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  • richardmitnick 6:40 am on March 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “Hubblecast 83″ 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    March 19, 2015

    As Hubble enters its 25th year in orbit, with celebrations planned around the world for its anniversary on 24 April 2015, this Hubblecast celebrates the relationship that the telescope will have with its future colleague, the James Webb Space Telescope.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 1:57 pm on March 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “Dark matter even darker than once thought” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    26 March 2015
    David Harvey
    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
    Lausanne, Switzerland
    Tel: +41 22 3792475
    Cell: +41 7946 38283
    Email: david.harvey@epfl.ch

    Richard Massey
    Durham University
    Durham, UK
    Tel: +44 7740 648080
    Email: r.j.massey@durham.ac.uk

    Georgia Bladon
    ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +44 7816 291261
    Email: gbladon@partner.eso.org

    Hubble explores the dark side of cosmic collisions

    1
    Image credit: NASA, ESA, D. Harvey (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland)and R. Massey (Durham University, UK)

    Astronomers using observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have studied how dark matter in clusters of galaxies behaves when the clusters collide. The results, published in the journal Science on 27 March 2015, show that dark matter interacts with itself even less than previously thought, and narrows down the options for what this mysterious substance might be.

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA/CHandra

    Dark matter is a giant question mark looming over our knowledge of the Universe. There is more dark matter in the Universe than visible matter, but it is extremely elusive; it does not reflect, absorb or emit light, making it invisible. Because of this, it is only known to exist via its gravitational effects on the visible Universe (see e.g. heic1215a).

    To learn more about this mysterious substance, researchers can study it in a way similar to experiments on visible matter — by watching what happens when it bumps into things [1]. For this reason, researchers look at vast collections of galaxies, called galaxy clusters, where collisions involving dark matter happen naturally and where it exists in vast enough quantities to see the effects of collisions [2].

    Galaxies are made of three main ingredients: stars, clouds of gas and dark matter. During collisions, the clouds of gas spread throughout the galaxies crash into each other and slow down or stop. The stars are much less affected by the drag from the gas [3] and, because of the huge gaps between them, do not have a slowing effect on each other — though if two stars did collide the frictional forces would be huge.

    “We know how gas and stars react to these cosmic crashes and where they emerge from the wreckage. Comparing how dark matter behaves can help us to narrow down what it actually is,” explains David Harvey of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, lead author of a new study.

    Harvey and his team used data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to study 72 large cluster collisions. The collisions happened at different times, and are seen from different angles — some from the side, and others head-on [4].

    The team found that, like the stars, the dark matter continued straight through the violent collisions without slowing down. However, unlike in the case of the stars, this is not because the dark matter is far away from other dark matter during the collisions. The leading theory is that dark matter is spread evenly throughout the galaxy clusters so dark matter particles frequently get very close to each other. The reason the dark matter doesn’t slow down is because not only does it not interact with visible particles, it also interacts even less with other dark matter than previously thought.

    “A previous study had seen similar behaviour in the Bullet Cluster,” says team member Richard Massey of Durham University, UK.

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    Bullet Cluster
    X-ray photo by Chandra X-ray Observatory. Exposure time was 140 hours. The scale is shown in megaparsecs. Redshift (z) = 0.3, meaning its light has wavelengths stretched by a factor of 1.3.

    “But it’s difficult to interpret what you’re seeing if you have just one example. Each collision takes hundreds of millions of years, so in a human lifetime we only get to see one freeze-frame from a single camera angle. Now that we have studied so many more collisions, we can start to piece together the full movie and better understand what is going on.”

    By finding that dark matter interacts with itself even less than previously thought, the team have successfully narrowed down the properties of dark matter. Particle physics theorists have to keep looking, but they now have a smaller set of unknowns to work with when building their models[5].

    Dark matter could potentially have rich and complex properties, and there are still several other types of interaction to study. These latest results rule out interactions that create a strong frictional force, causing dark matter to slow down during collisions. Other possible interactions could make dark matter particles bounce off each other like billiard balls, causing dark matter to be thrown out of collisions or for dark matter blobs to change shape. The team will be studying these next.

