Best 50 Astronomy Pictures of Year 2008
Astronomy, seems a small word. But this is an word which contains the universe. It is so, I called it seems a small word in the first sentence. Astronomy is beautiful science, it is the thing which attracts everyone.
If you think about the solar system, galaxy to the UFO’s everything are very interesting. So, I culled these images to make a beautiful post of the beautiful science.
There are sites which releases many of the Images from the space every year, So it is difficult task to choose fifty Images from one year. But I had collected some of the Images which are best in year 2008.
Enjoy the images. Here I had inserted the original image link to provide high resolution images. Click on the images and get the high Resolution Images.
Rays from an Unexpected Aurora
Here is a Aurora which is surprising, possibly more surprising. In this image, It is captured from North Dakota, USA, a picket fence of green rays stretches toward the horizon.
M51: Cosmic Whirlpool
It is a larger Galaxy which names NGC 5195, It has spiral arms and dust. It is 31 million light-years away from here.
Young Star Cluster Westerlund 2
It is young star cluster Westerlund 2 which sorrounds Dusty stellar nursery RCW 49 in space beyond the visible light spectrum. It is available by the Infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. It is 2 million years old.
NGC 4676: When Mice Collide
In the image these two galaxies are pulling each other apart. They are near about to collide, in the space galaxies collide again ans again until they coalesce.
This image is taken by Hubble Telescope. Its name is NGC 4676, it is 300 million light-years away.
Dawn of the Large Hadron Collider
In the setup for the words largest experiment Europe’s CERN has built the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), It is a powerful particle accelerator developed by humans.
Mauna Kea Shadow Play
Here a remarkeble play of sun, moon and shadows may be seen. It is time of evening in one direction sun is setting and in other direction moon is rising.
M104 Hubble Remix
The striking spiral galaxy M104 is famous for its nearly edge-on profile featuring a broad ring of obscuring dust. Seen in silhouette against a bright bulge of stars, the swath of cosmic dust lanes lends a hat-like appearance to the galaxy in optical images suggesting the more popular moniker, The Sombrero Galaxy.
Here, Hubble Space Telescope archival image data has been reprocessed to create this alternative look at the well-known galaxy.
The newly developed processing improves the visibility of details otherwise lost in overwhelming glare, in this case allowing features of the galaxy’s dust lanes to be followed well into the bright central region.
About 50,000 light-years across and 28 million light-years away, M104 is one of the largest galaxies at the southern edge of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster.
Star Forming Region LH 95
How do stars form? To better understand this complex and chaotic process, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to image in unprecedented detail the star forming region LH 95 in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.
Usually only the brightest, bluest, most massive stars in a star forming region are visible, but the above image was taken in such high resolution and in such specific colors that many recently formed stars that are more yellow, more dim, and less massive are also discernable.
Also visible in the above scientifically colored image is a blue sheen of diffuse hydrogen gas heated by the young stars, and dark dust created by stars or during supernova explosions.
Studying the locations and abundances of lower mass stars in star forming regions and around molecular clouds helps uncover what conditions were present when they formed.
LH 95 spans about 150 light years and lies about 160,000 light years away toward the southern constellation of the Swordfish.
M78 and Reflecting Dust Clouds in Orion
An eerie blue glow and ominous columns of dark dust highlight M78 and other bright reflection nebula in the constellation of Orion.
The dark filamentary dust not only absorbs light, but also reflects the light of several bright blue stars that formed recently in the nebula. Of the two reflection nebulas pictured above, the more famous nebula is M78, on the upper right, while NGC 2071 can be seen to its lower left.
The same type of scattering that colors the daytime sky further enhances the blue color. M78 is about five light-years across and visible through a small telescope.
M78 appears above only as it was 1600 years ago, however, because that is how long it takes light to go from there to here. M78 belongs to the larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex that contains the Great Nebula in Orion and the Horsehead Nebula.
Phobos: Doomed Moon of Mars
This moon is doomed. Mars, the red planet named for the Roman god of war, has two tiny moons, Phobos and Deimos, whose names are derived from the Greek for Fear and Panic.
These martian moons may well be captured asteroids originating in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or perhaps from even more distant reaches of the Solar System. The larger moon, Phobos, is indeed seen to be a cratered, asteroid-like object in this stunning color image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, recorded at a resolution of about seven meters per pixel.
