NGC 2440


Hubble reveals NGC 2440This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the colorful end of a star like the Sun. This star is casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star’s remaining core. Ultraviolet light from the dying star makes the material glow. The burned-out star, a white dwarf, is the white dot in the center. Our Sun will eventually burn out and surround itself with stellar debris, but that’s not expected for another 5 billion years or so.

The galaxy is filled with these stellar relics called planetary nebulae. (They have nothing to do with planets. 18th- and 19th-century astronomers used that name because through small telescopes the nebulae resembled the disks of the planets Uranus and Neptune.) This planetary nebula in this image is named NGC 2440. The white dwarf at the center of NGC 2440 is one of the hottest known, with a surface temperature of more than 200,000°C. The nebula’s chaotic structure suggests that the star shed its mass in multiple stages. During each outburst, the star blew off material in a different direction, resulting in the two bowtie-shaped lobes.

The material expelled by the star glows with different colors depending on its composition, its density and how close it is to the hot central star. Blue samples helium; blue-green oxygen, and red nitrogen and hydrogen.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Probing Deeper Into the Hubble Deep Field


This video sequence combines a background picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (blue/green) with a new very deep view of this field using the European Southern Observatory’s ALMA instruments (orange, marked with circles). All the objects that ALMA sees appear to be massive star-forming galaxies.

Video Credit: ESO
Image Credits: ESA/NASA/ESO

The Helix Nebula in Infrared


helix-nebula-in-ir

When viewed in IR by the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Helix Nebula shows a glow that suggests that the central star is surrounded by an unusual cloud of dust. One theory is that the cloud is made up of debris from collisions between the material ejected by the star when it exploded and the comets and other bodies in that star’s equivalent of the Solar System’s Kuiper Belt.

Image Credit: NASA

A Journey to the Hyades


This virtual journey from our Solar System to the Hyades star cluster is based on data from ESA’s Gaia satellite. The journey moves away from the Sun and travel toward and around the Hyades star cluster. It’s the closest open cluster to the Solar System, some 150 light-years away.

The 3D positions of the stars shown in the animation are drawn using information from Gaia’s first year of observations. This new dataset contains positions on the sky, distances, and proper motions of over two million stars. It is twice as precise and contains almost 20 times as many stars as the previous reference for astrometry, the Hipparcos Catalogue.

The animation zooms out to show the full extent size of the stars contained in the dataset, all relatively near to the Sun, in the overall context of our Milky Way galaxy. The final Gaia catalogue will contain the most detailed 3D map ever made of the Galaxy, charting a billion stars—only about 1% of the Milky Way—to unprecedented accuracy.

Video Credit: ESA