interstellar clouds

Saturn and Mars visit Milky Way Star Clouds : Planets, stars, nebulas and a galaxy this impressive image has them all. Closest to home are the two planets Mars , visible as the two bright orange spots in the upper half of the featured image. On the central right are the colorful Rho Ophiuchus star clouds featuring the bright orange star Antares lined up below Mars. These interstellar clouds contain both red emission nebulas and blue reflection nebulas. At the top right of the image is the Blue Horsehead reflection nebula. On the lower left are many dark absorption nebulas that extend from the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. The featured deep composite was composed of multiple deep exposures taken last month from Brazil. Although you need a telescope to see the nebulosities, Saturn and Mars will remain visible to the unaided eye this month toward the east, just after sunset. via NASA

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The beautiful Andromeda Galaxy is often imaged by planet Earth-based astronomers. Also known as M31, the nearest large spiral galaxy is a familiar sight with spiral arms traced by blue starlight. In a mosaic of well-exposed broad and narrow-band image data, faint reddish clouds of glowing ionized hydrogen gas lie in the same wide field of view. Still, the ionized hydrogen clouds likely lie in the foreground of the scene, well within our Milky Way Galaxy. They could be associated with the pervasive, dusty interstellar cirrus clouds scattered hundreds of light-years above our own galactic plane. If they were located at the 2.5 million light-year distance of the Andromeda Galaxy they would be enormous, since the Andromeda Galaxy itself is 200,000 or so light-years across.

Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors)

The Lagoon Nebula, often noted as Messier 8, is a giant interstellar cloud located between 4,000 and 6,000 light years from Earth. It is primarily composed on Hydrogen gas that is ionised by a nearby star called Herschel 36. It is an emission Nebula, which means it contains a star-forming region. There’s not really much else to know besides it’s amazing appearance. ✨

The Tulip in the Swan : Framing a bright emission region this telescopic view looks out along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the nebula rich constellation Cygnus the Swan. Popularly called the Tulip Nebula, the glowing cloud of interstellar gas and dust is also found in the 1959 catalog by astronomer Stewart Sharpless as Sh2-101. About 8,000 light-years distant and 70 light-years across the complex and beautiful nebula blossoms at the center of the composite image. Red, green, and blue hues map emission from ionized sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Ultraviolet radiation from young, energetic stars at the edge of the Cygnus OB3 association, including O star HDE 227018, ionizes the atoms and powers the visible light emission from the Tulip Nebula. HDE 227018 is the bright star very near the blue arc at the center of the cosmic tulip. via NASA

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The beautiful Andromeda Galaxy is often imaged by planet Earth-based astronomers. Also known as M31, the nearest large spiral galaxy is a familiar sight with dark dust lanes, bright yellowish core, and spiral arms traced by blue starlight. A mosaic of well-exposed broad and narrow-band image data, this colorful, premier portrait of our neighboring island universe offers strikingly unfamiliar features though, faint reddish clouds of glowing ionized hydrogen gas in the same wide field of view. Still, the ionized hydrogen clouds likely lie in the foreground of the scene, well within our Milky Way Galaxy. They could be associated with the pervasive, dusty interstellar cirrus clouds scattered hundreds of light-years above our own galactic plane. If they were located at the 2.5 million light-year distance of the Andromeda Galaxy they would be enormous, since the Andromeda Galaxy itself is 200,000 or so light-years across.

Image Credit &Copyright:Rogelio BernalAndreo(Deep Sky Colors)

Time And Space

The W in Cassiopeia : A familiar, zigzag, W pattern in northern constellation Cassiopeia is traced by five bright stars in this colorful and broad mosaic. Stretching about 15 degrees across rich starfields, the celestial scene includes dark clouds, bright nebulae, and star clusters along the Milky Way. In yellow-orange hues Cassiopeias alpha star Shedar is a standout though. The yellowish giant star is cooler than the Sun, over 40 times the solar diameter, and so luminous it shines brightly in Earths night from 230 light-years away. A massive, rapidly rotating star at the center of the W, bright Gamma Cas is about 550 light-years distant. Bluish Gamma Cas is much hotter than the Sun. Its intense, invisible ultraviolet radiation ionizes hydrogen atoms in nearby interstellar clouds to produce visible red H-alpha emission as the atoms recombine with electrons. Of course, night skygazers in the Alpha Centauri star system would also see the recognizable outline traced by Cassiopeias bright stars. But from their perspective a mere 4.3 light-years away they would see our Sun as a sixth bright star in Cassiopeia, extending the zigzag pattern just beyond the left edge of this frame. via NASA

