Category Archives: Hubble

Hubble’s View of D100

ESA – This striking image combines data gathered with the Advanced Camera for Surveys, installed on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. It shows just a part of the spectacular tail emerging from a spiral galaxy nicknamed D100.

Tails such as these are created by a process known as ram-pressure stripping. Despite appearances, the space between galaxies in a cluster is far from empty; it is actually filled with superheated gas and plasma, which drags and pulls at galaxies as they move through it, a little like the resistance one experiences when wading through deep water. This can be strong enough to tear galaxies apart, and often results in objects with peculiar, bizarre shapes and features — as seen here.

D100’s eye-catching tail of gas, which stretches far beyond this image to the left, is a particularly striking example of this phenomenon. The galaxy is a member of the huge Coma cluster. The pressure from the cluster’s hot constituent plasma (known as the intracluster medium) has stripped gas from D100 and torn it away from the galaxy’s main body, and drawing it out into the plume pictured here.

Densely populated clusters such as Coma are home to thousands of galaxies. They are thus the perfect laboratories in which to study the intriguing phenomenon of ram-pressure stripping, which, as well as producing beautiful images such as this, can have a profound effect on how galaxies evolve and form new generations of stars.

Instrument Context Camera on Mars

Here’s a look at InSight’s seismometer on Mars, taken just yesterday. I believe he instrument was supposed to start taking data about now, but no updates to confirm that. Sooner or later we’ll hear something, I’m not even sure how much of the mission team is working – given the current state of things politically. I have a good feeling the mission team(s) are very anxious to get back to normal.

NASA — NASA’s InSight Mars lander acquired this image of the area in front of the lander using its lander-mounted, Instrument Context Camera (ICC).

This image was acquired on January 15, 2019, Sol 48 of the InSight mission where the local mean solar time for the image exposures was 17:40:01.089 PM. Each ICC image has a field of view of 124 x 124 degrees.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

By the way, in an unrelated story, Hubble has resumed the use of the Wide Field Camera 3 after it went to a safe-mode state a few days ago. Apparently software detected voltage being out of range and prompted the event. After resetting certain circuits everything seemed to be operating at normal limits and the camera was put back into operation.

For a larger version of the Insight image above click here.

M 105

A very nice Hubble image of the Messier Object 105 or simply M 105.

A good telescope target not that it is all that bright or distinctive but it is in a nice region of the sky with plenty to look at.

The ESA caption: It might appear featureless and unexciting at first glance, but NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observations of this elliptical galaxy — known as Messier 105 — show that the stars near the galaxy’s centre are moving very rapidly. Astronomers have concluded that these stars are zooming around a supermassive black hole with an estimated mass of 200 million Suns! This black hole releases huge amounts of energy as it consumes matter falling into it and causing the centre to shine far brighter than its surroundings. This system is known as an active galactic nucleus.

Hubble also surprised astronomers by revealing a few young stars and clusters in Messer 105, which was thought to be a “dead” galaxy incapable of star formation. Messier 105 is now thought to form roughly one Sun-like star every 10 000 years. Star-forming activity has also been spotted in a vast ring of hydrogen gas encircling both Messier 105 and its closest neighbour, the lenticular galaxy NGC 3384.

Messier 105 was discovered in 1781, lies about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion), and is the brightest elliptical galaxy within the Leo I galaxy group.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, C. Sarazin et al.

Herbig-Haro Objects

Hubble took a look at a star formation area with what is a baby star just born (in astronomical time scales). One of the effects in the area are these Herbig-Haro objects.

Image: SA/Hubble & NASA, K. Stapelfeldt; CC BY 4.0

ESA: In this image the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the smoking gun of a newborn star, the Herbig–Haro objects numbered 7 to 11 (HH 7–11). These five objects, visible in blue in the top centre of the image, lie within NGC 1333, a reflection nebula full of gas and dust found about a thousand light-years away from Earth.

Herbig-Haro objects like HH 7–11 are transient phenomena. Travelling away from the star that created them, at a speed of up to 250 000 kilometres per hour they disappear into nothingness within a few tens of thousands of years. The young star that is the source of HH 7-11 is called SVS 13 and all five objects are moving away from SVS 13 toward the upper left. The current distance between HH 7 and SVS 13 is about 20 000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

Herbig–Haro objects are formed when jets of ionised gas ejected by a young star collide with nearby clouds of gas and dust at high speeds. The Herbig-Haro objects visible in this image are no exception to this and were formed when the jets from the newborn star SVS 13 collided with the surrounding clouds. These collisions created the five brilliant clumps of light within the reflection nebula.

Hubble and a Cepheid Variable Star

The last Hubble post showed a variable star known as a RR Lyrae, this is another type of variable star called a Cepheid variable.

Keep in mind this particular image was a holiday offering by Hubble when reading the original caption below.

While we will go more into variable stars in the very near future, you can get a brief description of them here.

NASA/Hubble:  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 the Sun and 200 times larger.

RS Puppis rhythmically brightens and dims over a six-week cycle. It is one of the most luminous in the class of so-called Cepheid variable stars. Its average intrinsic brightness is 15,000 times greater than the Sun’s luminosity.

The nebula flickers in brightness as pulses of light from the Cepheid propagate outwards. Hubble took a series of photos of light flashes rippling across the nebula in a phenomenon known as a “light echo.” Even though light travels through space fast enough to span the gap between Earth and the Moon in a little over a second, the nebula is so large that reflected light can actually be photographed traversing the nebula.

By observing the fluctuation of light in RS Puppis itself, as well as recording the faint reflections of light pulses moving across the nebula, astronomers are able to measure these light echoes and pin down a very accurate distance. The distance to RS Puppis has been narrowed down to 6,500 light-years (with a margin of error of only one percent).

Image credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) – Hubble/Europe Collaboration; Acknowledgement: H. Bond (STScI and Pennsylvania State University)

Text credit: Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)

NGC 1466 and the Cosmic Distance Scale

Image: ESA / Hubble / NASA

ESA: This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals an ancient, glimmering ball of stars called NGC 1466. It is a globular cluster — a gathering of stars all held together by gravity — that is slowly moving through space on the outskirts of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our closest galactic neighbours.

NGC 1466 certainly is one for extremes. It has a mass equivalent to roughly 140 000 Suns and an age of around 13.1 billion years, making it almost as old as the Universe itself. This fossil-like relic from the early Universe lies some 160 000 light-years away from us.

Nestled within this ancient time capsule are 49 known RR Lyrae variable stars, which are indispensable tools for measuring distances in the Universe. These variable stars have well-defined luminosities, meaning that astronomers know the total amount of energy they emit. By comparing this known luminosity to how bright the stars appear in the sky, their distance can be easily calculated. Astronomical objects such as this are known as standard candles, and are fundamental to the so-called cosmic distance ladder.

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:

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.