Zooming in on CW Leonis

CW Leonis is a carbon star, a luminous red giant, whose atmosphere contains more carbon than oxygen. It’s believed to be in a late stage of its life, blowing off its own sooty atmosphere to eventually form a white dwarf.

Video Credit: ESA / Hubble, NASA, Dark Energy Survey / DOE / FNAL / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA, Digitized Sky Survey 2, E. Slawik, N. Risinger, M. Zamani
Music: tonelabs – Happy Hubble (tonelabs.com)
Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)

Two Clusters and White Dwarfs

Astronomers compare the cooling stars in two massive globular clusters, M13 and M3, to study the evolution of white dwarfs. These two clusters are about the same age and have roughly the same percentage of elements heavier than helium, but their populations of the kind of stars which will end their lives as white dwarfs are different. Thus, M13 and M3 form a natural laboratory the lives pf white dwarfs.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Flying By Mercury

The ESA/JAXA BepiColumbo spacecraft took these pictures of Mercury during its first gravity assist flyby of the planet. During its seven-year cruise to the innermost planet of the Solar System, BepiColombo makes one flyby at Earth, two at Venus and six at Mercury. It will finally arrive in orbit around Mercury in 2025.

Video Credit: ESA / JAXA

Another Lonely Galaxy

ngc-4414NGC 4414 is an unbarred spiral galaxy about 62 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices. It has short segments of spiral structure but lacks the dramatic well-defined spiral arms of a grand design spiral galaxy. It’s also a very isolated galaxy without signs of past interactions with other galaxies.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Mergers and Acquisitions

An interacting colossusThis picture shows a galaxy known as NGC 6872 in the constellation of Pavo (The Peacock). Its unusual shape is caused by its interactions with the smaller galaxy called IC 4970 that can be seen just above it. The pair are roughly 300 million light-years away from Earth.

NGC 6872 measures over 500,000 light-years across. It’s the second largest spiral galaxy discovered thus far. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, measures around 100,000 light-years across.

The upper left spiral arm of NGC 6872 appears distorted and is filled with star-forming regions which appear blue on this Hubble image. That may have been be caused by IC 4970 recently (only about 130 million years ago) passing through this spiral arm. Astronomers have noted that NGC 6872 seems to be relatively sparse in terms of free hydrogen, which is the basis material for new stars. It is probable that if it weren’t for its interactions with IC 4970, NGC 6872 might not have been able to produce these new bursts of star formation.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Rubin’s Galaxy

Rubin’s Galaxy (aka UGC 2885) is a giant spiral galaxy about 232 million light-years away. It’s about 800,000 light-years across—roughly 8 times the diameter of the Milky Way. Astronomers estimate it contain a trillion stars, 10 times as many as the Milky Way.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / B. Holwerda (University of Louisville)

Butterfly Nebula

m2d9_hubble_985What happens when a star dies? In the case of low-mass stars like our Sun and M2-9 pictured above, such stars transform themselves into white dwarfs by throwing off their outer gaseous envelopes. The expelled gas often forms a planetary nebula that fades away over thousand of years. M2-9 is a butterfly planetary nebula 2100 light-years away. There are two stars orbiting inside the central gaseous disk 10 times larger than the orbit of Pluto. The expelled gas of the dying star breaks out from the disk in a bipolar pattern.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Messier 96

A galactic maelstromThis is Messier 96, a spiral galaxy a bit more than 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). It is roughly the same mass and size as the Milky Way, but unlike our more or less symmetrical galaxy, M96 is lopsided. Its dust and gas are unevenly spread throughout its weak spiral arms, and its core is not exactly at the apparent galactic center. Its arms are also asymmetrical, perhaps because of the gravitational pull of other galaxies within the same group as Messier 96.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

A White Dwarf and Its Nebula

This is the planetary nebula NGC 3918, a brilliant cloud of colorful gas in the constellation of Centaurus, roughly 4,900 light-years from Earth. In the center of the cloud of gas lies a tiny star, the dying remnant of a red giant. When such a star dies, huge clouds of gas are ejected from its surface before collapses to become a white dwarf. Intense ultraviolet radiation from the tiny remnant star causes the surrounding gas cloud to glow.

NGC 3918 has a distinctive eye-like shape with a bright inner shell of gas and a more diffuse outer shell that extends far from the nebula and looks as if it could be the result of two separate irruptions of gas. However, studies of the object suggest that the two cloud components were formed at the same time but are being blown from the star at different speeds. The powerful jets of gas emerging from the ends of the large structure are estimated to be shooting away from the star at speeds of up to 350,000 km/h/

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

A Wolf–Rayet and Its Nebula

A cosmic coupleThat’s the star Hen 2-427 (aka WR 124) at the center of this picture. It’s surrounded by the nebula M1-67. They’re found in the constellation of Sagittarius about 15,000 light-years away. The star shines brightly at the very center of these hot clumps of surrounding gas that it’s ejecting into space at over 150,000 km per hour.

Hen 2-427 is a Wolf–Rayet star. Named after the astronomers Charles Wolf and Georges Rayet, Wolf–Rayet stars are super-hot and characterized by a fierce ejection of mass. In this case, that results in the nebula M1-67 which is estimated to be less than 10,000 years old, a newbie in astronomical terms,

Image Credit: ESA