A blue and gold squid-shaped galaxy glitters with other galaxies in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
StarryCritters 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.
A wing, or fan, sweeps across a star in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Explore the swirls, loops and turbulence in this star cloud. What stories or shapes do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.
V* PV Cephei is the young star just at the edge of the bluish wing, known as GM 1-29 or Gyulbudaghian’s Nebula. As you pan across the fan, look for curls and bright patches within the nebula. While we see only a fan, the nebula itself probably surrounds the bright star. Just like a doorway lets in only a little light, dust surrounding PV Cep is blocking most of the starlight, leaving just a shaft of light to light up the dust cloud.
Astronomers like to study the wing-shaped nebula because it changes over the span of just a few months. The star also varies in brightness over a short period of time.
PV Cep is found about 1,600 light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Cepheus, the King.
A smoky horse rises from a pink cloud of hydrogen gas in this spectacular new image of the Horseahd Nebula from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Zoom in and explore this dark pillar of dust. What shapes or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.
The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most easily recognized nebula in the sky. Identified in 1888 by Williamina Fleming, its swirling shape resembles a horse’s head when viewed from Earth. Even in a telescope, the emission nebula is hard to see. Fleming identified the nebula using photographic plates taken at the Harvard College Observatory.
The vast interstellar cloud of dust is found just south of the star Alnitak, the most eastern star in Orion’s belt. The pillar of dust and gas, found about 1,500 light-years from Earth, collapsed from the even larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The clumps of material reflect light from the nearby hot star Sigma Orionis.
Usually the Horsehead Nebula is shown as a dark pillar against a bright pink background. The pink nebula is being energized by young, hot stars deep in the nebula. Ultraviolet radiation streaming from these stars causes hydrogen gas in the the nebula to glow pink and red. For this image, Hubble shows this area in infrared light. Infrared is a longer wavelength of light than visible light. We feel infrared light as heat. By using this kind of light, Hubble can pierce the dusty outer layers of the nebula and see deeper, revealing ghostly swirls and delicate folds of gas.
The image also reveals hundreds of faraway galaxies glowing with their own warm light. Pan around to find these stunning gems.
Scientists released this new image of the Horsehead Nebula to celebrate Hubble’s 23rd year in orbit.
Explore the planetary nebula ESO 456-67. What shapes do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.
Although called a planetary nebula, these starry objects have nothing to do with planets. In early telescopes of the 18th century, while astronomers were searching for new planets, these small and round nebulae looked like planets. The nebulae are much farther away and much larger than any planet in our solar system. Planetary nebulae are the last stage in the life of a star similar to our Sun in size. As these stars approach the end of their long lives, they run out of hydrogen fuel. They bloat and throw off shells of gas and dust. Sometimes, the bubbles they produce are smooth and round. But other times, they are complex with material shooting away in different directions.
As you explore ESO 456-67, look for the remaining star in the center of the blue area. Astronomers call these stars white dwarfs. They are hot and small. Over billions of years, this star will cool to become a warm cinder. The blue area surrounding the white dwarf is a hot bubble of gas. White dwarfs give off intense ultraviolet radiation that causes the gas of the planetary nebula to glow. Other regions of the nebula contain different elements that glow different colors.
ESO 456-67 is found about 10,000 light-years from Earth toward the rich starfields in the constellation Sagittarius, the Archer. Light from the planetary nebula began traveling toward our eyes on Earth just about the time when humans developed agriculture techniques in Mesopotamia.
As if waiting for cosmic fish, this hook-shaped galaxy sparkles in a deep image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Or perhaps you’ve turned your head and you see a galactic smile.
Explore the beautiful galaxy known as J082354.96+280621.6, or J082354.96 for short. Let us know what shapes or stories you see in the comments below.
J082354.96 is a starburst galaxy. These types of galaxies have high rates of star formation. As you explore the image, look for bright blue areas. These are new stars being born. J082354.96 is also warped meaning another galaxy has interacted with it millions of years in the past. As galaxies move near each other, gravity pushes and pulls the stars into unusual shapes. Gravity also pushes gas and dust together where it might collect, collapse and form a new star. You can see the cores and warped arms of the two interacting galaxies at the ends of the hook.
As you zoom across the image, look for faint galaxies far in the dark background. The two bright stars are actually stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy between Earth and J082354.96. The galaxy is found about 650 million light-years from Earth toward the northern constellation Lynx.