Category Archives: Hubble

They Call it Tangled

Hubblesite titled this image release “Tangled – cosmic edition. This supernova remnant fills the bill and I get a laugh when I think way back to when I was in primary school and we were taught that space was a collection of stars with vast amounts of nothing else. We know that is anything but true these days.

Click the image for a larger version or better yet go to the page I got this from and get one of the really large versions – makes a fantastic background for your computer.

About the image from Hubblesite:

This dark, tangled web is an object named SNR 0454-67.2. It formed in a very violent fashion — it is a supernovaremnant, created after a massive star ended its life in a cataclysmic explosion and threw its constituent material out into surrounding space. This created the messy formation we see in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescopeimage, with threads of red snaking amidst dark, turbulent clouds.

SNR 0454-67.2 is situated in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf spiral galaxy that lies close to the Milky Way. The remnant is likely the result of a Type Ia supernova explosion; this category of supernovae is formed from the death of a white dwarf star, which grows and grows by siphoning material from a stellar companion until it reaches a critical mass and then explodes.

As they always form via a specific mechanism — when the white dwarf hits a particular mass — these explosions always have a well-known luminosity, and are thus used as markers (standard candles) for scientists to obtain and measure distances throughout the Universe.

Credit:   ESA/Hubble, NASA

Mars Seen by Wall-E

MarCO-B (Wall-E) one of the two CubeSats traveling along with the Insight Mars lander has taken its first picture of Mars.

Click the image above for a larger view and click here for an annotated view. Images: NASA/JPL-CalTech.

Here’s NASA’s press release:
NASA’s MarCO mission was designed to find out if briefcase-sized spacecraft called CubeSats could survive the journey to deep space. Now, MarCO – which stands for Mars Cube One – has Mars in sight.

One of the twin MarCO CubeSats snapped this image of Mars on Oct. 3 – the first image of the Red Planet ever produced by this class of tiny, low-cost spacecraft. The two CubeSats are officially called MarCO-A and MarCO-B but nicknamed “EVE” and “Wall-E” by their engineering team.

A wide-angle camera on top of MarCO-B produced the image as a test of exposure settings. The MarCO mission, led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, hopes to produce more images as the CubeSats approach Mars ahead of Nov. 26. That’s when they’ll demonstrate their communications capabilities while NASA’s InSight spacecraft attempts to land on the Red Planet. (The InSight mission won’t rely on them, however; NASA’s Mars orbiters will be relaying the spacecraft’s data back to Earth.)

This image was taken from a distance of roughly 8 million miles (12.8 million kilometers) from Mars. The MarCOs are “chasing” Mars, which is a moving target as it orbits the Sun. In order to be in place for InSight’s landing, the CubeSats have to travel roughly 53 million miles (85 million kilometers). They have already traveled 248 million miles (399 million kilometers).

MarCO-B’s wide-angle camera looks straight out from the deck of the CubeSat. Parts related to the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna are visible on either side of the image. Mars appears as a small red dot at the right of the image.
To take the image, the MarCO team had to program the CubeSat to rotate in space so that the deck of its boxy “body” was pointing at Mars. After several test images, they were excited to see that clear, red pinprick.

“We’ve been waiting six months to get to Mars,” said Cody Colley, MarCO’s mission manager at JPL. “The cruise phase of the mission is always difficult, so you take all the small wins when they come. Finally seeing the planet is definitely a big win for the team.”

For more information about MarCO, visit:

https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cubesat/missions/marco.php

Update on Hubble

NASA published an update on Hubble. The telescope is in safe mode after gyro problems 10-days ago.

Hopefully a team new team of experts and sort the situation out.

NASA:  NASA continues to work toward resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyroscope (gyro) on Friday, Oct. 5.

Following the gyro failure, the Hubble operations team turned on a backup gyro on the spacecraft. However, that gyro did not perform as expected, reporting rotation rates that are orders of magnitude higher than they actually are. This past week, tests were conducted to assess the condition of that backup gyro. The tests showed that the gyro is properly tracking Hubble’s movement, but the rates reported are consistently higher than the true rates. This is similar to a speedometer on your car continuously showing that your speed is 100 miles per hour faster than it actually is; it properly shows when your car speeds up or slows down, and by how much, but the actual speed is inaccurate.

When the spacecraft turns across the sky from one target to the next, the gyro is put into a coarser (high) mode. In this high mode it may be possible to subtract out a consistent large offset to get an accurate reading. However, after the large turns are over, the spacecraft attempts to lock onto a target and stay very still. For this activity, the gyro goes into a precision (low) mode to measure very small movements. The extremely high rates currently being reported exceed the upper limit of the gyro in this low mode, preventing the gyro from reporting the spacecraft’s small movements.

An anomaly review board that consists of professionals experienced in the manufacturing of such gyros, Hubble operations personnel, flight software engineers and other experts was formed earlier this week to identify the cause of this behavior and determine what solutions can be implemented from the ground to correct or compensate for it.

If the team is successful in solving the problem, Hubble will return to normal, three-gyro operations. If it is not, the spacecraft will be configured for one-gyro operations, which will still provide excellent science well into the 2020s, enabling it to work alongside the James Webb Space Telescope and continue groundbreaking science.

Safe mode places the telescope into a stable configuration that suspends science observations and orients the spacecraft’s solar panels toward the Sun to ensure Hubble’s power requirements are met. The spacecraft remains in this configuration until ground control can correct or compensate for the issue. The rest of the spacecraft and its instruments are still fully functional and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come.

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning, and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets. To meet the stringent pointing requirements necessary to study far-off astronomical objects and obtain groundbreaking science data, Hubble’s gyros are extremely accurate. Hubble preferably uses three gyros at any given time to make the observatory as efficient as possible, and would work at slightly lower efficiency on only one gyro.

During Servicing Mission 4 in 2009, astronauts installed six new gyros on Hubble. Three gyros have since failed after achieving or exceeding the average runtime for a Hubble gyro. When fewer than three operational gyros remain, Hubble will continue to make scientific observations in a previously developed and tested mode that uses just one gyro in order to maximize the observatory’s lifetime.

Originally required to last 15 years, Hubble has now been operating for more than 28. The final servicing mission in 2009, expected to extend Hubble’s lifetime an additional 5 years, has now produced more than 9 years of science observations.

Hubble is managed and operated at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Hubble in Safe Mode

I hate to hear this, I know there are redundancies built in but still.

NASA’s Press Release: NASA is working to resume science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope after the spacecraft entered safe mode on Friday, October 5, shortly after 6:00 p.m. EDT. Hubble’s instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come.

Hubble entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) actively being used to point and steady the telescope failed. Safe mode puts the telescope into a stable configuration until ground control can correct the issue and return the mission to normal operation.

Built with multiple redundancies, Hubble had six new gyros installed during Servicing Mission-4 in 2009. Hubble usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but can continue to make scientific observations with just one.

The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed. The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives.

Two of those enhanced gyros are currently running. Upon powering on the third enhanced gyro that had been held in reserve, analysis of spacecraft telemetry indicated that it was not performing at the level required for operations. As a result, Hubble remains in safe mode. Staff at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

Science operations with Hubble have been suspended while NASA investigates the anomaly. An Anomaly Review Board, including experts from the Hubble team and industry familiar with the design and performance of this type of gyro, is being formed to investigate this issue and develop the recovery plan. If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration.

If the outcome indicates that the gyro is not usable, Hubble will resume science operations in an already defined “reduced-gyro” mode that uses only one gyro. While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities.

Image: NASA

Hubble Bubble

This is the Bubble Nebula, NGC 7635. It is basically a bubble being blown into space by a super-hot, massive star. I’ve tried many times to get a decent image of the Bubble, but it seems I am always thwarted for once reason or another.

The Bubble Nebula is located in the constellation of Cassiopeia

The workshop sounds pretty fun, hope to see at least pert of the workshop (see press release below).

NASA: The explosion of knowledge of planets orbiting other stars, called exoplanets, and the results of decades of research on signatures of life – what scientists call biosignatures – have encouraged NASA to address, in a scientifically rigorous way, whether humanity is alone. Beyond searching for evidence of just microbial life, NASA now is exploring ways to search for life advanced enough to create technology.

Technosignatures are signs or signals, which if observed, would allow us to infer the existence of technological life elsewhere in the universe. The best known technosignature are radio signals, but there are many others that have not been explored fully.

In April 2018, new interest arose in Congress for NASA to begin supporting the scientific search for technosignatures as part of the agency’s search for life. As part of that effort, the agency is hosting the NASA Technosignatures Workshop in Houston on Sept. 26-28, 2018, with the purpose of assessing the current state of the field, the most promising avenues of research in technosignatures and where investments could be made to advance the science. A major goal is to identify how NASA could best support this endeavor through partnerships with private and philanthropic organizations.

To view the workshop online, visit: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/asteroid-initiative-idea-synthesis—3

Image: Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), F. Summers, G. Bacon, Z. Levay, and L. Frattare (Viz 3D Team, STScI)

Hubble Makes a Lucky Observation

What good luck, beautiful image! Click the image for a larger version. The “lucky part” is explained below.

The original caption:

The little-known nebula IRAS 05437+2502 billows out among the bright stars and dark dust clouds that surround it in this striking image from the Hubble Space Telescope. It is located in the constellation of Taurus (the Bull), close to the central plane of our Milky Way galaxy. Unlike many of Hubble’s targets, this object has not been studied in detail and its exact nature is unclear. At first glance it appears to be a small, rather isolated region of star formation, and one might assume that the effects of fierce ultraviolet radiation from bright, young stars probably were the cause of the eye-catching shapes of the gas. However, the bright, boomerang-shaped feature may tell a more dramatic tale. The interaction of a high-velocity young star with the cloud of gas and dust may have created this unusually sharp-edged, bright arc. Such a reckless star would have been ejected from the distant young cluster where it was born and would travel at 200,000 kilometers per hour (124,000 miles per hour) or more through the nebula.

This faint cloud was originally discovered in 1983 by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), the first space telescope to survey the whole sky in infrared light. IRAS was run by the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and found huge numbers of new objects that were invisible from the ground.

