Posts Tagged ‘Orion’

Smoky Horse


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.

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Turbulent Gassy Worms

NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

A turbulent jet of heated gas resembles a worm in this image of Herbig-Haro 110 from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the streamer of gas. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

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Billowy Flower

Z. Levay (STScI/AURA/NASA), T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and H. Schweiker (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Billowy filaments of gas and dust create the flower shaped NGC 1999 in this image from the National Science Foundation’s Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak.

Zoom into the network of filaments, jets, arcs and clouds. What pictures or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

At the center of this celestial garden is the young star V380 Orionis. Instead of glowing like some nebulae, this area reflects the bright light of V380 Orionis. If you zoom in close to this bright area, look for a dark keyhole shaped area. This part of the nebula is truly empty space. But surrounding this area, powerful winds and jets from this newly formed star push material away. Eventually a cavity will be formed. For now, follow the spoke-like tendrils outward.

Two features may strike your attention. The pizza-slice shaped cloud to the right and the bright waterfall arc near the center. Both of these features are the first Herbig-Haro objects to be found. Guillermo Haro and George Herbig first described HH-1 and HH-2 in the 1950s. These objects are young stars with powerful jets. As this jet slams into the relatively calm nebula, a bow shock is created. Much like a boat moving through water, these shockwaves move the nebula aside. They move at tremendous speeds, heating the nebula and causing it to glow. The slice-shaped cloud is more than ten light-years long. Big and small Herbig-Haro objects are found throughout the image.

NGC 1999 is found about 1,500 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Orion.

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Purplish Manta

ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J.-E. Ovaldsen, and A. Hornstrup

A purplish manta ray shape glides through the misty nebulae of the Trapezium Cluster in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the amazing colors, stars and dust clouds of this star-forming nursery. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

The Trapezium, or Orion Trapezium Cluster, is a tight open cluster of stars at the very heart of the Orion Nebula. The Trapezium is relatively young and formed out of the surrounding nebula. About 2,000 stars; some hiding in the dense dust, make up the loose grouping of stars. The five brightest stars are 15 to 30 times more massive than our Sun. Blazing ultraviolet light from these huge, bright stars light up most of the nebula. Hydrogen atoms, excited by the ultraviolet light, glow pink and purple in the image. Other elements such as helium, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen give other subtle shades of color in the gas.

Even though the Orion Nebula can be seen without a telescope as a hazy patch of light, no historical records seem to exist describing it. Galileo Galilei first sketched three of the stars of the Trapezium on February 4, 1617. But he missed the nebulosity surrounding them. Later in the 17th century, astronomers mapped a fourth star. As telescopes became better, more stars were discovered. Armed with a modest telescope, modern backyard telescopes can resolve six stars. But there is plenty more to explore within the great nebula.

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Kicking in the Void

NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee (University of California, Davis), and A. Mahdavi (San Francisco State University)

A translucent leg kicks out at an orange ball in this combined image of merging galaxy cluster Abell 520 from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Canada-France Hawaii Telescope.

Explore the false-color hues imposed on the faraway galaxies. What stories or patterns do you see? Leave a note below.

This is not a true image. Astronomers used Chandra and the CFHT telescope to map the ghostly orange and blue-green blobs of color. These colors show areas of different temperatures of hot gas and give an indication of where dark matter lies. A Hubble image was then placed within the image to give astronomers an idea of the galaxies involved in the collision.

First hypothesized about 80 years ago, dark matter is an unseen force in the Universe. Astronomers don’t know much about dark matter. The bizarre material is not made up of the same matter that makes up stars, planets and humans. But even though it is poorly understood, astronomers believe it makes up most of the Universe’s mass.

What excites astronomers most about this image is how it shows the clumping of starlight, hot gas and the interaction with dark matter in this galaxy cluster. The blue-green area, including the kicking leg, is a clump of dark matter left behind after the colossal galactic wreck. After most galactic collisions and mergers, galaxies hang together. Dark matter and galaxies clump together. They become larger elliptical galaxies. Scientists expected that here but instead most of the galaxies seem to be zooming away from each other.

Collisions between galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the Universe, offer some clues as to the nature of dark matter. This massive collision is incredibly distant; about 2.4 billion light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Orion, the mythical Hunter.

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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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