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A Dwarf Galaxy’s Star Bar and Dusty Wing January 12, 2012

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Image Credit

ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

Explanation:

This new image shows the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy in infrared light from the Herschel Space Observatory a European Space Agency-led mission with important NASA contributions, and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are the two biggest satellite galaxies of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, though they are still considered dwarf galaxies compared to the big spiral of the Milky Way.

In combined data from Herschel and Spitzer, the irregular distribution of dust in the Small Magellanic Cloud becomes clear. A stream of dust extends to the left in this image, known as the galaxy’s “wing,” and a bar of star formation appears on the right.

The colors in this image indicate temperatures in the dust that permeates the Cloud. Colder regions show where star formation is at its earliest stages or is shut off, while warm expanses point to new stars heating surrounding dust. The coolest areas and objects appear in red, corresponding to infrared light taken up by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver at 250 microns, or millionths of a meter. Herschel’s Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer fills out the mid-temperature bands, shown here in green, at 100 and 160 microns. The warmest spots appear in blue, courtesy of 24- and 70-micron data from Spitzer.

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Dusty Space Cloud January 10, 2012

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Credit:

ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI

Explanation:

This new image shows the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy in infrared light as seen by the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency-led mission with important NASA contributions, and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. In the instruments’ combined data, this nearby dwarf galaxy looks like a fiery, circular explosion. Rather than fire, however, those ribbons are actually giant ripples of dust spanning tens or hundreds of light-years. Significant fields of star formation are noticeable in the center, just left of center and at right. The brightest center-left region is called 30 Doradus, or the Tarantula Nebula, for its appearance in visible light.

The colors in this image indicate temperatures in the dust that permeates the Cloud. Colder regions show where star formation is at its earliest stages or is shut off, while warm expanses point to new stars heating surrounding dust. The coolest areas and objects appear in red, corresponding to infrared light taken up by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver at 250 microns, or millionths of a meter. Herschel’s Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer fills out the mid-temperature bands, shown here in green, at 100 and 160 microns. The warmest spots appear in blue, courtesy of 24- and 70-micron data from Spitzer.

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Henize 2-10: A Surprisingly Close Look at the Early Cosmos January 29, 2011

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Credit:

X-ray (NASA/CXC/Virginia/A.Reines et al); Radio (NRAO/AUI/NSF); Optical (NASA/STScI)

Description:

The combined observations from multiple telescopes of Henize 2-10, a dwarf starburst galaxy located about 30 million light years from Earth, has provided astronomers with a detailed new look at how galaxy and black hole formation may have occured in the early Universe. This image shows optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope in red, green and blue, X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in purple, and radio data from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array in yellow. A compact X-ray source at the center of the galaxy coincides with a radio source, giving evidence for an actively growing supermassive black hole with a mass of about one million times that of the Sun (please roll your mouse over the image for the location of the black hole).

Stars are forming in Henize 2-10 at a prodigious rate, giving the star clusters in this galaxy their blue appearance. This combination of a burst of star formation and a massive black hole is analogous to conditions in the early Universe. Since Henize 2-10 does not contain a significant bulge of stars in its center, these results show that supermassive black hole growth may precede the growth of bulges in galaxies. This differs from the relatively nearby Universe where the growth of galaxy bulges and supermassive black holes appears to occur in parallel.

A paper describing these results was published online in Nature on January 9th, 2011 by Amy Reines and Gregory Sivakoff of the University of Virginia, Kelsey Johnson of the University of Virginia and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia and Crystal Brogan also of NRAO in Virgina.

Spitzer’s M101 January 7, 2010

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credit:

NASA, JPL-Caltech, K. Gordon (STScI) et al.

Explanation:

Big, beautiful spiral galaxy M101 is one of the last entries in Charles Messier’s famous catalog, but definitely not one of the least. About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is enormous, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy. M101 was also one of the original spiral nebulae observed by Lord Rosse’s large 19th century telescope, the Leviathan of Parsontown. Recorded at infrared wavelengths by the Spitzer Space telescope, this 21st century view shows starlight in blue hues while the galaxy’s dust clouds are in red. Examining the dust features in the outer rim of the galaxy, astronomers have found that organic molecules present throughout the rest of M101 are lacking. The organic molecules tracked by Spitzer’s instruments are called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Of course, PAHs are common components of dust in the Milky Way and on planet Earth are found in soot. PAHs are likely destroyed near the outer edges of M101 by energetic radiation in intense star forming regions. Also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major, about 25 million light-years away.

M51 Hubble Remix December 26, 2009

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credits:

S. Beckwith (STScI), Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA
Additional Processing: Robert Gendler

Explanation:

The 51st entry in Charles Messier’s famous catalog is perhaps the original spiral nebula – a large galaxy with a well defined spiral structure also cataloged as NGC 5194. Over 60,000 light-years across, M51’s spiral arms and dust lanes clearly sweep in front of its companion galaxy (right), NGC 5195. Image data from the Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys has been reprocessed to produce this alternative portrait of the well-known interacting galaxy pair. The processing has further sharpened details and enhanced color and contrast in otherwise faint areas, bringing out dust lanes and extended streams that cross the small companion, along with features in the surroundings and core of M51 itself. The pair are about 31 million light-years distant. Not far on the sky from the handle of the Big Dipper, they officially lie within the boundaries of the small constellation Canes Venatici.

Planetary Systems Now Forming in Orion December 25, 2009

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credit:

NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (STScI/ESA), the HST Orion Treasury Project Team, & L. Ricci (ESO)

Explanation:

How do planets form? To help find out, the Hubble Space Telescope was tasked to take a detailed look at one of the more interesting of all astronomical nebulae, the Great Nebula in Orion. The Orion nebula, visible with the unaided eye near the belt in the constellation of Orion, is an immense nearby starbirth region and probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Insets to the above mosaic show numerous proplyds, many of which are stellar nurseries likely harboring planetary systems in formation. Some proplyds glow as close disks surrounding bright stars light up, while other proplyds contain disks further from their host star, contain cooler dust, and hence appear as dark silhouettes against brighter gas. Studying this dust, in particular, is giving insight for how planets are forming. Many proplyd images also show arcs that are shock waves – fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula lies about 1,500 light years distant and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as our Sun.

The Eskimo Nebula from Hubble May 5, 2009

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.
Credit:

Andrew Fruchter (STScI) et al., WFPC2, HST, NASA

Explanation:

In 1787, astronomer William Herschel discovered the Eskimo Nebula. From the ground, NGC 2392 resembles a person’s head surrounded by a parka hood. In 2000, the Hubble Space Telescope imaged the Eskimo Nebula. From space, the nebula displays gas clouds so complex they are not fully understood. The Eskimo Nebula is clearly a planetary nebula, and the gas seen above composed the outer layers of a Sun-like star only 10,000 years ago. The inner filaments visible above are being ejected by strong wind of particles from the central star. The outer disk contains unusual light-year long orange filaments. The Eskimo Nebula spans about 1/3 of a light year and lies in our Milky Way Galaxy, about 3,000 light years distant, toward the constellation of the Twins (Gemini).

Orion Nebula: The Hubble View March 10, 2009

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See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Credit:

NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (STScI/ESA) et al.

Description:

Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula. Also known as M42, the nebula’s glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula’s energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view – providing an intimate look at a range of ongoing stages of starbirth and evolution. This detailed image of the Orion Nebula is the sharpest ever, constructed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope‘s Advanced Camera for Surveys and the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla 2.2 meter telescope. The mosaic contains a billion pixels at full resolution and reveals about 3,000 stars.

SN 1996cr: Powerful Nearby Supernova Caught By Web September 29, 2008

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SN 1996cr
Credit:

X-ray (NASA/CXC/Columbia/F.Bauer et al); Optical (NASA/STScI/UMD/A.Wilson et al.)

Explanation:

This composite image shows the central regions of the nearby Circinus galaxy, located about 12 million light years away. Data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is shown in blue and data from the Hubble Space telescope is shown in yellow (“I-band”), red (hydrogen emission), cyan (“V-band”) and light blue (oxygen emission). The bright, blue source near the lower right hand corner of the image is the supernova SN 1996cr, that has finally been identified over a decade after it exploded.

Optical images from the archives of the Anglo-Australian Telescope in Australia show that SN 1996cr exploded between February 28, 1995 and March 15, 1996. Among the five nearest supernovas of the last 25 years, SN 1996cr is the only one that was not seen shortly after the explosion. It may not have been noticed by astronomers at the time because it was only visible in the southern hemisphere, which is not as widely monitored as the northern.

The supernova was first singled out in 2001 as a bright, variable object in a Chandra image. Despite some exceptional properties, its nature remained unclear until years later, when scientists were able to confirm this object was a supernova. Clues in data from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope led the team to search through data archives from 18 different telescopes, both in space and on the ground, nearly all of which was from archives. This is a remarkable example of the new era of `Internet astronomy’.

The Circinus galaxy is a popular target for astronomers because it contains a supermassive black hole that is actively growing, and it shows vigorous star formation. It is also nearby, at only about 4 times the distance of M31. Therefore, the public archives of telescopes contain abundant data on this galaxy.

Fasten Your Seatbelts September 12, 2008

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Hubble and Chandra Image of colliding cluster
Credit:

X-ray(NASA/CXC/Stanford/S.Allen); Optical/Lensing(NASA/STScI/UC Santa Barbara/M.Bradac)

Description:

Simple experiments are the best, especially when performed on a cosmic scale. A few years ago, astronomers posited a seemingly impossible question: Does dark matter, that mysterious stuff that makes up about one fourth of the present-day Universe, interact any other way than by gravity? For example, if you threw a bucket of “normal” matter and the dark stuff, which would go farther? Fortunately they had access to the tools and the testbed they needed to help answer this question. The tools were the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the testbed was the Bullet Cluster, a cosmic train wreck consisting of one cluster of galaxies speeding through another. Astronomers used Chandra to measure the distribution of the “normal” matter, which is slowed by gravity and pressure forces and which can be seen by the tell-tale X-rays it produces. Using Hubble, astronomers were able to measure the distribution of gravitating matter from the amount of light bending (Einstein’s “gravitational lensing“), and they found that, indeed, the distribution of normal and dark matter was different: the dark matter was not slowed down as much as the normal stuff. The image above shows another example of this experiment, using the colliding cluster called MACS J0025.4-1222. In this image the pink shows the X-ray emission produced by the normal matter, and the blue shows the distribution of dark matter determined from observations of the gravitational lensing measured by Hubble. Once again, the dark matter distribution lies outside the location of the normal matter, giving further evidence that dark matter only interacts via gravity.

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