Wow! An Actual Picture of Multiple Planets Orbiting a Sunlike Star

This image, captured by the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows the star TYC 8998-760-1 accompanied by two giant exoplanets. This is the first time astronomers have directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. The image was captured by blocking the light from the young, Sun-like star (on the top left corner) using a coronagraph, which allows for the fainter planets to be detected. The bright and dark rings we see on the star’s image are optical artefacts. The two planets are visible as two bright dots in the centre and bottom right of the frame. Image Credit: ESO/Bohn et al, 2020

We’ve detected thousands of exoplanets, but for the most part, nobody’s ever seen them. They’re really just data, and graphs of light curves. The exoplanet images you see here at Universe Today and other space websites are the creations of very skilled illustrators, equal parts data and creative license. But that’s starting to change.

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has captured images of two exoplanets orbiting a young, Sun-like star.

Continue reading “Wow! An Actual Picture of Multiple Planets Orbiting a Sunlike Star”

Parker Solar Probe Gives a Unique Perspective on Comet NEOWISE

This unprocessed image from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, shortly after its closest approach to the Sun. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher

Comet watchers have enjoying the newly-discovered NEOWISE comet since it was first spotted in March 2020. Now that it’s visible with the naked eye, in dark sky conditions, all kinds of Earthly observers are checking the visitor out.

But NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has another view of the comet, one denied to Earth-bound observers.

Continue reading “Parker Solar Probe Gives a Unique Perspective on Comet NEOWISE”

New Hubble Photos of Planetary Nebulae

Hubble was recently retrained on NGC 6302, known as the "Butterfly Nebula," to observe it across a more complete spectrum of light, from near-ultraviolet to near-infrared, helping researchers better understand the mechanics at work in its technicolor "wings" of gas. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Kastner (RIT)

Planetary nebulae are astronomy’s gateway drug. Their eye-catching forms make us wonder what process created them, and what else is going on up there in the night sky. They’re some of the most beautiful, ephemeral looking objects in all of nature.

The Hubble Space Telescope is responsible for many of our most gorgeous images of planetary nebulae. But the images are more than just engrossing eye candy. They’re documentation of a complex process that plays out over tens of thousands of years, all across the Universe.

And they’re a death knell for the star that dwells within.

Continue reading “New Hubble Photos of Planetary Nebulae”

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 2608, Surrounded by Many Many Other Galaxies

Looking deep into the Universe, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope catches a passing glimpse of the numerous arm-like structures that sweep around this barred spiral galaxy, known as NGC 2608. Appearing as a slightly stretched, smaller version of our Milky Way, the peppered blue and red spiral arms are anchored together by the prominent horizontal central bar of the galaxy. In Hubble photos, bright Milky Way stars will sometimes appear as pinpoints of light with prominent lens flares. A star with these features is seen in the lower right corner of the image, and another can be spotted just above the pale centre of the galaxy. The majority of the fainter points around NGC 2608, however, lack these features, and upon closer inspection they are revealed to be thousands of distant galaxies. NGC 2608 is just one among an uncountable number of kindred structures. Similar expanses of galaxies can be observed in other Hubble images such as the Hubble Deep Field which recorded over 3000 galaxies in one field of view.

Meet NGC 2608, a barred spiral galaxy about 93 million light years away, in the constellation Cancer. Also called Arp 12, it’s about 62,000 light years across, smaller than the Milky Way by a fair margin. The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image with its Wide-Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

Continue reading “Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 2608, Surrounded by Many Many Other Galaxies”

Sediments on Mars, Created By Blowing Wind or Flowing Water

The HiRISE Picture of the Day from May 9th 2020. Sedimentary rocks in and impact crater on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

The HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has given us a steady stream of images of the Martian surface. It’s been in orbit around Mars since March 2006, and has greatly outlived its intended mission length.

One of the latest Hi-PODs, or HiRISE Pictures of the Day, is this one, of sedimentary rock on Mars being eroded away.

Continue reading “Sediments on Mars, Created By Blowing Wind or Flowing Water”

This “All Terminator” Image of the Moon isn’t Actually Possible to See. But it Sure is Beautiful

A composite image of the Moon, made out of images of the terminator as it passed. Image Credit: Copyright Andrew McCarthy.

“This moon might look a little funny to you, and that’s because it is an impossible scene,” wrote photographer Andrew McCarthy on Instagram.

He was talking about his other-wordly, almost Shakesperean image of the Moon. And that’s because this is an ‘all-terminator’ image.

Continue reading “This “All Terminator” Image of the Moon isn’t Actually Possible to See. But it Sure is Beautiful”

This Galaxy is the Very Definition of “Flocculent”

This image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy NGC 4237. Located about 60 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair), NGC 4237 is classified as a flocculent spiral galaxy. This means that its spiral arms are not clearly distinguishable from each other, as in “grand design” spiral galaxies, but are instead patchy and discontinuous. This gives the galaxy a fluffy appearance, somewhat resembling fluffed cotton. Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, P. Erwin et al.

I know you’re Googling “flocculent” right now, unless you happen to be a chemist, or maybe a home brewer.

You could spend each day of your life staring at a different galaxy, and you’d never even come remotely close to seeing even a tiny percentage of all the galaxies in the Universe. Of course, nobody knows for sure exactly how many galaxies there are. But there might be up to two trillion of them. If you live to be a hundred, that’s only 36,500 galaxies that you’d look at. Puts things in perspective.

Continue reading “This Galaxy is the Very Definition of “Flocculent””

Artwork Inspired by Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

Artist Mik Petter created this unique, digital artwork using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. The original JunoCam image was taken on July 10, 2017, at 10:10 p.m. EDT. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Mik Petter

Artist Mik Petter has created a vibrant new piece of art based on JunoCam images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS). The piece makes use of fractals, which are recursive mathematical creations; increasingly complex patterns that are similar to each other, yet never exactly the same.

Continue reading “Artwork Inspired by Jupiter’s Great Red Spot”

Dust Devils Have Left Dark Streaks All Over This Martian Crater

HiPOD from February 16th 2020 showing dust devil trails in a Martian crater. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

There may be no life on Mars, but there’s still a lot going on there. The Martian surface is home to different geological process, which overlap and even compete with each other to shape the planet. Orbiters with powerful cameras give us an excellent view of Mars’ changing surface.

Continue reading “Dust Devils Have Left Dark Streaks All Over This Martian Crater”