NASA’s NEOWISE mission captured this series of pictures of comet C/2012 K1 — also known as comet Pan-STARRS — as it swept across our skies on May 20, 2014. The comet is relatively close to us — it was only about 143 million miles (230 million kilometers) from Earth when this picture was taken. It is seen passing a much more distant spiral galaxy, called NGC 3726, which is about 55 million light-years from Earth, or 2 trillion times farther away than the comet.
This composite of NGC-4258 is a composite from two space based telescopes the Chandra and Spitzer covering the infrared and x-ray wavelengths.
NGC 4258 is also known as M106 for being the 106th entry into Charles Messiers famous catalog. The galaxy is visible in optical light so you can see it with some help of course, at a mag 8.4 a small telescope should do. Have a look in Canes Venatici – more specifically RA=12 19.0, Dec=+47 18.
The details from JPL:
A composite image of the spiral galaxy NGC 4258 showing X-ray emission observed with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue) and infrared emission observed with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (red and green).
The infrared emission is produced by hydrogen molecules. A labeled version of the image shows the direction of radio jets, along with the location of the supermassive black hole driving these jets and “hotspots,” where the jets are striking gas in the galaxy. The X-ray and hydrogen emission are both thought to be caused by shocks, similar to a sonic boom from a supersonic plane. The similarity in location between the X-ray and hydrogen emission and the radio jets implies that the jets have caused the shocks.
NGC 5474 is visible to observers in the northern hemisphere. It’s another of the gems in the area of Ursa Major or the Big Dipper.
This is an amazing image. To see just how good, compare the Hubble image to a pretty good image from the ground (University of Alaska).
A link to the SEDS page for the M 101 galaxy group (mentioned below).
The subject of this Hubble image is NGC 5474, a dwarf galaxy located 21 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). This beautiful image was taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).
You want big? The Perseus Cluster is BIG!
Perseus A (aka NGC 1275) is 72.7 Mpc (237 million light-years) away in the constellation Perseus of all places.
Perseus is located at RA: 03h 25m 20.601s Dec: +49°54’29.118″,actually the location of Mirfak, the alpha star which means it is the brightest star in the constellation. Easily visible in the northern sky, it is home to the Double Cluster, a pair of open clusters, simply beautiful, It’s one of my favorites and very easy to find (the link has a finders chart).
This image is Chandra’s latest view of the Perseus Cluster, where red, green, and blue show low, medium, and high-energy X-rays respectively. It combines data equivalent to more than 17 days worth of observing time taken over a decade with Chandra. The Perseus Cluster is one of the most massive objects in the Universe, and contains thousands of galaxies immersed in an enormous cloud of superheated gas.
In Chandra’s X-ray image, enormous bright loops, ripples, and jet-like streaks throughout the cluster can be seen. The dark blue filaments in the center are likely due to a galaxy that has been torn apart and is falling into NGC 1275 (a.k.a. Perseus A), the giant galaxy that lies at the center of the cluster. A different view of Perseus combines data from Chandra in the inner regions of the cluster and XMM data in the outer regions.
Another stunning image from the Hubble!
NGC 3081 is about 34.3 Mpc away (that’s about 112 Million light-years!) in the constellation of Hydra. There are two People credited with the discovery of this galaxy: by William Herschel on 21 Dec 1786 and later listed as NGC 3081, and by Lewis Swift on 11 Apr 1898 and later listed as IC 2529. The internet was slower back then. Just kidding, it’s not at all far fetched to have independent discoveries.
NGC and IC are both catalogs. IC is for the Index Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars which is an update to the New General Catalogue. NGC was put together in the 1880’s by John Dreyer using data from William and John Herschel (father and son). The Index Catalogue or IC was published in two sections by Dreyer in 1895 and 1908.
I think there are at around 7840 entries in the NGC.
ESA’s description (via NASA):
Taking center stage in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a galaxy known as NGC 3081, set against an assortment of glittering galaxies in the distance. Located in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Serpent), NGC 3081 is located over 86 million light-years from us. It is known as a type II Seyfert galaxy, characterized by its dazzling nucleus.
NGC 3081 is seen here nearly face-on. Compared to other spiral galaxies, it looks a little different. The galaxy’s barred spiral center is surrounded by a bright loop known as a resonance ring. This ring is full of bright clusters and bursts of new star formation, and frames the supermassive black hole thought to be lurking within NGC 3081 — which glows brightly as it hungrily gobbles up in-falling material.
We know that NGC 7538 is a star factory from Herschel data (see earlier post), turns out there is a puzzling feature located there too:
The Herschel Space Observatory has uncovered a weird ring of dusty material while obtaining one of the sharpest scans to date of a huge cloud of gas and dust, called NGC 7538. The gigantic ring structure is situated at the center-top of this image. The odd ovoid possesses the mass of 500 suns, with its long axis spanning about 35 light-years and its short axis about 25 light-years.
The Whirlpool Galaxy or M51 is a nice telescope target in the northern sky. I think it could be seen with binoculars with good skies because even at around 37 million light-years (11.3 Mpc) the galaxy pair is a bright 8.4.
This is also a very large system, the image spans 52,000 by 87,000 light-years.
The Chandra image is the product of a combined exposure of 9 days, 16 hours and 10 minutes between the x-ray and optical components. It really does sparkle in x-ray light.
Nearly a million seconds of observing time with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way glittering with hundreds of X-ray points of light.
The galaxy is officially named Messier 51 (M51) or NGC 5194, but often goes by its nickname of the “Whirlpool Galaxy.” Like the Milky Way, the Whirlpool is a spiral galaxy with spectacular arms of stars and dust. M51 is located about 30 million light years from Earth, and its face-on orientation to Earth gives us a perspective that we can never get of our own spiral galactic home.
Here is one of the most colorful deep field images ever taken by the amazing Hubble. Below is a video of the image which I like because it shows how small an area is being looked at and how much is there.
The video is great but take a look at a large version at HubbleSite. You will be treated to the full image, a composite of separate exposures taken in 2003 to 2012 with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3. It is AMAZING!by
The famous Red Spot on Jupiter is shrinking and thanks to this great look from Hubble we can see exactly how much.
Just look at Jupiter though, stunning!
Jupiter’s monster storm, the Great Red Spot, was once so large that three Earths would fit inside it. But new measurements by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the largest storm in our solar system has downsized significantly. The red spot, which has been raging for at least a hundred years, is only the width of one Earth. What is happening? One possibility is that some unknown activity in the planet’s atmosphere may be draining energy and weakening the storm, causing it to shrink. The Hubble images were taken in 1995, 2009, and 2014.
Some overlooked viewing opportunities are available in the northern skies. Not surprising, all the action is near the ecliptic and the northern sky is by comparison sparsely populated in the north.
If you are looking for something different, try a good look in and around Ursa Major.
Below is the description from a NASA site, the link will go to that page with larger versions of the image. The description talks about groups or clusters of galaxies and how even they are bound to each other by gravity — good stuff.
This bundle of bright stars and dark dust is a dwarf spiral galaxy known as NGC 4605, located around 16 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). This galaxy’s spiral structure is not obvious from this image, but NGC 4605 is classified as an SBc type galaxy — meaning that it has sprawling, loosely wound arms and a bright bar of stars cutting through its center.