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Baby Stars in the Witch Head Nebula August 21, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) 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.

Dusty Death of a Massive Star June 7, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Chandra X-ray Observatory, Deep Space, JPL, NASA, Small Magellanic Cloud, Space Fotos, Supernova.
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Dusty Death of a Massive Star
Mission: Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
Spitzer Space Telescope (SST)
Spacecraft: Hubble Space Telescope
Spitzer Space Telescope (SST)
Chandra X-ray Telescope
Instrument: Infrared Array Camera (IRAC)
Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS)
Product Size: 1778 samples x 1778 lines
Produced By: California Institute of Technology
Full-Res TIFF: PIA08516.tif (9.498 MB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA08516.jpg (553.1 kB)


NASA/JPL-Caltech/ UC Berkeley


Click here for poster version of PIA08516 Click here for Visible-Light Image
Dusty Supernova Remnant Poster
Figure 1
X-ray, Visible, Infrared
Figure 2

The supernova remnant1E0102.2-7219 (see inset in figure 1) sits next to the nebula N76 in a bright, star-forming region of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy located about 200,000 light-years from Earth. A supernova remnant is made up of the messy bits and pieces of a massive star that exploded, or went supernova. The image on the right shows glowing dust grains in three wavelengths of infrared radiation: 24 microns (red) measured by the multiband imaging photometer aboard NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope; and 8.0 microns (green) and 3.6 microns (blue) measured by Spitzer’s infrared array camera. The red bubble is a dust envelope around the supernova remnant E0102, which is being heated by the shock wave created in the explosion of the remnant’s massive progenitor star some 1,000 years ago. Most of the blue stars are in the Small Magellanic Cloud, though some are in our own galaxy.

The close-up of E0102 (figure 2) is a composite of the infrared observations by Spitzer (red), an optical image (0.5 microns) captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (green), and X-ray measurements by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue). The X-ray ring is generated when the reverse shock slams into stellar material that was expelled during the explosion

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Fade to Red June 5, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Andromeda Galaxy (M31), Deep Space, JPL, NASA, Satellite, Space Agencies, Space Fotos, Space Science Institute.
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Fade to Red


NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


This animation shows the Andromeda galaxy, first as seen in visible light by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, then as seen in infrared by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The visible-light image highlights the galaxy's population of about one trillion stars. The stars are so crammed into its core that this region blazes with bright starlight.

In contrast, the false-colored Spitzer view reveals red waves of dust against a more tranquil sea of blue stars. The dust lanes can be seen twirling all the way into the galaxy's center. This dust is warmed by young stars and shines at infrared wavelengths , which are represented in red. The blue color signifies shorter-wavelength infrared light primarily from older stars.

The Andromeda galaxy, also known affectionately by astronomers as Messier 31, is located 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. It is the closest major galaxy to the Milky Way, making it the ideal specimen for carefully examining the nature of galaxies. On a clear, dark night, the galaxy can be spotted with the naked eye as a fuzzy blob.

Andromeda's entire disk spans about 260,000 light-years, which means that a light beam would take 260,000 years to travel from one end of the galaxy to the other. By comparison, the Milky Way is about 100,000 light-years across. When viewed from Earth, Andromeda occupies a portion of the sky equivalent to seven full moons.

Because this galaxy is so large, the infrared images had to be stitched together out of about 3,000 separate Spitzer exposures. The light detected by Spitzer's infrared array camera at 3.6 and 4.5 microns is sensitive mostly to starlight and is shown in blue and green, respectively. The 8-micron light shows warm dust and is shown in red. The contribution from starlight has been subtracted from the 8-micron image to better highlight the dust structures.

Plasma Galaxies June 2, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Deep Space, JPL, NASA, Satellite, Space Agencies, Space Fotos, TPOD, Website.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/S. Willner(Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)


Laboratory experiments, together with advanced simulation capabilities, have shown that electric forces can efficiently organize spiral galaxies, without resorting to the wild card of gravity-only cosmology–the Black Hole.

Many of astronomy's most fundamental mysteries find their resolution in plasma behavior. Why do cosmic bodies spin, asked the distinguished astronomer Fred Hoyle, in summarizing the unanswered questions. Plasma experiments show that rotation is a natural function of interacting electric currents in plasma. Currents can pinch matter together to form rotating stars and galaxies. A good example is the ubiquitous spiral galaxy, a predictable configuration of a cosmic-scale discharge. Computer models of two current filaments interacting in a plasma have, in fact, reproduced fine details of spiral galaxies, where the gravitational schools must rely on invisible matter arbitrarily placed wherever it is needed to make their models "work".

