Category Archives: Space Telescope

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


Merging Galaxies


One day our Milky Way will be in the midst of a similar merger, ours with Andromeda.

The ESA description:
The subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is known as NGC 3597. It is the product of a collision between two good-sized galaxies, and is slowly evolving to become a giant elliptical galaxy. This type of galaxy has grown more and more common as the Universe has evolved, with initially small galaxies merging and progressively building up into larger galactic structures over time.

NGC 3597 is located approximately 150 million light-years away in the constellation of Crater (The Cup). Astronomers study NGC 3597 to learn more about how elliptical galaxies form — many ellipticals began their lives far earlier in the history of the Universe. Older ellipticals are nicknamed “red and dead” by astronomers because these bloated galaxies are not anymore producing new, bluer, stars in ages, and are thus packed full of old and redder stellar populations.

Before infirmity sets in, some freshly formed elliptical galaxies experience a final flush of youth, as is the case with NGC 3597. Galaxies smashing together pool their available gas and dust, triggering new rounds of star birth. Some of this material ends up in dense pockets initially called proto-globular clusters, dozens of which festoon NGC 3597. These pockets will go on to collapse and form fully-fledged globular clusters, large spheres that orbit the centres of galaxies like satellites, packed tightly full of millions of stars.

Image and caption: ESA/Hubble & NASA

IDCS 1426

A collaboration of three amazing telescopes: Chandra, Herschel and Spitzer.

10 BILLION light-years distant!

Astronomers have made the most detailed study yet of an extremely massive young galaxy cluster using three of NASA’s Great Observatories. This multi-wavelength image shows this galaxy cluster, called IDCS J1426.5+3508 (IDCS 1426 for short), in X-rays recorded by the Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue, visible light observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in green, and infrared light detected by the Spitzer Space Telescope in red.

This rare galaxy cluster, which is located 10 billion light-years from Earth, is almost as massive as 500 trillion suns. This object has important implications for understanding how such megastructures formed and evolved early in the universe. The light astronomers observed from IDCS 1426 began its journey to Earth when the universe was less than a third of its current age. It is the most massive galaxy cluster detected at such an early time.

First discovered by the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2012, IDCS 1426 was then observed using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory to determine its distance. Observations from the Combined Array for Millimeter-wave Astronomy indicated it was extremely massive. New data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory confirm the galaxy cluster’s mass and show that about 90 percent of this mass is in the form of dark matter — the mysterious substance that has so far been detected only through its gravitational pull on normal matter composed of atoms.

There is a region of bright X-ray emission (seen as blue-white) near the middle of the cluster, but not exactly at the center. The location of this “core” of gas suggests that the cluster may have had a collision or interaction with another massive system of galaxies relatively recently, perhaps within about the last 500 million years. This would cause the core to slosh around like wine in a moving glass and become offset, as it appears to be in the Chandra data. Such a merger would not be surprising, given that astronomers are observing IDCS 1426 when the universe was only 3.8 billion years old. Scientists think that, in order for such an enormous structure to form so rapidly, mergers with smaller clusters would likely play a role in the large cluster’s growth.

In addition, while still extremely hot, the bright core contains cooler gas than its surroundings. This is the most distant galaxy cluster where such a “cool core” of gas has been observed. Astronomers think these cool cores are important in understanding how quickly hot gas cools off in clusters, influencing the rate at which stars are born. This cooling rate could be slowed down by outbursts from a supermassive black hole in the center of the cluster. Apart from the cool core, the hot gas in the cluster is remarkably symmetrical and smooth. This is another piece of evidence that IDCS 1426 formed very rapidly in the early universe.

Astronomers note that, despite the high mass and rapid evolution of this cluster, its existence does not pose a threat to the standard model of cosmology.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

Eta Carinae


We now know Eta Carina has analogs (described at twins) in other galaxies.

Here’s the story at NASA (includes images of the other systems).

From Hubble/NASA/ESA:
Astronomers cannot yet explain what caused the titanic eruption of star Eta Carinae in the 1840s. The discovery of likely Eta Carinae “twins” in other galaxies will help scientists better understand this brief phase in the life of a massive star.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

Image Credit :NASA, ESA and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team


Merging Galaxies


ESA’s caption:

This image, taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the galaxy NGC 6052, located around 230 million light-years away in the constellation of Hercules.

It would be reasonable to think of this as a single abnormal galaxy, and it was originally classified as such. However, it is in fact a “new” galaxy in the process of forming. Two separate galaxies have been gradually drawn together, attracted by gravity, and have collided. We now see them merging into a single structure.

As the merging process continues, individual stars are thrown out of their original orbits and placed onto entirely new paths, some very distant from the region of the collision itself. Since the stars produce the light we see, the “galaxy” now appears to have a highly chaotic shape. Eventually, this new galaxy will settle down into a stable shape, which may not resemble either of the two original galaxies.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt