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Showing posts from October, 2017

NGC 6369: The Little Ghost Nebula

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Wraithlike NGC 6369 is a faint apparition in night skies popularly known as the Little Ghost Nebula. It was discovered by 18th century astronomer Sir William Herschel as he used a telescope to explore the medicinal constellation Ophiucus. Herschel historically classified the round and planet-shaped nebula as a Planetary Nebula. But planetary nebulae in general are not at all related to planets. Instead they are gaseous shrouds created at the end of a sun-like star's life, the dying star's outer layers expanding into space while its core shrinks to become a white dwarf. The transformed white dwarf star, seen near the center, radiates strongly at ultraviolet wavelengths and powers the expanding nebula's glow. Surprisingly complex details and structures of NGC 6369 are revealed in this tantalizing image composed from Hubble Space Telescope data. The nebula's main round structure is about a light-year across and the glow from ionized oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen atoms ar…

Mirach s Ghost

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As far as ghosts go, Mirach's Ghost isn't really that scary. Mirach's Ghost is just a faint, fuzzy galaxy, well known to astronomers, that happens to be seen nearly along the line-of-sight to Mirach, a bright star. Centered in this star field, Mirach is also called Beta Andromedae. About 200 light-years distant, Mirach is a red giant star, cooler than the Sun but much larger and so intrinsically much brighter than our parent star. In most telescopic views, glare and diffraction spikes tend to hide things that lie near Mirach and make the faint, fuzzy galaxy look like a ghostly internal reflection of the almost overwhelming starlight. Still, appearing in this sharp image just above and to the left of Mirach, Mirach's Ghost is cataloged as galaxy NGC 404 and is estimated to be some 10 million light-years away. via NASA http://ift.tt/2i7IzMS

NGC 7635: Bubble in a Cosmic Sea

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Adrift in a cosmic sea of stars and glowing gas the delicate, floating apparition left of center in this widefield view is cataloged as NGC 7635, the Bubble Nebula. A mere 10 light-years wide, the tiny Bubble Nebula was blown by the winds of a massive star. It lies within a larger complex of interstellar gas and dust clouds found about 11,000 light-years distant, straddling the boundary between the parental constellations Cepheus and Cassiopeia. Included in the breathtaking vista is open star cluster M52 (lower left), some 5,000 light-years away. Above and right of the Bubble Nebula is an emission region identified as Sh2-157, also known as the Claw Nebula. Constructed from 47 hours of narrow-band and broad-band exposures, this image spans about 3 degrees on the sky. That corresponds to a width of 500 light-years at the estimated distance of the Bubble Nebula. via NASA http://ift.tt/2i2Uk7E

Where Your Elements Came From

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The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. There are no other appreciable sources of hydrogen in the universe. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen. Much of the iron in your body was made during supernovas of stars that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in your jewelry was likely made from neutron stars during collisions that may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts or gravitational wave events. Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in only small amounts but are essential to the functioning of all known life. The featured periodic table is color coded to indicate humanity's best guess as to the nuclear origin of all known elements. The sites of nuclear creation of some elements, such as copper, are not really well known and are continuing topics of observational and computational research. via NASA http://ift.tt/2zIV0GZ

Lynds Dark Nebula 183

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Beverly Lynds Dark Nebula 183 lies a mere 325 light-years away, drifting high above the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. Obscuring the starlight behind it when viewed at optical wavelengths, the dark, dusty molecular cloud itself seems starless. But far infrared explorations reveal dense clumps within, likely stars in the early stages of formation as enhanced regions of the cloud undergo gravitational collapse. One of the closest molecular clouds, it is seen toward the constellation Serpens Caput. This sharp cosmic cloud portrait spans about half a degree on the sky. That's about 3 light-years at the estimated distance of Lynds Dark Nebula 183. via NASA http://ift.tt/2x9BMbW

M51: The Whirlpool Galaxy

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Find the Big Dipper and follow the handle away from the dipper's bowl until you get to the last bright star. Then, just slide your telescope a little south and west and you'll come upon this stunning pair of interacting galaxies, the 51st entry in Charles Messier's famous catalog. Perhaps the original spiral nebula, the large galaxy with well defined spiral structure is also cataloged as NGC 5194. Its spiral arms and dust lanes clearly sweep in front of its companion galaxy (bottom), NGC 5195. The pair are about 31 million light-years distant and officially lie within the angular boundaries of the small constellation Canes Venatici. Though M51 looks faint and fuzzy to the eye, deep images like this one can reveal striking colors and the faint tidal debris around the smaller galaxy via NASA http://ift.tt/2yQWhyI

Haumea of the Outer Solar System

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One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System has recently been found to have a ring. The object, named Haumea, is the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea's oblong shape makes it quite unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Illustrated above, an artist visualizes Haumea as a cratered ellipsoid surrounded by a uniform ring. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was renamed in 2008 by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Besides the ring discovered this year, Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, named Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess. via NASA http://ift.tt/2gKDBWu

On the Origin of Gold

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Where did the gold in your jewelry originate? No one is completely sure. The relative average abundance in our Solar System appears higher than can be made in the early universe, in stars, and even in typical supernova explosions. Some astronomers have suggested, and many believe, that neutron-rich heavy elements such as gold might be most easily made in rare neutron-rich explosions such as the collision of neutron stars. Pictured here is an artist's illustration depicting two neutron stars spiraling in toward each other, just before they collide. Since neutron star collisions are also suggested as the origin of short duration gamma-ray bursts, it is possible that you already own a souvenir from one of the most powerful explosions in the universe. via NASA http://ift.tt/2i98Z4L

