Space Hubble Telescope News

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Hubble's Festive View of a Grand Star-Forming Region



Just in time for the holidays: a Hubble Space Telescope picture postcard of hundreds of brilliant blue stars wreathed by warm, glowing clouds. The festive portrait is the most detailed view of the largest stellar nursery in our local galactic neighborhood. The massive, young stellar grouping, called R136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. There is no known star-forming region in our galaxy as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus. Many of the diamond-like icy blue stars are among the most massive stars known. Several of them are over 100 times more massive than our Sun. These hefty stars are destined to pop off, like a string of firecrackers, as supernovas in a few million years.

The image, taken in ultraviolet, visible, and red light by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, spans about 100 light-years. The nebula is close enough to Earth that Hubble can resolve individual stars, giving astronomers important information about the birth and evolution of stars in the universe. The Hubble observations were taken Oct. 20-27, 2009. The blue color is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; and the red from fluorescing hydrogen.

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Space Telescopes Reveal Secrets of Turbulent Black Hole



An international team of astronomers using five different telescopes has uncovered striking features around a supermassive black hole in the core of the distant galaxy Markarian 509. They found a very hot corona hovering above the black hole and cold gas "bullets" in hotter diffuse gas, speeding outward with velocities over 1 million miles per hour. This corona absorbs and reprocesses the ultraviolet light from the accretion disk encircling the black hole, energizing it and converting it into X-rays. This discovery allows astronomers to make sense of some of the observations of active galaxies that have been hard to explain so far. The heart of the campaign consisted of repeated visible, X-ray, and gamma-ray observations with ESA's XMM-Newton and INTEGRAL satellites, which monitored Markarian 509 for six weeks. This was followed by long observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. Prior to these observations short snapshots to monitor the behavior of the source at all wavelengths were taken with NASA's Swift satellite. The combined efforts of all these instruments gave astronomers an unprecedented insight into the core of an active galaxy.

The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph aboard Hubble reveals that the coolest gas in the line of sight toward Markarian 509 has 14 different velocity components at various locations in the innermost parts of this galaxy. Hubble's data, combined with X-ray observations, show that most of the visible outflowing gas is blown off from a dusty gas disk surrounding the central region more than 15 light-years away from the black hole. This outflow consists of dense, cold blobs or gas bullets embedded in hotter diffuse gas. The international consortium responsible for this campaign consists of 26 astronomers from 21 institutes on 4 continents. The first results of this campaign will be published as a series of seven papers in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. More results are in preparation.

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Space Telescope Science Institute Announces the 2012 Hubble Fellows



The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) announces today the selection of 17 new candidates for the Hubble Fellowship Program. This is one of the three prestigious postdoctoral fellowship programs funded by NASA. The other programs are the Sagan and the Einstein Fellowships. STScI administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA.

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Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto



A team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system. Provisionally designated S/2012 (134340) 1, the latest moon was detected in nine separate sets of images taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on June 26, 27, and 29, 2012 and July 7 and 9, 2012. This discovery increases the number of known moons orbiting Pluto to five.

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Additional Kepler Data Now Available to All Planet Hunters



The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., is releasing 12 additional months worth of planet-searching data meticulously collected by one of the most prolific planet-hunting endeavors ever conceived, NASA's Kepler Mission.

As of Oct. 28, 2012, every observation from the extrasolar planet survey made by Kepler since its launch in 2009 through June 27, 2012, is available to scientists and the public. This treasure-trove contains more than 16 terabytes of data and is housed at the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, or MAST, at the Space Telescope Science Institute. MAST is a huge data archive containing astronomical observations from 16 NASA space astronomy missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope. It is named in honor of Maryland U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski.

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Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes Find One of the Youngest Galaxies in the Universe



An international team led by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) and La Laguna University (ULL) has just released the first analysis of the observations of the Abell 2744 cluster of galaxies, a coordinated program of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. They have discovered one of the most distant galaxies known to date, which clearly shows the potential of the multi-year Frontier Fields project. The project uses a phenomenon called "gravitational lensing" where select foreground galaxy clusters amplify the faint light from far-more-distant background objects. By combining Hubble and Spitzer data, these astrophysicists have determined the properties of this young galaxy with a better precision than previous studies of other samples at similar cosmic epochs. This galaxy, named Abell2744-Y1, is about 30 times smaller than our galaxy, the Milky Way, but is producing at least 10 times more stars. From Earth, this galaxy is seen as it was 650 million years after the big bang. It is one of the brightest galaxies discovered at such a lookback time, say researchers. This study provides new constraints on the density and properties of the galaxies in the early universe. These results are accepted for publication in the scientific journal Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters.

In addition to the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) and La Laguna University (ULL), the team is composed of researchers from France (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie and Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon), Switzerland (Geneva University and Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne), and the United States (University of Arizona).

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NASA and STScI Select 17 Hubble Fellows for 2014



NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have announced the selection of 17 new Hubble Fellows. STScI in Baltimore, Md., administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA. The Hubble Fellowship Program includes all research relevant to present and future missions in NASA's Cosmic Origins theme. These missions currently include the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The new Hubble Fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2014.

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New iBooks Textbook Helps Visually Impaired Visit the Stars Through Touch and Sound



Children with visual disabilities can experience striking deep-space images in a free, multi-touch iBooks textbook for the iPad entitled "Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn." Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute have teamed up with the SAS Corporation, the National Braille Press, and the National Federation of the Blind to create a book to inspire students of all abilities. Students with visual impairments can access the book using the VoiceOver screen reader that is available on every iPad. The book is available as a free download from Apple's iBooks Store.

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Close Encounters: Comet Siding Spring Seen Next to Mars



This is a photo composite of the encounter of Comet Siding Spring with Mars on October 19, 2014. Separate Hubble Space Telescope images of Mars and the comet have been combined together into a single picture. This is a composite image because a single exposure of the stellar background, Comet Siding Spring, and Mars would be problematic because the objects are all moving with respect to each other and the background stars. Hubble can only track one planetary target at a time. Also, Mars is actually 10,000 times brighter than the comet, and the exposure here has been adjusted so that details on the Red Planet can be seen.

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NASA and STScI Select Hubble Fellows for 2015



NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have announced the selection of 17 new Hubble Fellows. STScI in Baltimore, Maryland, administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA. The Hubble Fellowship Program includes all research relevant to present and future missions relating to NASA's Cosmic Origins Program. These missions currently include the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the James Webb Space Telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The new Hubble Fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2015.

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Our Sun Came Late to the Milky Way's Star-Birth Party



Our Sun missed the stellar "baby boom" that erupted in our young Milky Way galaxy 10 billion years ago. During that time the Milky Way was churning out stars 30 times faster than it does today. Our galaxy was ablaze with a firestorm of star birth as its rich reservoir of hydrogen gas compressed under gravity, creating myriad stars. But our Sun was not one of them. It was a late "boomer," arising 5 billion years later, when star birth had plunged to a trickle.

Astronomers compiled this story of our Milky Way's growth from studying galaxies similar in mass to our galaxy, found in deep surveys of the universe. Stretching back in time more than 10 billion years, the census contains nearly 2,000 snapshots of Milky Way-like galaxies. The analysis comprises the most comprehensive multi-observatory galaxy survey yet, and includes data from the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS), taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Join Hubble scientists during the live Hubble Hangout discussion at 3pm EDT on Thurs., April 9, to learn even more. Visit Google+ at Google+, or YouTube at Stellar Evolution in Milky Way Type Galaxies .

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NASA and STScI Select Hubble Fellows for 2016



NASA has selected 36 fellows for its prestigious Einstein, Hubble, and Sagan Fellowships. Each postdoctoral fellowship provides three years of support to awardees to pursue independent research in astronomy and astrophysics. The new fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2016 at a host university or research center of their choosing in the United States.

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Hubble Takes Close-up Portrait of Jupiter



Named after the Roman king of the gods, the immense planet Jupiter is undoubtedly king of the solar system. Containing more mass than all the other planets combined, Jupiter's immense gravitational field deflects wayward comets that otherwise might slam into Earth, wreaking havoc.

This dazzling Hubble Space Telescope photo of Jupiter was taken when it was comparatively close to Earth, at a distance of 415 million miles. Hubble reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter's clouds as arranged into bands of different latitudes, known as tropical regions. These bands are produced by air flowing in different directions at various latitudes. Lighter colored areas, called zones, are high-pressure where the atmosphere rises. Darker low-pressure regions where air falls are called belts. The planet's trademark, the Great Red Spot, is a long-lived storm roughly the diameter of Earth. Much smaller storms appear as white or brown-colored ovals. Such storms can last as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries.

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Hubble Pushed Beyond Limits to Spot Clumps of New Stars in Distant Galaxy



When the universe was young, stars formed at a much higher rate than they do today. By peering across billions of light-years of space, Hubble can study this early era. But at such distances, galaxies shrink to smudges that hide key details. Astronomers have teased out those details in one distant galaxy by combining Hubble’s sharp vision with the natural magnifying power of a gravitational lens. The result is an image 10 times better than what Hubble could achieve on its own, showing dense clusters of brilliant, young stars that resemble cosmic fireworks.

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NASA Missions Catch First Light From a Gravitational-Wave Event



When some people get in the kitchen, they create a delicious meal but leave behind a chaotic mess of splattered food and dirty dishes. Cosmic cookery can be just as messy. While a star can create chemical elements as heavy as iron within its core, anything heavier needs a more powerful source like a stellar explosion or the collision of two neutron stars.

Colliding neutron stars can yield gold, plutonium, and a variety of other elements. Theoretically, they also generate gravitational waves as they spiral together at breakneck speed before merging. The first gravitational wave signal from a neutron star merger was detected on August 17. It was accompanied by gamma rays and other light, allowing astronomers to locate a gravitational wave source for the first time.

Hubble photographed the glow from this titanic collision, shining within the galaxy NGC 4993 at a distance of 130 million light-years. Hubble also obtained an infrared spectrum that may yield signs of exotic, radioactive elements. The analysis will continue while astronomers wait for the gravitational wave source to emerge from behind the Sun from Earth’s point of view, where it slipped just days after discovery.

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Hubble Finds Substellar Objects in the Orion Nebula



Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to peer deep into the vast stellar nursery called the Orion Nebula, astronomers searched for small, faint bodies. What they found was the largest population yet of brown dwarfs — objects that are more massive than planets but do not shine like stars. Researchers identified 17 brown dwarf companions to red dwarf stars, one brown dwarf pair, and one brown dwarf with a planetary companion. They also found three giant planets, including a binary system where two planets orbit each other in the absence of a parent star. This survey could only be done with Hubble’s exceptional resolution and infrared sensitivity.

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Hubble Sees Neptune's Mysterious Shrinking Storm



Three billion miles away on the farthest known major planet in our solar system, an ominous, stinky, dark storm is shrinking out of existence as seen in pictures of Neptune taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Immense dark storms on Neptune were first discovered in the late 1980s by the Voyager 2 spacecraft. Since then, only Hubble has tracked these elusive features that play a game of peek-a-boo over the years. Hubble found two dark storms that appeared in the mid-1990s and then vanished. This latest storm was first seen in 2015, but is now shrinking away. The dark spot material may be hydrogen sulfide, with the pungent smell of rotten eggs.

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Hubble Solves Cosmic 'Whodunit' with Interstellar Forensics



In a cosmic tug-of-war between two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, only NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope can see who’s winning. The players are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and as they gravitationally tug at each other, one of them has pulled out a huge amount of gas from its companion. This shredded and fragmented gas, called the Leading Arm, is being devoured by the Milky Way and feeding new star birth in our galaxy. But which dwarf galaxy is doing the pulling, and whose gas is now being feasted upon? Scientists used Hubble’s ultraviolet vision to chemically analyze the gas in the Leading Arm and determine its origin. After years of debate, we now have the answer to this “whodunit” mystery.

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Hubble Uncovers the Farthest Star Ever Seen



Through a quirk of nature called “gravitational lensing,” a natural lens in space amplified a very distant star’s light. Astronomers using Hubble took advantage of this phenomenon to pinpoint the faraway star and set a new distance record for the farthest individual star ever seen. They also used the distant star to test one theory of dark matter, and to probe the make-up of a galaxy cluster. The team dubbed the star “Icarus,” after the Greek mythological character who flew too near the Sun on wings of feathers and wax that melted. Its official name is MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1.

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NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Could Potentially Detect the First Stars and Black Holes



One of the key science goals of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is to learn about “first light,” the moment when the first stars and galaxies lit the universe. While the first galaxies will be within Webb’s reach, individual stars shine so faintly that Webb would not be able to detect them without help. That help could come in the form of natural magnification from gravitational lensing, according to a new theoretical paper.

A cluster of galaxies can provide the needed gravitational oomph to bring distant objects into focus via lensing. Typical gravitational lensing can boost a target’s brightness by a factor of 10 to 20. But in special circumstances, the light of a faraway star could be amplified by 10,000 times or more.

If Webb monitors several galaxy clusters a couple of times a year over its lifetime, chances are good that it will detect such a magnified star, or possibly the accretion disk of a black hole from the same era. This would give astronomers a key opportunity to learn about the actual properties of the early universe and compare them to computer models.

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