Hidden Cluster Seen For the First Time

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This newly released photograph taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope is of a previously hidden star cluster, revealed now in the infrared spectrum. At visible wavelengths, this cluster, located in the southern portion of the Serpens cloud would be totally obscured by dust. But now, thanks to Spitzer, we can see it for the first time.

The cluster was discovered by Robert Gutermuth and Tyler Bourke, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They originally uncovered it using the Spitzer Space Telescope, but they weren’t able to determine whether they were forming a new “family unit”, or whether they were part of an existing cluster. Follow on observations with the Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array (SMA) let them measure its velocity; the newly discovered clouds are drifting at the same velocity as the rest of the Serpens star-forming cloud.

In the Spitzer image, the newly discovered Serpens South stars are the green, yellow and orange points of light. That black line that runs through the image is actually a dense patch of gas and dust which is currently condensing to form stars. The green areas are hot hydrogen gas. And the wisps of red indicate regions where there are large quantities of organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. You might find similar particles on your barbecue grill, or coming out your car’s exhaust pipe.

The discovery was made as part of the Gould’s Belt Survey. This is a study of all the prominent star-forming regions located within 1,600 light-years of Earth. Photographs from Spitzer as well as several other ground-based telescopes will be merged together into a large data set that astronomers can study for years to come.

Original Source:Centre for Astrophysics

Four Galaxies in a Cosmic Collision

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Galaxies aren’t born, they evolve, getting built up through a succession of mergers over billions of years. In most cases, this process is slow and steady, with galaxies tearing apart their satellite neighbours and gaining mass. But in one cosmic collision seen by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, 4 extremely massive galaxies are coming together at the same time in a cosmic pileup.

These merging galaxies aren’t small either. No, when this collision is all wrapped up, the remaining monster galaxy will have 10 times the mass of our Milky Way – one of the largest galaxies in the entire Universe. We’ll have a taste of this in about 5 billion years, when the Milky Way merges with Andromeda.

Regular mergers are very common across the Universe; it’s how galaxies grow. But this is different. Bigger, more massive, more destructive. Here’s a cool quote from one of the discovering scientists:

“Most of the galaxy mergers we already knew about are like compact cars crashing together,” said Kenneth Rines of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. “What we have here is like four sand trucks smashing together, flinging sand everywhere.”

It’s inevitable that the most massive galaxies in the Universe will collide and merge too, they’ve just never been seen before.

Galaxy collisions are one of the events that can ignite star formation. The gravitational interaction between galaxies causes clouds of gas and dust to collapse, creating new stellar nurseries. But that won’t happen here. Spitzer didn’t see large quantities of gas, and hot, young star formation; only old stars.

Original Source:NASA News Release

Life’s Building Blocks Can Survive a Supernova

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Here’s a cool photograph of supernova remnant N132D. It’s actually a composite image, made up of pictures gathered by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The remnant is located approximately 163,000 light-years away in the neighbouring galaxy: the Large Magellanic Cloud.

An interesting discovery in this research is that one of life’s building blocks, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), seem to survive the supernova explosion. These carbon and hydrogen compounds are true space survivors; they’re found in comets, in star-forming regions and planetary disks, and now… in supernovae.

Original Source: Chandra News Release

Spitzer Shows Young Stars Hatching in Orion

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The latest image released from the Spitzer Space Telescope shows infant stars “hatching” in the head of Orion. Astronomers think that a supernova 3 million years ago sent shockwaves through the region, collapsing clouds of gas and dust, and beginning a new generation of star formation.

The region imaged by Spitzer is called Barnard 30, located about 1,300 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Orion. More specifically, it’s located right beside the star considered to be Orion’s head, Lambda Orionis.

Since the region is shrouded in dark clouds of gas and dust that obscure visible light images, this was an ideal target for Spitzer, which can peer right through them in the infrared spectrum. The tints of orange-red glow are dust particles warmed by the newly forming stars. The reddish-pink dots are the young stars themselves, embedded in the clouds of gas and dust.

Original Source: Spitzer News Release

Young Stars Trashing Their Nursery

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The latest image released from the Spitzer Space Telescope shows a pair of stars destroying their surroundings with powerful jets of radiation. The stars are located about 600 light-years away in a nebula called BHR 71. The image attached here shows what the object looks like in the infrared spectrum, which can peer through obscuring dust.

Under visible light, everything just looks like a large black structure; only a little yellow light reveals that there might be stars forming inside. But when you look in the infrared spectrum, everything’s different. The young stars are the bright yellow dots near the middle of the image. The jets are wisps of green shooting out of them. As the jets extend, they cool down, transitioning to orange and then red at the end.

Astronomers believe the stars are giving off regular bursts of energy. The material closest to the stars is heated by the shockwaves from a recent stellar outburst. Other outbursts are further along the jet, getting cooler as they get more distant from the star.

Original Source: CfA News Release

Triple View of the Sombrero Galaxy

Sombrero Galaxy. Image credti: Hubble/Chandra/SpitzerWhen we look into the skies with our eyes, we see in the visible spectrum. Although objects can look beautiful, it’s only a fraction of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. To really see and understand the Universe, you’ll want to look in different regions of the spectrum. The three great observatories: Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra, have teamed up to spotlight the Sombrero Galaxy (aka M104) in three different wavelengths.
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