Space Hubble Telescope News

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Hubble Discovery of Runaway Star Yields Clues to Breakup of Multiple-Star System

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In the 1400s, two power struggles were taking place quadrillions of miles apart. In England, two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet were battling each other for control of the country's throne. And, in a nebula far, far away, a cluster of stars was waging a real-life star wars, with the stellar members battling each other for supremacy in the Orion Nebula. The gravitational tussle ended with the system breaking apart and at least three stars being ejected in different directions.

Astronomers spotted two of the speedy, wayward stars over the past few decades. They traced both stars back 540 years to the same location and suggested they were part of a now-defunct multiple-star system. But the duo's combined energy, which is propelling them outward, didn't add up. The researchers reasoned there must be at least one other culprit that robbed energy from the stellar toss-up. Now NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has helped astronomers find the final piece of the puzzle by nabbing a third runaway star, which was a member of the same system as the two previously known stars. The stars reside in a small region of young stars called the Kleinmann-Low Nebula, near the center of the vast Orion Nebula complex, located 1,300 light-years from Earth.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Detects Smallest Known Dark Matter Clumps

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When searching for dark matter, astronomers must go on a sort of "ghost hunt." That's because dark matter is an invisible substance that cannot be seen directly. Yet it makes up the bulk of the universe's mass and forms the scaffolding upon which galaxies are built. Dark matter is the gravitational "glue" that holds galaxies as well as galaxy clusters together. Astronomers can detect its presence indirectly by measuring how its gravity affects stars and galaxies.

The mysterious substance is not composed of the same stuff that makes up stars, planets, and people. That material is normal "baryonic" matter, consisting of electrons, protons, and neutrons. However, dark matter might be some sort of unknown subatomic particle that interacts weakly with normal matter.

A popular theory holds that dark matter particles don't move very fast, which makes it easier for them to clump together. According to this idea, the universe contains a broad range of dark matter concentrations, from small to large.

Astronomers have detected dark matter clumps around large- and medium-sized galaxies. Now, using Hubble and a new observing technique, astronomers have found that dark matter forms much smaller clumps than previously known.

The researchers searched for small concentrations of dark matter in the Hubble data by measuring how the light from faraway quasars is affected as it travels through space. Quasars are the bright black-hole-powered cores of very distant galaxies. The Hubble images show that the light from these quasars images is warped and magnified by the gravity of massive foreground galaxies in an effect called gravitational lensing. Astronomers used this lensing effect to detect the small dark matter clumps. The clumps are located along the telescope’s line of sight to the quasars, as well as in and around the foreground lensing galaxies.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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

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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 Space Telescope Celebrates 25 Years of Unveiling the Universe

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NASA and ESA are celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope's silver anniversary of 25 years in space by unveiling some of nature's own fireworks – a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2. The cluster resides inside a vibrant stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina. The comparatively young, 2-million-year-old star cluster contains some of our galaxy's hottest, brightest, and most massive stars. The largest stars are unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light and hurricane-force winds that etch away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud. This creates a fantasy celestial landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

Robby

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

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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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NASA's Kepler Witnesses Vampire Star System Undergoing Super-Outburst

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Astronomers searching archival data from NASA's Kepler exoplanet hunting mission identified a previously unknown dwarf nova that underwent a super-outburst, brightening by a factor of 1,600 times in less than a day. While the outburst itself has a theoretical explanation, the slow rise in brightness that preceded it remains a mystery. Kepler's rapid cadence of observations were crucial for recording the entire event in detail.

The dwarf nova system consists of a white dwarf star with a brown dwarf companion. The white dwarf is stripping material from the brown dwarf, sucking its essence away like a vampire. The stripped material forms an accretion disk around the white dwarf, which is the source of the super-outburst. Such systems are rare and may go for years or decades between outbursts, making it a challenge to catch one in the act.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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NASA's Kepler Witnesses Vampire Star System Undergoing Super-Outburst

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Astronomers searching archival data from NASA's Kepler exoplanet hunting mission identified a previously unknown dwarf nova that underwent a super-outburst, brightening by a factor of 1,600 times in less than a day. While the outburst itself has a theoretical explanation, the slow rise in brightness that preceded it remains a mystery. Kepler's rapid cadence of observations were crucial for recording the entire event in detail.

The dwarf nova system consists of a white dwarf star with a brown dwarf companion. The white dwarf is stripping material from the brown dwarf, sucking its essence away like a vampire. The stripped material forms an accretion disk around the white dwarf, which is the source of the super-outburst. Such systems are rare and may go for years or decades between outbursts, making it a challenge to catch one in the act.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Cosmic Collisions Galore!

