Hyperion


HyperionThe Cassini spacecraft will make its last close approach to Saturn’s large, irregularly shaped moon Hyperion tomorrow. Cassini will pass by Hyperion at a distance of about 34,000 km at around 13:36  UTC. Images should arrive from the encounter to within 24 to 48 hours.

Hyperion rotates chaotically, tumbling unpredictably as it orbits Saturn. That makes it  challenging to target a specific region of the moon’s surface, and most of Cassini‘s previous close approaches have seen the same side of the craggy moon. The view above is from the closest encounter back in 2005. Mission scientists have hopes of seeing different terrain on Hyperion than the mission has previously explored in detail during tomorrow’s encounter, but this is not guaranteed.

BTW, the first time I saw this picture, I was reminded of a wasps’ nest.

Image Credit: NASA

G49


G49 FilamentThis image shows a filament of dust and gas called G49. It contains 80,000 Suns’ worth of mass and measures about 280 light-years long by roughly 5 light-years across. It’s about 18,000 light-years away.

In this false-color image taken by the Herschel space observatory, longer-wavelength light has been assigned visible colors. Light with wavelengths of 70 µm is blue, 160 µm light is green. 350 µm light is red. The cooler gas seen in red and yellow is quite cold, as low as -252 C.

Image Credit: ESA

Rhea on Edge


Rhea HorizonThis image looking at the horizon of Saturn’s moon Rhea was taken by the Cassini spacecraft at a range of about 56,000 km from the small (~1500 km) moon. The surface of Rhea has been mostly shaped by impact cratering. On more geologically active worlds like Earth or moons such as Titan, craters are erased by erosion, volcanoes, or tectonics. On quieter worlds like Rhea, craters remain until they are disrupted or covered up by the ejecta of subsequent impacts.

Image Credit: NASA

The Medusa Nebula


ESO’s Very Large Telescope images the Medusa NebulaESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile captured this image of the Medusa Nebula (also known Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274). As the star at the heart of this nebula made its final transition into the final stage of its existence, it blew off its outer layers into space, forming this colorful cloud. The Sun will go through a similar process in a few billion years.

Image Credit: ESO

Mergers and Acquisitions


NGC6240NGC 6240 is a cosmic catastrophe in its final throes. It’s a titanic collision of galaxies throwing distorted tidal tails of stars, gas, and dust and undergoing massive 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. Eventually, only one large galaxy will remain.

Image Credit: NASA