Space Hubble Telescope News

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Hubble Catches Jupiter's Largest Moon Going to the 'Dark Side'



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has caught Jupiter's moon Ganymede playing a game of "peek-a-boo." In this crisp Hubble image, Ganymede is shown just before it ducks behind the giant planet. This color photo was made from three images taken on April 9, 2007, with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in red, green, and blue filters. The image shows Jupiter and Ganymede in close to natural colors.

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Hubble Finds that "Blue Blobs" in Space Are Orphaned Clusters of Stars



Hubble Space Telescope's powerful vision has resolved strange objects nicknamed "blue blobs" and found them to be brilliant blue clusters of stars born in the swirls and eddies of a galactic smashup 200 million years ago. Such "blue blobs" – weighing tens of thousands of solar masses – have never been seen in detail before in such sparse locations, say researchers. The "blue blobs" are found along a wispy bridge of gas strung among three colliding galaxies, M81, M82, and NGC 3077, residing about 12 million light-years away from Earth. This is not the place astronomers expect to find star clusters, because the gas filaments were considered too thin to accumulate enough material to actually build these many stars. The star clusters in this diffuse structure might have formed from gas collisions and subsequent turbulence, which enhanced locally the density of the gas streams. Galaxy collisions were much more frequent in the early universe, so "blue blobs" should have been common. After the stars burned out or exploded, the heavier elements forged in their nuclear furnaces would have been ejected to enrich intergalactic space.

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The Violent Lives of Galaxies: Caught in the Cosmic Dark Matter Web



Astronomers are using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to dissect one of the largest structures in the universe as part of a quest to understand the violent lives of galaxies. Hubble is providing indirect evidence of unseen dark matter tugging on galaxies in the crowded, rough-and-tumble environment of a massive supercluster of hundreds of galaxies. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe's mass. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys has mapped the invisible dark matter scaffolding of the supercluster Abell 901/902, as well as the detailed structure of individual galaxies embedded in it. The image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the supercluster. The magenta clumps throughout the image reveal the distribution of dark matter in the cluster. The galaxies lie within the clumps of dark matter. The image was assembled by combining a visible-light image of the supercluster taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope in La Silla, Chile, with a dark matter map derived from Hubble observations.

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Hubble Finds Double Einstein Ring



The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a never-before-seen optical alignment in space: a pair of glowing rings, one nestled inside the other like a bull's-eye pattern. The double-ring pattern is caused by the complex bending of light from two distant galaxies strung directly behind a foreground massive galaxy, like three beads on a string. This very rare phenomenon can offer insight into dark matter, dark energy, the nature of distant galaxies, and even the curvature of the universe. The phenomenon, called gravitational lensing, occurs when a massive galaxy in the foreground bends the light rays from a distant galaxy behind it, in much the same way as a magnifying glass would. When both galaxies are exactly lined up, the light forms a circle, called an "Einstein ring," around the foreground galaxy. If another background galaxy lies precisely on the same sightline, a second, larger ring will appear. The massive foreground galaxy is almost perfectly aligned in the sky with two background galaxies at different distances. The foreground galaxy is 3 billion light-years away. The inner ring and outer ring are comprised of multiple images of two galaxies at a distance of 6 billion and approximately 11 billion light-years. The odds of seeing such a special alignment are estimated to be 1 in 10,000.

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Circumstellar Dust Takes Flight in 'The Moth'



What superficially resembles a giant moth floating in space is giving astronomers new insight into the formation and evolution of planetary systems. This is not your typical flying insect. It has a wingspan of about 22 billion miles. The wing- like structure is actually a dust disk encircling the nearby, young star HD 61005, dubbed "The Moth." Its shape is produced by starlight scattering off dust. Dust disks around roughly 100-million-year-old stars like HD 61005 are typically flat structures where planets can form. But images taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of "The Moth" are showing that some disks sport surprising shapes.

The Hubble image was taken with the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). The black disk in the center of the image is a coronagraphic hole in the NICMOS camera that blocks out most of the central star's light so that astronomers can see details in the surrounding dust disk.

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NASA Unveils Cosmic Images Book in Braille for Blind Readers



At a ceremony today at the National Federation of the Blind, NASA unveiled a new book that brings majestic images taken by its Great Observatories to the fingertips of the blind. "Touch the Invisible Sky" is a 60-page book with color images of nebulae, stars, galaxies and some of the telescopes that captured the original pictures. Braille and large-print descriptions accompany each of the book's 28 photographs, making the book's design accessible to readers of all visual abilities.The book contains spectacular images from the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope and powerful ground-based telescopes. The celestial objects are presented as they appear through visible-light telescopes and different spectral regions invisible to the naked eye, from radio to infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-ray light.

