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Herschel And Hubble See The Horsehead In New Light

April 19, 2013 1 comment

Hubble’s view of the Horsehead Nebula. Credit: NASA, ESA & Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)

Hubble’s view of the Horsehead Nebula. Credit: NASA, ESA & Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)

New views of the Horsehead Nebula and its turbulent environment have been unveiled by ESA’s Herschel space observatory and the NASA/ESA Hubble space telescope.

The Horsehead Nebula lies in the constellation Orion, about 1300 light-years away, and is a popular target for amateur and professional astronomers alike. It sits just to the south of star Alnitak, the easternmost of Orion’s famous three-star belt, and is part of the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex.

The new far-infrared Herschel view shows in spectacular detail the scene playing out around the Horsehead Nebula at the right-hand side of the image, where it seems to surf like a ‘white horse’ in the waves of turbulent star-forming clouds.

The new Hubble view, taken at near-infrared wavelengths with its Wide Field Camera 3 to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the launch of the observatory, zooms in on the Horsehead to reveal fine details of its structure.

Full Story, Images, Video and Links:

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Herschel/Herschel_and_Hubble_see_the_Horsehead_in_new_light
And: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1307/

A Hidden Treasure In The Large Magellanic Cloud

January 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA, ESA. Acknowledgement: Josh Lake

Credit: NASA, ESA. Acknowledgement: Josh Lake

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is ablaze with star-forming regions. From the Tarantula Nebula, the brightest stellar nursery in our cosmic neighbourhood, to LHA 120-N 11, part of which is featured in this Hubble image, the small and irregular galaxy is scattered with glowing nebulae, the most noticeable sign that new stars are being born.

The LMC is in an ideal position for astronomers to study the phenomena surrounding star formation. It lies in a fortuitous location in the sky, far enough from the plane of the Milky Way that it is neither outshone by too many nearby stars, nor obscured by the dust in the Milky Way’s centre. It is also close enough to study in detail (less than a tenth of the distance of the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest spiral galaxy), and lies almost face-on to us, giving us a bird’s eye view.

LHA 120-N 11 (known as N11 for short) is a particularly bright region of the LMC, consisting of several adjacent pockets of gas and star formation. NGC 1769 (in the centre of this image) and NGC 1763 (to the right) are among the brightest parts.

Full Story and Photos: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1301/

Dark Matter Filament Studied In 3D For The First Time

October 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Hubble image of MACS J0717 with mass overlay. Credit: NASA, ESA, Harald Ebeling (University of Hawaii at Manoa) & Jean-Paul Kneib (LAM)

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have studied a giant filament of dark matter in 3D for the first time. Extending 60 million light-years from one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, the filament is part of the cosmic web that constitutes the large-scale structure of the Universe, and is a leftover of the very first moments after the Big Bang. If the high mass measured for the filament is representative of the rest of the Universe, then these structures may contain more than half of all the mass in the Universe.

The theory of the Big Bang predicts that variations in the density of matter in the very first moments of the Universe led the bulk of the matter in the cosmos to condense into a web of tangled filaments. This view is supported by computer simulations of cosmic evolution, which suggest that the Universe is structured like a web, with long filaments that connect to each other at the locations of massive galaxy clusters. However, these filaments, although vast, are made mainly of dark matter, which is incredibly difficult to observe.

The first convincing identification of a section of one of these filaments was made earlier this year. Now a team of astronomers has gone further by probing a filament’s structure in three dimensions. Seeing a filament in 3D eliminates many of the pitfalls that come from studying the flat image of such a structure.

Full Story: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1215/

Most Quasars Live On Snacks, Not Large Meals


Black holes in the early universe needed a few snacks rather than one giant meal to fuel their quasars and help them grow, according to observations from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.

Quasars are the brilliant beacons of light that are powered by black holes feasting on captured material, and in the process, heating some of the matter to millions of degrees. The brightest quasars reside in galaxies distorted by collisions with other galaxies. These encounters send lots of gas and dust into the gravitational whirlpool of hungry black holes.

Now, however, astronomers are uncovering an underlying population of fainter quasars that thrive in normal-looking spiral galaxies. They are triggered by black holes snacking on such tasty treats as a batch of gas or the occasional small satellite galaxy.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-180

Also: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/27

Hubble Pinpoints Farthest Protocluster of Galaxies Ever Seen

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have uncovered a cluster of galaxies in the initial stages of development. It is the most distant such grouping ever observed in the early universe.

In a random sky survey made in near-infrared light, Hubble found five tiny galaxies clustered together 13.1 billion light-years away. They are among the brightest galaxies at that epoch and very young — existing just 600 million years after the big bang.

Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the universe, comprising hundreds to thousands of galaxies bound together by gravity. The developing cluster, or protocluster, is seen as it looked 13 billion years ago. Presumably, it has grown into one of today’s massive “galactic cities,” comparable to the nearby Virgo cluster of more than 2,000 galaxies.

“These galaxies formed during the earliest stages of galaxy assembly, when galaxies had just started to cluster together,” said Michele Trenti of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “The result confirms our theoretical understanding of the buildup of galaxy clusters. And, Hubble is just powerful enough to find the first examples of them at this distance.”

Full Story: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2012/05