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Old 21-10-2011, 03:29 AM   #501
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A Dusty Iris Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: Máximo Ruiz Explanation: These clouds of interstellar dust and gas have blossomed 1,300 light-years away in the fertile star fields of the constellation Cepheus. Sometimes called the Iris Nebula and dutifully cataloged as NGC 7023, this is not the only nebula in the sky to evoke the imagery of flowers. Surrounding it, obscuring clouds of dust and cold molecular gas are also present and can suggest other convoluted and fantastic shapes. Within the Iris, the dusty nebular material surrounds a hot, young star. The dominant color of the brighter reflection nebula is blue, characteristic of dust grains reflecting starlight. Central filaments of the cosmic dust glow with a faint reddish photoluminesence as some dust grains effectively convert the star's invisible ultraviolet radiation to visible red light. Infrared observations indicate that this nebula may contain complex carbon molecules known as PAHs. At the estimated distance of the Iris Nebula this remarkable wide field view is over 30 light-years across.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:32 AM   #502
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A Summer Night's Dream
Image Credit & Copyright: Mike Rosinski Explanation: Fix your digital camera to a tripod, start a long series of exposures, and you too can record star trails. The concentric arcs traced by the stars as planet Earth rotates on its axis often produce dreamlike scenes in otherwise familiar situations. Fall asleep, though, and the results might surprise you. Setting up on a summer night, photographer Mike Rosinski began his exposures, initially planning to capture about 45-55 minutes worth of star trails from his yard in Hartland, Michigan, USA. But he dozed, only to awaken some 3 hours later to find his camera had continued to run until the battery died. Composing the resulting images, the graceful concentric star trails were expected, along with light from a late rising Moon glinting on windows. Still, as he slept on the warm night a blizzard of yellow streaks flooded the scene, not left by fairies but fireflies.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:35 AM   #503
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Comet Garradd and Messier 15
Image Credit & Copyright: Gregg Ruppel Explanation: Recorded on August 2, this telescopic composite image catches Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) in the same field of view as globular star cluster M15. The celestial scene would have been a rewarding one for influential 18th century comet hunter Charles Messier. While Messier scanned French skies for comets, he carefully cataloged positions of things which might be fuzzy and comet-like in appearance but did not move against the background stars and so were definitely not comets. M15 (lower right), the 15th entry in his famous not-a-comet catalog, is now understood to be a cluster of over 100,000 stars some 35,000 light-years distant. The comet, discovered in August 2009 by astronomer G. J. Garradd (Siding Spring Observatory, Australia) is currently sweeping across the constellation Pegasus, some 13 light-minutes from Earth. Shining faintly around 9th magnitude, comet Garradd will brighten in the coming months, predicted to be just below naked eye visibility near its peak in February 2012.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:44 AM   #504
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MyCn18: An Hourglass Planetary Nebula
Image Credit: R. Sahai and J. Trauger (JPL), WFPC2, HST, NASA Explanation: The sands of time are running out for the central star of this hourglass-shaped . With its nuclear fuel exhausted, this brief, spectacular, closing phase of a Sun-like star's life occurs as its outer layers are ejected - its core becoming a cooling, fading white dwarf. In 1995, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to make a series of images of planetary nebulae, including the one above. Here, delicate rings of colorful glowing gas (nitrogen-red, -green, and oxygen-blue) outline the tenuous walls of the hourglass. The unprecedented sharpness of the HST images has revealed surprising details of the nebula ejection process that are helping to resolve the outstanding mysteries of the complex shapes and symmetries of planetary nebulas.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:46 AM   #505
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NGC 7331 and Beyond
