NASA Takes “Rose” Galaxy Photo for Hubble Telescope Anniversary

Who knew we had a “rose-shaped” galaxy in space? The astronomers who run the Hubble Space Telescope did. In celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s deployment into space, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, pointed Hubble’s eye to an especially photogenic group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273.

The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is tidally distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. A swath of blue jewels across the top is the combined light from clusters of intensely bright and hot young blue stars. These massive stars glow fiercely in ultraviolet light.

source

Hubble finds dead stars “polluted” with planetary debris

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has found signs of Earth-like planets in an unlikely place: the atmospheres of a pair of burnt-out stars in a nearby star cluster. The white dwarf stars are being polluted by debris from asteroid-like objects falling onto them. This discovery suggests that rocky planet assembly is common in clusters, say researchers.

The stars, known as white dwarfs — small, dim remnants of stars once like the Sun — reside 150 light-years away in the Hyades star cluster, in the constellation of Taurus (The Bull). The cluster is relatively young, at only 625 million years old.

Astronomers believe that all stars formed in clusters. However, searches for planets in these clusters have not been fruitful — of the roughly 800 exoplanets known, only four are known to orbit stars in clusters. This scarcity may be due to the nature of the cluster stars, which are young and active, producing stellar flares and other outbursts that make it difficult to study them in detail.

Hubble’s spectroscopic observations identified silicon in the atmospheres of two white dwarfs, a major ingredient of the rocky material that forms Earth and other terrestrial planets in the Solar System. This silicon may have come from asteroids that were shredded by the white dwarfs’ gravity when they veered too close to the stars. The rocky debris likely formed a ring around the dead stars, which then funnelled the material inwards.

The debris detected whirling around the white dwarfs suggests that terrestrial planets formed when these stars were born. After the stars collapsed to form white dwarfs, surviving gas giant planets may have gravitationally nudged members of any leftover asteroid belts into star-grazing orbits.

Besides finding silicon in the Hyades stars’ atmospheres, Hubble also detected low levels of carbon. This is another sign of the rocky nature of the debris, as astronomers know that carbon levels should be very low in rocky, Earth-like material.

This new study suggests that asteroids less than 160 kilometres across were gravitationally torn apart by the white dwarfs’ strong tidal forces, before eventually falling onto the dead stars.

Image credit:  NASA, ESA, STScI, and G. Bacon (STScI)

3

Cosmic Portraits Created From Hubble Space Telescope Images

By Megan Gambino

Photos © Sergio Albiac

In less than 60 days, artist Sergio Albiac has created more than 11,000 portraits. This kind of productivity, no doubt, seems unfathomable—until you consider his artistic method.

Albiac is a practitioner of generative art, a discipline in which artists employ non-human assistants—often computers—to make aesthetic decisions. “An artist has the potential to create infinite artworks but only some of them will see the light due to the constraint of time,” says the artist on his website. “What if we use technology to outsource the creation of art so more of these potential artworks are finally created?”

For his latest project, “Stardust Portraits,” Albiac, a computer science engineer with a background in art and art history, wrote software that can take a photographic portrait submitted by the public and recreate it as a cosmic mosaic of Hubble space telescope images.

See more of Albiac’s “Stardust Portraits” at Smithsonian.com.

6
Bits and Pieces of the Carina Nebula

This is a series of close-up views of the complex gas structures in a small portion of the Carina Nebula. The nebula is a cold cloud of predominantly hydrogen gas. It is laced with dust, which makes the cloud opaque. The cloud is being eroded by a gusher of ultraviolet light from young stars in the region. They sculpt a variety of fantasy shapes, many forming tadpole-like structures. In some frames, smaller pieces of nebulosity can be seen freely drifting, such as the 2.3-trillion-mile-long structure at upper right. The most striking feature is a 3.5-trillion-mile-long horizontal jet in the upper left frame. It is being blasted into space by a young star hidden in the tip of the pillar-like structure. A bowshock has formed near the tip of the jet.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio

Watch on inothernews.tumblr.com

This is an actual time-lapse video, comprising images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope over a four-year period, of the exploding star V8C8 Monocerotis.  It also represents GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s political career as of the June 10 Virginia primary.  (via Sploid)

Hubble snaps image of cosmic concoction

A colourful star-forming region is featured in this stunning NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 2467. Looking like a roiling cauldron of some exotic cosmic brew, huge clouds of gas and dust are sprinkled with bright blue hot young stars.

