David Kirkpatrick

September 3, 2010

Beautiful space image — Supernova 1987A

Sometimes when I run a “beautiful space image” post the beauty is in the awe-inspiringness of the image, and other times the photo might not be much to look at, but it is just amazing on its own merits.

And then sometimes it really is just beautiful.

From the third link, enjoy …

A team of astronomers led by the University of Colorado at Boulder is charting the interactions between Supernova 1987A and a glowing gas ring encircling the supernova remnant known as the “String of Pearls.” Credit: NASA

Also from the link:

The team detected significant brightening of the emissions from Supernova 1987A, which were consistent with some theoretical predictions about how supernovae interact with their immediate galactic environment. Discovered in 1987, Supernova 1987A is the closest  to Earth to be detected since 1604 and resides in the nearby , a  adjacent to our own Milky Way Galaxy.

The team observed the supernova in optical, ultraviolet and near-infrared light, charting the interplay between the  and the famous “String of Pearls,” a glowing ring 6 trillion miles in diameter encircling the supernova remnant that has been energized by X-rays. The gas ring likely was shed some 20,000 years before the supernova exploded, and  rushing out from the remnant have been brightening some 30 to 40 pearl-like “hot spots” in the ring — objects that likely will grow and merge together in the coming years to form a continuous, glowing circle.

September 2, 2010

Cool space image — galaxy NGC 4666

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:05 am


This visible light image, made with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows the galaxy NGC 4666 in the center. It is a starburst galaxy, about 80 million light-years from Earth, in which particularly intense star formation is taking place. The starburst is thought to be caused by gravitational interactions with neighboring galaxies, including NGC 4668, visible to the lower left. A combination of supernova explosions and strong winds from massive stars in the starburst region drives a vast outflow of gas from the galaxy into space — a so-called “superwind”. NGC 4666 had previously been observed in X-rays by the ESA XMM-Newton space telescope, and these visible light observations were made to target background objects detected in the earlier X-ray images. This picture, which covers a field of 16 by 12 arcminutes, is a combination of twelve CCD frames, 67 megapixels each, taken through blue, green and red filters. Credit: ESO/J. Dietrich

Hit the link up there for more about NGC 4666, and a (sorta cheesy) video of its location in space. And for even more info, here’s the release.

August 28, 2010

Cool space image — Orcus Patera

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:58 pm

Orcus Patera is a crater on Mars with an unusual elongated shape:

From the link:

Orcus Patera is an enigmatic elliptical depression near Mars’s equator, in the eastern hemisphere of the planet. Located between the volcanoes of Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons, its formation remains a mystery.

Often overlooked, this well-defined depression extends approximately 380 km by 140 km in a NNE–SSW direction. It has a rim that rises up to 1800 m above the surrounding plains, while the floor of the depression lies 400–600 m below the surroundings.

Hit this link for a much larger version of the image.

August 23, 2010

Beautiful space image — the Earth from the moon

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:48 am

Well, really this one isn’t very beautiful at all aesthetically, but as a human achievement it is utterly amazing. This is the first image of the Earth taken from the moon’s distance by United States Lunar Orbiter I on this day (August 23) in 1966.

File:First View of Earth from Moon.jpg

The world’s first view of Earth taken by a spacecraft from the vicinity of the Moon. The photo was transmitted to Earth by the United States Lunar Orbiter I and received at the NASA tracking station at Robledo De Chavela near Madrid, Spain. This crescent of the Earth was photographed August 23, 1966 at 16:35 GMT when the spacecraft was on its 16th orbit and just about to pass behind the Moon. Reference Numbers: Center: HQ / Center Number: 67-H-218 / GRIN DataBase Number: GPN-2000-001588

August 7, 2010

Beautiful space image — the Antennae galaxies

A space image two-fer today!

Enjoy …

From the link:

The X-ray image from Chandra shows huge clouds of hot, interstellar gas that have been injected with rich deposits of elements from supernova explosions. This enriched gas, which includes elements such as oxygen, iron, magnesium and silicon, will be incorporated into new generations of stars and planets.

The bright, point-like sources in the image are produced by material falling onto black holes and neutron stars that are remnants of the massive stars. Some of these black holes may have masses that are almost one hundred times that of the Sun.

The Spitzer data show infrared light from warm dust clouds that have been heated by newborn stars, with the brightest clouds lying in the overlap region between the two galaxies. The Hubble data reveal old stars in red, filaments of dust in brown and star-forming regions in yellow and white. Many of the fainter objects in the optical image are clusters containing thousands of stars.

Beautiful space image — the sun in a solar flare

A solar flare from August 1, 2010 no less (last Sunday).

Enjoy …

On August 1, 2010, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. This image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory of the news-making solar event on August 1 shows the C3-class solar flare.

Great Ball of Fire

On August 1, 2010, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. This image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory of the news-making solar event on August 1 shows the C3-class solar flare (white area on upper left), a solar tsunami (wave-like structure, upper right), multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more.

This multi-wavelength extreme ultraviolet snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sun’s northern hemisphere in mid-eruption. Different colors in the image represent different gas temperatures. Earth’s magnetic field is still reverberating from the solar flare impact on August 3, 2010, which sparked aurorae as far south as Wisconsin and Iowa in the United States. Analysts believe a second solar flare is following behind the first flare and could re-energize the fading geomagnetic storm and spark a new round of Northern Lights.


July 15, 2010

Interesting space image — the Lutetia planetoid

Great close-up look at an asteroid.

Fig. 1: A playground for geologists: The surface of the asteroid Lutetia is covered in craters. In some places, parallel grooves can also be seen.


The ESA space probe Rosetta flew past the Lutetia planetoid at around 6 p.m. CEST on Saturday. The OSIRIS camera system, built and developed under the direction of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, provided unique images of this rendezvous. They not only show a large number of craters on the surface of the celestial body, but also individual rocks and parallel grooves.

With a resolution of around 60 metres per pixel, the images provide a fascinating view of Lutetia. “This is a completely new world, which no-one has ever seen before,” says Max Planck researcher Holger Sierks, Head of the OSIRIS team. The planetoid, whose longest axis measures around 126 kilometres, is oval in shape. Its surface is marked by many craters, both large and small; in one of the larger craters, the images even show evidence of a landslide. In some parts, parallel grooves cover the cosmic rock, the origin of which is still unknown.

The camera system had already focused on the asteroid on Saturday morning. At approximately 6 p.m. the Rosetta space probe was within 3,162 kilometres of the asteroid. “Both the wide-angle and the telephoto camera worked perfectly,” reports Sierks. The Control Centre of the European Space Agency ESA passed the data collected during the fly-by directly to the Max Planck Institute, where researchers worked all day and into the night filtering images from the raw data. On Saturday at around 11 p.m. they presented their initial results.

During the coming days and weeks the scientists want to further evaluate the images. It should then be possible to determine the colour of the asteroid and thus the chemical composition of its surface in more detail. They will also use data from other measuring instruments which were active during the fly-by as well.

Since 2004, the Rosetta space probe has been en route to the Churyumov/Gerasimenko comet, and the plan is for the Philae lander to touch down on the comet in 2014. In September 2008, Rosetta passed the planetoid Steins.

Fig. 2: Zooming in on Lutetia: A sequence of images taken during the fly-by.


Related links:

[1] Further information on the Rosetta space probe

July 13, 2010

Beautiful space image — NGC 2467


Caption: A colorful star-forming region is featured in this stunning new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 2467. Looking like a roiling cauldron of some exotic cosmic brew, huge clouds of gas and dust are sprinkled with bright blue, hot young stars. Strangely shaped dust clouds, resembling spilled liquids, are silhouetted against a colourful background of glowing. Like the familiar Orion Nebula, NGC 2467 is a huge cloud of gas — mostly hydrogen — that serves as an incubator for new stars. This picture was created from images taken with the Wide Field Channel of the Advanced Camera for Surveys through three different filters (F550M, F660N and F658N, shown in blue, green and red). These filters were selected to let through different colours of red and yellow light arising from different elements in the gas. The total aggregate exposure time was about 2000 seconds and the field of view is about 3.5 arcminutes across. These data were taken in 2004.

Credit: NASA, ESA and Orsola De Marco (Macquarie University)

Usage Restrictions: None

Related news release: Hubble snaps sharp image of cosmic concoction

July 7, 2010

Beautiful space image — NGC 3603

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:45 am


Credit: NASA, ESA, R. O’Connell (University of Virginia), F. Paresce (National Institute for Astrophysics, Bologna, Italy), E. Young (Universities Space Research Association/Ames Research Center), the WFC3 Science Oversight Committee, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

From the link:

Most of the stars in the cluster were born around the same time but differ in size, mass, temperature, and color. The course of a star’s life is determined by its mass, so a cluster of a given age will contain stars in various stages of their lives, giving an opportunity for detailed analyses of stellar life cycles. NGC 3603 also contains some of the most  known. These huge stars live fast and die young, burning through their  fuel quickly and ultimately ending their lives in supernova explosions.

And here’s one more from the same group:

Caption: The core of the star cluster in NGC 3603 is shown in great detail in an image from the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) camera on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The image is a color composite of observations in the WFPC2 filters F555W (blue), F675W (green) and F814W (red). This view shows the second of two images taken ten years apart that were used to detect the motions of individual stars within the cluster for the first time. The field of view is about 20 arc seconds across.

Credit: NASA, ESA and Wolfgang Brandner (MPIA), Boyke Rochau (MPIA) and Andrea Stolte (University of Cologne)

Usage Restrictions: None

Related news release: Hubble catches stars on the move

July 6, 2010

Beautiful space image — primordial cosmic microwave background radiation

Here is the first full-sky image from Europe’s Planck telescope released by the European Space Agency:

From the link:

Dominating the foreground are large segments of our Milky Way Galaxy (the bright horizontal line running the full length of the image is the galaxy’s main disc, the plane in which the Sun and the Earth also reside). Behind that is the primordial cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, a key target of the Planck mission. A formal release of fully prepared CMB images and scientific papers is expected by the end of 2012.

June 18, 2010

Beautiful space image — a star is born

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:54 am

Literally. This is an image of the birth of a star

From the link:

Astronomers have glimpsed what could be the youngest known star at the very moment it is being born. Not yet fully developed into a true star, the object is in the earliest stages of star formation and has just begun pulling in matter from a surrounding envelope of gas and dust, according to a new study that appears in the current issue of the Astrophysical Journal.


June 11, 2010

Latest satellite image of Deepwater Horizon spill

I’ll just let NASA’s image and caption do the work in illuminating BP’s ecological disaster:

NASA Visible Image of Gulf Oil Slick-June 10

Caption: NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, June 10 at 19:05 UTC (3:05 p.m. EDT) and the satellite’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument captured an image of the thickest part of the oil slick. In the image, the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is positioned in sunglint. In the sunglint region—where the mirror-like reflection of the Sun gets blurred into a wide, bright silvery-gray strip—differences in the texture of the water surface may be enhanced. In the thickest part of the slick, oil smooths the water, making it a better “mirror.” Areas where thick oil cover the water are nearly white in this image. Additional oil may also be present.

Credit: NASA MODIS Rapid Response Team/ Holli Riebeek

Usage Restrictions: None

Related news release: NASA’s Aqua Satellite Saw Oil Slick in Sunglint on June 10

May 2, 2010

Beautiful space image — the sun

Filed under: et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:34 am


SDO First Light composite image from March 30, 2010.

A full-disk multiwavelength extreme ultraviolet image of the sun taken by SDO on March 30, 2010. False colors trace different gas temperatures. Reds are relatively cool (about 60,000 Kelvin, or 107,540 F); blues and greens are hotter (greater than 1 million Kelvin, or 1,799,540 F). Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team

As usual, hit the link up there for a larger version of the image and more information.

