The Large Magellanic Cloud

Hey, wanna see something ridiculously beautiful?

This image is of a really young star cluster called R136 – scientists think that it’s only a couple of million years old (you know, only), and lives inside the 30 Doradus Nebula.  You know, the 30 Doradus Nebula.  Yeah, I really have no idea where that is either – but it’s a very violent, turbulent region inside of the Large Magellanic Cloud.  See the blue dots?  Those are some of the largest stars known – some over hundreds of times larger than our Sun.

The Hubble Telescope’s Widefield Camera 3 took the above image in red, UV, and visible light.  This blew my mind – that image is about 100 light years wide.  The green hue in the photo is the glow of oxygen; red from fluorescing hydrogen; the blue hues are the hottest and largest stars.  It just blows my mind – the swirling cream-colored masses, it’s like space mist, so intangible to my imagination.

From the NASA site on this image:

The brilliant stars are carving deep cavities in the surrounding material by unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light, and hurricane-force stellar winds (streams of charged particles), which are etching away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud in which the stars were born. The image reveals a fantasy landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys, as well as a dark region in the center that roughly looks like the outline of a holiday tree. Besides sculpting the gaseous terrain, the brilliant stars can also help create a successive generation of offspring. When the winds hit dense walls of gas, they create shocks, which may be generating a new wave of star birth.

The movement of the LMC around the Milky Way may have triggered the massive cluster’s formation in several ways. The gravitational tug of the Milky Way and the companion Small Magellanic Cloud may have compressed gas in the LMC. Also, the pressure resulting from the LMC plowing through the Milky Way’s halo may have compressed gas in the satellite. The cluster is a rare, nearby example of the many super star clusters that formed in the distant, early universe, when star birth and galaxy interactions were more frequent. Previous Hubble observations have shown astronomers that super star clusters in faraway galaxies are ubiquitous.

Beautiful.  Ridiculously beautiful.

Pimp My Hubble – New Deep Space Images

The Hubble telescope (I’m sorry, “Space Observatory”) recently got a big upgrade – in addition to a new camera, it got two repairs that made the observatory capable of all kinds of new awesomeness.  From the press release at NASA:

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the quality of the images from the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and repaired Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the spectra from the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS),” said Keith Noll, leader of a team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which planned the early release observations. “The targets we’ve selected to showcase the telescope reveal the great range of capabilities in our newly upgraded Hubble.”

These results are compelling evidence of the success of the STS-125 servicing mission in May, which has brought the space observatory to the apex of its scientific performance. Two new instruments, the WFC3 and COS, were installed, and two others, the ACS and STIS, were repaired at the circuit board level. Mission scientists also announced Wednesday that the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer was brought back into operation during the three months of calibration and testing.

“On this mission we wanted to replenish the ‘tool kit’ of Hubble instruments on which scientists around the world rely to carry out their cutting-edge research,” said David Leckrone, senior project scientist for Hubble at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Prior to this servicing mission, we had only three unique instrument channels still working, and today we have 13. I’m very proud to be able to say, ‘mission accomplished.’ “

Is it cheesy for me to say that these images are out of this world?  They truly are – check them out, they’re amazing.

First image – NGC 6302, a butterfly-shaped nebula surrounding a dying star:


Second image – a galactic clash of Stephan’s Quintet:


Third image – the huge cluster of Omega Centauri, and 100,000 stars in that cluster:


Last image for now – a freaky pillar of star birth in the Carina Nebula:


Thanks, Hubble Site!

Hubble Spies A Cosmic Baby Maker

NASA just performed a repair mission on Hubble, the telescope that acts as the peeping tom of the heavens – that really has nothing to do with this, but it is noteworthy, as I hear it’s the last mission regarding Hubble.  A 3-galaxy system called Arp 194 has been seen by Hubble recently; the system looks as though one of the galaxies has “sprung a leak,” per se.

Apparently what is happening is that these galaxies are gravitationally pulling at each other, and the blue stram that you see between the two galaxies are newborn blue stars.  There’s a lot of speculation as to what has disturbed the galaxy complex – scientists think that either a previous collision or close encounter might have rocked the boat, not to mention the gravitational forces at work.

Beautiful – I wish we understood more about them.

ARP 194

Thanks, Science Daily!