Cosmic Fireworks

Like an incredible celestial firework display, dust, ionized material and molecular gas from a dying star form the Helix Nebula. The star is evolving to become a white dwarf star and appears as the tiny blue dot seen at the center. This picture, taken in infrared light by the ESO’s VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory, reveals strands of cold nebular gas that is invisible in images taken in visible light. The main ring of the Helix is about two light-years across, roughly half the distance between the Sun and the nearest star. Material from the nebula spreads out from the star to at least four light-years. The Helix Nebula lies in the constellation of Aquarius about 700 light years from Earth. (Credit: ESO)

The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced. Our universe is a sorry little affair unless it has something for every age to investigate… Nature does not reveal her mysteries once and for all.
— 

Seneca

“That same rocket and nuclear and computer technology that sends our ships past the farthest known planet can also be used to destroy our global civilization. Exactly the same technology can be used for good and for evil. It is as if there were a God who said to us, “I set before you two ways: You can use your technology to destroy yourselves or to carry you to the planets and the stars. It’s up to you.” - Carl Sagan

Happy 4th Of July! Enjoy Some Stellar Fireworks To End The Night!

The Cartwheel Galaxy is a ring galaxy located about 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor. It was once a normal spiral galaxy until it experienced a head-on collision with a nearby galaxy approximately 100-200 million years ago. “Usually a galaxy is brighter toward the center, but the ultraviolet view (blue) indicates the collision actually smoothed out the interior of the galaxy, concentrating older stars and dust into the inner regions. It’s like the calm after the storm of star formation,” according to Phil Appleton of the California Institute of Technology.

The collision created waves of brief star formation rippling out from its center, the first being the bright blue outermost ring composed of many young massive stars. The second wave is the yellow-orange inner ring where less star formation is taking place. “It’s like dropping a stone into a pond, only in this case, the pond is the galaxy, and the wave is the compression of gas,” Appleton explained. “Each wave represents a burst of star formation, with the youngest stars found in the outer ring.”

Read more about the Cartwheel Galaxy here:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/galex/galex-20060111.html#.U7cMEf5LtFs
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/images/2307-sig06-005-Cartwheel-Galaxy-Makes-Waves

Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

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This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope picture shows a galaxy named SBS 1415+437 or SDSS CGB 12067.1, located about 45 million light-years from Earth. It’s a Wolf–Rayet galaxy, a type of starbursting galaxy with an unusually high number of extremely hot and massive stars known as Wolf–Rayet stars.
Because these stars are so intense they do not last very long, burning up their fuel and blasting their bulk out into the cosmos on very short timescale (a few hundred thousand years). Because of this it is unusual to find more than a few of these stars per galaxy — except in Wolf–Rayet galaxies, like the one in this image. You can spot maaany other galaxies as well.
credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Orion Nebula Region

The Great Orion Nebula stands out as one of the most wonderful telescopic objects in the sky. The central area is the so-called Huygenian Region, which is a bright zone sharply bounded on the south side, into which protrudes a dark nebula, not unlike the Horsehead Nebula, but more diffuse. The whole area is sprinkled with small stars, many of which are known to be “dust variables”, which flicker as dust swirls in and out of their newly born atmospheres. In this region active star birth is taking place. Infrared images of the area “see through” the nebula and reveal young stars newly formed. In Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images the dark globules surrounding these stars can be seen. They are born in dense clouds of dust and gas from the nebula. The Trapezium at the heart of M42 is a remarkable multiple star with four easy components and two which are more difficult to observe, those are hot B-type stars belonging to the Orion Association which are quite young, born in the nebula itself. The three belt stars of Orion as well as the stars Rigel are also part of this association. The whole figure of Orion is alight with faint nebulous light coming from gas excited by these stars.

The Orion Nebula is located at a distance of about 1.500 light years.

NGC 1973/75/77, the Running Man Nebula or Apeman Nebula (located in the upper part in the photograph), is another example of a mixed emission/reflexion/absortion nebula often overlooked because of the much brighter Orion Nebula just half a degree to the south. It is beautifully located in-between and around a group of bright stars. Most of the blue nebulosity is starlight scattered by dust, but some of the stars are sufficiently hot to excite the wisps of hydrogen that linger here and create the distinctive red glow.

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