stsci

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ripples: Crab Nebula, photographed by Hubble, autumn 2005.

10 images in 558 nm (green) light, September-December 2005.

The Crab Nebula is a cloud of gas 11 light years across, created by the collapse and explosion of a giant star in 1054 AD (a Type II supernova). At the centre of the nebula is a neutron star, the Crab Pulsar, the incredibly dense remnant of the original star; 1.5 to 2 times the mass of the Sun, but only 30 km across. Intense solar wind from the pulsar creates visible ripples in the surrounding nebula.

From Proposal 10526. Some more gifs of the Crab Nebula seen by Hubble.

Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScI. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.

This is the iconic “Pillars of Creation” as rarely seen. The image was taken in near-infrared light by Hubble and reveals eerie silhouettes of the pillars.

Near-infrared light allows astronomers to penetrate much of the gas and dust and uncover stars behind the nebula as well as hidden away inside the pillars. The bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars is material getting heated and evaporated into space by the intense ultraviolet radiation from a cluster of young stars just outside of the image.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Pillars of Creation in Visible and in Near-Infrared Light

“Pillars of Creation” is a photograph taken by the Hubble Telescope of elephant trunks of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, some 7,000 light years from Earth. They are so named because the gas and dust are in the process of creating new stars, while also being eroded by photoevaporation from the ultraviolet light of relatively close and hot stars that have recently formed.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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dreamed about you too: Comet and stars, photographed by Hubble Space Telescope, 3rd March 2001.

Comet 74P/Smirnova–Chernykh, photographed 8 (top), 8 (middle), and 6 times (bottom). The camera follows the comet, so the background stars appear to zip past in a blur. Since comets do not randomly change direction, the different apparent motions of the stars was presumably created by Hubble changing orientation between sets.

Smirnova–Chernykh, which has an orbit comparable to outer main-belt asteroids, was discovered by Tamara Smirnova (1935-2001) and Nikolai Chernykh (1931-2004) at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in 1975. Smirnova also discovered 135 asteroids during her career; Chernykh discovered another comet and a staggering 537 asteroids.

Photographed here under Hubble Proposal 8699, by Laurent Lamy of the Observatoire de Paris.

Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScI. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.

A Black Hole in a Grand Design Spiral Galaxy - M74

Grand Design Spiral Galaxies are classified by their symmetrical spiral arms emanating from a central nucleus. M74, or NGC628, is a face-on spiral galaxy known for its grand design structure. M74 is home to some 100 billion stars; It is and is dotted with clusters of young blue stars and glowing pink regions that will form protostars. In 2002, the Chandra Space Observatory gained evidence that M74 contains an intermediate mass black hole. After studying variations in the amount of X-rays emitted by certain stars, Astrophysicists determined that the mass of the black hole is approximately 10,000 times the mass of our sun.

CreditNASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, Chandra Space Observatory  

reupload: Almost certainly the first gif posted on ageofdestruction.

Transit of Io across Jupiter, photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope, 1st April 1997.

You can also see the dark shadow of Io, above the moon itself in the image, moving across the face of Jupiter.

Image credit: NASA/ESA/STScl. Proposal 6774.

The date given is wrong, because I hadn’t figured out how to read HST proposals at that point; actually photographed 22nd July 1997.

Mystic Mountain in Visible and in Near-Infrared Light

Mystic Mountain is a term for a region within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. 

The visible-light view shows how scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from super-hot newborn stars in the nebula are shaping and compressing the pillar, causing new stars to form within it. Infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks. The colors in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulfur (red).

The near-infrared-light image shows a plethora of stars behind the gaseous veil of the nebula’s background wall of hydrogen, laced with dust. The foreground pillar becomes semi-transparent because infrared light from background stars penetrates through much of the dust. A few stars inside the pillar also become visible.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio(STScI)

The details of Jupiter are pretty insane, right?

These super cool structures on the largest planet in our Solar System are storms: when they occur, elements like phosphorous and sulfur are brought to the top of the clouds that create Jupiter’s range of colors. White spots are supposedly cool storms, brown are warm and red are hot storms.

