In celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope’s 22nd anniversary the ESA has released this truly stunning image of the star forming region 30 Doradus.
30 Doradus is better known as the Tarantula nebula and is located 170,000 light years away within the Milky Way’s largest satellite galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).
The image shows a region of space approximately 650 light years across with several million stars present within. Combined, the sum total of the stars’ masses shown in this image would be well over a million times the mass of our own Sun.
The stars are grouped into smaller clusters ranging in age from about 2 million – 25 million years old, whilst this may sound ancient in human terms as far as the universe is concerned even the oldest star in the region is a newcommer.
The brightest cluster is NGC 2070 being one of the youngest (between 2 and 3 million years old) and most actively starforming regions with the larger structure Astronomers find it an attractive region to study. Recently in fact, it was revealed that at the heart of the cluster (which contains upwards of half a million stars) there is a dense clump of stars designated RMC 136 where the largest stars yet discovered reside. Indeed several of these monsters are more than 100 times the mass of our own sun, truly cosmic giants.
The fierce output of the regions hot stars sculpts the regions gas and just into the fantastic arcs and bubbles we can see in the image. The fierce radiation bombardment of radiation is also exciting the gas and dust molecules of the nebula making them glow in their own right and classing the region as an emission nebula.
The image is composed of data from both Hubble and the ESO’s MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope and represents the one of the largest such mosaics in existence today. The data was captured by both telescopes during an observing run in October 2011.
You can read more here.
The Hubble Space telescope has given us a new insight in to the star forming region NGC 2467.
For a full size image click here
The region is a nebula composed mainly of hydrogen and it is using this hydrogen to create new stars of all masses.
Not long ago, (by astronomical terms of course!) the nebula would have been cold and dark as the newly forming stars had yet to break out of their gaseous progenitors. The most massive and thus hottest newborn stars have now blasted through the clouds of dust and gas that surrounded them, subjecting the surrounding nebula to a fierce stream of ultraviolet radiation that is eroding the larger structure and making it fluoresce in response. This fluorescence makes the nebula an emission nebula as it is emitting its own light rather than just reflecting that of the stars it contains.
Analysis of the data indicates that the majority of this radiation comes from one star. It is the bright star visible near the centre of the image.
Only the largest stars have currently emerged from their nurseries with many smaller, perhaps more sun like stars remain hidden within their denser pockets of the nebula.
NGC 2467 is like many other star forming regions including the more famous Orion Nebula. NGC 2467 is located around 13,000 light years from Earth with the Orion Nebula around 10,000 light years away.
The Nebula is located in the constellation Puppis which is completely visible to residents of the southern hemisphere (those in the northern hemisphere can observe the northern section of the constellation however it sits close to the horizon)
The image is a combination of several taken with the HST’s Wide Field Channel in several filters. The images where collected by the telescope all the way back in 2004.
Read more here
The NASA\ESA Hubble Space Telescope has obtained the highest quality image of the globular cluster Messier 9 (M9) ever produced.
This glorious sphere of stars is far too faint to be detected by the human eye, yet Hubble can resolve it as upwards of a 1/4 of a million individual glistening stars.
M9 sits towards the centre of our own galaxy, and yet whilst relaivly close by in the grand scale of the universe it is still 25,000 light years from Earth.
The stars within M9 are twice the age of our own sun and are metal poor as a result – as they formed at a time when the cosmos was still largely deprived of the heavier elements like iron, oxygen and nickel.
The cluster was first discovered in 1764 by the French astronomer Charles Messier and was included as object 9 on his list of astronomical objects (hence its name!).
The image above covers and area of sky roughly equal to a pin head held at arms reach,a true testiment to the power of Hubble.
You can read more here
As we prepare to announce the results of this year’s competition tomorrow it seems fitting that last year’s results are published now.
So lets take a fond look back at some of the many wondrous astronomical images 2010 brought us -
The best image of a body within our Solar System 2010 was-
Enceladus captured by NASA’s Cassini Orbiter.
