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Cat’s Eye Planetary Nebula March 14, 2009

Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Hora (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)


The “Cat’s Eye” nebula, or NGC 6543, is a well-studied example of a “planetary nebula.” Such objects are the glowing remnants of dust and gas expelled from moderate-sized stars during their last stages of life. Our own sun will generate such a nebula in about five billion years.

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has studied many such planetary nebulae in infrared light, including a variety of more distant ones, which have helped scientists identify a population of carbon-bearing stars near our galaxy’s center.

The infrared emission from the Cat’s Eye is generated by a variety of elements and molecules. The bright inner region of this nebula shows a complex structure reminiscent of a feline eye. Outside this compact region lies a series of other structures representing material that was ejected slightly earlier in the central star’s life, when it was a giant star.

The image is a composite of data from Spitzer’s infrared array camera. Light with a wavelength of 3.6 microns is rendered as blue, 5.8 microns is displayed as green and 8.0 microns is represented in red. The brightness of the central area has been greatly reduced to make it possible to maintain its visibility while enhancing the brightness of the much fainter outer features. Overall colors have been enhanced to better show slight variations in hue.

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M87: A Nearby Galaxy Metropolis August 7, 2008

Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/W. Forman et al.; Radio: NRAO/AUI/NSF/W. Cotton; Optical: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and R. Gendler

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This image is a composite of visible (or optical), radio, and X-ray data of the giant elliptical galaxy, M87. M87 lies at a distance of 60 million light years and is the largest galaxy in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Bright jets moving at close to the speed of light are seen at all wavelengths coming from the massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. It has also been identified with the strong radio source, Virgo A, and is a powerful source of X-rays as it resides near the center of a hot, X-ray emitting cloud that extends over much of the Virgo cluster. The extended radio emission consists of plumes of fast-moving gas from the jets rising into the X-ray emitting cluster medium.

In X-rays, M87 also reveals evidence for a series of outbursts from the central supermassive black hole. The loops and bubbles in the hot, X-ray emitting gas are relics of small outbursts from close to the black hole. Other interesting features in M87 are narrow filaments of X-ray emission, which may be due to hot gas trapped by magnetic fields. One of these filaments is over 100,000 light years long, and extends below and to the right of the center of M87 in almost a straight line.

The optical data of M87 were obtained with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in visible and infrared filters (data courtesy of P. Cote, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, and E. Baltz, Stanford University). Wide-field optical data of the center of the Virgo Cluster were also provided by R. Gendler (Copyright Robert Gendler 2006). The X-ray data were acquired from the Chandra X-ray Observatory’s Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS), and were provided by W. Forman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) et al. The radio data were obtained by W. Cotton and also archive processing using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array (NRAO/VLA) near Socorro, New Mexico


Mira: The Wonderful Star July 22, 2006

Posted by jtintle in Deep Space, Space Fotos.
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See Explanation. Moving the cursor over the image will bring up an illustration. Clicking on the image will bring up the highest resolution illustration available.

X-ray Image: M. Karovska (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) et al., CXC / NASA
Illustration: M.Weiss(CXC)


To seventeenth century astronomers, Omicron Ceti or Mira was known as a wonderful star – a star whose brightness could change dramatically in the course of about 11 months. Modern astronomers now recognize an entire class of long period Mira-type variables as cool, pulsating, red giant stars, 700 or so times the diameter of the Sun. Only 420 light-years away, red giant Mira (Mira A, right) itself co-orbits with a companion star, a small white dwarf (Mira B). Mira B is surrounded by a disk of material drawn from the pulsating giant and in such a double star system, the white dwarf star’s hot accretion disk is expected to produce some x-rays. But this sharp, false-color image from the Chandra Observatory also captures the cool giant star strongly flaring at x-ray energies, clearly separated from the x-ray emission of its companion’s accretion disk. Placing your cursor over the Chandra x-ray image of Mira will reveal an artist’s vision of this still wonderful interacting binary star system.

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