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope recently published this new imagery and a 4k video featuring details never before seen. They reveal the Great Red Spot continues to shrink and become more circular. In addition, an unusual wispy filament is seen, spanning almost the entire width of the vortex.

Credits: NASA/ESA/Goddard/UCBerkeley/JPL-Caltech/STScI

The Fairy of the Eagle Nebula

The dust sculptures of the Eagle Nebula are evaporating. As powerful starlight whittles away these cool cosmic mountains, the statuesque pillars that remain might be imagined as mythical beasts. Pictured above is one of several striking dust pillars of the Eagle Nebula that might be described as a gigantic alien fairy. This fairy, however, is ten light years tall and spews radiation much hotter than common fire. The greater Eagle Nebula, M16, is actually a giant evaporating shell of gas and dust inside of which is a growing cavity filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an open cluster of stars. The above image in scientifically re-assigned colors was released in 2005 as part of the fifteenth anniversary celebration of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.


 Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA

Saturn’s Rings at Maximum Tilt

In March 2003, Saturn’s rings were at maximum tilt toward Earth, a special event occurring every 15 years. With the rings fully tilted, astronomers get the best views of the planet’s Southern Hemisphere. They took advantage of the rings’ unique alignment by using Hubble to capture some stunning images.

Credit: NASA, ESA, E. Karkoschka, G. Bacon (STScI)

N44C: A Nebular Mystery

N44C is the designation for a fascinating region of ionized hydrogen gas surrounding an association of young stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It stretches over an expanse of space that would take 125 years to cross if you were traveling at light-speed.

N44C is peculiar because the star mainly responsible for illuminating the nebula is unusually hot. The most massive stars, ranging from 10-50 times more massive than the Sun, have maximum temperatures of 30,000 to 50,000 degrees Kelvin. The star illuminating N44C appears to be significantly hotter, with a temperature of about 75,000 degrees Kelvin!

Ideas proposed to explain this unusually high temperature include the possibility of a neutron star or black hole that intermittently produces X-rays but is now “switched off.”

Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: D. Garnett (University of Arizona)

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Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

From NASA’s press release:

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

The plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles (200 kilometers) before, presumably, raining back down onto Europa’s surface. Europa has a huge global ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans, but it is protected by a layer of extremely cold and hard ice of unknown thickness. The plumes provide a tantalizing opportunity to gather samples originating from under the surface without having to land or drill through through miles of ice.

The team, led by William Sparks of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore observed these finger-like projections while viewing Europa’s limb as the moon passed in front of Jupiter.

The original goal of the team’s observing proposal was to determine whether Europa has a thin, extended atmosphere, or exosphere.

“The atmosphere of an extrasolar planet blocks some of the starlight that is behind it,” Sparks explained. “If there is a thin atmosphere around Europa, it has the potential to block some of the light of Jupiter, and we could see it as a silhouette. And so we were looking for absorption features around the limb of Europa as it transited the smooth face of Jupiter.”

In 10 separate occurrences spanning 15 months, the team observed Europa passing in front of Jupiter. They saw what could be plumes erupting on three of these occasions.

Scientists may use the infrared vision of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled to launch in 2018, to confirm venting or plume activity on Europa. NASA also is formulating a mission to Europa with a payload that could confirm the presence of plumes and study them from close range during multiple flybys.    

So what to take note of this is that if those plumes really exist, then we have a better way to sample one of the most promising places for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System.

The gif is an artist impression from this NASA Goddard video, and the image shows the water vapor plumes erupting at the 7 o’clock position of Europa.

Credits: Goddard/Katrina Jackson, NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center

Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 Image detailing star birth in Galaxy M83.


Credit: NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgement: R O'Connel and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee

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Mysterious disk of blue stars around M31’s black hole

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have identified the source of a mysterious blue light surrounding a supermassive black hole in our neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

The blue light is coming from a disk of hot, young stars. These stars are whipping around the black hole in much the same way as planets in our solar system are revolving around the Sun. Astronomers are perplexed about how the pancake-shaped disk of stars could form so close to a giant black hole. In such a hostile environment, the black hole’s tidal forces should tear matter apart, making it difficult for gas and dust to collapse and form stars.

Credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)