    To further increase the number of collisions that can be studied, the team are also looking to study collisions involving individual galaxies, which are much more common.

    “There are still several viable candidates for dark matter, so the game is not over, but we are getting nearer to an answer,” concludes Harvey. “These ‘Astronomically Large’ particle colliders are finally letting us glimpse the dark world all around us but just out of reach.”

    Notes

    [1] On Earth scientists use particle accelerators to find out more about the properties of different particles. Physicists can investigate what substances are made of by accelerating particles into a collision, and examining the properties and trajectory of the resulting debris.

    [2] Clusters of galaxies are a swarm of galaxies permeated by a sea of hot X-ray emitting ionised hydrogen gas that is all embedded in a massive cloud of dark matter. It is the interactions of these, the most massive structures in the Universe that are observed to test dark matter’s properties.

    [3] The gas-gas interaction in cluster collisions is very strong, while the gas-star drag is weak. In a similar way to a soap bubble and a bullet in the wind where the bubble would interact a great deal more with the wind than the bullet.

    [4] To find out where the dark matter was located in the cluster the researchers studied the light from galaxies behind the cluster whose light had been magnified and distorted by the mass in the cluster. Because they have a good idea of the visible mass in the cluster, the amount the light is distorted tells them how much dark matter there is in a region.

    [5] A favoured theory is that dark matter might be constituted of “supersymmetric” particles. Supersymmetry is a theory in which all particles in our Standard Model — electrons, protons, neutrons, and so on — have a more massive “supersymmetric” partner. While there has been no experimental confirmation for supersymmetry as yet, the theory would solve a few of the gaps in our current thinking. One of supersymmetry’s proposed particles would be stable, electrically neutral, and only interact weakly with the common particles of the Standard Model — all the properties required to explain dark matter.

    Supersymmetry standard model
    Standard Model of Supersymmetry

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    Standard Model of Particle Physics. The diagram shows the elementary particles of the Standard Model (the Higgs boson, the three generations of quarks and leptons, and the gauge bosons), including their names, masses, spins, charges, chiralities, and interactions with the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces. It also depicts the crucial role of the Higgs boson in electroweak symmetry breaking, and shows how the properties of the various particles differ in the (high-energy) symmetric phase (top) and the (low-energy) broken-symmetry phase (bottom).

    Notes for editors

    The research paper, entitled The non-gravitational interactions of dark matter in colliding galaxy clusters, will be published in the journal Science on 27 March 2015.

    The international team of astronomers in this study consists of D. Harvey (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland; University of Edinburgh, UK), R. Massey (Durham University, UK), T. Kitching (University College London, UK), A. Taylor (University of Edinburgh, UK), and E. Tittley (University of Edinburgh, UK).
    More information

    See the full article here.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 9:29 am on March 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “Hubble Explores the Mysteries of UGC 8201″ 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    1

    The galaxy UGC 8201, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is a dwarf irregular galaxy, so called because of its small size and chaotic structure. It lies just under 15 million light-years away from us in the constellation of Draco (the Dragon). As with most dwarf galaxies it is a member of a larger group of galaxies. In this case UCG 8201 is part of the M81 galaxy group; this group is one of the closest neighbors to the Local Group of galaxies, which contains our galaxy, the Milky Way.

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    The spiral galaxy Messier 81 is tilted at an oblique angle on to our line of sight, giving a “birds-eye view” of the spiral structure. The galaxy is similar to our Milky Way, but our favorable view provides a better picture of the typical architecture of spiral galaxies. Though the galaxy is 11.6 million light-years away, NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s view is so sharp that it can resolve individual stars, along with open star clusters, globular star clusters, and even glowing regions of fluorescent gas.

