The Serpent’s Nursery

A star forming cloud in the constellation Serpens.  Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/2MASS

A star forming cloud in the constellation Serpens. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/2MASS

Serpens is one of the constellations we don’t hear much about but is probably familiar if you done much sky watching.

The alpha star has the interesting name of Unukalhai and is located at RA: 15h 45m 00.274s Dec: +06°22’54.854″ or Alt: +50°46’49.676″ Azim: 158°02’58.733″ if you have a compass. I put small finders chart here with the constellation outlined in blue. The tail points almost due south (time is about midnight local).

NASA’s caption:

Within the swaddling dust of the Serpens Cloud Core, astronomers are studying one of the youngest collections of stars ever seen in our galaxy. This infrared image combines data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope with shorter-wavelength observations from the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), letting us peer into the clouds of dust wrapped around this stellar nursery.
At a distance of around 750 light-years, these young stars reside within the confines of the constellation Serpens, or the “Serpent.” This collection contains stars of only relatively low to moderate mass, lacking any of the massive and incredibly bright stars found in larger star-forming regions like the Orion nebula. Our sun is a star of moderate mass. Whether it formed in a low-mass stellar region like Serpens, or a high-mass stellar region like Orion, is an ongoing mystery.
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A Graceful Arc

A gravitaional lensed galaxy from Hubble and Hershel. Credit: NASA/STScI; S. Allam and team; and the Master Lens Database, L. A. Moustakas, K. Stewart, et al (2014)

A gravitaional lensed galaxy from Hubble and Hershel. Credit: NASA/STScI; S. Allam and team; and the Master Lens Database, L. A. Moustakas, K. Stewart, et al (2014)

Hubble and Herschel combine to study the galaxy known as S0901 seen here as a arc. The arc is a result of huge gravitational forces from a galaxy or galaxies between us and the galactic arc, gravity so strong light from the more distant S0901 is actually magnified and bent into an arc.

Fascinating stuff! I do wonder if we will ever be able to sort of reverse engineer the arc into some semblance of the actual hidden galaxy.

target=”blank’>More images and the following caption at NASA:

The young galaxy SDSS090122.37+181432.3, also known as S0901, is seen here as the bright arc to the left of the central bright galaxy. The distorted view of S0901 is caused by gravitational lensing, resulting from one or more galaxies that lie between the observer and S0901. Although one effect of lensing is to distort the image, another effect is to magnify the light of the lensed object. This effect was used to enable scientists to study S0901 with Herschel’s Heterodyne Instrument for the Far-Infrared (HIFI).

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Centaurus A – A New Look

A new look at Centaurus A.Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U. Birmingham/M. Burke et al.

Centaurus A is always a treat to see in a good image. This Chandra image gives us an especially good look at those huge jets of material being rejected by the supermassive blackhole at the center of the galaxy.

This image shows those bubble structures too.

From NASA:

Just weeks after NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory began operations in 1999, the telescope pointed at Centaurus A (Cen A, for short). This galaxy, at a distance of about 12 million light years from Earth, contains a gargantuan jet blasting away from a central supermassive black hole.
Since then, Chandra has returned its attention to this galaxy, each time gathering more data. And, like an old family photo that has been digitally restored, new processing techniques are providing astronomers with a new look at this old galactic friend.

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Hubble and NGC 660

A rare Polar Ring Galaxy called NGC 660 from Hubble. Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA

A rare Polar Ring Galaxy called NGC 660 from Hubble. Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Here’s a recent offering from Hubble showing NGC 660, which is described in the caption below from the ESA Week in Pictures.

NGC 660 is a polar ring galaxy, sadly the orientation doesn’t allow us to see that too well. APOD showed the excellent example years ago of NGC 4650A.

This new Hubble image shows a peculiar galaxy known as NGC 660, located around 45 million light-years away from us.

NGC 660 is classified as a “polar ring galaxy,” meaning that it has a belt of gas and stars around its center that it ripped from a near neighbor during a clash about one billion years ago.The first polar ring galaxy was observed in 1978 and only around a dozen more have been discovered since then, making them something of a cosmic rarity.

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The Densest Galaxy Yet

No not the big one, look at the arrow. Click for an enlargement.  Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, and J. Strader (Michigan State University)

No not the big one, look at the arrow. Click for an enlargement. Credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, and J. Strader (Michigan State University)

The environment around the galaxy M60 contains a very dense galaxy called M60-UCD1.

At first I was kind of surprising this galaxy was even noticed being so close to M60. Turns out a closer look with Chandra shows it to be very distinctive.

The densest galaxy in the nearby universe may have been found. The galaxy, known as M60-UCD1, is located near a massive elliptical galaxy NGC 4649, also called M60, about 54 million light-years from Earth.

This composite image shows M60 and the region around it, where data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are pink and data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are red, green and blue. The Chandra image shows hot gas and double stars containing black holes and neutron stars, and the Hubble image reveals stars in M60 and neighboring galaxies including M60-UCD1. The arrow points to M60-UCD1.

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The Sculptor Galaxy

The Sculptor galaxy composite image. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHU

The Sculptor galaxy composite image. Click for larger. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHU

Another great colloboration for astronomical research, this between the ESO, Chandra and NuSTAR. The Sculptor is a great target for such things AND it is a great backyard target too.

Get the details on The Sculptor / NGC 253 from SEDS.

The press release from JPL (click to get larger versions of the image)

The Sculptor galaxy is seen in a new light, in this composite image from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Visible data from the European Space Observatory show the backbone of the galaxy made up of stars, while NuSTAR data, which appear as colored blobs, show high-energy X-rays. The NuSTAR observations are the sharpest ever taken of this galaxy in high-energy X-rays.

The findings, when combined with those from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, suggest that the supermassive black hole at the center of the Sculptor galaxy, also known as NGC 253, has dozed off, or gone inactive, sometime in the past decade. Future observations from both telescopes should help address this mystery.