The Tadpole Galaxy

Arp 188, aka the Tadpole Galaxy, is a disrupted barred spiral galaxy about 420 million light-years from Earth . Its most noticeable feature is a massive tail of stars about 280,000 light-years long. Astronomers believe that the tail was formed about 100 million years ago by a merger or near merger of two galaxies.

A more compact galaxy crossed in front of a larger one and was partially strung out behind the resulting Tadpole by the gravitational interactions.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Young Stars and Old Timers

Stars in SagittariusThe Hubble Space Telescope took this picture of a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius. Blue stars can be seen scattered across the frame, set against a backdrop of red companions. This blue stars are young, most likely formed at the same time from the same collapsing molecular cloud.

Red stars are much cooler than the sun, so they are either at the end of their lives or they are much less massive. These lower-mass stars are called red dwarfs and are thought to be the most common type of star in the Milky Way. The blue stars are hot. They are either young or very massive, many times the mass of the Sun.

A star’s mass decides its lifespan. Massive stars burn brightly over a short lifespan and die after only tens of millions of years. Yellow stars like the Sun typically live longer, burning for approximately ten billion years. Smaller stars, on the other hand, live life in the slow lane and may exist for trillions of years.

Image Credit: NASA

The Rotation of Neptune

This video is a full-globe map of Neptune created from Hubble Space Telescope data taken in January, 2020. The planet completes a rotation every 16 hours.

Neptune has dynamic weather. White clouds of methane ice crystals swirl around the planet, and two giant dark spots, giant storms, circle around the northern hemisphere. Around the southern pole, banding is concentrated where the winds are blowing west to east, in the same direction as the planet’s rotation. but near the equator, the winds blow east to west, in the opposite direction as the planet’s rotation.

The giant vortex near the equator is 4,600 miles across, wider than the Atlantic Ocean. Its slightly smaller companion is 3,900 miles across.

Video Credit: STScI

A Lonely Galaxy

0105-4x5color.aiMost galaxies are clumped together in groups or clusters, but NGC 6503 is in a lonely position at the edge of a strangely empty patch of space called the Local Void. The Local Void is a region of space over 150 million light-years across that is essentially empty of stars or galaxies. NGC 6503 is 18 million light-years away from us in the constellation Draco. It’s about 30,000 light-years or a third of the size of the Milky Way.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

Mergers and Acquisitions

Arp 299 is a pair of colliding galaxies. Both of them are classified as barred irregular galaxies. The interaction of the two galaxies is producingstarburst regions. Data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory reveals 25 bright X-ray sources in Arp 299. The image above combines X-ray data from Chandra (pink), higher-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR (purple), and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope (white and faint brown).

Image Credit: NASA

A Butterfly

butterfly_hstThis is NGC 6302 (aka The Butterfly Nebula). It is approximately 4,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Scorpius (the Scorpion). With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 °C, the dying central star of this planetary nebula shines brightly in ultraviolet light, but it’s hidden from direct view by a dense doughnut-shaped cloud of dust. This close-up of the nebula was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope‘s Wide Field Camera 3 which was installed during the final shuttle servicing mission. The dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to our line-of-sight. Click on the image to embiggen it.

Image Credit: NASA

Mergers and Acquisitions

The messy result of a galactic collisionThis is a collision between two galaxies—a spiral galaxy and a lenticular galaxy. There’s an almost 3D appearance to the picture as the spiral arms embrace the lenticular galaxy’s bulge.

There’s more evidence of the collision in the image. Look at the stream of stars coming out from the merging galaxies toward the top of the image. The bright spot in the middle of the plume is the unique feature of this collision. That spot is believed to be the former nucleus of the spiral galaxy ejected from the system during the collision. It’s now being disassembled by tidal forces producing the stream of stars.

Image Credit: NASA

WR 124

WR 124 is a Wolf–Rayet star in the constellation of Sagitta surrounded by a ring nebula of expelled material known as M1-67. It is one of the fastest runaway stars in the Milky Way moving away from the center of the galaxy with a radial velocity around 200 km/s.

Wolf–Rayet stars are a rare set of stars with unusual spectra showing prominent broad emission lines of ionized helium and highly ionized nitrogen or carbon. WR 124 is about 15% hydrogen with most of the remaining mass being helium.

WR 124 is surrounded by an intensely hot nebula formed from the star’s extreme stellar wind. It is expanding at a over 150,000 km/h and is about 6 light-years across.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA


Orion NebulaThe Orion Nebula (also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976) is one of the brightest nebulae, and is visible to the naked eye even in areas affected by minor light pollution. It is seen as the middle “star” in the sword of Orion, the three stars located below Orion’s Belt. The “star” appears fuzzy to sharp-eyed observers, and its nebulosity is obvious through binoculars or a small telescope.

Image Credit: NASA

NGC 4394

Hubble spies NGC 4394NGC 4394 is a barred spiral galaxy about 55 million light-years away. It’s a member of the Virgo Cluster and an archetypal barred spiral galaxy Its bright spiral arms emerge from the ends of a bar that runs across the galaxy’s central bulge. The arms are filled with young blue stars, trails of dark cosmic dust, and regions of active star formation.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

AG Caraine

This is a 3D animation of the star AG Caraine, a star that is in a balancing act between gravity and radiation to avoid self-destruction. It’s surrounded by an expanding shell of gas and dust—a nebula about five light-years wide, That’s roughly the distance from the Sun to our nearest star Alpha Centauri.

Video Credit: NASA / ESA / STScI

The Tadpole Nebula

The_TadpoleWhen I was a kid, one of the pleasures of spring was going to the creek and catching tadpoles. Even though I was interested in astronomy, I never thought of looking for one in the night sky. This bright blue tadpole seems to swim through the inky blackness of space. Catalogued as IRAS 20324+4057, “The Tadpole” is a clump of gas and dust giving birth to a bright protostar, one of the earliest steps in building a star.

There are multiple protostars in the tadpole’s head; the glowing yellow one in this image is the most luminous and massive. When this protostar has gathered together enough mass from its surroundings, it will become a fully-fledged young star.

The intense blue glow is caused by intense ultraviolet radiation from nearby stars. Pressure from that UV sculpts the tail into a long, wiggly shape. The Tadpole spans roughly a light-year from head to tail-tip, and contains gas with about four times the mass of the Sun.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

An M80 with No Kaboom

M80This one’s a star cluster not a firecracker.

M80 is in the constellation Scorpius between the stars α Scorpii (Antares) and β Scorpii in a part of the Milky Way rich in nebulae. When viewed with a modest amateur telescope (like mine), it appears as a mottled ball of light. This Hubble image shows more detail. M80 is roughly 95 light-years in diameter. It contains several hundred thousand stars, making it one of the more densely populated globular clusters in the galaxy.

M80 contains a fair number of blue stragglers, stars that appear to be much younger than the cluster itself. Astronomers believe that these stars lost part of their outer layers during close encounters with other cluster members or as the result of collisions between stars in the tightly packed cluster. Images from Hubble show regions with very high blue straggler densities which suggests that the center of the cluster probably has a very high capture and collision rate.

Image Credit: NASA

The Veil Nebula

The Veil Nebula is about 2,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus (the Swan), making it a relatively close neighbor in astronomical terms. It’s the visible portion of a supernova remnant formed around 10,000 years ago known as the Cygnus Loop.

This image which only shows a portion of the nebula. It was assembled from data taken using five different filters with the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope. Post-processing of the data brings out enhanced details of emissions from doubly ionized oxygen (blues) and ionized hydrogen and ionized nitrogen (reds).

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / Z. Levay