Image Credit & Copyright: Ken Crawford (Rancho Del Sol Obs.) Explanation: Big, beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 7331 is often touted as an analog to our own Milky Way. About 50 million light-years distant in the northern constellation Pegasus, NGC 7331 was recognized early on as a spiral nebula and is actually one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier's famous 18th century catalog. Since the galaxy's disk is inclined to our line-of-sight, long telescopic exposures often result in an image that evokes a strong sense of depth. The effect is further enhanced in this sharp image by galaxies that lie beyond the gorgeous island universe. The background galaxies are about one tenth the apparent size of NGC 7331 and so lie roughly ten times farther away. Their close alignment on the sky with NGC 7331 occurs just by chance. Seen here through faint foreground dust clouds lingering above the plane of Milky Way, this visual grouping of galaxies is also known as the Deer Lick Group.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:47 AM   #506
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Shapley 1: An Annular Planetary Nebula
Image Credit: ESO Explanation: What happens when a star runs out of nuclear fuel? For stars about the mass of our Sun, the center condenses into a white dwarf while the outer atmospheric layers are expelled into space and appear as a . This particular planetary nebula, pictured above and designated Shapley 1 after the famous astronomer Harlow Shapley, has a very apparent annular ring like structure. Although some of these nebulas appear like planets on the sky (hence their name), they actually surround stars far outside our Solar System.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:47 AM   #507
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Herschel's Cocoon
Credit: ESA, SPIRE & PACS Consortia, Doris Arzoumanian (CEA Saclay), et al. Explanation: In this remarkable infrared skyscape of interstellar clouds adrift in the high flying constellation Cygnus, the eye is drawn to the Cocoon Nebula. Also known as IC5146, the dusty star forming region is shown in blue hues in the Herschel Space Observatory false color image, at wavelengths more than 100 times longer than visible red light. And while visible light images show the Cocoon nebula at the end of long dark nebula Barnard 168, Hershel's infrared view finds the cosmic Cocoon punctuating a trail of filamentary clouds of glowing dust. The filaments have widths that suggest they are formed as shockwaves from exploding stars travel through the medium, sweeping up and compressing the interstellar dust and gas. Herschel data also indicate stars are forming along the dusty filaments. The Cocoon Nebula itself is about 15 light-years wide and 4,000 light-years away.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:49 AM   #508
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The Fairy of Eagle Nebula
Image Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA Explanation: The dust sculptures of the Eagle Nebula are evaporating. As powerful starlight whittles away these cool cosmic mountains, the statuesque pillars that remain might be imagined as mythical beasts. Pictured above is one of several striking dust pillars of the that might be described as a gigantic alien . This fairy, however, is ten light years tall and spews radiation much hotter than common fire. The greater Eagle Nebula, M16, is actually a giant evaporating shell of gas and dust inside of which is a growing cavity filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an open cluster of stars. The above image in scientifically re-assigned colors was released in 2005 as part of the fifteenth anniversary celebration of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:50 AM   #509
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TrES-2b: Dark Planet
Illustration Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA), TrES, Kepler, NASA Explanation: Why is this planet so dark? Planet TrES-2b reflects back less than one percent of the light it receives, making it darker than any known planet or moon, darker even than . Jupiter-sized orbits extremely close to a sun-like star 750 light years away, and was discovered producing slight eclipses in 2006 using the modest 10-cm telescopes of the Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey (TrES). The alien world's strange darkness, however, was only uncovered recently by observations indicating its slight reflective glow by the Sun-orbiting Kepler satellite. An artist's drawing of planet is shown above, complete with unsubstantiated speculation on possible moons. Reasons for TrES-2b's darkness remain unknown and are an active topic of research.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:53 AM   #510
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Portrait of NGC 281
Image Credit & Copyright: J-P Metsävainio (Astro Anarchy) Explanation: Look through the cosmic cloud cataloged as NGC 281 and it's almost easy to miss stars of open cluster IC 1590. But, formed within the nebula, that cluster's young, massive stars ultimately power the pervasive nebular glow. The eye-catching shapes looming in this portrait of NGC 281 are sculpted columns and dense dust globules seen in silhouette, eroded by intense, energetic winds and radiation from the hot cluster stars. If they survive long enough, the dusty structures could also be sites of future star formation. Playfully called the Pacman Nebula because of its overall shape, NGC 281 is about 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. This composite image was made through narrow-band filters, but combines emission from the nebula's hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen atoms in a visible spectrum palette. It spans over 80 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 281.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:54 AM   #511