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Internal Heat Drives Jupiter's Giant Storm Eruption



Detailed analysis of two continent-sized storms that erupted in Jupiter's atmosphere in March 2007 shows that Jupiter's internal heat plays a significant role in generating atmospheric disturbances. Understanding this outbreak could be the key to unlock the mysteries buried in the deep Jovian atmosphere. An international team coordinated by Agustin Sánchez-Lavega from the Universidad del País Vasco in Spain presents its findings about this event in the January 24 issue of the journal Nature. The team monitored the new eruption of cloud activity and its evolution with an unprecedented resolution using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii, and telescopes in the Canary Islands (Spain). A network of smaller telescopes around the world also supported these observations.

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Isolated Galaxy or Corporate Merger? Hubble Spies NGC 1132



The elliptical galaxy NGC 1132 reveals the final result of what may have been a group of galaxies that merged together in the recent past. Another possibility is that the galaxy formed in isolation as a "lone wolf" in a universe ablaze with galaxy groups and clusters. This image of NGC 1132 was taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. Data obtained in 2005 and 2006 through green and near-infrared filters were used in the composite. NGC 1132 is located approximately 318 million light-years away in the constellation Eridanus, the River.

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STScI Astronomers to Head Two Studies of Next Generation Astronomy Missions



Two astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., Dr. Marc Postman and Dr. Ken Sembach, have been selected among 19 science teams to conduct year-long studies of new concepts for NASA's next generation of major observatories. The studies will help the agency make decisions about how it explores the heavens in the future, following the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

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The Last Confessions of a Dying Star



Probing a glowing bubble of gas and dust encircling a dying Sun-like star, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals a wealth of previously unseen structures in planetary nebula NGC 2371. The remnant star visible at the center of NGC 2371 is the super-hot core of the former red giant, now stripped of its outer layers. Its surface temperature is a scorching 240,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Prominent pink clouds of cool, dense gas lie on opposite sides of the central star. Also striking are the numerous, very small pink dots, marking relatively dense and small knots of gas, which also lie on diametrically opposite sides of the star. NGC 2371 lies about 4,300 light-years away in the constellation Gemini. The Hubble Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 images were taken in November 2007.

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The Aesthetics of Hubble Images Showcased at Walters Art Museum



Just as the early explorers ventured ever further into the oceans, recording the wonders they encountered, today's astronomers are probing farther and deeper into space, mapping the distant landscape of the universe. "Mapping the Cosmos: Images from the Hubble Space Telescope," brings together over 20 Hubble images as part of the Walters Art Museum exhibit "Maps: Finding Our Place in the World." The exhibit was created through a unique collaboration between the Walters, scientists and experts at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), and Professor Elizabeth Rodini and her students in the "Behind the Scenes at the Walters Art Museum" class at Johns Hopkins University. Seven undergraduate students and Professor Rodini worked with STScI professionals to choose the images and design the two-room exhibit. The students handled the images in the Manuscripts Gallery, while STScI professionals selected images for the museum's Palazzo Courtyard.

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Hubble Finds First Organic Molecule on an Exoplanet



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made the first detection ever of an organic molecule in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting another star. This breakthrough is an important step in eventually identifying signs of life on a planet outside our solar system. The molecule found by Hubble is methane, which under the right circumstances can play a key role in prebiotic chemistry - the chemical reactions considered necessary to form life as we know it. This illustration depicts the extrasolar planet HD 189733b with its parent star peeking above its top edge.

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Astronomers Find Suspected Medium-Size Black Hole in Omega Centauri



The core of the spectacular globular cluster Omega Centauri glitters with the combined light of 2 million stars. The entire cluster contains 10 million stars, and is among the biggest and most massive of some 200 globular clusters orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy. Omega Centauri lies 17,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and the University of Texas at Austin have reported on the possible detection of an intermediate-mass black hole in the core of Omega Centauri.

The result is primarily based on spectroscopic measurements obtained with the Gemini South observatory in Chile which suggest the stars are moving around the central core of the cluster at higher than expected velocities. Among the possible explanations for these speedy stars -- and the one favored by their study -- is that an intermediate-mass black hole of approximately 40,000 solar masses resides at the center of Omega Centauri. Its powerful gravitational field speeds up the motions of stars near the core. Hubble images taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys were used in key areas in support of this study: to help pinpoint the center of the cluster, as well as to measure the amount of starlight at the cluster center. Using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Paranal, Chile, team members Eva Noyola and Karl Gebhardt are planning to obtain follow-up observations to help confirm the existence of an intermediate-mass black hole. The Hubble images were taken in June 2002.

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Hubble Pinpoints Record-Breaking Explosion



Peering across 7.5 billion light-years and halfway back to the Big Bang, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the fading optical counterpart of a powerful gamma ray burst that holds the record for being the intrinsically brightest naked-eye object ever seen from Earth. For nearly a minute on March 19, this single "star" was as bright as 10 million galaxies. Hubble Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) images of GRB 080319B, taken on Monday, April 7 show the fading optical counterpart of the titanic blast. Hubble astronomers had hoped to see the host galaxy where the burst presumably originated, but were taken aback that the light from the gamma ray burst is still drowning out the galaxy's light even three weeks after the explosion. Called a long-duration gamma ray burst, such events are theorized to be caused by the death of a very massive star, perhaps weighing as much as 50 times our Sun.

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Cosmic Collisions Galore!



Astronomy textbooks typically present galaxies as staid, solitary, and majestic island worlds of glittering stars. But galaxies have a dynamical side. They have close encounters that sometimes end in grand mergers and overflowing sites of new star birth as the colliding galaxies morph into wondrous new shapes. Today, in celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope's 18th launch anniversary, 59 views of colliding galaxies constitute the largest collection of Hubble images ever released to the public. This new Hubble atlas dramatically illustrates how galaxy collisions produce a remarkable variety of intricate structures in never-before-seen detail.

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STScI and JHU Astronomer Adam Riess Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences



The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) astronomer and professor at the Johns Hopkins University Adam Riess as an Honorary Member. The Academy honors excellence by electing to membership remarkable men and women who have made preeminent contributions to their fields, and to the world. Riess joins a new class of Academy members drawn from the sciences, the arts and humanities, business, public affairs, and the nonprofit sector. The 212 scholars, scientists, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders come from 20 states and 15 countries, and range in age from 37 to 86. Represented among this year's newly elected members are more than 50 universities and more than a dozen corporations, as well as museums, national laboratories and private research institutes, media outlets and foundations. Riess is a leader of a team that, in 1998 co-discovered "dark energy", a mysterious repulsive force in the universe. Dark energy is the biggest mystery now confronting astrophysics, and Riess continues doing observations to deduce what dark energy is. The 38-year-old astrophysicist has been at STScI since 1999.

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Compact Galaxies in Early Universe Pack a Big Punch



Imagine receiving an announcement touting the birth of a baby 20 inches long and weighing 180 pounds. After reading this puzzling message, you would immediately think the baby's weight was a misprint. Astronomers looking at galaxies in the universe's distant past received a similar perplexing announcement when they found nine young, compact galaxies, each weighing in at 200 billion times the mass of the Sun. The galaxies, each only 5,000 light-years across, are a fraction of the size of today's grownup galaxies but contain approximately the same number of stars. Each galaxy could fit inside the central hub of our Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to study the galaxies as they existed 11 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 3 billion years old.

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Riccardo Giacconi to Receive National Inventors Hall of Fame's Lifetime Achievement Award



Riccardo Giacconi, founding director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., will receive the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Inc. on May 3 at the Hall's headquarters in Akron, Ohio. The annual Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an individual who has fostered innovation throughout his or her lifetime. The Hall honors those who have demonstrated an extended commitment to progress in technical innovation and the protection of that innovation. Each year a new class of inventors is inducted into the Hall of Fame in recognition of their patented inventions that make human, social, and economic progress possible.

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Hubble Survey Finds Missing Matter, Probes Intergalactic Web



In the May 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal, Charles Danforth and Mike Shull (University of Colorado, Boulder) report on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) observations taken along sight-lines to 28 quasars. Their analysis represents the most detailed observations to date of how the intergalactic medium looks within about four billion light-years of Earth. The astronomers say they have definitively found about half of the missing normal matter, called baryons, in the space between the galaxies.

This illustration shows how the Hubble Space Telescope searches for missing baryons, by looking at the light from quasars several billion light-years away. Imprinted on that light are the spectral fingerprints of the missing ordinary matter that absorbs the light at specific frequencies (shown in the colorful spectra at right). The missing baryonic matter helps trace out the structure of intergalactic space, called the "cosmic web."

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New Red Spot Appears on Jupiter



In what's beginning to look like a case of planetary measles, a third red spot has appeared alongside its cousins - the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. - in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere. This third red spot, which is a fraction of the size of the two other features, lies to the west of the Great Red Spot in the same latitude band of clouds. The visible-light images were taken on May 9 and 10 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

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