If you've visited this website in the past, you've probably seen the big area on the home page featuring Hubble Star Cards. The space-themed card game puts the universe in the hands of parents, children and teachers. The game won a Hubble Gold Star award in 2010 from NASA and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) for its inspiring use of the amazing imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope. The vivid, stunning images motivate and engage children of all ages to learn about objects in Space. Hubble has a unique ability to draw the public into exploring space. Through beautiful images of planets, star clusters, pillars of dust, and galaxies, Hubble provides a crucial stepping stone in the process of scientific inquiry. Hubble Star Cards create a hand-held experience that opens the door to new questions and answers. You can actually hold the Universe, all of creation, in the palm of your hand and have fun learning about it at the same time. The game includes 60 cards categorized by planets, planetary nebulae, supernovae remnants, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies. The cards include an image, a basic description, a key to the type of object, location in the sky, constellation, and distance from Earth. Possible games include War, Go Fish, Sorting, Distances and Matching. Although targeted for students 8 and older, preschoolers have played many of the games just by using the amazing imagery as a guide. Hubble Star Cards, just $24.95, are available for secure online purchasing at hubblestarcards.com. I think they are pretty neat and I think you will too.
NASA/ESA Hubble Violent things can come in small faint packages as shown in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the starburst galaxy NGC 3738. Explore the glowing red reservoirs of hydrogen gas, filaments of dust, and diffuse glow of thousands of stars in this faint irregular galaxy. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below. NGC 3738 is a dwarf galaxy in the middle of extreme star formation. The glowing red areas are full of hydrogen, the stuff that helps make new stars. Gravity pulls together gas and dust in pockets within the cloud. As the pocket becomes more massive, it begins to heat up until eventually it can become hot enough to fuse hydrogen atoms in a sustainable nuclear reaction. These new stars give off strong stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation that excites hydrogen atoms in the rest of the cloud causing it to glow a characteristic red. This galaxy is relatively close to Earth; just 12 million light-years from the Sun; meaning light, traveling nearly 6 trillion miles per year, took 12 million years to cross the intergalactic distance. NGC 3738 is a compact bluish dwarf galaxy, the faintest of starburst galaxies. Blue compact dwarfs are generally blue because of large clusters of hot, blue and young stars. These stars tend to be massive, meaning they burn through their supply of hydrogen fuel within just a million years. If they are massive enough, they will end their lives in cataclysmic stellar explosions called supernovae. For a time, a single star can outshine an entire galaxy, releasing more energy in a few moments than our Sun produces in its entire expected lifespan of 8 billion years. As you explore NGC 3738, you may notice it seems jumbled and disorganized. These galaxies don't have spiral arms nor bright center bulges. Some astronomers believe these galaxies resemble some of the earliest galaxies that formed in the early Universe and may provide clues into how stars and galaxies formed during that time. As you pan across the image, look for dozens of faint and faraway galaxies scattered throughout this deep image of the cosmos. NGC 3738, first observed by British astronomer William Herschel in 1789, is found in the constellation Ursa Major, The Great Bear or Big Dipper. It belongs to the Messier 81 group of galaxies, a nearby galactic cluster. Send as an ECard
NASA, ESA, CXC, JPL, Caltech and STScI Tightly spun filaments of color wind around the core of the Pinwheel galaxy in this combo image from four of NASA's Great Observatories. Explore the arching tails of color in this image. What stories or pictures do you see? Leave a note in the comments below. The Pinwheel Galaxy lies fairly close to Earth; just 21 million light-years away toward the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear or the Big Dipper. It is considered a grand design spiral galaxy and we see it nearly face-on allowing astronomers a good look at the tight, bright nucleus and long, graceful spiral arms. This galaxy is also about 70 percent larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy. It dwarfs our galaxy with a diameter of 170,000 light-years. Composite images, images made from several telescopes, like this help astronomers match up features that show brightly in some parts of the light spectrum with those in others. They are more than just a rainbow of pretty colors. Each color tells a different story about how stars form and how they die. Red colors in this image come from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Warm dust, where stars are being born, shine brightly for Spitzer. Yellow bits of starlight shining through are from the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble sees the Universe as we would see it with our own eyes in visible light. Blue areas shine brightly in ultraviolet. These are young, hot stars seen by NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, or GALEX, telescope. The Chandra X-ray telescope sees areas in purple. This is light given off by supernovae, exploded stars, hot gas and material falling into black holes. Send as an ECard
ESO/B. Bailleul Ancient bards spun tales of heroes rescuing maidens and the eternal struggle of good versus evil. So it's fitting that a huge glowing helmet with gossamer wings should adorn the head of Thor, one of mythologies greatest figures. Gaze deep into the rich nebula of glowing gas and dust in this amazing image of Thor's Helmet from the European Southern Observatory. If ancients could have seen celestial objects a little sharper, they might have come up with similar stories. So it's no surprise that present-day astronomers romanticize the amazing objects they see with spectacular names hinting at the rich mythology surrounding the stars. Thor's Helmet, a nebula also known as NGC 2359, is no exception. The helmet-shaped nebula is a cosmic bubble. A massive star has formed near the bubble's center. The strong solar wind from this star pushes away gas and dust clearing an area spanning about 30 light-years. Ultraviolet radiation from the new star excites elements in the gas causing it to glow with different colors; pink and red from hydrogen atoms, blue-green from oxygen atoms. The central star is known as a Wolf-Rayet star. Astronomers believe these extremely hot giant stars are going through their last stage of stellar evolution before exploding in a colossal and cataclysmic event known as a supernova. By exploding, the star will destroy itself, giving off more energy in a single moment than our Sun would produce in a thousand lifetimes. For short periods of time, supernovae will outshine their parent galaxies. The last visible supernovae in Earth's skies happened in 1604. Thor's Helmet lies about 15,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog. The image was taken on the ESO's 50th anniversary, October 5, 2012. Send as an ECard
ESO While this starry vista seems tranquil, the events that shaped the Pencil Nebula were nothing but quiet. Stars are born and stars die and when they do, they create amazing stellar landscapes. A star, perhaps a massive one, exploded to sculpt this beautiful starry scene that resembles an exotic bird head or a strangely shaped ray of light. Explore the fine filaments, bright knots, and nebulous remnants of the Pencil Nebula; just a tiny piece of the Vela Supernova remnant. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below. The oddly shaped nebula, also known as NGC 2736, makes up the bright edge of this piece of the remnant. The wispy red filaments look much like a witch's broom. The new image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. These glowing wisps of gas and dust are the result of the cataclysmic death of a star more than 11,000 years ago. A supernova is a violent end to a star's life. The blast is the result of either the death of a high-mass star or explosion of a white dwarf in a close double star system. The Vela supernova remnant is a vast expanding shell of gas. And as this shell expands it slams into the calm gas and dust surrounding it. This shockwave compresses the gas and causes the nebulae begin to glow. Those little filaments show the many shokwaves moving through the area. At first, as gas molecules are squished together, these regions are heated to millions of degrees but quickly cool as the shockwave passes. Enough lingering heat remains for observers on Earth to view the strange structures created from the shockwave's interaction with the calm surrounding cloud. Different colors within the nebula allow astronomers to map temperatures within the cloud of gas. Some regions glow hotly and are dominated by ionized oxygen atoms. These areas show with a blue light. Redder areas are cooler ionized hydrogen clouds. The Pencil Nebula was discovered by British astronomer John Herschel in 1835. He described it as "an extraordinary long narrow ray of excessively feeble light." The nebula is also called Herschel's Ray. The ray of light is about three-quarters of a light year across. The nebula is rolling through the surrounding nebula at about 650,000 kilometers per hour (about 404,000 miles per hour). The Pencil Nebula is close too, only about 800 light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Vela, the sails of Jason's mythical ship the Argo. This means that over the span of a human life, the starry face of the Pencil Nebula change as it moves against the background of stars. Send as an ECard