New Hubble Telescope Photos Capture One of the Universe’s Most Stunning Formations


In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope captured what would become one of history’s most enduring images of the universe: The Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. Now, 20 years later, Hubble has released a collection of brand new, high-definition shots of the iconic formation. 

If you thought the universe was hauntingly beautiful before, wait until you see these.

Behold:

New view of the Pillars of Creation — visible

Eagle Nebula Captured by Hubble Space Telescope (Click Image to Download)

Comprised of three towers of gas, dust and space matter, structures like this are not altogether uncommon in star-forming regions. But as the Hubble website notes, the Pillars of Creation are some of the most photogenic and mesmerizing examples ever seen.

“The Hubble image of the pillars taken in 1995 is so popular that it has appeared in film and television, on tee-shirts and pillows, and even on postage stamps,” HubbleSite writes.

The telescope used the Wide Field Camera 3 to capture the stunning new images. It sees near-infrared light, visible like and near-ultraviolet radiation, and also has higher resolution and a bigger field of view than the camera that came before it.

This time, Hubble also captured an image taken in infra-red light, which “penetrates much of the obscuring dust and gas and unveils a more unfamiliar view of the pillars,” according to the website. “Here newborn stars, hidden in the visible-light view, can be seen forming within the pillars themselves.”

New view of the Pillars of Creation — infrared

Not everything is happy-go-lucky in Pillars of Creation-land, however. Despite their name, the new shots indicate that the pillars are also being worn down by the very stars they are helping to incubate. “The dust and gas in these pillars is seared by intense radiation from the young stars forming within them, and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars,” HubbleSite explains.

Arizona State University’s Paul Scowen, who helped lead Hubble’s first deep dive into the Eagle Nebula, stressed just how incredible our sightings of the Pillars are. “I’m impressed by how transitory these structures are,” he said in a press release. “We have caught these pillars at a very unique and short-lived moment in their evolution.”

Interestingly, environments like the Eagle Nebula and other star-forming regions were instrumental in our own solar system’s development. “What that means is when you look at the environment of the Eagle Nebula or other star-forming regions, you’re looking at exactly the kind of nascent environment that our Sun formed in,” Scowen said.

The Pillars of Creation — 1995 and 2015 comparison

Source : mic.com

This One Picture Will Make You Realize How Big The Universe Actually Is


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Milky Way Galaxy (Click Image to Download)

We’ve all heard the universe is a very big place, but this image from Alex Grossman really drives that concept home.

The question: How far has humanity’s influence reached?

The very first thing created by humanity that left our tiny planet wasn’t a satellite or space ship, it was the broadcasts from a world obsession with radio. This image shows how far radio broadcasts will have reached in our galaxy, the Milky Way, by the time that technology is 200 years old. Considering we only started broadcasting in 1880, this map actually represents our reach in 2080.

In the vacuum of space radio waves travel at the speed of light, so our entire influence on the universe has now traveled just 135 light years away from Earth (1 “light year” equals the distance light travels in 1 year). That’s right, the tiny blue dot in the image below is how far every single action by humanity has reached. Feel tiny yet?

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How does that compare to our furthest traveling spacecraft? The Voyager 1, which is now traveling almost outside the influence of our Sun, is only about 18 light hours away from the Earth. That’s about 97,000 times smaller than the blue dot in these pictures.

Now for the real kicker.

How many galaxies like our Milky Way are in the entire Universe? No one knows the actual figure because we can’t see to the outside edge (if there is one), but the amount we can see in the observable universe is estimated to be… wait for it…

…more than 170 billion galaxies.

There it is. We are really, really, very, amazingly, incredibly, so, small.
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Milky Way galaxy rendering by Nick Risinger

Source : www.visualnews.com

Large Asteroids to Flyby Earth in January Through March. Should Humans Worry?


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A view of the asteroid Lutetia from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft (Click Image to download)

Asteroids are headed in Earth’s direction and with most of them about as wide as a double-decker bus, a collision would most likely result in significant damage. However, while experts warn against the potential dangers of these asteroids, they also say that it is unlikely that these will veer off course and hit the planet.

According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, there will be 43 asteroids flying close to Earth in January and 25 in February. In March, the number further drops to 15. The biggest threat for January is the asteroid 2007 EJ slated to closely approach the planet on Jan. 12. With a maximum diameter of nearly 1 mile, the asteroid is traveling at around 34,500 miles per hour.

The next-biggest asteroid threat for the first month of the year is the 1991 VE. It features a diameter of 0.87 miles and is expected to skim past the planet on Jan. 17. On Jan. 15 and 23, 0.68-mile wide asteroids will be flying by, the 2014 UF206 and the 2062 Aten, respectively.

At 0.75 miles wide, the 2003 YK118 will follow in Feb. 27. On the same day, the biggest asteroid threat for the quarter, the 1.4-mile wide 2000 EE14 can be expected. For March, the biggest an asteroid will get will be the 2002 GM2, which measures 0.68 miles in diameter. It’s scheduled to come close to Earth on March 3.

The 2000 EE14 will also not only be the biggest for the quarter but it will also be flying by the closest, coming in up to nearly 17 million miles within the proximity of the Earth’s center.

Alarmed that about a million undetected asteroids are flying around in space right now, scientists launched Asteroid Day to raise awareness and prevent the disaster that happened 65 million years ago from happening as much as possible.

According to NASA, the agency is aware of more than 1,500 PHAs or potentially hazardous asteroids. These are defined using parameters that measure how big of a potential an asteroid has for dangerously coming close to the planet. But just because an asteroid has a high potential doesn’t mean that it will impact Earth. The measure of potential is there to simply gauge just how big the possibility of a threat is. PHAs are constantly monitored to improve predictions for close-approach statistics, which in turn improves predictions for threat and impact.

Source : techtimes , Photo by ESA

The Milky Way’s New Neighbor May Tell Us Things About the Universe


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(Click Image to Download)

As part of the Local Group, a collection of 54 galaxies and dwarf galaxies that measures 10 million light years in diameter, the Milky Way has no shortage of neighbors. However, refinements made in the field of astronomy in recent years are leading to the observation of neighbors that were previously unseen. This, in turn, is changing our view of the local universe to one where things are a lot more crowded.

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Dwarf spheroidal galaxies, like this one seen in the constellation Fornax, may exist in greater numbers than previously thought. Credit: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2 (Click Image to Download)

For instance, scientists working out of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia, recently found a previously undetected dwarf galaxy that exists 7 million light years away. The discovery of this galaxy, named KKs3, and those like it is an exciting prospect for scientists, since they can tell us much about how stars are born in our universe.

The Russian team, led by Prof Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), used the Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to locate KKs3 in the southern sky near the constellation of Hydrus. The discovery occurred back in August 2014, when they finalized their observations a series of stars that have only one ten-thousandth the mass of the Milky Way.

Such dwarf galaxies are far more difficult to detect than others due to a number of distinct characteristics. KKs3 is what is known as a dwarf spheroid (or dSph) galaxy, a type that has no spiral arms like the Milky Way and also suffers from an absence of raw materials (like dust and gas). Since they lack the materials to form new stars, they are generally composed of older, fainter stars.

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Image of the KKR 25 dwarf spheroid galaxy obtained by the Special Astrophysical Observatory using the HST. Credit: SAO RAS (Click Image to download)

In addition, these galaxies are typically found in close proximity to much larger galaxies, like Andromeda, which appear to have gobbled up their gas and dust long ago. Being faint in nature, and so close to far more luminous objects, is what makes them so tough to spot by direct observation.

Team member Prof Dimitry Makarov, also of the Special Astrophysical Observatory, described the process: “Finding objects like Kks3 is painstaking work, even with observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope. But with persistence, we’re slowly building up a map of our local neighborhood, which turns out to be less empty than we thought. It may be that are a huge number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies out there, something that would have profound consequences for our ideas about the evolution of the cosmos.”

