Category: Water Creatures

A Squid in the Darkness


A blue and gold squid-shaped galaxy glitters with other galaxies in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

potw1347aStarryCritters is all about seeing patterns in the stars. ESO 149-3 is an irregular galaxy that appears to be shaped like a squid with a dim smattering of stars hanging below. Irregular galaxies lack the shape and structure of more well known spiral and elliptical galaxies. They also tend to be much smaller. Nearly one-quarter of all galaxies are irregular galaxies. The Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, companions to our Milky Way Galaxy, are irregular galaxies. Blue stars in ESO 149-3 are hot young stars probably born as the galaxy interacted with another. Gold stars are older stars like our Sun.

ESO 149-3 is found fairly nearby at about 20 million light-years from Earth toward the southern constellation Phoenix. Zoom deep into the image and spy more distant galaxies of all shapes scattered throughout the image.

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A Jellyfish on the Move


A jellyfish, blue tendrils trailing, speeds across this Hubble image of galaxy ESO 137-001. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note below.

heic1404b_screenIntense blue streaks trail ESO 137-001 in this composite image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Wisps of gas stream from hot blue stars as the spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 blasts through the heart of galaxy cluster Abell 3627. Astronomers call this stripping of gas and dust from a galaxy ram pressure stripping. Ram pressure is the drag felt by an object as it moves through a thick fluid, such as your body walking through water. The fluid here though would not be suitable for swimming. It’s superheated gas that lurks near the heart of all galaxy clusters.

Surrounding this galaxy are countless nearby stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy. ESO 137-001 lies near the plane of our galaxy, its light blocked by thick dust and gas. Farther away in the image, look for galaxies of all shapes and pointing in different directions. Most of those galaxies are far beyond ESO 137-001 and are not part of the Abell 3627 galaxy cluster. ESO-137-001 lies about 200 million light-years from Earth. It is part of the Norma Cluster near the center of a region of space called the Great Attractor. This area’s mass is so strong that even The Local Group, containing our galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy, feel the tug of this strong gravity source.

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Shrouded Goldfish


This excitation nebula resembles shrouded goldfish in an image from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the huge stars, bubbles and glowing dust clouds of AB7. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

AB7 is the highest excitation nebula in either of the Magellanic Clouds, two companion galaxies near our own Milky Way Galaxy. Nebulae are huge clouds of gas and dust, the stuff that makes up stars and planets. Many of them glow from ultraviolet radiation given off by stars within the cloud. The well-known Orion Nebula and Eagle Nebula are great examples of this process. Deep in the heart of AB7, is a binary star system consisting of a huge Wolf-Rayet star and a middle-aged massive blue-white O type star. Both stars send off strong solar winds like the Sun gives off but it is 10 to 1,000 million times more intense. These winds push the surrounding nebulae creating a bubble around the star. Look within the yellowish cloud and you can see a bluish bubble. The Wolf-Rayet star in this bubble is one of the hottest stars yet discovered.

Zoom in on the green filaments to the left of the nebula. This is the remains of a supernova explosion sometime in the past.

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Purplish Manta

ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J.-E. Ovaldsen, and A. Hornstrup

A purplish manta ray shape glides through the misty nebulae of the Trapezium Cluster in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the amazing colors, stars and dust clouds of this star-forming nursery. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

The Trapezium, or Orion Trapezium Cluster, is a tight open cluster of stars at the very heart of the Orion Nebula. The Trapezium is relatively young and formed out of the surrounding nebula. About 2,000 stars; some hiding in the dense dust, make up the loose grouping of stars. The five brightest stars are 15 to 30 times more massive than our Sun. Blazing ultraviolet light from these huge, bright stars light up most of the nebula. Hydrogen atoms, excited by the ultraviolet light, glow pink and purple in the image. Other elements such as helium, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen give other subtle shades of color in the gas.

Even though the Orion Nebula can be seen without a telescope as a hazy patch of light, no historical records seem to exist describing it. Galileo Galilei first sketched three of the stars of the Trapezium on February 4, 1617. But he missed the nebulosity surrounding them. Later in the 17th century, astronomers mapped a fourth star. As telescopes became better, more stars were discovered. Armed with a modest telescope, modern backyard telescopes can resolve six stars. But there is plenty more to explore within the great nebula.

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Dusty Starfish


A dusty starfish curls its legs in this image of NGC 2082 from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Dive into the rich starfields of the dusty starfish shaped galaxy known as NGC 2082. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

NGC 2082 is a classically shaped spiral galaxy. Start at the bright yellowish galactic core and move your way along the glowing curved arms. As you move outward, hop from the giant clusters of blue stars. These are hot, young blue stars born as dust and gas compress as the spiral arms orbit the galaxy over hundreds of thousands of years. Also look for areas of pink nebula. Hydrogen gas glows with a pinkish hue when the atoms are excited by ultraviolet radiation from massive stars. Filaments of dark dust, fuel for new stars and planets, weave an intricate pattern throughout the galaxy.

And when you’re done exploring the galaxy, turn your attention to the dozens of faraway galaxies found throughout the detailed image.

NGC 2082 is found about 60 million light-years from Earth toward the southern constellation Dorado, the Swordfish. English astronomer Sir John Herschel first recorded NGC 2082 during his observing expedition at the Cape of Good Hope in the 1830s.

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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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