24 years of Hubble

From ESA’s Space in Images this amazing Hubble image of the Monkey Head Nebula (in Orion) – the link has full-res versions of the image.

Hubble was launched on 24 April 1990, coming up on 24 years. The last servicing mission to Hubble was in 2009 which hopefully will extend the life of Hubble until 2021. I should note the expected life of Hubble after the servicing is published to be 2014 to 2021 – hopefully closer to the latter.

The James Webb Telescope is expected to launch in 2018.

About the image (from ESA):

Each year the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope releases a brand new image to celebrate its birthday. This year, the subject of its 24th celebratory snap is part of the Monkey Head Nebula, last viewed by Hubble in 2001, creating a stunning image released in 2011.

Otherwise known as NGC 2174, this cloud of gas and dust lies about 6400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter). Nebulas like this one are popular targets for Hubble – their colourful plumes of gas and fiery bright stars create ethereally beautiful pictures, such as the telescope’s 22nd and 23rd anniversary images of the Tarantula and Horsehead nebulas.

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Roberts 22

The Butterfly nebula by Hubble. Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The Butterfly nebula by Hubble. Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

The Interstellar Butterfly is Hubble’s Picture of the Week. Robert’s 22 is just another name for the nebula. This is what happens to a star like our own Sun as it ends its life. Stars of this size don’t blow up, rather they shed their envelopes and produce nebulae of various shapes and all beautiful.

The lobes in Roberts 22 have some outflows said to move at 450 km/s, that’s like a million miles per hour!

Pay a visit to the site and see a great archive of images.

Here’s the caption to the image:

They say the flap of a butterfly’s wings can set off a tornado on the other side of the world. But what happens when a butterfly flaps its wings in the depths of space?

This cosmic butterfly is a nebula known as AFGL 4104, or Roberts 22. Caused by a star that is nearing the end of its life and has shrugged off its outer layers, the nebula emerges as a cosmic chrysalis to produce this striking sight. Studies of the lobes of Roberts 22 have shown an amazingly complex structure, with countless intersecting loops and filaments.

A butterfly’s life span is counted in weeks; although on a much longer timescale, this stage of life for Roberts 22 is also transient. It is currently a preplanetary nebula, a short-lived phase that begins once a dying star has pushed much of the material in its outer layers into space, and ends once this stellar remnant becomes hot enough to ionise the surrounding gas clouds and make them glow. About 400 years ago, the star at the centre of Roberts 22 shed its outer shells, which raced outwards to form this butterfly. The central star will soon be hot enough to ionise the surrounding gas, and it will evolve into a fully fledged planetary nebula.

Star Factory from Herschel

A Star Factory as seen my Herschel. Copyright ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE. Acknowledgements: Cassie Fallscheer (University of Victoria), Mike Reid (University of Toronto) and the Herschel HOBYS team

A Star Factory as seen my Herschel. Copyright ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE. Acknowledgements: Cassie Fallscheer (University of Victoria), Mike Reid (University of Toronto) and the Herschel HOBYS team

Nice! This is Herschel’s look at NGC 7538 a giant cloud of hydrogen and bits of dust – a stellar nursery. The dust also shines in the far-infrared which works out great for Herschel, ESA’s far-infrared space observatory.

Have a look at the Simbad page for NGC 7538 for a different view of it (optical I think).

Be sure to pay a visit to ESA’s Star factory NGC 7538 for the particulars.

A Clockwork Hubble

Source: Hubblesite.org

The Hubble team have been watching hundreds of individual stars in the the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) over the past seven years and have mapped out their movements. What they got for their “trouble” is a precise measurement of the rotation of the galaxy! This is a first too.

The answer? The LMC rotates once every 250 million years, about the same as our solar system does in the Milky Way.

Read the Full Story at Hubblesite.org.

Saturn’s Aurora

On 5 April and 20 May 2013 Saturn was on the receiving end of blast of solar wind. The electrons in the solar wind and collided with hydrogen molecules and an aurora resulted.

Between the Cassini spacecraft and the Hubble Space Telescope a series of ultraviolet and infrared images were taken and put into video form.

Source Video

BTW: Snowing here, 300 to 360 mm expected overnight.

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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