Space Observatories

Activity from a supermassive black hole is responsible for the intriguing appearance of this galaxy, 3C305, located about 600 million light years away from Earth. The structures in red and light blue are X-ray and optical images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope respectively. The optical data is from oxygen emission only, and therefore the full extent of the galaxy is not seen. Radio data are shown in darker blue and are from the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array in New Mexico, as well as the Multi-Element Radio-Linked Interferometer Network in the United Kingdom.

Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/CfA/F.Massaro, et al.); Optical (NASA/STScI/C.P.O'Dea); Radio (NSF/VLA/CfA/F.Massaro, et al.)
 
 
3C305: An Intriguing Glowing Galaxy
The Hubble community bids farewell to the soon-to-be decommissioned Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) onboard the Hubble Space Telescope. In tribute to Hubble's longest-running optical camera, a planetary nebula has been imaged as WFPC2's final
 
 
Planetary Nebula K 4-55
This latest image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is of the spiral galaxy, NGC 2841. Located about 46 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Ursa Major, this spectacular galaxy is helping astronomers solve one of the oldest puzzles in astronomy: Why do galaxies look so smooth, with stars sprinkled evenly throughout? An international team of astronomers has discovered that rivers of young stars flow from their hot, dense stellar nurseries, dispersing out to form the large, smooth distribution that we see in spiral galaxies like this one.

This image is a composite of three different wavelengths from Spitzer's infrared array camera . The shortest wavelengths are displayed in blue, and mostly show the older stars in NGC 2841, as well as foreground stars in our own Milky Way galaxy. The cooler areas are highlighted in red, and show the dusty, gaseous regions of the galaxy. Blue shows infrared light of 3.6 microns, green represents 4.5-micron light and red, 8.0-micron light. The contribution from starlight measured at 3.6 microns has been subtracted from the 8.0-micron image to enhance the visibility of the dust features.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
 
 
Why Are Galaxies So Smooth?
The image shows a map of the recent star formation history of M33. The bright blue and white areas are where star formation has been extremely active over the past few million years. The patches of yellow and gold are regions where star formation was more active 100 million years ago. In addition, the ultraviolet image shows the most massive young stars in M33. These stars burn their large supply of hydrogen fuel quickly, burning hot and bright while emitting most of their energy at ultraviolet wavelengths. Compared with low-mass stars like our sun, which live for billions of years, these massive stars never reach old age, having a lifespan as short as a few million years. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
 
 
M33
This brilliant image, courtesy of NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a fitting 19th anniversary tribute to the workhorse space observatory.

This interacting group contains several galaxies, along with a
 
 
Hubble celebrates 19th anniversary with fountain of youth
This composite image shows the massive galaxy cluster MACSJ0717.5+3745 (MACSJ0717, for short), where four separate galaxy clusters have been involved in a collision, the first time such a phenomenon has been documented. Hot gas is shown in an image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and galaxies are shown in an optical image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The hot gas is color-coded to show temperature, similar to a temperature map of the Earth given in a weather forecast. In MACSJ0717 the coolest gas is shown as reddish purple, the hottest gas is blue and the temperatures in between are purple.

The repeated collisions in MACSJ0717 are caused by a 13-million-light-year-long stream of galaxies, gas, and dark matter - known as a filament -- pouring into a region already full of matter. A collision between gas in two or more clusters causes the hot gas to slow down. However, the galaxies, which are mainly empty space, do not slow down as much and so they move ahead of the gas. Therefore, the speed and direction of each cluster's motion -- perpendicular to the line of sight -- can be estimated by studying the offset between the average position of the galaxies and the peak in the hot gas.

Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/IfA/C. Ma et al.); Optical (NASA/STScI/IfA/C. Ma et al.)
 
 
MACSJ0717.5+3745: Cosmic Heavyweights in Free-For-All
To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, and as part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy cornerstone project, ESA is releasing this magnificent image of the starburst galaxy Messier 82 (M82) obtained with the XMM-Newton observatory. The image shows bright knots in the plane of the galaxy, indicating a region of intense star formation, and emerging plumes of supergalactic winds glowing in X-rays.