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    Local Group

    UGC 8201 is at an important phase in its evolution. It has recently finished a long period of star formation, which had significant impact on the whole galaxy. This episode lasted for several hundred million years and produced a high number of newborn bright stars. These stars can be seen in this image as the dominating light source within the galaxy. This process also changed the distribution and amount of dust and gas in between the stars in the galaxy.

    Such large star formation events need extensive sources of energy to trigger them. However, compared to larger galaxies, dwarf galaxies lack such sources and they do not appear to have enough gas to produce as many new stars as they do. This raises an important unanswered question in galaxy evolution: How do relatively isolated, low-mass systems such as dwarf galaxies sustain star formation for extended periods of time?

    Due to its relative proximity to Earth UGC 8201 is an excellent object for research and provides an opportunity to improve our understanding of how dwarf galaxies evolve and grow.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 12:55 pm on March 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble for St Partick’s Day: “Hubble Zooms in on a Space Oddity” Story from 2011 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    January 10, 2011

    2

    One of the strangest space objects ever seen is being scrutinized by the penetrating vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. A mysterious, glowing green blob of gas is floating in space near a spiral galaxy. Hubble uncovered delicate filaments of gas and a pocket of young star clusters in the giant object, which is the size of our Milky Way galaxy.

    The Hubble revelations are the latest finds in an ongoing probe of Hanny’s Voorwerp (Hanny’s Object in Dutch), named for Hanny van Arkel, the Dutch teacher who discovered the ghostly structure in 2007 while participating in the online Galaxy Zoo project. Galaxy Zoo enlists the public to help classify more than a million galaxies catalogued in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

    SDSS Telescope
    SDSS telescope at Apache Point, NM, USA

    The project has expanded to include the Hubble Zoo, in which the public is asked to assess tens of thousands of galaxies in deep imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope.

    In the sharpest view yet of Hanny’s Voorwerp, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 {WFC3] and Advanced Camera for Surveys [ACS] have uncovered star birth in a region of the green object that faces the spiral galaxy IC 2497, located about 650 million light-years from Earth.

    NASA Hubble WFC3
    WFC3

    NASA Hubble ACS
    ACS

    Radio observations have shown an outflow of gas arising from the galaxy’s core. The new Hubble images reveal that the galaxy’s gas is interacting with a small region of Hanny’s Voorwerp, which is collapsing and forming stars. The youngest stars are a couple of million years old.

    “The star clusters are localized, confined to an area that is over a few thousand light-years wide,” explains astronomer William Keel of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, leader of the Hubble study. “The region may have been churning out stars for several million years. They are so dim that they have previously been lost in the brilliant light of the surrounding gas.”

    Recent X-ray observations have revealed why Hanny’s Voorwerp caught the eye of astronomers. The galaxy’s rambunctious core produced a quasar, a powerful light beacon powered by a black hole. The quasar shot a broad beam of light in Hanny’s Voorwerp’s direction, illuminating the gas cloud and making it a space oddity. Its bright green color is from glowing oxygen.

    “We just missed catching the quasar, because it turned off no more than 200,000 years ago, so what we’re seeing is the afterglow from the quasar,” Keel says. “This implies that it might flicker on and off, which is typical of quasars, but we’ve never seen such a dramatic change happen so rapidly.”

    The quasar’s outburst also may have cast a shadow on the blob. This feature gives the illusion of a gaping hole about 20,000 light-years wide in Hanny’s Voorwerp. Hubble reveals sharp edges around the apparent opening, suggesting that an object close to the quasar may have blocked some of the light and projected a shadow on Hanny’s Voorwerp. This phenomenon is similar to a fly on a movie projector lens casting a shadow on a movie screen.

    Radio studies have revealed that Hanny’s Voorwerp is not just an island gas cloud floating in space. The glowing blob is part of a long, twisting rope of gas, or tidal tail, about 300,000 light-years long that wraps around the galaxy. The only optically visible part of the rope is Hanny’s Voorwerp. The illuminated object is so huge that it stretches from 44,000 light-years to 136,000 light-years from the galaxy’s core.

