Space Image of the Day Gallery (October 2013)

Standing in the Shadows

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013: NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft obtained this image of planet Mercury’s horizon, while looking out from the shadows toward the sunlit side of the planet on Oct. 2, 2013. A 75-mi. (120-km) impact crater stands out near the center. Chains of secondary craters gouge linear tracks radially away from the unnamed crater. This crater does not seem particularly fresh (its rays have faded), it does appear to posssess more prominent secondary crater chains than many other nearby.

— Tom Chao

Red Sky at Night

ESO/Y. Beletsky

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013: An eerie red glow hangs in the night sky over Chile’s Atacama Desert. In the foreground stand three of the four VLT Auxiliary Telescopes of the Paranal Observatory. The four 1.8-meter telescopes work together in concert to form a single giant interferometer, the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer, allowing astronomers to see details up to 25 times more finely than with the individual telescopes. The red light in the sky is known as airglow, caused by light-emitting chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Airglow occurs constantly, but usually remains very faint. On the night this photo was taken, airglow emissions radiated especially brightly.

— Tom Chao

Broom with a View

Fred Herrmann

Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013: Happy Halloween from! Just in time for Halloween, astrophotographer Fred Herrmann sent in a photo of the "Witch's Broom," NGC 6960, part of the Veil Nebula. The nebula appeared when a massive star exploded roughly ten thousand years ago, leaving behind a dim glowing cloud. It stretches 35 light years, lying 1400 light years away in the constellation of Cygnus. The Veil Nebula is so large, sections of it received individual names, as in the Western Veil, also known as the Witch’s Broom or NGC 6960. The glowing light stems from the shock wave of the star explosion exciting interstellar material. The star at the center, 52 Cygni does not relate the nebula, and appears visible to the unaided eye from dark locations. Herrmann took the photo from his Owl Mountain Observatory on Blue Mountain in Huntsville, AL. Photo dated 2013.

— Tom Chao

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Tom Chao
Tom Chao has contributed to as a producer and writer since 2000. As a writer and editor, he has worked for the Voyager Company, Time Inc. New Media, HarperCollins and Worth Publishers. He has a bachelor’s degree in Cinema Production from the University of Southern California, and a master’s degree from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Tom on Google+.