Category Archives: Space Telescope

Hubble’s Bubble


The Bubble Nebula is a great imaging target, very difficult (IMHO) to get just just right. I’ve yet to do it. This is an incredible image from Hubble is a composite of separate exposures acquired by the WFC3/UVIS instrument.

For the 26th anniversary of Hubble’s launch on April 24, 1990, the telescope has photographed an enormous, balloon-like bubble being blown into space by a super-hot, massive star. Astronomers trained the iconic telescope on this colorful feature, called the Bubble Nebula, or NGC 7635. The bubble is 7 light-years across — about one-and-a-half times the distance from our sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri. The Bubble Nebula lies 7,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia. – Hubblesite

Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

NGC 2371 The One and Only


Hubble shows NGC 2371 and 2372 is actually just one object, one very large nebula.

From ESA:
Stars of different masses end their lives in different ways. While truly massive stars go out in a blaze of glory, intermediate-mass stars — those between roughly one and eight times the mass of the Sun — are somewhat quieter, forming cosmic objects known as planetary nebulas.

Named because of their vague resemblance to planets when seen through early, low-resolution telescopes, planetary nebulas are created when a dying star flings off its outer layers of gas into space. This cloud forms an expanding shell around the central star, while the star itself slowly cools to become a white dwarf. This is what has happened in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, taken in 2007, which shows a planetary nebula known as NGC 2371.

NGC 2371 resides 4300 light-years away from us, in the constellation of Gemini. It is one of the largest planetary nebulas known, measuring roughly three light-years across. Its progenitor star can be seen here as a pinprick of orange–-red light, surrounded by a green, blue and aqua-tinged puff of gas. This shell appears to have a regular, elliptical shape that is sliced in half by a dark lane running through the nebula, which also encompasses the central star.

This dark feature misled astronomers when NGC 2371 was initially catalogued because the two lobes visually resembled two objects, not one. As a result of this confusion, the nebula has two names in William Herschel’s New General Catalogue: NGC 2371 and 2372 (often combined as NGC 2371/2 or NGC 2371-2).

Two prominent pink patches are also visible on either side of the central star. These features are thought to be knots of gas, most likely jets, thrown off by the star at some point in the past. Their pink colour indicates that they are cooler and denser than their surroundings.

The nebula’s central star was once similar to the Sun, but is now only a shadow of its former self. It is slowly cooling after energetically shedding most of its gas, but has a long way to go yet. It currently boasts a scorching surface temperature of over 130 000ºC – some 25 times hotter than the surface of the Sun – and glows with the luminosity of at least 700 Suns.

The hot ultraviolet radiation streaming outwards into the nebula energises the gas it touches, causing NGC 2371 to glow in the beautiful aquamarine colours seen in this image.

This picture was taken in November 2007 by Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. It is a false-colour image created with a combination of filters to detect light coming from sulphur and nitrogen (shown in red), hydrogen (green) and oxygen (blue). The observations were gathered as part of the Hubble Heritage project.

This image was originally published on the Hubble Space Telescope website on 4 March 2008.

Credit:  NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


James Webb Telescope Milestone

A milestone of sorts for the James Webb Telescope in preparation for launch and deployment into space.


Engineers lift the James Webb Space Telescopes cameras and spectrographs out of the Space Environment Simulator at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. These vital parts of the Webb Space Telescope endured their last super-cold test at NASA Goddard before installation into the telescope. This produced video shows engineers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center lifting the Webb Telescopes instruments and their support structure out of the Space Environment Simulator after completing its last cryogenic test before installation into the telescope.


VY Canis Majoris

Massive Star VY Canis Majoris - Polarized Light

Hubble from 2007:

Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, Kameula, Hawaii, astronomers have learned that the gaseous outflow from one of the brightest super-sized stars in the sky is more complex than originally thought.

The outbursts are from VY Canis Majoris, a red supergiant star that is also classified as a hypergiant because of its very high luminosity. The eruptions have formed loops, arcs, and knots of material moving at various speeds and in many different directions. The star has had many outbursts over the past 1,000 years as it nears the end of its life.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Humphreys (University of Minnesota)

Hubble and M13


Messier 13 or M 13 is a  Globular cluster you can find rather easily in northern skies. Located in the constellation Hercules at a magnitude 5.8 a pair of binoculars should do. If you have good eyes and dark skies you could even spot M 13 with out any visual aids at all. Just don’t expect to see it like the Hubble image, Check out the great info about Messier 13 at SEDS including some great ground based images.

About the Hubble image:
This image is a composite of archival Hubble data taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys. Observations from four separate science proposals taken in November 1999, April 2000, August 2005, and April 2006 were used.

Image: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: C. Bailyn (Yale University), W. Lewin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), A. Sarajedini (University of Florida), and W. van Altena (Yale University)

Hubble Sets a New Distance Record

Distant Galaxy GN-z11 in GOODS North Survey

Hubble sets a new distance record in finding GN-z11, this galaxy has a redshift of 11.1, that’s amazing!

From Hubblesite:
ough space, astronomers actually look back through time. Now, by pushing Hubble to its limits, an international team of astronomers has shattered the cosmic distance record by viewing the farthest galaxy ever seen. Named GN-z11, this surprisingly bright, infant galaxy is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past. The astronomers saw it as it existed just 400 million years after the big bang, when the universe was only three percent of its current age. At a spectroscopically confirmed redshift of 11.1, the galaxy is even farther away than originally thought. It existed only 200 million to 300 million years after the time when scientists believe the very first stars started to form. At a billion solar masses, it is producing stars surprisingly quickly for such an early time. This new record will most likely stand until the launch of Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which will look even deeper into the universe for early galaxies.

Check out the more detailed version at Hubblesite.

Here’s a video version:

Looking at that area of the sky, it would appear that not much is there, but look at it through even a small telescope reveal a completely different picture.

Hubble’s Bubble


Wolf Ryat stars are so huge they burn through their fuel supplies in very short order and are great candidates for becoming black holes.

From NASA:
Sparkling at the center of this beautiful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a Wolf–Rayet star known as WR 31a, located about 30,000 light-years away in the constellation of Carina (The Keel).

The distinctive blue bubble appearing to encircle WR 31a is a Wolf–Rayet nebula — an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other gases. Created when speedy stellar winds interact with the outer layers of hydrogen ejected by Wolf–Rayet stars, these nebulae are frequently ring-shaped or spherical. The bubble — estimated to have formed around 20,000 years ago — is expanding at a rate of around 220,000 kilometers (136,700 miles) per hour!

Unfortunately, the lifecycle of a Wolf–Rayet star is only a few hundred thousand years — the blink of an eye in cosmic terms. Despite beginning life with a mass at least 20 times that of the sun, Wolf–Rayet stars typically lose half their mass in less than 100,000 years. And WR 31a is no exception to this case. It will, therefore, eventually end its life as a spectacular supernova, and the stellar material expelled from its explosion will later nourish a new generation of stars and planets.

Text credit: European Space Agency
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

Super Jupiter 2M1207b

Brown Dwarf 2M1207A and Companion

From Hubble:
[Left] — This is a Hubble Space Telescope near-infrared-light image of a brown dwarf located 170 light-years away from Earth. The object is no more than 30 times the mass of Jupiter, making it too small to sustain nuclear fusion to shine as a star.

[Right] — When the glow of the brown dwarf is subtracted from the image, a smaller and fainter companion object becomes visible. No more that four times the mass of Jupiter, this companion is dubbed a “super-Jupiter.” It has an estimated diameter as big as 40 percent greater than Jupiter’s diameter. The world is 5 billion miles from the brown dwarf, nearly twice the distance between our sun and the planet Neptune.

Because the planet is only 10 million years old, it is so hot it may rain molten glass and iron in its atmosphere. Hubble has measured fluctuations in the planet’s brightness that suggests the planet has patchy clouds as it completes one rotation every 10 hours.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and Y. Zhou (University of Arizona)

Herbig-Haro 24

Herbig-Haro Jet HH 24

Just look at those jets! The scale on this image is somewhere around 40,000 AU across (see the Hubblesite link below)

From Hubblesite:
Just about anything is possible in our remarkable universe, and it often competes with the imaginings of science fiction writers and filmmakers. Hubble’s latest contribution is a striking photo of what looks like a double-bladed lightsaber straight out of the Star Wars films. In the center of the image, partially obscured by a dark, Jedi-like cloak of dust, a newborn star shoots twin jets out into space as a sort of birth announcement to the universe. Gas from a surrounding disk rains down onto the dust-obscured protostar and engorges it. The material is superheated and shoots outward from the star in opposite directions along an uncluttered escape route — the star’s rotation axis. Much more energetic than a science fiction lightsaber, these narrow energetic beams are blasting across space at over 100,000 miles per hour. This celestial lightsaber does not lie in a galaxy far, far away but rather inside our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI)

Hen 2-437


This beautiful Hubble photo was the Image of the Day over at NASA yesterday, so good I had to share

In this cosmic snapshot, the spectacularly symmetrical wings of Hen 2-437 show up in a magnificent icy blue hue. Hen 2-437 is a planetary nebula, one of around 3,000 such objects known to reside within the Milky Way.

Located within the faint northern constellation of Vulpecula (The Fox), Hen 2-437 was first identified in 1946 by Rudolph Minkowski, who later also discovered the famous and equally beautiful M2-9 (otherwise known as the Twin Jet Nebula). Hen 2-437 was added to a catalog of planetary nebula over two decades later by astronomer and NASA astronaut Karl Gordon Henize.

Planetary nebulae such as Hen 2-437 form when an aging low-mass star — such as the sun — reaches the final stages of life. The star swells to become a red giant, before casting off its gaseous outer layers into space. The star itself then slowly shrinks to form a white dwarf, while the expelled gas is slowly compressed and pushed outwards by stellar winds. As shown by its remarkably beautiful appearance, Hen 2-437 is a bipolar nebula — the material ejected by the dying star has streamed out into space to create the two icy blue lobes pictured here.

Image credit: ESA (European Space Agency)/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt
Text credit: ESA