Category Archives: Space Telescope

Hubble’s View of NGC 4424

Hubble's image of NGC 4424 in the Virgo Cluster. Copyright ESA/Hubble & NASA
Hubble’s image of NGC 4424 in the Virgo Cluster. Copyright ESA/Hubble & NASA

The Virgo Cluster of galaxies, home to NGC 4424 is about 15.6 million parsecs (54 million light-years) away.

ESA’s caption:

The galaxy pictured here is NGC 4424, located in the constellation of Virgo. It is not visible with the naked eye but has been captured here with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Although it may not be obvious from this image, NGC 4424 is in fact a spiral galaxy. In this image it is seen more or less edge on, but from above you would be able to see the arms of the galaxy wrapping around its centre to give the characteristic spiral form .

In 2012 astronomers observed a supernova in NGC 4424 — a violent explosion marking the end of a star’s life. During a supernova explosion, a single star can often outshine an entire galaxy. However, the supernova in NGC 4424, dubbed SN 2012cg, cannot be seen here as the image was taken ten years prior to the explosion. Along the central region of the galaxy, clouds of dust block the light from distant stars and create dark patches.

To the left of NGC 4424 there are two bright objects in the frame. The brightest is another, smaller galaxy known as LEDA 213994 and the object closer to NGC 4424 is an anonymous star in our Milky Way.

Hubble Puts On a Happy Face

Hubble shows that happiness is a gravitational lens. Image Credit: NASA/ESA
Hubble shows that happiness is a gravitational lens. Image Credit: NASA/ESA

Hubble sees a happy face created by a beautiful gravitation lens. I saw this at NASA’s Image of the Day yesterday. Oddly enough I was just thinking about faces we precieve like the famous Face on Mars and now there is the face on Ceres. The face on Ceres will be short lived as Dawn will be there shortly, just as well the Ceres face looks scary. :)

The caption from the NASA Image of the Day site (credit: ESA):

In the center of this image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 — and it seems to be smiling.

You can make out its two orange eyes and white button nose. In the case of this “happy face”, the two eyes are very bright galaxies and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing.
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Eta Carinae at Periastron

Periastron observations from NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, the X-Ray Telescope aboard NASA’s Swift, the Hubble Space Telescope’s STIS instrument, were put together produce models and computer simulations to determine how the two stars in the nebula to interact.


Eagle Nebula in 2014

The Pillar of Creation imaged by Hubble in 2014.  Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
The Pillar of Creation imaged by Hubble in 2014. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Wow! Look at that! Click the image for the larger version and take it in.

You can see the zoomable version at Hubblesite.

From Hubblesite:

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has revisited the famous Pillars of Creation, revealing a sharper and wider view of the structures in this visible-light image.

Astronomers combined several Hubble exposures to assemble the wider view. The towering pillars are about 5 light-years tall. The dark, finger-like feature at bottom right may be a smaller version of the giant pillars. The new image was taken with Hubble’s versatile and sharp-eyed Wide Field Camera 3.

The pillars are bathed in the blistering ultraviolet light from a grouping of young, massive stars located off the top of the image. Streamers of gas can be seen bleeding off the pillars as the intense radiation heats and evaporates it into space. Denser regions of the pillars are shadowing material beneath them from the powerful radiation. Stars are being born deep inside the pillars, which are made of cold hydrogen gas laced with dust. The pillars are part of a small region of the Eagle Nebula, a vast star-forming region 6,500 light-years from Earth.

The colors in the image highlight emission from several chemical elements. Oxygen emission is blue, sulfur is orange, and hydrogen and nitrogen are green.

Solar Observations by NuStar

High energy emissions from the Sun. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC
High energy emissions from the Sun. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC

A collaborative image made from data from the Solar Dynamic Observatory and NuStar. I was surprised to see this because I not sure NuStar would be able to look at the sun without damage.

The more detailed version of the story is here.

The following is the short version from NASA:

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.
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NGC 4102 and Hubble

Hubble's view of NGC 4102. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA and S. Smartt (Queen's University Belfast) Acknowledgement: Renaud Houdinet
Hubble’s view of NGC 4102. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA and S. Smartt (Queen’s University Belfast) Acknowledgement: Renaud Houdinet

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 original caption released with image:

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.

European Space Agency

The Eye of Jupiter

Spooky shadow on Jupiter see by Hubble. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) Acknowledgment: C. Go and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Spooky shadow on Jupiter see by Hubble. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) Acknowledgment: C. Go and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Hubble captured “the Eye of Jupiter”. Okay, it’s not an eye at all, it is the shadow of the moon Ganymede in the Great Red Spot.

Hubble is in a seasonal mood and it does look like a 16,200 km / 10,000 mile wide eye on Jupiter.

See more at Hubblesite.


Spooky :mrgreen:

Mars and Comet Siding Spring

A Hubble look at Mars and comet Siding Spring. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/PSI/JHU/APL, STScI/AURA
A Hubble look at Mars and comet Siding Spring. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/PSI/JHU/APL, STScI/AURA

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 from Hubblesite:

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.

Pulsar found in M82

NuSTAR finds a pulsar in M82. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO/NOAO
NuSTAR finds a pulsar in M82. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO/NOAO

First a brief reminder of the NuSTAR mission:

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.

From NuSTAR:

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.

More about the very cool NuSTAR launch.