Posts Tagged ‘ESO’

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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Stars in the Belly


Brilliant stars lurk in the belly of stellar dragon or bird with sweeping wings in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Zoom into the heart of the Tarantula Nebula in this image. What stories or images do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

The Tarantula Nebula is one of the largest star-making regions known to scientists. Located at the edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud, the gas and dust in that region come together to form stars of all sizes and colors. At the very center of this image is a brilliant star known as VFTS 682. The star may be a runaway from the nearby rich star cluster R 136.

Large stars with whipping solar winds and strong ultraviolet radiation cause this cloud to glow. As you zoom into the gas clouds in the region look for the reddish lanes of dark dust. These dust clouds are between Earth and the nebula. They don’t glow glow like the other clouds. Those clouds block light from the nebula but are just as interesting to explore.

VFTS 682 and R136 are found about 170,000 light-years from Earth toward the southern constellation Doradus. The Large Magellanic Cloud is a small dwarf galaxy traveling near the Milky Way Galaxy. The LMC and another small galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud can be seen as faint cloud-like objects in the skies of the southern hemisphere. They were described to Europeans by famous sea explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the 17th century but they were were well known in the sky lore of the south.

Astronomers combined visible and infrared images from the Wide Field Imager at the 2.2-metre MPG/ESO at the La Silla Observatory and the 4.1-metre infrared VISTA telescope at Paranal to create this single image.

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A Running Chicken


With wings spread, a chicken-shape dominates this pink cloud of hydrogen gas and newborn stars in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the Running Chicken Nebula. What stories or pictures do you see in the patterns of this nebula? Leave a comment below.

Officially the nebula is known as IC 2944 or the Lambda Centauri Nebula. The nebula is a sprawling star-making factory. The nebula is lit by a loose cluster of hot, blue stars. These stars were born just eight million years ago. Radiation from these new stars warms and excites the hydrogen gas of the nebula causing it to glow with a characteristic pink color. These stars are also much more massive than our Sun. Their howling stellar winds and blistering ultraviolet radiation carve out the unique shapes, cavities and pillars we see within the cloud.

Zoom into the dark blobs near the top of the image. These are known as Thackeray Globules. Named after their discoverer AD Thackeray, these little inky blobs of dust are found in areas rich in star formation. Similar to Bok Globules, they may be cocoons where new stars are born. Each of these little clouds is about one light-year across. They contain enough gas and dust to create more than 15 stars the same size as our Sun.

IC 2944 is found relatively close to Earth. Light, traveling at more than 6 trillion miles per year from the direction of the constellation Centaurus, the Centaur, has taken almost 6,000 years to reach our eyes.

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Dots of Galaxies

Credit: ESO/UltraVISTA team. Acknowledgement: TERAPIX/CNRS/INSU/CASU

A staggering number of galaxies dot the latest and deepest view of the sky ever recorded in infrared by the European Southern Obseravtory’s VISTA Telescope.

Zoom into this image that contains more than 200,000 galaxies; each with billions of stars of its own. Astronomers thought they were looking at an unremarkable expanse of sky in the constellation Sextans, the Sextant. What they found was the equivalent of galactic treasure. The mission was to train the ESO’s VISTA telescope on the same patch of sky and then repeat many times. Scientists collected more than 6,000 separate exposures equaling about 55 hours of observing time.

Without zooming in, we see a few bright stars and sprinkling of dimmer ones. But as we zoom in, the galaxies become obvious with more and more coming into view as we zoom in closer. Yellow-tinged galaxies dominate the scene up to the highest zoom. At this level, notice the red objects scattered throughout the viewer. These are very remote galaxies. Their dim and ancient light comes from a time when the Universe was only about one billion years old. Scientists currently estimate the Universe is about 13.75 billion years old.

You can download the entire 253 MB deep view here.

VISTA’s sensitive infrared telescope is ideally suited to find ancient galaxies. As the Universe expands, light from the far-off galaxies is stretched and turns reddish, toward the infrared part of the light spectrum. Astronomers have been using VISTA at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of Chile to observe remote parts of the Universe since 2009.

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A Face in Profile

Credit: ESO


A pair of hot blue stars carve the inside of NGC 3324 and create a face in profile in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Zoom into the sculpted edges of this stellar geode. What shapes or pictures do you see? Leave a note below.

Just like hollow rocks on Earth that can be broken open to reveal delicate crystals, zooming in on the edges of this star cloud reveal filaments of dark dust, elephant trunk pillars and rich, glowing regions of red gas. Strong solar winds and intense radiation from very hot and hefty blue-white stars have blown a bubble in this star cloud. Ultraviolet radiation also excites and warms hydrogen atoms within the cloud creating a warm red glow. Other colors are created by other elements, such as oxygen.

Zoom into the right side of the image and look for the face in silhouette with the bump out resembling a nose. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has zoomed even closer into NGC 3324 offering a crisper view of the edge of this stellar bubble.

NGC lies about 7,500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Carina, the Keel of Jason’s mythical ship the Argo.

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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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