Herschel’s View of the Eagle Nebula

Herschel_Eagle_Nebulapillars6_hst_960The famous Hubble Space Telescope image of the Pillars of Creation,the light-years long star forming columns of cold gas and dust inside the Eagle Nebula is inset on the left. This false-color composite image above shows the nearby stellar nursery using data from the Herschel Space Observatory. Herschel‘s far infrared detectors record the emission from the region’s cold dust directly. The famous pillars are included near the center of the scene.

Image Credit: ESA

NGC 3982

NGC 3982NGC 3982 spans about 30,000 light-years, making it about one-third of the size of our Milky Way galaxy. It’s about 68 million light-years away and receding from us at about 1100 km/s. The galaxy is a typical spiral galaxy, and it has a supermassive black hole at its core. It also has a high rate of star birth within its spiral arms. Its bright nucleus contains older populations of stars, which are more densely packed toward the center. The galaxy also has active star formation in the circumnuclear region. NGC 3982 has a mini-spiral between the circumnuclear star-forming region and the galaxy’s nucleus which may be the channel through which gas is transported to the central supermassive black hole from the star-forming region.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

The Heart of the Crab

Heart of the CrabThis Hubble image peers deep into the core of the Crab Nebula, revealing its beating heart. At its center are the remnants of a supernova which sends out clock-like pulses of radiation and waves of charged particles. The neutron star at the very center of the Crab Nebula has about the same mass as the Sun, but it’s compressed into an incredibly dense sphere that is only a few miles across. Spinning 30 times a second, the neutron star ticks along, shooting out detectable beams of energy.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

A Starburst Galaxy

A lonely birthplaceThe MCG+07-33-027 galaxy is about 300 million light-years away from us, and it’s currently experiencing an extraordinarily high rate of star formation— a starburst. We see MCG+07-33-027 face on, so the galaxy’s spiral arms and the bright star-forming regions within them are clearly visible.

Most galaxies produce only handful new stars per year, but starburst galaxies can produce hundreds. In order to form new stars, the parent galaxy needs a large reserve of gas which is slowly depleted as stars spawn over time. A starburst often starts following a collision with another galaxy, but MCG+07-33-027 is rather isolated. The triggering of the starburst probably wasn’t caused by a collision with a neighboring or passing galaxy. It’s something of an enigma.

The bright object to the right of the galaxy is a foreground star in our own galaxy.

Image Credit: ESA