Category: Plants/Flowers

Swirling Rose

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

A stunning swirl of stars resembles the spiral petals of a rose in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

What other stories or shapes do you see as you explore this pair of interacting galaxies known as Arp 273? Leave a note below.

From the tightly wound core of UGC 1810, the larger spiral galaxy in this image, travel outward along its distorted spiral arms. As these two galaxies interact, gravity pushes and pulls the spiral arms, distorting them. Spiral arms are offset as the nearly edge-on smaller galaxy, known as UGC 1813, brushes past. The outer spiral arm almost forms a complete ring around the galaxy. This type of ring forms when one galaxy passes through another. Nearer the center, faint and warped spiral arms seem to be out of sync with the rest of the galaxy. This interaction also results in an explosion of new star formation. Look for huge blue clusters of hot, young stars scattered throughout the older yellow stars and dust lanes of the galaxy.

The smaller galaxy is not unscathed in this encounter. Intense star formation appears to be going on in its nucleus. Astronomers call this a starburst and the interaction with the larger galaxy might be the cause. The spiral arm nearest the larger galaxy appears to be squished. This arm is separated from the nearest spiral arm of the larger galaxy by just tens of thousands of light years. A close brush. Stars on the far side of the galaxy trail off in a long tail of star stuff.

We have American astronomer Halton “Chip” Arp to thank for creating a catalog of peculiar galaxies in the 1960s. These galaxies did not fall into the normal categories of shapes. Many appeared as two or more close objects with bridges of material between them. Scientists now believe that many of these galaxies are interacting and merging.

As you travel across this image, notice the many faraway galaxies. Some of these galaxies are just smudges of light in the image. Their combined starlight is so dim that Hubble couldn’t collect enough of it during this 6 hour exposure from Hubble.

Arp 273 lies about 340 million light years from Earth toward the constellation Andromeda. From side to side, it would take our starship traveling at the speed of light more than 260,000 years to cross the image.

Wads of Gum

Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2

Wads of nebula abound in the area surrounding the star-forming region known as Gum 19 in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the nebula, bubbles and sheets of dust. What stories or pictures do you see in this image? We are actually close enough to this nebula that it makes it hard to see. Astronomers believe this expanding nebula is the remnant of a supernova explosion more than one million years ago. The faint emission nebula is hard to see because of the busy backdrop of the Milky Way. Emission nebula glow as ultraviolet light from huge, nearby stars excite hydrogen gas atoms within the cloud. Other examples of emission nebula include the Orion Nebula, the Eagle Nebula, the Flame Nebula and the Carina Nebula.

The area includes the Vela Supernova Remnant. The area is also home to the super­mas­sive, blue-giant star, V391 Velo­rum. Someday, this huge star will prob­a­bly explode in a super­nova explo­sion. These mas­sive stars are five to ten times larger and heav­ier than our Sun. They dont shine for long. V31 Velo­rum burns at a sear­ing 30,000 degrees Cel­sius. After only about ten mil­lion years, they blow up as super­novae. These explo­sions release so much energy in light and heat that they can eas­ily blaze brighter than a galaxy for a short period of time. Their explo­sive ends spread more mate­r­ial to be used in future star and planet formation.

Gum 19 is named for Aus­tralian astro­physi­cist Colin S. Gum. Earth is only about 450 light-years from the leading edge of this nebula and 1,500 light-years from the back edge. The nebula is found toward the southern con­stel­la­tion of Vela, the Sail.

Fans of a Martian ocean

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

These hills of Mars resemble sea fans from Earth’s oceans.

Explore these scalloped-edged depressions in this image from NASA’s HiRISE camera. Many smaller scalloped-edged depressions seem to have merged into larger depressions throughout this image in an area south of the Hellas region in the southern hemisphere of Mars. Scientists theorize that subsurface material, maybe ice, is going directly to gas in a process called sublimation. When the frozen material disappears, the surface collapses.

Look for criss-crossing dark streaks across the flat areas in this image. Formed by dust devils, these streaks form when warm air close to the surface breaks through colder layers of air above. Swirling, columnar vortices of wind move across the land removing bright dust from the darker surface beneath. Dust devils are common in dry, desert landscapes of Earth as well.

Launched with MRO in 2005, HiRISE is one of six instru­ments aboard the space­craft orbit­ing Mars. HiRISEs cam­era can see objects on the sur­face as small as a beach ball. The instru­ment also offers sci­en­tists stereo views of the sur­face. When com­bined with dig­i­tal ter­rain mod­els, sci­en­tists can “drape” the imagery to pro­duce real­is­tic land­scapes to study and explore.

Crater Swirls

Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Vine-like patterns swirl through the landscape of the Russell Crater dune field on Mars.

Explore the dunes of Mars in this image from the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. What other shapes or patterns do you see in the image? Leave a message below.

The dark, meandering tracks across the dunes show the paths of dust devils. Dust devils occur on Earth too. These strong, well-formed whirlwinds are like mini-tornadoes. They are vertically rotating columns of air formed when warm air at the surface punches through cooler air above. The column of air may begin to rotate. When it does, more warm air is sucked in from the surrounding area giving it more power. The surrounding cooler air contains the spinning column of warm. On Mars, spinning dust devils pick up the fine dust leaving darker sand behind showing the swirling paths.

We typically think of Mars as a windy place. We see a lot of evidence for that on the surface with sand dunes, dusty rovers and images of planet-wide dust storms. However, dust devils need calm conditions and cool air temperatures to form.

Explore the image more and you might spot just a few patches of seasonal frost that forms on these dunes high in Mars’ south polar region. Near the bottom of this image (this image has been rotated to aid in viewing, so the bottom is north.) the face of the largest dune is lined with gullies. Scientists are unsure how the gullies formed. They think they might be caused by erosion by the seasonal frozen carbon dioxide ice. During the summer months, the dry ice turns directly from ice into a gas in a process called sublimation.

A Blooming Rose

Credit: NASA, ESA and Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri (Observatoire de Paris, France)

Fierce radiation from N11A’s central star is shaping a delicate rose in space in this image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the soft glow surrounding the massive star at the heart of the Rose Nebula in N11A. The sharp eyes of Hubble allow us and astronomers to study in detail the nebula, stars embedded in its heart, as well as the surrounding layers of hot gas and dust. Zoom into the huge star near the center of the nebula. The stars within this nebula are more than 10 times heavier than our Sun. Strong stellar winds from the newly-born suns have carved an opening in the gas and dust. Intense ultraviolet radiation causes the gas in the nebula to glow like a neon sign.

This nebula lies within a giant star-making factory in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The LMC, visible from the Southern Hemisphere, is a nearby dwarf galaxy to our Milky Way Galaxy about 150,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Dorado. Explore a larger piece of this beautiful corner of the universe.


The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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