Object Name: Antennae Galaxies Image Type: Astronomical…

Object Name: Antennae Galaxies

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: NASA/ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team

Acknowledgement: J. Whitmore (STSI) and James Long (ESA/HST)

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Barred spiral galaxy NGC 2903 is only some 20 million…

Barred spiral galaxy NGC 2903 is only some 20 million light-years distant. Popular among amateur astronomers, it shines in the northern spring constellation Leo, near the top of the lion’s head. That part of the constellation is sometimes seen as a reversed question mark or sickle. One of the brighter galaxies visible from the northern hemisphere, NGC 2903 is surprisingly missing from Charles Messier’s catalog of lustrous celestial sights. This colorful image from a small ground-based telescope shows off the galaxy’s gorgeous spiral arms traced by young, blue star clusters and pinkish star forming regions. Included are intriguing details of NGC 2903’s bright core, a remarkable mix of old and young clusters with immense dust and gas clouds. In fact, NGC 2903 exhibits an exceptional rate of star formation activity near its center, also bright in radio, infrared, ultraviolet, and x-ray bands. Just a little smaller than our own Milky Way, NGC 2903 is about 80,000 light-years across.

Object Names: NGC 2903

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Tony Hallas

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What causes the structure in Comet Lovejoy’s tail? As the name…

What causes the structure in Comet Lovejoy’s tail? As the name implies, the ion tail is made of ionized gas – gas energized by ultraviolet light from the Sun and pushed outward by the solar wind. The solar wind is quite structured and sculpted by the Sun’s complex and ever changing magnetic field. The effect of the variable solar wind combined with different gas jets venting from the comet’s nucleus accounts for the tail’s complex structure. Following the wind, structure in Comet Lovejoy’s tail can be seen to move outward from the Sun even alter its wavy appearance over time. The blue color of the ion tail is dominated by recombining carbon monoxide molecules, while the green color of the coma surrounding the head of the comet is created mostly by a slight amount of recombining diatomic carbon molecules. The featured three-panel mosaic image was taken from the IRIDA Observatory in Bulgaria.

Object Names: Comet C/2014, Comet Lovejoy

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Vladimir Popov, Emil Ivanov (IRIDA Observatory)

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 It is one of the more massive galaxies known. A mere 46…


It is one of the more massive galaxies known. A mere 46 million light-years distant, spiral galaxy NGC 2841 can be found in the northern constellation of Ursa Major. This sharp view of the gorgeous island universe shows off a striking yellow nucleus and galactic disk. Dust lanes, small, pink star-forming regions, and young blue star clusters are embedded in the patchy, tightly wound spiral arms. In contrast, many other spirals exhibit grand, sweeping arms with large star-forming regions. NGC 2841 has a diameter of over 150,000 light-years, even larger than our own Milky Way and captured by this composite image merging exposures from the orbiting 2.4-meter Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based 8.2-meter Subaru Telescope. X-ray images suggest that resulting winds and stellar explosions create plumes of hot gas extending into a halo around NGC 2841.

Object Names: NGC 2841

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Hubble Space Telescope, Subaru Telescope

Composition And Copyright: Roberto Colombari

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When does the Sun look like a flower? In a specific color of red…

When does the Sun look like a flower? In a specific color of red light emitted by hydrogen, as featured here, some regions of the solar chromosphere may resemble a rose. The color-inverted image was taken in 2014 October and shows active solar region 2177. The petals dominating the frame are actually magnetically confined tubes of hot plasma called fibrils, some of which extend longer the diameter of the Earth. In the central region many of these fibrils are seen end-on, while the surrounding regions are typically populated with curved fibrils. When seen over the Sun’s edge, these huge plasma tubes are called spicules, and when they occur in passive regions they are termed mottles. Sunspot region 2177 survived for several more days before the complex and tumultuous magnetic field poking through the Sun’s surface evolved yet again.