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The recognizable profile of the Pelican Nebula soars nearly 2,000 light-years away in the high flying constellation Cygnus, the Swan. Also known as IC 5070, this interstellar cloud of gas and dust is appropriately found just off the “east coast” of the North America Nebula (NGC 7000), another surprisingly familiar looking emission nebula in Cygnus. Both Pelican and North America nebulae are part of the same large and complex star forming region, almost as nearby as the better-known Orion Nebula. From our vantage point, dark dust clouds (upper left) help define the Pelican’s eye and long bill, while a bright front of ionized gas suggests the curved shape of the head and neck. This striking synthesized color view utilizes narrowband image data recording the emission of hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the cosmic cloud. The scene spans some 30 light-years at the estimated distance of the Pelican Nebula.

Credit: Steve Richards (via NASA APOD)

Time And Space

(NASA)  Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka
Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (Deep Sky Colors)

Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, are the bright bluish stars from east to west (lower right to upper left) along the diagonal in this gorgeous cosmic vista. Otherwise known as the Belt of Orion, these three blue supergiant stars are hotter and much more massive than the Sun. They lie about 1,500 light-years away, born of Orion’s well-studied interstellar clouds. In fact, clouds of gas and dust adrift in this region have intriguing and some surprisingly familiar shapes, including the dark Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula near Alnitak at the lower right. The famous Orion Nebula itself is off the right edge of this colorful star field. The well-framed, wide-field telescopic image spans about 4 degrees on the sky.

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The Science of how Solar Systems begin

“These central regions first glow in infrared light, while the material surrounding the center “pancakes” into a disk shape. The disk rotates, and tiny densities imperfections form within it. In the densest regions, mass begins to clump together, creating the first protoplanets.”

It takes a lot of work to make a solar system from the raw materials of an interstellar molecular cloud, but the Universe is up to the challenge. We had a theoretical picture that held for a long time, but thanks to the array of modern telescopes that humanity has constructed, we’ve finally been able to put that picture to the test. Would protostars form from gravitational collapse? Would they wind up with protoplanetary disks around them? Would those disks develop asymmetries and, later, gaps where young planets formed? And then, would the central star ignite and burn off the rest of the materials, where only the planetary survivors would persist?

We’ve now got the evidence for all of this, and the answer is a resounding, overwhelming yes! Come see for yourself.

Riding high in the constellation of Auriga, beautiful, blue vdB 31 is the 31st object in Sidney van den Bergh’s 1966 catalog of reflection nebulae. It shares this well-composed celestial still life with dark, obscuring clouds recorded in Edward E. Barnard’s 1919 catalog of dark markings in the sky. All are interstellar dust clouds, blocking the light from background stars in the case of Barnard's dark nebulae. For vdB 31, the dust preferentially reflects the bluish starlight from embedded, hot, variable star AB Aurigae. Exploring the environs of AB Aurigaewith the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed the several million year young star is itself surrounded by flattened dusty disk with evidence for the ongoing formation of aplanetary system. AB Aurigae is about 470 light-years away. At that distance this cosmic canvas would span about four light-years.

Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block, Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, U. Arizona

Time And Space

A runaway star lights the Flaming Star Nebula in this cosmic scene. Otherwise known as IC 405, the Flaming Star Nebula’s billowing interstellar clouds of gas and dust lie about 1,500 light-years away toward the constellation of Auriga.AE Aurigae, the bright star at upper left in the frame, is a massive and intensely hot O-type star moving rapidly through space, likely ejected from a collision of multiple star-systems in the vicinity of the Orion Nebula millions of years ago. Now close to IC 405, the high-speed star’s ionizing ultraviolet radiation powers the visible reddish glow as the nebula’s hydrogen atoms are stripped of their electrons and recombine. Its intense blue starlight is reflected by the nebula’s dusty filaments. Like all massive stars AE Aurigae will be short-lived though, furiously burning through its supply of fuel for nuclear fusion and exploding as a supernova. The colorful telescopic snapshot spans about 5 light-years at the estimated distance of the Flaming Star Nebula.
For image credit and copyright guidance, please visit the image websitehttp://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap161201.html

Time And Space

IC 4603 - The Turbulent Heart of the Scorpion

This image shows the core region of the Rho Ophiuchi Complex, centered around the prominent blue reflection nebula IC 4603. This is one of the nearest star forming regions and the intricacies of the dense interstellar dust clouds in the area provide a spectacular display of light and shade; the contrasting hues making this one of the most dramatic and colourful patches of the entire night sky.

Credit: Rolf Olsen

A frighteningly shaped reflection nebula, this cosmic crone is about 800 light-years away though. Its malevolent visage seems to glare toward nearby bright star Rigel in Orion, just off the right edge of this frame. More formally known as IC 2118, the interstellar cloud of dust and gas is nearly 70 light-years across, its dust grains reflecting Rigel’s starlight. In this composite portrait, the nebula’s color is caused not only by the star’s intense bluish light but because the dust grains scatter blue light more efficiently than red. The same physical process causes Earth’s daytime sky to appear blue, although the scatterers in planet Earth’s atmosphere are molecules of nitrogen and oxygen

Like a July 4 fireworks display, a young, glittering collection of stars looks like an aerial burst. The cluster is surrounded by clouds of interstellar gas and dust—the raw material for new star formation. The nebula, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina, contains a central cluster of huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603.

Planets, stars, nebulas and a galaxy – all your favourite things all in this image. Mars (right) and Saturn (center) are visible as the two bright orange spots in the upper half of the image. The colorful Rho Ophiuchus star clouds featuring the bright orange star Antares lined up below Mars, on the central right part of the image. These interstellar clouds contain both red emission nebulas and blue reflection nebulas. At the top right of the image is the Blue Horsehead reflection nebula. On the lower left are many dark absorption nebulas that extend from the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. The featured deep composite was composed of multiple deep exposures taken last month from Brazil.

Saturn and Mars will remain visible to the unaided eye this month toward the east, just after sunset. Everything else in this image unfortunately requires the use of a telescope to see.

Image Credit & Copyright: Carlos Eduardo Fairbairn ; Rollover Annotation: Judy Schmidt

Herschels Eagle Nebula : A now famous picture from the Hubble Space Telescope featured Pillars of Creation, star forming columns of cold gas and dust light-years long inside M16, the Eagle Nebula. This false-color composite image views the nearby stellar nursery using data from the Herschel Space Observatorys panoramic exploration of interstellar clouds along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Herschels far infrared detectors record the emission from the regions cold dust directly. The famous pillars are included near the center of the scene. While the central group of hot young stars is not apparent at these infrared wavelengths, the stars radiation and winds carve the shapes within the interstellar clouds. Scattered white spots are denser knots of gas and dust, clumps of material collapsing to form new stars. The Eagle Nebula is some 6,500 light-years distant, an easy target for binoculars or small telescopes in a nebula rich part of the sky toward the split constellation Serpens Cauda . via NASA

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The Tadpoles of IC 410 : This telescopic close-up shows off the otherwise faint emission nebula IC 410. It also features two remarkable inhabitants of the cosmic pond of gas and dust below and right of center, the tadpoles of IC 410. Partly obscured by foreground dust, the nebula itself surrounds NGC 1893, a young galactic cluster of stars. Formed in the interstellar cloud a mere 4 million years ago, the intensely hot, bright cluster stars energize the glowing gas. Composed of denser cooler gas and dust, the tadpoles are around 10 light-years long and are likely sites of ongoing star formation. Sculpted by winds and radiation from the cluster stars, their heads are outlined by bright ridges of ionized gas while their tails trail away from the cluster’s central region. IC 410 lies some 10,000 light-years away, toward the nebula-rich constellation Auriga. via NASA

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