Jupiter in Visible Light and UV


From time to time, the Hubble Space Telescope takes observes the four gas giant planets in the Solar System in a ongoing survey of the outer planets’ weather systems. It took the last images of Jupiter in that series on 25 August. This video opens with a view of Jupiter in visible light. Then, a false-color UV view wipes across the planet, followed by a wipe back to visible light.

Video Credit: NASA

A Pending Merger?


The giant elliptical galaxy M60 and the spiral galaxy NGC 4647 make an odd couple Hubble Space Telescope image. They’re found in a region of space where galaxies tend to gather, on the eastern side of the nearby Virgo Galaxy Cluster. About 54 million light-years away, M60’s simple egg-like shape about 120,000 light-years across is created by its randomly swarming older stars. NGC 4647’s young blue stars, gas and dust are an organized spiral, winding arms rotating in a flattened disk spanning 90,000 light-years. It’s about the same size as our galaxy, the Milky Way. NGC 4647 is more distant than M60, around 63 million light-years from Earth. The pair of galaxies which is known as Arp116 may be close enough to be on the verge of a significant gravitational encounter.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

The Cygnus Loop Nebula


20,000 years ago there was a supernova explosion in the constellation of Cygnus. Its shockwave is still expanding into interstellar space. The impact of the fast moving wall of gas on a stationary cloud has heated it causing it to glow with visible light as well as high energy radiation. The result is the nebula known as the Cygnus Loop (NGC 6960/95). The colors in this Hubble Space Telescope image indicate emission from different kinds of atoms excited by the shock: oxygen-blue, sulfur-red, and hydrogen-green.

There’s a picture of the Cygnus Loop in UV here.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

NGC 1805


This tight grouping of thousands of stars is located near the edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. The stars orbit closely to one another, like bees swarming around a hive. In the dense center of one of these clusters, stars are 100 to 1,000 times closer together than the nearest stars are to our Sun, making planetary systems around them unlikely.

Usually, globular clusters contain stars that are born at the same time. NGC 1805 is unusual because it contains two different populations of stars with ages millions of years apart. Observing such clusters of stars can provide data on how stars evolve and on what factors determine whether they end their lives as white dwarfs or explode as supernovae.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

A Galaxy on Edge


NGC 2188 is estimated to be just half the size of our Milky Way, about 50,000 light-years across.  Although we see it on edge, astronomers have determined that it’s a barred spiral galaxy by studying the distribution of the stars in the inner central bulge and the outer disk and by observing the stars’ colors.

NGC 2188 in the constellation Columba (the Dove). That constellation was named in the late 1500s after the dove that brought an olive leaf back to Noah’s ark. Coumbia a small constellation with many faint yet beautiful stars and astronomical objects.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

A Distorted Spiral


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

Hubble Versus My Backyard Telescope


ngc7027N7027lredsgNGC 7027 is one of the brightest nebulae in the sky, but it has never been given a common name. In a 6-in telescope at around 50x it appears as a relatively bright bluish star. I didn’t take the picture on the right, but it’s the sort of view I get with my backyard telescope. The Hubble image above shows a bit more detail.

Before being studied via Hubble, NGC 7027 was thought to be a proto-planetary nebula with the central star too cool to ionize any of the gas. It is now known to be a planetary nebula in the earliest stage of its development with a central star is believed to have been about 3 to 4 times the mass of the Sun.

Image Credit: NASA

A Galaxy and a Star


This image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope show a galaxy cataloged as NGC 4907. Its about 270 million light-years away. The bright star in the image below the galaxy is in our galaxy. It appears to outshine the billions of stars in NGC 4907 because it is roughly 100,000 time closer to us.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

A 3D Model of the Helix Nebula


The Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293) is a large planetary nebula located in the constellation Aquarius. It’s about 700 light-years away. The Helix Nebula has sometimes been referred to as the “Eye of God.” Tolkien fans have occasionally called it the “Eye of Sauron”

This animation of a 3-D model was created from Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data of the Helix Nebula.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

The Crab’s Neutron Star


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 Wide Spectrum Look at M101


It’s one of the last entries in Charles Messier’s famous catalog, but M101 is definitely not one of the least. The galaxy is big—roughly 170,000 light-years across, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy. This multiwavelength view is a composite of images recorded by space-based telescopes. Color coded from X-rays to infrared wavelengths (high to low energies), the image data was taken from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (x-rays, purple), the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (ultraviolet, blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (visible light, yellow), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (infrared, red). While the X-ray data shows the multimillion degree gas around M101’s exploded stars and neutron star and black hole binary star systems, the lower energy data shows the stars and dust that define M101’s grand spiral arms. Known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major. It’s about 25 million light-years away.

Image Credit: NASA

Blowing a Bubble in Space


U Camelopardalis (aka U Cam) is a star nearing the end of its life. When stars run low on fuel for their normal fusion reactions, they become unstable. Every few thousand years, U Cam coughs out an almost spherical shell of gas as helium from its core begins to fuse. The gas ejected in the star’s latest eruption can be seen in this picture as a faint bubble around the star.

U Cam is an example of a carbon star. That’s a rare type of star with an atmosphere that contains more carbon than oxygen. Because of relatively low surface gravity, as much as half of the total mass of a carbon star may we swept away by powerful stellar winds. U Cam is located in the constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe) which is near the North Celestial Pole, U Cam is much smaller than it appears in this image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The star would easily fit within a single pixel in the image. However, it is bright enough to saturate the camera’s photosensors which causes the star look much larger.

The shell of gas, both much larger and much fainter than its parent star, is visible in the picture. Gas clouds from expolsions are often quite irregular and unstable, but the shell of gas ejected from U Cam is almost perfectly spherical.

Image Credit: NASA