Blog Archives

The Horsehead Nebula Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

dfgdfsgdfgdfs

New Hubble infrared image of the Horsehead nebula region. Click for a larger version.

Holy Horsehead, Batman! You’ve probably seen photos of the famous Horsehead nebula in Orion many times before, but NOTHING like this!

Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the iconic Horsehead Nebula in a new, infrared light to mark the 23rd anniversary of the famous observatory’s launch aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.

Looking like an apparition rising from whitecaps of interstellar foam, the iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago. The nebula is a favorite target for amateur and professional astronomers. It is shadowy in optical light. It appears transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths. The rich tapestry of the Horsehead Nebula pops out against the backdrop of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies that easily are visible in infrared light.

The nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud, located about 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Orion. It is one of the nearest and most easily-photographed regions in which massive stars are being formed.

Read the rest of this entry

A Spooky Space Ghost for Halloween!

A portion of vdB 141, aka the “Ghost Nebula”

Looking like something out of a Tim Burton movie, the eerie shapes seen above are part of a cloud of gas and dust located 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Cepheus. First identified in 1966, the human-like figures with “arms” raised give the nebula its spooky nickname: the “Ghost Nebula”.

Read the rest of this entry

From the LITD Archives – VLT: A Space Opera

Can’t see the movie below? Watch on YouTube here.

Here’s an enchanting video by the European Southern Observatory highlighting the discoveries of their Very Large Telescope (VLT) array, high in the mountains of the Atacama Desert in Chile. The Atacama is the driest place on Earth, far from the light pollution of major cities, and thus provides the clearest, darkest skies allowing these massive telescopes to peer deep into the universe. The discoveries they have made have been nothing short of groundbreaking.

The skies over the ESO sites in Chile are so dark that on a clear moonless night it is possible to see your shadow cast by the light of the Milky Way alone.

The images are beautiful, the music – James Newton Howard’s score from Lady in the Water – is beautiful, even the telescopes themselves are beautiful, with their futuristic, spartan geometries and perfectly engineered forms. They look like another generation’s science fiction but they’re very much science fact, for this generation and hopefully many more to come.

Credit: ESO/Hubblecast

Also check out ESO’s recent video from their VISTA telescope, zooming into the Sculptor Galaxy…read more on Universe Today.

Originally posted on June 19, 2010.

VLT: A Space Opera

Here’s an enchanting video by the European Southern Observatory highlighting the discoveries of their Very Large Telescope (VLT) array, high in the mountains of the Atacama Desert in Chile. The Atacama is the driest place on Earth, far from the light pollution of major cities, and thus provides the clearest, darkest skies allowing these massive telescopes to peer deep into the universe. The discoveries they have made have been nothing short of groundbreaking.

The skies over the ESO sites in Chile are so dark that on a clear moonless night it is possible to see your shadow cast by the light of the Milky Way alone.

The images are beautiful, the music – James Newton Howard’s score from Lady in the Water – is beautiful, even the telescopes themselves are beautiful, with their futuristic, spartan geometries and perfectly engineered forms. They look like another generation’s science fiction but they’re very much science fact, for this generation and hopefully many more to come.

Credit: ESO/Hubblecast

Can’t see the movie above? Watch on YouTube here. Also check out ESO’s recent video from their VISTA telescope, zooming into the Sculptor Galaxy…read more on Universe Today.

Two Decades of Discovery

As this weekend marks the 2oth anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s launch, here’s a video from the Hubble team highlighting just a few of the many discoveries the orbiting observatory has made since first opening its – and our – eyes to the universe.

Here’s to many more years of Hubble!

Read more on HubbleSite.org.

Carina Nebula

Giant star-forming pillars of gas and dust in the Carina Nebula. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI).

A Beautiful Demise

Planetary nebula NGC 6302

Planetary nebula NGC 6302

I don’t usually post images of deep-space objects here but I had to make an exception for this one.

With its new set of optics, installed earlier this year by the shuttle mission crew, the Hubble Space Telescope is returning amazingly detailed images of distant, exotic objects – like the butterfly-shaped planetary nebula NGC 6302, 3,600 light-years away, a portion of which is shown above.

The dying remains of a star slightly larger than our sun is located within the brightest area at lower left, bound by a belt of dust. Curtains and streamers of superheated gases are flowing outward and are illuminated by UV radiation pouring out of the star. The gas is flowing through space at 600,000 mph and is been measured at over 36,000º F…it is made of the cast-off layers of the star itself. But from this violent death comes the seeds of creation…it’s in events like these that the building blocks of the universe are created, as the elements necessary for star formation – and life – are scattered into space.

Our sun, our planet, even our bodies are made of material created in stars, and released by their inevitable deaths. Even stars have life cycles, and when they run out of the fuel needed to contain their own massive energy, they die. Many of them in amazing displays like this.

The colors come from the telescope’s ability to detect gases of different elemental compositions which “burn” at different colors. Nitrogen shows up as red, for example, and is the coolest gas, while hot-burning sulfur is white.

Not quite a sudden death, this star has been expelling itself into space for over 2,200 years. The entire nebula spans 2 light years…or 11,757,250,746,367 miles. That’s much further than our entire solar system’s diameter, about half as far as the distance from our sun to the next closest star.

There will be a time when our sun starts to run out of its stellar fuel, swells to several times its size, and begins to cast its outer layers off into space as well. Perhaps it will look something like this to a faraway observer at a safe distance. Perhaps to our descendants, wherever and whoever they may be, looking back at the final days of their parent star.

If they’re lucky it, may even be this beautiful.

See the entire release image here.

Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble SM4 ERO Team

Bookmark and Share

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,189 other followers

%d bloggers like this: