An Eye in the Sky

ngc6751_hst_960Planetary nebulae appear simple, round, and planet-like in small telescopes. However, images from the Hubble Space Telescope have become well known for showing these fluorescent gas shrouds of dying Sun-like stars to possess a staggering variety of detailed symmetries and shapes. This composite color Hubble image of NGC 6751, the Glowing Eye Nebula, is a lovely example of a complex planetary nebula. Winds and radiation from the intensely hot central star (140,000 °C) have created the nebula’s streamer-like features. The nebula is about 0.8 light-years across, roughly 600 times the diameter of our Solar System. It’s 6,500 light-years distant in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle).

Image Credit: NASA

Mergers and Acquisitions

NGC 6052 is a pair of colliding galaxies located about 230 million light-years away in the constellation of Hercules. The pair were first discovered in 1784 by William Herschel, and they were thought to be a single irregular galaxy because of their odd shape. However, NGC 6052 actually consists of two galaxies in the process of colliding.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

The Jellyfish Nebula

The Jellyfish Nebula (aka IC443)) is a supernova remnant in the constellation Gemini. It’s roughly 5,000 light years from Earth. IC 443 may be the remains of a supernova that occurred between 3,000 to 30,000 years ago. The same supernova event probably created a neutron star known as CXOU J061705.3+222127.

Image Credit: NASA

A Magnetic Cigar

This is a composite image of the Cigar Galaxy (aka M82), a starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. It combines visible starlight (gray) and a tracing of hydrogen gas (red) from the Kitt Peak Observatory, with near-infrared and mid-infrared starlight and dust (yellow) from SOFIA (a NASA telescope mounted on 747 which does infrared astronomy flying above most of the atmosphere) and the Spitzer Space Telescope.. A magnetic field detected by SOFIA shows up in the image as streamlines which seem to follow the outflows (red) generated by the burst of star formation in the nucleus of the galaxy.

Image Credits: NASA / SOFIA / E. Lopez-Rodriguez and Spitzer / J. Moustakas et al.