though, was taken during Martian autumn, when the weather is getting colder – making these stripes particularly puzzling. One hypothesis is that they are caused by cracks in the ice that form from weaker eruptions or thermal stress as part of the day-night cycle, but research continues. Watching these dunes and others through more Martian seasons may give us more clues to solve this mystery.
Behold: the South Celestial Pole – the centre of all southern star trail arcs – one of two imaginary points in the sky where the Earth’s axis of rotation indefinitely extended, intersects the celestial sphere. To wit:
In this starry panorama stretching about 60 degrees across deep southern skies the South Celestial Pole is somewhere near the middle though, flanked by bright galaxies and southern celestial gems. Across the top of the frame are the stars and nebulae along the plane of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Gamma Crucis, a yellowish giant star heads the Southern Cross near top center, with the dark expanse of the Coalsack nebula tucked under the cross arm on the left. Eta Carinae and the reddish glow of the Great Carina Nebula shine along the galactic plane near the right edge. At the bottom are the Large and Small Magellanic clouds, external galaxies in their own right and satellites of the mighty Milky Way. A line from Gamma Crucis through the blue star at the bottom of the southern cross, Alpha Crucis, points toward the South Celestial Pole, but where exactly is it? Just look for south pole star Sigma Octantis. Analog to Polaris the north pole star, Sigma Octantis is little over one degree fom the the South Celestial pole.
Visible in the featured picture is the end of a huge gas and dust pillar […] punctuated by a smaller pillar pointing up and an unusual jet pointing to the left. Many of the dots are newly formed low-mass stars. A star near the small pillar’s end is slowly being stripped of its accreting gas by radiation from a tremendously brighter star situated off the top of the image. The jet extends nearly a light-year and would not be visible without external illumination. As gas and dust evaporate from the pillars, the hidden stellar source of this jet will likely be uncovered, possibly over the next 20,000 years.
Behold: a spectacular 35 frame, hour-long exposure of the annual Gemenid meteor shower taken just after midnight last Sunday in the Italian Dolomites. To wit:
Sirius, alpha star of Canis Major and the brightest star in the night, is grazed by a meteor streak on the right. The Praesepe star cluster, also known as M44 or the Beehive cluster, itself contains about a thousand stars but appears as a smudge of light far above the southern alpine peaks near the top. The shower’s radiant is off the top of the frame though, near Castor and Pollux the twin stars of Gemini. The radiant effect is due to perspective as the parallel meteor tracks appear to converge in the distance. As Earth sweeps through the dust trail of asteroid 3200 Phaethon, the dust that creates Gemini’s meteors enters Earth’s atmosphere traveling at about 22 kilometres per second.