Strangely shaped dust clouds, resembling spilled liquids, are silhouetted against a colourful background of glowing gas in this newly released Hubble image. The star-forming region NGC 2467 is a vast cloud of gas – mostly hydrogen – that serves as an incubator for new stars. Some of these youthful stars have emerged from the dense clouds where they were born and now shine brightly, hot and blue in this picture, but many others remain hidden.

Image credit: NASA, ESA and Orsola De Marco (Macquarie University)

"A Very Small Man can Cast a Very Large Shadow" - George R.R. Martin

The three snapshots of the volcanic moon rounding Jupiter were taken over a 1.8-hour time span. Io is roughly the size of Earth’s moon but 2,000 times farther away. In two of the images, Io appears to be skimming Jupiter’s cloud tops, but it’s actually 310, 000 miles (500,000 kilometers) away. Io zips around Jupiter in 1.8 days, whereas the moon circles Earth every 28 days.

The conspicuous black spot on Jupiter is Io’s shadow and is about the size of the moon itself (2,262 miles or 3,640 kilometers across). This shadow sails across the face of Jupiter at 38,000 mph (17 kilometers per second). The smallest details visible on Io and Jupiter measure 93 miles (150 kilometers) across, or about the size of Connecticut.

NASA/Hubble Heritage

Wired Photo of the Day

Expand

Billowing Tower of Gas and Dust

Appearing like a winged fairy-tale creature poised on a pedestal, this object is actually a billowing tower of cold gas and dust rising from a stellar nursery called the Eagle Nebula. The soaring tower is 9.5 light-years or about 90 trillion kilometres high, about twice the distance from our Sun to the next nearest star.

Stars in the Eagle Nebula are born in clouds of cold hydrogen gas that reside in chaotic neighbourhoods, where energy from young stars sculpts fantasy-like landscapes in the gas. The tower may be a giant incubator for those newborn stars. A torrent of ultraviolet light from a band of massive, hot, young stars [off the top of the image] is eroding the pillar.

The starlight also is responsible for illuminating the tower’s rough surface. Ghostly streamers of gas can be seen boiling off this surface, creating the haze around the structure and highlighting its three-dimensional shape. The column is silhouetted against the background glow of more distant gas.

The edge of the dark hydrogen cloud at the top of the tower is resisting erosion, in a manner similar to that of brush among a field of prairie grass that is being swept up by fire. The fire quickly burns the grass but slows down when it encounters the dense brush. In this celestial case, thick clouds of hydrogen gas and dust have survived longer than their surroundings in the face of a blast of ultraviolet light from the hot, young stars. Inside the gaseous tower, stars may be forming. Some of those stars may have been created by dense gas collapsing under gravity. Other stars may be forming due to pressure from gas that has been heated by the neighbouring hot stars.

The first wave of stars may have started forming before the massive star cluster began venting its scorching light. The star birth may have begun when denser regions of cold gas within the tower started collapsing under their own weight to make stars. The bumps and fingers of material in the centre of the tower are examples of these stellar birthing areas. These regions may look small but they are roughly the size of our solar system. The fledgling stars continued to grow as they fed off the surrounding gas cloud. They abruptly stopped growing when light from the star cluster uncovered their gaseous cradles, separating them from their gas supply.

Ironically, the young cluster’s intense starlight may be inducing star formation in some regions of the tower. Examples can be seen in the large, glowing clumps and finger-shaped protrusions at the top of the structure. The stars may be heating the gas at the top of the tower and creating a shock front, as seen by the bright rim of material tracing the edge of the nebula at top, left. As the heated gas expands, it acts like a battering ram, pushing against the darker cold gas. The intense pressure compresses the gas, making it easier for stars to form. This scenario may continue as the shock front moves slowly down the tower. The dominant colours in the image were produced by gas energized by the star cluster’s powerful ultraviolet light. The blue colour at the top is from glowing oxygen. The red colon in the lower region is from glowing hydrogen. The Eagle Nebula image was taken in November 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Image: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA

A mysterious old spiral by europeanspaceagency on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
This striking cosmic whirl is the centre of galaxy NGC 524, as seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This galaxy is located in the constellation of Pisces, some 90 million light-years from Earth. NGC 524 is a lenticular galaxy. Lenticular galaxies are believed to be an intermediate state in galactic evolution — they are neither elliptical nor spiral. Spirals are middle-aged galaxies with vast, pinwheeling arms that contain millions of stars. Along with these stars are large clouds of gas and dust that, when dense enough, are the nurseries where new stars are born. When all the gas is either depleted or lost into space, the arms gradually fade away and the spiral shape begins to weaken. At the end of this process, what remains is a lenticular galaxy — a bright disc full of old, red stars surrounded by what little gas and dust the galaxy has managed to cling on to. This image shows the shape of NGC 524 in detail, formed by the remaining gas surrounding the galaxy’s central bulge. Observations of this galaxy have revealed that it maintains some spiral-like motion, explaining its intricate structure. A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Judy Schmidt.

IC 4499: A globular cluster’s age revisited

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the globular cluster IC 4499. Globular clusters are big balls of old stars that orbit around their host galaxy. It has long been believed that all the stars within a globular cluster form at the about same time, a property which can be used to determine the cluster’s age. For more massive globulars however, detailed observations have shown that this is not entirely true — there is evidence that they instead consist of multiple populations of stars born at different times. One of the driving forces behind this behaviour is thought to be gravity: more massive globulars manage to grab more gas and dust, which can then be transformed into new stars.

IC 4499 is a somewhat special case. Its mass lies somewhere between low-mass globulars, which show a single generation build-up, and the more complex and massive globulars which can contain more than one generation of stars. By studying objects like IC 4499 astronomers can therefore explore how mass affects a cluster’s contents. Astronomers found no sign of multiple generations of stars in IC 4499 — supporting the idea that less massive clusters in general only consist of a single stellar generation.

Hubble observations of IC 4499 have also helped to pinpoint the cluster’s age: observations of this cluster from the 1990s suggested a puzzlingly young age when compared to other globular clusters within the Milky Way. However, since those first estimates new Hubble data been obtained, and it has been found to be much more likely that IC 4499 is actually roughly the same age as other Milky Way clusters at approximately 12 billion years old.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

Named after the trailblazing astronomer Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953), the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a large, space-based observatory which has revolutionized astronomy by providing unprecedented deep and clear views of the Universe, ranging from our own solar system to extremely remote fledgling galaxies forming not long after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

Launched in 1990 and greatly extended in its scientific powers through new instrumentation installed during four servicing missions with the Space Shuttle, the Hubble, in its eighteen years of operations, has validated Lyman Spitzer Jr.’s (1914-1997) original concept of a diversely instrumented observatory orbiting far above the distorting effects of the Earth’s atmosphere and returning data of unique scientific value.

Hubble’s coverage of light of different colors (its “spectral range”) extends from the ultraviolet, through the visible (to which our eyes are sensitive), and into the near-infrared. Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (94.5 inches) in diameter. Hubble is not large by ground-based standards but it performs heroically in space. Hubble orbits Earth every 96 minutes, 575 kilometers (360 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

Credit: NASA

Text
Photo
Quote
Link
Chat
Audio
Video