Purple petals, an eerie purplish eye or tire glow in this image from the European Southern Observatory.
IC 5148, or the Spare Tire Nebula, is a planetary nebula with a diameter of just a couple of light-years. It is one of fastest expanding planetary nebula known to astronomers, growing at more than 50 kilometers per second. Planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets. In the 19th century, astronomers searching for planets observed objects that looked similar to the outer gas giants Uranus and Neptune. Stars about the same size or slightly larger than our Sun will become planetary nebula at the end of their lives. As these stars burn the last of their hydrogen fuel, they begin to puff up and throw off their outer layers. Blistering ultraviolet radiation from the exposed hot white dwarf excites atoms in the expanding ring of material causing it to glow. While beautiful, planetary nebulae are a short-lived stage in a star’s life. Eventually the glowing shell will fade away.
IC 5148 is found about 3,000 light-years from Earth toward the southern constellation Grus, the Crane.
It’s time for another roundup of the latest space news from various blogs around cyberspace; something we call Carnival of Space. Watch your step and look up as you board the latest ride through the carnival.
Perhaps the biggest, certainly the most exciting, news last week was the announcement from the European Southern Observatory of a scorching world orbiting uber-close to Alpha Centauri B. It’s also the lightest exoplanet discovered around a Sun-like star, reports Next Big Future. Nancy Atkinson at our host Universe Today detailed the new finding. Astroblogger offers reflections (and a celestia file) on the recent Earth-sized red-hot planet.
The official countdown toward the end of the world has begun (if you believe in that sort of thing). Nancy Atkinson of Universe Today explores the 2012 craziness and why people are so willing to get sucked into the hype.
CosmoQuest hits one million total craters between the Moon and asteroid Vesta. What are the fruits of this citizen science labor of love?
Next Big Future writes that Keck observations reveal the more details of Uranus than even the Voyager flyby in 1986.
Researchers presented infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry analyses of Apollo samples that reveal the presence of significant amounts of hydroxyl inside glasses formed in the lunar regolith by micrometeorite impacts.Lunar regolith is everywhere on the lunar surface, and glasses make up about half of lunar regolith. Finding hydroxl in the glass means that a huge amount of material that could be turned into water on the moon.
Spacex is developing a new more powerful engine that will enable a rocket to take 200 tons of payload to low earth orbit. Musk said the new rocket, which he calls MCT, will be “several times” as powerful as the 1 Merlin series, and won’t use Merlin’s RP-1 fuel. Beyond adding that it will have “a very big core size”, he declined to elaborate, promising more details in “between one and three years”.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner Blue Origin has successfully fired the thrust chamber assembly for its new 100,000 pound thrust BE-3 liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen rocket engine. As part of Blue’s Reusable Booster System (RBS), the engines are designed eventually to launch the biconic-shaped Space Vehicle the company is developing. Blue Origin is a reusable rocket being developed by Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon.
The NH National Guard Child and Youth Program and NHNG Military Education Outreach Committee were proud to present a pilot science event with the Chandra Education & Outreach Group on October 14, 2012 in Concord, New Hampshire.
Cheap Astronomy presents a podcast on the Hubble Servicing Missions and the expected future for the telescope.
While Any Shira Teitel of Vintage Space readily admits Felix Baumgartner’s high altitude sky dive was awesome to watch, we may have missed an opportunity to teach a huge audience a thing or two about science.
Tranquility Base asks during the Cold War, did the U.S. or the Soviet Union ever launch an armed spacecraft? And, have there been any weapons in space since the cold war ended?
Encounter with Unidentified Flying Object in Southern Finland. The bright light and the irregular pace of the craft caught my attention. Read more on Links Through Space.
You fancy yourself an armchair astronomer? John Williams writes at Universe Today about a group of California researchers who have stepped it up a notch by monitoring the intense volcanic eruptions on Jupiter’s strangest moon Io from the comfort of their home.
Lastly, peer into a tightly spun rainbow. Explore the arching tails of the Pinwheel Galaxy in this composite image featuring imagery from NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra and GALEX telescopes.
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.
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.
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.