But Phobos orbits so close to Mars – about 5,800 kilometers above the surface compared to 400,000 kilometers for our Moon – that gravitational tidal forces are dragging it down. In 100 million years or so Phobos will likely be shattered by stress caused by the relentless tidal forces, the debris forming a decaying ring around Mars.
A Protected Night Sky Over Flagstaff
This sky is protected. On the day of NASA 50 year anniversary of the first lighting ordinance ever enacted, which restricted searchlight advertisements from sweeping the night skies above Flagstaff, Arizona, USA.
Flagstaff now enjoys the status of being the first International Dark Sky City, and maintains a lighting code that limits lights from polluting this majestic nighttime view. The current dark skies over Flagstaff not only enable local astronomers to decode the universe but allow local sky enthusiasts to see and enjoy a tapestry contemplated previously by every human generation.
The above image, pointing just east of north, was taken from Fort Valley, only 10 kilometers from central Flagstaff. Visible in the above spectacular panorama are the San Francisco Peaks caped by a lenticular cloud.
Far in the distance, the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy arcs diagonally from the lower left to the upper right, highlighted by the constellations of Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cygnus. On the far right, the North America Nebula is visible just under the very bright star Deneb.
Gripped by an astronomical spring fever, many northern hemisphere stargazers embark on a Messier Marathon.
Completing the marathon requires viewing all 110 objects in 18th century French astronomer Charles Messier’s catalog in one glorious dusk-to-dawn observing run.
Shaping NGC 6188
Dark shapes with bright edges winging their way through dusty NGC 6188 are tens of light-years long. The emission nebula is found near the edge of an otherwise dark large molecular cloud in the southern constellation Ara, about 4,000 light-years away.
Formed in that region only a few million years ago, the massive young stars of the embedded Ara OB1 association sculpt the fantastic shapes and power the nebular glow with stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation.
The recent star formation itself was likely triggered by winds and supernova explosions, from previous generations of massive stars, that swept up and compressed the molecular gas.
A false-color Hubble palette was used to create the this gorgeous wide-field image and shows emission from sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms in red, green, and blue hues.
At the estimated distance of NGC 6188, the picture spans about 300 light-years.
Galaxies Collide in NGC 3256
Galaxies don’t normally look like this. NGC 3256 actually shows a current picture of two galaxies that are slowly colliding. Quite possibly, in hundreds of millions of years, only one galaxy will remain. Today, however, NGC 3256 shows intricate filaments of dark dust, unusual tidal tails of stars, and a peculiar center that contains two distinct nuclei.
Although it is likely that no stars in the two galaxies will directly collide, the gas, dust, and ambient magnetic fields do interact directly. NGC 3256, part of the vast Hydra-Centaurus supercluster of galaxies, spans over 100 thousand light-years across and is located about 100 million light-years away.
The Dark Tower in Scorpius
In silhouette against a crowded star field toward the constellation Scorpius, this dusty cosmic cloud evokes for some the image of an ominous dark tower. In fact, clumps of dust and molecular gas collapsing to form stars may well lurk within the dark nebula, a structure that spans almost 40 light-years across the gorgeous telescopic view.
Known as a cometary globule, the swept-back cloud, extending from the upper right to the head (top of the tower) left and below center, is shaped by intense ultraviolet radiation from the OB association of very hot stars in NGC 6231, off the left edge of the scene.
That energetic ultraviolet light also powers the globule’s bordering reddish glow of hydrogen gas. Hot stars embedded in the dust can be seen as small bluish reflection nebulae. This dark tower, NGC 6231, and associated nebulae are about 5,000 light-years away.
Sideways Galaxy NGC 3628
Dark dust lanes cut across the middle of this gorgeous island universe, a strong hint that NGC 3628 is a spiral galaxy seen sideways.
About 35 million light-years away in the northern springtime constellation Leo, NGC 3628 also bears the distinction of being the only member of the well known Leo triplet of galaxies not in Charles Messier’s famous catalog.
Otherwise similar in size to our Milky Way Galaxy, the disk of NGC 3628 is clearly seen to fan out near the edges. A faint arm of material also extends to the left in this sharp and deep view of the region.
he distorted shape and faint tidal tail suggest that NGC 3628 is interacting gravitationally with the other spiral galaxies in the Leo triplet, M66 and M65.
On the Origin of Gold
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 recently suggested 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 above 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.
Inside the Coma Cluster of Galaxies
Almost every object in the above photograph is a galaxy. The Coma Cluster of Galaxies pictured above is one of the densest clusters known – it contains thousands of galaxies.
Each of these galaxies houses billions of stars – just as our own Milky Way Galaxy does. Although nearby when compared to most other clusters, light from the Coma Cluster still takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us.
In fact, the Coma Cluster is so big it takes light millions of years just to go from one side to the other! The above mosaic of images of a small portion of Coma was taken in unprecedented detail by the Hubble Space Telescope to investigate how galaxies in rich clusters form and evolve. Most galaxies in Coma and other clusters are ellipticals, although some imaged here are clearly spirals.
The spiral galaxy on the upper left of the above image can also be found as one of the bluer galaxies on the upper left of this wider field image. In the background thousands of unrelated galaxies are visible far across the universe.
Eta Carinae and the Homunculus Nebula
How did the star Eta Carinae create this unusual nebula? No one knows for sure. About 165 years ago, the southern star Eta Carinae mysteriously became the second brightest star in the night sky. In 20 years, after ejecting more mass than our Sun, Eta Car unexpectedly faded.
This outburst appears to have created the Homunculus Nebula, pictured above in a composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope taken last decade. Visible in the above image center is purple-tinted light reflected from the violent star Eta Carinae itself. Surrounding this star are expanding lobes of gas laced with filaments of dark dust.
Jets bisect the lobes emanating from the central star. Surrounding these lobes are red-tinted debris captured only by its glow in a narrow band of red light. This debris is expanding most quickly of all, and includes streaming whiskers and bow shocks caused by collisions with previously existing material.
Eta Car still undergoes unexpected outbursts, and its high mass and volatility make it a candidate to explode in a spectacular supernova sometime in the next few million years.
Pickering’s Triangle from Kitt Peak
Wisps like this are all that remain visible of a Milky Way star. About 7,500 years ago that star exploded in a supernova leaving the Veil Nebula, also known as the Cygnus Loop. At the time, the expanding cloud was likely as bright as a crescent Moon, remaining visible for weeks to people living at the dawn of recorded history.
Today, the resulting supernova remnant has faded and is now visible only through a small telescope directed toward the constellation of Cygnus.
The remaining Veil Nebula is physically huge, however, and even though it lies about 1,400 light-years distant, it covers over five times the size of the full Moon. In images of the complete Veil Nebula, studious readers should be able to identify the Pickering’s Triangle component pictured above, a component named for a famous astronomer and the wisp’s approximate shape.
The above image is a mosaic from the 4-meter Mayall telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory located in Arizona, USA.
SN 1006 Supernova Remnant
A new star, likely the brightest supernova in recorded human history, lit up planet Earth’s sky in the year 1006 AD. The expanding debris cloud from the stellar explosion, found in the southerly constellation of Lupus, still puts on a cosmic light show across the electromagnetic spectrum.
In fact, this composite view includes X-ray data in blue from the Chandra Observatory, optical data in yellowish hues, and radio image data in red. Now known as the SN 1006 supernova remnant, the debris cloud appears to be about 60 light-years across and is understood to represent the remains of a white dwarf star.
Part of a binary star system, the compact white dwarf gradually captured material from its companion star. The buildup in mass finally triggered a thermonuclear explosion that destroyed the dwarf star. Because the distance to the supernova remnant is about 7,000 light-years, that explosion actually happened 7,000 years before the light reached Earth in 1006.
Shockwaves in the remnant accelerate particles to extreme energies and are thought to be a source of the mysterious cosmic rays.
Gas and Dust of the Lagoon Nebula
This beautiful cosmic cloud is a popular stop on telescopic tours of the constellation Sagittarius. Eighteenth century cosmic tourist Charles Messier cataloged the bright nebula as M8, while modern day astronomers recognize the Lagoon Nebula as an active stellar nursery about 5,000 light-years distant, in the direction of the center of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Striking details can be traced through this remarkable picture, processed to remove stars and hence better reveal the Lagoon’s range of filaments of glowing hydrogen gas, dark dust clouds, and the bright, turbulent hourglass region near the image center. This color composite view was recorded under dark skies near Sydney, Australia.
