The soft glow in this image is NGC 2768, an elliptical galaxy located in the northern constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). NGC 2768 appears here as a bright oval on the sky, surrounded by a wide, fuzzy cloud of material.
This image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the dusty structure encircling the center of the galaxy, forming a knotted ring around the galaxy’s brightly glowing middle. Interestingly, this ring lies perpendicular to the plane of NGC 2768 itself, stretching up and out of the galaxy.
The dust in NGC 2768 forms an intricate network of knots and filaments. In the center of the galaxy are two tiny, S-shaped symmetric jets. These two flows of material travel outwards from the galactic center along curved paths, and are masked by the tangle of dark dust lanes that spans the body of the galaxy.
These jets are a sign of a very active center. NGC 2768 is an example of a Seyfert galaxy, an object with a supermassive black hole at its center. This speeds up and sucks in gas from the nearby space, creating a stream of material swirling inwards towards the black hole known as an accretion disk. This disk throws off material in very energetic outbursts, creating structures like the jets seen in the image above.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble
The gravitational field surrounding this massive cluster of galaxies, Abell 68, acts as a natural lens in space to brighten and magnify the light coming from very distant background galaxies.
In this photo, the image of a spiral galaxy at upper left has been stretched and mirrored into a shape similar to that of a simulated alien from the classic 1970s computer game “Space Invaders!” A second, less distorted image of the same galaxy appears to the left of the large, bright elliptical galaxy.
This image was taken in infrared light by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, and combined with near-infrared observations from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. It is based in part on data spotted by Nick Rose in the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA
Acknowledgement: N. Rose
It may look like something from “The Lord of the Rings,” but this fiery swirl is actually a planetary nebula known as ESO 456-67. Set against a backdrop of bright stars, the rust-colored object lies in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), in the southern sky.
In this image of ESO 456-67, it is possible to see the various layers of material expelled by the central star. Each appears in a different hue - red, orange, yellow, and green-tinted bands of gas are visible, with clear patches of space at the heart of the nebula. It is not fully understood how planetary nebulae form such a wide variety of shapes and structures; some appear to be spherical, some elliptical, others shoot material in waves from their polar regions, some look like hourglasses or figures of eight, and others resemble large, messy stellar explosions - to name but a few.
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA
This esthetic close-up of cosmic clouds and stellar winds features LL Orionis, interacting with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion’s stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged Sun. As the fast stellar wind runs into slow moving gas a shock front is formed, analogous to the bow wave of a boat moving through water or a plane traveling at supersonic speed.
The small, arcing, graceful structure just above and left of center is LL Ori’s cosmic bow shock, measuring about half a light-year across. The slower gas is flowing away from the Orion Nebula’s hot central star cluster, the Trapezium, located off the upper left corner of the picture. In three dimensions, LL Ori’s wrap-around shock front is shaped like a bowl that appears brightest when viewed along the “bottom” edge. The beautiful picture is part of a large mosaic view of the complex stellar nursery in Orion, filled with a myriad of fluid shapes associated with star formation.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team
Nearly 200,000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. Vast clouds of gas within it slowly collapse to form new stars. In turn, these light up the gas clouds in a riot of colors, visible in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is ablaze with star-forming regions. From the Tarantula Nebula, the brightest stellar nursery in our cosmic neighborhood, to LHA 120-N 11, part of which is featured in this Hubble image, the small and irregular galaxy is scattered with glowing nebulae, the most noticeable sign that new stars are being born.
Image Credit: ESA/NASA/Hubble
The Hubble Space Telescope captured a spectacular image of the bright star-forming ring that surrounds the heart of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1097. In this image, the larger-scale structure of the galaxy is barely visible: its comparatively dim spiral arms, which surround its heart in a loose embrace, reach out beyond the edges of this frame.
This face-on galaxy, lying 45 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), is particularly attractive for astronomers. NGC 1097 is a Seyfert galaxy. Lurking at the very center of the galaxy, a supermassive black hole 100 million times the mass of our sun is gradually sucking in the matter around it. The area immediately around the black hole shines powerfully with radiation coming from the material falling in.
The distinctive ring around the black hole is bursting with new star formation due to an inflow of material toward the central bar of the galaxy. These star-forming regions are glowing brightly thanks to emission from clouds of ionized hydrogen. The ring is around 5000 light-years across, although the spiral arms of the galaxy extend tens of thousands of light-years beyond it.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble
‘Tis the season for holiday decorating and tree-trimming. Not to be left out, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have photographed a festive-looking nearby planetary nebula called NGC 5189. The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined.
Planetary nebulae represent the final brief stage in the life of a medium-sized star like our sun. While consuming the last of the fuel in its core, the dying star expels a large portion of its outer envelope. This material then becomes heated by the radiation from the stellar remnant and radiates, producing glowing clouds of gas that can show complex structures, as the ejection of mass from the star is uneven in both time and direction.
A spectacular example of this beautiful complexity is seen in the bluish lobes of NGC 5189. Most of the nebula is knotty and filamentary in its structure. As a result of the mass-loss process, the planetary nebula has been created with two nested structures, tilted with respect to each other, that expand away from the center in different directions.
This double bipolar or quadrupolar structure could be explained by the presence of a binary companion orbiting the central star and influencing the pattern of mass ejection during its nebula-producing death throes. The remnant of the central star, having lost much of its mass, now lives its final days as a white dwarf. However, there is no visual candidate for the possible companion.
The bright golden ring that twists and tilts through the image is made up of a large collection of radial filaments and cometary knots. These are usually formed by the combined action of photo-ionizing radiation and stellar winds.
This image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on October 8, 2012, in filters tuned to the specific colors of fluorescing sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Broad filters in the visible and near-infrared were used to capture the star colors.
by Ray Villard, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the spiral galaxy ESO 499-G37, seen here against a backdrop of distant galaxies, scattered with nearby stars.
The galaxy is viewed from an angle, allowing Hubble to reveal its spiral nature clearly. The faint, loose spiral arms can be distinguished as bluish features swirling around the galaxy’s nucleus. This blue tinge emanates from the hot, young stars located in the spiral arms. The arms of a spiral galaxy have large amounts of gas and dust, and are often areas where new stars are constantly forming.
The galaxy’s most characteristic feature is a bright elongated nucleus. The bulging central core usually contains the highest density of stars in the galaxy, where typically a large group of comparatively cool old stars are packed in this compact, spheroidal region.
One feature common to many spiral galaxies is the presence of a bar running across the center of the galaxy. These bars are thought to act as a mechanism that channels gas from the spiral arms to the center, enhancing the star formation.
Image Credit: NASA/Hubble
Astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope caught two clusters full of massive stars that may be in the early stages of merging. The 30 Doradus Nebula is 170,000 light-years from Earth. What at first was thought to be only one cluster in the core of the massive star-forming region 30 Doradus has been found to be a composite of two clusters that differ in age by about one million years.
The entire 30 Doradus complex has been an active star-forming region for 25 million years, and it is currently unknown how much longer this region can continue creating new stars. Smaller systems that merge into larger ones could help to explain the origin of some of the largest known star clusters. The Hubble observations, made with the Wide Field Camera 3, were taken Oct. 20-27, 2009. The blue color is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; and the red from fluorescing hydrogen.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI)
In terms of intergalactic real estate, our solar system has a plum location as part of a big, spiral galaxy, the Milky Way. Numerous, less glamorous dwarf galaxies keep the Milky Way company. Many galaxies, however, are comparatively isolated, without close neighbors. One such example is the small galaxy known as DDO 190, snapped here in a new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. (“DDO” stands for the David Dunlap Observatory, now managed by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, where the catalog was created).
DDO 190 is classified as a dwarf irregular galaxy as it is relatively small and lacks clear structure. Older, reddish stars mostly populate DDO 190’s outskirts, while some younger, bluish stars gleam in DDO 190’s more crowded interior. Some pockets of ionized gas heated up by stars appear here and there, with the most noticeable one shining towards the bottom of DDO 190 in this picture. Meanwhile, a great number of distant galaxies with evident spiral, elliptical and less-defined shapes glow in the background.
DDO 190 lies around 9 million light years away from our solar system. It is considered part of the loosely associated Messier 94 group of galaxies, not far from the Local Group of galaxies that includes the Milky Way. Canadian astronomer Sidney van der Bergh was the first to record DDO 190 in 1959 as part of the DDO catalog of dwarf galaxies.
Although within the Messier 94 group, DDO 190 is on its own. The galaxy’s nearest dwarf galaxy neighbor, DDO 187, is thought to be no closer than 3 million light years away. In contrast, many of the Milky Way’s companion galaxies, such as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, reside within a fifth or so of that distance, and even the giant spiral of the Andromeda Galaxy is closer to the Milky Way than DDO 190 is to its nearest neighbor.
Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA