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 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
This post has been produced by VanessaG for the Young Astronomers
Discovery, with her maiden flight on 30 August 1984, with STS-41D. On the ascent she carried more than 41,000 lbs of cargo which was a record at the time. This cargo was mainly science experiments to study the effects of microgravity. Discovery was also the first shuttle to retrieve a satellite and bring it back to Earth. In 1985 Discovery was the first shuttle to fly four missions in one year.
On STS-51D the first sitting member of the US congress blasted off into orbit, Jake Garn, the republican senator of Utah. During the landing she suffered a blown front tire and subsequent brake damage. This then meant that all further flights for five years were directed to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California until nose wheel steering was introduced and brakes improved.
After the Challenger and Columbia disasters it was Discovery who was called upon to return the US to space again and regain their independence. The return after Columbia, STS-114 under the leadership of Eileen Collins; who earlier on STS-63 was the first female pilot. This mission was also the first to do a back flip on approach to the ISS so that the station crew could photograph the underside of the shuttle which then could be studied to check for damage. This was also the first time a repair had been made to a spacecraft while in orbit, the EVA crew removing two protruding spacers in the thermal shielding.
In April 1990, on STS-31, Discovery released the Hubble Space Telescope. This was also the highest ever flown by a shuttle at 380miles. And the ‘scope is still in use twenty years later and continues to provide valuable insights into the beginnings of the universe.
STS-60, February 1994, was the first co operative mission between the then enemies of Russia and the US. This laid the foundations for international cooperation which is one of the fundamental aspects of the International Space Station. With a Russian cosmonaut flying about the American shuttle Discovery. Discovery’s next flight, STS-63 was the first mission to be piloted by a woman, Eileen Collins, who laid further foundations into international cooperation as she piloted Discovery to within 40ft of MIR. Correcting the final approach for the first shuttle docking with the Russian space station.
Discovery has seen many other significant events in international development, the first spacewalk by an African-American, the last shuttle to visit MIR. The oldest astronaut, John Glen on board STS-95 who at the time of the flight was seventy seven, and still is the oldest person to ever fly in space. Discovery also celebrated the 100th shuttle fight on board mission STS-92. And on STS-120 lead by commander Pamela Melroy met Peggy Whitson, commander of Expedition 16 on board the ISS in 2007. This not only was not only the first time the ISS has been commanded by a woman but the first time two female commanders met in space.
In her 26 year lifetime Discovery has achieved many great things in the world. Not only advancing science but also cooperation and technology that you will use everyday. In total 180 people have travelled on board Discovery and a total of 150 million miles have been travelled in orbit.
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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