IC 4406: A Seemingly Square Nebula
How can a round star make a square nebula? This conundrum comes to light when studying planetary nebulae like IC 4406.
Evidence indicates that IC 4406 is likely a hollow cylinder, with its square appearance the result of our vantage point in viewing the cylinder from the side. Were IC 4406 viewed from the top, it would likely look similar to the Ring Nebula. Hot gas flows out the ends of the cylinder, while filaments of dark dust and molecular gas lace the bounding walls.
The star primarily responsible for this interstellar sculpture can be found in the planetary nebula’s center. In a few million years, the only thing left visible in IC 4406 will be a fading white dwarf star.
Open Cluster NGC 290: A Stellar Jewel Box
Jewels don’t shine this bright — only stars do. Like gems in a jewel box, though, the stars of open cluster NGC 290 glitter in a beautiful display of brightness and color. The photogenic cluster, pictured above, was captured recently by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.
Open clusters of stars are younger, contain few stars, and contain a much higher fraction of blue stars than do globular clusters of stars. NGC 290 lies about 200,000 light-years distant in a neighboring galaxy called the Small Cloud of Magellan (SMC).
The open cluster contains hundreds of stars and spans about 65 light years across. NGC 290 and other open clusters are good laboratories for studying how stars of different masses evolve, since all the open cluster’s stars were born at about the same time.
X-Rays from the Cat’s Eye Nebula
Haunting patterns within planetary nebula NGC 6543 readily suggest its popular moniker — the Cat’s Eye nebula. Stunning false-color optical images from the Hubble Space Telescope detailed the swirls of this glowing nebula, known to be the gaseous shroud expelled from a dying sun-like star about 3,000 light-years from Earth.
This composite picture combines the latest Hubble optical image of the Cat’s Eye with new x-ray data from the orbiting Chandra Observatory and reveals surprisingly intense x-ray emission indicating the presence of extremely hot gas. X-ray emission is shown as blue-purple hues superimposed on the nebula’s center. The nebula’s central star itself is clearly immersed in the multimillion degree, x-ray emitting gas
Other pockets of x-ray hot gas seem to be bordered by cooler gas emitting strongly at optical wavelengths, a clear indication that expanding hot gas is sculpting the visible Cat’s Eye filaments and structures. Gazing into the Cat’s Eye, astronomers see the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution … in about 5 billion years.
At the Sun’s Edge
A train trip on the Trans-Siberian railway to Novosibirsk resulted in this stunning view along the edge of the Sun recorded during the August 1st total solar eclipse. The picture is a composite of two images taken at special moments in the eclipse sequence, corresponding to the very beginning and the very end of the total eclipse phase.
Those times are known to eclipse chasers as 2nd and 3rd contact. Bright beads around the Moon’s dark silhouette are rays of sunlight shining through lunar valleys at the edge of the lunar disk. But the composite view also captures solar prominences, looping structures of hot plasma suspended in magnetic fields, extending beyond the Sun’s edge.
The Crown of the Sun
During a total solar eclipse, the Sun’s extensive outer atmosphere, or corona, is an inspirational sight. The subtle shades and shimmering features of the corona that engage the eye span a brightness range of over 10,000 to 1, making them notoriously difficult to capture in a single picture.
But this composite of 28 digital images ranging in exposure time from 1/1000 to 2 seconds comes close to revealing the crown of the Sun in all its glory.
The telescopic views were recorded near Kochenevo, Russia during the August 1 total solar eclipse and also show solar prominences extending just beyond the edge of the eclipsed sun. Remarkably, features on the dark near side of the New Moon can also be made out, illuminated by sunlight reflected from a Full Earth.
Black Hole Candidate Cygnus X-1
Is that a black hole? Quite possibly. The Cygnus X-1 binary star system contains one of the best candidates for a black hole.
he system was discovered because it is one of the brightest X-ray sources on the sky, shining so bright it was detected by the earliest rockets carrying cameras capable of seeing the previously unknown X-ray sky. The star’s very name indicates that it is the single brightest X-ray source in the constellation of the Swan Cygnus.
Data indicate that a compact object there contains about nine times the mass of the Sun and changes its brightness continually on several time scales, at least down to milliseconds. Such behavior is expected for a black hole, and difficult to explain with other models. Pictured above is an artistic impression of the Cygnus X-1 system.
