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Posts Tagged ‘Nebula’

Hubble Revisits The Monkey Head Nebula For 24th Birthday Snap


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

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

To celebrate its 24th year in orbit, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has released a beautiful new image of part of NGC 2174, also known as the Monkey Head Nebula. This colourful region is filled with young stars embedded within bright wisps of cosmic gas and dust.

NGC 2174 lies about 6400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter). Hubble previously viewed this part of the sky back in 2001, creating a stunning image released in 2011, and the space telescope has now revisited the region to celebrate its 24th year of operation.

Nebulae are a favourite target for Hubble. Their colourful plumes of gas and fiery bright stars create ethereally beautiful pictures. Some of the most famous of Hubble’s images have been of nebulae — for example, the telescope’s 22nd and 23rd anniversary images of the Tarantula and Horsehead nebulae, and its festive 2012 image of planetary nebula NGC 5189.

The detail shown in this image lies within NGC 2174, a nebula which gets its more common name, the Monkey Head Nebula, from its curiously familiar shape when viewed in wide-field images.

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Dead Star And Distant Black Holes Dazzle In X-Rays

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

Two new views from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, showcase the telescope’s talent for spying objects near and far. One image shows the energized remains of a dead star, a structure nicknamed the “Hand of God” after its resemblance to a hand. Another image shows distant black holes buried in blankets of dust.

“NuSTAR’s unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light,” said Fiona Harrison, the mission’s principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.

NuSTAR launched into space June 13, 2012, on a mission to explore the high-energy X-ray universe. It is observing black holes, dead and exploded stars and other extreme objects in our own Milky Way galaxy and beyond.

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Hubble Watches Super Star Create Holiday Light Show

December 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collab

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collab

This festive NASA Hubble Space Telescope image resembles a holiday wreath made of sparkling lights. The bright southern hemisphere star RS Puppis, at the center of the image, is swaddled in a gossamer cocoon of reflective dust illuminated by the glittering star. The super star is ten times more massive than our sun and 200 times larger.

RS Puppis rhythmically brightens and dims over a six-week cycle. It is one of the most luminous in the class of so-called Cepheid variable stars. Its average intrinsic brightness is 15,000 times greater than our sun’s luminosity.

The nebula flickers in brightness as pulses of light from the Cepheid propagate outwards. Hubble took a series of photos of light flashes rippling across the nebula in a phenomenon known as a “light echo.” Even though light travels through space fast enough to span the gap between Earth and the moon in a little over a second, the nebula is so large that reflected light can actually be photographed traversing the nebula.

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ALMA Reveals Ghostly Shape Of ‘Coldest Place In The Universe’

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: Bill Saxton; NRAO/AUI/NSF; NASA/Hubble; Raghvendra Sahai

Credit: Bill Saxton; NRAO/AUI/NSF; NASA/Hubble; Raghvendra Sahai

At a cosmologically crisp one degree Kelvin (minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit), the Boomerang Nebula is the coldest known object in the Universe – colder, in fact, than the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, which is the natural background temperature of space.

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope have taken a new look at this intriguing object to learn more about its frigid properties and to determine its true shape, which has an eerily ghost-like appearance.

As originally observed with ground-based telescopes, this nebula appeared lopsided, which is how it got its name. Later observations with the Hubble Space Telescope revealed a bow-tie-like structure. The new ALMA data, however, reveal that the Hubble image tells only part of the story, and the twin lobes seen in that image may actually be a trick of the light as seen at visible wavelengths.

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Coma Cluster: Clues To The Growth Of The Colossus In Coma

September 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: ESO. Acknowledgement: Martin Pugh

Credit: ESO. Acknowledgement: Martin Pugh

Located around 6000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion), the nebula formally known as IC 4628 is a huge region filled with gas and clumps of dark dust. These gas clouds are star-forming regions, producing brilliant hot young stars. In visible light, these stars appear as a blue-white colour, but they also emit intense radiation in other parts of the spectrum — most notably in the ultraviolet.

It is this ultraviolet light from the stars that causes the gas clouds to glow. This radiation strips electrons from hydrogen atoms, which then later recombine and release energy in the form of light. Each chemical element emits light at characteristic colours when this process occurs, and for hydrogen the predominant colour is red. IC 4628 is an example of an HII region.

Over the last few million years this region of sky has formed many stars, both individually and in clusters. There is a large scattered star cluster named Collinder 316 which extends over most of this image. This cluster is a part of a much larger gathering of very hot and luminous stars. Also visible are many dark structures or cavities, where interstellar matter has been blown away by the powerful winds generated by the nearby hot stars.

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Two Very Different Gas Clouds In The Galaxy Next Door


Credit: ESO

Credit: ESO

ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured an intriguing star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud — one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies. This sharp image reveals two distinctive glowing clouds of gas: red-hued NGC 2014, and its blue neighbour NGC 2020. While they are very different, they were both sculpted by powerful stellar winds from extremely hot newborn stars that also radiate into the gas, causing it to glow brightly.

This image was taken by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile — the best place in the southern hemisphere for astronomical observing. But even without the help of telescopes like the VLT, a glance towards the southern constellation of Dorado (The Swordfish or Dolphinfish [1]) on a clear, dark night reveals a blurry patch which, at first sight, appears to be just like a cloud in the Earth’s atmosphere.

At least, this may have been explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s first impression during his famous voyage to the southern hemisphere in 1519. Although Magellan himself was killed in the Philippines before his return, his surviving crew announced the presence of this cloud and its smaller sibling when they returned to Europe, and these two small galaxies were later named in Magellan’s honour. However, they were undoubtedly seen by both earlier European explorers and observers in the southern hemisphere, although they were never reported.