Painstaking is no exaggeration. Since they are devoid of materials like clouds of gas and dust fields, scientists are forced to spot these galaxies by identifying individual stars. Because of this, only one other isolated dwarf spheroidal has been found in the Local Group: a dSph known as KKR 25, which was also discovered by the Russian research team back in 1999.

But despite the challenges of spotting them, astronomers are eager to find more examples of dSph galaxies. As it stands, it is believed that these isolated spheroids must have been born out of a period of rapid star formation, before the galaxies were stripped of their dust and gas or used them all up.

Studying more of these galaxies can therefore tell us much about the process star formation in our universe. The Russian team expects that the task will become easier in the coming years as the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope begin service.

Much like the Spitzer Space Telescope, these next-generation telescopes are optimized for infrared detection and will therefore prove very useful in picking out faint stars. This, in turn, will also give us a more complete understanding of our universe and all that it holds.

Source : universe today

Top 10 great space moments in 2014 (pictures)


Source :c|net

It was a big year for space exploration, from rodeo-riding a comet to getting more familiar with Mars, distant planets and the beginning of it all.

1. Rosetta and Philae meet a comet

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Photo by: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR  (Click Image to Image)

The first successful soft landing on a comet wasn’t just the biggest space story of the year. It was probably also the biggest science story of 2014.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft traveled 10 years to drop the Philae lander onto a comet. The landing was bumpy, but scientists were able to conduct a few days worth of experiments on the comet’s surface that first week.

But neither Rosetta nor Philae may be finished yet.

Look for more great science from both in 2015.

2. Orion lifts off

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Orion lift Off (Click Image to download)

A new era in space exploration began in December with the successful test flight of the Orion spacecraft, thanks to a big assist from some massive, heavy rockets.

Orion is scheduled to make an unmanned trip to the moon, but it is later expected to carry manned missions to an asteroid and Mars.

3. New Horizons awakens

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Artist ‘s Impression of New Horizons near Pluto and its moon Charon (Click Image to Download)

Rosetta wasn’t the only spacecraft to wake up after a long journey in 2014. In December, NASA’s New Horizons probe switched itself back “on” after a 1,873 day-long hibernation.

Originally launched in 2006, the craft is on track for its mission to survey Pluto and its moons in 2015.

4. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission

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Mars Picture taken by ISRO’s MOM (Click Image to Download)

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan is a spacecraft orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is India’s first interplanetary mission and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency. It is also the first nation to reach Mars orbit on its first attempt, and the first Asian nation to do so.

5. Comet buzzes Mars

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In October, we got a rare close look at a comet on a once-in-a-million-years journey. The comet came so close to Mars that humanity’s orbiters circling the Red Planet actually had to hide on the other side to avoid the comet’s debris cloud.

The orbiters and rovers on the surface were still able to capture images of the comet as it whizzed by.

6. Exoplanets everywhere

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In 2014, not only did our knowledge of distant exoplanets grow by leaps and bounds, but so did the evidence that many of them might host the elements to support life as we know it.

As of December 15, 2014, we know of 22 planets beyond our solar system where there is reason to believe they could be habitable.

7. Space is still hard

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2014 was not a year without tragedy in space and near-space exploration. In October, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one pilot.

This came within days of an explosion that happened after the liftoff of an unmanned Antares rocket carrying a payload to the International Space Station. Also, in August a SpaceX rocket exploded over Texas during a test flight.

In a year when science began to make amazing feats look easy, these were three reminders of the old adage that “space is hard.”

8. ALMA’s Image of Another Solar System

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The best image ever of planet formation around an infant star.

It’s a real image of a planet-forming disk around the infant star, in this case a sunlike star approximately 450 light-years from Earth, known to astronomers as HL Tau.

It is impressive. It reveals in great detail what astronomers just a few decades ago were only theorizing about, and that is that all stars are believed to form within slow-spinning clouds of gas and dust. As the clouds spin, they flatten out into these disks. Over time, the dust particles in the cloud begin to stick together by a process known as acretion, and that process is what ultimately forms the planets like our Earth, and moons like our moon, plus the asteroids, all of which mostly still move (as they did in the original cloud) in this flat space – this disk-like space – encircling the parent star.

9.Aiming for Manned Missions to Mars

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In a year when Mars rovers continued to expand our understanding of the Red Planet, momentum continued to build for a manned mission to our distant neighbor.

NASA is looking seriously at “deep sleep” methods to easily get humans to Mars, likely in the 2030s. Elon Musk started talking about getting mankind to Mars in half that time, and Mars One is already looking for astronauts to blast off in less than a decade’s time, despite potential problems.

10. Racing back to the moon

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Mars is cool, but isn’t there more to do on the moon?

Lunar Mission One is just one of the teams that thinks so — it raised about a million dollars for its plan to drill the moon’s south pole.

Meanwhile, teams competing in the Google Lunar XPrize continued working toward returning to our lone natural satellite.

The moon, Mars, comets, asteroids and beyond — stay tuned to @crave to see where we go in 2015.

A way to explore Venus


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(Click Image to Download )

NASA Langley researchers want to get a better idea about conditions on our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus, so they have come up with HAVOC or a High Altitude Venus Operational Concept – a lighter-than-air rocket ship that would help send two astronauts on a 30-day mission to explore the planet’s atmosphere. Exploration of Venus is a challenge not only because its smog-like sulfuric acid-laced atmosphere, but also its extremely hot surface temperature and extremely high air pressure on the surface.

Nasa’s NuSTAR probe takes first spectacular, Christmassy picture of the sun


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Nasa’s NuSTAR probe Picture (Click Image to Download)

Nasa’s NuSTAR probe has taken its first picture of the sun — and the stunning image  shows X-rays streaming off the star.

NuSTAR stands for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array. It is an X-ray telescope that has been flying around space in Earth’s orbit since 2012.

The image is the first picture that NuSTAR has taken of the sun, and is the most sensitive solar picture ever taken using high-energy X-rays.

The parts of the picture from NuSTAR are the green and blue at the top, which depict solar high-energy emissions. The blue represents more energetic emissions than the green ones.

The picture is overlaid on top of a picture of the sun taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. That took the red part of the photo, which represents ultraviolet light.

NuSTAR was sent out into space to conduct a survey for black holes. By looking for high-energy X-rays, the project hopes to shine new light on how stars collapse and form black holes, and how particles work in active galaxies.

But the new picture is actually a plan formulated in 2007, long before NuSTAR was launched into space. Other telescopes are able to look at the sun because it is too bright, but since NuSTAR looks specifically at higher-energy X-rays, it’s able to take pictures of the star without damaging its sensors.

NuSTAR is going to keep watching the sun, in the hope of seeing nanoflares, which would explain the mystery of why the outer atmosphere of the sun is so hot compared with the surface. Nanoflares have been proposed as the solution to the mystery and if NuSTAR were to catch them it would help solve the puzzle.

“NuSTAR will be exquisitely sensitive to the faintest X-ray activity happening in the solar atmosphere, and that includes possible nanoflares,” said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.

The probe might also be able to spot axions, one of the leading candidates for dark matter. Dark matter refers to the idea that there is heavy matter in the universe that we are unable to see. In the unlikely event that NuSTAR were to spot axions, it would solve another mystery at the heart of astrophysics.

Source : Independent.co.uk

‘Perfect Storm’ Suffocating Star Formation around a Supermassive Black Hole


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(Click Image to Download)

High-energy jets powered by supermassive black holes can blast away a galaxy’s star-forming fuel — resulting in so-called “red and dead” galaxies: those brimming with ancient red stars yet little or no hydrogen gas available to create new ones.

Now astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered that black holes don’t have to be nearly so powerful to shut down star formation. By observing the dust and gas at the center NGC 1266, a nearby lenticular galaxy with a relatively modest central black hole, the astronomers have detected a “perfect storm” of turbulence that is squelching star formation in a region that would otherwise be an ideal star factory.