On the left is the bright blue supergiant star designated HDE 226868, which is estimated as having about 30 times the mass of our Sun. Cygnus X-1 is depicted on the right, connected to its supergiant companion by a stream of gas, and surrounded by an impressive accretion disk.
The bright star in the Cygnus X-1 system is visible with a small telescope. Strangely, the Cygnus X-1 black hole candidate appears to have formed without a bright supernova explosion.
NGC 6888: The Crescent Nebula
NGC 6888, also known as the Crescent Nebula, is a cosmic bubble about 25 light-years across, blown by winds from its central, bright, massive star. This beautiful telescopic view combines a composite color image with narrow band data that isolates light from hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the wind-blown nebula.
The oxygen atoms produce the blue-green hue that seems to enshroud the detailed folds and filaments. NGC 6888′s central star is classified as a Wolf-Rayet star (WR 136). The star is shedding its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind, ejecting the equivalent of the Sun’s mass every 10,000 years.
The nebula’s complex structures are likely the result of this strong wind interacting with material ejected in an earlier phase. Burning fuel at a prodigious rate and near the end of its stellar life this star should ultimately go out with a bang in a spectacular supernova explosion. Found in the nebula rich constellation Cygnus, NGC 6888 is about 5,000 light-years away.
Perseid over Vancouver
Colorful and bright, the city lights of Vancouver, Canada are reflected in the water in this portrait of the world at night. Recorded on August 12 during the Perseid Meteor Shower, the wide-angle view takes in a large swath along the photographer’s eastern horizon.
The picture is a composite of many consecutive 2 second exposures that, when added together, cover a total time of an hour and 33 minutes. During that time, stars trailed through the night sky above Vancouver, their steady motion along concentric arcs a reflection of planet Earth’s rotation.
The dotted trails of aircraft also cut across the scene. Of course, two of the frames captured the brief, brilliant flash of a Perseid fireball as it tracked across the top of the field of view. The large gap in the single meteor trail corresponds to the time gap between the consecutive frames.
Baily’s Beads near Solar Eclipse Totality
Just before the Sun blacks out, something strange occurs. As the Moon moves to completely cover the Sun in a total solar eclipse, beads of bright sunlight stream around the edge of the Moon. This effect, known as Baily’s beads, is named after Francis Baily who called attention to the phenomenon in 1836.
Although, the number and brightness of Baily’s beads used to be unpredictable, today the Moon is so well mapped that general features regarding Baily’s beads are expected. When a single bead dominates, it is called the diamond ring effect, and is typically seen just before totality.
Pictured above, a series of images recorded Baily’s beads at times surrounding the recent total solar eclipse visible from Novosibirsk, Russia. The complete series can be seen by scrolling right. At the end of totality, as the Sun again emerges from behind the moon, Baily’s beads may again be visible — but now on the other side of the Moon.
NGC 6960: The Witch’s Broom Nebula
Ten thousand years ago, before the dawn of recorded human history, a new light must suddenly have appeared in the night sky and faded after a few weeks. Today we know this light was an exploding star and record the colorful expanding cloud as the Veil Nebula.
Pictured above is the west end of the Veil Nebula known technically as NGC 6960 but less formally as the Witch’s Broom Nebula. The expanding debris cloud gains its colors by sweeping up and exciting existing nearby gas.
The supernova remnant lies about 1400 light-years away towards the constellation of Cygnus. This Witch’s Broom actually spans over three times the angular size of the full Moon. The bright star 52 Cygni is visible with the unaided eye from a dark location but unrelated to the ancient supernova.
The Matter of the Bullet Cluster
The matter in galaxy cluster 1E 0657-56, fondly known as the “bullet cluster”, is shown in this composite image. A mere 3.4 billion light-years away, the bullet cluster’s individual galaxies are seen in the optical image data, but their total mass adds up to far less than the mass of the cluster’s two clouds of hot x-ray emitting gas shown in red.
Representing even more mass than the optical galaxies and x-ray gas combined, the blue hues show the distribution of dark matter in the cluster.
Otherwise invisible to telescopic views, the dark matter was mapped by observations of gravitational lensing of background galaxies. In a text book example of a shock front, the bullet-shaped cloud of gas at the right was distorted during the titanic collision between two galaxy clusters that created the larger bullet cluster itself. But the dark matter present has not interacted with the cluster gas except by gravity.
