This week’s image is of two galaxies located around 50 million light years from Earth in the direction of the Zodiac constellation Virgo – The Virgin
Nicknamed ‘The Eyes’ due to their appearance through an medium sized telescope, NGC 4438 (top) and NGC 4435 (bottom right-hand corner) are in reality a pair of interacting galaxies sitting about 100,000 light years apart.
NGC 4435 has had virtually all gas and dust stripped from its grasp. Astronomers believe this is partially explained by a collision it suffered with Messier 86 (not visible in this image) around 100 million years ago. The incriminating evidence for this takes the form of tendrils of ionised hydrogen linking the two. Pointing to a close gravitational attraction teasing out large volumes of gas from the pair helping to explain the barren nature of NGC 4435.
NGC 4438 on the other hand is rich in both gas and dust, highlighted by its intricate dust lane. NGC 4438 and NGC 4435 had a close gravitational encounter 100,000 years ago, passing just 16,000 light years from each other. This disrupted the once ordered spiral structure of NGC 4438 and removed any free material NGC 4435 had been clinging on to.
The image was produced as part of the ESO’s Gems project for public outreach, using data obtained from the VLT’s FORS2 instrument.
You can read more here.
Like all photos of the shuttles, this impressive image of the immense machinery behind the ‘most complex machine ever built’. But this is not a photo of the shuttles you are used to, this is not Atlantis, Endeavour, Discovery or even Enterprise. In fact, this is the Soviet Shuttle Buran.
The idea for a reusable spacecraft was first envisaged by the Soviets in the late 1950s at the very beginning of the space age, long before the Apollo Moon landings that promoted NASA’s initial shuttle studies. Despite this, it was not until the early 1970s in response to the American programme that development of the orbiter began, with construction beginning in 1980. But whereas America’s shuttle programme was focused on NASA’s mission to pioneer the future in space exploration, Buran was design from the start as a military system. The Soviet’s fears that America’s shuttle could be used either to deploy nuclear bombs over Soviet soil or to place components of the ‘Star Wars’ initiative into space prompted a rush to develop a similar weapon delivery system.
The Buran-Energia programme was the largest and the most expensive of all Soviet space projects, and the vehicle itself had to be transported to its launch site aboard a specially constructed Antonov An-225 aircraft, the heaviest in the world. The similarities with NASA’s shuttles were intentional as the Soviet military wanted to copy the design so that they might have the same capabilities, despite protests from engineers who favoured a smaller, lighter vehicle. However, unlike the NASA shuttles, Buran lacked rocket engines, relying on its specially designed Energia rocket boosters for propulsion, which freed up space and weight for a larger payload.
Buran Fact File:
First (and only) flight: 1K1, 15 November 1988
Number of missions: 1
Time spent in space: 206 minutes
Number of orbits: 2
Weight: 75 tons
Length: 36.4 meters
Height: 16.4 meters
Wingspan: 23.9 meters
The only time Buran made it into space was on 15th November 1988 when it was carried, unmanned and without a life-support system, into orbit. After 206 minutes of flight and two orbits of the Earth, it performed an automated landing at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After this first flight, the turmoil of the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s meant the programme was suspended due to a lack of funds, before being officially cancelled in 1993. Buran and two further uncompleted craft, ‘Shuttle 1.02’ and ‘Shuttle 2.01’ were abandoned.
Now that the American shuttles have been retired, there is a growing need for a reusable replacement craft, and there have been suggestions that the Buran programme might be revived in order to save the cost of developing new designs. However, as a result of their prolonged disuse, the equipment and vehicles are in poor condition – the Buran orbiter itself was mostly destroyed when its hangar collapsed in May 2002 – and this proposal may not be feasible.
If you’re interested, there are plenty of other fantastic photos of the shuttle and the Baikonur Cosmodrome, more details of the Buran-Energia programme and an in-depth history of the space programmes of the Cold War.
The Hubble Space Telescope recently gazed at the planetary nebula PN G054.2-03.4 and produced this spectacular image.
The nebula was produced as one of the central stars began to die. 10,000 years ago its outer atmosphere swelled and was blown off into space. Aided by the gravitational interactions created by the tight orbit of the companion star (which completes an orbit in just over a day) the material has been spun out into this fantastic pattern.
The bright blobs in the ring are the regions of the nebula that have the greatest particle density and thus are the regions that are emitting the most light. The entire nebula is glowing as its material absorbs the ultraviolet radiation released from the central stars which fluoresces in response.
The Nebula is 12 trillion miles across and is located 1000 light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Sagitta – The Arrow.
The image was captured on the second of July 2011 using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.
Hydrogen is shown in blue, oxygen in green and nitrogen in red.
You can read more here.
The Young Astronomers Site is still undergoing repairs and so is still offline. So those of you wondering why you have been redirected here can be assured that the redirect is still active and it is not anproblem with your browser.
You can read the posts produced by all the Young Astronomers contributors written after the site went down below. These will be transferred to the normal site once the repairs have been completed. We had hoped that the repairs would have been completed though they have encountered a few snags that have delayed progress though we are confident that the repairs should be completed soon.
Once again thanks for your continued patience.
This is a post by Jansen Penido for the Young Astronomers.
The LBT (Large Binocular Telescope) is an optical/infrared telescope placed at the Mount Graham International Observatory, in Arizona, USA. It is a partnership among several institutes from Italy, Germany and USA.
Different from most telescopes, LBT has two primary mirrors, measuring 8.4 meters (27 ft) wide, each mounted in the same enclosure (whence the name “binocular”). Together, they can capture the same amount of light as an 11.8 meter (39 ft) wide ‘standard’ telescope. What’s more: by combining the light from the two mirrors, the LBT is able to achieve the image clarity of a 22.8 meter (75 ft) aperture. In other words, this telescope delivers an image quality far greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope (at certain wavelengths.
What’s the secret?
The secret of LBT lies in the coherent combination of the light collected by both mirrors, a technique that scientists call
interferometry. By setting the mirrors far apart, astronomers can take two images, merge them together and improve the resolution of the resultant picture; as if had been produced by a large mirror the size of the distance between the actual mirrors. This is done with the help of an instrument called LBTI (Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer).
LBTI is also able to help the astronomers analyse the images. A special system was designed to explore young stars – surrounded by disks of gas and dust that may eventually evolve to planetary systems – and even to detect planets around them – observing the infra-red light to see through the cloud that obscures visible light.
Pros and cons of ground-based telescopes
During the last several years, the majority of astronomical discoveries have been made using space telescopes. In fact, the telescopes in orbit have a privileged vision of the cosmos, since they’re not subjected to the atmospheric turbulence and light/thermal interference. Moreover, some wavelengths of light, like x-rays, are filtered by our atmosphere and can’t be detected from the ground. Though supporting an observatory in space implies a high cost with production, launch, operation and maintenance.
With the most recent technological advancements, scientists have created ways to increase the clarity of the images by passing the light through a system to compensate for the blur of the Earth’s atmosphere. Such systems are called adaptive optics. The LBT’s instrument FLAO (First Light Adaptive Optics) is responsible for ‘fixing’ the atmospheric blurring, allowing the telescope to literally see as clearly as if there was no atmosphere above it.
“This is an incredibly exciting time as this new adaptive optics system allows us to achieve our potential as the world’s most powerful optical telescope,”
said Richard Green, director of the LBT, just after the installation of FLAO.
So the LBT represents a remarkable step forward for astronomy, bringing us the next generation of ground-based telescopes, which will help us to better understand everything from the formation of planets around young stars in Milky Way to the biggest mysteries of the early universe.
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- New Post from @Lightbulb500 - The Worlds With Two Suns - bit.ly/RUQKuk 7 months ago
- We will also be posting about our plans for the next while both here, on the blog and our Facebook page - on.fb.me/RUQCuA 7 months ago
- Sorry for the long delay in posts, we have all been very busy. We will hopefully have a more regular post program shortly. 7 months ago
- Our latest Image of the Week highlights the star cluster NGC 1929 and the surrounding nebula N44 - bit.ly/QbkwY6 - by @Lightbulb500 8 months ago
- New post by @Lightbulb500 - How to Understand Spectra – Part 2 - bit.ly/NveYoX 8 months ago
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