Space Hubble Telescope News

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Hubble Zooms In on Heart of Mystery Comet

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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has probed the bright core of Comet 17P/Holmes, which, to the delight of sky watchers, mysteriously brightened by nearly a millionfold in a 24-hour period beginning Oct. 23, 2007. Astronomers used Hubble's powerful resolution to study Comet Holmes' core for clues about how the comet brightened. The orbiting observatory's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) monitored the comet for several days, snapping images on Oct. 29, Oct. 31, and Nov. 4. Hubble's crisp "eye" can see objects as small as 33 miles (54 kilometers) across, providing the sharpest view yet of the source of the spectacular brightening.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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New Red Spot Appears on Jupiter

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In what's beginning to look like a case of planetary measles, a third red spot has appeared alongside its cousins – the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. – in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere. This third red spot, which is a fraction of the size of the two other features, lies to the west of the Great Red Spot in the same latitude band of clouds. The visible-light images were taken on May 9 and 10 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Sees Stars and a Stripe in Celestial Fireworks

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Actually this image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a very thin section of a supernova remnant caused by a stellar explosion that occurred more than 1,000 years ago.

This image is a composite of hydrogen-light observations taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in February 2006 and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 observations in blue, yellow-green, and near-infrared light taken in April 2008. The supernova remnant, visible only in the hydrogen-light filter was assigned a red hue in the Heritage color image.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Finds Hidden Exoplanet in Archival Data

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In 19 years of observations, the Hubble Space Telescope has amassed a huge archive of data. That archive may contain the telltale glow of undiscovered extrasolar planets, says David Lafrenière of the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His team found the outermost of three massive planets known to orbit the young star HR 8799, which is 130 light-years away. The planetary trio was originally discovered in images taken with the Keck and Gemini North telescopes in 2007 and 2008. But using a new image processing technique that suppresses the glare of the parent star, Lafrenière found the telltale glow of the outermost planet in the system while studying Hubble archival data taken in 1998. The giant planet is young and hot, but still only 1/100,000th the brightness of its parent star (by comparison, cooler Jupiter is one-billionth the brightness of the sun).

Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has looked at over 200 other stars in coronagraphic mode, where the light of the star is largely blocked out, to search for the feeble glow of planets. Lafrenière plans to look for undiscovered planets in the NICMOS archive dataset and do follow-up observations with ground-based telescopes on any candidates that pop up. As an added bonus, NICMOS made a near-infrared measurement that suggests water vapor is in the atmosphere of the planet. This could not be easily achieved with ground-based telescopes, because water vapor in Earth's atmosphere absorbs some infrared wavelengths. Measuring the water absorption properties on this exoplanet will tell astronomers a great deal about the temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere, and about the prevalence of dust clouds. But don't go looking for beachfront property; the planet is 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit -- too hot even for water vapor clouds.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Photo Release: When Galaxies Collide: Hubble Showcases 6 Beautiful Galaxy Mergers

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To celebrate a new year, the NASA/ESA Space Telescope has published a montage of six beautiful galaxy mergers. Each of these merging systems was studied as part of the recent HiPEEC survey to investigate the rate of new star formation within such systems. These interactions are a key aspect of galaxy evolution and are among the most spectacular events in the lifetime of a galaxy.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Too Close for Comfort

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This Hubble Space Telescope view of the core of one of the nearest globular star clusters, called NGC 6397, resembles a treasure chest of glittering jewels. The cluster is located 8,200 light-years away in the constellation Ara. Here, the stars are jam-packed together. The stellar density is about a million times greater than in our Sun's stellar neighborhood. The stars in NGC 6397 are also in constant motion, like a swarm of angry bees. The ancient stars are so crowded together that a few of them inevitably collide with each other once in a while. Near misses are even more common.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Host Galaxy Cluster to Largest Known Radio Eruption

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This is a new composite image of galaxy cluster MS0735.6+7421, located about 2.6 billion light-years away in the constellation Camelopardalis. The three views of the region were taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in Feb. 2006, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in Nov. 2003, and NRAO's Very Large Array in Oct. 2004. The Hubble image shows dozens of galaxies bound together by gravity. In Jan. 2005, astronomers reported that a supermassive black hole, lurking in the central bright galaxy, generated the most powerful outburst seen in the universe. The VLA radio image shows jets of high energy particles (in red) streaming from the black hole. These jets pushed the X-ray emitting hot gas (shown in blue in the Chandra image) aside to create two giant cavities in the gas. The cavities are evidence for the massive eruption. The X-ray and radio images show the enormous appetite of large black holes and the profound impact they have on their surroundings.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Zooms In on Heart of Mystery Comet

http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hvi/uploads/story/display_image/749/low_STSCI-H-p0740a-k-1340x520.png

