Space Hubble Telescope News

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NASA's Hubble Looks to the Final Frontier

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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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Hubble Observations Suggest a Missing Ingredient in Dark Matter Theories

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While studying the Coma galaxy cluster in 1933, astronomer Fritz Zwicky uncovered a problem. The mass of all the stars in the cluster added up to only a few percent of the heft needed to keep member galaxies from escaping the cluster's gravitational grip. He predicted that the "missing mass," now known as dark matter, was the glue that was holding the cluster together.

Dark matter, as its name implies, is matter that cannot be seen. It does not emit, absorb, or reflect light, nor does it interact with any known particles. The presence of these elusive particles is only known through their gravitational pull on visible matter in space. This mysterious substance is the invisible scaffolding of our universe forming long filamentary structures—the cosmic web—along which galaxies form.

Even more confounding is that dark matter makes up the vast bulk of the universe's overall mass content. The stuff that stars, planets, and humans are made of accounts for just a few percent of the universe's contents.

Astronomers have been chasing this ghostly substance for decades but still don't have many answers. They have devised ingenious methods to infer dark matter's presence by tracing the signs of its gravitational effects.

One technique involves measuring how dark matter's gravity in a massive galaxy cluster magnifies and warps light from a distant background galaxy. This phenomenon, called gravitational lensing, produces smeared images of remote galaxies and occasionally multiple copies of a single image.

A recent study of 11 hefty galaxy clusters found that some small-scale clumps of dark matter are so concentrated that the lensing effects they produce are 10 times stronger than expected. These concentrations are associated with individual cluster galaxies.

Researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile discovered with unprecedented detail smaller-scale distorted images of remote galaxies nested like Matryoshka dolls within the larger-scale lens distortions in each cluster's core, where the most massive galaxies reside.

This unexpected discovery means there is a discrepancy between these observations and theoretical models of how dark matter should be distributed in galaxy clusters. It could signal a gap in astronomers' current understanding of the nature of dark matter.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Science Release: New Hubble Data Suggests There is an Ingredient Missing from Current Dark Matter Theories

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Observations by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have found that something may be missing from the theories of how dark matter behaves. This missing ingredient may explain why researchers have uncovered an unexpected discrepancy between observations of the dark matter concentrations in a sample of massive galaxy clusters and theoretical computer simulations of how dark matter should be distributed in clusters. The new findings indicate that some small-scale concentrations of dark matter produce lensing effects that are 10 times stronger than expected.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Observations Suggest a Missing Ingredient in Dark Matter Theories

http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hvi/uploads/story/display_image/1376/low_STScI-H-p2029a-k-1340x520.png

While studying the Coma galaxy cluster in 1933, astronomer Fritz Zwicky uncovered a problem. The mass of all the stars in the cluster added up to only a few percent of the heft needed to keep member galaxies from escaping the cluster's gravitational grip. He predicted that the "missing mass," now known as dark matter, was the glue that was holding the cluster together.

Dark matter, as its name implies, is matter that cannot be seen. It does not emit, absorb, or reflect light, nor does it interact with any known particles. The presence of these elusive particles is only known through their gravitational pull on visible matter in space. This mysterious substance is the invisible scaffolding of our universe forming long filamentary structures—the cosmic web—along which galaxies form.

Even more confounding is that dark matter makes up the vast bulk of the universe's overall mass content. The stuff that stars, planets, and humans are made of accounts for just a few percent of the universe's contents.

Astronomers have been chasing this ghostly substance for decades but still don't have many answers. They have devised ingenious methods to infer dark matter's presence by tracing the signs of its gravitational effects.

One technique involves measuring how dark matter's gravity in a massive galaxy cluster magnifies and warps light from a distant background galaxy. This phenomenon, called gravitational lensing, produces smeared images of remote galaxies and occasionally multiple copies of a single image.

A recent study of 11 hefty galaxy clusters found that some small-scale clumps of dark matter are so concentrated that the lensing effects they produce are 10 times stronger than expected. These concentrations are associated with individual cluster galaxies.

Researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile discovered with unprecedented detail smaller-scale distorted images of remote galaxies nested like Matryoshka dolls within the larger-scale lens distortions in each cluster's core, where the most massive galaxies reside.

This unexpected discovery means there is a discrepancy between these observations and theoretical models of how dark matter should be distributed in galaxy clusters. It could signal a gap in astronomers' current understanding of the nature of dark matter.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Probes Atmospheres of Exoplanets in TRAPPIST-1 Habitable Zone

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Only 40 light-years away — a stone’s throw on the scale of our galaxy — several Earth-sized planets orbit the red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. Four of the planets lie in the star’s habitable zone, a region at a distance from the star where liquid water, the key to life as we know it, could exist on the planets’ surfaces.

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have conducted the first spectroscopic survey of these worlds. Hubble reveals that at least three of the exoplanets do not seem to contain puffy, hydrogen-rich atmospheres similar to gaseous planets such as Neptune. This means the atmospheres may be more shallow and rich in heavier gases like those found in Earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and oxygen.

Astronomers plan to use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2019, to probe deeper into the planetary atmospheres to search for the presence of such elements that could offer hints of whether these far-flung worlds are habitable.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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In Planet Formation, It's Location, Location, Location

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One of the top priorities for new home buyers is location. Finding a home in the right neighborhood is a key ingredient for a happy, prosperous family.

Like families hunting for a house, fledgling planets also need the proper location to grow and thrive. Astronomers using Hubble to probe the giant, young star cluster Westerlund 2 are finding that stars residing in the system's crowded central city face a rough-and-tumble neighborhood that suppresses planet formation. The Hubble observations show that lower-mass stars near the cluster's core do not have the large, dense clouds of dust that eventually could become planets in just a few million years.

But life is a lot easier for stars and would-be planets in the cluster suburbs, farther away from the dense center. Hubble detected those planet-forming clouds embedded in disks encircling stars in these neighborhoods.

The absence of planet-forming clouds around stars near the center is mainly due to their bully neighbors: bright, giant stars, some of which weigh up to 80 times the Sun's mass. Their blistering ultraviolet light and hurricane-like stellar winds of charged particles blowtorch disks around neighboring lower-mass stars, dispersing the giant dust clouds.

Understanding the importance of location and environment in nurturing planet formation is crucial for building models of planet formation and stellar evolution. Located 20,000 light-years away, Westerlund 2 is a unique laboratory to study stellar evolutionary processes because it's relatively nearby, quite young, and contains a large stellar population.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Captures Crisp New Portrait of Jupiter's Storms

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More massive than all the other planets combined, Jupiter truly is the king of our solar system. The swirling clouds, arranged in colorful, banded structures, change from year to year. The rich colors are produced by trace compounds in Jupiter’s predominantly hydrogen/helium atmosphere. Hurricane-force winds propel these clouds, and upwelling currents are ablaze with lightning bolts far more powerful than those seen on Earth.

The Hubble Space Telescope serves as a “weather satellite” for monitoring Jupiter’s stormy weather. The iconic Great Red Spot, a storm big enough to swallow Earth, shows that it’s shrinking a little in the Hubble images, but it still dominates the entire southern atmosphere, plowing through the clouds like a cargo ship.

Hubble astronomers patiently wait to get close-up snapshots as Earth make its nearest annual approach to Jupiter – an astronomical alignment called an opposition, when Jupiter is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. “Closest approach” between the worlds is still on the order of nearly a half billion miles!

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Photo Release: Hubble Captures Crisp New Image of Jupiter and Europa

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This latest image of Jupiter, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope on 25 August 2020, was captured when the planet was 653 million kilometres from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the Great Red Spot changing colour — again. The new image also features Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Photo Release: Hubble Observes Spectacular Supernova Time-Lapse

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The NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope has tracked the fading light of a supernova in the spiral galaxy NGC 2525, located 70 million light years away. Supernovae like this one can be used as cosmic tape measures, allowing astronomers to calculate the distance to their galaxies. Hubble captured these images as part of one of its major investigations, measuring the expansion rate of the Universe, which can help answer fundamental questions about our Universe’s very nature.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Watches Exploding Star Fade into Oblivion

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Now you see it, now you don't. Though stars explode at the rate of one per second in the vast universe, it's rare to get a time-lapse movie of one fading into obscurity. This disappearing act, in a galaxy 70 million light-years away, was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope as part of a program to measure the universe's expansion rate. More than just providing celestial fireworks, supernovae can be used as milepost markers to measure distances to galaxies. This yardstick is needed to calculate how quickly galaxies appear to be flying apart from one another, which in turn provides an age estimate for the universe. The titanic explosion, which briefly outshined the entire host galaxy, originated from a white dwarf accreting material from its companion star. This pileup of gas eventually triggered a runaway thermonuclear explosion, making the dwarf nature's own atomic bomb. The energy briefly unleashed was equal to the radiance of 5 billion Suns. This time-lapse sequence of snapshots compresses nearly one year's worth of Hubble observations into a few seconds.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Uncovering the Veil Nebula

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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope photographed three magnificent sections of the Veil Nebula – the shattered remains of a supernova that exploded thousands of years ago. This series of images provides beautifully detailed views of the delicate, wispy structure resulting from this cosmic explosion. The Veil Nebula is one of the most spectacular supernova remnants in the sky.

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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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NASA Space Telescopes Provide a 3D Journey Through the Orion Nebula

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By combining the visible and infrared capabilities of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, astronomers and visualization specialists from NASA's Universe of Learning program have created a spectacular, three-dimensional, fly-through movie of the magnificent Orion nebula, a nearby stellar nursery. Using actual scientific data along with Hollywood techniques, a team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California, has produced the best and most detailed multi-wavelength visualization yet of the Orion nebula. The three-minute movie allows viewers to glide through the picturesque star-forming region and experience the universe in an exciting new way.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Intense Flash from Milky Way's Black Hole Illuminated Gas Far Outside of Our Galaxy

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About 3.5 million years ago, our distant hominid ancestors might have noticed a mysterious glowing spot along the arc of the star-studded Milky Way. Today we know that this would have been evidence for a tremendous explosion around a black hole that rocked the center of our galaxy. Scientists using Hubble now see the aftermath of that enormous flash of light that beamed out of our galaxy's center way back then. It illuminated a huge, ribbon-like tail of gas orbiting the Milky Way. Called the Magellanic Stream, this long trail lies far outside of our galaxy, at an average distance of 200,000 light-years. Like an aircraft contrail, It extends from neighboring dwarf galaxies called the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Researchers made careful ultraviolet measurements of distant quasars behind the Magellanic Stream. As the ultraviolet light from the quasars passed through the stream, Hubble recorded the telltale fingerprints of how the flash altered the gas.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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NASA Space Telescopes Provide a 3D Journey Through the Orion Nebula

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By combining the visible and infrared capabilities of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, astronomers and visualization specialists from NASA's Universe of Learning program have created a spectacular, three-dimensional, fly-through movie of the magnificent Orion nebula, a nearby stellar nursery. Using actual scientific data along with Hollywood techniques, a team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California, has produced the best and most detailed multi-wavelength visualization yet of the Orion nebula. The three-minute movie allows viewers to glide through the picturesque star-forming region and experience the universe in an exciting new way.

(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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New Survey Finds that Single Burst of Star Formation Created Milky Way’s Central Bulge

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Like most spiral galaxies, the Milky Way has a roughly spherical collection of stars at its center called the bulge. How the bulge formed has been a long-standing mystery, with many studies suggesting that it built up over time through multiple bursts of star formation.

New research finds that the majority of stars in our galaxy’s central bulge formed in a single burst of star formation more than 10 billion years ago. To reach this conclusion, astronomers surveyed millions of stars across 200 square degrees of sky—an area equivalent to 1,000 full Moons. The resulting wealth of data is expected to fuel many more scientific inquiries.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Ground System for NASA’s Roman Space Telescope Completes Major Review

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NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope has just successfully completed a preliminary design review of the mission’s ground systems, including the Science Operations Center that will be hosted by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. This means the plan for science operations has met all of the design, schedule, and budget requirements. The mission will now proceed to the next phase: building the newly designed systems that will enable planning and scheduling of Roman observations and managing the resulting data.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Finds "Greater Pumpkin" Galaxy Pair

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In our infinite universe, if you can imagine something, you may eventually find it out there. And, that even goes for celestial objects that look like some creepy incarnation straight out of a Halloween tale. Hubble's holiday offering is a pair of colliding galaxies that resemble the cartoon Peanuts character Linus's imagining of the elusive Great Pumpkin. "Great" is an understatement in this case because the galaxy pair spans 100,000 light-years. The "pumpkin’s" glowing "eyes" are the bright, star-filled cores of each galaxy that contain supermassive black holes. An arm of newly forming stars embracing the pair gives the imaginary pumpkin a wry smirk. In about 6 billion years our Milky Way galaxy will collide with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. When viewed from an extraterrestrial civilization far away, our collision may take on a spooky appearance too. That is, assuming they also have fertile imaginations for seeing ghostly entities among the stars.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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A Death Star's Ghostly Glow

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In writer Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart," a killer confesses his crime after he thinks he hears the beating of his victim's heart. The heartbeat turns out to be an illusion. Astronomers, however, discovered a real "tell-tale heart" in space, 6,500 light-years from Earth. The "heart" is the crushed core of a long-dead star, called a neutron star, which exploded as a supernova and is now still beating with rhythmic precision. Evidence of its heartbeat are rapid-fire, lighthouse-like pulses of energy from the fast-spinning neutron star. The stellar relic is embedded in the center of the Crab Nebula, the expanding, tattered remains of the doomed star.

The nebula was first identified in 1731 and named in 1844. In 1928, Edwin Hubble linked the nebula to a supernova first witnessed in the spring of 1054 A.D. Now, the eerie glow of the burned-out star reveals itself in this new Hubble Space Telescope snapshot of the heart of the Crab Nebula. The green hue, representative of the broad color range of the camera filter used, gives the nebula a Halloween theme.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 
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