Posts Tagged ‘WISE’

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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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.

New face of a supernova

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/B. Williams (NCSU)

The outline of a face show the remains of the oldest documented supernova in this infrared image of RCW 86 from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

Explore the dusty glowing remains of this exploded star. What patterns or stories do you see? Leave a note below.

In 185 A.D., the Chinese wrote about a mysterious “guest star” that appeared in the sky. The star remained visible for eight months. The Chinese had no way of knowing they witnessed one of the most powerful events in the universe. Using images from Spitzer and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, astronomers are able to piece together the story Chinese historians first witnessed nearly 2,000 years ago. RCW 86 is a special kind of supernova. A white dwarf, the dead remains of a star like our Sun, pulled material from a companion star. As this material piles up, it becomes super-hot. Reactions inside the star go haywire and the star explodes. Astronomers call this a Type 1A supernova. Supernova give off so much light energy, they briefly outshine an entire galaxy.

Using the data from the orbiting observatories, astronomers solved another puzzle; how the remnant got so large in just 1,800 years. They found that the white dwarf, with its strong solar wind, created a bubble within the region around the star. The cavity was already huge when the star exploded. When it blew up, a shockwave pushed the edge of the bubble out much quicker than it normally would.

The colors of the image are not real but they do provide scientists important information. Infrared data from Spitzer and WISE are shown in yellow and red. These colors show warm dust in deep space. Blues and greens in the image are from X-ray data taken from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton Observatory. The X-rays show gas in deep space that has been heated to millions of degrees as the expanding edge of the supernova passed.

Light from RCW 86 took about 8,200 years to reach the eyes of the Chinese historians. The remains of the “guest star” are found in the faint southern constellation Circinus, the Compass. From Earth, the bubble is slightly larger than a full moon. At this distance, that makes the bubble about 85 light-years across.

WISE Jellyfish

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

A colorful jellyfish floats in this image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.

What stories or images do you see in this explosion of light and color? Leave a note below.

IC 443, also known as the Jellyfish Nebula, is a supernova remnant. Created by a colossal stellar explosion, IC 443 shows an expanding bubble of debris. What interests scientists most is the way the explosion affects the surrounding area. Stars like our Sun usually become planetary nebula. But stars with many times the mass of the Sun burn through their nuclear fuel quickly. Within just a few million years, these massive stars explode. Their light can easily outshine an entire galaxy for a brief time. IC 443 is all that remains of a star that exploded 5,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Explore the expanding shockwave surrounding the supernova. This supernova blast wave moves through thick cloud of gas and dust. The wave sweeps aside and heats the gas and dust causing it to glow. Colors in this infrared image show the differences in energies of the shockwave. The upper part of the shell, seen as a violet, shows a fast shockwave while the bottom half, with its bluish colored tendrils, was hit with a slower shockwave. Elements such as iron, neon, silicon and oxygen give the upper half its purplish color.

IC 443 is found about 4,890 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Gemini, the Twins. The expanding shell of debris is about 65 light-years across.

The WISE orbit­ing tele­scope sur­veyed the sky from Decem­ber 2010 until it was turned off in Feb­ru­ary 2011. To view the uni­verse in infrared wave­lengths, the satellites sen­sors had to be kept very cold. Coolant needed to keep its images sharp ran out and the satel­lite stopped send­ing use­ful data.


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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