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”
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”
The Hubble Space Telescope has delivered another outstanding image. This one is of NGC 6441, a massive globular cluster in the constellation Scorpius. It’s one of the most massive ones in the Milky Way, and the stars in it have a combined mass of 1.6 million solar masses.
Continue reading “Hubble Photo of Globular Cluster NGC 6441, One of the Most Massive in the Milky Way”
Astronomers don’t know exactly when the first stars formed in the Universe because they haven’t been observed yet. And now, new observations from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest the first stars and galaxies may have formed even earlier than previously estimated.
Why? We *still* haven’t seen them, even with the best telescope we’ve got, pushed to its limits.
Continue reading “Hubble Looked as Far Back in Time as it Could, and Still Couldn’t See the First Generation of Stars in the Universe”
NGC 3895 is a barred spiral galaxy in the Ursa Major constellation. It’s about 145 million light years away from our home, the Milky Way, and its diameter is about 45,000 light years. William Herschel discovered it way back in 1790.
Now the Hubble Space Telescope has given us another gorgeous image of it. Thanks Hubble!
Continue reading “Barred Spiral NGC 3895 Captured by Hubble”
In these days of social distancing, it appears this beautiful little galaxy is leading by example, sitting all by itself in the middle of a cosmic void.
KK 246, also known as ESO 461-036, is a dwarf irregular galaxy, and ESA aptly described this picture as looking like “glitter spilled across a black velvet sheet.”
But the serene view can be deceiving.
Continue reading “This Dwarf Galaxy is all by Itself”
In the mid-2020s, NASA’s next-generation Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will take to space. With unprecedented resolution and advanced instruments, it will build on the foundation established by the venerable Hubble Space Telescope – which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year! In anticipation of all it will accomplish, NASA decided that the WFIRST needs a proper name, one that honors its connection to Hubble.
This week, NASA announced that henceforth, the WFIRST mission will be known as the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (or Roman Space Telescope for short) in honor of Dr. Nancy Grace Roman (who passed away in 2018). In addition to being NASA’s first Chief Astronomer, she was also a tireless educator and advocate for women in STEMs whose work paved the way for space telescopes – leading to her nickname “the mother of Hubble.”
Continue reading “WFIRST Will be Named After Nancy Grace Roman, NASA’s First Chief Astronomer”
It’s difficult to imagine the magnitude of storms on Jupiter. The gas giant’s most visible atmospheric feature, the Great Red Spot, may be getting smaller, but one hundred years ago, it was about 40,000 km (25,000 miles) in diameter, or three times Earth’s diameter.
Jupiter’s atmosphere also features thunderheads that are five times taller than Earth’s: a whopping 64 km (40 miles) from bottom to top. Its atmosphere is not entirely understood, though NASA’s Juno spacecraft is advancing our understanding. The planet may contain strange things like a layer of liquid metallic hydrogen.
Now a group of scientists are combining the power of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Gemini Observatory and the Juno spacecraft to probe Jupiter’s atmosphere, and the awe-inspiring storms that spawn there.
Continue reading “Spacecraft and Ground Telescopes Work Together to Give us Stunning New Pictures of Jupiter”
Planets don’t simply disappear. And yet, that appears to be what happened to Fomalhaut b (aka. Dagon), an exoplanet candidate located 25 light-years from Earth. Observed for the first time by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004, then confirmed by follow-up observations in 2008 and 2012, this exoplanet candidate was the first to be detected in visible wavelengths (i.e. the Direct Imaging Method.)
Over time, this candidate got fainter and wider until it disappeared from sight altogether. This led to all kinds of speculation, which included the possibility of a collision that reduced the planet to debris. Recently, a team of astronomers from the University of Arizona has suggested another possibility – Fomalhaut b was never a planet at all, but an expanding cloud of dust from two planetesimals that smashed together.
Continue reading “Fomalhaut’s Planet Has Gone Missing, But it Might Have Been Something Even More Interesting”
Even after thirty years of faithful service, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to reveal truly fascinating things about our Universe. This includes the image (shown at top) taken of the astronomical feature known as NGC 2273, a barred spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way. However, upon closer inspection, the image reveals that the spiral arms of this galaxy contain a second set of spiral arms.
Continue reading “Hubble Sees a Galaxy With Spiral Arms, Surrounded by Other Spiral Arms”