Posts Tagged ‘nebulae’

Galaxies in the mist


Faraway galaxies glow through a starry mist as it angles across this image of NGC 2366 from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the bright star-forming nebula, blue dots and galaxies in this image. What stories or pictures do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

NGC 2366 is a small dwarf galaxy hanging out only about 10 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation Camelopardalis, the Giraffe. The closest large galaxy is the Andromeda Galaxy, two million light-years away. NGC 2366 is about the same size as two closer and more familiar dwarf galaxies to the Milky Way; the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. They lie just 170,000 light-years from Earth. But like the Magellanic Clouds, NGC 2366 lacks the internal structure of galaxies like our home, the Milky Way, and the Andromeda Galaxy.

NGC 2366 is still producing stars. As you pan across the image look for bright blue dots throughout the image. These are giant blue stars many times larger than our Sun. Intense ultraviolet radiation from these new stars excites atoms in the nebulae scattered throughout the image causing them to glow. Zoom into the blue nebula in the upper right hand corner. This star-forming nebula is NGC 2363. This nebula is actually has more of a pinkish tint but is blue because of the green and infrared filters used for this image by the Hubble.

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Cool Cosmic Shades

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With sparkling stars for gems, Messier 78 glows like a pair of cool cosmic shades in this image from NASA‘s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Explore the greenish nebula. What other shapes or images do you see in this image? Leave a note below.

The two round nebulae that make up M78 are actually cavities carved out of a darker dust clouds. Intense light and blistering ultraviolet radiation streaming from newborn stars carve cavities from the dust. This dust helped create the new stars. Spitzer looks deep into the clouds revealing warm objects deep within the cold cloud. It’s that warm dust that shows so brightly in this image. Through a telescope, we cannot see these new stars. Along the rim of the glasses, look for a string of reddish pinpoints. These are new stars that have yet to blow away the shells of gas and dust from which they were born.

Messier 78 is easily seen through a small telescope just northeast of Orion’s belt from Earth. The nebula is found about 1,600 light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Orion, the Hunter.

Baby Blanket

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

Newborn stars are tucked away in their baby blanket of gas and dust in this image of Rho Ophiuchus from NASA‘s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Zoom into the folds of molecular hydrogen gas glowing red in this image. Explore the bubble-like nebulae surrounding some of the stars. What shapes and stories do you see in this nebula? Leave a note below.

Rho Ophichus, or Rho Oph as it’s known by astronomers, is home to some very young stars. Researchers of have found more than 300 young objects within the central cloud with ages of only about 300,000 years. Their great-granddaddies, the oldest stars in the universe, are more than 12 billion years old. Even our Sun, with an age of more than 4 billion years is a grown-up to these young objects.

Spitzer sees the universe in infrared light. With the aid of the telescope, scientists can peer deep into cold clouds of star dust and see warm objects that might be the beginnings of stars. The colors of this infrared image represent temperatures within the star cloud. The colors also reveal aspects of the nebula surrounding the stars. The youngest stars surrounded by their dusty shrouds are tinged with yellow-green. Older stars in the nebula have already blown away their blankets of dust and show more blue-white.

Rho Oph is only 407 light-years from Earth making it one of the closest star-making regions. It lies toward the constellations Scorpius, the scorpion, and Ophiuchus, the snake charmer.

Bird in the hair

Credit: ESO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/S. Kraus

A winged bird alights in the hair of a face in this nebula captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Explore this region of gas and dust. Share stories of what you see below.

A huge star, IRAS 13481-6124, formed from this nebula. The star, surrounded by the gas and dust that helped it form, is about 20 times more massive than our sun and five times bigger around. This offers scientists their first look at the birth of a massive star. Spitzer shows astronomers areas of warm gas and dust. They can peer through this dust and get a detailed look at the dusty disk that surrounds stars after they are born. And consistent with other observations of stars forming, the image shows that massive stars form in similar ways to smaller and cooler stars. Disks of gas and dust around young stars, including massive stars, is strong evidence for the possibility of planets, perhaps even Earth-like ones. Massive stars like IRAS 13481-6124 provide the building blocks for life in the universe. Heavier elements, such as gold and silver, form after massive stars burn through all of their hydrogen fuel and explode in supernovae.

IRAS 13481-6124 is found about 10,000 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Centaurus.

Blowing Bubbles

Credit: NASA, ESA, Mohammad Heydari-Malayeri (Observatoire de Paris, France)

New stars in N83B are blowing bubbles in this image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The newly born, bright stars of N83B are blowing out intense radiation, sculpting the parent star clouds with powerful winds. Also known as NGC 1748, the giant stars resemble the eyes of some beast with a giant maw. Explore the nebula of N83B. Leave a note below on what you see in this image.

The bright stars within the nebula are massive. The star at the center of the nebula looks dim but it is more than 30 times more massive than our Sun and 200,000 times brighter. This star is the big bubble blower in the nebula creating an opening about 25 light-years in diameter. For scale, that is about the size of the famous Orion Nebula. The hottest star in the region is more massive still; more than 45 times more massive than our Sun. Zoom into the brightest part of the nebula just above the center. This bright area is only two light-years across. The small size and intense brightness mean that it is very young. The pink arc below N83B could be a ridge of stellar wind pushed through the glowing gas by the massive star. Zoom through the larger nebula to the right of N83B. This much larger nebula, cut through by a lane of dust, is known as DEM22d.

Astronomers believe that stars are born from nebulae such as N83B. As gas and dust collect, gravity pulls the material together. If enough mass is gathered into one area, the cloud begins to glow with its own heat and a star is born. These stars have just emerged from their cocoon of gas and dust. Astronomers are lucky to catch the stars at this stage. Because of their massive size, the stars evolve rapidly, blowing away the nebula surrounding them. But viewing them too soon and astronomers cannot see them.

N83B is a compact star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring irregular dwarf galaxy, about 165,000 light-years from Earth. The LMC can easily be seen with the naked eye as a faint cloud from the Southern Hemisphere in the constellations of Dorado and Mensa.


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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