This image was taken with the Wide Field Channel of the Advanced Camera for Surveys on Hubble. It was part of a “snapshot” survey. These are observations that are fitted into Hubble’s busy schedule when possible, without any guarantee that the observation will take place — so it was fortunate that the observation was made at all. This picture was created from images taken through yellow and near-infrared filters.

Credit: ESA/Hubble, R. Sahai and NASA
Text Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)

Hubble’s Look at NGC 3918

Nice planetary nebula, our own Sun will someday do the same thing, not for a long time though so no worries.

Original caption:
This dramatic image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the planetary nebula NGC 3918, a brilliant cloud of colorful gas in the constellation of Centaurus, around 4,900 light-years from Earth.

In the center of the cloud of gas, and completely dwarfed by the nebula, are the dying remnants of a red giant. During the final convulsive phase in the evolution of these stars, huge clouds of gas are ejected from the surface of the star before it emerges from its cocoon as a white dwarf. The intense ultraviolet radiation from the tiny remnant star then causes the surrounding gas to glow like a fluorescent sign. These extraordinary and colorful planetary nebulas are among the most dramatic sights in the night sky, and often have strange and irregular shapes, which are not yet fully explained.

NGC 3918’s distinctive eye-like shape, with a bright inner shell of gas and a more diffuse outer shell that extends far from the nebula, looks as if it could be the result of two separate ejections of gas. But this is in fact not the case: studies of the object suggest that they were formed at the same time, but are being blown from the star at different speeds. The powerful jets of gas emerging from the ends of the large structure are estimated to be shooting away from the star at speeds of up to 217,500 miles (350,000 kilometers) per hour.

By the standards of astronomical phenomena, planetary nebulas like NGC 3918 are very short-lived, with a lifespan of just a few tens of thousands of years.

The image is a composite of visible and near-infrared snapshots taken with Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA
Text: European Space Agency (ESA)

NGC 6744 Seen By Hubble

Nice job Hubble!

The original caption: This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) shows a beautiful spiral galaxy called NGC 6744. At first glance, it resembles our Milky Way albeit larger, measuring more than 200,000 light-years across compared to a 100,000-light-year diameter for our home galaxy.

NGC 6744 is similar to our home galaxy in more ways than one. Like the Milky Way, NGC 6744 has a prominent central region packed with old yellow stars. Moving away from the galactic core, one can see parts of the dusty spiral arms painted in shades of pink and blue; while the blue sites are full of young star clusters, the pink ones are regions of active star formation, indicating that the galaxy is still very lively.

In 2005, a supernova named 2005at (not visible in this image) was discovered within NGC 6744, adding to the argument of this galaxy’s liveliness. SN 2005at is a Type Ic supernova, formed when a massive star collapses on itself and loses its hydrogen envelope.

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

Hubble’s View of Saturn

A beautiful look at Saturn not from Cassini but the Hubble Space Telescope. Any time I look at Saturn through a telescope I am struck at what a gem the planet is.

The caption (and image) from NASA, ESA, Amy Simon and the OPAL Team, and J. DePasquale (STScI): Saturn is by far the solar system’s most photogenic planet, and in this latest Hubble Space Telescope snapshot it is especially so because Saturn’s magnificent ring system is near its maximum tilt toward Earth (which was in 2017).

Hubble was used to observe the planet on June 6, 2018, when Saturn was only approximately 1.36 billion miles from Earth, nearly as close to us as it ever gets.

Saturn was photographed as it approached a June 27 opposition, when the planet is directly opposite to the Sun in the night sky and is at its yearly closest distance to the Earth. Though all of the gas giants boast rings, Saturn’s are the largest and most spectacular, stretching out eight times the radius of the planet.

Saturn’s stunning rings were first identified as a continuous disk around the planet by Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens in 1655. 325 years later, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft flyby of Saturn resolved thousands of thin, fine ringlets. Data from NASA’s Cassini mission suggests the rings formed 200 million years ago, roughly around the time of the dinosaurs and Earth’s Jurassic period. The gravitational disintegration of one of Saturn’s small moons created myriad icy debris particles, and collisions today likely continually replenish the rings.

Visible in this Hubble image are the classic rings as recorded by early skywatchers. From the outside in are the A ring with the Encke Gap, the Cassini Division, the B ring, and the C ring with the Maxwell Gap.

Saturn’s appearance changes due to its seasons, caused by the planet’s 27-degree axial tilt. It is now summer in Saturn’s northern hemisphere and the atmosphere is more active. This may be responsible for a string of bright clouds visible near the northern polar region that are the remnants of a disintegrating storm. Small, mid-latitude puffs of clouds are also visible. Hubble’s view also resolves a hexagonal pattern around the north pole, a stable and persistent wind feature discovered during the Voyager flyby in 1981.

Saturn’s colors come from hydrocarbon hazes above the ammonia crystals in the upper cloud layers. Unseen lower-level clouds are either ammonium hydrosulfide or water. The planet’s banded structure is caused by the winds and the clouds at different altitudes.

This is the first image of Saturn taken as part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project. OPAL is helping scientists understand the atmospheric dynamics and evolution of our solar system’s gas giant planets.

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