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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The Iris Nebula

NGC 7023: The Iris Nebula, Image Credit & Copyright: Jim Misti (acquisition), Robert Gendler (processing)

The Iris Nebula gets its name from the similarity to the flower of the same name.

The blue color comes from the star: HD 200775, a massive and very hot young star scattering off dust grains.

Located in the constellation Cepheus this bright (mag 6.8) nebula also known as Caldwell 4 and NGC 7023 is about 398 parsecs / 1,300 light-years distant.

I believe this was acquired using Spitzer and the processing was done by the great (IMHO) Robert Gendler.

The nebula has been the subject of study by Astrobiologists at the NASA Ames Research Center:

Astrobiologists at NASA Ames Research Center funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have recently published a study on the analysis of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, or PAH’s, in the Iris Nebula. Their analyses of individual PAH spectra have allowed them to see how different types of PAH’s map to different areas of the nebula, and also how PAH behavior changes with respect to changes in the local environment.

 

Source: [The Astrophysical Journal]

Double Vision

Hubble’s view of quasar QSO 0957+561. Click for larger. Credit: ESA/NASA

Gravitational lensing turns out to be a source of double vision for Hubble.

From NASA (click here to get desktop sized versions from the source):

In this new Hubble image two objects are clearly visible, shining brightly. When they were first discovered in 1979, they were thought to be separate objects — however, astronomers soon realized that these twins are a little too identical! They are close together, lie at the same distance from us, and have surprisingly similar properties. The reason they are so similar is not some bizarre coincidence; they are in fact the same object.

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The Variable RS Puppis

Hubble's look at RS Puppis.  Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collab.

Hubble’s look at RS Puppis. Click for larger. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collab.

RS Puppis is a Cepheid variable star. Thanks to the work of Henrietta Leavitt at Harvard, we know there is a relationship between the period of variability and the luminosity (intrinsic brightness) of a Cepheid variable. This means we can use Cepheid as a standard candle to as one way to determine distance to the really far out star or galaxy the stars reside in.

Distances to closer objects can be determined by other means like the parallax but that tends to be less accurate at great distances. One of the reasons the ESA Gaia launch is so exciting is that parallax measurements will be very accurate and to greater distances than we can do currently. Distances to the stars are very difficult to get accurately.

From NASA (links to a full res image and it is amazing!) with acknowledgment to H. Bond (STScI and Pennsylvania State University):

This festive NASA Hubble Space Telescope image resembles a holiday wreath made of sparkling lights. The bright southern hemisphere star RS Puppis, at the center of the image, is swaddled in a gossamer cocoon of reflective dust illuminated by the glittering star. The super star is ten times more massive than our sun and 200 times larger.

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Herschel/Hubble and the Crab Nebula

The Hubble/Herschel composite of the Crab Nebula.  Image credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant  Team; NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University)

The Hubble/Herschel composite of the Crab Nebula Click for larger. Image credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MESS Key Programme Supernova Remnant Team; NASA, ESA and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University)

As the NASA caption below explains this is composite image of the Crab Nebula from Hubble and Herschel. ESA has a nice explanation of the Herschel data along with links to an image and a portion of spectrum. Active Argon? Cool stuff!

From NASA (larger versions of the image available here):

This image shows a composite view of the Crab nebula, an iconic supernova remnant in our Milky Way galaxy, as viewed by the Herschel Space Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. Herschel is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission with important NASA contributions, and Hubble is a NASA mission with important ESA contributions.
A wispy and filamentary cloud of gas and dust, the Crab nebula is the remnant of a supernova explosion that was observed by Chinese astronomers in the year 1054.

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Solar Coils

A close up of an active region on the sun.  Credit: SDO

A close up of an active region on the sun. Credit: SDO

The Solar Dynamics Observatory zoomed in on an active region on 18-19 November and the coils around it. The coils are charged particles running along the magnetic field lines as seen in extreme ultraviolet light.

We are getting along in the solar cycle and activity should be evident in an increase of the number of solar storms. After the last solar minimum cycle, I would hate to make any predictions. It’s a little early yet and time will tell.

Hubble and NGC 6984

Hubble's look at NGC 6984 . Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

Hubble’s look at NGC 6984 . Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble

An amazing image, no wonder it is made NASA’s Image of the Day.

NGC 6984 is 65.9 Mpc (180 million light-years) away in the direction of the constellation Indus.

You can get a large version (desktop size) at the link below.

From the NASA Image of the Day:

Supernovae are intensely bright objects. They are formed when a star reaches the end of its life with a dramatic explosion, expelling most of its material out into space. The subject of this new Hubble image, spiral galaxy NGC 6984, played host to one of these explosions back in 2012, known as SN 2012im. Now, another star has exploded, forming supernova SN 2013ek — visible in this image as the prominent, star-like bright object just slightly above and to the right of the galaxy’s center.

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Proxima Centauri

Hubble's look at Proxima Centauri. Credit: ESA/NASA/Hubble via Spaceref

Hubble’s look at Proxima Centauri. Credit: ESA/NASA/Hubble via Spaceref

A nice Hubble image of Proxima Centauri. It is the closest star to us at (about) 1.3 pc / 4.24 light-years in the constellation of Centaurus.

You would think Proxima Centauri, being so close would be easy to see but not so. Proxima Centuri is a red dwarf that is much too dim to see with the naked eye at a magnitude 11.05 – most of the time. This star is also called a flare star, a star can undergo dramatic increases in brightness.

The brightness increases because of changes in the magnetic fields created by convection throughout the star and this results in an increased X-ray emission pretty similar to our sun. We must keep in mind Proxima Centauri is a dwarf star and while it has a density 40 times that of our sun, it has a much lower mass, around one eighth. What this star lacks in physical stature it more than will make up for in longevity, it is expected to shine for nearly a trillion years.

Proxima Centauri was discovered by Robert Innes, a Scottish astronomer who was the Director of the Union Observatory in South Africa. It turns out the star is part of a triple star system and you are no doubt familiar with two more well known members: Centauri A and B.

Hubble’s ISON Update

Hubble's look at ISON.  Click for larger. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Hubble’s look at ISON. Click for larger. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The impending ISON breakup that seems to be predicted on certain Internet sites is a FAIL so far. Not to say it won’t happen, just so far it hasn’t happened.

Comet ISON has brightened by a half a magnitude since Monday’s post, it has broken the mag 9 mark and is now 8.99 according to Stellarium and The Sky program I use. I am going to try and get a small scope on it this weekend. If I have REALLY good weather I might try using the big scope I think it is high enough to see. I have a problem in that direction due to trees, normally not too much of an issue because I can wait, but this is a close call with sunrise.

From Hubblesite:

A new image of the sunward plunging Comet ISON suggests that the comet is intact despite some predictions that the fragile icy nucleus might disintegrate as the Sun warms it. The comet will pass closest to the Sun on November 28.

In this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image taken on October 9, the comet’s solid nucleus is unresolved because it is so small. If the nucleus broke apart then Hubble would have likely seen evidence for multiple fragments.

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Clusters in Abell 1689

Hubble looks deep into Abell 1689 to see globular clusters from 690 megaparsecs. NASA, ESA, J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Program, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), and K. Alamo-Martinez (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

Hubble looks deep into Abell 1689 to see globular clusters from 690 megaparsecs. NASA, ESA, J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Program, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), and K. Alamo-Martinez (National Autonomous University of Mexico)

Amazing to see globular clusters from 2.25 billion light-years, or 690 Mpcs. The other striking thing in this image aside from the clusters and the other galaxies are the gravitational lensing or Einstein rings.

Click here to see a larger non-annotated version of the image above.

The Introduction from Hubblesite Click here for the full story:

SEPTEMBER 12, 2013: Ten years ago, astronomer John Blakeslee spotted dots of light peppered throughout images of a giant cluster of galaxies, called Abell 1689. Each dot was not one star, but hundreds of thousands of stars crowded together in groupings called globular clusters. Blakeslee counted 500 such clusters, the brightest members of a teeming population of globular clusters.

Now, a new Hubble census of globular clusters in Abell 1689 reveals that an estimated 160,000 such groupings are huddled near the galaxy cluster’s core. The Hubble observations break the record for the farthest and the most globular clusters ever seen. Globular clusters are the homesteaders of galaxies, containing some of the oldest surviving stars in the universe. These stellar relics are important to study because they help reveal the story of galaxy formation in the early universe. By comparison, only 150 globular clusters orbit the Milky Way galaxy.