Posts Tagged European Space Agency
Star Formation in a
Dwarf Little Galaxy
This image shows the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy in infrared light from the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency-led mission, and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Considered
dwarflittle galaxies compared to the big spiral of the Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are the two biggest satellite galaxies of our home galaxy.
In combined data from Herschel and Spitzer, the irregular distribution of dust in the Small Magellanic Cloud becomes clear. A stream of dust extends to the left in this image, known as the galaxy’s “wing,” and a bar of star formation appears on the right.
The colors in this image indicate temperatures in the dust that permeates the Cloud. Colder regions show where star formation is at its earliest stages or is shut off, while warm expanses point to new stars heating surrounding dust. The coolest areas and objects appear in red, corresponding to infrared light taken up by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver at 250 microns, or millionths of a meter. Herschel’s Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer fills out the mid-temperature bands, shown here in green, at 100 and 160 microns. The warmest spots appear in blue, courtesy of 24- and 70-micron data from Spitzer.
Image Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/STScI
The Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko of Russia and Flight Engineers Don Pettit of NASA and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Sunday, July 1, 2012.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in November 1994 and August 1997.
In this photo taken from the International Space Station, the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-3 (ATV-3) is seen on approach for docking. The unmanned cargo spacecraft docked to the space station at 6:31 p.m. EDT on March 28, 2012.
The ATV-3 delivered 220 pounds of oxygen, 628 pounds of water, 4.5 tons of propellant and nearly 2.5 tons of dry cargo. Among other items, the station crew received experiment hardware, spare parts, food and clothing.
The six-member Expedition 30 crew adjusted its sleep schedule to accommodate the ATV-3 docking. The crew stayed up late to monitor the approach and docking.
Image Credit: NASA
This massive, young stellar grouping, called R136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. There is no known star-forming region in the Milky Way Galaxy as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus.
Many of the diamond-like icy blue stars are among the most massive stars known. Several of them are 100 times more massive than our sun. These hefty stars are destined to pop off, like a string of firecrackers, as supernovas in a few million years.
The image, taken in ultraviolet, visible and red light by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, spans about 100 light-years. The nebula is close enough to Earth that Hubble can resolve individual stars, giving astronomers important information about the stars’ birth and evolution.
The brilliant stars are carving deep cavities in the surrounding material by unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light, and hurricane-force stellar winds (streams of charged particles), which are etching away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud in which the stars were born. The image reveals a fantasy landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys, as well as a dark region in the center that roughly looks like the outline of a holiday tree. Besides sculpting the gaseous terrain, the brilliant stars can also help create a successive generation of offspring. When the winds hit dense walls of gas, they create shocks, which may be generating a new wave of star birth.
These observations were taken Oct. 20-27, 2009. The blue color is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; the red from fluorescing hydrogen.
Vital clues about the devastating ends to the lives of massive stars can be found by studying the aftermath of their explosions. In its more than twelve years of science operations, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has studied many of these supernova remnants sprinkled across the galaxy.
The latest example of this important investigation is Chandra’s new image of the supernova remnant known as G350.1+0.3. This stellar debris field is located some 14,700 light years from the Earth toward the center of the Milky Way.
Evidence from Chandra and from ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope suggest that a compact object within G350.1+0.3 may be the dense core of the star that exploded. The position of this likely neutron star, seen by the arrow pointing to “neutron star” in the inset image, is well away from the center of the X-ray emission. If the supernova explosion occurred near the center of the X-ray emission then the neutron star must have received a powerful kick in the supernova explosion.
Data suggest this supernova remnant, as it appears in the image, is 600 and 1,200 years old. If the estimated location of the explosion is correct, this means the neutron star has been moving at a speed of at least 3 million miles per hour since the explosion.
Another intriguing aspect of G350.1+0.3 is its unusual shape. Many supernova remnants are nearly circular, but G350.1+0.3 is strikingly asymmetrical as seen in the Chandra data in this image (gold). Infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (light blue) also trace the morphology found by Chandra. Astronomers think that this bizarre shape is due to stellar debris field expanding into a nearby cloud of cold molecular gas.
The age of 600-1,200 years puts the explosion that created G350.1+0.3 in the same time frame as other famous supernovas that formed the Crab and SN 1006 supernova remnants. However, it is unlikely that anyone on Earth would have seen the explosion because of the obscuring gas and dust that lies along our line of sight to the remnant.
These results appeared in the April 10, 2011 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/I. Lov
This image combines data from four different space telescopes to create a multi-wavelength view of all that remains of the oldest documented example of a supernova, called RCW 86. The Chinese witnessed the event in 185 A.D., documenting a mysterious “guest star” that remained in the sky for eight months. X-ray images from the European Space Agency‘s XMM-Newton Observatory and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are combined to form the blue and green colors in the image. The X-rays show the interstellar gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by the passage of the shock wave from the supernova.
Infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, as well as NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) are shown in yellow and red, and reveal dust radiating at a temperature of several hundred degrees below zero, warm by comparison to normal dust in our Milky Way galaxy.
By studying the X-ray and infrared data together, astronomers were able to determine that the cause of the explosion witnessed nearly 2,000 years ago was a Type Ia supernova, in which an otherwise-stable white dwarf, or dead star, was pushed beyond the brink of stability when a companion star dumped material onto it. Furthermore, scientists used the data to solve another mystery surrounding the remnant — how it got to be so large in such a short amount of time. By blowing a wind prior to exploding, the white dwarf was able to clear out a huge “cavity,” a region of very low-density surrounding the system. The explosion into this cavity was able to expand much faster than it otherwise would have.
This is the first time that this type of cavity has been seen around a white dwarf system prior to explosion. Scientists say the results may have significant implications for theories of white-dwarf binary systems and Type Ia supernovae.
RCW 86 is approximately 8,000 light-years away. At about 85 light-years in diameter, it occupies a region of the sky in the southern constellation of Circinus that is slightly larger than the full moon.
Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/CXC/SAO
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reached its millionth science observation on July 4, 2011, during a search for water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet (a planet outside our solar system) 1,000 light-years away.
This is an artist’s concept of that planet, HAT-P-7b. It is a “hot Jupiter” class planet orbiting a star that is much hotter than our sun. Hubble Space Telescope’s millionth science observation was trained on this planet to look for the presence of water vapor and to study the planet’s atmospheric structure via spectroscopy. Planets with orbits inclined nearly edge-on to Earth can be observed passing in front of and behind their stars. This allows for the planetary atmospheres to be studied by Hubble’s spectrometers. Hubble’s unique capabilities allow astronomers to do follow-up observations of exoplanets to characterize the composition and structure of their atmospheres.