Italian artist Bianca Luini previously featured for high fashion and runway beauty pieces has conceived intriguing diptychs inspired by nature’s beauty and classical and abstract art pieces. Although her comparisons to landscape photography is widely admired and instantly recognized by many fashion enthusiasts, few know of her juxtapositions between couture fashion and beauty and astrophotography. On her Tumblr blog called Where I See Fashion, you can find these hidden gems, where she compares couture’s glittery elements to those of the cosmos through sensations, colors and shapes.
Looking towards the constellation of Triangulum (The Triangle), in the northern sky, lies the galaxy pair MRK 1034. The two very similar galaxies, named PGC 9074 (bottom) and PGC 9071 (top), are close enough to one another to be bound together by gravity, although no gravitational disturbance can yet be seen in the image. These objects are probably only just beginning to interact gravitationally.
Kappa Cassiopeiae, also known as HD 2905, is a massive runaway star about 4,000 light-years away in the constellation of Cassiopeia. In this infrared image captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the bright red arc is a colossal shock wave created by Kappa Cassiopeiae in the gas and dust that fills the void between stars. This is referred to as bow shock, which occurs as a result of the magnetic field and stellar wind of massive high-speed stars colliding with the diffuse particles present throughout our galaxy.
Kappa Cassiopeiae is classified as a Type O Blue Supergiant, which is an extremely hot and luminous type of star with a comparatively short life-cycle. Supergiants are the largest stars in our universe and can be found in a variety of colours, ranging from the cooler red stars to the hottest blue ones. The balance between their powerful gravity and the immense pressure from the radiation within them keeps blue and white supergiants relatively compact. It also allows them to develop particularly strong stellar winds.
The magnetic field and powerful stellar winds of Kappa Cassiopeiae are the driving force behind the bow shock depicted in this image. The arcs are actually formed around 4 light-years ahead of the star itself, which illustrates the huge impact a runaway star can have on its surroundings. It also attests to the velocity of HD 2905, as stars with a low velocity are not capable of forming structures of this magnitude. Stars such as our Sun are comparatively slow-moving, which is why the Sun’s bow shock is almost invisible at all wavelengths of light. Therefore, any star capable of creating bow shock so bright and far ahead of the star itself indicates that it is moving at an extremely high speed. It can also be further identified as a runaway star if its velocity is significantly higher than its surrounding stars, as is the case for Kappa Cassiopeiae.
For a long time, scientists were puzzled as to what caused runaway stars to move through space at such abnormally high velocities. One explanation involves the star being violently ejected from its stellar neighbourhood due to a close encounter with another high-gravity star in its cluster. Another possibility suggests that the runaway star was initially part of a binary star system, but a supernova explosion of its heavier partner caused it to be “kicked” away, resulting in a swift acceleration.
The combination of Kappa Cassiopeiae’s speed, magnetic field and stellar wind resulted in the beautiful red streaks in this false-colour image captured by Spitzer. The way in which they light up under infrared light has helped astronomers learn more about the speeding star and the conditions of its surroundings.
“There’s also a very, very subtle effect: neutrinos, which only make up a few percent of the energy density at these early times, can subtly shift the phases of these peaks and troughs. This phase shift — if detectable — would provide not only strong evidence of the existence of the cosmic neutrino background, but would allow us to measure its temperature, putting the Big Bang to the test in a brand new way.”
Is this person throwing a lightning bolt? No. Despite appearances, this person is actually pointing in the direction of a bright Iridium flare, a momentary reflection of sunlight off of a communications satellite in orbit around the Earth. As the Iridium satellite orbits, reflective antennas became aligned between the observer and the Sun to create a flash brighter than any star in the night sky. Iridium flares typically last several seconds, longer than most meteors. Also unlike meteors, the flares are symmetric and predictable. The featured flare involved Iridium satellite 15 and occurred over southern Estonia last week. In this well-planned image, a spectacular night sky appears in the background, complete with the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy running vertically up the image center.
According to the most widely accepted ‘big bang’ model for the
origin of the universe, just 10-32 seconds after its birth, the
universe underwent a very short but frantic period of exponential growth, called
Inflation explains why our universe
is ‘flat’ (and why we learn Euclidean geometry in school) and why the
temperature of the cosmic background radiation – released when protons and
electrons first combined when the universe was 380,000 years old – is so
uniform across the sky. It also helps to explain why this radiation
nevertheless contains some tiny temperature variations, thought to be the
result of quantum fluctuations imprinted on the universe and blown up by
inflation, like a giant thumb-print left at a cosmic crime scene.
But did inflation really happen?
The simple truth is we don’t know. In March 2014 scientists working on the
Background Imaging of Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP2) experiment announced
they had found its tell-tale signature. But in September 2014 Planck satellite
mission scientists claimed that most (if not all) of the signal seen by BICEP2
is due to scattering by intergalactic dust.
The jury is still out.
Six hundred and fifty light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, a dead star about the size of Earth, is refusing to fade away peacefully. In death, it is spewing out massive amounts of hot gas and intense ultraviolet radiation, creating a spectacular object called a “planetary nebula.