When NASA combines images from different telescopes they create amazing works of art and we learn a few things.
Explore this butterfly of combined light, known as NGC 1929, from NASA‘s Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes and ESO‘s ground-based telescope in Chile. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.
Star cluster NGC 1929 contains some of the most massive stars known to scientists. These massive stars spew intense radiation and a blistering stellar wind that blow huge bubbles in the surrounding nebula. The massive stars also end their short lives exploding as supernova which further helps carve out cavities in this region. Officially, the entire nebula is known as LHA 120-N 44, or just N 44. The vast superbubble is 325 by 250 light-years across; almost a hundred times the distance between the Sun and the nearest star. As you explore the image, look for dozens of smaller bubbles and the faint rim of another huge bubble on the left side of the nebula. Along the edges of the superbubble, new stars are forming
As beautiful as this destructive scene is, we wouldn’t be able to see it quite like this with our own eyes. Astronomers combined the light of several telescopes; all observing N44 in different wavelengths of light. X-rays from Chandra, in blue, reveal areas created by winds and shocks. Infrared data from Spitzer, in red, show where dust and cooler gas reside. Optical light from ESO’s telescope in Chile, light we can see with our eyes, outlines where ultraviolet radiation from the stars causes the gas to glow.
N 44 and NGC 1929 are found about 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf, irregular companion galaxy to our Milky Way Galaxy.
An expanding translucent bubble is all that remains of a star in this combinded image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other observatories.
Explore the bumps, ribbons and sheets throughout this image of SN 1006. What stories or images do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.
In the spring of 1006, night-time observers in China, Japan, Europe, the Arab world and the Americas documented a new light in the sky. To this day the supernova of 1006 is the brightest stellar event in recorded history. Reports from China and Arab astronomers report the star was more than twice as big as Venus and objects cast shadows. While this new “guest star” glowed for months, ancient observers had no way of knowing that a star had exploded. This was a different type of supernova. Instead of a massive star collapsing and exploding, a white dwarf star captured mass from a companion star. When enough material lands on the surface of a white dwarf it becomes unstable and explodes. White dwarf stars are the burned out cores of stars that were once like our Sun. After billions of years fusing hydrogen atoms in the core, the star runs out of fuel. When this occurs, the star puffs off its outer layers and all that remains is the white-hot core. In this case, the white dwarf probably orbited a much larger red giant star.
SN 1006 is found about 7,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Lupus, the Wolf. The remnant of the supernova of 1006 was not found until 1965 when astronomers using found that a previously known radio source was surrounded by a large shell. We now know that the shell extends for about 65 light-years. The shell is so large that the Hubble Space Telescope can image only parts of the supernova remnant.
A translucent leg kicks out at an orange ball in this combined image of merging galaxy cluster Abell 520 from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Canada-France Hawaii Telescope.
Explore the false-color hues imposed on the faraway galaxies. What stories or patterns do you see? Leave a note below.
This is not a true image. Astronomers used Chandra and the CFHT telescope to map the ghostly orange and blue-green blobs of color. These colors show areas of different temperatures of hot gas and give an indication of where dark matter lies. A Hubble image was then placed within the image to give astronomers an idea of the galaxies involved in the collision.
First hypothesized about 80 years ago, dark matter is an unseen force in the Universe. Astronomers don’t know much about dark matter. The bizarre material is not made up of the same matter that makes up stars, planets and humans. But even though it is poorly understood, astronomers believe it makes up most of the Universe’s mass.
What excites astronomers most about this image is how it shows the clumping of starlight, hot gas and the interaction with dark matter in this galaxy cluster. The blue-green area, including the kicking leg, is a clump of dark matter left behind after the colossal galactic wreck. After most galactic collisions and mergers, galaxies hang together. Dark matter and galaxies clump together. They become larger elliptical galaxies. Scientists expected that here but instead most of the galaxies seem to be zooming away from each other.
Collisions between galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the Universe, offer some clues as to the nature of dark matter. This massive collision is incredibly distant; about 2.4 billion light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Orion, the mythical Hunter.
Supernova remnant Cassiopeia A glows with many colors in this composite image from NASA’s Great Observatories.
Zoom into the jumbled strands of colors. What stories or pictures do you see? Leave a note below.
Cassiopeia A, or Cas A, is the remnant of a star that exploded. Supernovae are the ultimate end of stars that are about ten times more massive than our Sun. When stars this big run out of hydrogen fuel, they quickly expand. Their great gravity however pulls the material back in toward the star where it heats up very fast creating a runaway nuclear fusion reaction. The star becomes unstable and explodes.
As you explore the image, look for the different colors offered by images of each observatory. Astronomers used to think that the explosion scattered material evenly around the star. But knots and filaments show that material was ejected at different times and speeds. Spitzer imagery shows reddish warm dust in the outer shell of the supernova with a comfortable temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Hubble Space Telescope imagery shows a fine yellow filament structure of warmer gases. Chandra imagery shows superhot gas in blues and greens. The hot gas was created when material ejected at high speed during the explosion slammed into the calm gas and dust surrounding the star. Look for the turquoise dot near the center of the image. This may be the neutron star created during the supernova. A neutron star is the hot and super-dense core of an exploded star. Some scientists believe that a black hole resides at the center of the remnant.
Cas A lies about 11,000 light-years from the Earth toward the constellation Cassiopeia. Astronomers believe first light from the supernova reached Earth about 300 years ago. But no one on Earth seems to have seen it. Historians think that John Flamsteed may have noticed the star in 1680. Astronomers theorize that the massive star had ejected a dense bubble of dust that blocked light from the explosion. Scientists discovered the supernova in the 1940s because it is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky. No supernovae have been visible in the Milky Way since.
Explore the mysterious filaments, supernova remnants and loops of gas in this image. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note below.
For a long time, astronomers have known that a black hole lurks at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. They call it Sagittarius A* or SgrA* for short. The galactic center is far away. If you look to the south in the northern hemisphere summer toward the bottom and brightest part of the Milky Way, you can see toward the center of our galaxy. Light from the galactic core, traveling more than 6 trillion miles a year, takes about 26,000 years to reach our eyes on Earth. Lots of stars and thick veils of gas and dust block our view from Earth. Scientists see the black hole using X-ray images like this one and other infrared images. The X-ray light picked up from the sensors on the Chandra Observatory are high-energy particles created as matter spun into the black hole. Massive young stars near the black hole provide the gas that the black hole consumes.
Chandra looked at the center of the galaxy for about one million seconds, almost two weeks, to create this deep image. This gave astronomers a good view of the lobes of hot gas arcing light years on either side of the black hole. The image also shows scientists a good view of a supernova remnant called Sgr A East. Look close and you can see faint filaments of hot gas. Astronomers call these pulsar wind nebulae. They may be associated with the strong magnetic fields created by the fast spinning neutron stars.