In June of 2009, a rare total solar eclipse blanketed certain portions of the planet in total darkness. Czech photographer Miloslav Druckmüller traveled to the middle of the Pacific ocean to the Marshall Islands to capture the incredible event.
To create the photos above, he compiled over 40 images shot from two different cameras.
The sun celebrated May Day with a spectacular solar eruption Wednesday, unleashing a colossal wave of super-hot plasma captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft.
The solar eruption occurred over a 2.5-hour period Wednesday (May 1) and appeared as a “gigantic rolling wave” on the sun in a video recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, agency officials said in an image description. The solar eruption is what scientists call a coronal mass ejection (CME) — a type of sun storm that can fire off billions of tons of solar material at more than a million miles per hour, they added.
When aimed directly at Earth, the most powerful CME events can pose a risk to satellites and astronauts in orbit, as well as interfere with communications and navigation networks. They can even damage ground-based power infrastructure.
But the May Day solar eruption occurred on the side of the sun and was not aimed at Earth, NASA officials said. It produced a dazzlingly bright wave of plasma that expanded from the sun’s surface and then erupted from the sun’s side, or limb, into open space.
The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle and is expected to reach its peak activity this year.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is one of several sun-watching spacecraft that keeps constant watch on Earth’s nearest star to track solar weather patterns and storm events. The $850 million SDO mission launched in 2010 and records constant high-definition views of the sun in several different wavelengths, including the extreme ultraviolet range of the light spectrum used to make the video of the May 1 solar eruption.
I have long been fascinated by gamma-ray bursts (or GRBs). These are incredibly violent events: It’s like taking the Sun’s entire lifetime energy output and cramming into a single event that lasts for mere seconds! The energy emitted is so intense, so bright, we can see GRBs from a distance of billions of light years.
Gamma rays themselves are just a form of light, like the kind we see, but with huge energy; each photon is packed with millions or billions of times the energy in a single photon of visible light. Only the most energetic events in the Universe can make them, so if we detect a burst of them coming from the sky, we know something literally disastrous has happened.
But astronomers were recently surprised to find a third type of GRB, one that lasts not for minutes, but for hours. Whatever these objects are, they don’t just flash with light, they linger, blasting out far, far more gamma rays for far, far longer than was previously thought. What could do such a thing?…
Einstein’s gravity theory passes toughest test yet:
Bizarre binary star system pushes study of relativity to new limits
by Dave Finley
A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before.
Once again, Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, published in 1915, comes out on top.
At some point, however, scientists expect Einstein’s model to be invalid under extreme conditions. General Relativity, for example, is incompatible with quantum theory. Physicists hope to find an alternate description of gravity that would eliminate that incompatibility.
A newly-discovered pulsar—a spinning neutron star with twice the mass of the Sun—and its white-dwarf companion, orbiting each other once every two and a half hours, has put gravitational theories to the most extreme test yet. Observations of the system, dubbed PSR J0348+0432, produced results consistent with the predictions of General Relativity…
Black holes are probably among the scariest things in the universe, with gravitational forces powerful enough to warp the fabric of spacetime itself. Red dwarfs, on the other hand, are amongst the smallest of stars, shining dimly in the darkness — not exactly the sort of pairing which you might expect to be make dancing partners.
All the same, that’s exactly the pairing you’ll find in a star system known as MAXI J1659-152. This system contains just such an odd couple, locked in a tight orbit where a red dwarf is speeding around it’s heavier companion at an astonishing two million kilometers per hour (1.2 million mph)!
Stars like the sun eventually run out of hydrogen fuel and puff-up into red giants at the end of their lives — a precursor to a suicidal shedding of gas, decimating any nearby planets, eventually leaving a tiny white dwarf remnant. But a nearby star, located around 100 light-years away, has been spotted in the brief stage before the red giant phase of its death throes — and it has a dusty disk usually exclusive to young stars.
This Hubble Space Telescope view shows one of the most dynamic and intricately detailed star-forming regions in space, located 210,000 light-years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. At the centre of the region is a brilliant star cluster called NGC 346. A dramatic structure of arched, ragged filaments with a distinct ridge surrounds the cluster.
A torrent of radiation from the hot stars in the cluster NGC 346, at the centre of this Hubble image, eats into denser areas around it, creating a fantasy sculpture of dust and gas. The dark, intricately beaded edge of the ridge, seen in silhouette, is particularly dramatic. It contains several small dust globules that point back towards the central cluster, like windsocks caught in a gale.
Small Magellenic Cloud: A Confetti-Like Collection of Stars
by JPL staff
The tip of the “wing” of the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy is dazzling in this new view from NASA’s Great Observatories. The Small Magellanic Cloud, or SMC, is a small galaxy about 200,000 light-years way that orbits our own Milky Way spiral galaxy.
The colors represent wavelengths of light across a broad spectrum. X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in purple; visible-light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is colored red, green and blue; and infrared observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope are also represented in red.
The spiral galaxy seen in the lower corner is actually behind this nebula. Other distant galaxies located hundreds of millions of light-years or more away can be seen sprinkled around the edge of the image…
The Spring and Summer Northern Hemisphere skies play host to some real treasures for anyone willing to hunt them down. It is also a great opportunity to do some astronomy without being wrapped up in thermals, fleeces, hats and gloves — Spring and Summer astronomy can be really quite pleasant. The downside of course is that you have to wait a little longer for the sky to get dark, if indeed it does get sufficiently dark at your location.
Even so, take the time to get out in the warmer months ahead to hunt down these astronomical beauties…
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 pretty sprinkling of bright blue stars is the cluster NGC 2547, a group of recently formed stars in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail). This image was taken using the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.
The Universe is an old neighbourhood — roughly 13.8 billion years old. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is also ancient — some of its stars are more than 13 billion years old. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of action: new objects form and others are destroyed. In this image, you can see some of the newcomers, the young stars forming the cluster NGC 2547. But, how young are these cosmic youngsters really?
Although their exact ages remain uncertain, astronomers estimate that NGC 2547’s stars range from 20 to 35 million years old. That doesn’t sound all that young, after all. However, our Sun is 4600 million years old and has not yet reached middle age. That means that if you imagine that the Sun as a 40 year-old person, the bright stars in the picture are three-month-old babies…
W3 is an enormous stellar nursery about 6,200 light-years awayin the Perseus Arm…
one of the Milky Way galaxy’s main spiral arms, which hosts both low- and high-mass star formation. In this image from the Herschel space observatory, the low-mass forming stars are seen as tiny yellow dots embedded in cool red filaments, while the highest-mass stars — with greater than eight times the mass of our sun — emit intense radiation, heating up the gas and dust around them and appearing here in blue.
Researchers capture possible first picture of ‘Tatooine’ type planet orbiting binary stars
by Bob Yirka
An international team of space scientists led by Philippe Delorme of Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France has taken a photograph of what might be a very large planet orbiting two suns. In their paper they’ve uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, the team describes how they compared the objects in their photograph with data previously captured by telescopes in 2002, to derive the orbital motion of the system. In so doing, they have found they’ve captured on film either a very large planet, or a brown dwarf circling binary stars…