Space Hubble Telescope News

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Hubble Astronomer Creates Spectacular Galaxy Collision Visualization for the National Air and Space Museum



Someday our Milky Way Galaxy and the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy may come crashing together in a horrendous collision that will twist and distort their shapes beyond recognition. Of course, to see that, you'll have to wait several billion years. But thanks to a combination of research science, Hollywood computer graphics, and large-scale visualization, visitors to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, can witness such an event today. The Space Telescope Science Institute, the scientific home of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is extending its tradition of stunning imagery by creating a spectacular scientific visualization of two galaxies colliding. This incredibly detailed, full-dome video sequence will be a highlight of "Infinity Express: A 20-Minute Tour of the Universe," the inaugural show in the National Air and Space Museum's newly renovated Einstein Planetarium, opening Saturday, April 13.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Hunts Down Binary Objects at the Fringe of Our Solar System



The Hubble Space Telescope is hot on the trail of a puzzling new class of solar system object that might be called a Pluto "mini-me." Together, these objects are 5,000 times less massive than Pluto and Charon. Like Pluto and Charon, these dim and fleeting objects travel in pairs in the frigid, mysterious outer realm of the solar system called the Kuiper Belt, a long-hypothesized "junkyard" of countless icy bodies left over from the solar system's formation. A total of seven binary Kuiper Belt objects have been seen so far by Hubble and ground-based observatories. Among them is a pair called 1998 WW31, which the Hubble telescope studied in detail.

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Hubble Uncovers Oldest "Clocks" in Space to Read Age of Universe



Pushing the limits of its powerful vision, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered the oldest burned-out stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. These extremely old, dim stars provide a completely independent reading of the universe's age without relying on measurements of the universe's expansion. The ancient white dwarf stars, as seen by Hubble, turn out to be 12 to 13 billion years old. Because earlier Hubble observations show that the first stars formed less than 1 billion years after the universe's birth in the big bang, finding the oldest stars puts astronomers well within arm's reach of calculating the absolute age of the universe.

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Gaseous Streamers Flutter in Stellar Breeze



N44C is the designation for a region of ionized hydrogen gas surrounding an association of young stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the Southern Hemisphere. N44C is part of the larger N44 complex, which includes young, hot, massive stars, nebulae, and a "superbubble" blown out by multiple supernova explosions.

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Hubble's Infrared Camera is Back in Business – New Images Released



After more than three years of inactivity, the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has reopened its "near-infrared eyes" on the universe, snapping several breathtaking views, from the craggy interior of a star-forming cloud to a revealing look at the heart of an edge-on galaxy. Peering into our stellar backyard, NICMOS peeled back the outer layers of the Cone Nebula [above, left] to see the underlying dusty "bedrock" in this stellar "pillar of creation." The camera's penetrating vision also sliced through the edge-on dusty disk of a galaxy, NGC 4013 [above, center], like our Milky Way to peer all the way into the galaxy's core. Astronomers were surprised to see what appears to be an edge-on ring of stars, 720 light-years across, encircling the nucleus. Though such star-rings are not uncommon in barred spiral galaxies, only NICMOS has the resolution to see the ring buried deep inside an edge-on galaxy. The camera then peered far across the universe to witness a galactic car wreck between four galaxies, which is creating a torrent of new stars. The colliding system of galaxies, called IRAS 19297-0406 [above, right], glows fiercely in infrared light because the flocks of new stars are generating a large amount of dust.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Beauty in the Eye of Hubble



The Hubble telescope reveals a rainbow of colors in this dying star, called IC 4406. Like many other so-called planetary nebulae, IC 4406 exhibits a high degree of symmetry. The nebula's left and right halves are nearly mirror images of the other. If we could fly around IC 4406 in a spaceship, we would see that the gas and dust form a vast donut of material streaming outward from the dying star. We don't see the donut shape in this photograph because we are viewing IC 4406 from the Earth-orbiting Hubble telescope. From this vantage point, we are seeing the side of the donut. This side view allows us to see the intricate tendrils of material that have been compared to the eye's retina. In fact, IC 4406 is dubbed the "Retina Nebula."

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Colorful Fireworks Finale Caps a Star's Life



Glowing gaseous streamers of red, white, and blue – as well as green and pink – illuminate the heavens like Fourth of July fireworks. The colorful streamers that float across the sky in this photo taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope were created by the universe's biggest firecracker, the titanic supernova explosion of a massive star. The light from the exploding star reached Earth 320 years ago, nearly a century before our United States celebrated its birth with a bang. The dead star's shredded remains are called Cassiopeia A, or "Cas A" for short. Cas A is the youngest known supernova remnant in our Milky Way Galaxy and resides 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia, so the star actually blew up 10,000 years before the light reached Earth in the late 1600s.

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Hubble Astronomers Feast on an Interstellar Hamburger



Hold the pickles; hold the lettuce. Space is serving up giant hamburgers. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has snapped a photograph of a strange object that bears an uncanny resemblance to a hamburger. The object, nicknamed Gomez's Hamburger, is a sun-like star nearing the end of its life. It already has expelled large amounts of gas and dust and is on its way to becoming a colorful, glowing planetary nebula. The ingredients for the giant celestial hamburger are dust and light. The hamburger buns are light reflecting off dust and the patty is the dark band of dust in the middle.

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A Wheel within a Wheel



A nearly perfect ring of hot, blue stars pinwheels about the yellow nucleus of an unusual galaxy known as Hoag's Object. This image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures a face-on view of the galaxy's ring of stars, revealing more detail than any existing photo of this object. The entire galaxy is about 120,000 light-years wide, which is slightly larger than our Milky Way Galaxy. The blue ring, which is dominated by clusters of young, massive stars, contrasts sharply with the yellow nucleus of mostly older stars. What appears to be a "gap" separating the two stellar populations may actually contain some star clusters that are almost too faint to see. Curiously, an object that bears an uncanny resemblance to Hoag's Object can be seen in the gap at the one o'clock position. The object is probably a background ring galaxy.

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NASA Announces Contract for Next-Generation Space Telescope Named After Space Pioneer



NASA has selected TRW to build the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. This space-based observatory will be known as the James Webb Space Telescope, named after James E. Webb, NASA's second administrator. While Webb is best known for leading Apollo and a series of lunar exploration programs that landed the first humans on the Moon, he also initiated a vigorous space science program, responsible for more than 75 launches during his tenure, including America's first interplanetary explorers.

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Hubble Discovers Black Holes in Unexpected Places



Medium-size black holes actually do exist, according to the latest findings from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, but scientists had to look in some unexpected places to find them. The previously undiscovered black holes provide an important link that sheds light on the way in which black holes grow. Even more odd, these new black holes were found in the cores of glittering, "beehive" swarms of stars called globular star clusters, which orbit our Milky Way and other galaxies. The black hole in globular cluster M15
is 4,000 times more massive than our Sun. G1
, a much larger globular cluster, harbors a heftier black hole, about 20,000 times more massive than our Sun.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Space Movie Reveals Shocking Secrets of the Crab Pulsar



Just when it seemed like the summer movie season had ended, two of NASA's Great Observatories have produced their own action movie. Multiple observations made over several months with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope captured the spectacle of matter and antimatter propelled to near the speed of light by the Crab pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star the size of Manhattan.

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Odd Couple Widely Separated by Time and Space



Appearances can be deceiving. In this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, an odd celestial duo, the spiral galaxy NGC 4319
and a quasar called Markarian 205 [upper right], appear to be neighbors. In reality, the two objects don't even live in the same city. They are separated by time and space. NGC 4319 is 80 million light-years from Earth. Markarian 205 (Mrk 205) is more than 14 times farther away, residing 1 billion light-years from Earth. The apparent close alignment of Mrk 205 and NGC 4319 is simply a matter of chance.

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Hubble Spots an Icy World Far Beyond Pluto



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has measured the largest object discovered in the solar system since the discovery of Pluto 72 years ago. Approximately half the size of Pluto, the icy world is called "Quaoar" (pronounced kwa-whar). Quaoar is about 4 billion miles away, more than a billion miles farther than Pluto. Like Pluto, Quaoar dwells in the Kuiper belt, an icy belt of comet-like bodies extending 7 billion miles beyond Neptune's orbit.

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Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded to Astronomer for NASA-Funded Research



Riccardo Giacconi, the "father of X-ray astronomy," has received the Nobel Prize in physics for "pioneering contributions to astrophysics," which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources.

Giacconi, president of the Associated Universities Inc., in Washington, DC and Research Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD discovered the first X-ray stars and the X-ray background in the 1960s and conceived of and led the implementation of the Uhuru and High Energy Astronomy Observatory-2 (HEAO-2) X-ray observatories in the 1970s. With funding from NASA, he also detected sources of X-rays that most astronomers now consider to contain black holes. Giacconi previously served from 1981 to 1993 as director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which operates and defines the science program for the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

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An Old Star Gives Up the Ghost



NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has caught a glimpse of a colorful cosmic ghost, the glowing remains of a dying star called NGC 6369. The glowing apparition is known to amateur astronomers as the "Little Ghost Nebula," because it appears as a small, ghostly cloud surrounding the faint, dying central star.

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Fast-Flying Black Hole Yields Clues to Supernova Origin



A nearby black hole is hurtling like a cannonball through the disk of our galaxy. The detection of this speed demon is the best evidence yet, some astronomers say, that stellar-mass black holes - those that are several times as massive as the Earth's Sun - are created when a dying, massive star explodes in a violent supernova. The stellar-mass black hole, called GRO J1655-40, is streaking across space at a rate of 250,000 miles per hour, which is four times faster than the average velocity of the stars in that galactic neighborhood. At that speed, the black hole may have been hurled through space by a supernova blast.

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Hands-On Book of Hubble Images Allows the Visually Impaired to "Touch the Universe"



A new book of majestic images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope brings the wonders of our universe to the fingertips of the blind. Called "Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy," the 64-page book presents color images of planets, nebulae, stars, and galaxies. Each image is embossed with lines, bumps, and other textures. The raised patterns translate colors, shapes, and other intricate details of the cosmic objects, allowing visually impaired people to feel what they cannot see. Braille and large-print descriptions accompany each of the book's 14 photographs, making the design of this book accessible to readers of all visual abilities.

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Hubble Makes Precise Measure of Extrasolar World's True Mass



An international team of astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to help make a precise measurement of the mass of a planet outside our solar system. The Hubble results show that the planet is 1.89 to 2.4 times as massive as Jupiter, our solar system's largest orbiting body. Previous estimates, about which there are some uncertainties, place the planet's mass at a much wider range: between 1.9 and 100 times that of Jupiter's. The planet, called Gliese 876b, orbits the star Gliese 876. It is only the second planet outside our solar system for which astronomers have determined a precise mass.

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Hubble Photographs 'Double Bubble' in Neighboring Galaxy



A unique peanut-shaped cocoon of dust, called a reflection nebula, surrounds a cluster of young, hot stars in this view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The "double bubble," called N30B, is inside a larger nebula, named DEM L 106. The larger nebula is embedded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way located 160,000 light-years away. The wispy filaments of DEM L 106 fill much of the image.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 
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