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has probed the bright core of Comet 17P/Holmes, which, to the delight of sky watchers, mysteriously brightened by nearly a millionfold in a 24-hour period beginning Oct. 23, 2007. Astronomers used Hubble's powerful resolution to study Comet Holmes' core for clues about how the comet brightened. The orbiting observatory's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) monitored the comet for several days, snapping images on Oct. 29, Oct. 31, and Nov. 4. Hubble's crisp "eye" can see objects as small as 33 miles (54 kilometers) across, providing the sharpest view yet of the source of the spectacular brightening.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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New Red Spot Appears on Jupiter

http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hvi/uploads/story/display_image/780/low_STSCI-H-p0823a-k-1340x520.png

In what's beginning to look like a case of planetary measles, a third red spot has appeared alongside its cousins – the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. – in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere. This third red spot, which is a fraction of the size of the two other features, lies to the west of the Great Red Spot in the same latitude band of clouds. The visible-light images were taken on May 9 and 10 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Sees Stars and a Stripe in Celestial Fireworks

http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hvi/uploads/story/display_image/779/low_STSCI-H-p0822a-k-1340x520.png

Actually this image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a very thin section of a supernova remnant caused by a stellar explosion that occurred more than 1,000 years ago.

This image is a composite of hydrogen-light observations taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in February 2006 and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 observations in blue, yellow-green, and near-infrared light taken in April 2008. The supernova remnant, visible only in the hydrogen-light filter was assigned a red hue in the Heritage color image.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Globular Clusters Tell Tale of Star Formation in Nearby Galaxy Metropolis

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Globular star clusters, dense bunches of hundreds of thousands of stars, have some of the oldest surviving stars in the universe. A new study of globular clusters outside our Milky Way Galaxy has found evidence that these hardy pioneers are more likely to form in dense areas, where star birth occurs at a rapid rate, instead of uniformly from galaxy to galaxy. Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to identify over 11,000 globular clusters in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Most are older than 5 billion years. The sharp vision of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys resolved the star clusters in 100 galaxies of various sizes, shapes, and brightnesses, even in faint, dwarf galaxies. The images in this photo show four members of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Comprised of over 2,000 galaxies, the Virgo cluster is the nearest large galaxy cluster to Earth, located about 54 million light-years away.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Scores a Perfect Ten

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Just a couple of days after the orbiting observatory was brought back online, Hubble aimed its prime working camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), at a particularly intriguing target, a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147. The image demonstrated that the camera is working exactly as it was before going offline, thereby scoring a "perfect 10" both for performance and beauty.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy with a National Unveiling of Spectacular Images

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In 1609, Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens and gave birth to modern astronomy. To commemorate four hundred years of exploring the universe, 2009 is designated the International Year of Astronomy. NASA's Great Observatories - the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory - are marking the occasion with the release of a suite of images at over 100 planetariums, museums, nature centers, and schools across the country in conjunction with Galileo's birthday on February 15. The selected sites will unveil a large, 9-square-foot print of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 that combines the optical view of Hubble, the infrared view of Spitzer, and the X-ray view of Chandra into one multiwavelength picture.

The International Year of Astronomy Great Observatories Image Unveiling is supported by the NASA Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics Division. The project is a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Spitzer Science Center, and the Chandra X-ray Center.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Finds Hidden Exoplanet in Archival Data

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In 19 years of observations, the Hubble Space Telescope has amassed a huge archive of data. That archive may contain the telltale glow of undiscovered extrasolar planets, says David Lafrenière of the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His team found the outermost of three massive planets known to orbit the young star HR 8799, which is 130 light-years away. The planetary trio was originally discovered in images taken with the Keck and Gemini North telescopes in 2007 and 2008. But using a new image processing technique that suppresses the glare of the parent star, Lafrenière found the telltale glow of the outermost planet in the system while studying Hubble archival data taken in 1998. The giant planet is young and hot, but still only 1/100,000th the brightness of its parent star (by comparison, cooler Jupiter is one-billionth the brightness of the sun).

Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has looked at over 200 other stars in coronagraphic mode, where the light of the star is largely blocked out, to search for the feeble glow of planets. Lafrenière plans to look for undiscovered planets in the NICMOS archive dataset and do follow-up observations with ground-based telescopes on any candidates that pop up. As an added bonus, NICMOS made a near-infrared measurement that suggests water vapor is in the atmosphere of the planet. This could not be easily achieved with ground-based telescopes, because water vapor in Earth's atmosphere absorbs some infrared wavelengths. Measuring the water absorption properties on this exoplanet will tell astronomers a great deal about the temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere, and about the prevalence of dust clouds. But don't go looking for beachfront property; the planet is 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit -- too hot even for water vapor clouds.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Space Telescope Science Institute Astrophysicist Elected to National Academy of Sciences

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Adam Riess was among 72 scientists elected today to membership in the National Academy of Sciences at the organization's 146th annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C. Riess, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and professor in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, joins 20 other Johns Hopkins faculty members currently in the Academy, an honorary society that advises the government on scientific matters.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Project Pioneer Rodger Doxsey Passes Away

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Dr. Rodger Doxsey, head of the Space Telescope Science Institute's (STScI) Hubble Mission Office, passed away on October 13 after a prolonged illness. The New York native was 62 years old.

Doxsey oversaw Hubble science operations at STScI in Baltimore, Md., for nearly three decades. Astronomers credit Doxsey for being one of the key Hubble program people who had a working knowledge of the extremely complex Hubble Space Telescope from top to bottom. Doxsey dedicated his career to making Hubble a success, working closely with the scientists and engineers at the institute that operate the telescope, the engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the scientists from around the world who use the telescope.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Image Showcases Star Birth in M83, the Southern Pinwheel

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The spectacular new camera installed on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope during Servicing Mission 4 in May has delivered the most detailed view of star birth in the graceful, curving arms of the nearby spiral galaxy M83.

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp "eye" of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants. The image at right, taken in August 2009, is Hubble's close-up view of the myriad stars near the galaxy's core, the bright whitish region at far right. An image of the entire galaxy, taken by the European Southern Observatory's Wide Field Imager on the ESO/MPG 2.2-meter telescope at La Silla, Chile, is shown at left. The white box outlines Hubble's view.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Catches Heavyweight Runaway Star Speeding from 30 Doradus

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A blue-hot star, 90 times more massive than our Sun, is hurtling across space fast enough to make a round trip from Earth to the Moon in merely two hours. Though the speed is not a record-breaker, it is unique to find a homeless star that has traveled so far from its nest. The only way the star could have been ejected from the star cluster where it was born is through a tussle with a rogue star that entered the binary system where the star lived, which ejected the star through a dynamical game of stellar pinball. This is strong circumstantial evidence for stars as massive as 150 times our Sun's mass living in the cluster. Only a very massive star would have the gravitational energy to eject something weighing 90 solar masses. The runaway star is on the outskirts of the 30 Doradus nebula, a raucous stellar breeding ground in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. The finding bolsters evidence that the most massive stars in the local universe reside in 30 Doradus, making it a unique laboratory for studying heavyweight stars. 30 Doradus, also called the Tarantula Nebula, is roughly 170,000 light-years from Earth.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 

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Hubble Images Suggest Rogue Asteroid Smacked Jupiter

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Without warning, a mystery object struck Jupiter on July 19, 2009, leaving a dark bruise the size of the Pacific Ocean. The spot first caught the eye of an amateur astronomer in Australia, and soon, observatories around the world, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, were zeroing in on the unexpected blemish. Astronomers had witnessed this kind of cosmic event before. Similar scars had been left behind during the course of a week in July 1994, when more than 20 pieces of Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9) plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere. The 2009 impact occurred during the same week, 15 years later.

This Hubble image of Jupiter's full disk, taken July 23, 2009, revealed an elongated, dark spot at lower, right (inside the rectangular box). The unexpected blemish was created when an unknown object plunged into Jupiter and exploded, scattering debris into the giant planet's cloud tops. The strike was equal to the explosion of a few thousand standard nuclear bombs. The series of close-up images at right, taken between July 23, 2009 and Nov. 3, 2009, show the impact site rapidly disappearing. Jupiter's winds also are spreading the debris into intricate swirls. The natural-color images are composites made from separate exposures in blue, green, and red light. Astronomers who compared Hubble images of the two collisions (in 1994 and 2009) say that the culprit in the 2009 event may have been an asteroid about 1,600 feet (500 meters) wide. The images, therefore, may show for the first time the immediate aftermath of an asteroid, rather than a comet, striking another planet.

(More at HubbleSite.com)
 
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