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Baby Stars in the Witch Head Nebula August 21, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Deep Space, JPL, NASA, Nebula, Satellite, Space Agencies, Space Fotos, Witch Head Nebula.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/L.Rebull (SSC/ Caltech)


Eight hundred light-years away in the Orion constellation, a gigantic murky cloud called the “Witch Head” nebula is brewing baby stars. The stellar infants are revealed as pink dots in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Wisps of green in the cloud are carbon-rich molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are found on barbecue grills and in automobile exhaust on Earth. This image was obtained as part of the Spitzer Space Telescope Research Program for Teachers and Students, involving high school teachers and their students from across the United States. The infrared image is a three-color composite, in which light with a wavelength of 4.5 microns is blue, 8.0-micron light is green, and 24-micron light is red.

The Cat’s Paw Nebula June 28, 2006

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Australia, Deep Space, Earth, Nebula, People, Space Fotos, Website.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credit & Copyright:

Robert Gendler &
Martin Pugh


Nebulae are perhaps as famous for being identified with familiar shapes as perhaps

cats are for getting into trouble. Still, no known cat could have created the vast Cat’s Paw Nebula visible in Scorpius. At 5,500 light years distant, Cat’s Paw is an emission nebula with a red color that originates from an abundance of ionized hydrogen atoms. Alternatively known as the Bear Claw Nebula or NGC 6334, stars nearly ten times the mass of our Sun have been born there in only the past few million years. Pictured above, a deep wide-field image of the Cat’s Paw nebula was photographed from New South Wales, Australia.

NGC 6164: A Bipolar Emission Nebula June 6, 2006

Posted by jtintle in AURA, Deep Space, Gemini Observatory, Nebula, NSF, Space Agencies, Space Fotos, Telescopes.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit & Copyright:

Gemini Obs., AURA, NSF


How did a star form this beautiful nebula? In the middle of emission nebula NGC 6164-5 is an unusually massive star nearing the end of its life. The star, visible in the center of the above image and catalogued as HD 148937, is so hot that the ultraviolet light it emits heats up gas that surrounds it. That gas was likely thrown off from the star, possibly by its fast rotation, like a rotating lawn sprinkler. Expelled material might have been further channeled by the magnetic field of the star, creating the symmetric shape of the bipolar nebula. Several cometary knots of gas are also visible on the lower left. NGC 6164-5 spans about four light years and is located about 4,000 light years away toward the southern constellation Norma.

M78 May 24, 2006

Posted by jtintle in M78, Nebula, Orion's Belt, Space Fotos.
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M78 (also known as NGC 2068) is a reflection nebula in the Orion constellation. Hot young stars in the nebula's center illuminate the surrounding gas. Further out, dark clouds of dust prevent much of the scattered light from reaching us, creating a complex pattern of light and shadow. This star-forming region is only about 100,000 years old.

Planetary Nebulas – Fast Winds from Dying Stars May 10, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Chandra X-ray Observatory, Deep Space, JPL, NASA, Nebula, Space Fotos.
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Mz 3
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical: BD +30 & Hen 3: NASA/STScI/Univ. MD/J.P.Harrington; Optical: NGC 7027: NASA/STScI/Caltech/J.Westphal & W.Latter; Optical: Mz 3: NASA/STScI/Univ. Washington/B.Balick
JPEG (325.6 kb) Tiff (18.2 MB) PS (2.8 MB)

This panel of composite images shows part of the unfolding drama of the last stages of the evolution of sun-like stars. Dynamic elongated clouds envelop bubbles of multimillion degree gas produced by high-velocity winds from dying stars. In these images, Chandra’s X-ray data are shown in blue, while green and red are optical and infrared data from Hubble.

Planetary nebulas – so called because some of them resemble a planet when viewed through a small telescope – are produced in the late stages of a sun-like star’s life. After several billion years of stable existence (the sun is 4.5 billion years old and will not enter this phase for about 5 billion more years) a normal star will expand enormously to become a bloated red giant. Over a period of a few hundred thousand years, much of the star’s mass is expelled at a relatively slow speed of about 50,000 miles per hour.

Chandra & HST Images of NGC 7027
Chandra & HST Images of NGC 7027

This mass loss creates a more or less spherical cloud around the star and eventually uncovers the star’s blazing hot core. Intense ultraviolet radiation from the core heats the circumstellar gas to ten thousand degrees, and the velocity of the gas flowing away from the star jumps to about a million miles per hour.

This high speed wind appears to be concentrated into opposing supersonic funnels, and produces the elongated shapes in the early development of planetary nebulas (BD+30-3639 appears spherical, but other observations indicate that it is viewed along the pole.) Shock waves generated by the collision of the high-speed gas with the surrounding cloud create the hot bubbles observed by Chandra. The origin of the funnel-shaped winds is not understood. It may be related to strong, twisted magnetic fields near the hot stellar core.

Fast Facts for Mz 3:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIT/J.Kastner et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI/Univ. Washington/B.Balick
Scale  Image is 110 x 75 arcsec
Category  White Dwarfs & Planetary Nebulas
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 16h 17m 12.60s | Dec -51º 59′ 08.00″
Constellation  Norma
Observation Dates  April 1, 2004
Observation Time  11 hours
Obs. ID  4954
Color Code  Energy (X-ray: Blue; Optical: Red & Green)
Instrument  ACIS
Also Known As  Menzel 3, Ant Nebula
References  J. Kastner et al. 2003, Astrophys. J. 591, L 37
Distance Estimate  About 3,000 light years
Release Date  May 10, 2006

M45: The Pleiades Star Cluster January 10, 2006

Posted by jtintle in APoD, M45, Nebula, Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Explanation: Perhaps the most famous star cluster on the sky, the Pleiades can be seen without binoculars from even the depths of a light-polluted city. Also known as the Seven Sisters and M45, the Pleiades is one of the brightest and closest open clusters. The Pleiades contains over 3000 stars, is about 400 light years away, and only 13 light years across. Quite evident in the above photograph are the blue reflection nebulae that surround the brighter cluster stars. Low mass, faint, brown dwarfs have also been found in the Pleiades. (Editors’ note: The prominent diffraction spikes are caused by the telescope itself and may be either distracting or provide aesthetic enhancement, depending on your point of view.)


Bug Nebula December 31, 2005

Posted by jtintle in Bug Nebula, Deep Space, European Space Agency, NASA, Nebula, NGC 6302, Space Fotos.
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Credit: A. Zijlstra (UMIST) et al., ESA, NASA

Explanation: NGC 6302, the Bug Nebula, displaying the “z-pinch? so familiar to plasma cosmologists. The pinching of a plasma cloud into a narrow “neck? is just one of numerous indicators of high-energy electric currents. The star at the center of the pinch is hidden from view by a donut-like cloud or torus, another pattern typical of plasma discharge instabilities.

The Iris Nebula from CFHT December 31, 2005

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Deep Space, Hawaiian Starlight, Iris Nebula, Nebula, NGC 7023, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit & Copyright: Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT), Hawaiian Starlight, CFHT

Explanation: Like delicate cosmic petals, these clouds of interstellar dust and gas have blossomed 1,300 light-years away in the fertile star fields of the constellation Cepheus. Sometimes called the Iris Nebula and dutifully cataloged as NGC 7023, this is not the only nebula in the sky to evoke the imagery of flowers. Still, this beautiful digital image shows off the Iris Nebula’s range of colors and symmetries in impressive detail. Within the Iris, dusty nebular material surrounds a massive, hot, young star in its formative years. Central filaments of cosmic dust glow with a reddish photoluminescence as some dust grains effectively convert the star’s invisible ultraviolet radiation to visible red light. Yet the dominant color of the nebula is blue, characteristic of dust grains reflecting starlight. Dark, obscuring clouds of dust and cold molecular gas are also present and can lead the eye to see other convoluted and fantastic shapes. Infrared observations indicate that this nebula may contain complex carbon molecules known as PAHs. As shown here, the Iris Nebula is about 6 light-years across.


IC 2118: The Witch Head Nebula December 28, 2005

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Deep Space, NASA, Nebula, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit & Copyright: Bernhard Hubl

Explanation: Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble — maybe Macbeth should have consulted the Witch Head Nebula. This suggestively shaped reflection nebula is associated with the bright star Rigel in the constellation Orion. More formally known as IC 2118, the Witch Head Nebula glows primarily by light reflected from Rigel, located just outside the top right corner of the above image. Fine dust in the nebula reflects the light. The blue color is caused not only by Rigel‘s blue color but because the dust grains reflect blue light more efficiently than red. The same physical process causes Earth’s daytime sky to appear blue, although the scatterers in Earth’s atmosphere are molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. The nebula lies about 1000 light-years away.


The Mysterious Cone Nebula December 28, 2005

Posted by jtintle in APoD, Deep Space, NASA, Nebula, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credit & Copyright: R Jay GaBany (Cosmotography.com)

Explanation: Sometimes the simplest shapes are the hardest to explain. For example, the origin of the mysterious cone-shaped region seen on the far left remains a mystery. The interstellar formation, dubbed the Cone Nebula, is located about 2700 light years away. Other features in the image include red emission from diffuse interstellar hydrogen, wispy filaments of dark dust, and bright star S Monocerotis, visible on the far right. Blue reflection nebulae surround the brighter stars. The dark Cone Nebula region clearly contains much dust which blocks light from the emission nebula and open cluster NGC 2264 behind it. One hypothesis holds that the Cone Nebula is formed by wind particles from an energetic source blowing past the Bok Globule at the head of the cone.



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