The photograph of spiral galaxy M81 above is one of the first images returned by NASA's new Spitzer space telescope, an instrument that can detect extremely faint waves of infrared radiation, or heat, through clouds of dust and plasma that have blocked the view of conventional telescopes. The result is the picture of striking clarity.

Beneath this photograph we have placed snapshots from a computer simulation by plasma scientist Anthony Peratt, illustrating the evolution of galactic structures under the influence of electric currents. Through the "pinch effect", parallel currents converge to produce spiraling structures.

To see the connection between plasma experiments and plasma formations in space, it is essential to understand the scalability of plasma phenomena. Under similar conditions, plasma discharge will produce the same formations irrespective of the size of the event. The same basic patterns will be seen at laboratory, planetary, stellar, and galactic levels. Duration is proportional to size as well. A spark that lasts for microseconds in the laboratory may continue for years at planetary or stellar scales, or for millions of years at galactic or intergalactic scales.

Plasma experiments, backed by computer simulations of plasma discharge, are changing the picture of space.  Plasma scientists, for example, are able to replicate the evolution of galactic structures both experimentally and in computer simulations without recourse to a popular fiction of modern astrophysics –the black hole. Astronomers require invisible, super-compressed matter as the center of galaxies because without Black Holes gravitational equations cannot account for observed movement and compact energetic activity. But charged plasma achieves such effects routinely

Stellar Jets May 26, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Deep Space, Illustration, JPL, NASA, People, Space Agencies, Space Fotos.
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Image Credit:

NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC)


This artist concept illustrates jets of material shooting out from the neutron star in the binary system 4U 0614+091. Astronomers using the Spitzer Space Telescope found these remarkable jets, which are streaming into space at nearly the speed of light. Until this observation, astronomers thought that the ability to shoot such continuous jets into space was unique to black holes.

The 4U 0614+091 system contains two stellar corpses, remnants of long-dead stars. The larger one (upper left) is the surviving core of a sun-like star, known as a "white dwarf." The smaller neutron star (lower right, at center of disk) is the dead core of a much more massive star that once exploded in a supernova. Even though the neutron star is tiny compared to the white dwarf it is incredibly dense and is actually about 14 times more massive!

The white dwarf orbits the neutron star similar to the way the Earth orbits the sun. Like a cosmic vacuum cleaner, the neutron star's intense gravity picks up material leaving the white dwarf's atmosphere and collects it into a disk around itself. Known as an "accretion disk," the collected material orbits the neutron star similar to the way rings circle Saturn. The accretion disk is much denser than Saturn's rings, however, and under the influence of the neutron star's immense gravity the inner portions are heated to incredible temperatures.

How the jets around the neutron star are created remains a mystery, but scientists note that accretion disks and intense gravitational fields are characteristics that both neutron stars in binary systems like this one and black holes share. They believe that these traits may be all that is needed to form and fuel the continuous jets of matter.

Planetary Life After Death May 14, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), JPL, NASA, Space Fotos, Vidcast.
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The (Almost) Invisible Aftermath of a Massive Star’s Death May 11, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Deep Space, DSS, JPL, NASA, Space Fotos.
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The (Almost) Invisible Aftermath of a Massive Star's Death
Mission: Spitzer Space Telescope (SST)
Spacecraft: Spitzer Space Telescope (SST)
Instrument: Infrared Array Camera (IRAC)
Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS)
Visible Light
Product Size: 900 samples x 859 lines
Produced By: California Institute of Technology
Full-Res TIFF: PIA08453.tif (2.322 MB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA08453.jpg (104 kB)

For the universe’s biggest stars, even death is a show. Massive stars typically end their lives in explosive cataclysms, or supernovae, flinging abundant amounts of hot gas and radiation into outer space. Remnants of these dramatic deaths can linger for thousands of years and be easily detected by professional astronomers.

However, not all stars like attention. Thirty thousand light-years away in the Cepheus constellation, astronomers think they’ve found a massive star whose death barely made a peep. Remnants of this shy star’s supernova would have gone completely unnoticed if the super-sensitive eyes of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope hadn’t accidentally stumbled upon it.

These three panels (figure 1) illustrate just how shy this star is. Unlike most supernova remnants, which are detectable at a variety of wavelengths ranging from radio to X-rays, this source only shows up in mid-infrared images taken by Spitzer’s multiband imaging photometer. The remnant can be seen as a red-orange blob at the center of the picture (figure 4).

