Category Archives: Hubble

Ultra-Bright Galaxies From Hubble

Light from 8 to 11.5 BILLION years ago. Be sure to click the image to get a larger view or if you want a really large image go to Hubblesite and you can download one for your desktop.

Hubblesite — These six images, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, reveal a jumble of misshapen-looking galaxies punctuated by exotic patterns such as arcs, streaks, and smeared rings. These unusual features are the stretched shapes of the universe’s brightest infrared galaxies that are boosted by natural cosmic magnifying lenses. Some of the oddball shapes in the images also may have been produced by spectacular collisions between distant, massive galaxies in a sort of cosmic demolition derby.

This so-called gravitational lensing occurs when the intense gravity of a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies magnifies the light of fainter, more distant background sources. The “lenses” are foreground massive galaxies whose gravity magnifies and distorts images of the distant bright infrared galaxies behind them.

The faraway galaxies are as much as 10,000 times more luminous than our Milky Way. The lensing phenomenon allows for features as small as about 100 light-years or less across to be seen in the background galaxies.

The galaxies existed between 8 billion and 11.5 billion years ago, when the universe was making stars more vigorously than it is today. The galaxies are ablaze with runaway star formation, pumping out more than 10,000 new stars a year. The star-birth frenzy creates lots of dust, which enshrouds the galaxies, making them too faint to detect in visible light. But they glow fiercely in infrared light, shining with the brilliance of 10 trillion to 100 trillion suns.

The infrared galaxies in these images are part of a Hubble survey of 22 distant ultra-luminous infrared galaxies that were found by ground- and space-based observatories. The images were taken in infrared light by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Color has been added to highlight details in the galaxies.

Hubble Parallel Field

HUBBLE: While one instrument of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed a pair of spiral galaxies for its 27th anniversary last month, another simultaneously observed a nearby patch of the sky to obtain this wide-field view.

These ‘parallel field’ observations increase the telescope’s productivity.

This parallel field shows an area of the sky awash largely with spiral galaxies like our Milky Way. Most of the prominent galaxies look different only because they are tilted at various orientations to our viewpoint – from edge-on to face-on. A few others are interacting or merging.

The image also shows a number of foreground stars in our own galaxy.

Credit: NASA, ESA & M. Mutchler (STScI)

The Lizard

Another great look at an aptly named galaxy and foreground star.

As an aside, I only just realized I apparently had changed a setting and for the past week or so, the images would not show a larger version when they are clicked on. I have corrected the issue and went back for the past week and changed the setting so things work as I intend, including this one.

HUBBLE – In space, being outshone is an occupational hazard. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image captures a galaxy named NGC 7250. Despite being remarkable in its own right — it has bright bursts of star formation and recorded supernova explosions— it blends into the background somewhat thanks to the gloriously bright star hogging the limelight next to it.

The bright object seen in this Hubble image is a single and little-studied star named TYC 3203-450-1, located in the constellation of Lacerta (The Lizard). The star is much closer than the much more distant galaxy.

Only this way can a normal star outshine an entire galaxy, consisting of billions of stars. Astronomers studying distant objects call these stars “foreground stars” and they are often not very happy about them, as their bright light is contaminating the faint light from the more distant and interesting objects they actually want to study.

In this case, TYC 3203-450-1 is million times closer than NGC 7250, which lies more than 45 million light-years away from us. If the star were the same distance from us as NGC 7250, it would hardly be visible in this image.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Text credit: European Space Agency

Europa’s Plumes – Update

Following up yesterdays post here is a pair of static images from Hubble.  Click the image for a larger view.

From NASA:

These composite images show a suspected plume of material erupting two years apart from the same location on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The images bolster evidence that the plumes are a real phenomenon, flaring up intermittently in the same region on the satellite. Both plumes, photographed in ultraviolet light by NASA’s Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter.

The newly imaged plume, shown at right, rises about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Europa’s frozen surface. The image was taken Feb. 22, 2016. The plume in the image at left, observed by Hubble on March 17, 2014, originates from the same location. It is estimated to be about 30 miles (50 kilometers) high. The snapshot of Europa, superimposed on the Hubble image, was assembled from data from NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter.

The plumes correspond to the location of an unusually warm spot on the moon’s icy crust, seen in the late 1990s by the Galileo spacecraft (see PIA21444 use back button to return.). Researchers speculate that this might be circumstantial evidence for water venting from the moon’s subsurface. The material could be associated with the global ocean that is believed to be present beneath the frozen crust.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center

Expelling A Black Hole

Think gravity waves are weak? Think again, wow almost hard to believe.

Credit: Hubblesite

from STSci:

Astronomers have uncovered a supermassive black hole that has been propelled out of the center of a distant galaxy by what could be the awesome power of gravitational waves.

Though there have been several other suspected, similarly booted black holes elsewhere, none has been confirmed so far. Astronomers think this object, detected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, is a very strong case. Weighing more than 1 billion suns, the rogue black hole is the most massive black hole ever detected to have been kicked out of its central home.

Researchers estimate that it took the equivalent energy of 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously to jettison the black hole. The most plausible explanation for this propulsive energy is that the monster object was given a kick by gravitational waves unleashed by the merger of two hefty black holes at the center of the host galaxy.
Continue reading

Active Galactic Nucleus


The galaxy above called IC-3639 has an Active Galactic Nucleus that is actually obscured which leads to even more questions.  AGN’s are super-massive black holes (in the order of a million to probably hundreds of million solar masses) that are accreting massive amounts of matter, which is to say “feeding”. The accretion disc makes the Active Galaxies among the brightest objects in terms of electromagnetic radiation, so bright it is not often whether or not a galaxy is active, is in question, IC 3639 is such a galaxy.

A word about black holes in general because some people have a mistaken impression of black holes as marauding monsters roaming the universe looking for innocent planets to swallow up, that just came up on an outing with friends. No, a black holes don’t really do that. In fact if you took a black hole of one-solar-mass and swapped it with our Sun our solar system would just keep right on going just like it does now, aside from light and heat of course, the fabric of space-time would be just as it is now.

From NuSTAR:
IC 3639, a galaxy with an active galactic nucleus, is seen in this image combining data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory.

This galaxy contains an example of a supermassive black hole hidden by gas and dust. Researchers analyzed NuSTAR data from this object and compared them with previous observations from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Japanese-led Suzaku satellite. The findings from NuSTAR, which is more sensitive to higher energy X-rays than these observatories, confirm the nature of IC 3639 as an active galactic nucleus that is heavily obscured, and intrinsically much brighter than observed.

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Virginia. NuSTAR’s mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. ASI provides the mission’s ground station and a mirror archive. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

Image and caption: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO/STScI

NGC 4696


From Hubble:

This picture, taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), shows NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster.

The new images taken with Hubble show the dusty filaments surrounding the centre of this huge galaxy in greater detail than ever before. These filaments loop and curl inwards in an intriguing spiral shape, swirling around the supermassive black hole at such a distance that they are dragged into and eventually consumed by the black hole itself.

Credit:  NASA, ESA/Hubble, A. Fabian

The Gem

Little gem

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope had imaged NGC 6818 before, but it took another look at this planetary nebula, with a new mix of colour filters, to display it in all its beauty. By showing off its stunning turquoise and rose quartz tones in this image, NGC 6818 lives up to its popular name: Little Gem Nebula.

This cloud of gas formed some 3500 years ago when a star like the Sun reached the end of its life and ejected its outer layers into space. As the layers of stellar material spread out from the nucleus – the white stellar remnant at the centre of the image – they ended up acquiring unusual shapes.

NGC 6818 features pinkish knotty filaments and two distinct turquoise layers: a bright, oval inner region and, draped over it like sheer fabric, a spherical outer region.

The central star has a faint stellar companion 150 astronomical units away, or five times the distance between the Sun and Neptune. You can just about make this out: if you zoom in to the centre, you’ll notice the white dot in the middle is not perfectly round, but rather two dots very close together.

With a diameter of just over half a light-year, the planetary nebula itself is about 250 times larger than the binary system. But the nebula material is still close enough to its parent star for the ultraviolet radiation the star releases to ionise the dusty gas and make it glow.

Scientists believe the star also releases a high-speed flow of particles – a stellar wind – that is responsible for the oval shape of the inner region of the nebula. The fast wind sweeps away the slowly moving dusty gas, piercing its inner bubble at the oval ends, seen at the lower left and top right corners of the image.

NGC 6818 is located in the constellation of Sagittarius and is about 6000 light-years from Earth. It was first imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in 1997, and again in 1998 and 2000 using different colour filters to highlight
different gases in the nebula.

Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA; acknowledgement: J. Schmidt (

BOO! It’s a Red Spider


Huge waves are sculpted in this two-lobed nebula called the Red Spider Nebula, located some 3,000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius. This warm planetary nebula harbors one of the hottest stars known and its powerful stellar winds generate waves 100 billion kilometers (62.4 billion miles) high. The waves are caused by supersonic shocks, formed when the local gas is compressed and heated in front of the rapidly expanding lobes. The atoms caught in the shock emit the spectacular radiation seen in this image.

Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency)
Image credit: ESA/Garrelt Mellema (Leiden University, the Netherlands)