    The quasar, the outflow of gas that instigated the star birth, and the long, gaseous tidal tail point to a rough life for IC 2497.

    “The evidence suggests that IC 2497 may have merged with another galaxy about a billion years ago,” Keel explains. “The Hubble images show in exquisite detail that the spiral arms are twisted, so the galaxy hasn’t completely settled down.”

    In Keel’s scenario, the merger expelled the long streamer of gas from the galaxy and funneled gas and stars into the center, which fed the black hole. The engorged black hole then powered the quasar, which launched two cones of light. One light beam illuminated part of the tidal tail, now called Hanny’s Voorwerp.

    About a million years ago, shock waves produced glowing gas near the galaxy’s core and blasted it outward. The glowing gas is seen only in Hubble images and spectra, Keel says. The outburst may have triggered star formation in Hanny’s Voorwerp. Less than 200,000 years ago, the quasar dropped in brightness by 100 times or more, leaving an ordinary-looking core.

    New images of the galaxy’s dusty core from Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph show an expanding bubble of gas blown out of one side of the core, perhaps evidence of the sputtering quasar’s final gasps. The expanding ring of gas is still too small for ground-based telescopes to detect.

    “This quasar may have been active for a few million years, which perhaps indicates that quasars blink on and off on timescales of millions of years, not the 100 million years that theory had suggested,” Keel says. He added that the quasar could light up again if more material is dumped around the black hole.

    Keel [presented] his results on Jan. 10, 2011, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Wash.

    See the full article here.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 10:58 am on March 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “NASA’s Hubble Observations Suggest Underground Ocean on Jupiter’s Largest Moon” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    March 12, 2015
    Ann Jenkins / Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
    410-338-4488 / 410-338-4514
    jenkins@stsci.edu / villard@stsci.edu

    Felicia Chou
    NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
    202-358-0257
    felicia.chou@nasa.gov

    Joachim Saur
    University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany
    jsaur@uni-koein.de

    1

    2

    NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has the best evidence yet for an underground saltwater ocean on Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. The subterranean ocean is thought to have more water than all the water on Earth’s surface.

    Identifying liquid water is crucial in the search for habitable worlds beyond Earth and for the search for life as we know it.

    “This discovery marks a significant milestone, highlighting what only Hubble can accomplish,” said John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. “In its 25 years in orbit, Hubble has made many scientific discoveries in our own solar system. A deep ocean under the icy crust of Ganymede opens up further exciting possibilities for life beyond Earth.”

    Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system and the only moon with its own magnetic field. The magnetic field causes aurorae, which are ribbons of glowing, hot electrified gas, in regions circling the north and south poles of the moon. Because Ganymede is close to Jupiter, it is also embedded in Jupiter’s magnetic field. When Jupiter’s magnetic field changes, the aurorae on Ganymede also change, “rocking” back and forth.

    By watching the rocking motion of the two aurorae, scientists were able to determine that a large amount of saltwater exists beneath Ganymede’s crust, affecting its magnetic field.

    A team of scientists led by Joachim Saur of the University of Cologne in Germany came up with the idea of using Hubble to learn more about the inside of the moon.

    “I was always brainstorming how we could use a telescope in other ways,” said Saur. “Is there a way you could use a telescope to look inside a planetary body? Then I thought, the aurorae! Because aurorae are controlled by the magnetic field, if you observe the aurorae in an appropriate way, you learn something about the magnetic field. If you know the magnetic field, then you know something about the moon’s interior.”

    If a saltwater ocean were present, Jupiter’s magnetic field would create a secondary magnetic field in the ocean that would counter Jupiter’s field. This “magnetic friction” would suppress the rocking of the aurorae. This ocean fights Jupiter’s magnetic field so strongly that it reduces the rocking of the aurorae to 2 degrees, instead of 6 degrees if the ocean were not present.

