NASA produced this image as part of a televised event back on 25 August the same day New Horizons passed the orbit of Neptune and 25 years after the Neptune/Voyager encounter with Neptune in 1989.
Since Voyager we have made signifcant discoveries in the Kuiper Belt. The image shows objects from both the Kuiper and Asteroid Belts. The Asteroids include little Vesta that was examined in detail by Dawn up to the largest asteroid Ceres the asteroid where Dawn is heading to now. The Kuiper Belt objects include Pluto, the destination of New Horizons spacecraft and it’s getting very close.
NASA set the objects to scale to show how they compare to each other. I wanted to compare then to something more provincial, so if you click the image I have added the moon. I’m not saying it is exactly to scale, it is close enough to get the idea.
There are a few things going on these days and among them:
The Dawn spacecraft is about to start Ceres approach imaging very soon – last I heard was tomorrow, 13 January 2015.
The image above was created by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, have used the multiwavelength filters on NASA’s Dawn spacecraft to create compositional maps of the surface of the asteroid Vesta. More about the image from RAS.
BTW: We have been hit with a pretty sizable winter storm with up to 50 cm of wet snow in the area (30 cm right here) and almost all of it still clinging to trees. What will happen when the wind comes up is unknown. I can make power, hope the internet stays up!
Not a new image but always fun to look at is the Egg Nebula. I always think of ripples in a pond produced by tossing a pebble in and in a way it is. ars
Planetary nebulas have nothing much to do with planets, rather they are how stars like our own sun will end their active life cycles. Planetary nebulas are varied in how they present themselves but all are beautiful sights to see.
This colourful image shows a cosmic lighthouse known as the Egg Nebula, which lies around 3000 light-years from Earth. The image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, has captured a brief but dramatic phase in the life of a Sun-like star.
The Egg Nebula is a ‘preplanetary nebula’. These objects occur as a dying star’s hot remains briefly illuminates material it has expelled, lighting up the gas and dust that surrounds it.
These objects will one day develop into planetary nebulas which, despite the name, have nothing at all to do with planets. They gained their rather misleading title because when they were discovered in the 18th century they resembled planets in our Solar System when viewed through a telescope.
Although the dying star is hidden behind the thick dust lane that streaks down the centre of this image, it is revealed by the four lighthouse-like beams clearly visible through the veil of dust that lies beyond the central lane.
The light beams were able to penetrate the central dust lane due to paths carved out of the thick cloud by powerful jets of material expelled from the star, although the cause of these jets is not yet known.
The concentric rings seen in the less dense cloud surrounding the star are due to the star ejecting material at regular intervals – typically every hundred years – during a phase of the star’s evolution just prior to this preplanetary nebula phase. These dusty shells are not usually visible in these nebulas, but when they are it provides astronomers with a rare opportunity to study their formation and evolution. Continue reading →