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Fig 1. Artist impression of the central region of NGC 1266. The jets from the central black hole are creating turbulence in the surrounding molecular gas, suppressing star formation in an otherwise ideal environment to form new stars. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

This turbulence is stirred up by jets from the galaxy’s central black hole slamming into an incredibly dense envelope of gas. This dense region, which may be the result of a recent merger with another smaller galaxy, blocks nearly 98 percent of material propelled by the jets from escaping the galactic center.

“Like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, the molecules in these jets meet so much resistance when they hit the surrounding dense gas that they are almost completely stopped in their tracks,” said Katherine Alatalo, an astronomer with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and lead author on a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. This energetic collision produces powerful turbulence in the surrounding gas, disrupting the first critical stage of star formation. “So what we see is the most intense suppression of star formation ever observed,” noted Alatalo.

Previous observations of NGC 1266 revealed a broad outflow of gas from the galactic center traveling up to 400 kilometers per second. Alatalo and her colleagues estimate that this outflow is as forceful as the simultaneous supernova explosion of 10,000 stars. The jets, though powerful enough to stir the gas, are not powerful enough to give it the velocity it needs to escape from the system.

Continue reading ‘Perfect Storm’ Suffocating Star Formation around a Supermassive Black Hole

Isro gets closer to manned mission, tests crew module


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ISRO’s GSLV Mark III (Click Image to Download)

This rocket didn’t put a satellite in orbit. In fact, its payload plunged into the Bay of Bengal 20 minutes after the vehicle lifted off from Sriharikota. And that made it a success, for it was the first step to India’s manned space mission.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) achieved success of a different kind on Thursday when its GSLV Mark III on a suborbital experimental flight carried an unmanned crew module which was ejected at a height of 126km. Re-entering the atmosphere, its parachutes ensured a soft-thud on the sea. Recovered by the Indian Coast Guard, the Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) will undergo tests to ascertain its efficiency in bringing back future astronauts from India.

“Everything went as per plan,” said ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan. “After a decade of developing the GSLV Mk II, we have tasted the first success of an experimental flight. The performances of the solid and liquid stages were as expected. The unmanned crew module worked extremely well.”

Source : Times of india

Mars has gas, and Curiosity finds organic matter — fuzzy signs of life?


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(Click Image to Download)

It could be a sign, a vague one.

A NASA rover has found the building blocks of life on Mars. They might be the product of past or present life on the Red Planet — or they might not be.

Either way, the samples of organic matter in the atmosphere and in rock show that Mars may at least have once had conditions favorable to hosting life, NASA said in a statement. They also show that the planet is still chemically active.

The Curiosity rover’s tapping into organics in rock is the first find ever of life’s building blocks on Mars’ surface.

Gas blast

The rover has run into pockets of gas on Mars: methane, often used to fire up gas stoves back on Earth.

Organic matter is made up of carbon bonded with other elements, often hydrogen and oxygen. Living things are made up of it, but life is not necessary for it to exist.

Methane is the smallest organic compound, consisting of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms.

On our planet, methane is a fossil fuel, but it can also rise out of rotting sewage or fly through the air in flatulence.

In other words, it usually comes from something living, or something that was once alive.

No life found

That could be the case on Mars, too, NASA said in a statement this week.

But the space agency carefully points out that methane can also come from inanimate sources as well.

“There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock,” said Sushil Atreya, a scientist on the Curiosity team.

At this point, NASA doesn’t know if microbes are behind the gas or just minerals.

Researchers used Curiosity’s instruments a dozen times to get a breath of methane, and four of those times, it peaked at a level 10 times higher than usual.

They believe it may have been puffed up from the ground like little burps.

Organic rock

Curiosity also found organic matter while drilling into stone.

“This first confirmation of organic carbon in a rock on Mars holds much promise,” said scientist Roger Summons, who works on the rover team.

Source : CNN