Galactic Fingerprint


ESA’s Planck satellite gets the Milky Way’s magnetic fingerprint. Image: ESA

The ESA Planck satellite took this image of polarized light emission from interstellar dust. The darker regions (as you can read below) are the more strongly polarized. I am a little surprised by the amount of polarization away from the galactic equator, I thought it would have been more uniform. The full report will be coming out later this year.

Polarized light has been coming up quite frequently in different stories as of late.

Here’s the full explanation from ESA.

The ESA short version:

The magnetic field of our Milky Way Galaxy as seen by ESA’s Planck satellite. This image was compiled from the first all-sky observations of polarised light emitted by interstellar dust in the Milky Way. The magnetic field is displayed using a visualisation technique called line integral convolution (LIC).

Darker regions correspond to stronger polarised emission, and the striations indicate the direction of the magnetic field projected on the plane of the sky. The dark band running horizontally across the centre corresponds to the Galactic Plane. Here, the polarisation reveals a regular pattern on large angular scales, which is due to the magnetic field lines being predominantly parallel to the plane of the Milky Way. The data also reveal variations of the polarisation direction within nearby clouds of gas and dust. This can be seen in the tangled features above and below the plane, where the local magnetic field is particularly disorganised.

The image is a Mollweide projection of the full celestial sphere, with the plane of the Galaxy aligned with the horizontal axis of the oval. Certain areas in the image, mostly at high Galactic latitude, have been masked out. The overall intensity in these regions is low, complicating the separation of foreground and CMB components. Further data analysis will improve this by the time of the full data release in late 2014.

The Tadpole

The Tadpole and the Wriggler. Click for larger. Copyright NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and IPHAS

I want to see the Goldfish. Ok I spent five minutes looking for it until I re-read the press release and the bit about it being just out of view. Larger and full-res versions availble at the link below.

BTW, I LOVE the title from ESA for selfish reasons. LOL.

From ESA Spaceinimages (The Tadpole and the Wriggler):

A bright blue tadpole appears to swim through the inky blackness of space. Known as IRAS 20324+4057 but dubbed “the Tadpole”, this clump of gas and dust has given birth to a bright protostar, one of the earliest steps in building a star.

There are actually multiple protostars within this tadpole’s ‘head’, but 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 eventually emerge as a fully-fledged young star.

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Ride Along

Watch this! They (Airanespace) call it remarkable, I call that an understatement!  This is astounding is what it is.

One of the many really cool video showing up recently.

This from Arianespace:

Remarkable images from on-board cameras provide a detailed “ride-along” view of Arianespace’s Flight VS07, which orbited Europe’s Sentinel-1A from the Spaceport in French Guiana.

Recorded during the 23-minute mission on April 3, multiple cameras covered the action from final countdown to separation of the mission’s payload.

The Arianespace/European Space Agency/Roscosmos-copyrighted video begins with the pre-launch steps as seen from two cameras – mounted on opposite sides of the medium-lift launcher.

Looking down from the launcher’s upper portion, the opening sequence includes separation of umbilical connections for Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage, followed by the tilt-back of two umbilical masts. One of these masts provides fluids and electrical connections for the launcher’s Block I third stage, while the second mast services the Soyuz vehicle’s Block A core stage.

Soyuz’ engine ignition is clearly seen in the video with the startup sequence for the first stage’s four boosters and central core second-stage. This is followed by liftoff and the opening of four arms that supported the vehicle while on the pad – and which are opened by Soyuz’ upward movement.
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Rosetta Updated

There is a nice video out that shows what we might expect to see during the approach and encounter with the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

As the video showed the comet is just now becoming visible and in fact Rosetta did get a couple of pictures of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta is about 5 million km / 3.1 million miles from the comet and this image comes from 60-300 second exposures. Nice and steady!

Rosetta’s first sighting of its target in 2014 – narrow angle view  Image and caption: ESA

Rosetta’s first sighting of its target in 2014 – narrow angle view Image and caption: ESA

The camera is working great!  I especially like the globular cluster! It is M107.

See more at the Rosetta site.

Video source

24 years of Hubble

From ESA’s Space in Images this amazing Hubble image of the Monkey Head Nebula (in Orion) – the link has full-res versions of the image.

Hubble was launched on 24 April 1990, coming up on 24 years. The last servicing mission to Hubble was in 2009 which hopefully will extend the life of Hubble until 2021. I should note the expected life of Hubble after the servicing is published to be 2014 to 2021 – hopefully closer to the latter.

The James Webb Telescope is expected to launch in 2018.

About the image (from ESA):

Each year the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope releases a brand new image to celebrate its birthday. This year, the subject of its 24th celebratory snap is part of the Monkey Head Nebula, last viewed by Hubble in 2001, creating a stunning image released in 2011.

Otherwise known as NGC 2174, this cloud of gas and dust lies about 6400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter). Nebulas like this one are popular targets for Hubble – their colourful plumes of gas and fiery bright stars create ethereally beautiful pictures, such as the telescope’s 22nd and 23rd anniversary images of the Tarantula and Horsehead nebulas.

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Rosetta’s Goal in Sight

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as observed on Februaray 28th, 2014, with the Very Large Telescope.  Left: In order to make the comet visible, the scientists superposed several exposures. The images were shifted to compensate for the comet's motion. The stars appear as broadly smudged lines.  Right: Subtracting the starry backgrouns reveals the comet. Caption and Image © MPS/ESO

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as observed on Februaray 28th, 2014, with the Very Large Telescope.
Left: In order to make the comet visible, the scientists superposed several exposures. The images were shifted to compensate for the comet’s motion. The stars appear as broadly smudged lines.
Right: Subtracting the starry backgrouns reveals the comet.
Caption and Image © MPS/ESO

We can now see Rosetta’s goal, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko thanks to researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and the European Southern Observatory. The comet disappeared behind the sun last October and it is just now out of the glare enough to be seen.

They took the image above with ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Actually the image is several exposures stacked together. Think of it is adding all the images together to bring out the features. 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is small, around 3 x 5 km and it is about 740 million km / 460 million miles so it is very faint.

The new image suggests that 67P is beginning to emit gas and dust at a relatively large distance from the Sun – Colin Snodgrass from the MPS

The comet will become more visible to researchers as it gets closer.

Read more at the Max Planck Institute.

Hubble Catches Breakup

I first saw this and thought Hubble caught a comet breaking up, turns out it isn’t it’s an asteroid! Not to mention another Hubble first. The four largest fragments are as much as 200 meters in diameter.

“This is a rock. Seeing it fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing,” said David Jewitt of UCLA, USA, who led the astronomical forensics investigation.

Get the story at ESA’s Hubble page.

Video source

Watching Gaia

ESA’s Gaia satellite as seen with the Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Credit: ESO / ESA

The Gaia satellite is 1.5 million km away and is orbiting a spot in space known as L2. The spot,  L2 is a Lagrange point, think of it as a gravity balance point and makes a nice parking spot.  ESA has a more in depth explanation of Lagrange points..

ESA can actually keep tabs on Gaia visually. I think this is just amazing. Using the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile Gaia actually can be seen. It’s a very small satellite very far away, over a million times fainter than can be see with the human eye.

From the ESA caption:

To measure Gaia’s position in the sky, a network of small and medium telescopes are monitoring the spacecraft on a daily basis. This information is being fed into the orbit reconstruction being performed at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, yielding an accuracy of 150 m on Gaia’s position and of 2.5 mm/s on its motion.

These two images, taken about 6.5 minutes apart on 23 January, are the result of a close collaboration between ESA and the European Southern Observatory to observe Gaia.

Read the full ESA caption here.