Credit: ESA
 
 
XMM-Newton observations of Messier 82
The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of NGC 7049 in the constellation of Indus, in the southern sky. A family of globular clusters appears as glittering spots dusted around the galaxy halo. Astronomers study the globular clusters in NGC 7049 to learn more about its formation and evolution. The dust lanes, which appear as a lacy web, are dramatically backlit by the millions of stars in the halo of NGC 7049.

Credit: NASA, ESA and W. Harris (McMaster University, Ontario, Canada)
 
 
Dramatically backlit dust lanes in NGC 7049
In this image of NGC 3242 from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, the extended region around the planetary nebula is shown in dramatic detail. The small circular white and blue area at the center of the image is the well-known portion of the famous planetary nebula. The precise origin and composition of the extended wispy white features is not known for certain. It is most likely material ejected during the star's red-giant phase before the white dwarf was exposed. However, it may be possible that the extended material is simply interstellar gas that, by coincidence, is located close enough to the white dwarf to be energized by it, and induced to glow with ultraviolet light. NGC 3242 is located 1,400 to 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Hydra.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
 
 
The Extended Region Around the Planetary Nebula NGC 3242
One of our closest galactic neighbors shows its awesome beauty in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. M33, also known as the Triangulum Galaxy, is a member of what's known as our Local Group of galaxies. Along with our own Milky Way, this group travels together in the universe, as they are gravitationally bound. In fact, M33 is one of the few galaxies that is moving toward the Milky Way despite the fact that space itself is expanding, causing most galaxies in the universe to grow farther and farther apart.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz.
 
 
M33: A Close Neighbor Reveals its True Size and Splendor
A small, dense object only twelve miles in diameter is responsible for this beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years. At the center of this image made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short. The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand. In this image, the lowest energy X-rays that Chandra detects are red, the medium range is green, and the most energetic ones are colored blue. Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1700 years old and is located about 17,000 light years away.

Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/P.Slane, et al.
 
 
PSR B1509-58: A Young Pulsar Shows its Hand
On April 1-2, the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the winning target in the Space Telescope Science Institute's
 
 
Hubble Celebrates the International Year of Astronomy with the Galaxy Triplet Arp 274
On 24 February 2009, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured a photo sequence of four moons of Saturn passing in front of their parent planet. The moons, from far left to right, are the white icy moons Enceladus and Dione, the large orange moon Titan, and icy Mimas. Due to the angle of the Sun, they are each preceded by their own shadow.

Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
 
 
Four Saturn's moons parade by their parent
This image of a pair of colliding galaxies called NGC 6240 shows them in a rare, short-lived phase of their evolution just before they merge into a single, larger galaxy. The prolonged, violent collision has drastically altered the appearance of both galaxies and created huge amounts of heat -turning NGC 6240 into an
 
 
Tangled Galaxies
These four dwarf galaxies are part of a census of small galaxies in the tumultuous heart of the nearby Perseus galaxy cluster.

The galaxies appear smooth and symmetrical, suggesting that they have not been tidally disrupted by the pull of gravity in the dense cluster environment. Larger galaxies around them, however, are being ripped apart by the gravitational tug of other galaxies.

The images, taken by Hubble Space Telescope, are evidence that the undisturbed galaxies are enshrouded by a
 
 
Small Galaxies Yield Clues About Dark Matter
This composite image of the Medusa galaxy (also known as NGC 4194) shows X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue and optical light from the Hubble Space Telescope in orange. Located above the center of the galaxy and seen in the optical data, the
 
 
NGC 4194: A Black Hole in Medusa's Hair
The three pictured galaxies -- NGC 7173 (middle left), NCG 7174 (middle right) and NGC 7176 (lower right) -- are part of the Hickson Compact Group 90, named after astronomer Paul Hickson, who first catalogued these small clusters of galaxies in the 1980s. NGC 7173 and NGC 7176 appear to be smooth, normal elliptical galaxies without much gas and dust. In stark contrast, NGC 7174 is a mangled spiral galaxy, barely clinging to independent existence as it is ripped apart by its close neighbours. The strong tidal interaction surging through the galaxies has dragged a significant number of stars away from their home galaxies. These stars are now spread out, forming a tenuous luminous component in the galaxy group. Credit: NASA, ESA and R. Sharples (University of Durham, U.K.)
 
 
Trio of galaxies mixes it up
This composite image of the Tycho supernova remnant combines X-ray and infrared observations obtained with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope, respectively, and the Calar Alto observatory, Spain. It shows the scene more than four centuries after the brilliant star explosion witnessed by Tycho Brahe and other astronomers of that era.

