The Center of the Lagoon Nebula


The Lagoon Nebula, aka M8, is about 5,000 light years away in the constellation of Sagittarius. The center of the Lagoon Nebula is a maelstrom of star formation. The long funnel-shaped clouds on the lower left are roughly half a light-year long and have been formed by extreme stellar winds and intense energetic starlight. An extremely bright nearby star, Hershel 36, lights the area. Dust hides or reddens other hot young stars from our point of view. As energy from these stars flows into the cool dust and gas, the large temperature differences between adjoining regions can create generating shearing winds which may cause funnels to form.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

A New Moon


A moon was discovered around the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 in these archival Hubble images. They were taken a year apart and reveal a moon orbiting the dwarf planet. Each image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope‘s Wide Field Camera 3, shows the companion in a different position around the planet. 2007 OR10 is the third-largest known dwarf planet, after Pluto and Eris, and the largest unnamed body in the solar system. It’s located in the Kuiper Belt, a realm of icy debris left over from the solar system’s formation.

Image Credits: NASA / ESA / C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory) / J. Stansberry (STScI)

The Rings of Uranus


Saturn’s rings are so prominent that they easily visible from Earth with a small telescope. All the other gas giant planets have ring as well, but they weren’t discovered until we were able to look at those planets from above the Earth’s atmosphere. Here are some pictures of the ring system around Uranus taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as our point of view shifted over several years. The next time the rings will be edge-on will be in 2049.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI

A Hole in the Cosmic Microwave Background


The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) in the afterglow of the Big Bang. Why would this cluster of galaxies punch a hole in it? The CMB flows right through most of the gas and dust in the universe. It is all around us. However, large clusters of galaxies have enough gravity to contain gas hot enough to up-scatter the CMB photons into light of significantly higher energy, creating “holes” in the CMB. This is known as the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich (SZ) effect, and it’s used for decades to study the hot gas in clusters. This picture combines CMB data from ESO’s ALMA with imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope to measure the galaxies in the massive galaxy cluster RX J1347.5-1145. False-color blue shows light from the CMB; almost every yellow object is a galaxy. The shape of the SZ hole indicates not only that hot gas is present in this galaxy cluster, but also that it is distributed in a surprisingly uneven manner.

Image Credit: ESO / ESA / NASA

Seeing Double


This particular object in the constellation Lepus stands out from the crowd. It’s actually  two separate galaxies whooshing past each other at about 2 million km/h. That’s probably so fast that they won’t merge and form a single galaxy. However, because they’ll pass within about 20,000 light-years of each other, the galaxies will distort one another through the force of gravity, warping each other on a grand scale.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA