Space Hubble Telescope News

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What Does the Milky Way Weigh? Hubble and Gaia Investigate



We live in a gigantic star city. Our Milky Way galaxy contains an estimated 200 billion stars. But that's just the bare tip of the iceberg. The Milky Way is surrounded by vast amounts of an unknown material called dark matter that is invisible because it doesn't release any radiation. Astronomers know it exists because, dynamically, the galaxy would fly apart if dark matter didn't keep a gravitational lid on things.

Still, astronomers would like to have a precise measure of the galaxy's mass to better understand how the myriad galaxies throughout the universe form and evolve. Other galaxies can range in mass from around a billion solar masses to 30 trillion solar masses. How does our Milky Way compare?

Curious astronomers teamed up the Hubble Space Telescope and European Space Agency's Gaia satellite to precisely study the motions of globular star clusters that orbit our galaxy like bees around a hive. The faster the clusters move under the entire galaxy's gravitational pull, the more massive it is. The researchers concluded the galaxy weighs 1.5 trillion solar masses, most of it locked up in dark matter. Therefore, the Milky Way is a "Goldilocks" galaxy, not too big and not too small. Just right!

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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A Pair of Fledgling Planets Directly Seen Growing Around a Young Star



In order to grow to Jupiter size or larger, a gas giant planet must slurp large quantities of hydrogen and other gases from the disk in which it forms. Astronomers have looked for evidence of this process, but direct observations are challenging because planets become lost in the glare of their star. A team has succeeded in making ground-based observations of two planets accreting matter from a disk. It represents only the second multi-planet system to be directly imaged.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Photo Release: Hubble Captures Cosmic Fireworks in Ultraviolet


Cosmic Fireworks in Ultraviolet
Hubble offers a special view of the double star system Eta Carinae’s expanding gases glowing in red, white, and blue. This is the highest resolution image of Eta Carinae taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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A “Jellyfish” Galaxy Swims Into View of NASA’s Upcoming Webb Telescope



As the spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 plunges into a galaxy cluster, gas is being pulled off of it as though it faced a cosmic headwind. Within that gas, stars are forming to create the appearance of giant, blue tentacle-like streamers. Astronomers, puzzled that stars could form within such tumult, plan to use Webb to study this galaxy and its stellar offspring.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Captures the Galaxy's Biggest Ongoing Stellar Fireworks Show



In the mid-1800s, mariners sailing the southern seas navigated at night by a brilliant star in the constellation Carina. The star, named Eta Carinae, was the second brightest star in the sky for more than a decade. Those mariners could hardly have imagined that by the mid-1860s the brilliant orb would no longer be visible. Eta Carinae was enveloped by a cloud of dust ejected during a violent outburst.

Stars don't normally play vanishing acts unless they are undergoing rapid and violent activity. Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories have helped astronomers piece together the story of this unique star's petulant behavior. During part of its adult life, Eta Carinae has undergone a series of eruptions, becoming extremely bright during each episode, before fading away. One explanation for the monster star's antics is that the convulsions were caused by a complex interplay of as many as three stars, all gravitationally bound in one system. The most massive member – weighing in at 150 times our Sun's mass – swallowed one of the stars. This violent event ignited the massive outburst of the mid-1800s. Evidence for that event, dubbed the Great Eruption, lies in the huge, expanding bipolar lobes of hot gas surrounding the system.

Because of Eta Carinae's violent history, astronomers have kept watch over its activities. Although Hubble has monitored the volatile superstar for 25 years, it still is uncovering new revelations. Using Hubble to map the ultraviolet-light glow of magnesium embedded in warm gas, astronomers were surprised to discover the gas in places they had not seen it before. The newly revealed gas is important for understanding how the eruption began, because it represents the fast and energetic ejection of material that may have been expelled by the star shortly before the expulsion of the bipolar bubbles.

One of the most massive known stars in the Milky Way galaxy, Eta Carinae is destined to finally meet its end by exploding as a supernova.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Celebrates 29th Anniversary with a Colorful Look at the Southern Crab Nebula



This Hubble image shows the results of two stellar companions in a gravitational waltz, several thousand light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Centaurus. The stellar duo, consisting of a red giant and white dwarf, are too close together to see individually in this view. But the consequences of their whirling about each other are two vast shells of gas expanding into space like a runaway hot air balloon. Both stars are embedded in a flat disk of hot material that constricts the outflowing gas so that it only escapes away above and below the stars. This apparently happens in episodes because the nebula has two distinct nested hourglass-shaped structures. The bubbles of gas and dust appear brightest at the edges, giving the illusion of crab legs. The rich colors correspond to glowing hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen, and oxygen. This image was taken to celebrate Hubble's 29th anniversary since its launch on April 24, 1990.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Captures the Galaxy's Biggest Ongoing Stellar Fireworks Show



In the mid-1800s, mariners sailing the southern seas navigated at night by a brilliant star in the constellation Carina. The star, named Eta Carinae, was the second brightest star in the sky for more than a decade. Those mariners could hardly have imagined that by the mid-1860s the brilliant orb would no longer be visible. Eta Carinae was enveloped by a cloud of dust ejected during a violent outburst.

Stars don't normally play vanishing acts unless they are undergoing rapid and violent activity. Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories have helped astronomers piece together the story of this unique star's petulant behavior. During part of its adult life, Eta Carinae has undergone a series of eruptions, becoming extremely bright during each episode, before fading away. One explanation for the monster star's antics is that the convulsions were caused by a complex interplay of as many as three stars, all gravitationally bound in one system. The most massive member – weighing in at 150 times our Sun's mass – swallowed one of the stars. This violent event ignited the massive outburst of the mid-1800s. Evidence for that event, dubbed the Great Eruption, lies in the huge, expanding bipolar lobes of hot gas surrounding the system.

Because of Eta Carinae's violent history, astronomers have kept watch over its activities. Although Hubble has monitored the volatile superstar for 25 years, it still is uncovering new revelations. Using Hubble to map the ultraviolet-light glow of magnesium embedded in warm gas, astronomers were surprised to discover the gas in places they had not seen it before. The newly revealed gas is important for understanding how the eruption began, because it represents the fast and energetic ejection of material that may have been expelled by the star shortly before the expulsion of the bipolar bubbles.

One of the most massive known stars in the Milky Way galaxy, Eta Carinae is destined to finally meet its end by exploding as a supernova.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

Robby

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Atmosphere of Mid-Size Planet Revealed by Hubble and Spitzer



Our solar system contains two major classes of planets. Earth is a rocky terrestrial planet, as are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. At about the distance of the asteroid belt, there is a "frost line" where space is so cold more volatile material, like water, can remain frozen. Out here live the gas giants–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune–which have bulked up on hydrogen and helium and other volatiles.

Astronomers are curious about a new class of planet not found in the Solar System. Weighing in at 12.6 Earth masses the planet is more massive than Earth, but less massive than Neptune (hence, intermediate between the rocky and gaseous planets in the Solar System). What's more, the planet, GJ 3470 b, is so close to its red dwarf star that it completes one orbit in just three days! As odd as it seems, planets in this mass range are likely the most abundant throughout the galaxy, based on surveys by NASA's Kepler space telescope. But they are not found in our own solar system.

Astronomers enlisted the combined multi-wavelength capabilities of NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to assemble for the first time a "fingerprint" of the chemical composition of GJ 3470 b's atmosphere, which turns out to be mostly hydrogen and helium, and surprisingly, largely lacking heavier elements. One possible explanation is that the planet formed as a 10-Earth-mass rocky core that then accumulated hydrogen very close to its star, rather than migrated in which is the conventional wisdom for star-hugging planets.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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STScI to Design Science Operations for New Panoramic Space Telescope



NASA has awarded a contract to the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, for the Science Operations Center (SOC) of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) mission. WFIRST is a NASA observatory designed to settle essential questions in a wide-range of science areas, including dark energy and dark matter, and planets outside our solar system.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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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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NASA's Great Observatories Begin Deepest Ever Probe of the Universe



NASA's Great Observatories are teaming up to look deeper into the universe than ever before. With a boost from natural "zoom lenses" found in space, they should be able to uncover galaxies that are as much as 100 times fainter than what the Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra space telescopes can typically see.

This ambitious collaborative program is called The Frontier Fields. Astronomers will spend the next three years peering at six massive clusters of galaxies. Researchers are interested not only as to what's inside the clusters, but also what's behind them. The gravitational fields of the clusters brighten and magnify distant background galaxies that are so faint they would otherwise be unobservable.

Despite several deep field surveys, astronomers realized that a lot is still to be learned about the distant universe. And, such knowledge will help in planning the observing strategy for the next-generation space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble's First Frontier Field Finds Thousands of Unseen, Faraway Galaxies



With the help of a natural "zoom lens" in space, Hubble astronomers are looking farther than anyone has before. The ambitious, collaborative, multiyear program among NASA's Great Observatories is called The Frontier Fields. The first of a set of unprecedented, super-deep views of the universe contain images of some of the intrinsically faintest and youngest galaxies ever detected. This is just the first of several primary target fields in the program. The immense gravity in this foreground galaxy cluster, Abell 2744, warps space to brighten and magnify images of far-more-distant background galaxies as they looked over 12 billion years ago, not long after the big bang. The Hubble exposure reveals nearly 3,000 of these background galaxies interleaved with images of hundreds of foreground galaxies in the cluster.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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NASA's Hubble Looks to the Final Frontier



Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the TV series "Star Trek" has captured the public's imagination with the signature phrase, "To boldly go where no one has gone before." The Hubble Space Telescope simply orbits Earth and doesn't "boldly go" deep into space. But it looks deeper into the universe than ever before possible to explore the fabric of time and space and find the farthest objects ever seen. This is epitomized in this Hubble image that is part of its Frontier Fields program to probe the far universe. This view of a massive cluster of galaxies unveils a very cluttered-looking universe filled with galaxies near and far. Some are distorted like a funhouse mirror through a warping-of-space phenomenon first predicted by Einstein a century ago.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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A Lot of Galaxies Need Guarding in This NASA Hubble View



Like the quirky characters in the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has some amazing superpowers, specifically when it comes to observing galaxies across time and space. One stunning example is galaxy cluster Abell 370, which contains a vast assortment of several hundred galaxies tied together by the mutual pull of gravity. That's a lot of galaxies to be guarding, and just in this one cluster! Photographed in a combination of visible and near-infrared light, the immense cluster is a rich mix of galaxy shapes. Entangled among the galaxies are mysterious-looking arcs of blue light. These are actually distorted images of remote galaxies behind the cluster. These far-flung galaxies are too faint for Hubble to see directly. Instead, the gravity of the cluster acts as a huge lens in space, magnifying and stretching images of background galaxies like a funhouse mirror. Abell 370 is located approximately 4 billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus, the Sea Monster. It is the last of six galaxy clusters imaged in the recently concluded Frontier Fields project — an ambitious, community-developed collaboration among NASA's Great Observatories and other telescopes that harnessed the power of massive galaxy clusters and probed the earliest stages of galaxy development.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Faint Glow Within Galaxy Clusters Illuminates Dark Matter



Utilizing the powerful Hubble Frontier Fields observations of galaxy clusters, a study demonstrates that intracluster light — the light of stars orphaned in galaxy cluster mergers — aligns with dark matter, tracing its distribution more accurately than other methods. With broader use, astronomers think the technique could be a first step in exploring the nature of the unobservable, elusive dark matter that makes up the majority of the universe.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Celebrates 15th Anniversary with Spectacular New Images



During the 15 years NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has orbited the Earth, it has taken more than 700,000 photos of the cosmos; images that have awed, astounded and even confounded astronomers and the public.

NASA released new views today of two of the most well-known objects Hubble has ever observed: the Whirlpool Galaxy (spiral galaxy M51)
and the Eagle Nebula
. These new images are among the largest and sharpest Hubble has ever taken. They were made with Hubble's newest camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The images are so incredibly sharp, they could be enlarged to billboard size and still retain stunning details.

For the 15th anniversary, scientists used the ACS to record a new region of the eerie-looking Eagle Nebula. The Eagle Nebula image reveals a tall, dense tower of gas being sculpted by ultraviolet light from a group of massive, hot stars. The new Whirlpool Galaxy image showcases the spiral galaxy's classic features, from its curving arms, where newborn stars reside, to its yellowish central core that serves as home for older stars. A feature of considerable interest is the companion galaxy located at the end of one of the spiral arms.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Mystery of the Universe's Expansion Rate Widens with New Hubble Data



There is something wrong with our universe. Or, more specifically, it is outpacing all expectations for its present rate of expansion.

Something is amiss in astronomers' efforts to measure the past and predict the present, according to a discrepancy between the two main techniques for measuring the universe's expansion rate – a key to understanding its history and physical parameters.

The inconsistency is between the Hubble Space Telescope measurements of today's expansion rate of the universe (by looking at stellar milepost markers) and the expansion rate as measured by the European Space Agency's Planck satellite. Planck observes the conditions of the early universe just 380,000 years after the big bang.

For years, astronomers have been assuming this discrepancy would go away due to some instrumental or observational fluke. Instead, as Hubble astronomers continue to "tighten the bolts" on the accuracy of their measurements, the discordant values remain stubbornly at odds.

The chances of the disagreement being just a fluke have skyrocketed from 1 in 3,000 to 1 in 100,000.

Theorists must find an explanation for the disparity that could rattle ideas about the very underpinnings of the universe.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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A Pair of Fledgling Planets Directly Seen Growing Around a Young Star



In order to grow to Jupiter size or larger, a gas giant planet must slurp large quantities of hydrogen and other gases from the disk in which it forms. Astronomers have looked for evidence of this process, but direct observations are challenging because planets become lost in the glare of their star. A team has succeeded in making ground-based observations of two planets accreting matter from a disk. It represents only the second multi-planet system to be directly imaged.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

Robby

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Hubble Captures the Galaxy's Biggest Ongoing Stellar Fireworks Show



In the mid-1800s, mariners sailing the southern seas navigated at night by a brilliant star in the constellation Carina. The star, named Eta Carinae, was the second brightest star in the sky for more than a decade. Those mariners could hardly have imagined that by the mid-1860s the brilliant orb would no longer be visible. Eta Carinae was enveloped by a cloud of dust ejected during a violent outburst.

Stars don't normally play vanishing acts unless they are undergoing rapid and violent activity. Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories have helped astronomers piece together the story of this unique star's petulant behavior. During part of its adult life, Eta Carinae has undergone a series of eruptions, becoming extremely bright during each episode, before fading away. One explanation for the monster star's antics is that the convulsions were caused by a complex interplay of as many as three stars, all gravitationally bound in one system. The most massive member – weighing in at 150 times our Sun's mass – swallowed one of the stars. This violent event ignited the massive outburst of the mid-1800s. Evidence for that event, dubbed the Great Eruption, lies in the huge, expanding bipolar lobes of hot gas surrounding the system.

Because of Eta Carinae's violent history, astronomers have kept watch over its activities. Although Hubble has monitored the volatile superstar for 25 years, it still is uncovering new revelations. Using Hubble to map the ultraviolet-light glow of magnesium embedded in warm gas, astronomers were surprised to discover the gas in places they had not seen it before. The newly revealed gas is important for understanding how the eruption began, because it represents the fast and energetic ejection of material that may have been expelled by the star shortly before the expulsion of the bipolar bubbles.

One of the most massive known stars in the Milky Way galaxy, Eta Carinae is destined to finally meet its end by exploding as a supernova.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

Robby

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Atmosphere of Mid-Size Planet Revealed by Hubble and Spitzer



Our solar system contains two major classes of planets. Earth is a rocky terrestrial planet, as are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. At about the distance of the asteroid belt, there is a "frost line" where space is so cold more volatile material, like water, can remain frozen. Out here live the gas giants–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune–which have bulked up on hydrogen and helium and other volatiles.

Astronomers are curious about a new class of planet not found in the Solar System. Weighing in at 12.6 Earth masses the planet is more massive than Earth, but less massive than Neptune (hence, intermediate between the rocky and gaseous planets in the Solar System). What's more, the planet, GJ 3470 b, is so close to its red dwarf star that it completes one orbit in just three days! As odd as it seems, planets in this mass range are likely the most abundant throughout the galaxy, based on surveys by NASA's Kepler space telescope. But they are not found in our own solar system.

Astronomers enlisted the combined multi-wavelength capabilities of NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to assemble for the first time a "fingerprint" of the chemical composition of GJ 3470 b's atmosphere, which turns out to be mostly hydrogen and helium, and surprisingly, largely lacking heavier elements. One possible explanation is that the planet formed as a 10-Earth-mass rocky core that then accumulated hydrogen very close to its star, rather than migrated in which is the conventional wisdom for star-hugging planets.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 
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