The clear separation of dark matter and gas clouds is considered direct evidence that dark matter exists.
47 Tuc: A Great Globular Cluster of Stars
Stars come in bunches. Of the over 200 globular star clusters that orbit the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, 47 Tucanae is the second brightest globular cluster (behind Omega Centauri). Light takes about 13,000 years to reach us from 47 Tuc which can be seen on the sky near the Small Magellanic Cloud in the southern constellation of Tucana.
Also known as NGC 104, the dense cluster is made up of several million stars in a volume only about 120 light-years across. The cluster’s red giant stars are particularly easy to see in this picture. The globular cluster is also home to exotic x-ray binary star systems.
NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide
Astronomers turn detectives when trying to figure out the cause of startling sights like NGC 1316. Their investigation indicates that NGC 1316 is an enormous elliptical galaxy that started, about 100 million years ago, to devour a smaller spiral galaxy neighbor, NGC 1317, just above it.
Supporting evidence includes the dark dust lanes characteristic of a spiral galaxy, and faint swirls of stars and gas visible in this wide and deep image. What remains unexplained are the unusually small globular star clusters, seen as faint dots on the image. Most elliptical galaxies have more and brighter globular clusters than NGC 1316.
Yet the observed globulars are too old to have been created by the recent spiral collision. One hypothesis is that these globulars survive from an even earlier galaxy that was subsumed into NGC 1316.
Spokes in the Helix Nebula
At first glance, the Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293), looks simple and round. But this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, produced near the end of the life of a sun-like star, is now understood to have a surprisingly complex geometry. Its extended loops and comet-shaped features have been explored in Hubble Space Telescope images.
Still, a 16-inch diameter telescope and camera with broad and narrow band filters was used to create this sharp view of the Helix. The color composite also reveals the nebula’s intriguing details, including light-year long, bluegreen radial stripes or spokes that give it the appearance of a cosmic bicycle wheel.
The spoke features seem to indicate that the Helix Nebula is itself an old and evolved planetary nebula. The Helix is a mere seven hundred light years from Earth, in the constellation Aquarius.
A Flock of Stars
Only a few stars can be found within ten light-years of our lonely Sun, situated near an outer spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. But if the Sun were found within one of our galaxy’s star clusters, thousands of stars might occupy a similar space.
What would the night sky look like in such a densely packed stellar neighborhood? When Roger Hopkins took this picture at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in the Finger Lakes region of western New York, USA, he was struck by this same notion.
Appropriately, he had photographed a flock of starlings against the backdrop of a serene sunset. He then manipulated the image so that the black bird silhouettes were changed to white. The final picture dramatically suggests the tantalizing spectacle of approaching night in crowded skies above a cluster star world.
M110: Satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy
Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 25 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies.
Pictured on the lower right is one of the dwarf ellipticals: NGC 205. Like M32, NGC 205 is a companion to the large M31, and can sometimes be seen to the south of M31′s center in photographs. The image shows NGC 205 to be unusual for an elliptical galaxy in that it contains at least two dust clouds (at 9 and 2 o’clock – they are visible but hard to spot) and signs of recent star formation.
This galaxy is sometimes known as M110, although it was actually not part of Messier’s original catalog.
SN 1006: A Supernova Ribbon from Hubble
What created this unusual space ribbon? Most assuredly, one of the most violent explosions ever witnessed by ancient humans.
ack in the year 1006 AD, light reached Earth from a stellar explosion in the constellation of the Wolf (Lupus), creating a “guest star” in the sky that appeared brighter than Venus and lasted for over two years. The supernova, now cataloged at SN 1006, occurred about 7,000 light years away and has left a large remnant that continues to expand and fade today.
Pictured above is a small part of that expanding supernova remnant dominated by a thin and outwardly moving shock front that heats and ionizes surrounding ambient gas.
SN 1006 now has a diameter of nearly 60 light years. Within the past year, an even more powerful explosion occurred far across the universe that was visible to modern humans, without any optical aid, for a few seconds.
W5: Pillars of Star Creation
How do stars form? A study of star forming region W5 by the sun-orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope provides clear clues by recording that massive stars near the center of empty cavities are older than stars near the edges. A likely reason for this is that the older stars in the center are actually triggering the formation of the younger edge stars.
The triggered star formation occurs when hot outflowing gas compresses cooler gas into knots dense enough to gravitationally contract into stars. Spectacular pillars, left slowly evaporating from the hot outflowing gas, provide further visual clues.
In the above scientifically-colored infrared image, red indicates heated dust, while white and green indicate particularly dense gas clouds. W5 is also known as IC 1848, and together with IC 1805 form a complex region of star formation popularly dubbed the Heart and Soul Nebulas.
The above image highlights a part of W5 spanning about 2,000 light years that is rich in star forming pillars. W5 lies about 6,500 light years away toward the constellation of Cassiopeia.
MACSJ0025: Two Giant Galaxy Clusters Collide
What happens when two of the largest objects in the universe collide? No one was quite sure, but the answer is giving clues to the nature of mysterious dark matter.
In the case of MACSJ0025.4-1222, two huge clusters of galaxies have been found slowly colliding over hundreds of millions of years, and the result has been imaged by both the Hubble Space Telescope in visible light and the Chandra Space Telescope in X-ray light.
Once the above visible image was recorded, the location and gravitational lens distortions of more distant galaxies by the newly combined galaxy cluster allowed astronomers to computationally determine what happened to the clusters’ dark matter.
The result indicates that this huge collision has caused the dark matter in the clusters to become partly separated from the normal matter, confirming earlier speculation. In the above combined image, dark matter is shown as the diffuse purple hue, while a smoothed depiction of the X-ray hot normal matter is shown in pink.
MACSJ0025 contains hundreds of galaxies, spans about three million light years, and lies nearly six billion light years away (redshift 0.59) toward the constellation of Monster Whale (Cetus).
The Case of the Very Dusty Binary Star
For astronomers, close binary star system BD+20 307 originally stood out because it is extremely dusty. A substantial amount of warm dust surrounding it causes the system to appear exceptionally bright at infrared wavelengths. Of course, dust associated with planet formation is often detected around young stars, stars only a few million years old.
But the BD+20 307 system has now been found to be at least a few billion years old, an age comparable to the age of our own Solar System. The large amount of warm dust is likely the debris from a relatively recent collision of planet-sized objects on the scale of, say, Earth and Venus, in the BD+20 307 system.
Reminiscent of the classic scifi novel When Worlds Collide, the dramatic illustration offers a depiction of the catastrophic event. Ironically, this indirect evidence of a destructive planetary collision could also be the first indication that planetary systems can form around close binary stars. BD+20 307 is about 300 light-years distant toward the headstrong constellation Aries.
A True Image from False Kiva
Is there any place in the world you could see a sight like this? Yes! This digital mosaic shows the night sky as seen from False Kiva in Canyonlands National Park, eastern Utah, USA. Diving into the Earth far in the distance is part of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Much closer, the planet Jupiter is visible as the bright point just to band’s left. Closer still are the park’s picturesque buttes and mesas lit by a crescent moon.
In the foreground is the cave housing a stone circle of unknown origin named False Kiva. The cave itself was briefly lit by flashlight during the exposure. Astrophotographer Wally Pacholka reports that getting to the cave was no easy trek. Also, mountain lions were a concern while waiting alone in the dark to record the mosaic.
Young Suns of NGC 7129
Young suns still lie within dusty NGC 7129, some 3,000 light-years away toward the royal constellation Cepheus. While these stars are at a relatively tender age, only about a million years old, it is likely that our own Sun formed in a similar stellar nursery some five billion years ago.
Most noticeable in the striking image are the lovely bluish dust clouds that reflect the youthful starlight, but the smaller, deep red crescent shapes are also markers of energetic, young stellar objects. Known as Herbig-Haro objects, their shape and color is characteristic of glowing hydrogen gas shocked by jets streaming away from newborn stars.
Ultimately the natal gas and dust in the region will be dispersed, the stars drifting apart as the loose cluster orbits the center of the Galaxy. At the estimated distance of NGC 7129, this telescopic view spans about 40 light-years.
Irregular Galaxy NGC 55
Irregular galaxy NGC 55 is thought to be similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). But while the LMC is about 180,000 light-years away and is a well known satellite of our own Milky Way Galaxy, NGC 55 is more like 6 million light-years distant and is a member of the Sculptor Galaxy Group. Classified as an irregular galaxy, in deep exposures the LMC itself resembles a barred disk galaxy.
However, spanning about 50,000 light-years, NGC 55 is seen nearly edge-on, presenting a flattened, narrow profile in contrast with our face-on view of the LMC. Just as large star forming regions create emission nebulae in the LMC, NGC 55 is also seen to be producing new stars.
This gorgeous galaxy portrait highlights a bright core, telltale pinkish emission regions, and young blue star clusters in NGC 55.
A Dark Pulsar in CTA 1
Where’s the pulsar? Previously, the nebula CTA 1 showed an expanding supernova remnant, a jet, and a point source expected to be a pulsar — a rotating neutron star producing pulses at radio energies. But no radio pulses were detected.
Now NASA’s recently deployed Fermi Space Telescope has solved the mystery with some of its initial observations indicating that the point source is pulsing at gamma-ray energies. The strange source is the first of a class that might be dubbed “dark pulsars”, rotating neutron stars that appear to pulse only in high-energy radiations.
Such pulsars might not be detectable in radio or visible light if they emit those radiations into a narrow beam not seen from Earth.
If true, our Galaxy might have more pulsars left for Fermi to discover. Studying the gamma-ray properties of pulsars gives valuable clues to physics of the emission regions on neutron stars. In this graphic, the pulsar’s position is indicated in the wider CTA 1 supernova remnant. An artist’s illustration of the pulsar beaming at gamma-ray energies is shown in the inset.
Great Orion Nebulae
The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulae in the sky. The star forming region’s glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are on the right in this sharp and colorful two frame mosaic that includes the smaller nebula M43 near center and dusty, bluish reflection nebulae NGC 1977 and friends on the left.
Located at the edge of an otherwise invisible giant molecular cloud complex, these eye-catching nebulae represent only a small fraction of this galactic neighborhood’s wealth of interstellar material.
Within the well-studied stellar nursery, astronomers have also identified what appear to be numerous infant solar systems. The gorgeous skyscape spans nearly two degrees or about 45 light-years at the Orion Nebula’s estimated distance of 1,500 light-years.
Haunting the Cepheus Flare
Spooky shapes seem to haunt this starry expanse, drifting through the night in the royal constellation Cepheus.
Of course, the shapes are cosmic dust clouds faintly visible in dimly reflected starlight. Far from your own neighborhood on planet Earth, they lurk at the edge of the Cepheus Flare molecular cloud complex some 1,200 light-years away. Over 2 light-years across and brighter than the other ghostly apparitions, the nebula known as Sh2-136 near the center of the field is even seen in infrared light.
Also cataloged as Bok globule CB230, the core of that cloud is collapsing and is likely a binary star system in the early stages of formation.
A Spectre in the Eastern Veil
Menacing flying forms and garish colors are a mark of the Halloween season. They also stand out in this cosmic close-up of the eastern Veil Nebula.
The Veil Nebula itself is a large supernova remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. While the Veil is roughly circular in shape covering nearly 3 degrees on the sky in the constellation Cygnus, this portion of the eastern Veil spans only 1/2 degree, about the apparent size of the Moon. That translates to 12 light-years at the Veil’s estimated distance of 1,400 light-years from planet Earth.
In this composite of image data recorded through narrow band filters, emission from hydrogen atoms in the remnant is shown in red with strong emission from oxygen atoms in greenish hues. In the western part of the Veil lies another seasonal apparition, the Witch’s Broom.
On the Trail of 2008 TC3
On October 7, the early dawn over northern Sudan revealed this twisted, high altitude trail. Captured in a video frame, the long-lasting persistent train is from the impact of a small asteroid cataloged as 2008 TC3.
That event was remarkable because it was the first time an asteroid was detected in space before crashing into planet Earth’s atmosphere. In fact, after astronomers discovered 2008 TC3, the time and location of its impact were predicted based on follow-up observations.
Later, the impact predictions were confirmed by sensors, including a Meteosat-8 image of a bright flash in the atmosphere. Astronomers are now hoping for more reports of local ground-based observations of what must have been a brilliant meteor streaking through Sudan’s night sky. Additional reports could improve the chances of recovering meteorites.
Image/Information Credit : APOD : Astronomy Picure Of Day (NASA)