Glittering Frisbee Galaxy: This image from Hubble’s shows a section of a spiral galaxy located about 50 million light-years from Earth. We tend to think of spiral galaxies as massive and roughly circular celestial bodies, so this glittering oval does not immediately appear to fit the visual bill. What’s going on? Imagine a spiral galaxy as a circular frisbee spinning gently in space. When we see it face on, our observations reveal a spectacular amount of detail and structure. However, the galaxy frisbee is very nearly edge-on with respect to Earth, giving it an appearance that is more oval than circular. The spiral arms, which curve out from the galaxy’s dense core, can just about be seen.

Although spiral galaxies might appear static with their picturesque shapes frozen in space, this is very far from the truth. The stars in these dramatic spiral configurations are constantly moving as they orbit around the galaxy’s core, with those on the inside making the orbit faster than those sitting further out. This makes the formation and continued existence of a spiral galaxy’s arms something of a cosmic puzzle, because the arms wrapped around the spinning core should become wound tighter and tighter as time goes on - but this is not what we see. This is known as the winding problem.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

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Blown by fast winds from a hot, massive star, this cosmic bubble is huge. Cataloged as Sharpless 2-308 it lies some 5,200 light-years away toward the constellation of the Big Dog (Canis Major) and covers slightly more of the sky than a full moon. That corresponds to a diameter of 60 light-years at its estimated distance. The massive star that created the bubble, a Wolf-Rayet star, is the bright one near the center of the nebula. Wolf-Rayet stars have over 20 times the mass of the Sun and are thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova phase of massive star evolution. Fast winds from this Wolf-Rayet star create the bubble-shaped nebula as they sweep up slower moving material from an earlier phase of evolution. The windblown nebula has an age of about 70,000 years. Relatively faint emission captured in the expansive image is dominated by the glow of ionized oxygen atoms mapped to a blue hue.

Credit: Anis Abdul (Via NASA APOD)

Time And Space

This delicate blue group of stars ‘” actually an irregular galaxy named IC 3583 ‘” sits some 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin).

It may seem to have no discernable structure, but IC 3583 has been found to have a bar of stars running through its center. These structures are common throughout the Universe, and are found within the majority of spiral, many irregular, and some lenticular galaxies. Two of our closest cosmic neighbors, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, are barred, indicating that they may have once been barred spiral galaxies that were disrupted or torn apart by the gravitational pull of the Milky Way.

Researchers at the University of Leicester, England note there are two types of irregular galaxy. Type I’s are usually single galaxies of peculiar appearance. They contain a large fraction of young stars, and show the luminous nebulae that are also visible in spiral galaxies. Type II irregulars include the group known as interacting or disrupting galaxies, in which the strange appearance is due to two or more galaxies colliding, merging or otherwise interacting gravitationally.

Something similar might be happening with IC 3583. This small galaxy is thought to be gravitationally interacting with one of its neighbors, the spiral Messier 90. Together, the duo form a pairing known as Arp 76. It’s still unclear whether these flirtations are the cause of IC 3583’s irregular appearance '” but whatever the cause, the galaxy makes for a strikingly delicate sight in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, glimmering in the blackness of space.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble andamp; NASA
Text Credit: European Space Agency: Hubble Space Telescope

Time And Space

IC 5067 in the Pelican Nebula : The prominent ridge of emission featured in this sharp, colorful skyscape is cataloged as IC 5067. Part of a larger emission nebula with a distinctive shape, popularly called The Pelican Nebula, the ridge spans about 10 light-years following the curve of the cosmic pelicans head and neck. This false-color view also translates the pervasive glow of narrow emission lines from atoms in the nebula to a color palette made popular in Hubble Space Telescope images of star forming regions. Fantastic, dark shapes inhabiting the degree wide field are clouds of cool gas and dust sculpted by the winds and radiation from hot, massive stars. Close-ups of some of the sculpted clouds show clear signs of newly forming stars. The Pelican Nebula, itself cataloged as IC 5070, is about 2,000 light-years away. To find it, look northeast of bright star Deneb in the high flying constellation Cygnus. via NASA

Solar System: Things to Know  This Week

This week, we’re looking at MAVEN’s exploration of Mars, the Orionid meteor showers, Mercury’s “great valley” and more.

