By Shaunacy Ferro @ popsci.com
Fourth of July is the perfect time to watch fiery masses streak across the sky. This speedy guy, the comet ISON, looks like it pretty much fits that bill. Except that it’s actually quite icy at its core, and it’s barreling toward the sun at around 48,000 miles per hour, faster than any firework.
This five-second loop of video is a compression of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over a period of 43 minutes in May, during which ISON covered 34,000 miles.
Read more: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-07/hubble-catches-comet-ison-hurtling-across-sky
By Clay Dillow Posted 05.24.2013
The most distant galaxy ever seen in the universe has been detected by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.
By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent
11:58AM GMT 16 Nov 2012
Light from the newly discovered galaxy, which astronomers have named MACS0647-JD, reached Earth after travelling across space for 13.3 billion years.
It provides a window on what the galaxy looked like just 420 million years after the big bang, when the universe was only three per cent of its current age.
The galaxy was detected using an effect known as gravitational lensing, where large clusters of galaxies are used as “natural zoom lenses” to enlarge the appearance of galaxies behind them.
Astronomers were able to detect a hint of light from MACS0647-JD because it was magnified as it passed around an enormous galaxy cluster known as MACS J0647+7015 as it travelled towards Earth.
Thanks to the gravitational force of the cluster, the Hubble telescope was able to detect the light at up to eight times the brightness it otherwise would.
by John Timmer – Nov 17 2012, 8:45pm GTBST
Small galaxy was producing stars only 425 million years after the Big Bang.
The Universe’s first galaxies played a key role in shaping the environment in which we now find ourselves. They fostered the formation of the first stars, which died in spectacular explosions that enabled a new generation of smaller stars, orbited by rockier planets. And the galaxies themselves merged and grew, forming the large galaxies and clusters that populate the Universe today. But, despite their critical role in shaping the Universe, we’ve never actually been able to see one of them.
Slowly, that’s changing. The Hubble Deep Field exposures have helped us spot galaxies from the Universe’s early days. But now, a special Hubble project has used an intervening cluster of galaxies as a lens to spot what appears to be the most distant galaxy ever imaged, one that dates from just 425 million years after the Big Bang.
Since it takes light time to reach us from distant corners of the Universe, the further you look, the older the objects you see. The wavelength of the light also gets shifted towards the red by the expansion of the Universe, which stretches it out as it travels. As you get closer to the Big Bang, light that started out in the UV end of the spectrum gets pushed deeper and deeper into the infrared. To make these galaxies even harder to spot, the extreme distance means that very few photons actually make their way to Earth, so these objects are incredibly dim.
Read more: http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/11/gravitational-lens-magnifies-earliest-galaxy-yet-seen/
The name of this thing is AFGL 3068. It’s been known as a bright infrared source for some time, but images just showed it as a dot. This Hubble image using the Advanced Camera for Surveys reveals an intricate, delicate and exceedingly faint spiral pattern. It’s so faint no one has ever detected it before!
So what’s going on here? First off, this is not a spiral galaxy! It’s a binary star*, two stars that orbit each other, located about 3000 light years away from us. One of the stars is what’s called a carbon star, similar to the Sun but much older. The Sun is still happily fusing hydrogen into helium in its core, but older stars run out of available hydrogen. Eventually, they fuse helium into carbon. When this happens the star swells up and becomes a red giant (note: that’s the brief version; the actual events are a tad more complicated).
Image credit: ESA/NASA
This image snapped by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals an exquisitely detailed view of part of the disc of the spiral galaxy NGC 4565. This bright galaxy is one of the most famous examples of an edge-on spiral galaxy, oriented perpendicularly to our line of sight so that we see right into its luminous disc. NGC 4565 has been nicknamed the Needle Galaxy because, when seen in full, it appears as a very narrow streak of light on the sky.
The edgewise view into the Needle Galaxy shown here looks very similar to the view we have from our Solar System into the core of the Milky Way. In both cases ribbons of dust block some of the light coming from the galactic disc. To the lower right, the dust stands in even starker contrast against the copious yellow light from the star-filled central regions. NGC 4565’s core is off camera to the lower right.
ScienceDaily (July 11, 2012) — A team of astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto.
The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system.
“The moons form a series of neatly nested orbits, a bit like Russian dolls,” said team lead Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.
The discovery increases the number of known moons orbiting Pluto to five.
The Pluto team is intrigued that such a small planet can have such a complex collection of satellites. The new discovery provides additional clues for unraveling how the Pluto system formed and evolved. The favored theory is that all the moons are relics of a collision between Pluto and another large Kuiper belt object billions of years ago.
ScienceDaily (June 26, 2012) — Seeing is believing, except when you don’t believe what you see. Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found a puzzling arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing 10 billion light-years away. The galactic grouping, discovered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, was observed as it existed when the universe was roughly a quarter of its current age of 13.7 billion years. The giant arc is the stretched shape of a more distant galaxy whose light is distorted by the monster cluster’s powerful gravity, an effect called gravitational lensing. The trouble is, the arc shouldn’t exist.
“When I first saw it, I kept staring at it, thinking it would go away,” said study leader Anthony Gonzalez of the University of Florida in Gainesville, whose team includes researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “According to a statistical analysis, arcs should be extremely rare at that distance. At that early epoch, the expectation is that there are not enough galaxies behind the cluster bright enough to be seen, even if they were ‘lensed,’ or distorted by the cluster. The other problem is that galaxy clusters become less massive the further back in time you go. So it’s more difficult to find a cluster with enough mass to be a good lens for gravitationally bending the light from a distant galaxy.”