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Astronomy textbooks typically present galaxies as staid, solitary, and majestic island worlds of glittering stars. But galaxies have a dynamical side. They have close encounters that sometimes end in grand mergers and overflowing sites of new star birth as the colliding galaxies morph into wondrous new shapes. Today, in celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope's 18th launch anniversary, 59 views of colliding galaxies constitute the largest collection of Hubble images ever released to the public. This new Hubble atlas dramatically illustrates how galaxy collisions produce a remarkable variety of intricate structures in never-before-seen detail.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Cosmic Collisions Galore!

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Astronomy textbooks typically present galaxies as staid, solitary, and majestic island worlds of glittering stars. But galaxies have a dynamical side. They have close encounters that sometimes end in grand mergers and overflowing sites of new star birth as the colliding galaxies morph into wondrous new shapes. Today, in celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope's 18th launch anniversary, 59 views of colliding galaxies constitute the largest collection of Hubble images ever released to the public. This new Hubble atlas dramatically illustrates how galaxy collisions produce a remarkable variety of intricate structures in never-before-seen detail.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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What Does the Milky Way Weigh? Hubble and Gaia Investigate

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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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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Probes the Chemistry of the Early Universe

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Using a unique capability of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) astronomers announced today that they have detected the rare element boron in an ancient star. This element may be 'fossil' evidence of energetic events which accompanied the birth of our Milky Way galaxy. An alternative possibility is that this rare element may be even older, dating from the birth of our universe. If so, then the HST findings may force some modification in theories of the Big Bang itself.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Identifies Huge Clouds of Intergalactic Gas

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Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered evidence that clouds of hydrogen found between galaxies at distances of billions of light-years from Earth are at least ten times larger than previously thought - at least one million light-years in diameter - and may have a remarkable sheet-like structure.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Data Suggest Galaxies Have Giant Halos

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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has helped solve a two-decade-old cosmic mystery by showing that mysterious clouds of hydrogen in space may actually be vast halos of gas surrounding galaxies.

"This conclusion runs contrary to the longstanding belief that these clouds occur in intergalactic space," says Ken Lanzetta of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Opens Doorway to Systematic Search for Black Holes

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Hubble Space Telescope's ongoing black hole hunt has bagged yet another supermassive black hole in the universe. The compact object - equal to the mass of two billion suns - lies at the heart of the edge-on galaxy NGC 3115, located 30 million light-years away in the constellation Sextans.

This result promises to open the way to systematic demographic studies of very massive black holes that might once have powered quasars - objects that are incredibly small, yet release a gusher of light and other radiation.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Telescope Measures Diameters of Pulsating Stars

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The Hubble telescope has been used successfully to measure the diameters of a special class of pulsating star called a Mira variable, which rhythmically change size. The results suggest these gigantic, old stars aren't round but egg-shaped.

Knowing more about these enigmatic stars is crucial to understanding how stars evolve, and may preview the fate of our Sun, five billion years from now. Due to their distance, the stars are too small for their disks to be resolved in conventional visible-light pictures, so astronomers used Hubble's Fine Guidance Sensors to measure the widths of two Mira variables, R Leonis and W. Hydrae.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Takes Census of Elusive Brown Dwarf Stars

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Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have carried out the most complete inventory to date of brown dwarfs, one of the universe's most elusive types of objects, which dwell in limbo between stars and planets. The Hubble census provides new and compelling evidence that stars and planets form in different ways. Because the brown dwarfs "bridge the gap" between stars and planets, their properties reveal new and unique insights into how stars and planets form.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Servicing Mission 4

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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.

Hubble precisely measured the age of the universe. It found evidence of dark energy. It delivered images of distant galaxies in the young universe. And now, with the state-of-the-art instruments to be installed during Servicing Mission 4 (SM4), Hubble will look into the universe with new eyes, surpassing even its previous vision.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Wide Field Camera 3 Anomaly on Hubble Space Telescope

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The Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope suspended operations on January 8 due to a hardware problem. Hubble will continue to perform science observations with its other three active instruments, while the Wide Field Camera 3 anomaly is investigated. Wide Field Camera 3, installed during Servicing Mission 4 in 2009, is equipped with redundant electronics should they be needed to recover the instrument.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Wide Field Camera 3 Anomaly on Hubble Space Telescope Update

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NASA continues to work toward recovering the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, which suspended operations on Tuesday, January 8. A team of instrument system engineers, Wide Field Camera 3 instrument developers, and other experts formed and quickly began collecting all available telemetry and onboard memory information to determine the sequence of events that caused the values to go out of limits. This team is currently working to identify the root cause and then to construct a recovery plan. If a significant hardware failure is identified, redundant electronics built into the instrument will be used to recover and return it to operations.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 
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