1. Celebrating MAVEN

MAVEN, the Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution, was the second mission selected for our Mars Scout program and the first to explore the planet’s upper atmosphere . It launched on November 18, 2013 and entered orbit around Mars on September 21, 2014. 

+ MAVEN Quick Facts

2. Jupiter Moon Dance

This time-lapse sequence of Hubble Space Telescope images shows Jupiter’s moon Europa as it moved across the planet’s face over the course of 19 minutes. Europa is at the bottom center on Jupiter’s disk, the Great Red Spot to the left and Europa’s shadow to its right. The video was created by combining six snapshots taken in ultraviolet light with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.

+ Learn more

3. The Orionid Meteor Shower

Orionid shower peaks November 28. Look for the constellation Orion in the Southeast sky by 9 p.m. Using binoculars, look for the Orion Nebula. 

4. Comet Warming Up!! 

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdu áková will brighten to expected stunning binocular visibility in mid to late December, but is near Venus on November 23rd.

+ Track the Comet

5. Mercury’s “Great Valley”

A newly discovered “great valley” in the southern hemisphere of Mercury provides more evidence that the planet closest to the sun is shrinking. Using stereo images from our MESSENGER spacecraft to create a high-resolution map, scientists have discovered that revealed the broad valley – more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) long – extending into the Rembrandt basin, one of the largest and youngest impact basins on Mercury. About 250 miles (400 kilometers) wide and 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep, Mercury’s great valley is smaller than Mars’ Valles Marineris, but larger than North America’s Grand Canyon and wider and deeper than the Great Rift Valley in East Africa.

+ Learn more

Discover the full list of 10 things to know about our solar system this week HERE.

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Why do many galaxies appear as spirals? A striking example is M101, shown above, whose relatively close distance of about 27 million light years allows it to be studied in some detail. Observational evidence indicates that a close gravitational interaction with a neighboring galaxy created waves of high mass and condensed gas which continue to orbit the galaxy center. These waves compress existing gas and cause star formation. One result is that M101, also called the Pinwheel Galaxy, has several extremely bright star-forming regions (called HII regions) spread across its spiral arms. M101 is so large that its immense gravity distorts smaller nearby galaxies.

Object Names: M101, Pinwheel Galaxy

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Space Telescope, European Southern Observatory

Procesing and Copyright: Robert Gendler

Time And Space

This stunning image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), shows part of the sky in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The region is rendered in exquisite detail ‘” deep red and bright blue stars are scattered across the frame, set against a background of thousands of more distant stars and galaxies. Two features are particularly striking: the colors of the stars, and the dramatic crosses that burst from the centers of the brightest bodies.

While some of the colors in this frame have been enhanced and tweaked during the process of creating the image from the observational data, different stars do indeed glow in different colors. Stars differ in color according to their surface temperature: very hot stars are blue or white, while cooler stars are redder. They may be cooler because they are smaller, or because they are very old and have entered the red giant phase, when an old star expands and cools dramatically as its core collapses.

The crosses are nothing to do with the stars themselves, and, because Hubble orbits above Earth’s atmosphere, nor are they due to any kind of atmospheric disturbance. They are actually known as diffraction spikes, and are caused by the structure of the telescope itself.

