Cosmic Bubble Wrap

These tenuous threads are part of Sh2-308, a faint and wispy shell of gas located 5,200 light-years away in the constellation of Canis Major. A star known as EZ Canis Majoris was responsible for creating Sh2-308 when it blew off its outer layers. The star’s intense radiation pushes the bubble, blowing it bigger and bigger. The edges of Sh2-308 are about 60 light-years apart and growing.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Two Million Stars for Five Million Years

Here is ESA’s explanation of this video—This video reveals the changing face of our Galaxy, tracing the motion of two million stars five million years into the future using data from the Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution, one of the products of the first Gaia data release. This provides a preview of the stellar motions that will be revealed in Gaia’s future data releases, which will enable scientists to investigate the formation history of our Galaxy.

The stars are plotted in Galactic coordinates and using a rectangular projection: in this, the plane of the Milky Way stands out as the horizontal band with greater density of stars.

The video starts from the positions of stars as measured by Gaia between 2014 and 2015, and shows how these positions are expected to evolve. The frames in the video are separated by 750 years, and the overall sequence covers five million years. The stripes visible in the early frames reflect the way Gaia scans the sky and the preliminary nature of the first data release; these artefacts are gradually washed out in the video as stars move across the sky.

The shape of the Orion constellation can be spotted towards the right edge of the frame, just below the Galactic Plane, at the beginning of the video. As the sequence proceeds, the familiar shape of this constellation (and others) evolves into a new pattern. Two stellar clusters – groups of stars that were born together and consequently move together – can be seen towards the left edge of the frame: these are the alpha Persei (Per OB3) and Pleiades open clusters.

Video Credit: ESA

The Case of the Runaway Quasar

This Hubble image is an unusual sight—a runaway quasar fleeing from its galaxy’s central hub. A quasar is the visible, energetic signature of a black hole, The black hole cannot be seen directly, but it’s the energy source at the heart of its quasars. The quasar, in turn, is an intense, compact source of radiation that can outshine an entire galaxy.

The green dotted line marks the visible boundary of the galaxy. The quasar, called 3C 186, appears as if it were a bright star just off-center, and it’s moving rapidly away from the galactic center. The force involved is roughly equivalent to the energy of 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously. One plausible explanation for this propulsive energy is that the quasar is being pushed by gravitational waves unleashed by the merger of two other black holes at the center of the galaxy.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI