Posts tagged stars

Posted 12 months ago

IC 1848: The Soul Nebula 
Image Credit & Copyright: Bob Andersson

Explanation: 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 above image appears mostly red due to the emission of a specific color of light emitted by excited hydrogen gas.

Posted 1 year ago

Darkened City 
Image Credit & CopyrightPhoto Thierry Cohen / Courtesy Danziger Gallery, New York

Explanation: In a haunting vista you can never see, bright stars and the central Milky Way rise over the dark skyline of metropolitanPudong in Shanghai, China. Looking east across the Huangpu River, the cityscape includes Pudong’s 470 meter tall Oriental Pearl Tower. The night sky stretches from Antares and the stars of Scorpius at the far right, to Altair in Aquila at the left. To create the vision of an unseen reality, part of a series of Darkened Cities, photographer Thierry Cohen has combined a daytime image of the city skyline with an image matched in orientation from a dark sky region at the same latitude, just west of Merzouga, Morocco. The result finds the night sky that hours earlier also arced over Shanghai, but drowned in the lights of a city upon the sea.

Posted 1 year ago

NGC 3132: The Southern Ring Nebula 
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy ArchiveESANASAProcessing Donald Waid

Explanation: It’s the dim star, not the bright one, near the center of NGC 3132 that created this odd but beautiful planetary nebula. Nicknamed the Eight-Burst Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, the glowing gas originated in the outer layers of a star like our Sun. In this reprocessed color picture, the hot purplish pool of light seen surrounding this binary system is energized by the hot surface of the faint star. Although photographed to explore unusual symmetries, it’s the asymmetries that help make this planetary nebula so intriguing. Neither the unusual shape of the surrounding cooler shell nor the structure and placements of the cool filamentary dust lanesrunning across NGC 3132 are well understood.

Posted 1 year ago

Comet of the North 
Image Credit & CopyrightP-M Hedén (Clear SkiesTWAN)

Explanation: It looks like a double comet, but Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) is just offering skygazers a Messier moment. Outward bound and fading in this starry scene, the well-photographed comet is remarkably similar in brightness to M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. Tracking through northern skies just below the galaxy, the comet was captured as local midnight approached on April 3. Both comet and galaxy were visible to the eye and are immersed in the faint glow of northern lights. Our own Milky Way galaxy arcs over the snowy field near Tänndalen, Sweden. Double star cluster h and chi Persei can be spotted along the Milky Way’s arc high above the comet/galaxy pair. Follow the arc to bright Deneb, alpha star of the constellation Cygnus, at the right edge of the frame.

Posted 1 year ago

M64: The Black Eye Galaxy 
Image Credit & CopyrightMartin Pugh

Explanation: This beautiful, bright, spiral galaxy is Messier 64, often called the Black Eye Galaxy or the Sleeping Beauty Galaxy for its heavy-lidded appearance in telescopic views. M64 is about 17 million light-years distant in the otherwise well-groomed northern constellation Coma Berenices. In fact, the Red Eye Galaxy might also be an appropriate moniker in this colorful composition of narrow and wideband images. The enormous dust clouds obscuring the near-side of M64’s central region are laced with the telltale reddish glow of hydrogen associated with star forming regions. But they are not this galaxy’s only peculiar feature. Observations show that M64 is actually composed of two concentric, counter-rotating systems. While all the stars in M64 rotate in the same direction as the interstellar gas in the galaxy’s central region, gas in the outer regions, extending to about 40,000 light-years, rotates in the opposite direction. The dusty eye and bizarre rotation is likely the result of a billion year old merger of two different galaxies.

Posted 1 year ago

Comet PANSTARRS and the Andromeda Galaxy 
Image Credit & Copyright: Pavel Smilyk

Explanation: Currently, comet PANSTARRS is passing nearly in front of the galaxy Andromeda. Coincidentally, both comet and galaxyappear now to be just about the same angular size. In physical size, even though Comet PANSTARRS is currently the largest object in theSolar System with a tail spanning about 15 times the diameter of the Sun, it is still about 70 billion times smaller than the Andromeda galaxy(M31). The above image was captured on March 30, near SyktyvkarRussia. As C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) on the lower left recedesfrom the Sun and dims, it is returning to the northerly direction whence it came. When the comet will return is currently unknown, althoughhumans may have merged with computers by then.

Posted 1 year ago

IC 4592: The Blue Horsehead Reflection Nebula 
Image Credit & Copyright: Scott Rosen

Explanation: Do you see the horse’s head? What you are seeing is not the famous Horsehead nebula toward Orion but rather a fainter nebula that only takes on a familiar form with deeper imaging. The main part of the above imaged molecular cloud complex is a reflection nebula cataloged as IC 4592. Reflection nebulas are actually made up of very fine dust that normally appears dark but can look quite blue when reflecting the light of energetic nearby stars. In this case, the source of much of the reflected light is a star at the eye of the horse. That star is part of Nu Scorpii, one of the brighter star systems toward the constellation of the Scorpion Scorpius. A second reflection nebuladubbed IC 4601 is visible surrounding two stars on the upper right of the image center.

Posted 1 year ago

The Broad Tail of PanSTARRS 
Image Credit & CopyrightLorenzo Comolli - Model Overlay: Marco Fulle (INAF)

Explanation: For northern hemisphere skygazers, fading Comet PanSTARRS (C/2011 L4) still hangs above the western horzion, after sunset but before moonrise in the coming days. Its perspective from planet Earth continues to reveal the comet’s broad dust tail. This long exposure tracking the comet, made on March 21, has been enhanced to show remarkable, subtle striations in PanSTARRS’ tail. Place your cursor over the image (or click here) to show an overlay of the dust tail with a model network of synchrones and syndynes. Synchrones (long dashed lines) trace the location of dust grains released from the comet nucleus at the same time and with zero velocity. The successive synchrone lines shown are separated by 1 day and start at the bottom, 10 days before the comet’s March 10 perihelion passage. Syndynes (solid lines) show the location of dust grains of the same size, also released with zero velocity. Dust grains 1 micron wide lie along the upper syndyne. The grain width increases counterclockwise to 500 micron wide grains along the syndyne nearly parallel to the comet’s orbit (short dashed line through the nucleus location). In the model, forces acting on the dust grains were assumed to be gravity and the pressure of sunlight. The periodic striations in PanSTARRS’ tail seem to closely follow the model synchrone lines.

Posted 1 year ago

Unraveling NGC 3169 
Image Credit & CopyrightAdam BlockMt. Lemmon SkyCenterUniversity of Arizona

Explanation: Bright spiral galaxy NGC 3169 appears to be unraveling in this cosmic scene, played out some 70 million light-years away just belowbright star Regulus toward the faint constellation Sextans. Its beautiful spiral arms are distorted into sweeping tidal tails as NGC 3169 (left) and neighboring NGC 3166 interact gravitationally, a common fate even for bright galaxies in the local universe. In fact, drawn out stellar arcs and plumes, indications of gravitational interactions, seem rampant in the deep and colorful galaxy group photo. The picture spans 20 arc minutes, or about 400,000 light-years at the group’s estimated distance, and includes smaller, dimmer NGC 3165 at the right. NGC 3169 is also known to shine across the spectrum from radio to X-rays, harboring an active galactic nucleus that is likely the site of a supermassive black hole.

Posted 1 year ago

Waterfalls, Auroras, Comet: Iceland 
Image Credit & Copyright: Stephane Vetter (Nuits sacrees)

Explanation: If not distracted by the picturesque landscape, waterfalls, stars, and auroras, you might be able to find Comet PANSTARRS. The above image, capturing multiple terrestrial and celestial wonders in a single shot, was taken last week in southwest Iceland. The popular Gullfoss waterfallsare pictured under brilliant auroras that followed a M1-class solar flare and powerful Coronal Mass Ejection two days earlier. Give up on locating the comet? Comet PANSTARRS is faintly visible as a light blip just above the horizon toward the left of the above image. The comet remains moredirectly visible to northern observers with binoculars looking toward the western sky just after sunset.