Posts Tagged ‘infrared’

Rising From the Mist

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

A strange beetle seems to rise from the mist of supernova remnant Puppis A in this image from NASA‘s Wide-field Survey Explorer, or WISE, telescope.

Explore the red and churning bubble in this image. What stories or images do you see? Leave a comment below.

The star that created Puppis A exploded about 3,700 years ago. Perhaps humans on Earth saw this new bright star in the sky. If they did, they left no record of it. Supernovae, like the Crab Nebula, form when stars many times more massive than our Sun reach the end of their life. These huge stars burn through their hydrogen fuel within just a few million years. When the fuel runs out, the star expands. But gravity pulls the star back together. This heats the star to a point where a runaway fusion reaction occurs. It becomes unstable and the star explodes. So much energy in heat and light is released in this explosion that for short periods of time, the star can outshine an entire galaxy. All that remains is a dense and tiny neutron star surrounded by an expanding cloud of gas and dust. Our Sun is not heavy enough to end this way. It will reach the end of its life in about 4 billion years and become a planetary nebula.

Explore the red dusty cloud. If we hopped in our starship and zipped off at the speed of light, it would take about 100 years to cross this gas cloud. The expanding shockwave from the explosion slams into the quiet dust surrounding the star and heats up the dust enough to cause it to glow. Ultraviolet radiation from the hot neutron star also excites atoms within the cloud causing it to glow. The green colored gas in the image is cool dust left over from a much earlier supernova explosion. This explosion occurred about 12,000 years ago and was even closer to Earth.

Puppis A is one of the brightest X-ray objects in the night sky. It is about 6,500 light-years from Earth toward the large constellation of Puppis. Puppis is the poop deck of the mythical ship used by Jason and the Argonauts. It was part of a larger constellation known as Argo Navis. Nicolas Louis de Lacaille broke the constellation into three parts in 1752; Puppis, Carina, the keel, and Vela, the sails.

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Jabbah’s Dolphin

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team


A dolphin frolicks in the dust around the bright star Jabbah in this image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Explorer, or WISE.

Explore the green filaments of nebula, yellow-tinged bubbles and red dust of this infrared image. What shapes and stories can you tell? Leave a note below.

WISE’s telescope sees the Universe in infrared. Humans feel the infrared part of the light spectrum more than we see it. It lies just outside the visible light part of the spectrum. We feel infrared as heat. So WISE shows warm dust allowing astronomers to see deep within star clouds where thick dust blocks visible light. And in the process we might see new stars developing. The green and yellow clouds are dust particles that are slightly warmer than the surrounding space. Areas in red are patches of even warmer dust heated up by the nearby stars.

Zoom into the bright star surrounded by a red glow just to the right of center. This is Jabbah. The name is Arabic and means “forehead of the Scorpion.” But while it appears to be one star, Jabbah actually is a collection of stars. Each of these stars is brighter and more massive than ten Suns. The star cloud near Jabbah, creating the dolphin shape, is called IC 4592. IC 4601 is another nebula to the far left of the image.

Another star of interest in this image also is surrounded by the warm glow of red dust. Zoom into the lower right corner of the image. The warm dust around this star, known as 9 Scorpii, is pushed to one side. 9 Scorpii is another massive star but this one is moving quickly through space. It’s zipping along at about 1,000 kilometers per second, or more than 224,000 miles per hour. The star could travel the distance between the Moon and Earth in just one hour. The red cloud pushed to one side may be a bow shock as the star pushes through the dust like a boat creates waves on the water. Astronomers think that 9 Scorpii may be a runaway star. It possibly could have been part of a star system where a much more massive star exploded. The blast sent 9 Scorpii careening into deep space.

All of the stars found within this cloud probably formed all at about the same time about 5 million years ago. Our Sun may have formed from a similar cloud of gas and dust more than four billion years ago. The stars that formed with the Sun have long since wandered away from their birthplace.

Jabbah, 9 Scorpii and IC 4592 are all found about 440 light-years away toward the constellation Scorpius.

