Greenbelt, MD – Astronomers have caught a rare look at a rapidly fading shroud of gas around an aging star. Archival data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the nebula Hen 3-1357, nicknamed the Stingray nebula, has faded precipitously over just the past two decades. Witnessing such a swift rate of change in a planetary nebula is exceeding rare, say researchers.
Images captured by Hubble in 2016, when compared to Hubble images taken in 1996, show a nebula that has drastically dimmed in brightness and changed shape.
Pasadena, CA – The nebula known as W51 is one of the most active star-forming regions in the Milky Way galaxy. First identified in 1958 by radio telescopes, it makes a rich cosmic tapestry in this image from NASA’s recently retired Spitzer Space Telescope.
Located about 17,000 light-years from Earth, in the direction of the constellation Aquila in the night sky, W51 is about 350 light-years – or about 2 quadrillion miles – across. It is almost invisible to telescopes that collect visible light (the kind human eyes detect), because that light is blocked by interstellar dust clouds that lie between W51 and Earth.
Washington, D.C. – Data from NASA’s New Horizons mission are providing new insights into how planets and planetesimals – the building blocks of the planets – were formed.
The New Horizons spacecraft flew past the ancient Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth (2014 MU69) on January 1st, 2019, providing humankind’s first close-up look at one of the icy remnants of solar system formation in the vast region beyond the orbit of Neptune.
Pasadena, CA – A carved-out cloud of gas and dust looks like a celestial jack-o’-lantern in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
A massive star – known as an O-type star and about 15 to 20 times heavier than the Sun – is likely responsible for sculpting this cosmic pumpkin. A recent study of the region suggests that the powerful outflow of radiation and particles from the star likely swept the surrounding dust and gas outward, creating deep gouges in this cloud, which is known as a nebula.
Pasadena, CA – In this large celestial mosaic taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, there’s a lot to see, including multiple clusters of stars born from the same dense clumps of gas and dust. Some of these clusters are older than others and more evolved, making this a generational stellar portrait.
The grand green-and-orange delta filling most of the image is a faraway nebula, or a cloud of gas and dust in space. Though the cloud may appear to flow from the bright white spot at its tip, it is actually what remains of a much larger cloud that has been carved away by radiation from stars.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – What looks like a red butterfly in space is in reality a nursery for hundreds of baby stars, revealed in this infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
Officially named Westerhout 40 (W40), the butterfly is a nebula – a giant cloud of gas and dust in space where new stars may form. The butterfly’s two “wings” are giant bubbles of hot, interstellar gas blowing from the hottest, most massive stars in this region.
Besides being beautiful, W40 exemplifies how the formation of stars results in the destruction of the very clouds that helped create them.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – This image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Cat’s Paw Nebula, so named for the large, round features that create the impression of a feline footprint. The nebula is a star-forming region in the Milky Way galaxy, located in the constellation Scorpius. Estimates of its distance from Earth range from about 4,200 to about 5,500 light-years.
Framed by green clouds, the bright red bubbles are the dominant feature in the image, which was created using data from two of Spitzer’s instruments.
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, MD – A new study using data from NASA’s NuSTAR space telescope suggests that Eta Carinae, the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light-years of Earth, is accelerating particles to high energies – some of which may reach our planet as cosmic rays.
“We know the blast waves of exploded stars can accelerate cosmic ray particles to speeds comparable to that of light, an incredible energy boost,” said Kenji Hamaguchi, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the lead author of the study. “Similar processes must occur in other extreme environments. Our analysis indicates Eta Carinae is one of them.”
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) captures X-Ray images of Black Holes; Dead Star
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Two new views from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, showcase the telescope’s talent for spying objects near and far. One image shows the energized remains of a dead star, a structure nicknamed the “Hand of God” after its resemblance to a hand. Another image shows distant black holes buried in blankets of dust.
“NuSTAR’s unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light,” said Fiona Harrison, the mission’s principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – A witch appears to be screaming out into space in this new image from NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.
The infrared portrait shows the Witch Head nebula, named after its resemblance to the profile of a wicked witch. Astronomers say the billowy clouds of the nebula, where baby stars are brewing, are being lit up by massive stars.
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