Like all big modern telescopes, Hubble uses mirrors to capture light and form images. Its secondary mirror is supported by struts, called telescope spiders, arranged in a cross formation, and they diffract the incoming light. Diffraction is the slight bending of light as it passes near the edge of an object. Every cross in this image is due to a single set of struts within Hubble itself! Whilst the spikes are technically an inaccuracy, many astrophotographers choose to emphasize and celebrate them as a beautiful feature of their images.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble andamp; NASA
Text credit: European Space Agency

Hubble Space Telescope

Time And Space

Large spiral galaxy NGC 891 spans about 100 thousand light-years and is seen almost exactly edge-on from our perspective. In fact, about 30 million light-years distant in the constellation Andromeda, NGC 891 looks a lot like our Milky Way. At first glance, it has a flat, thin, galactic disk of stars and a central bulge cut along the middle by regions of dark obscuring dust. But remarkably apparent in NGC 891's edge-on presentation are filaments of dust that extend hundreds of light-years above and below the center line. The dust has likely been blown out of the disk by supernova explosions or intense star formation activity. Fainter galaxies can also be seen near the edge-on disk in this deepportrait of NGC 891.

For image credit and copyright guidance, please visit the image website

Time And Space

The first hint of what will become of our Sun was discovered inadvertently in 1764. At that time, Charles Messier was compiling a list of diffuse objects not to be confused with comets. The 27th object on Messier’s list, now known as M27 or the Dumbbell Nebula, is a planetary nebula, the type of nebula our Sun will produce when nuclear fusion stops in its core. M27 is one of the brightest planetary nebulae on the sky, and can be seen toward the constellation of the Fox (Vulpecula) with binoculars. It takes light about 1000 years to reach us from M27, shown above in colors emitted by hydrogen and oxygen. Understanding the physics and significance of M27 was well beyond 18th century science. Even today, many things remain mysterious about bipolar planetary nebula like M27, including the physical mechanism that expels a low-mass star’s gaseous outer-envelope, leaving an X-ray hot white dwarf.

Credit: Bill Snyder

Time And Space

Stormy Seas in Sagittarius

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the center of the Lagoon Nebula, an object with a deceptively tranquil name, in the constellation of Sagittarius. The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, churning funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Trauger (Jet Propulson Laboratory)


How the Hubble Space Telescope changed the Universe

“And so this camera has taught us a lot about how stars die. But what it’s also told us about is how and where they’re born! You see, these nebulae don’t just dissipate after a few thousand years; they often spit out entire star systems worth of gas, and trigger the formation of new stars. One of the most spectacular pictures took place deep inside the Eagle Nebula.

And when Hubble imaged the pillars at the center of it, it was one of the most amazing things ever.”

Over its more than 25 year lifetime, the Hubble Space Telescope has shown us what the Universe truly looks like. It’s done so in a myriad of ways, from planets to stars – dying and forming – to galaxies to gravity’s effects to the deepest abysses of blackness of all. Nothing in space is the same as it was before humanity knew Hubble. Yet even the camera most responsible for our iconic images, WFPC2, isn’t the end of the story. That camera was removed in 2009, and in the 8 years since, we’ve deepened our views and our understanding even further. Even before the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, our journey into the unknown Universe continues with Hubble in a way we never could have imagined when the observatory was first launched.

Come see for yourself in far more images than you’ve ever seen at once before!

What’s happening at the center of elliptical galaxy NGC 4696? There, long tendrils of gas and dust have been imaged in great detail as shown by this recently released image from theHubble Space Telescope. These filaments appear to connect to the central region of the galaxy, a region thought occupied by asupermassive black hole. Speculation holds that this black hole pumps out energy that heats surrounding gas, pushes out cooler filaments of gas and dust, and shuts down star formation. Balanced by magnetic fields, these filaments then appear to spiral back in toward and eventually circle the central black hole. NGC 4696 is the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster of Galaxies, located about 150 million light years from Earth. The featured imageshows a region about 45,000 light years across.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, A. Fabian, Hubble Space Telescope

To some, it may look like a cat’s eye. Thealluring Cat’s Eye nebula, however, lies three thousand light-years from Earth across interstellar space. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat’s Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula’s dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dustyconcentric shells by shrugging off outer layersin a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this digitally reprocessed HubbleSpace Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into this Cat’s Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution … in about 5 billion years.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble, HLA;Reprocessing & Copyright: Raul Villaverde

Hubble Space Telescope

Time And Space