Space Hubble Telescope News

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White Dwarf Lost in Planetary Nebula



Call it the case of the missing dwarf. A team of stellar astronomers is engaged in an interstellar CSI (crime scene investigation). They have two suspects, traces of assault and battery, but no corpse. The southern planetary nebula SuWt 2 is the scene of the crime, some 6,500 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Centaurus. SuWt 2 consists of a bright, nearly edge-on glowing ring of gas. Faint lobes extend perpendicularly to the ring, giving the faintest parts of the nebula an hourglass shape. These glowing ejecta are suspected to have been energized by a star that has now burned out and collapsed to a white dwarf. But the white dwarf is nowhere to be found. This color image was taken on Jan. 31, 1995 at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. These results are being presented today at the 212th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in St. Louis, Mo.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble's Sweeping View of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures the magnificent starry population of the Coma Cluster of galaxies, one of the densest known galaxy collections in the universe. The Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys viewed a large portion of the cluster, spanning several million light-years across. The entire cluster contains thousands of galaxies in a spherical shape more than 20 million light-years in diameter.

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Hubble Sees Stars and a Stripe in Celestial Fireworks



A delicate ribbon of gas floats eerily in our galaxy. A contrail from an alien spaceship? A jet from a black-hole? Actually this image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a very thin section of a supernova remnant caused by a stellar explosion that occurred more than 1,000 years ago.

This image is a composite of hydrogen-light observations taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in February 2006 and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 observations in blue, yellow-green, and near-infrared light taken in April 2008. The supernova remnant, visible only in the hydrogen-light filter was assigned a red hue in the Heritage color image.

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Iain Neill Reid Appointed as Head of STScI Science Mission Office



The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has appointed Dr. Iain Neill Reid as Head of the STScI's Science Mission Office (SMO).

The SMO is responsible for maintaining the science infrastructure required to support research by STScI staff, for oversight of science policies and for acting as an interface between the Hubble Space Telescope and the broader user community. Among other activities, SMO manages the Hubble telescope time allocation process, the Space Telescope User Committee, and the Hubble Fellowship program. SMO is also responsible for STScI's Giacconi Fellowship Program, the Caroline Herschel Visitor Program and the John Bahcall Lecture Series. Reid joined STScI in 2001. His SMO appointment is effective July 5, 2008.

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What's My Age? Mystery Star Cluster Has 3 Different Birthdays



Imagine having three clocks in your house, each chiming at a different time. Astronomers have found the equivalent of three out-of-sync "clocks" in the ancient open star cluster NGC 6791. The dilemma may fundamentally challenge the way astronomers estimate cluster ages, researchers said.

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study the dimmest stars in the cluster, astronomers uncovered three different age groups. Two of the populations are burned-out stars called white dwarfs. One group of these low-wattage stellar remnants (red circles) appears to be 6 billion years old, another (blue circles) appears to be 4 billion years old. The ages are out of sync with those of the cluster's normal stars, which are 8 billion years old.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Three Red Spots Mix it Up on Jupiter



This sequence of Hubble Space Telescope images offers an unprecedented view of a planetary game of Pac-Man among three red spots clustered together in Jupiter's atmosphere. The time series shows the passage of the "Red Spot Jr." in a band of clouds below (south) of the Great Red Spot (GRS). "Red Spot Jr." first appeared on Jupiter in early 2006 when a previously white storm turned red. This is the second time, since turning red, it has skirted past its big brother apparently unscathed. But this is not the fate of "baby red spot," which is in the same latitudinal band as the GRS. This new red spot first appeared earlier this year. The baby red spot gets ever closer to the GRS in this picture sequence until it is caught up in the anticyclonic spin of the GRS. In the final image the baby spot is deformed and pale in color and has been spun to the right (east) of the GRS. These three natural-color Jupiter images were made from data acquired on May 15, June 28, and July 8, 2008, by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2).

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Barred Spiral Galaxies Are Latecomers to the Universe



In a landmark study of more than 2,000 spiral galaxies from the largest galaxy census conducted by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers found that so-called barred spiral galaxies were far less plentiful 7 billion years ago than they are today, in the local universe. The study's results confirm the idea that bars are a sign of galaxies reaching full maturity as the "formative years" end. The observations are part of the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS).

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Globular Clusters Tell Tale of Star Formation in Nearby Galaxy Metropolis



Globular star clusters, dense bunches of hundreds of thousands of stars, have some of the oldest surviving stars in the universe. A new study of globular clusters outside our Milky Way Galaxy has found evidence that these hardy pioneers are more likely to form in dense areas, where star birth occurs at a rapid rate, instead of uniformly from galaxy to galaxy. Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to identify over 11,000 globular clusters in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Most are older than 5 billion years. The sharp vision of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys resolved the star clusters in 100 galaxies of various sizes, shapes, and brightnesses, even in faint, dwarf galaxies. The images in this photo show four members of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Comprised of over 2,000 galaxies, the Virgo cluster is the nearest large galaxy cluster to Earth, located about 54 million light-years away.

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Hubble Unveils Colorful and Turbulent Star-Birth Region on 100,000th Orbit Milestone



In commemoration of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope completing its 100,000th orbit in its 18th year of exploration and discovery, scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., have aimed Hubble to take a snapshot of a dazzling region of celestial birth and renewal. Hubble peered into a small portion of the nebula near the star cluster NGC 2074 (upper, left). The region is a firestorm of raw stellar creation, perhaps triggered by a nearby supernova explosion. It lies about 170,000 light-years away near the Tarantula nebula, one of the most active star-forming regions in our Local Group of galaxies. This representative color image was taken on August 10, 2008, with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Red shows emission from sulfur atoms, green from glowing hydrogen, and blue from glowing oxygen.

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Hubble Sees Magnetic Monster in Erupting Galaxy



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found an answer to a long-standing puzzle by resolving giant but delicate filaments shaped by a strong magnetic field around the active galaxy NGC 1275. It is the most striking example of the influence of the immense tentacles of extragalactic magnetic fields. The galaxy was photographed in July and August 2006 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in three color filters.

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A Clash of Clusters Provides New Clue to Dark Matter



A powerful collision of galaxy clusters has been captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. The observations of the cluster known as MACS J0025.4-1222 indicate that a titanic collision has separated the dark from ordinary matter and provide an independent confirmation of a similar effect detected previously in a target dubbed the Bullet Cluster. These new results show that the Bullet Cluster is not an anomalous case.

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Galaxy Silhouettes



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a rare alignment between two spiral galaxies. The outer rim of a small, foreground galaxy is silhouetted in front of a larger background galaxy. Skeletal tentacles of dust can be seen extending beyond the small galaxy's disk of starlight. From ground-based telescopes, the two galaxies look like a single blob. But the Advanced Camera's sharp "eye" distinguished the blob as two galaxies, cataloged as 2MASX J00482185-2507365. The images were taken on Sept. 19, 2006.

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STScI Astrophysicist Adam Riess Receives MacArthur Fellowship



The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today named Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and the Johns Hopkins University among 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2008. Riess is the leader of the seminal study for a team that in 1998 co-discovered "dark energy," a mysterious repulsive force in the universe.

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When It Comes to Galaxies, Diversity Is Everywhere



There's an old saying in astronomy: "Galaxies are like people. They're only normal until you get to know them." That view is supported by a group of astronomers after using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study a large number of galaxies in our cosmic backyard. The detailed survey, called the ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury (ANGST) program, observed roughly 14 million stars in 69 galaxies. The survey explored a region called the "Local Volume," and the galaxy distances ranged from 6.5 million light-years to 13 million light-years from Earth. The Local Volume resides beyond the Local Group of galaxies, an even nearer collection of a few dozen galaxies within about 3 million light-years of our Milky Way Galaxy. The observations were made in November 2006 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

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A Celestial Landscape in Celebration of 10 Years of Stunning Hubble Heritage Images



The landmark 10th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope's Hubble Heritage Project is being celebrated with a 'landscape' image from the cosmos. Cutting across a nearby star-forming region, called NGC 3324, are the "hills and valleys" of gas and dust displayed in intricate detail. Set amid a backdrop of soft, glowing blue light are wispy tendrils of gas as well as dark trunks of dust that are light-years in height. NGC 3324 is located in the constellation Carina, about 7,200 light-years away from Earth. This image is a composite of data taken with two of Hubble's science instruments. Data taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) in 2006 isolated light emitted by hydrogen. More recent data, taken in 2008 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), isolated light emitted by sulfur and oxygen gas. To create a color composite, the data from the sulfur filter are represented by red, from the oxygen filter by blue, and from the hydrogen filter by green.

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Hubble Scores a Perfect Ten



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is back in business. Just a couple of days after the orbiting observatory was brought back online, Hubble aimed its prime working camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), at a particularly intriguing target, a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147. The image demonstrated that the camera is working exactly as it was before going offline, thereby scoring a "perfect 10" both for performance and beauty.

The two galaxies happen to be oriented so that they appear to mark the number 10. The left-most galaxy, or the "one" in this image, is relatively undisturbed apart from a smooth ring of starlight. It appears nearly on edge to our line of sight. The right-most galaxy, resembling a zero, exhibits a clumpy, blue ring of intense star formation. The galaxy pair was photographed on October 27-28, 2008. Arp 147 lies in the constellation Cetus, and it is more than 400 million light-years away from Earth.

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Hubble Directly Observes Planet Orbiting Fomalhaut



Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet orbiting another star. The images show the planet, named Fomalhaut b, as a tiny point source of light orbiting the nearby, bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis. An immense debris disk about 21.5 billion miles across surrounds the star. Fomalhaut b is orbiting 1.8 billion miles inside the disk's sharp inner edge.

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Hubble Reveals Dynamic Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune



The two major planets beyond Saturn have only been visited once by a spacecraft, albeit briefly. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft swung by Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. Our robotic deep-space tourist snapped the only close-up, detailed images of these monstrous worlds. For Neptune, the images revealed a planet with a dynamic atmosphere with two mysterious dark vortices. Uranus, however, appeared featureless. But these views were only brief snapshots. They couldn't capture how the planets' atmospheres change over time, any more than a single snapshot of Earth could tell meteorologists about weather behavior. And, they go through protracted seasonal changes in their multi-decades-long orbits. Ever since the Voyager encounter, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided an opportunity to monitor these worlds like a diligent weatherman.

Since Hubble's launch in 1990, astronomers have used it to amass an album of outer planet images. Yearly monitoring of these giant worlds is now allowing astronomers to study long-term seasonal changes, as well as capture transitory weather patterns. One such elusive event is yet another dark storm on Neptune, shown in the latest Hubble image of the planet (right).

The telescope's new snapshot of Uranus (left) shows that the ice giant is not a planetary wallflower. A vast bright polar cap across the north pole dominates the image. The cap, which may form due to seasonal changes in atmospheric flow, has become much more prominent than in previous observations dating back to the Voyager 2 flyby, when the planet, in the throes of winter, looked bland.

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Hubble Reveals Dynamic Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune



The two major planets beyond Saturn have only been visited once by a spacecraft, albeit briefly. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft swung by Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. Our robotic deep-space tourist snapped the only close-up, detailed images of these monstrous worlds. For Neptune, the images revealed a planet with a dynamic atmosphere with two mysterious dark vortices. Uranus, however, appeared featureless. But these views were only brief snapshots. They couldn't capture how the planets' atmospheres change over time, any more than a single snapshot of Earth could tell meteorologists about weather behavior. And, they go through protracted seasonal changes in their multi-decades-long orbits. Ever since the Voyager encounter, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided an opportunity to monitor these worlds like a diligent weatherman.

Since Hubble's launch in 1990, astronomers have used it to amass an album of outer planet images. Yearly monitoring of these giant worlds is now allowing astronomers to study long-term seasonal changes, as well as capture transitory weather patterns. One such elusive event is yet another dark storm on Neptune, shown in the latest Hubble image of the planet (right).

The telescope's new snapshot of Uranus (left) shows that the ice giant is not a planetary wallflower. A vast bright polar cap across the north pole dominates the image. The cap, which may form due to seasonal changes in atmospheric flow, has become much more prominent than in previous observations dating back to the Voyager 2 flyby, when the planet, in the throes of winter, looked bland.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Astronomers Find One of the Youngest and Brightest Galaxies in the Early Universe



NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, with a boost from a natural "zoom lens," have uncovered what may be one of the youngest and brightest galaxies ever seen in the middle of the cosmic "dark ages," just 700 million years after the beginning of our universe.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 
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