Update 5/3/10: I haven’t read the Bad Astronomer (see blogroll) in while and happened to yesterday only to find a post with this image and more explanation, plus another very cool image from the SDO.)

March 18, 2010

Beautiful space image — dust in the solar neighborhood

Very nice. And yes, I’ve been posting more space and nanotech images than usual of late.

The image spans about 50° of the sky. It is a three-colour combination constructed from Planck’s two highest frequency channels (557 and 857 GHz, corresponding to wavelengths of 540 and 350 micrometres), and an image at the shorter wavelength of 100 micrometres made by the IRAS satellite. This combination visualises dust temperature very effectively: red corresponds to temperatures as cold as 10° above absolute zero, and white to those of a few tens of degrees. Overall, the image shows local dust structures within 500 light-years of the Sun.

Credits: ESA/HFI Consortium/IRAS

Hit the link up there for the full release on this image

March 17, 2010

Beautiful space image — the Berkeley 59 cluster

Check this out

WISE Captures a Cosmic Rose

A new infrared image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows a cosmic rosebud blossoming with new stars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

From the link:

A new infrared image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows a cosmic rosebud blossoming with new stars. The stars, called the Berkeley 59 cluster, are the blue dots to the right of the image center. They are ripening out of the dust cloud from which they formed, and at just a few million years old, are young on stellar time scales.

The rosebud-like red glow surrounding the hot, young stars is warm dust heated by the stars. Green “leafy” nebulosity enfolds the cluster, showing the edges of the dense, dusty cloud. This green material is from heated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, molecules that can be found on Earth in barbecue pits, exhaust pipes and other places where combustion has occurred.

Also hit the link for a much larger version of the image. I was going to run it here, but it’s a little too big for this blog’s format.

February 25, 2010

Beautiful space image — the Small Magellanic Cloud

Just incredible

From the link:

Today ESO has released a dramatic new image of NGC 346, the brightest star-forming region in our neighbouring galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud, 210 000 light-years away towards the constellation of Tucana (the Toucan). The light, wind and heat given off by massive stars have dispersed the glowing gas within and around this star cluster, forming a surrounding wispy nebular structure that looks like a cobweb. NGC 346, like other beautiful astronomical scenes, is a work in progress, and changes as the aeons pass. As yet more stars form from loose matter in the area, they will ignite, scattering leftover dust and gas, carving out great ripples and altering the face of this lustrous object.

NGC 346 spans approximately 200 light-years, a region of space about fifty times the distance between the Sun and its nearest stellar neighbours. Astronomers classify NGC 346 as an open cluster of stars, indicating that this stellar brood all originated from the same collapsed cloud of matter. The associated nebula containing this clutch of bright stars is known as an emission nebula, meaning that gas within it has been heated up by stars until the gas emits its own light, just like the neon gas used in electric store signs.

Many stars in NGC 346 are relatively young in cosmic terms with their births dating back only a few million years or so (eso0834). Powerful winds thrown off by a massive star set off this recent round of star birth by compressing large amounts of matter, the first critical step towards igniting new stars. This cloud of material then collapses under its own gravity, until some regions become dense and hot enough to roar forth as a brilliantly shining, nuclear fusion-powered furnace — a star, illuminating the residual debris of gas and dust. In sufficiently congested regions like NGC 346, with high levels of recent star birth, the result is a glorious, glowing vista for our telescopes to capture.

NGC 346 is in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy some 210 000 light-years away from Earth and in close proximity to our home, the much larger Milky Way Galaxy. Like its sister the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud is visible with the unaided eye from the southern hemisphere and has served as an extragalactic laboratory for astronomers studying the dynamics of star formation.

This particular image was obtained using the Wide Field Imager (WFI) instrument at the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. Images like this help astronomers chronicle star birth and evolution, while offering glimpses of how stellar development influences the appearance of the cosmic environment over time.

