M1: The Crab Nebula: The Crab Nebula is cataloged as M1, the first object on Charles Messiers famous 18th century list of things which are not comets. In fact, the Crab is now known to be a supernova remnant, debris from the death explosion of a massive star, witnessed by astronomers in the year 1054. This sharp, ground-based telescopic view uses narrowband data to track emission from ionized oxygen and hydrogen atoms and explore the tangled filaments within the still expanding cloud. One of the most exotic objects known to modern astronomers, the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning 30 times a second, is visible as a bright spot near the nebulas center. Like a cosmic dynamo, this collapsed remnant of the stellar core powers the Crabs emission across the electromagnetic spectrum. Spanning about 12 light-years, the Crab Nebula is a mere 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. via NASA


NGC 6240: Merging Galaxies : NGC 6240 offers a rare, nearby glimpse of a cosmic catastrophe in its final throes. The titanic galaxy-galaxy collision takes place a mere 400 million light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus. The merging galaxies spew distorted tidal tails of stars, gas, and dust and undergo fast and furious bursts of star formation. The two supermassive black holes in the original galactic cores will also coalesce into a single, even more massive black hole and soon, only one large galaxy will remain. This dramatic image of the scene is a composite of narrowband and near-infrared to visible broadband data from Hubble’s ACS and WPC3 cameras, a view that spans over 300,000 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 6240. via NASA


The most crowded place in the Milky Way

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image presents the Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way. It is located about 25 000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), close to the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way. It is, like its neighbour the Quintuplet Cluster, a fairly young astronomical object at between two and four million years old.

The Arches cluster is so dense that in a region with a radius equal to the distance between the Sun and its nearest star there would be over 100 000 stars!

At least 150 stars within the cluster are among the brightest ever discovered in the the Milky Way. These stars are so bright and massive, that they will burn their fuel within a short time, on a cosmological scale, just a few million years, and die in spectacular supernova explosions

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 May 29

Saturn at Opposition 

Telescopic observers on Earth have been treated to spectacular views of Saturn lately as the ringed planet reached its 2015 opposition on May 23 at 0200 UT. Of course opposition means opposite the Sun in Earth’s sky. So near opposition Saturn is up all night, at its closest and brightest for the year. These sharp images taken within hours of the Sun-Earth-Saturn alignment also show the strong brightening of Saturn’s rings known as the opposition surge or the Seeliger Effect. Directly illuminated, the ring’s icy particles cast no shadows and strongly backscatter sunlight toward planet Earth, creating the dramatic surge in brightness. Saturn currently stands in the sky not far from bright Antares, alpha star of the constellation Sagittarius.

Unusual Dusty Galaxy NGC 7049
Credit: NASA, ESA and W. Harris (McMaster University)

Explanation: How was this unusual looking galaxy created? No one is sure, especially since spiral galaxy NGC 7049 looks so strange. NGC 7049’s striking appearance is primarily due to an unusually prominent dust ring seen mostly in silhouette. The opaque ring is much darker than the din of millions of bright stars glowing behind it. Besides the dark dust, NGC 7049 appears similar to a smooth elliptical galaxy, although featuring surprisingly few globular star clusters. NGC 7049 is pictured above as imaged recently by the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright star near the top of NGC 7049 is an unrelated foreground star in our own Galaxy. Not visible here is an unusual central polar ring of gas circling out of the plane near the galaxy’s center. Since NGC 7049 is the brightest galaxy in its cluster of galaxies, its formation might be fostered by several prominent and recent galaxy collisions. NGC 7049 spans about 150 thousand light years and lies about 100 million light years away toward the constellation of Indus.

The Link Between Galaxy Mergers and Supermassive Black Hole Jets

A team of astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) have conducted a large survey to investigate the relationship between galaxies that have undergone mergers and the activity of the supermassive black holes at their cores.

The team studied a large selection of galaxies with extremely luminous centres — known as active galactic nuclei (AGNs) — thought to be the result of large quantities of heated matter circling around and being consumed by a supermassive black hole. Whilst most galaxies are thought to host a supermassive black hole, only a small percentage of them are this luminous and fewer still go one step further and form what are known as relativistic jets [1]. The two high-speed jets of plasma move almost with the speed of light and stream out in opposite directions at right angles to the disc of matter surrounding the black hole, extending thousands of light-years into space. The hot material within the jets is also the origin of radio waves.

It is these jets that Marco Chiaberge from the Space Telescope Science Institute, USA (also affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, USA and INAF-IRA, Italy) and his team hoped to confirm were the result of galactic mergers [2].

The team inspected five categories of galaxies for visible signs of recent or ongoing mergers — two types of galaxies with jets, two types of galaxies that had luminous cores but no jets, and a set of regular inactive galaxies [3].

“The galaxies that host these relativistic jets give out large amounts of radiation at radio wavelengths,” explains Marco. “By using Hubble’s WFC3 camera we found that almost all of the galaxies with large amounts of radio emission, implying the presence of jets, were associated with mergers. However, it was not only the galaxies containing jets that showed evidence of mergers!” [4].

“We found that most merger events in themselves do not actually result in the creation of AGNs with powerful radio emission,” added co-author Roberto Gilli from Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, Italy. “About 40% of the other galaxies we looked at had also experienced a merger and yet had failed to produce the spectacular radio emissions and jets of their counterparts.”

Although it is now clear that a galactic merger is almost certainly necessary for a galaxy to host a supermassive black hole with relativistic jets, the team deduce that there must be additional conditions which need to be met. They speculate that the collision of one galaxy with another produces a supermassive black hole with jets when the central black hole is spinning faster — possibly as a result of meeting another black hole of a similar mass — as the excess energy extracted from the black hole’s rotation would power the jets.

“There are two ways in which mergers are likely to affect the central black hole. The first would be an increase in the amount of gas being driven towards the galaxy’s centre, adding mass to both the black hole and the disc of matter around it,” explains Colin Norman, co-author of the paper. “But this process should affect black holes in all merging galaxies, and yet not all merging galaxies with black holes end up with jets, so it is not enough to explain how these jets come about. The other possibility is that a merger between two massive galaxies causes two black holes of a similar mass to also merge. It could be that a particular breed of merger between two black holes produces a single spinning supermassive black hole, accounting for the production of jets.”

Future observations using both Hubble and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) are needed to expand the survey set even further and continue to shed light on these complex and powerful processes.

Source: NASA


You need to see this

It’s amazing footage of a Soyuz docking with the International Space Station. 

This is what space exploration looks like.