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A Young Supernova in the Nearby Pinwheel Galaxy
Image Credit: D. Andrew Howell & BJ Fulton (LCOGT) et al., Faulkes Telescope North, LCOGT Explanation: A nearby star has exploded and telescopes all over the world are turning to monitor it. The supernova, dubbed PTF 11kly, was discovered by computer only two days ago as part of the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) sky survey utilizing the wide angle 1.2-meter Samuel Oschin Telescope in California. Its rapid recovery makes it one of the supernovas caught most soon after ignition. PTF 11kly occurred in the photogenic Pinwheel galaxy (M101), which, being only about 21 million light years away, makes it one of the closest supernovas seen in decades. Rapid follow up observations have already given a clear indication that PTF 11kly is a , a type of detonation that usually progresses in such a standard manner than it has helped to calibrate the expansion history of the entire universe. Studying such a close and young event, however, may yield new and unique clues. If early indications are correct, PTF 11kly should brighten to about visual magnitude 10 in the coming weeks, making it possible to monitor with even moderately sized telescopes.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:55 AM   #512
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A Jet from Galaxy M87
Image Credit: J. A. Biretta et al., Hubble Heritage Team (STScI /AURA), NASA Explanation: What's causing a huge jet to emanate from the center of galaxy M87? Although the unusual jet was first noticed early in the twentieth century, the exact cause is still debated. The above picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1998 shows clear details, however. The most popular hypothesis holds that the jet is created by energetic gas swirling around a massive black hole at the galaxy's center. The result is a 5000 light-year long where electrons are ejected outward at near light-speed, during a magnetic spiral. M87 is a giant elliptical galaxy residing only 50 million light-years away in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies. The faint dots of light M87's center are large ancient globular clusters of stars.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:56 AM   #513
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Hickson 44 in Leo
Image Credit & Copyright: Stephen Leshin Explanation: Scanning the skies for galaxies, Canadian astronomer Paul Hickson and colleagues identified some 100 compact groups of galaxies, now appropriately called Hickson Compact Groups. The four prominent galaxies seen in this intriguing telescopic skyscape are one such group, Hickson 44, about 100 million light-years distant toward the constellation Leo. The two spiral galaxies in the center of the image are edge-on NGC 3190 with its distinctive, warped dust lanes, and S-shaped NGC 3187. Along with the bright elliptical, NGC 3193 at the right, they are also known as Arp 316. The spiral in the upper left corner is NGC 3185, the 4th member of the Hickson group. Like other galaxies in Hickson groups, these show signs of distortion and enhanced star formation, evidence of a gravitational tug of war that will eventually result in galaxy mergers on a cosmic timescale. The merger process is now understood to be a normal part of the evolution of galaxies, including our own Milky Way. For scale, NGC 3190 is about 75,000 light-years across at the estimated distance of Hickson 44.
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:57 AM   #514
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The Coldest Brown Dwarf
Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, WISE Explanation: This cosmic snapshot composed with image data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite captures a multitude of faint stars and distant galaxies toward the constellation Lyra at wavelengths longer than visible light. But the object circled at the center is not quite a star. Cataloged as WISE 1828+2650, it lies within 40 light-years of the Sun and is currently the coldest brown dwarf known. A brown dwarf begins like a star, with the gravitational collapse of a dense cloud of gas and dust, but is not massive enough to achieve the core temperatures and densities that trigger hydrogen fusion, the stable source of a star's energy. Instead the failed star ultimately cools and emits most of its light at infrared wavelengths. Remarkably, brown dwarfs are roughly the size of the planet Jupiter. How cold is WISE 1828+2650? While brown dwarfs have measured surface temperatures of up to 1,400 degrees C (2,600 degress F), this brown dwarf , assigned to spectral class Y, has the estimated temperature of a warm room, less than about 27 degrees C (80 degrees F).
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Old 21-10-2011, 03:58 AM   #515
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M27: Not a Comet
Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh Explanation: While hunting for comets in the skies above 18th century France, astronomer Charles Messier diligently kept a list of the things he encountered that were definitely not comets. This is number 27 on his now famous not-a-comet list. In fact, 21st century astronomers would identify it as a planetary nebula, but it's not a planet either, even though it may appear round and planet-like in a small telescope. Messier 27 (M27) is an excellent example of a gaseous emission nebula created as a sun-like star runs out of nuclear fuel in its core. The nebula forms as the star's outer layers are expelled into space, with a visible glow generated by atoms excited by the dying star's intense but invisible ultraviolet light. Known by the popular name of the Dumbbell Nebula, the beautifully symmetric interstellar gas cloud is over 2.5 light-years across and about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula. This impressive color composite highlights details within the well-studied central region and fainter, seldom imaged features in the nebula's outer halo. It incorporates broad and narrowband images recorded using filters sensitive to emission from sulfur, hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
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Old 21-10-2011, 04:44 AM   #516
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Herschel Views the Milky Way
Credit: ESA, SPIRE & PACS Consortia Explanation: With a 3.5 meter diameter mirror, larger than the Hubble Space Telescope, ESA's Herschel Space Observatory explores the Universe at infrared wavelengths. Herschel is named for German-born British astronomer Frederick William Herschel who discovered infrared light over 200 years ago. Herschel's sensitive cameras have combined to deliver this spectacular skyscape looking toward the constellation of the Southern Cross. Spanning some 2 degrees the premier, false-color, far-infrared view captures our galaxy's cold dust clouds in extreme detail, showing a remarkable, connected maze of filaments and star-forming regions. Such observations are intended to unravel mysteries of star formation by surveying broad areas of the galactic plane.
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Old 21-10-2011, 04:45 AM   #517
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Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars
Image Credit: Richard Tresch Fienberg (AAS) Explanation: Comet Garradd continues to brighten as it drifts across the northern sky. Last week the comet, visible with binoculars and discernible by its green coma, passed nearly in front of globular cluster M71. was once thought to be an open cluster, but is now known to be an older globular cluster containing over 10,000 stars. The photogenic duo was captured with a standard digital camera in a 10-minute, wide-angle exposure toward the northern constellation of the Arrow (Sagitta). The stars (alpha Sagittae), beta Sagittae, gamma Sagittae, and the double star delta Sagittae are all visible in a diagonal band running down from the upper left. Comet C/2009 P1 (Garradd), will remain visible in northern skies for months and will reach its closest approach to the Sun in December.
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Old 21-10-2011, 04:48 AM   #518
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M6: The Butterfly Cluster
Image Credit & Copyright: Sergio Eguivar Buenos Aires Skies Explanation: To some, the outline of the open cluster of stars M6 resembles a butterfly. M6, also known as NGC 6405, spans about 20 light-years and lies about 2,000 light years distant. M6 can best be seen in a dark sky with binoculars towards the constellation of Scorpius, coving about as much of the sky as the full moon. Like other , M6 is composed predominantly of young blue stars, although the brightest star is nearly orange. M6 is estimated to be about 100 million years old. Determining the distance to clusters like helps astronomers calibrate the distance scale of the universe.
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Old 21-10-2011, 04:49 AM   #519
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Comet Garradd and the Coat Hanger
Image Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo Explanation: Sweeping through planet Earth's night sky, last weekend Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1) visited this lovely star field along the Milky Way in the constellation Vulpecula. Suggestively oriented, the colorful skyscape features stars in the asterism known as the Coat Hanger with the comet's tail pointing toward the southeast. Also known as Al Sufi's Cluster, the Coat Hanger itself is likely just a chance alignment and not a cluster of related stars. But compact open star cluster NGC 6802 does grace the field of view just right of the Coat Hanger, near the edge of the frame. Below naked eye visibility but approaching 7th magnitude in brightness, Comet Garradd has been a good target for binoculars and small telescopes. Still, bright moonlit skies this week will make the comet harder to spot.
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Old 21-10-2011, 04:50 AM   #520
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Great Orion Nebulae
Image Credit & Copyright: Jesús Vargas (Astrogades) & Maritxu Poyal (Maritxu) Explanation: The , also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulas in the sky. The star forming region's glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are on the right in this sharp and colorful image that includes the smaller nebula M43 near center and dusty, bluish reflection nebulae NGC 1977 and friends on the left. Located at the edge of an otherwise invisible giant molecular cloud complex, these eye-catching nebulae represent only a small fraction of this galactic neighborhood's wealth of interstellar material. Within the well-studied stellar nursery, astronomers have also identified what appear to be numerous infant planetary systems. The gorgeous skyscape spans nearly two degrees or about 45 light-years at the 's estimated distance of 1,500 light-years.
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