Object Names: Sun, Sunspot Region 2177

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Big Bear Solar Observatory, NJIT, Alan Friedman

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 What’s that in front of the Moon? It’s the…


What’s that in front of the Moon? It’s the International Space Station. Using precise timing, the Earth-orbiting space platform was photographed in front of a partially lit Moon last year. The featured image was taken from Madrid, Spain with an exposure time of only 1/1000 of a second. In contrast, the duration of the transit of the ISS across the entire Moon was about half a second. The sun-glinting station can be seen just to the dark side of the day / night line known as the terminator. Numerous circular craters are visible on the distant Moon, as well as comparatively rough, light colored terrain known as highlands, and relatively smooth, dark colored areas known as maria. On-line tools can tell you when the International Space Station will be visible from your area.

Object Names: Moon, ISS

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Dani Caxete

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 Is star AE Aurigae on fire? No. Even though AE Aurigae is…


Is star AE Aurigae on fire? No. Even though AE Aurigae is named the flaming star, the surrounding nebula IC 405 is named the Flaming Star Nebula, and the region appears to have the color of fire, there is no fire. Fire, typically defined as the rapid molecular acquisition of oxygen, happens only when sufficient oxygen is present and is not important in such high-energy, low-oxygen environments such as stars. The material that appears as smoke is mostly interstellar hydrogen, but does contain smoke-like dark filaments of carbon-rich dust grains. The bright star AE Aurigae, visible toward the right near the nebula’s center, is so hot it is blue, emitting light so energetic it knocks electrons away from surrounding gas. When a proton recaptures an electron, light is emitted, as seen in the surrounding emission nebula. Pictured above, the Flaming Star nebula lies about 1,500 light years distant, spans about 5 light years, and is visible with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Charioteer (Auriga).

Object Names: IC 405, Flaming Star Nebula

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Jesús Vargas (Sky-Astrophotography) and Maritxu Poyal (Maritxu)

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Good-bye, Philae. Comet lander’s radio link cut off for good

Good-bye, Philae. Comet lander’s radio link cut off for good:

The European Space Agency says it is switching off its radio link to the probe that landed on a comet, after receiving no signal from the lander for a year.

The agency says the decision to shut down a communications instrument on the Rosetta spacecraft Wednesday was taken to conserve energy. Rosetta had used the instrument to communicate with its lander, Philae, which touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014.

During the next two months, Rosetta will use its remaining power to conduct scientific measurements before it crash-lands on the comet Sept. 30.

Data collected by Rosetta and Philae have improved scientists’ understanding of comets and the role they played in the early universe.

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Beautiful island universe Messier 94 lies a mere 15 million…

Beautiful island universe Messier 94 lies a mere 15 million light-years distant in the northern constellation of the hunting dogs, Canes Venatici. A popular target for earth-based astronomers, the face-on spiral galaxy is about 30,000 light-years across, with spiral arms sweeping through the outskirts of its broad disk. But this Hubble Space Telescope field of view spans about 7,000 light-years or so across M94’s central region. The sharp close-up examines the galaxy’s compact, bright nucleus and prominent inner dust lanes, surrounded by a remarkable bluish ring of young, massive stars. The massive stars in the ring are all likely less than 10 million years old, indicating the galaxy experienced a well-defined era of rapid star formation. As a result, while the small, bright nucleus is typical of the Seyfert class of active galaxies, M94 is also known as a starburst galaxy. Because M94 is relatively nearby, astronomers can explore in detail reasons for the galaxy’s burst of star formation.

Object Names: Southern Cross

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: ESA, NASA, HST

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Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 lies some 70…

Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 lies some 70 million light-years away on the banks of the constellation Eridanus. This Hubble Space Telescope composite view of the gorgeous island universe is one of the largest Hubble images ever made of a complete galaxy. NGC 1300 spans over 100,000 light-years and the Hubble image reveals striking details of the galaxy’s dominant central bar and majestic spiral arms. In fact, on close inspection the nucleus of this classic barred spiral itself shows a remarkable region of spiral structure about 3,000 light-years across. Like other spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, NGC 1300 is thought to have a supermassive central black hole.

Object Names: NGC 1300

Image Type: Astronomical

Credit: Hubble HeritageTeam, NASA, ESA

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