Full Story and Images: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1335/

Cat’s Paw Nebula “Littered” With Baby Stars


Credit: S. Willis (CfA); NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC

Credit: S. Willis (CfA); NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC

Most skygazers recognize the Orion Nebula, one of the closest stellar nurseries to Earth. Although it makes for great views in backyard telescopes, the Orion Nebula is far from the most prolific star-forming region in our galaxy. That distinction may go to one of the more dramatic stellar nurseries like the Cat’s Paw Nebula, otherwise known as NGC 6334, which is experiencing a “baby boom.”

“NGC 6334 is forming stars at a more rapid pace than Orion – so rapidly that it appears to be undergoing what might be called a burst of star formation,” said lead author Sarah Willis of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and Iowa State University. “It might resemble a ‘mini-starburst,’ similar to a scaled-down version of the spectacular bursts sometimes seen in other galaxies.”

NGC 6334 is a realm of extremes. The nebula contains about 200,000 suns’ worth of material that is coalescing to form new stars, some with up to 30 to 40 times as much mass as our Sun. It houses tens of thousands of recently formed stars, more than 2,000 of which are extremely young and still trapped inside their dusty cocoons. Most of these stars are forming in clusters where the stars are spaced up to a thousand times closer than the stars in the Sun’s neighborhood.

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201315.html

An Anarchic Region Of Star Formation


Credit: ESO

Credit: ESO

The Danish 1.54-metre telescope located at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has captured a striking image of NGC 6559, an object that showcases the anarchy that reigns when stars form inside an interstellar cloud.

NGC 6559 is a cloud of gas and dust located at a distance of about 5000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The glowing region is a relatively small object, just a few light-years across, in contrast to the one hundred light-years and more spanned by its famous neighbour, the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8, eso0936). Although it is usually overlooked in favour of its distinguished companion, NGC 6559 has the leading role in this new picture.

The gas in the clouds of NGC 6559, mainly hydrogen, is the raw material for star formation. When a region inside this nebula gathers enough matter, it starts to collapse under its own gravity. The centre of the cloud grows ever denser and hotter, until thermonuclear fusion begins and a star is born. The hydrogen atoms combine to form helium atoms, releasing energy that makes the star shine.

But NGC 6559 is not just made out of hydrogen gas. It also contains solid particles of dust, made of heavier elements, such as carbon, iron or silicon.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1320/

Hunting High-Mass Stars With Herschel


Copyright: ESA/PACS & SPIRE consortia, A. Rivera-Ingraham & P.G. Martin, Univ. Toronto, HOBYS Key Programme (F. Motte)

Copyright: ESA/PACS & SPIRE consortia, A. Rivera-Ingraham & P.G. Martin, Univ. Toronto, HOBYS Key Programme (F. Motte)

In this new view of a vast star-forming cloud called W3, ESA’s Herschel space observatory tells the story of how massive stars are born.

Spanning almost 200 light-years, W3 is one of the largest star-formation complexes in the outer Milky Way, hosting the formation of both low- and high-mass stars. The distinction is drawn at eight times the mass of our own Sun: above this limit, stars end their lives as supernovas.

Dense, bright blue knots of hot dust marking massive star formation dominate the upper left of the image in the two youngest regions in the scene: W3 Main and W3 (OH). Intense radiation streaming away from the stellar infants heats up the surrounding dust and gas, making it shine brightly in Herschel’s infrared-sensitive eyes.

By studying the two regions of massive star formation – W3 Main and W3 (OH) – scientists have made progress in solving one of the major conundrums in the birth of massive stars. That is, even during their formation, the radiation blasting away from these stars is so powerful that they should push away the very material they are feeding from. If this is the case, how can massive stars form at all?

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Herschel/Hunting_high-mass_stars_with_Herschel

Sun Block For The Big Dog: Detection Of Titanium Oxide And Titanium Dioxide Around The Giant Star VY Canis Majoris


Credits: Molecule symbols: CDMS/T. Kamiński, Background image: NASA/ESA and R. Humphreys (University of Minnesota)

Credits: Molecule symbols: CDMS/T. Kamiński, Background image: NASA/ESA and R. Humphreys (University of Minnesota)

An international team of astronomers, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and from the University of Cologne, discovered two titanium oxides, TiO and TiO2, at radio wavelengths using telescope arrays in the USA and in France. The detection was made in the environment of VY Canis Majoris, a giant star close to the end of its life.

The discovery was made in the course of a study of a spectacular star, VY Canis Majoris or VY CMa for short, which is a variable star located in the constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog). “VY CMa is not an ordinary star, it is one of the largest stars known, and it is close the end of its life,” says Tomasz Kamiński from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR). In fact, with a size of about one to two thousand times that of the Sun, it could extend out to the orbit of Saturn if it were placed in the center of our Solar System.

The star ejects large quantities of material which forms a dusty nebula. The complexity of this nebula has been puzzling astronomers for decades. It has been formed as a result of stellar wind, but it is not understood well why it is so far from having a spherical shape. Neither is known what physical process blows the wind, i.e. what lifts the material up from the stellar surface and makes it expand. “The fate of VY CMa is to explode as a supernova, but it is not known exactly when it will happen”, adds Karl Menten, head of the “Millimeter and Submillimeter Astronomy” Department at MPIfR.

Full Story: http://www3.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/public/pr/pr-tio-mar2013-en.html