Posts Tagged ‘WISE’

Warm Eyes

NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

Wisps of warm dust in Barnard 3 wrap around creating an eye or bubble in space in this image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

Explore the brush-like strokes of gas and dust in this image. What stories or shapes do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

Barnard 3, also called IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5, is a huge interstellar cloud of gas and dust. It is a perfect place for new stars to form. WISE detects infrared light. We feel infrared light as heat. WISE can peer deep into nebulae to see warm patches that may become new stars. As you zoom across the image it is hard not to stop at the bright star in the middle of the red mist. This part of the cloud is very warm. This star is a huge, luminous star called HD 278942. Ultraviolet radiation streaming outward from the star is likely causing the rest of the cloud to glow. Strong solar winds from this star push away gas and dust and create the ring. Green areas in the cloud are made up of tiny particles of stuff that resembles smog. Yellowish areas in the cloud are areas where dust is more dense. The blue dots scattered throughout the image are stars.

Barnard 3 is found fairly close to Earth; only about 1,000 light-years away. It’s well within the Milky Way Galaxy toward the constellation of the mythical hero Perseus and Taurus, the Bull.

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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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Carnival of Space #241

Welcome back to episode #241 of the Carnival of Space; the source for the latest space news from various blogs from the past week. Step right up for the latest ride around the carnival.

Asteroids: they’re big, scary and can kill millions. Nuclear weapons: they’re big, scary and can kill millions. Ian O’Neill of Discovery News asks wouldn’t it make sense to unite the two?

Chandra Blog’s guest blogger Uroš Kostić explores theoretical work on the destruction of asteroids by supermassive black holes.

Blogger Ray Sanders has a “Guest Post” at the Planetary Society Blog. The guest posts provides information on how space enthusiasts can “Make an Impact” with Yuri’s Night 2012.

Paul Gilster takes a look at the latest Kepler results in light of what may be a discouraging trend for those hoping for abundant terrestrial planets.

AstroWow asks how rainbows reveal the chemical makeup of the Universe?  The Astronomy Word of the Week is “Fraunhofer”!

Sarah Scoles at Smaller Questions asks: “Where do the Martians get their water?

At Astroblogger, the topics of the week are earthquakes, astronomical alignments and 2012 DR30 (alignments still don’t cause earthquakes) and the death dive of the first Kreutz comet found by the SWAN instrument.

The spring equinox is this week, however the lengths of the day and night are not equal on the equinox. Find out why in the Venus

If string theory is true and universal inflation is true then traversable wormholes are possible without exotic matter or negative energy. Nextbigfuture takes a look at this subject as well as a plan DARPA is developing for on-demand satellite imaging for soldiers and a summary of older NASA papers on using nuclear fusion for interstellar travel.

Is Kepler getting close to finding another Earth? The Meridian Journal probes the possibilities.

At Links Through Space follow there Astronomy Club as they travel through Spain. As we travel the south of Spain we visit beau­ti­ful sites and astro­nom­i­cal land­marks to bring you very cool astropho­tos and sto­ries about the his­tory of Span­ish Astronomy.

Vintage Space takes a look at the animals that the US shot into space before the era of Ham and Enos.

And lastly, here at StarryCritters, explore the entire infrared mosaic in this whole sky view from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, WISE. Be dazzled zooming into the intense swarm of stars of Messier 9 in this image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.


Want to catch up or read back posts on COS? UniverseToday has the entire archive. If you have a space-related blog and you want a little exposure consider contributing to the Carnival of Space. Just email your post to and the current week’s host will add a link. If you feel really ambitious and want to help send an email to the above email and sign up as a host. We’d love to have you either way.


Echoes of a Death

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team


Supernovae explode with an energy that can outshine an entire galaxy. But just as quickly the star fades from view leaving an expanding bubble of star guts and in the case of Cassiopeia A, a light echo.

Explore this gorgeous image of the region surrounding the Cas A supernova remnant from NASA‘s Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE). What patterns or shapes do you see? Leave a note below.

About 11,000 years ago, toward the constellation Cassiopeia, the Queen, a massive supergiant star exploded in the Milky Way, our home galaxy. Supernova happen at the end of these giant stars’ lives. Stars about ten times more massive than our Sun burn through their hydrogen fuel quickly, within only tens of millions of years. They burn super hot and when the fuel runs out they collapse. Collapsing stars become even hotter and as the outer layers of the star heat up a runaway nuclear reaction can occur. The star explodes. The light from the explosion can be brighter than the entire galaxy. The explosion creates and scatters elements necessary for life on Earth, such as carbon and iron. It also spreads heavier elements such as gold, silver and uranium.

Zoom into the bright yellow cloud of dust. This is the bubble of material blown away from the star. As the edge of the bubble moves through interstellar space it heats up gas. The shockwave slams into the calm space at about 18,000 kilometers per second (11,000 miles per second) or about six percent the speed of light. In 11,000 years since the explosion, the expanding ball has expanded about 21 light-years.

Light travels much faster than the expanding bubble of gas and dust left over from the star. WISE, with its infrared eyes, detected infrared echoes of the brilliant flash as the light and heat ripple outward through surrounding star clouds. Look to the upper right for a curtain of orange in the cooler, greenish nebula. These orange echoes are remnants of heat generated when light from the explosion reached this part of the nebula.

Light from this explosion, traveling at more than six trillion miles per year, finally reached Earth in about 1667 AD. We have no record of it. European astronomers didn’t report it, Chinese astronomers didn’t record it. Scientists think that thick dust surrounding the star blocked most of the light, making it a dim supernova. Astronomers discovered the remnant in 1947. When they used new radio telescopes to scan the sky, Cas A was the brightest source they could see.

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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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