    Scientists estimate the ocean is 60 miles (100 kilometers) thick — 10 times deeper than Earth’s oceans — and is buried under a 95-mile (150-kilometer) crust of mostly ice.

    Scientists first suspected an ocean in Ganymede in the 1970s, based on models of the large moon. NASA’s Galileo mission measured Ganymede’s magnetic field in 2002, providing the first evidence supporting those suspicions.

    NASA Galileo
    NASA/Galileo

    The Galileo spacecraft took brief “snapshot” measurements of the magnetic field in 20-minute intervals, but its observations were too brief to distinctly catch the cyclical rocking of the ocean’s secondary magnetic field.

    The new observations were done in ultraviolet light and could only be accomplished with a space telescope high above Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks most ultraviolet light.

    The team’s results will be published online in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics on March 12.

    NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating 25 years of groundbreaking science on April 24. It has transformed our understanding of our solar system and beyond, and helped us find our place among the stars.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 3:27 am on March 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Space.com: “Eagle Nebula (M16): Hubble Images & Pillars of Creation” 2012 

    space-dot-com logo

    SPACE.com

    July 02, 2012
    Nola Taylor Redd

    1
    This classic image of the Pillars of Creation inside of the Eagle Nebula reveals a stellar nursery where new stars may be hatched.
    Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University)

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    Hubble

    In 1995, the world was astounded by the beautiful Hubble Space Telescope images of the Eagle Nebula a cloud of interstellar gas and dust 7,000 light-years from Earth. Let’s take a look at this intriguing region.

    What is the Eagle Nebula?

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    Overview of some famous sights in the Eagle Nebula
    HST 24 August 2008

    Also known as M16, the Eagle Nebula is a 5.5 million-year-old cloud of molecular hydrogen gas and dust stretching approximately 70 light years by 55 light years. Inside the nebula, gravity pulls clouds of gas together to collapse inward. If enough gas is present, nuclear fusion is ignited in the center, and the compact cloud becomes a shining star. The Eagle Nebula is thought to have several star-forming regions within it.

    The gas and dust that ultimately collapsed into the sun four billion years ago likely resided in a structure similar to the Eagle Nebula.

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    A tower of cold gas and dust rises from the Eagle Nebula.
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

    Where is the Eagle Nebula?

    The Eagle Nebula lies 6,500 light-years away in the inner spiral arm of the Milky Way next to our own, the Sagittarius or Sagittarius-Carina Arm. When viewing the sky, the stellar nursery is found within the constellation of Serpens, the Serpent.

    The nebula is viewable with the low-powered telescopes readily available to amateur astronomers, or with a pair of binoculars. With such equipment, observers can see approximately twenty stars clearly, surrounded by gas, dust, and the light of other, dimmer stars. In good conditions, the three pillars may also be seen.

    What are the Pillars of Creation?

    One of the best-known pictures of the Eagle Nebula is the Hubble Space Telescope image taken in 1995, highlighting the “Pillars of Creation.” The three columns contain the materials for building new stars, and stretch four light-years out into space. Newborn stars outside of the famous Hubble image are responsible for sculpting the pillars, using ultraviolet light to burn away some of the gas within the clouds.

    3

    In 2010, images of the pillars taken by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory peered inside the pillars to reveal only a handful of x-ray sources. Because new stars are supposed to be a hot bed of x-ray activity, scientists speculated that the star-forming days of the pillars were coming to an end. [VIDEO: Inside the Pillars of Creation]

    Similarly, research from 2007 suggested that a stellar supernova six thousand years ago could have already blown the pillars out of formation and into space. Because light takes time to travel, it may be another thousand years before we can see their demise.

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    Chandra’s X-ray Observatory reveals x-ray images in the Eagle Nebula, although few are visible within the Pillars of Creation
    Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Colorado/Linsky et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/ASU/J.Hester & P.Scowen

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    Chandra

    What are EGGs?

    Evaporating gaseous globules, or EGGs, are dense pockets of gas that lie at the top of the columns. Some EGGs appear as tiny bumps in the surface, while others have been completely uncovered or cut off completely from the pillars.

    Although some EGGs will collapse down into new stars, others lack sufficient gas to create a new stellar candidate.

    The EGGs are about a hundred times the Earth’s distance to the sun, so the solar system would fit comfortably inside most of them. They last ten thousand to twenty thousand years.

    Discovery of the Eagle Nebula

    When Swiss astronomer Philippe Loys de Chéseaux discovered the Eagle Nebula in the mid-eighteenth century, he only described the cluster of stars surrounding it. Charles Messier independently rediscovered it in 1764 as part of his catalog, dubbing it M16.

    The first image of the nebula appears to have been made by American astronomer Edward Barnard, in 1895.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 3:28 pm on March 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESA: “The twisted shockwaves of an exploded star” 

    ESASpaceForEuropeBanner
    European Space Agency

    1
    Supernova remnant
    NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA) – ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgment: J. Hester (Arizona State Univ.)

    09/03/2015

    Discovered on 5 September 1784 by astronomer William Herschel, the Veil Nebula was once a star. Now it is a twisted mass of shock waves that appears six times larger than the full Moon in the sky.

    This Hubble Space Telescope image shows just a small part of the nebula, a region known as the ‘south-eastern knot’. The entire nebula is about 50 light years in radius, and is located almost 1500 light years away.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    Hubble

    Ten thousand years ago, the Veil Nebula did not exist. Back then, it was a star, much brighter and larger than our own Sun, burning furiously thanks to the nuclear furnace in its centre. As those reactions faltered when its fuel was exhausted, the star collapsed and exploded.

    This is estimated to have happened some 5000–10 000 years ago. Sky watchers would have seen the star brighten enormously over the course of a day or two. It would have become brighter than a crescent moon.

    Such a titanically destructive event is called a supernova. Modern measurements show that a supernova can outshine the combined light of 100 billion normal stars. Over the course of a week or so, our ancestors would have watched the fireball fade back into obscurity, only to be rediscovered millennia later by William Herschel as an expanding ball of gases in space.

    During the star’s final detonation, it flung its outer layers into space at more than 600 000 km/h. What we see now is these layers colliding with the surrounding gases of interstellar space.

    The energy imparted in the collision heated the gas to millions of degrees, causing it to emit light. The wavelength of this light depends upon the atoms present in the excited gas. In this image, blue shows oxygen, green shows sulphur, and red shows hydrogen.

    Supernova explosions are important because they seed the Universe with heavy chemicals, building all the elements heavier than iron. They are rare in our galaxy, with only one or two stars exploding over the course of a century.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA. This image was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, and was first published in July 2007.

    NASA Hubble WFPC2
    WFPC2 [no lnger in service].

    See the full article here.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 2:54 pm on March 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “An explosive quartet” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    5 March 2015

    Contacts

    Patrick Kelly
    University of California
    Berkeley, USA
    Tel: + 1 510 859 8370
    Email: pkelly@astro.berkeley.edu

    Jens Hjorth
    Dark Cosmology Centre
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Email: jens@dark-cosmology.dk

    Steve Rodney
    Johns Hopkins University
    Baltimore, USA
    Email: rodney@jhu.edu

    Tommaso Treu
    University of California
    Los Angeles, USA
    Email: tt@astro.ucla.edu

    Georgia Bladon
    ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Cell: +44 7816291261
    Email: gbladon@partner.eso.org

    Hubble sees multiple images of a supernova for the very first time

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    Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have, for the first time, spotted four images of a distant exploding star. The images are arranged in a cross-shaped pattern by the powerful gravity of a foreground galaxy embedded in a massive cluster of galaxies. The supernova discovery paper will appear on 6 March 2015 in a special issue of Science celebrating the centenary of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

    Whilst looking closely at a massive elliptical galaxy and its associated galaxy cluster MACS J1149+2223 — whose light took over 5 billion years to reach us — astronomers have spotted a strange and rare sight. The huge mass of the galaxy and the cluster is bending the light from a much more distant supernova behind them and creating four separate images of it. The light has been magnified and distorted due to gravitational lensing [1] and as a result the images are arranged around the elliptical galaxy in a formation known as an Einstein cross.