All Sky Steve

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Familiar green and red tinted auroral emission floods the sky along the northern (top) horizon in this fish-eye panorama projection from September 27. On the mild, clear evening the Milky Way tracks through the zenith of a southern Alberta sky and ends where the six-day-old Moon sets in the southwest. The odd, isolated, pink and whitish arc across the south has come to be known as Steve. The name was given to the phenomenon by the Alberta Aurora Chasers Facebook group who had recorded appearances of the aurora-like feature. Sometimes mistakenly identified as a proton aurora or proton arc, the mysterious Steve arcs seem associated with aurorae but appear closer to the equator than the auroral curtains. Widely documented by citizen scientists and recently directly explored by a Swarm mission satellite, Steve arcs have been measured as thermal emission from flowing gas rather than emission excited by energetic electrons. Even though a reverse-engineered acronym that fits the originally f…

NGC 1365: Majestic Island Universe

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Barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 is truly a majestic island universe some 200,000 light-years across. Located a mere 60 million light-years away toward the chemical constellation Fornax, NGC 1365 is a dominant member of the well-studied Fornax galaxy cluster. This impressively sharp color image shows intense star forming regions at the ends of the bar and along the spiral arms, and details of dust lanes cutting across the galaxy's bright core. At the core lies a supermassive black hole. Astronomers think NGC 1365's prominent bar plays a crucial role in the galaxy's evolution, drawing gas and dust into a star-forming maelstrom and ultimately feeding material into the central black hole. via NASA http://ift.tt/2g120qf

Star Cluster NGC 362 from Hubble

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If our Sun were near the center of NGC 362, the night sky would glow like a jewel box of bright stars. Hundreds of stars would glow brighter than Sirius, and in many different colors. Although these stars could become part of breathtaking constellations and intricate folklore, it would be difficult for planetary inhabitants there to see -- and hence understand -- the greater universe beyond. NGC 362 is one of only about 170 globular clusters of stars that exist in our Milky Way Galaxy. This star cluster is one of the younger globulars, forming likely well after our Galaxy. NGC 362 can be found with the unaided eye nearly in front of the Small Magellanic Cloud, and angularly close to the second brightest globular cluster known, 47 Tucanae. The featured image was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope to help better understand how massive stars end up near the center of some globular clusters. via NASA http://ift.tt/2zc33My

Unusual Mountain Ahuna Mons on Asteroid Ceres

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What created this unusual mountain? Ahuna Mons is the largest mountain on the largest known asteroid in our Solar System, Ceres, which orbits our Sun in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ahuna Mons, though, is like nothing that humanity has ever seen before. For one thing, its slopes are garnished not with old craters but young vertical streaks. One hypothesis holds that Ahuna Mons is an ice volcano that formed shortly after a large impact on the opposite side of the dwarf planet loosened up the terrain through focused seismic waves. The bright steaks may be high in reflective salt, and therefore similar to other recently surfaced material such as visible in Ceres' famous bright spots. The featured double-height digital image was constructed from surface maps taken of Ceres last year by the robotic Dawn mission. via NASA http://ift.tt/2y8JHtl

Eclipsosaurus Rex

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We live in an era where total solar eclipses are possible because at times the apparent size of the Moon can just cover the disk of the Sun. But the Moon is slowly moving away from planet Earth. Its distance is measured to increase about 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) per year due to tidal friction. So there will come a time, about 600 million years from now, when the Moon is far enough away that the lunar disk will be too small to ever completely cover the Sun. Then, at best only annular eclipses, a ring of fire surrounding the silhouetted disk of the too small Moon, will be seen from the surface of our fair planet. Of course the Moon was slightly closer and loomed a little larger 100 million years ago. So during the age of the dinosaurs there were more frequent total eclipses of the Sun. In front of the Tate Geological Museum at Casper College in Wyoming, this dinosaur statue posed with a modern total eclipse, though. An automated camera was placed under him to shoot his portrait duri…

Global Aurora at Mars

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A strong solar event last month triggered intense global aurora at Mars. Before (left) and during (right) the solar storm, these projections show the sudden increase in ultraviolet emission from martian aurora, more than 25 times brighter than auroral emission previously detected by the orbiting MAVEN spacecraft. With a sunlit crescent toward the right, data from MAVEN's ultraviolet imaging spectrograph is projected in purple hues on the night side of Mars globes simulated to match the observation dates and times. On Mars, solar storms can result in planet-wide aurora because, unlike Earth, the Red Planet isn't protected by a strong global magnetic field that can funnel energetic charged particles toward the poles. For all those on the planet's surface during the solar storm, dangerous radiation levels were double any previously measured by the Curiosity rover. MAVEN is studying whether Mars lost its atmosphere due to its lack of a global magnetic field. via NASA http://if…

The Soul Nebula in Infrared from Herschel

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Stars are forming in the Soul of the Queen of Aethopia. More specifically, a large star forming region called the Soul Nebula can be found in the direction of the constellation Cassiopeia, who Greek mythology credits as the vain wife of a King who long ago ruled lands surrounding the upper Nile river. The Soul Nebula houses several open clusters of stars, a large radio source known as W5, and huge evacuated bubbles formed by the winds of young massive stars. Located about 6,500 light years away, the Soul Nebula spans about 100 light years and is usually imaged next to its celestial neighbor the Heart Nebula (IC 1805). The featured image, impressively detailed, was taken last month in several bands of infrared light by the orbiting Herschel Space Observatory. via NASA http://ift.tt/2xMXJBn