The explosion has left a blazing hot cloud of expanding debris (green and yellow) visible in X-rays. The location of ultra-energetic electrons in the blast's outer shock wave can also be seen in X-rays (the circular blue line). Newly synthesized dust in the ejected material and heated pre-existing dust from the area around the supernova radiate at infrared wavelengths of 24 microns (red). Foreground and background stars in the image are white.

Oliver Krause, from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, recently studied reflected light from the supernova explosion seen by Brahe. Use of these
 
 
A new view of Tycho's supernova remnant
Very deep Hubble Space Telescope imaging of NGC 4921 with annotation to indictate the locations of some of the more interesting features of the galaxy and its surroundings.

Credit: NASA, ESA and K. Cook (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA)
 
 
Annotated View of NGC 4921
This very deep image taken with the Hubble Space Telescope shows the spiral galaxy NGC 4921 along with a spectacular backdrop of more distant galaxies. It was created from a total of 80 separate pictures through yellow and near-infrared filters.

Credit: NASA, ESA and K. Cook (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA)
 
 
Unusual Spiral NGC 4921 in the Coma Galaxy Cluster
This image of Centaurus A shows a spectacular new view of a supermassive black hole's power. Jets and lobes powered by the central black hole in this nearby galaxy are shown by submillimeter data (colored orange) from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile and X-ray data (colored blue) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Visible light data from the Wide Field Imager on the Max-Planck/ESO 2.2 m telescope, also located in Chile, shows the dust lane in the galaxy and background stars. The X-ray jet in the upper left extends for about 13,000 light years away from the black hole. The APEX data shows that material in the jet is travelling at about half the speed of light.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.; Submillimeter: MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al.; Optical: ESO/WFI
 
 
Black Hole Outflows From Centaurus A
On the western (right) side of NGC 604, the amount of hot gas found in the bubbles corresponds to about 4300 times the mass of the sun. This value and the brightness of the gas in X-rays imply that the western part of NGC 604 is entirely powered by winds from the 200 hot massive stars. The implication is that in this area of NGC 604, none or very few of the massive stars must have exploded as supernovas. The situation is different on the eastern (left) side of NGC 604. On this side, the X-ray gas contains 1750 times the mass of the sun and winds from young stars cannot explain the brightness of the X-ray emission. The bubbles on this side of the cluster appear to be much older and were likely created and powered by young stars and supernovas in the past.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R. Tuellmann et al.; Optical: NASA/AURA/STScI
 
 
NGC 604: Wall Divides East and West Sides of Cosmic Metropolis
The unique planetary nebula NGC 2818 is nested inside the open star cluster NGC 2818A. Both the cluster and the nebula reside over 10,000 light-years away, in the southern constellation Pyxis (the Compass).

This Hubble image was taken in November 2008 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The colors in the image represent a range of emissions coming from the clouds of the nebula: red represents nitrogen, green represents hydrogen, and blue represents oxygen.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
 
 
Hubble Snaps Images of a Nebula Within a Cluster
Resembling comets streaking across the sky, these four speedy stars are plowing through regions of dense interstellar gas and creating brilliant arrowhead structures and trailing tails of glowing gas.

These bright arrowheads, or bow shocks, can be seen in these four images taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The bow shocks form when the stars' powerful stellar winds, streams of matter flowing from the stars, slam into surrounding dense gas. The phenomenon is similar to that seen when a speeding boat pushes through water on a lake.

The stars in these images are among 14 runaway stars spotted by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The stars appear to be young, just millions of years old. Their ages are based on their colors and the presence of strong stellar winds, a signature of youthful stars.

Depending on their distance from Earth, the bullet-nosed bow shocks could be 100 billion to a trillion miles wide (the equivalent of 17 to 170 solar system diameters, measured out to Neptune's orbit). The bow shocks indicate that the stars are moving fast, more than 112,000 miles an hour (more than 180,000 kilometers an hour) with respect to the dense gas they are plowing through. They are traveling roughly five times faster than typical young stars, relative to their surroundings.

The high-speed stars have traveled far from their birth places. Assuming their youthful phase lasts only a million years and they are moving at roughly 112,000 miles an hour, the stars have journeyed 160 light-years.

