Sep 12

Hubble goes to the eXtreme to assemble the deepest ever view of the Universe

Source: ESA/Hubble heic1214

The Hubble eXtreme Deep Field .
Image credits: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth, D. Magee, and
P. Oesch (University of California, Santa Cruz),
R. Bouwens (Leiden University), and the HUDF09 Team

 Like photographers assembling a portfolio of their best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of our deepest-ever view of the Universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining ten years of NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observations taken of a patch of sky within the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. By collecting faint light over one million seconds of observation, the resulting image revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the Universe ever taken at that time.

The new full-colour XDF image is even more sensitive than the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field image, thanks to the additional observations, and contains about 5500 galaxies, even within its smaller field of view. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness that the unaided human eye can see. (read more)

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Sep 12

Weird Planets

Source: NASA Science Casts

Once, astronomers thought planets couldn't form around binary stars. Now Kepler has found a whole system of planets orbiting a double star. This finding shows that planetary systems are weirder and more abundant than previously thought.

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Sep 12

Hubble portrays a dusty spiral galaxy

Source: ESA

The galaxy NGC4183.
Image credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has provided us with another outstanding image of a nearby galaxy. This week, we highlight the galaxy NGC 4183, seen here with a beautiful backdrop of distant galaxies and nearby stars.

Located about 55 million light-years from the Sun and spanning about
80 000 light-years, NGC 4183 is a little smaller than the Milky Way. This galaxy, which belongs to the Ursa Major Group, lies in the northern constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs).

NGC 4183 is a spiral galaxy with a faint core and an open spiral structure. Unfortunately, this galaxy is viewed edge-on from Earth, and we cannot fully appreciate its spiral arms. But we can admire its galactic disc. (read more)

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Sep 12

Curiosity Rover targets unusual rock en route to first destination

Source: NASA

he drive by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity during the mission's 43rd Martian day,or sol,
(Sept. 19, 2012) ended with this rock about 8 feet (2.5 meters) in front of the rover.
Image credits: NASA/JPL - Caltech.

Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from Curiosity's landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs.

Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be used for identifying elements in the rock. This will allow cross-checking of the two instruments.

The rock has been named "Jake Matijevic." Jacob Matijevic (mah-TEE-uh-vik) was the surface operations systems chief engineer for Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the project's Curiosity rover. He passed away Aug. 20, at age 64.  Matijevic also was a leading engineer for all of the previous NASA Mars rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity.

Curiosity now has driven six days in a row. Daily distances range from 72 feet to 121 feet (22 meters to 37 meters). (read more)

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Sep 12

A New View of The Pencil Nebula

Source: ESO

The Pencil Nebula, a strangely shaped leftover from a vast explosion.
Image credits: ESO.

The Pencil Nebula is pictured in a new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. This peculiar cloud of glowing gas is part of a huge ring of wreckage left over after a supernova explosion that took place about 11 000 years ago. This detailed view was produced by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope. (read more)

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Sep 12

Scrambling Saturn’s B-ring

Credit: ESA

Ring clumps and strands.
Image credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Clumpy particles in Saturn’s B-ring provide stark contrast to the delicately ordered ringlets seen in the rest of this view presented by the Cassini spacecraft.

Saturn’s B-ring is the largest and brightest of the gas giant’s rings, the outer portion of which is seen in the left side of this image.

The ring’s outside edge is influenced by meddling moon Mimas, which orbits the planet once for every two circuits the icy ring particles complete.

These periodic gravity perturbations are thought to compress the ring particles into clumps, while maintaining the ring’s well-defined outer edge.

Beyond the B-ring lies the Huygens gap, the widest dark void visible in this image, punctuated only by the bright Huygens ringlet. The 4800 km-wide Cassini Division separates the B-ring from the outermost A-ring, but itself is marked out with faint, concentric strands of ring material.

From Earth, the Cassini Division appears as a thin black gap in Saturn’s rings, but close-up views from spacecraft expose the delicate structures in fine detail.

This image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on 10 July 2009 from a distance of 320 000 km from Saturn.

Cassini is a joint mission between ESA, NASA and ASI and has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004. It is now in its second extended mission phase, the Cassini Solstice Mission, which will continue until 2017. (read more)

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Sep 12

A Family Portrait of Galaxies

Source: ESA/Hubble Photo Release heic1213

Hubble image of Arp 11.
Image credits: NASA/ESA

Two very different galaxies feature in this family portrait taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, together forming a peculiar galaxy pair called Arp 116. The image shows the dramatic differences in size, structure and colour between spiral and elliptical galaxies.(read more)

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Sep 12

Is Triton Hiding an Underground Ocean?

At 1,680 miles (2,700 km) across, the frigid and wrinkled Triton is Neptune’s largest moon and the seventh largest in the Solar System. It orbits the planet backwards – that is, in the opposite direction that Neptune rotates – and is the only large moon to do so, leading astronomers to believe that Triton is actually a captured Kuiper Belt Object that fell into orbit around Neptune at some point in our solar system’s nearly 4.7-billion-year history.

Briefly visited by Voyager 2 in late August 1989, Triton was found to have a curiously mottled and rather reflective surface nearly half-covered with a bumpy “cantaloupe terrain” and a crust made up of mostly water ice, wrapped around a dense core of metallic rock. But researchers from the University of Maryland are suggesting that between the ice and rock may lie a hidden ocean of water, kept liquid despite estimated temperatures of -97°C (-143°F), making Triton yet another moon that could have a subsurface sea.

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Sep 12

Curiosity on the Move!

Source: Universe Today

The beginning of Curiosity’s journeys.
Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Yes, the Curiosity rover is on the move, evidenced by the rover tracks seen from above by the outstanding HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. If you look closely, visible are the rover’s wheels and even the camera mast. While this image’s color has been enhanced to show the surface details better, this is still an amazing view of Curiosity’s activities, displaying the incredible resolving power of the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment.

“These are great pictures that help us see context,” said Curiosity mission manager Mike Watkins at a press conference today. “Plus they’re just amazing photos.”

The two “blue” marks (blue is, of course, false color) seen near the site where the rover landed were formed when reddish surface dust was blown away by the rover’s descent stage, revealing darker basaltic sands underneath. Similarly, the tracks appear darker where the rover’s wheels disturbed the top layer of dust.

Below is another great view showing Curiosity’s parachute and backshell in color, highlighting the color variations in the parachute, along with a map of where Curiosity has been and will be going.

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Sep 12

A Cluster with a Secret

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1235

Globular star cluster Messier 4.
Image credits:ESO. Acknowledgement: ESO Imaging Survey.

A new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the spectacular globular star cluster Messier 4. This ball of tens of thousands of ancient stars is one of the closest and most studied of the globular clusters and recent work has revealed that one of its stars has strange and unexpected properties, apparently possessing the secret of eternal youth. (read more)

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Sep 12

WISE Survey Uncovers Millions of Black Holes


WISE has identified millions of quasar candidates.
Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has led to a bonanza of newfound supermassive black holes and extreme galaxies called hot DOGs, or dust-obscured galaxies.

Images from the telescope have revealed millions of dusty black hole candidates across the universe and about 1,000 even dustier objects thought to be among the brightest galaxies ever found. These powerful galaxies, which burn brightly with infrared light, are nicknamed hot DOGs.(read more)

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Sep 12

Sweet Result from ALMA — Building blocks of life found around young star

Source: ESO Science Release eso1234

Artist's impression of sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young Sun-like star.
Image credits: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/L. Calçada (ESO) & NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team.

A team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has spotted sugar molecules in the gas surrounding a young Sun-like star. This is the first time sugar been found in space around such a star, and the discovery shows that the building blocks of life are in the right place, at the right time, to be included in planets forming around the star.(read more)

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