Famous Space Pillars feel the Heat of Star’s Explosion
by Whitney Clavin
The three iconic space pillars photographed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 might have met their demise, according to new evidence from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
A new, striking image from Spitzer shows the intact dust towers next to a giant cloud of hot dust thought to have been scorched by the blast of a star that exploded, or went supernova. Astronomers speculate that the supernova’s shock wave could have already reached the dusty towers, causing them to topple about 6,000 years ago. However, because light from this region takes 7,000 years to reach Earth, we won’t be able to capture photos of the destruction for another 1,000 years or so.
Spitzer’s view of the region shows the entire Eagle nebula, a vast and stormy community of stars set amid clouds and steep pillars made of gas and dust, including the three well-known “Pillars of Creation.”…
Earlier this week, the internet was captivated by an old picture from NASA’s Spirit rover appearing to draw a big ol’ dick in the Martian sand with its tracks. Now that everyone’s tired of looking at that, we can all remember that the universe is full of inappropriate stuff sure to delight your inner seven-year-old (Uranus anyone?).
Case in point is the above image, a complex cloud of gas and dust known as the Keyhole nebula. Astronomers were too polite to give the structure on the left its own designation so the public has taken to calling it “The Finger of God” or “God’s Birdie.”
This image of the Elephant Trunk Nebula was taken with the Mosaic camera on the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. The Elephant Trunk is a dense, elongated cloud of gas inside a bright cluster of stars known as IC 1396. The trunk conceals many young protostars that are in the process of forming.
Planetary Nebula IC 1295 - A Green Bubble in Space
by Sid Perkins
Taking advantage of a little unscheduled observing time on one of their telescopes, researchers at the European Southern Observatory turned the instrument on a ghostly green cloud in the Southern Hemisphere constellation Scutum (“The Shield”). The image that they gleaned is the best view yet of this little-known celestial bauble, the researchers report online today.
The mysterious object, dubbed IC 1295, is a planetary nebula, an expanding cloud of debris cast off by a dying star. IC 1295 lies about 3300 light-years from Earth and consists of several shells of material, each belched from the central star as it entered the final phases of its life. The shells glow green because of the predominance of ionized oxygen, whose electrons have been stripped from the fluorescing atoms by the intense ultraviolet radiation now streaming from the remnant of the parent star (blue-white dot denoted by arrow). Over the next few billion years, the central star will cool down to become a faint white dwarf, just as all stars between one and eight times the size of our sun eventually do.
Planetary nebulae, which typically last about 10,000 years, have nothing to do with planets in our solar system: They only gained that name because the first few to be discovered, late in the 18th century, were fuzzy blobs that looked similar to the gas giant Uranus—at least to the telescopes of the day.
This image of reflection nebula vdB 141 was obtained with the wide-field view of the Kitt Peak National Observatory’s Mosaic Camera on the 4-meter Mayall telescope. Located in the constellation Cepheus, the nebula is sometimes referred to as the “ghost nebula.” Its awkward name derives from Sidney van den Bergh’s catalog numbers of reflection nebulae, published in 1966.
The object in this image is Jonckheere 900 or J 900, a planetary nebula — glowing shells of ionised gas pushed out by a dying star. Discovered in the early 1900s by astronomer Robert Jonckheere, the dusty nebula is small but fairly bright, with a relatively evenly spread central region surrounded by soft wispy edges.
Despite the clarity of this Hubble image, the two objects in the picture above can be confusing for observers. J 900’s nearby companion, a faint star in the constellation of Gemini, often causes problems for observers because it is so close to the nebula — when seeing conditions are bad, this star seems to merge into J 900, giving it an elongated appearance. Hubble’s position above the Earth’s atmosphere means that this is not an issue for the space telescope.
Astronomers have also mistakenly reported observations of a double star in place of these two objects, as the planetary nebula is quite small and compact. J 900’s central star is only just visible in this image, and is very faint — fainter than the nebula’s neighbour. The nebula appears to display a bipolar structure, where there are two distinct lobes of material emanating from its centre, enclosed by a bright oval disc. A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Josh Barrington.
Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA Acknowledgement: Josh Barrington [high-resolution]
This exceptional image of the Horsehead nebula was taken at the National Science Foundation’s 0.9-meter telescope on Kitt Peak with the NOAO Mosaic CCD camera. Located in the constellation of Orion, the Hunter, the Horsehead is part of a dense cloud of gas in front of an active star-forming nebula known as IC434. The nebulosity of the Horsehead is believed to be excited by the bright star Sigma Orionis, which is located above the top of the image. Just off the left side of the image is the bright star Zeta Orionis, which is the easternmost of the three stars that form Orion’s belt. Zeta Orionis is a foreground star, and is not related to the nebula.
The streaks in the nebulosity that extend above the Horsehead are likely due to magnetic fields within the nebula. Close study reveals that many more stars are visible in the top half of the image. Stars in the lower half of the image are obscured by a dark cloud of hydrogen gas. The edge of this large cloud is the horizontal strip of glowing gas that bisects the image. The Horsehead is located about 1,600 light-years away from Earth. The area shown in this image is quite large on the sky, covering about five times the area of the full Moon. This false-color image was created by combining emission-line images taken in hydrogen-alpha (red), oxygen [OIII] (green) and sulfur [SII] (blue).
This graphic gives a summary of our best current understanding of the evolution of stars, showing their birth, middle age and eventual demise.
The lowest mass stars are shown at the bottom and the highest mass stars at the top. The very top line is a new addition, compelled by the detection of SN 2006gy — one of the brightest stellar explosions ever recorded — that describes the evolution of the most massive stars in the universe.
Observational evidence for the special type of explosion shown here — which is incredibly bright and obliterates the star rather than producing a black hole — was lacking until SN 2006gy was found.”
A mountain of dust and gas rising in the Carina Nebula. The top of a three-light-year tall pillar of cool hydrogen is being worn away by the radiation of nearby stars, while stars within the pillar unleash jets of gas that stream from the peaks.
This broad panorama of the Carina Nebula, a region of massive star formation in the southern skies, was taken in infrared light using the HAWK-I camera on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Many previously hidden features, scattered across a spectacular celestial landscape of gas, dust and young stars, have emerged.
is a star-forming region. It includes areas where large clouds of hydrogen gas incubate new stars.NGC 2467 had long been considered to be the nucleus of the Puppis I association. However, NGC 2467 does not represent a distinct open cluster; rather, it represents a superimposition of several stellar groups along the same approximate line of sight that have distinctly different distances and distinctly different radial velocities. One of these is a young and very distant group beyond Puppis OB2, while another, nearer group with later type stars lies at a similar distance as Puppis OB1…
This ESO Very Large Telescope image of the planetary nebula Fleming 1 in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur). New observations suggest that a very rare pair of white dwarf stars lies at the heart of this object, with their orbital motions explaining the nebula’s remarkably symmetric jet structures. Image released Nov. 8, 2012.
Resembling a rippling pool illuminated by underwater lights, the Egg Nebula offers astronomers a special look at the normally invisible dust shells swaddling an aging star. These dust layers, extending over one-tenth of a light-year from the star, have an onionskin structure that forms concentric rings around the star. A thicker dust belt, running almost vertically through the image, blocks off light from the central star. Twin beams of light radiate from the hidden star and illuminate the pitch-black dust, like a shining flashlight in a smoky room.
The artificial “Easter-Egg” colors in this image are used to dissect how the light reflects off the smoke-sized dust particles and then heads toward Earth. Dust in our atmosphere reflects sunlight such that only light waves vibrating in a certain orientation get reflected toward us. This is also true for reflections off water or roadways. Polarizing sunglasses take advantage of this effect to block out all reflections, except those that align to the polarizing filter material. It’s a bit like sliding a sheet of paper under a door. The paper must be parallel to the floor to pass under the door…
The Carina Nebula (also known as the Great Nebula in Carina, the Eta Carina Nebula, or NGC 3372) is a large bright nebula that surrounds several open clusters of stars. Eta Carinae and HD 93129A, two of the most massive and luminous stars in our Milky Way galaxy, are among them. The nebula lies at an estimated distance between 6,500 and 10,000 light years from Earth. It appears in the constellation of Carina, and is located in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm. The nebula contains multiple O-type stars…
Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio has rendered some spacescapes in three dimensions, using his own photographs as a starting point. “Objects in the images are not like paintings on the canvas, but really three-dimensional objects floating in the three-dimensional space,”…