More information

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 14 countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory, and VISTA the largest survey telescope. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 42-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

February 18, 2010

Beautiful space image — the Andromeda galaxy

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:01 am

Just enjoy …

Andromeda Galaxy

The immense Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or simply M31, is captured in full in this new image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The mosaic covers an area equivalent to more than 100 full moons, or five degrees across the sky. WISE used all four of its infrared detectors to capture this picture (3.4- and 4.6-micron light is colored blue; 12-micron light is green; and 22-micron light is red). Blue highlights mature stars, while yellow and red show dust heated by newborn, massive stars.

Andromeda is the closest large galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy, and is located 2.5 million light-years from our sun. It is close enough for telescopes to spy the details of its ringed arms of new stars and hazy blue backbone of older stars. Also seen in the mosaic are two satellite galaxies, known as M32, located just a bit above Andromeda to the left of center, and the fuzzy blue M110, located below the center of the great spiral arms. These satellites are the largest of several that are gravitationally bound to Andromeda.

The Andromeda galaxy is larger than our Milky Way and contains more stars, but the Milky Way is thought to perhaps have more mass due to its larger proportion of a mysterious substance called dark matter. Both galaxies belong to our so-called Local Group, a collection of more than 50 galaxies, most of which are tiny dwarf systems. In its quest to map the whole sky, WISE will capture the entire Local Group.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Be sure to hit the link up there for a truly massive version of this image. Unbelievably beautiful.

Head below the fold for the release from yesterday’s inbox with links to this image. (more…)

February 4, 2010

Beautiful space image — NGC 3603

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:28 am

I’ll let the image do the talking here:

SO is releasing a magnificent VLT image of the giant stellar nursery surrounding NGC 3603, in which stars are continuously being born. Embedded in this scenic nebula is one of the most luminous and most compact clusters of young, massive stars in our Milky Way, which therefore serves as an excellent “local” analogue of very active star-forming regions in other galaxies. The cluster also hosts the most massive star to be “weighed” so far.

Hit the link above for more on this gorgeous space image.

January 23, 2010

Beautiful space image — a rare double-tailed gas cloud

Here you go:

MSU’s Megan Donahue was part of an international team of astronomers that viewed this rare double-tailed gas cloud. Their paper on the subject is in the publication Astrophysical Journal. Photo courtesy of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Head below the fold for the release accompanying the image. (more…)

October 29, 2009

High-res panorama image of the Milky Way

I just wish this image was larger …

Caption: This is a full sky panorama of the Milky Way.

Credit: Dr. Axel Mellinger

Usage Restrictions: None

Related news release: Physicist makes new high-res panorama of Milky Way

October 15, 2009

Barnard’s Galaxy image

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:14 am

More cool space imagery:

Astronomers obtained this portrait of Barnard’s Galaxy using the Wide Field Imager attached to the 2.2-m MPG/ESO telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in northern Chile. Also known as NGC 6822, this dwarf irregular galaxy is one of the Milky Way’s galactic neighbors. The dwarf galaxy has no shortage of stellar splendor and pyrotechnics. Reddish nebulae in this image reveal regions of active star formation, wherein young, hot stars heat up nearby gas clouds. Also prominent in the upper left of this new image is a striking bubble-shaped nebula. At the nebula’s center, a clutch of massive, scorching stars send waves of matter smashing into surrounding interstellar material, generating a glowing structure that appears ring-like from our perspective. Other similar ripples of heated matter thrown out by feisty young stars are dotted across Barnard’s Galaxy. The image was made from data obtained through four different filters (B, V, R, and H-alpha). The field of view is 35 x 34 arcmin. North is up, East to the left.

If you care to read the press release that accompanies this image, here you go.

October 3, 2009

… like pearls on a string

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:47 pm

Beautiful interstellar images from the European Space  Herschel space observatory:

Cold gas in the Milky WayHerschel PACS image

Cold gas in the Milky WayHerschel SPIRE image

The Silver is the New Black Theme Blog at WordPress.com.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers