Space Hubble Telescope News

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Mars May Be Cozy Place for Hardy Microbes



A class of especially hardy microbes that live in some of the harshest Earthly environments could flourish on cold Mars and other chilly planets, according to a research team of astronomers and microbiologists. In a two-year laboratory study, the researchers discovered that some cold-adapted microorganisms not only survived but reproduced at 30 degrees Fahrenheit, just below the freezing point of water. The microbes also developed a defense mechanism that protected them from cold temperatures. These close-up images, taken by an electron microscope, reveal the tiny one-cell organisms, called halophiles and methanogens, that were used in the study.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Yields Direct Proof of Stellar Sorting in a Globular Cluster



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has provided astronomers with the best observational evidence to date that globular clusters sort out stars according to their mass, governed by a gravitational billiard ball game between stars. Heavier stars slow down and sink to the cluster's core, while lighter stars pick up speed and move across the cluster to its periphery. This process, called "mass segregation," has long been suspected for globular star clusters, but has never before been directly seen in action.

A typical globular cluster contains several hundred thousand stars. Although the density of stars is very small in the outskirts of such stellar systems, the stellar density near the center can be more than 10,000 times higher than in the local vicinity of our Sun. If we lived in such a region of space, the night sky would be ablaze with 10,000 stars that would be closer to us than the nearest star to the Sun, Alpha Centauri, which is 4.3 light-years away (or approximately 272,000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun).

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Hubble's Latest Views of Light Echo from Star V838 Monocerotis



These are the most recent NASA Hubble Space Telescope views of an unusual phenomenon in space called a light echo. Light from a star that erupted nearly five years ago continues propagating outward through a cloud of dust surrounding the star. The light reflects or "echoes" off the dust and then travels to Earth.

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Hubble Servicing Mission 4



NASA announced today plans for a fifth servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Shuttle astronauts will visit the telescope to extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013.

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Host Galaxy Cluster to Largest Known Radio Eruption



This is a new composite image of galaxy cluster MS0735.6+7421, located about 2.6 billion light-years away in the constellation Camelopardalis. The three views of the region were taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in Feb. 2006, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in Nov. 2003, and NRAO's Very Large Array in Oct. 2004. The Hubble image shows dozens of galaxies bound together by gravity. In Jan. 2005, astronomers reported that a supermassive black hole, lurking in the central bright galaxy, generated the most powerful outburst seen in the universe. The VLA radio image shows jets of high energy particles (in red) streaming from the black hole. These jets pushed the X-ray emitting hot gas (shown in blue in the Chandra image) aside to create two giant cavities in the gas. The cavities are evidence for the massive eruption. The X-ray and radio images show the enormous appetite of large black holes and the profound impact they have on their surroundings.

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Hubble Finds Evidence for Dark Energy in the Young Universe



Scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that dark energy is not a new constituent of space, but rather has been present for most of the universe's history. Dark energy is a mysterious repulsive force that causes the universe to expand at an increasing rate. Investigators used Hubble to find that dark energy was already boosting the expansion rate of the universe as long as nine billion years ago. This picture of dark energy is consistent with Albert Einstein's prediction of nearly a century ago that a repulsive form of gravity emanates from empty space. Data from Hubble provides supporting evidence to help astrophysicists to understand the nature of dark energy. This will allow them to begin ruling out some competing explanations that predict that the strength of dark energy changes over time.

Researchers also have found that the class of ancient exploding stars, or supernovae, used to measure the expansion of space today look remarkably similar to those that exploded nine billion years ago and are just now being seen by Hubble. This important finding gives additional credibility to the use of these supernovae for tracking the cosmic expansion over most of the universe's lifetime. Supernovae provide reliable measurements because their intrinsic brightness is well understood. They are therefore reliable distance markers, allowing astronomers to determine how far away they are from Earth. These snapshots, taken by Hubble reveal five supernovae and their host galaxies. The arrows in the top row of images point to the supernovae. The bottom row shows the host galaxies before or after the stars exploded. The supernovae exploded between 3.5 and 10 billion years ago.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Heavyweight Stars Light Up Nebula NGC 6357



The small open star cluster Pismis 24 lies in the core of the large emission nebula NGC 6357 in Scorpius, about 8,000 light-years away from Earth. Some of the stars in this cluster are extremely massive and emit intense ultraviolet radiation. The brightest object in the picture is designated Pismis 24-1. It was once thought to weigh as much as 200 to 300 solar masses. This would not only have made it by far the most massive known star in the galaxy, but would have put it considerably above the currently believed upper mass limit of about 150 solar masses for individual stars. However, high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope images of the star show that it is really two stars orbiting one another (inset pictures at top right and bottom right). They are estimated to each be 100 solar masses. The Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys images were taken in April 2006.

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Celestial Season's Greetings from Hubble



Swirls of gas and dust reside in this ethereal-looking region of star formation imaged by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This majestic view of LH 95, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, reveals a region where low-mass, infant stars and their much more massive stellar neighbors reside. A shroud of blue haze gently lingers amid the stars. The image was taken in March 2006 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

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Massive Black Holes Dwell in Most Galaxies, According to Hubble Census



Announcing the discovery of three black holes in three normal galaxies, astronomers suggest that nearly all galaxies may harbor super-massive black holes that once powered quasars (extremely luminous objects in the centers of galaxies), but are now quiescent.

This conclusion is based on a census of 27 nearby galaxies carried out by the Hubble telescope and ground-based observatories in Hawaii. The three galaxies in these images are believed to contain central, super-massive black holes. The galaxy NGC 4486B [lower left] shows a double nucleus [lower right]. The picture at lower right is a close-up of the central region of NGC 4486B.

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Hubble Finds Intergalactic Stars



The Hubble telescope has found a long-sought population of "stellar outcasts" ? stars tossed out of their home galaxies into the dark emptiness of intergalactic space. This is the first time stars have been found more than 300,000 light-years (three Milky Way diameters) from the nearest big galaxy.

The isolated stars dwell in the Virgo cluster of galaxies, about 60 million light-years from Earth. The results suggest this population of "lone stars" accounts for 10 percent of the Virgo cluster's mass, or 1 trillion Sun-like stars adrift among the 2,500 galaxies in Virgo. This is an illustration of the view of the nighttime sky from the surface of a hypothetical planet orbiting an "outcast" star in the Virgo cluster.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Camera Resumes Science Operation with Picture of "Butterfly" in Space



The Hubble telescope is back at work, capturing this view of the butterfly-wing-shaped nebula, NGC 2346.

The nebula is about 2,000 light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Monoceros. It represents the spectacular "last gasp" of a double-star system at the nebula's center. The image was taken March 6, 1997 as part of the re-commissioning of Hubble's previously installed scientific instruments following a successful servicing mission.

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1997 Hubble Fellows to Study HST Discoveries



The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has selected fifteen young scientists for the 1997 Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. The awardees were selected from a pool of applications received from highly qualified candidates worldwide.

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Hubble's Sharpest View of Mars



The recently refurbished Hubble telescope obtained the sharpest view of Mars ever taken from Earth. This stunning portrait was taken with March 10, 1997, just before the Red Planet made one of its closest passes to Earth (about 60 million miles or 100 million kilometers).

The Martian North Pole is at the top [near the center of the bright polar cap] and east is to the right. This view of Mars was taken on the last day of Martian spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

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Hale-Bopp Observations with Hubble and IUE Surprise Astronomers



Completing an unprecedented yearlong study of Comet Hale-Bopp with two NASA observatories, including the Hubble telescope, astronomers report that they are surprised to find that the different ices in the nucleus seem to be isolated from each other. They also have seen unexpectedly brief and intense bursts of activity from the nucleus during the monitoring period. The Hubble observations suggest that the nucleus is huge, 19 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers) across.

Here are a series of Hubble telescope observations of the region around the nucleus of Hale-Bopp, taken on eight different dates since September 1995. They chronicle changes in the evolution of the nucleus as it moves ever closer to, and is warmed by, the Sun.

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Hubble Tracks the Fading Optical Counterpart of a Gamma-Ray Burst



The Hubble telescope has made an important contribution toward solving one of astronomy's greatest enigmas by allowing astronomers to continue watching the fading visible-light counterpart of a gamma-ray burst, one of the most energetic and mysterious events in the universe.

The so-called optical counterpart is presumably a cooling fireball from the catastrophic event that triggered the massive burst of invisible gamma rays ? the highest-energy radiation in the universe. This event may have unleashed as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun does in 10 billion years! The orange dot in the center of this Hubble image represents the burst's visible-light glow.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Records a Black Hole's Signature



The colorful "zigzag" on the right is not the work of a flamboyant artist, but the signature of a super-massive black hole in the center of galaxy M84, discovered by the Hubble telescope's imaging spectrograph.

The image on the left, also taken by Hubble, shows the core of the galaxy where the suspected black hole dwells. In a single exposure, astronomers mapped the motions of gas in the grip of the black hole's powerful gravitational pull by aligning Hubble's spectroscopic slit across the nucleus.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Captures the Heart of the Orion Nebula



The Hubble telescope's infrared vision is providing a dramatic new look at the beautiful Orion Nebula, which contains the nearest nursery for massive stars.

For comparison, Hubble's visible-light view of the nebula is on the left. The heart of the giant Orion molecular cloud, OMC-1, is included in the relatively dim and featureless area inside the blue outline near the top of the image. Light from a few foreground stars provides only a hint of the many other stars embedded in this dense cloud. Hubble's infrared camera reveals a chaotic, active star birth region [as seen in the right-hand picture]. Here, stars and glowing interstellar dust, heated by and scattering the intense starlight, appear yellow-orange.

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Hubble Chemically Analyzes the Ring around Supernova 1987A



These pictures from the Hubble telescope's imaging spectrograph provide a new and unprecedented look at one of the most unique and complex structures in the universe – a light-year-wide ring of glowing gas around supernova 1987A, the nearest stellar explosion in 400 years

The long-slit spectrograph viewed the entire ring system, dissecting its light and producing a detailed image of the ring in each of its component colors [the colorful loops on the right]. Each color represents light from specific elements in the ring's gases, including oxygen [single green ring], nitrogen and hydrogen [triple-orange rings], and sulfur [double-red rings]. By dismantling the ring into its different puzzle pieces – its component elements – astronomers hope to put together a picture of how the ring was created. The picture on the left is a view of the entire supernova.

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Hubble Finds Cloudy, Cold Weather Conditions for Mars-Bound Spacecraft



As two NASA spacecraft speed toward a mid-year rendezvous with Mars, astronomers using the Hubble telescope are providing updated planetary weather reports to help plan the missions.

Hubble's new images show that the "Martian invasion" of spacecraft will experience considerably different weather conditions than seen by the last U.S. spacecraft to land on Mars 21 years ago. Martian atmospheric conditions will affect the operation of both the Mars Pathfinder landing on July 4, 1997 and the September 11 arrival of the Mars Global Surveyor, which will map the planet from orbit. These two Hubble snapshots were taken barely three weeks after another Hubble observations of the Red Planet. The differences in the two sets of images are striking, revealing dramatic changes in some local conditions and show overall cloudier and colder conditions than the Viking orbiter encountered two decades ago.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Snaps "Family Portrait"



The Hubble telescope's infrared camera has peered into the Cone Nebula, revealing a stunning picture of six babies, Sun-like stars surrounding their mother, a bright, massive star. Known as NGC 2264 IRS, the massive star triggered the creation of these baby stars by releasing high-speed particles of dust and gas during its formative years.

The image on the left, taken in visible light by a terrestrial telescope, shows the Cone Nebula, located 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros. The white box pinpoints the location of the star nursery, which cannot be seen in this image because dust and gas obscure it. The infrared image on the right shows the massive star ? the brightest source in the region ? and the stars formed by its outflow.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 
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