The Hubble observations were taken between October 2005 and July 2006.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
 
 
Stellar Interlopers Caught Speeding Through Space
This pair of NASA Hubble Space Telescope pictures shows the appearance of a mysterious burst of light that was detected on February 21, 2006, brightened over 100 days, and then faded into oblivion after another 100 days. The source of the outburst remains unidentified.

The event was detected serendipitously in a Hubble search for supernovae in a distant cluster of galaxies. The light-signature of this event does not match the behavior of a supernova or any previously observed astronomical transient phenomenon in the universe.

Astronomers do not know the object's distance, so it can either be in our Milky Way galaxy or at a great astronomical distance. The optical spectrum of the object contains absorption features that have not yet been identified. This may represent a previously undetected class of transient phenomenon in the universe.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and K. Barbary (University of California, Berkeley/Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Supernova Cosmology Project)
 
 
Optical Transient SCP 06F6
This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a new population of massive stars and new details in complex structures in the hot ionized gas swirling around the central 300 light-years. This sweeping panorama is the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the Galactic core.

It offers a nearby laboratory for how massive stars form and influence their environment in the often violent nuclear regions of other galaxies. This view combines the sharp imaging of the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with color imagery from a previous Spitzer Space Telescope survey done with its Infrared Astronomy Camera (IRAC).

The Galactic core is obscured in visible light by intervening dust clouds, but infrared light penetrates the dust. The spatial resolution of NICMOS corresponds to 0.025 light-years at the distance of the galactic core of 26,000 light-years. Hubble reveals details in objects as small as 20 times the size of our own solar system. The NICMOS images were taken between February 22 and June 5, 2008.

Credit: Hubble image: NASA, ESA, and Q.D. Wang (University of Massachusetts, Amherst); Spitzer image: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and S. Stolovy (Spitzer Science Center/Caltech)
 
 
Hubble-Spitzer Color Mosaic of the Galactic Center
Hubble Space Telescope has caught Jupiter's moon Ganymede playing a game of
 
 
Hubble Catches Jupiter's Largest Moon Going to the 'Dark Side'
This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the nasty effects of living near a group of massive stars: radiation and winds from the massive stars (white spot in center) are blasting planet-making material away from stars like our sun. The planetary material can be seen as comet-like tails behind three stars near the center of the picture. The tails are pointing away from the massive stellar furnaces that are blowing them outward.

This image shows a portion of the W5 star-forming region, located 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. It is a composite of infrared data from Spitzer's infrared array camera and multiband imaging photometer. Light with a wavelength of 3.5 microns is blue, while light from the dust of 24 microns is orange-red.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA
 
 
Devastated Stellar Neighborhood
Found in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, 30 Doradus is one of the largest massive star forming regions close to the Milky Way.

This latest X-ray image of 30 Doradus represents almost 114,000 seconds, or 31 hours, of Chandra observing time - three times longer than previously recorded. In this image, red represents the lower range of X-rays that Chandra detects, the medium range is green, while the highest-energy X-rays are blue.

Credit: NASA/CXC/Penn State/L.Townsley, et al.
 
 
Drama In The Heart Of The Tarantula
Spitzer Space Telescope has captured a new, infrared view of the choppy star-making cloud called M17, also known as Omega Nebula or the Swan nebula.

The cloud, located about 6,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius, is dominated by a central group of massive stars -- the most massive stars in the region (see yellow circle). These central stars give off intense flows of expanding gas, which rush like rivers against dense piles of material, carving out the deep pocket at center of the picture. Winds from the region's other massive stars push back against these oncoming rivers, creating bow shocks like those that pile up in front of speeding boats.

Three of these bow shocks are labeled in the magnified inset. They are composed of compressed gas in addition to dust that glows at infrared wavelengths Spitzer can see. The smiley-shaped bow shocks curve away from the stellar winds of the central massive stars.

This picture was taken with Spitzer's infrared array camera. It is a four-color composite, in which light with a wavelength of 3.6 microns is blue; 4.5-micron light is green; 5.8-micron light is orange; and 8-micron light is red. Dust is red, hot gas is green and white is where gas and dust intermingle. Foreground and background stars appear scattered through the image.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Wisc.
 
 
Celestial Sea of Stars
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