X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). This is the first picture of the sun taken by NuSTAR. The field of view covers the west limb of the sun. Continue reading →
Starting the week off is this very nice Hubble image of NGC 4102, one of many objects in Ursa Major. This galaxy is viewable in the Northern Hemisphere with decently dark skies. Considering it is something in the order of 21 mega-parsecs away even a magnitude 11 is pretty good and this Hubble image – wow.
Ursa Major is a large constellation so here is a chart to show the approximate location.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observes some of the most beautiful galaxies in our skies — spirals sparkling with bright stellar nurseries, violent duos ripping gas and stars away from one another as they tangle together, and ethereal irregular galaxies that hang like flocks of birds suspended in the blackness of space.
However, galaxies, like humans, are not all supermodels. This little spiral, known as NGC 4102, has a different kind of appeal, with its tightly-wound spiral arms and understated, but charming, appearance.
NGC 4102 lies in the northern constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). It contains what is known as a LINER, or low-ionization nuclear emission-line region, meaning that its nucleus emits particular types of radiation — specifically, emission from weakly-ionized or neutral atoms of certain elements. Even in this sense, NGC 4102 is not special; around one third of all nearby galaxies are thought to be LINER galaxies.
Many LINER galaxies also contain intense regions of star formation. This is thought to be intrinsically linked to their centers but just why, is still a mystery for astronomers — either the starbursts pour fuel inwards to fuel the LINERs, or this active central region triggers the starbursts. NGC 4102 does indeed contain a starburst region towards its center, where stars are being created at a rate much more furious than in a normal galaxy. This star formation is taking place within a small rotating disk, around 1000 light-years in diameter and with a mass some three billion times the mass of the sun.
This image uses infrared and visible observations taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.
Have a look at this Hubble image of Mars AND comet Siding Spring in the same field of view during the close pass on 19 October. The comet came as close as 140,000 km / 87,000 miles – only a third of our Earth to Moon distance. I am trying to imagine what that would be like.
This composite of NASA Hubble Space Telescope images captures the positions of comet Siding Spring and Mars in a never-before-seen close passage of a comet by the Red Planet, which happened at 2:28 p.m. EDT October 19, 2014. The comet passed by Mars at approximately 87,000 miles (about one-third of the distance between Earth and the Moon). At that time, the comet and Mars were approximately 149 million miles from Earth.
The comet image shown here is a composite of Hubble exposures taken between Oct. 18, 8:06 a.m. EDT to Oct. 19, 11:17 p.m. EDT. Hubble took a separate photograph of Mars at 10:37 p.m. EDT on Oct. 18.
The Mars and comet images have been added together to create a single picture to illustrate the angular separation, or distance, between the comet and Mars at closest approach. The separation is approximately 1.5 arc minutes, or one-twentieth of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The background starfield in this composite image is synthesized from ground-based telescope data provided by the Palomar Digital Sky Survey, which has been reprocessed to approximate Hubble’s resolution. The solid icy comet nucleus is too small to be resolved in the Hubble picture. The comet’s bright coma, a diffuse cloud of dust enshrouding the nucleus, and a dusty tail, are clearly visible.
This is a composite image because a single exposure of the stellar background, comet Siding Spring, and Mars would be problematic. Mars is actually 10,000 times brighter than the comet, and so could not be properly exposed to show detail in the Red Planet. The comet and Mars were also moving with respect to each other and so could not be imaged simultaneously in one exposure without one of the objects being motion blurred. Hubble had to be programmed to track on the comet and Mars separately in two different observations.
The images were taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.
NuSTAR was launched on June 13, 2012 from above the Kwajalein Atoll region. The launch vehicle was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, a Pegasus XL rocket. The platform was the “Stargazer” L-1011 aircraft, the rocket was released and dropped for five seconds before the three-stage rocket motor ignited and put the spacecraft into a 650 km by 610 km orbit and deploying the first orbiting telescopes to focus light in the high energy X-ray (3 – 79 keV) region of the electromagnetic spectrum.
It has been two years and now We are getting some nice data including finding a pulsar in the galaxy M82.
High-energy X-rays streaming from a rare and mighty pulsar (magenta), the brightest found to date, can be seen in this new image combining multi-wavelength data from three telescopes. The bulk of a galaxy called Messier 82 (M82), or the “Cigar galaxy,” is seen in visible-light data captured by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona. Starlight is white, and lanes of dust appear brown. Low-energy X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are colored blue, and higher-energy X-ray data from NuSTAR are pink.
The magenta object is what’s known as an ultraluminous X-ray source, or ULX — a source of blazing X-rays. Previously, all ULXs were suspected to be massive black holes up to a few hundred times the mass of the sun. But NuSTAR spotted a pulsing of X-rays from this ULX (called M82 X-2) – a telltale sign of a pulsar, not a black hole. A pulsar is a type a neutron star — a stellar core left over from a supernova explosion — that sends out rotating beams of high-energy radiation. Scientists were surprised to find the pulsar at the root of the ULX because it shines with a luminosity that is more typical of heftier black holes.
NuSTAR data covers the X-ray energy range of 10 to 40 kiloelectron volts (keV), and Chandra covers the range .1 to 10 keV.
Astronomers have studied galactic evolution for decades, gradually improving our knowledge of how galaxies have changed over cosmic history. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has played a big part in this, allowing astronomers to see further into the distance, and hence further back in time, than any telescope before it – capturing light that has taken billions of years to reach us.
Looking further into the very distant past to observe younger and younger galaxies is very valuable, but it is not without its problems for astronomers. All newly-born galaxies lie very far away from us and appear very small and faint in the images. On the contrary, all the galaxies near to us appear to be old ones.
DDO 68, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, was one of the best candidates so far discovered for a newly-formed galaxy in our cosmic neighbourhood. The galaxy lies around 39 million light-years away from us; although this distance may seem huge, it is in fact roughly 50 times closer than the usual distances to such galaxies, which are on the order of several billions of light years.
Far beyond the stars in the constellation of Leo (The Lion) is irregular galaxy IC 559.
IC 559 is not your everyday galaxy. With its irregular shape and bright blue spattering of stars, it is a fascinating galactic anomaly. It may look like sparse cloud, but it is in fact full of gas and dust which is spawning new stars.
Discovered in 1893, IC 559 lacks the symmetrical spiral appearance of some of its galactic peers and not does not conform to a regular shape. It is actually classified as a “type Sm” galaxy — an irregular galaxy with some evidence for a spiral structure.
Irregular galaxies make up about a quarter of all known galaxies and do not fall into any of the regular classes of the Hubble sequence. Most of these uniquely shaped galaxies were not always so — IC 559 may have once been a conventional spiral galaxy that was then distorted and twisted by the gravity of a nearby cosmic companion.
This image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, combines a wide range of wavelengths spanning the ultraviolet, optical, and infrared parts of the spectrum.
The destructive results of a mighty supernova explosion reveal themselves in a delicate blend of infrared and X-ray light, as seen in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton.
The bubbly cloud is an irregular shock wave, generated by a supernova that would have been witnessed on Earth 3,700 years ago. The remnant itself, called Puppis A, is around 7,000 light-years away, and the shock wave is about 10 light-years across.
The pastel hues in this image reveal that the infrared and X-ray structures trace each other closely. Warm dust particles are responsible for most of the infrared light wavelengths, assigned red and green colors in this view. Material heated by the supernova’s shock wave emits X-rays, which are colored blue. Regions where the infrared and X-ray emissions blend together take on brighter, more pastel tones.
The shock wave appears to light up as it slams into surrounding clouds of dust and gas that fill the interstellar space in this region.
From the infrared glow, astronomers have found a total quantity of dust in the region equal to about a quarter of the mass of our sun. Data collected from Spitzer’s infrared spectrograph reveal how the shock wave is breaking apart the fragile dust grains that fill the surrounding space.
Supernova explosions forge the heavy elements that can provide the raw material from which future generations of stars and planets will form. Studying how supernova remnants expand into the galaxy and interact with other material provides critical clues into our own origins.
Infrared data from Spitzer’s multiband imaging photometer (MIPS) at wavelengths of 24 and 70 microns are rendered in green and red. X-ray data from XMM-Newton spanning an energy range of 0.3 to 8 kiloelectron volts are shown in blue.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
This image shows NGC 121, a globular cluster in the constellation of Tucana (The Toucan). Globular clusters are big balls of old stars that orbit the centers of their galaxies like satellites — the Milky Way, for example, has around 150.
NGC 121 belongs to one of our neighboring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). It was discovered in 1835 by English astronomer John Herschel, and in recent years it has been studied in detail by astronomers wishing to learn more about how stars form and evolve. Continue reading →