This new image captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows a ring of starbirth circling the galaxy NGC 1291, which is about 12 billion years old. Older stars, seen mostly in the central region of the galaxy, are colored blue in the photo; younger, red stars make up the ring.
The image was captured as part of a study on structural features in barred galaxies. They’re called so because they have a long central bar of stars within them. The Milky Way is an example of this type and the Spitzer survey aims to discover more about how they form and evolve, which could shed light on the conditions that created our galaxy (among many other things).
Image copyright: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Five Ways Space can be Horrifying

In honor of Halloween, prepare yourself for the class you wish you’d missed:

  1. You, like Ann Hodges was in 1954, can be struck by a meteorite:


  2. Speeding towards us at 68 miles a second, is the Andromeda Galaxy:


    It’s going to be a direct collision when it reaches us. There’s a potential the collision could create one of the most violent and explosive things in the universe, a quasar. Luckily for us, the Andromeda Galaxy isn’t due to arrive for a few billion more years. Speaking, however, of quasars…
  3. Quasars, Freaking QUASARS. 3C273 is a quasar over 4,000,000,000,000 times brighter than the Sun. It’s 100 times more luminous than all the light produced by the entire Milky Way.  If you put this monster 30 light years away from us it would still shine as brightly as our Sun. If 3C273 blasted Earth with its gamma rays for ten minutes it would potentially cause a mass extinction event.


    Where, you may ask, do they come from? Oh my sweet Summer child, you ought not to have asked. They come form an even more sinister object…

  4. Black holes. Even the maws of Charybdis pale in comparison to these cosmic beasts. Get close enough and not even the light reflecting off your body can escape it’s gravity, hence their infamous “blackness”. Far before getting to this point however you’ll be facing it’s mighty pull. They swing galaxies around and it’s this interaction that ultimately leads to them birthing quasars. This, however, is their nicest trait. First check this picture out and I’ll clarify why it implies cosmic horror:


    Well now, notice there’s no quasar blasting around this black hole? That’s worse than if it were. Things like quasars (and watching other forms of light) interacting with black hole’s gravity are the only way for us to know they’re there. It’s currently estimated that there are around 2000 black holes quietly drifting around our galaxy, hiding between the lights of distant stars.

  5. The Fermi Paradox. Unless, like black holes, they’re hiding between the stars, we have no evidence to suggest that of all the endless light years, of the infinities of black, of the planets, moons, galaxies, stars, that we are anything other than utterly alone.


    The paradox part comes in when you measure the high probabilities of alien existence against the extraordinary lack of evidence thereof. For centuries we’ve been scouring the skies. Now we’ve got robotic eyes, so good that they can see things both above and below our range of sight, they can see what’s invisible to us. Still we see nothing. Just endless black nothing. Are we truly alone? Are we really just children of the stars, doomed to search for the family we never had?

Please, if you enjoyed this and want to help us do something about this list, consider signing our petition here. Our goal is to raise the funding NASA gets for Planetary Science. Thank you so much and Happy Halloween!

Ghostly Light of Intercluster Stars

This new Hubble image looks at the massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 (aka Pandora’s Cluster) and shows that not all star light comes from galaxies. By using the telescope’s infrared sensitivity, astronomers were able to look at light (artificially colored blue) of extremely faint stars. The blue glow in between galaxies is actually light from “dead” galaxies. The galaxies were torn apart long ago by the cluster’s gravitational forces, and their stars were scattered into “intracluster” space — the space between the galaxies. These orphaned stars roam the cluster, without being gravitationally tethered to any single galaxy. 

(The galaxies that are not colored blue lay either in the foreground or background and are not part of the cluster.)

Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Montes (IAC), and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)


NGC 6914 (vdB 131 & 132) with Closeup by Bob Franke

The complex of nebulae lies some 6,000 light-years away, toward the high-flying northern constellation Cygnus and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy.

With foreground dust clouds in silhouette, both reddish hydrogen emission nebulae and dusty blue reflection nebulae fill the 1/2 degree wide field. The view spans nearly 50 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 6914. [**]

MY SOLAR SYSTEM DON’T, MY SOLAR SYSTEM DON’T, MY SOLAR SYSTEM DON’T WANT NONE UNLESS YOU 1. are in orbit around the Sun. 2. Have sufficient mass to assume hydrostatic equilibrium (a nearly round shape) and 3. Have “cleared the neighborhood” around your orbit. Sadly, Pluto doesn’t cover the last one too well. Never forget Pluto in this funny planetary definition Pluto print that should help in the never ending debate planetary status of the tiny infamous ice rock planet, Pluto.