Webb’s Infrared Eye Reveals the Heart of the Milky Way

The full view of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) instrument reveals a 50 light-years-wide portion of the Milky Way’s dense centre. An estimated 500,000 stars shine in this image of the Sagittarius C (Sgr C) region, along with some as-yet unidentified features. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, S. Crowe (UVA)

The JWST is taking a break from studying the distant Universe and has trained its infrared eye on the heart of the Milky Way. The world’s most powerful space telescope has uncovered some surprises and generated some stunning images of the Milky Way’s galactic center (GC.) It’s focused on an enormous star-forming region called Sagittarius C (Sgr C).

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Juno Completes its Closest Flyby of Io Yet

Not since the Galileo mission ended 20 years ago have we seen such great images of Io. NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this image with its JunoCam instrument on October 15th from less than 12,000 km altitude. Ted Stryk processed the image. Image Credit: Ted Stryk/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/

Jupiter’s ocean moons capture most of our attention because of their potential habitability. But Io, Jupiter’s bad-boy volcanic moon, is in a class of its own. There’s nothing else like it in the Solar System, and NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured new images of the volcanic satellite during its closest approach yet.

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Feast Your Eyes on this Star-Forming Region, Thanks to the JWST

The JWST cast its infrared gaze at NGC 346, a young open cluster in the Small Magellanic Cloud. It's the largest and brightest star forming region in the SMC. Image Credit: ESA/CSA/NASA N. Habel (JPL), P. Kavanagh (Maynooth University)

Nature is stingy with its secrets. That’s why humans developed the scientific method. Without it, we’d still be ignorant and living in a world dominated by superstitions.

Astrophysicists have made great progress in understanding how stars form, thanks to the scientific method. But there’s a lot they still don’t know. That’s one of the reasons NASA built the James Webb Space Telescope: to coerce Nature into surrendering its deeply-held secrets.

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A Last-Minute Addition to the Solar Orbiter Allows it to See More Deeply into the Sun’s Atmosphere

A clever astronomer made a last minute hack to the Solar Orbiter's Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, allowing it to capture better images. Image Credit: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI Team; F. Auchère et al (2023); Solar disc: NASA/STEREO

Spacecraft instruments are highly specialized and can take years to design, build, and test. But a last-minute hack to one of the instruments on the ESA’s Solar Orbiter has allowed the spacecraft to take some difficult observations it would otherwise have been unable to take.

It’s all because of one astronomer and an instrument door.

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The Sun Gets Meteor Showers Too, But They’re Very Different

SolO view in the EUV on 30 March 2022 showing a partial section of the Sun with gas at 1 million degrees. Credit Patrick Antolin. Background image: ESA/Solar Orbiter EUI/HRI Licence type Attribution (CC BY 4.0)

The Sun dominates the Solar System in almost every way imaginable, yet much of its inner workings have been hidden from humanity. Over the centuries, and especially in the last few decades, technological advancements allowed us to ignore our mothers’ exhortations and stare at the Sun for as long as we want. We’ve learned a lot from all those observations.

A new study shows how the Sun experiences its own ‘meteor showers.’

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Juno Shares Stunning New Images of Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon Io

Io, in all of its volcanic glory! Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Thomas Thomopoulos ©

The Galilean Moons, named in honor of Galileo Galileo, who first observed them in 1610, are a fascinating collection of satellites. For decades, scientists have been immensely fascinated by the three icy companions – Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – which have oceans in their interiors that possibly support life. But Io has also been a focal point of interest lately, owing to the volcanic activity on its surface and lava plumes reaching 300 to 500 km (186 to 310 mi) into space. Since 2016, NASA’s Juno probe has provided stunning images of Io as it continues to orbit its main science objective, Jupiter.

The latest was acquired by the Juno probe’s main camera (JunoCam) on July 31st, 2023, at 05:03 AM UTC (01:03 AM EDT; July 30th, 10:03 PM PDT) and showed Prometheus spewing out lava. This active volcano is located within a 28-km (17-mi) -wide volcanic pit named Prometheus Patera on the hemisphere facing away from Jupiter. Prometheus is known for its regular eruptions, hence its nickname in the astrogeological community, “Old Faithful of Io.” A processed image of the eruption was shared by the NASA Planetary Science Division via Twitter (see below).

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Not All Craters are Circular. Sometimes They Look Like This

This unusual looking Martian crater was created when something impacted the planet's surface at an angle. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona

Impact craters are nature’s signature from a more chaotic time in our Solar System’s history. A quick glance at the Moon’s disfigured surface makes that clear. Same with Mars, though a telescope is needed to examine it. Or better yet, an orbital spacecraft with a powerful camera.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its HiRISE camera have been examining Mars’ surface for years, cataloguing the planet’s menagerie of impact craters. One of them, recently chosen as the HiRISE Picture of the Day (HIPOD,) looks like a Thunderbird. Or a dinosaur footprint left in the mud.

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The Latest JWST Image Pierces Through a Shrouded Star-Forming Galaxy

A delicate tracery of dust and bright star clusters threads across this image of NGC 5068 from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. Image Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-JWST Team

Sometimes an image is so engrossing that we can ignore what it’s telling us about its subject and just enjoy the splendour. That’s certainly true of this image of NGC 5068 released by the ESA. But Universe Today readers are curious, and after enjoying the galactic portrait for a while, they want to know more.

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The Dark Energy Camera Captures the Remains of an Ancient Supernova

The US DOE's DECam captured this image of the tattered shell of the first-ever recorded supernova. A ring of glowing debris is all that remains of a white dwarf star that exploded more than 1800 years ago and was recorded by Chinese astronomers as a ‘guest star’. This special image, which covers an impressive 45 arcminutes on the sky, gives a rare view of the entirety of this supernova remnant. Image Credit: CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), J. Miller (Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)

The first written record of a supernova comes from Chinese astrologers in the year 185. Those records say a ‘guest star’ lit up the sky for about eight months. We now know that it was a supernova.

All that remains is a ring of debris named RCW 86, and astronomers working with the DECam (Dark Energy Camera) used it to examine the debris ring and the aftermath of the supernova.

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Spectacular Images of the Rare ‘Green Comet’ Gracing Our Skies

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) seen from Payton, Arizona on January 21, 2023. Credit and copyright: Chris Schur.

A rare ‘green’ comet is passing through our Solar System and astrophotographers have been out capturing photos. While this comet, named C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is not yet visible yet to the naked eye, it could be when it makes its closest approach to Earth on February 1, but you’ll likely need to be in a very dark site. As of now, you’ll need a telescope or binoculars to see it for yourself. The images here are taken with several minutes of exposure time.

This comet has been dubbed the “Green Comet” because of its greenish hue. Professor Paul Wiegert from Western University in Canada said that comets contain carbon-bearing molecules, which break down under ultraviolet light from the Sun. This produces, among other things, dicarbon molecules which produce the eerie green glow associated with some comets.

Our lead photo comes from photographer Chris Schur from Arizona, and he points out that the comet has a rare sun-ward pointing anti-tail. 

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