Although the visible-light (figure 2) and near-infrared (figure 3) images capture the exact same region of space, the source is completely invisible in both pictures. Astronomers suspect that the remnant’s elusiveness is due to its location, away from our Milky Way galaxy’s dusty main disk, which contains most of the galaxy’s stars. A supernova is most noticeable when the material expelled during the star’s furious death throes violently collides with surrounding dust. Since the shy star sits away from the galaxy’s dusty and crowded disk, the hot gas and radiation it flung into space had little surrounding material to crash into. Thus, it is largely invisible at most wavelengths.

Spitzer’s multiband imaging photometer did not need dust to see the remnant. The mid-infrared instrument was able to directly detect the oxygen-rich gas from the supernova’s explosive death throes.

The visible-light (figure 2) image is a three-color composite of data from the California Institute of Technology’s Digitized Sky Survey. In this image, light with a wavelength of 0.44 microns is represented as blue, 0.55-micron light is green, and 0.9-micron light is red.

The near-infrared (figure 3 ) image is a two-color composite of data from Spitzer’s infrared array camera. In this image, starlight captured at 4.5 microns is represented in blue, and 8-micron light from dust is green. The far-infrared image (figure 4) combines the infrared array camera data with the multiband imaging photometer data, which show light of 24 microns in red.

Image Credit:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/NASA Herschel Science Center/DSS

Portrait of Our Dusty Past May 11, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Deep Space, JPL, NASA, Space Fotos.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

This artist’s concept illustrates a solar system that is a much younger version of our own. Dusty disks, like the one shown here circling the star, are thought to be the breeding grounds of planets, including rocky ones like Earth. Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope spotted some of the raw ingredients for DNA and protein in one such disk belonging to a star called IRS 46. The ingredients, gaseous precursors to DNA and protein called acetylene and hydrogen cyanide, were detected in the star’s inner disk, the region where scientists believe Earth-like planets would be most likely to form.

A Million Comet Pieces May 10, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3, Comets, Deep Space, NASA, Space Fotos.
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A Million Comet Pieces

Target Name: Comet
Mission: Spitzer Space Telescope (SST)
Spacecraft: Spitzer Space Telescope (SST)
Instrument: Multi-band Imaging Photometer (MIPS)
Product Size: 6669 samples x 5091 lines
Produced By: California Institute of Technology
Full-Res TIFF: PIA08452.tif (33.99 MB)
Full-Res JPEG: PIA08452.jpg (1.795 MB)
Original Caption Released with Image:

Click here for poster version of PIA08452 A Million Comet Pieces
A Million Comet Pieces
(poster version)

This infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the broken Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 skimming along a trail of debris left during its multiple trips around the sun. The flame-like objects are the comet’s fragments and their tails, while the dusty comet trail is the line bridging the fragments.

Comet 73P /Schwassman-Wachmann 3 began to splinter apart in 1995 during one of its voyages around the sweltering sun. Since then, the comet has continued to disintegrate into dozens of fragments, at least 36 of which can be seen here. Astronomers believe the icy comet cracked due the thermal stress from the sun.

The Spitzer image provides the best look yet at the trail of debris left in the comet’s wake after its 1995 breakup. The observatory’s infrared eyes were able to see the dusty comet bits and pieces, which are warmed by sunlight and glow at infrared wavelengths. This comet debris ranges in size from pebbles to large boulders. When Earth passes near this rocky trail every year, the comet rubble burns up in our atmosphere, lighting up the sky in meteor showers. In 2022, Earth is expected to cross close to the comet’s trail, producing a heavy meteor shower.

Astronomers are studying the Spitzer image for clues to the comet’s composition and how it fell apart. Like NASA’s Deep Impact experiment, in which a probe smashed into comet Tempel 1, the cracked Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 provides a perfect laboratory for studying the pristine interior of a comet.

This image was taken from May 4 to May 6 by Spitzer’s multi-band imaging photometer, using its 24-micron wavelength channel.

Image Credit:

Comet Stepping Stones May 6, 2006

Posted by John Tintle (MtO deadbait) in Spitzer Space Telescope (SST), Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3, Comets, JPL, NASA, Space Fotos.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/W. Reach (SSC)

This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows three of the many fragments making up Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3. The infrared picture also provides the best look yet at the crumbling comet's trail of debris, seen here as a bridge connecting the larger fragments.

The comet circles around our sun every 5.4 years. In 1995, it splintered apart into four pieces, labeled A through D, with C being the biggest. Since then, the comet has continued to fracture into dozens of additional pieces. This image is centered about midway between fragments C and B; fragment G can be seen in the upper right corner.

The comet's trail is made of dust, pebbles and rocks left in the comet's wake during its numerous journeys around the sun. Such debris can become the stuff of spectacular meteor showers on Earth.

This image was taken on April 1, 2006, by Spitzer's multi-band imaging photometer using the 24-micron wavelength channel.


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