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The Entire WISE Sky

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA


I love maps like this where astronomers take the entire night sky and project it so we can view it in two dimensions. Zoom into and explore the entire sky infrared mosaic from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Some things to note in the image. The bright swath across the center is the Milky Way Galaxy; our home galaxy. The view is toward the center of the galaxy with the spiral arms stretching to the edges. Some artifacts were left in such as bright red spots off the plane of the galaxy. These are Saturn, Jupiter and Mars.

[UPDATED: The WISE website has a annotated guide to the objects found within the entire WISE Sky image. Click on the image for a closer view.]

Read more and download the 10000×5030 pixel infralicious image here.

Cosmic Valentine

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

Massive star-making regions make up the heart and soul of the cosmos in this image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

Explore the giant bubbles blown by new stars in this image. What shapes and stories does your imagination create? Leave a message below.

The huge bubbles dominate both nebula. Hot, new stars blast the surrounding gas and dust clouds with ultraviolet radiation and solar winds. These winds carve out hollows in the cloud and drive gas and dust clouds together. When enough of this star-making stuff collects in one spot, gravity pulls it together and it could light up and become a star. With infrared sensors, WISE can peer deep into the cold star clouds and show scientists warm areas that might be the formation of new stars. These glowing spots of light in the dust are just a few million years old.

Toward the bottom of the image you’ll notice a couple of blue smudges of light. These are Maffei 1 and 2. These galaxies are only about 10 million light-years from Earth and lie within the general neighborhood of our Milky Way Galaxy. Maffei 1 is the bluish elliptical galaxy to the right. Maffei 2, to the left, is a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way.

The Heart Nebula, to the right, was named because it resembled a human heart. The nebula is also known as IC 1805. The Soul Nebula, the large bubble to the left, is also known as the Embryo Nebula, IC 1848 and W5. Both nebula span nearly 680 light-years across. Both nebulae are found about 6,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Casseopeia, the Queen. They are part of the Perseus Spiral Arm in our Milky Way Galaxy just a bit farther out from the center of the galaxy than the spiral arm that contains our solar system.

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Secrets in Carina’s Dust

Credit: ESO/T. Preibisch

Sea monsters, birds and mystic mountains hide in this detailed infrared image of the Carina Nebula from ESO‘s Very Large Telescope.

Explore the cool details of the stellar nursery known as the Carina Nebula. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note below.

The Carina Nebula is one of the most active star-making factories in the Milky Way Galaxy. Nebulae are clouds of glowing gas and dust; perfect ingredients for making stars. The Carina Nebula is one of the largest nebulae known. It not only home to regular stars like our Sun but also the nebula houses some of the heaviest and most massive stars known. The bright area in the lower left is one of these stars. Known as Eta Carinae, this star, surrounded by arcs of glowing clouds, has been the second brightest star in our Earth skies. Its light changes over time and astronomers think that it may explode in a supernova in the near future.

The nebula is a favorite among the amazing images from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope. That image taken in visible light shows many details. But looking at objects in space with infrared telescopes allows astronomers to peer into clouds of dust. We feel infrared as heat. With an infrared camera, we can see warm objects glowing inside the clouds of dust. These warm objects tend to be newborn stars still veiled in the dust clouds that created them. In both visible and infrared images, look for inky blobs of material. These cold, compact blobs of dust are known as Bok globules. They may be cocoons for new stars.

The nebula makes individual stars and also produces some star clusters. The bright cluster of stars near the center of the image is called Trumpler 14. This region can be seen in the Hubble image but many more stars are visible here. The yellowish cluster of stars to the left of Trumpler 14 can only be seen in infrared. It was discovered for the first time in this image. It appears yellow because thick dust scatters the light of the cluster making it yellowish or reddish much like the red sunsets we have on Earth. Astronomers use images like this to find fainter and smaller stars. They may even be able to see very faint, and cool brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs are stars that didn’t quite make it as stars because they were too small to start nuclear fires within their cores.

The Carina Nebula is found about 7,500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Carina, the Keel of Jason’s 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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