Illuminated by the light of nearby stars, the nebula M-78 exhibits a ghostly appearance in this 10-minute exposure taken with a 6” refractor at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Located in the constellation of Orion — some1,600 light years from Earth — this reflection nebula is known to contain more than 40 very young stars still in the process of formation.
Image Credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO/Bill Cooke
The sunlit edge of Titan’s south polar vortex stands out distinctly against the darkness of the moon’s unilluminated hazy atmosphere. The Cassini spacecraft images of the vortex led scientists to conclude that its clouds form at a much higher altitude — where sunlight can still reach — than the surrounding haze. Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers across) is Saturn’s largest moon. This view looks toward the trailing hemisphere of Titan. North on Titan is up and rotated 32 degrees to the left. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 14, 2013 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 808,000 miles (1.3 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 82 degrees. Image scale is 5 miles (8 kilometers) per pixel.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
At the center of spiral galaxy M81 is a supermassive black hole about 70 million times more massive than our sun.
A study using data from Chandra and ground-based telescopes, combined with detailed theoretical models, shows that the supermassive black hole in M81 feeds just like stellar mass black holes, with masses of only about ten times that of the sun. This discovery supports Einstein’s relativity theory that states black holes of all sizes have similar properties.
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Wisconsin/D.Pooley & CfA/A.Zezas; Optical: NASA/ESA/CfA/A.Zezas; UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA/J.Huchra et al.; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA
How far away is spiral galaxy NGC 4921? Although presently estimated to be about 310 million light years distant, a more precise determination could be coupled with its known recession speed to help humanity better calibrate the expansion rate of the entire visible universe. Toward this goal, several images were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in order to help identify key stellar distance markers known as Cepheid variable stars. Since NGC 4921 is a member of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies, refining its distance would also allow a better distance determination to one of the largest nearby clusters in the local universe. The magnificent spiral NGC 4921 has been informally dubbed anemic because of its low rate of star formation and low surface brightness. Visible in the above image are, from the center, a bright nucleus, a bright central bar, a prominent ring of dark dust, blue clusters of recently formed stars, several smaller companion galaxies, unrelated galaxies in the far distant universe, and unrelated stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.
Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA
Supernovae are intensely bright objects. They are formed when a star reaches the end of its life with a dramatic explosion, expelling most of its material out into space. The subject of this new Hubble image, spiral galaxy NGC 6984, played host to one of these explosions back in 2012, known as SN 2012im. Now, another star has exploded, forming supernova SN 2013ek — visible in this image as the prominent, star-like bright object just slightly above and to the right of the galaxy’s center.
SN 2012im is known as a Type Ic supernova, while the more recent SN 2013ek is a Type Ib. Both of these types are caused by the core collapse of massive stars that have shed — or lost — their outer layers of hydrogen. Type Ic supernovae are thought to have lost more of their outer envelope than Type Ib, including a layer of helium.
The observations that make up this new image were taken on August 19, 2013, and aimed to pinpoint the location of this new explosion more precisely. It is so close to where SN 2012im was spotted that the two events are thought to be linked; the chance of two completely independent supernovae so close together and of the same class exploding within one year of one another is a very unlikely event. It was initially suggested that SN 2013ek may in fact be SN 2012im flaring up again, but further observations support the idea that they are separate supernovae — although they may be closely related in some as-yet-unknown way.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble
NGC 6946 is a medium-sized, face-on spiral galaxy about 22 million light years away from Earth. In the past century, eight supernovas have been observed to explode in the arms of this galaxy. Chandra observations (purple) have, in fact, revealed three of the oldest supernovas ever detected in X-rays, giving more credence to its nickname of the “Fireworks Galaxy.” This composite image also includes optical data from the Gemini Observatory in red, yellow, and cyan.
Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al, Optical: AURA/Gemini OBs
Jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies can transport huge amounts of energy across great distances. 3C353 is a wide, double-lobed source where the galaxy is the tiny point in the center and giant plumes of radiation can be seen in X-rays from Chandra (purple) and radio data from the Very Large Array (orange).
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Tokyo Institute of Technology/J.Kataoka et al, Radio: NRAO/VLA
A witch appears to be screaming out into space in this new image from NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The infrared portrait shows the Witch Head nebula, named after its resemblance to the profile of a wicked witch. Astronomers say the billowy clouds of the nebula, where baby stars are brewing, are being lit up by massive stars. Dust in the cloud is being hit with starlight, causing it to glow with infrared light, which was picked up by WISE’s detectors.
The Witch Head nebula is estimated to be hundreds of light-years away in the Orion constellation, just off the famous hunter’s knee.
WISE was recently “awakened” to hunt for asteroids in a program called NEOWISE. The reactivation came after the spacecraft was put into hibernation in 2011, when it completed two full scans of the sky, as planned.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This ghostly image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the disembodied remains of a dying star, called a planetary nebula. Planetary nebulas are a late stage in a sun-like star’s life, when its outer layers have sloughed off and are lit up by ultraviolet light from the central star. The Ghost of Jupiter, also known as NGC 3242, is located roughly 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Hydra. Spitzer’s infrared view shows off the cooler outer halo of the dying star, colored here in red. Also evident are concentric rings around the object, the result of material being periodically tossed out in the star’s final death throes.
In this image, infrared light at wavelengths of 3.6 microns is rendered in blue, 4.5 microns in green, and 8.0 microns in red.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA