Posts Tagged ‘new stars’

Cassiopeian Dragon

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

A dragon lurks in the vast spaces between constellations Cassiopeia and Cepheus in the image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

Explore the cool dense clouds of gas and dust. A curvy dragon-shaped nebula rises in the middle of the image. What shapes and patterns does your imagination create? Leave a note below.

When we look up into this part of the sky at night we see dark space between the stars of Cassiopeia and Cepheus, named after the ancient Queen and King of Ethiopia in Greek mythology. But with WISE’s infrared telescopes, the cool gas and dust of the region glow brightly.

Dozens of nebulae are spread across this image. And within, massive stars have blown bubbles in the clouds. These nebulae and bubbles are hundreds of light-years across. As these huge stars blaze into existence, their blistering radiation and strong solar winds push the gas and dust away, clearing an area for the star to glow. Astronomers find these huge stars interesting but as the gas and dust is compressed at the edge of the bubbles new stars pop into being. Each part of this image contains a piece of a puzzle that together gives astronomers a complete idea of how a star is created. The radiation from the new stars cause the clouds to glow brightly in this infrared image.

Also visible in the image is the remains of an explosion that destroyed a sun. A supernova blazed in this part of the sky. Astronomer Tycho Brahe witnessed this explosion in 1572 AD.

A twisting and turning sea

Credit: NASA/ESA and Hubble

Dark dust twists and turns in this image of the Carina Nebula from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the glowing gas and dark blobs. What stories can you tell? Leave a note below.

This image is just a tiny part of the vast Carina Nebula. The nebula is a star-making factory about 7,500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Carina, the Keel of Jason’s ship the Argo from Greek mythology. The abundance of gas and dust makes it a perfect place for stars to form. Gravity pulls globs of dust closer together. As more material piles up, it starts to warm up and eventually gets hot enough for hydrogen atoms to begin to fuse. The inky dark blobs in the upper right of the image may be cocoons for new stars. Astronomers call them Bok Globules, after American astronomer Bart Bok who first described them in the 1940s.

Some big stars have already been born from the nebula. These stars blaze so brightly and give off so much radiation that it carves the nebula into incredible shapes. The stars radiation also excites atoms in the cloud causing them to glow like a neon sign.

A thin veil of dust lies between Earth and the glowing background. Just like clouds on Earth, the dust clouds in the nebula flow, swirl and twist with unseen currents.

Blowing Galactic Bubbles

Credit: NASA/ESA

A dwarf irregular galaxy blows galactic bubbles in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the arcs of pink glowing gas in this image. What stories or pictures does your imagination see? Leave a note below.

Holmberg II is an irregular dwarf galaxy that is only about 11 million light-years from Earth. It is part of the M81 Galaxy Group. Cosmically speaking, this galaxy is pretty close and offers astronomers a great peek at how stars form. Huge bubbles of glowing hydrogen gas dominate this small galaxy. We see similar glowing star clouds in our galaxy, such as the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation or the Orion Nebula. Nebulae like these are rich in material needed for creating new stars. Usually the first stars to form from these clouds of gas and dust are huge, massive stars. These stars are much larger than our Sun and live short lives. They burn through their supply of hydrogen fuel in just a few million years. After they exhaust their fuel, the huge stars collapse on themselves. This collapse causes the star to burn much hotter and the star explodes as a supernova. Supernovae are violent explosions that give off so much energy that they can outshine an entire galaxy for short periods of time. The huge bubbles in Holmberg II; the largest is more than 5,500 light-years across, are really cavities blown out by shockwaves from supernova explosions. The shockwaves will push more gas and dust together where new stars can be created.

As you explore the starfields of Holmberg II look for the many far-away galaxies in the background. Like Holmberg II and our own Milky Way Galaxy, these galaxies also are home to huge clouds of gas that create new stars.

Newborn Stars and Scorpions

Credit: NASA, ESA, and P. Hartigan (Rice University)

This fiery star birth announcement resembles a scorpion in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the cloud of energetic glowing gas surrounding this young star known as HH 2. What stories or pictures do you see in this image? Leave a note below.

These short-lived and small events are just at the edge of Hubble’s vision so there’s not much to zoom on. There’s plenty of action going on in this small space. Jets of material are blasting away from the newborn star at high-speed. They last only about 100,000 years. Astronomers call them Herbig-Haro (HH) objects in honor of George Herbig and Guillermo Haro, who studied them in the 1950s.

Stars form from collapsing clouds of hydrogen gas. Gravity pulls the material together into a spinning mass. When enough gathers in one place, a star may form as hydrogen atoms begin to fuse giving off light and heat. Planets may arise from the leftover material in the disk surrounding the newborn star. Material in the disk may also spiral toward the star only to be spewed out along the narrow beams of the star’s powerful magnetic field. Astronomers have been watching these jets over the past 14 years and have created movies as the jets flow outward like water.

It remains a mystery why a star unleashes the jets or what role they play in star formation. Studying the jets provides a peek at how our Sun formed more than 4.5 billion years ago.

HH2 and other Herbig-Haro objects are found about 1,350 light-years from Earth in the Orion Nebula.

Galaxy Mice

Credit: NASA, H. Ford (JHU), G. Illingworth (UCSC/LO), M.Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), the ACS Science Team, and ESA

Galaxies dance. At least these two are circling each other in a mouse and mouse game. Astronomers nicknamed these colliding galaxies The Mice because of their long streaming tails of stars, dust and gas. 300 million light years away toward the constellation Coma Berenices, these galaxies are called NGC 4676. They collided 160 million years ago.

The blue streams, forming the mouse tails in the image, are areas where hot, new stars are being born.

Eventually the pair will form a single giant galaxy. These galaxies give us a glimpse of what might happen billions of years from now when our Milky Way Galaxy collides with our neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

Hubble Space Telescope took the images used to make this one image in 2002.


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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