    Although astronomers have discovered dozens of multiply imaged galaxies and quasars, they have never before seen multiple images of a stellar explosion.

    “It really threw me for a loop when I spotted the four images surrounding the galaxy — it was a complete surprise,” said Patrick Kelly of the University of California Berkeley, USA, a member of the Grism Lens Amplified Survey from Space (GLASS) collaboration and lead author on the supernova discovery paper. He discovered the supernova during a routine search of the GLASS team’s data, finding what the GLASS group and the Frontier Fields Supernova team have been searching for since 2013 [2]. The teams are now working together to analyse the images of the supernova, whose light took over 9 billion years to reach us [3].

    “The supernova appears about 20 times brighter than its natural brightness,” explains the paper’s co-author Jens Hjorth from the Dark Cosmology Centre, Denmark. “This is due to the combined effects of two overlapping lenses. The massive galaxy cluster focuses the supernova light along at least three separate paths, and then when one of those light paths happens to be precisely aligned with a single elliptical galaxy within the cluster, a secondary lensing effect occurs.” The dark matter associated with the elliptical galaxy bends and refocuses the light into four more paths, generating the rare Einstein cross pattern the team observed.

    This unique observation will help astronomers refine their estimates of the amount and distribution of dark matter in the lensing galaxy and cluster. There is more dark matter in the Universe than visible matter, but it is extremely elusive and is only known to exist via its gravitational effects on the visible Universe, so the lensing effects of a galaxy or galaxy cluster are a big clue to the amount of dark matter it contains.

    When the four supernova images fade away as the explosion dies down, astronomers will have a rare chance to catch a rerun of the explosion. The supernova images do not arrive at the Earth at the same time because, for each image produced, the light takes a different route. Each route has a different layout of matter — both dark and visible — along its path. this causes bends in the road, and so for some routes the light takes longer to reach us than for others. Astronomers can use their model of how much dark matter is in the cluster, and where it is, to predict when the next image will appear as well as using the time delays they observe to make the mass models even more accurate [4].

    “The four supernova images captured by Hubble appeared within a few days or weeks of each other and we found them after they had appeared,” explains Steve Rodney of Johns Hopkins University, USA, leader of the Frontier Fields Supernova team. “But we think the supernova may have appeared in a single image some 20 years ago elsewhere in the cluster field, and, even more excitingly, it is expected to reappear once more in the next one to five years — and at that time we hope to catch it in action.”

    The supernova has been nicknamed Refsdal in honor of Norwegian astronomer Sjur Refsdal, who, in 1964, first proposed using time-delayed images from a lensed supernova to study the expansion of the Universe. “Astronomers have been looking to find one ever since,” said Tommaso Treu of the University of California Los Angeles, USA, the GLASS project’s principal investigator. “And now the long wait is over!”

    Notes

    [1] Gravitational lensing was first predicted by Albert Einstein. This effect is similar to a glass lens bending light to magnify and distort the image of an object behind it.

    [2] The Frontier Fields is a three-year programme that uses Hubble to observe six massive galaxy clusters to probe not only what is inside the clusters but also what is beyond them through gravitational lensing. The GLASS survey uses Hubble’s capabilities to study remote galaxies using ten massive galaxy clusters as gravitational lenses, including the six in the Frontier Fields.

    [3] The team used the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, to measure the redshift of the supernova’s host galaxy, which is a proxy to its distance.

    [4] Measuring the time delays between images offers clues to the type of warped-space terrain the supernova’s light had to cover and will help the astronomers fine tune the models that map out the cluster’s mass.