It captures the beauty of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Despite being only 500 kilometres in diameter Enceladus is a dynamic world with cryovolcanic processes in action that create huge geysers spouting high above the moon wherever they can find a weak point in the frozen surface.
Several of these geysers have been captured in this image, and it is these features that exposed Enceladus to be more than a ball of ice.
You can view more Cassini images here.
2010′s best image of an object outside our own galaxy was-
NGC 3982 as seen by Hubble.
This stunning galaxy is a face on spiral, located around 68 million light years from us here on Earth. It lies within the Northern constellation Ursa Major (The Great Bear).
The galaxy displays beautiful clouds of active hydrogen gas (pink spots), new formed star clusters (blue spots) and lashings of dust lanes which will one day collapse to form the next generation of stars.These features, combined with the galaxy’s beautiful spiral arms, make the galaxy a stunning sight.
Despite its beauty the galaxy is somewhat petit being a ‘mere’ 30,000 light years across which makes it 1/3 the size of our our galaxy the Milky Way.
The image was created using exposures obtained between 2000 and 2009 by Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).
Finally the one you have all been waiting for the best image outside our Solar System though within the Milky Way, which is also the best image overall 2010 is -
The Lagoon Nebula as seen by Hubble.
The nebula is located somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 light years from the Earth and lies in the constellation Sagittarius (meaning it is in the direction of the centre of our galaxy).
The image is a close up of the gas and dust near the centre of the nebula. It is being illuminated by the fierce ultraviolet light of young, high mass stars nearby making the gas and dust glow and emit their own light allowing the nebula to be classed as an emission nebula rather than a reflection nebula like DC 129. The nebula is a huge star producing factory(over 100 light years across) with its clouds slowly collapsing into the next generation of stars.
Some of these new stars are trying to absorb more material than they can stomach and the result is a stream of material being blown out at their poles (by bi-polar outflow for those interested), called Herbig-Haro objects. Several new such objects have been discovered in the nebula in recent years allowing astronomers to gain a deeper insight into how young stars form and interact with their environment.
This image carries spectacular detail showing ‘tiny’ ripples in the nebula making its maritime name seem fitting. Unlike the patterns on the surface of the sea, these are not caused by tides or the wind, but by the immense power of ultraviolet radiation blowing away the gas and dust that forms the nebula. The patterns result from tiny differences in the density of the gas making some sections harder to blow away than others.
If you are lucky enough to live away from light pollution and have clear skies it is possible to see the Lagoon nebula with your own eyes as a fuzzy grey patch in the Milky Way, though it takes a reasonable sized telescope to make out any details.
The image was captured by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and shows hydrogen in red. Light from ionised nitrogen in green and light through a yellow filter in blue.
You can read more about this image here.
Be sure to return tomorrow when we announce the results of this year’s competition!
To make up for the long gap between the recent images of the week, here is another!
The Lambda Centauri nebula is more commonly known as the Running Chicken nebula (or IC 2944) thanks to the fluke alignment of gas within.
It is an emission nebula glowing from the harsh bombardment of the ultraviolet light produced by the hot young stars that have been birthed by the nebula’s dusty clouds. The red glow indicates the familiar presence of excited hydrogen, a feature common in and around such star forming emission nebulae.
Star formation is evidenced further by the presence of Bok Globules – the dark black objects in the image particularly concentrated in the top right corner around the cluster of bright blue stars. These are small dense regions of gas and dust that are collapsing to form the next generation of stars.
These particular Bok Globules have received particular attention. They are known as Thackeray’s Globules in homage to their discoverer Andrew David Thackeray, a South American astronomer who identified the globules in 1950 and famously observed by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Eventually the stars within these globules will erode the cocoon of surrounding material and will reveal themselves to the universe.
Unfortunately, such beautiful emission nebulae are short lived in astronomical terms, lasting just a few million years before their gas has either been used to forge stars or blown out from the area by fierce stellar winds. The most massive of stars will burn out in flashes as they rapidly chew through their supply of hydrogen briefly lighting up the area again as a supernova and glowing remnant.
The main image was produced using data from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory.
You can read more here.
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