Category Archives: Hubble

28 Years of Hubble

I like the Lagoon Nebula, I can see it from here when it is visible and it does make a nice telescope target. My best looks are usually from August, due south, not too late (22:00 on) and warm weather.

Click the image for a larger view here and the links from NASA’s Image of the Day caption from yesterday contains more links to both the image and about Hubble. 28 years, I feel old (lol) – what a great machine Hubble is! Congratulations to the Hubble team both current and past for a mission that started out a bit rocky but ended up being an icon. The team’s resilience and dedication to the project seems to get lost sometimes but without them the mission never would have never amounted to anything near what it has, so my hat is off to you folks!

From the NASA’s Image of the Day (yesterday):

This colorful image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, celebrates the Earth-orbiting observatory’s 28th anniversary of viewing the heavens, giving us a window seat to the universe’s extraordinary stellar tapestry of birth and destruction. At the center of this image is a monster young star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun that is blasting powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds, carving out a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust.

This mayhem is all happening at the heart of the Lagoon Nebula, a vast stellar nursery located 4,000 light-years away, visible in binoculars as merely a smudge of light with a bright core.

The giant star, called Herschel 36, is bursting out of its natal cocoon of material, unleashing blistering radiation and torrential stellar winds, which are streams of subatomic particles, that push dust away in curtain-like sheets. This action resembles the Sun bursting through the clouds at the end of an afternoon thunderstorm.

Herschel 36’s violent activity has blasted holes in the bubble-shaped cloud, allowing astronomers to study this action-packed stellar breeding ground. The hefty star is 32 times more massive and 40,000 times hotter than our Sun, and is nearly nine times our Sun’s diameter. Herschel 36 is still very active because it is young by a star’s standards, only 1 million years old. Based on its mass, it will live for another 5 million years. In comparison, our smaller Sun is 5 billion years old and will live another 5 billion years.

The image shows a region of the nebula measuring about 4 light-years across.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

Hubble Finds a Ring

Be sure to click the image to see a larger version and get a better look at all those galaxies.

The Einstein Ring in the image is amazingly symmetrical. Click here for a larger version of the ring and see for yourself.

Here’s the caption (ESA): This image is packed full of galaxies! A keen eye can spot exquisite elliptical galaxies and spectacular spirals, seen at various orientations: edge-on with the plane of the galaxy visible, face-on to show off magnificent spiral arms, and everything in between.

With the charming name of SDSS J0146-0929, this is a galaxy cluster — a monstrous collection of hundreds of galaxies all shackled together in the unyielding grip of gravity. The mass of this galaxy cluster is large enough to severely distort the space-time around it, creating the odd, looping curves that almost encircle the center of the cluster.

These graceful arcs are examples of a cosmic phenomenon known as an Einstein ring. The ring is created as the light from a distant objects, like galaxies, pass by an extremely large mass, like this galaxy cluster. In this image, the light from a background galaxy is diverted and distorted around the massive intervening cluster and forced to travel along many different light paths toward Earth, making it seem as though the galaxy is in several places at once.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgment: Judy Schmidt
Text: European Space Agency

MACS j1149.5+223

Beautiful image of a huge galaxy cluster with the name of MACS j1149.5+223. The galaxy cluster is only 5,000-million light-years away!

What’s more, this image contains a star which is “visible” because of a gravitational lens effect, it is actually much more distant. You’ll not see it in the image above but there is a link in ESA’s description below that does show it.

Before we get to the description, I was must musing about who is going to be the one(s) that come up with a way to reconstruct the lensed images? Oh it’s coming all right, has to be, we have too much great talent out there. It will be Nobel Prize time.

The original caption from ESA:

  • This image shows the huge galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+223, whose light took over 5 billion years to reach us.The huge mass of the cluster is bending the light from more distant objects. The light from these objects has been magnified and distorted due to gravitational lensing. The same effect is creating multiple images of the same distant objects.

    Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have found the most distant star ever discovered. The hot blue star existed only 4.4 billion years after the Big Bang. This discovery provides new insight into the formation and evolution of stars in the early Universe, the constituents of galaxy clusters and also on the nature of dark matter.

    Go to Hubble uses cosmic lens to discover most distant star ever observed [heic1525] to learn more.

    Image: NASA, ESA, S. Rodney (John Hopkins University, USA) and the FrontierSN team; T. Treu (University of California Los Angeles, USA), P. Kelly (University of California Berkeley, USA) and the GLASS team; J. Lotz (STScI) and the Frontier Fields team; M. Postman (STScI) and the CLASH team; and Z. Levay (STScI)

Hubble Measures Distance to a Globular

Distance is a one measure we are continually striving to improve in the broad category of astronomy,  distance really matters!

Hubble is doing its part and now we have a “best yet”  measure to a globular cluster.

Here’s how:

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time precisely measured the distance to one of the oldest objects in the universe, a collection of stars born shortly after the big bang.

This new, refined distance yardstick provides an independent estimate for the age of the universe. The new measurement also will help astronomers improve models of stellar evolution. Star clusters are the key ingredient in stellar models because the stars in each grouping are at the same distance, have the same age, and have the same chemical composition. They therefore constitute a single stellar population to study.

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Hand Prints on Hubble

Kind of a fun video from Science@NASA.

Tiangong Update: The remains of the Space Station ended up in the Pacific Ocean, reentry occurred on 2018/04/02 00:16 UTC.

I also want to mention there is a Space X launch of a cargo-spaceship heading to the International Space Station tomorrow with coverage beginning at about 19:00 UTC / 15:00 ET.

Hubble Watches A Storm on Neptune

Hubble watches Neptune’s Dark Storm Die, the title of the video says it all.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Katrina Jackson

Music credit: “Struggling in the City” by Emre Ramazanoglu [PRS], Jamie Michael Bradley Reddington [PRS], and Patrick Green [PRS]; Atmosphere Music Ltd [PRS]; BLOCK; Killer Tracks Production Music

A Baby Solar System Found by Hubble?

Credits: NASA/ESA/G. Schneider (Univ. of Arizona)

Hubble Et al. (see below): Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to uncover a vast, complex dust structure, about 150 billion miles across, enveloping the young star HR 4796A. A bright, narrow, inner ring of dust is already known to encircle the star and may have been +69corralled by the gravitational pull of an unseen giant planet. This newly discovered huge structure around the system may have implications for what this yet-unseen planetary system looks like around the 8-million-year-old star, which is in its formative years of planet construction.

The debris field of very fine dust was likely created from collisions among developing infant planets near the star, evidenced by a bright ring of dusty debris seen 7 billion miles from the star. The pressure of starlight from the star, which is 23 times more luminous than the Sun, then expelled the dust far into space.

But the dynamics don’t stop there. The puffy outer dust structure is like a donut-shaped inner tube that got hit by a truck. It is much more extended in one direction than in the other and so looks squashed on one side even after accounting for its inclined projection on the sky. This may be due to the motion of the host star plowing through the interstellar medium, like the bow wave from a boat crossing a lake. Or it may be influenced by a tidal tug from the star’s red dwarf binary companion (HR 4796B), located at least 54 billion miles from the primary star.

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Hubble’s View: PLCK G004.5-19.5

The name of this galaxy cluster is PLCK G004.5-19.5.  You may not think the name is very creative, but it did remind me of a paper:  Strong Lensing Analysis of PLCK G004.5-19.5, a Planck-Discovered Cluster Hosting a Radio Relic at z=0.52.  Thanks Hubble it was very useful.

Heh, I remember the paper because of a happy coincidence.  About a week ago I happened to be doing some housekeeping on this computer and that was one of the files – and I didn’t delete it.

ESA — This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster PLCK G004.5-19.5. It was discovered by the ESA Planck satellite through the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect — the distortion of the cosmic microwave background radiation in the direction of the galaxy cluster by high-energy electrons in the intracluster gas. The large galaxy at the center is the brightest galaxy in the cluster, and above it a thin, curved gravitational lens arc is visible. This arc is caused by the gravitational forces of the cluster bending the path of light from stars and galaxies behind it, in a similar way to how a glass lens bends light.

Several stars are visible in front of the cluster — recognizable by their diffraction spikes — but aside from these, all other visible objects are distant galaxies. Their light has become redshifted by the expansion of space, making them appear redder than they actually are. By measuring the amount of redshift, we know that it took more than 5 billion years for the light from this galaxy cluster to reach us. The light of the galaxies in the background had to travel even longer than that, making this image an extremely old window into the far reaches of the universe.

This image was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) as part of an observing program called RELICS (Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey). RELICS imaged 41 massive galaxy clusters with the aim of finding the brightest distant galaxies for the forthcoming NASA James Webb Space Telescope to study.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, RELICS; Acknowledgement: D. Coe et al.
Text: European Space Agency

Hubble’s Pegasus Spiral


This is a wonderful telescope target, at a magnitude 9.5 it shows up nicely, however it is much too dim to be seen by binoculars in most places thanks to light pollution.

This was discovered by the famous Charles Messier, but oddly enough this galaxy was NOT included in his most excellent catalog.

NASA/ESA Hubble — This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a spiral galaxy known as NGC 7331. First spotted by the prolific galaxy hunter William Herschel in 1784, NGC 7331 is located about 45 million light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus (the Winged Horse). Facing us partially edge-on, the galaxy showcases its beautiful arms, which swirl like a whirlpool around its bright central region.

Astronomers took this image using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), as they were observing an extraordinary exploding star — a supernova — near the galaxy’s central yellow core. Named SN 2014C, it rapidly evolved from a supernova containing very little hydrogen to one that is hydrogen-rich — in just one year. This rarely observed metamorphosis was luminous at high energies and provides unique insight into the poorly understood final phases of massive stars.

NGC 7331 is similar in size, shape and mass to the Milky Way. It also has a comparable star formation rate, hosts a similar number of stars, has a central supermassive black hole and comparable spiral arms. The primary difference between this galaxy and our own is that NGC 7331 is an unbarred spiral galaxy — it lacks a “bar” of stars, gas and dust cutting through its nucleus, as we see in the Milky Way. Its central bulge also displays a quirky and unusual rotation pattern, spinning in the opposite direction to the galactic disk itself.

By studying similar galaxies we hold a scientific mirror up to our own, allowing us to build a better understanding of our galactic environment, which we cannot always observe, and of galactic behavior and evolution as a whole.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA/D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University)
Text: European Space Agency

Hubble’s Cartwheels – Just Wow

Spectacular image, thanks Hubble.
ESA – This is an image of the Cartwheel Galaxy taken with the NASA/ESA (European Space Agency) Hubble Space Telescope.

The object was first spotted on wide-field images from the U.K. Schmidt telescope and then studied in detail using the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

Lying about 500 million light-years away in the constellation of Sculptor, the cartwheel shape of this galaxy is the result of a violent galactic collision. A smaller galaxy has passed right through a large disk galaxy and produced shock waves that swept up gas and dust — much like the ripples produced when a stone is dropped into a lake — and sparked regions of intense star formation (appearing blue). The outermost ring of the galaxy, which is 1.5 times the size of our Milky Way, marks the shock wave’s leading edge. This object is one of the most dramatic examples of the small class of ring galaxies.

This image is based on earlier Hubble data of the Cartwheel Galaxy that was reprocessed in 2010, bringing out more detail in the image than seen before.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Text credit: ESA