    The international team of astronomers in this study consists of P. Kelly (University of California, Berkeley, USA); S. Rodney (The Johns Hopkins University, USA); T. Treu (University of California, Los Angeles, USA); R. Foley (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA); G. Brammer (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA); K. Schmidt (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA); A. Zitrin (California Institute of Technology, USA); A. Sonnenfeld (University of California, Los Angeles, USA); L. Strolger (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA & Western Kentucky University, USA); O. Graur (New York University, USA), A. Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley, USA), S. Jha (Rutgers, USA); A. Riess (The Johns Hopkins University, USA & Space Telescope Science Institute, USA); M. Bradac (University of California, Davis, USA), B. Weiner (Steward Observatory, USA); D. Scolnic (The Johns Hopkins University, USA); M. Malkan (University of California, Los Angeles, USA); A. von der Linden (Dark Cosmology Centre, Denmark); M. Trenti (University of Melbourne, Australia); J. Hjorth (Dark Cosmology Centre, Denmark); R. Gavazzi (Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, France); A. Fontana (INAF-OAR, Italy); J. Merten (California Institute of Technology, USA); C. McCully (University of California, Santa Barbara,, USA); T. Jones (University of California, Santa Barbara,, USA); M. Postman (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA); A. Dressler (Carnegie Observatories, USA), B. Patel (Rutgers, USA), S. Cenko (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, USA); M. Graham (University of California, Berkeley, USA); and Bradley E. Tucker (University of California, Berkeley, USA).

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 6:01 am on March 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “A young star takes centre stage” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    2 March 2015

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    Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble
    Karl Stapelfeldt (GSFC), B. Stecklum and A. Choudhary (Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Germany)
    Hubble Space Telescope WFPC2

    NASA Hubble WFPC2

    With its helical appearance resembling a snail’s shell, this reflection nebula seems to spiral out from a luminous central star in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image.

    The star in the centre, known as V1331 Cyg and located in the dark cloud LDN 981 — or, more commonly, Lynds 981 — had previously been defined as a T Tauri star. A T Tauri is a young star — or Young Stellar Object — that is starting to contract to become a main sequence star similar to the Sun.

    What makes V1331Cyg special is the fact that we look almost exactly at one of its poles. Usually, the view of a young star is obscured by the dust from the circumstellar disc and the envelope that surround it. However, with V1331Cyg we are actually looking in the exact direction of a jet driven by the star that is clearing the dust and giving us this magnificent view.

    This view provides an almost undisturbed view of the star and its immediate surroundings allowing astronomers to study it in greater detail and look for features that might suggest the formation of a very low-mass object in the outer circumstellar disc.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 4:58 am on February 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “New fulldome clips for planetariums” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    24 February 2015
    Georgia Bladon
    ESA/Hubble, Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49-89-3200-6855
    Cell: +44 7816291261
    E-mail: gbladon@partner.eso.org

    1

    ESA/Hubble is releasing a series of stunning fulldome clips, freely available to planetariums across the globe as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations. The clips are in 4k and 8k fulldome format and rendered for uni-directional domes.

    Today the first four clips have been released and can be downloaded from the website. Another clip will be released on the 24th of each month until the end of the year, so don’t forget to keep checking.

    The clips released today are:

    A zoom into Hubble’s iconic view of RS Puppis.
    An artist’s impression of Hubble rising over the Earth.
    An exploration of the huge galaxy cluster Abell 2218.
    A pan of the famous Carina Nebula, or “Mystic Mountain”.

    If you don’t want to miss any of our fulldome videos, we recommend that you subscribe to our fulldome RSS feeds:

    http://www.spacetelescope.org/videos/feed/category/dome/
    http://www.eso.org/public/videos/feed/category/fulldome/

    Links

    Hubble anniversary fulldome clips web page.
    Free Fulldome clips at ESA/Hubble (4k and 8k)
    Information on other Hubble 25th anniversary activities.
    ESO’s free fulldome clips and shows (4k and 8k)
    ESO’s free 3D models
    ESO’s free fulldome stills
    ESO’s free 360 degree panoramas

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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