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eagle: Earthrise, photographed from Apollo 11, July 1969.
23 Hasselblad photographs taken from lunar orbit, sometime 19th-22nd July.
Image credit: NASA/JSC, c/o LPI. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.

eagle: Earthrise, photographed from Apollo 11, July 1969.
23 Hasselblad photographs taken from lunar orbit, sometime 19th-22nd July.
Image credit: NASA/JSC, c/o LPI. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.


eagle: Earthrise, photographed from Apollo 11, July 1969.

23 Hasselblad photographs taken from lunar orbit, sometime 19th-22nd July.

Image credit: NASA/JSC, c/o LPI. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.

(via piepieninja)

The Coyote Head Nebula

When searching for the nicest nebulae in the sky it’s nice when your friends help you out. This striking star formation region, mapped in infrared light by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, was recently spotted by one of Spitzer’s Twitter followers searching through the GLIMPSE360 panorama of our Milky Way galaxy.

One of multitudes of star-forming nebulas scattered across the sky, this area had been a bit of a “dirty” secret, tucked away behind a veil of dust that blocks our view in visible light. That obscuring veil fades away under Spitzer’s infrared gaze revealing a collection of young stars bursting out of the dusty gas clouds in which they formed. Astronomers identify this area only by a collection of catalog numbers like IRAS 15541-5349.

Credit: NASA/Spitzer

The Trifid Nebula - M20

The massive star factory known as the Trifid Nebula was captured in all its glory with the Wide-Field Imager camera attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in northern Chile. The nebula is named after the dark dust bands that trisect its glowing heart, the Trifid Nebula is a rare combination of three nebulae types that reveal the fury of freshly formed stars and point to more star birth in the future.

Credit: ESO/MPG

A Rose in Space - NGC 2237

This flower-shaped nebula, also known by the less romantic name NGC 2237, is a huge star-forming cloud of dust and gas in our Milky Way galaxy. Estimates of the nebula’s distance vary from 4,500 to 5,000 light-years away.

At the center of the flower is a cluster of young stars called NGC 2244. The most massive stars produce huge amounts of ultraviolet radiation, and blow strong winds that erode away the nearby gas and dust, creating a large, central hole. The radiation also strips electrons from the surrounding hydrogen gas, ionizing it and creating what astronomers call an HII region.

Credit: NASA/JPL

A Stellar Storm in NGC 3603

This infrared image taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows a star-forming cloud teeming with gas, dust and massive newborn stars. The inset reveals the very center of the cloud, a cluster of stars called NGC 3603. It was taken in visible light by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

WISE, which is surveying the whole sky in infrared light, is particularly sensitive to the warm dust that permeates star-forming clouds like this one. In this way, WISE complements visible-light observations.

The mission also complements Hubble and other telescopes by showing the ‘big picture,” providing context for more detailed observations. For example, the WISE picture here is 2,500 times larger than the Hubble inset. While the Hubble view shows the details of the hot young star cluster, the WISE picture shows the effects that this stellar powerhouse has on its neighborhood.

Credit: NASA/JPL

Super Nova Cassiopiea A

Cassiopeia A is a supernova remnant in the constellation Cassiopeia and the brightest extrasolar radio source in the sky at frequencies above 1 GHz. The supernova occurred approximately 11,000 light-years (3.4 kpc) away in the Milky Way. The expanding cloud of material left over from the supernova now appears approximately 10 light-years (3 pc) across from Earth’s perspective (within the Milky Way Galaxy). Despite its radio brilliance, however, it is extremely faint optically, and is only visible on long-exposure photographs.

It is believed that first light from the stellar explosion reached Earth approximately 300 years ago but there are no historical records of any sightings of the progenitor supernova, probably due to interstellar dust absorbing optical wavelength radiation before it reached Earth (although it is possible that it was recorded as a sixth magnitude star 3 Cassiopeiae by John Flamsteed on August 16, 1680). Possible explanations lean toward the idea that the source star was unusually massive and had previously ejected much of its outer layers. These outer layers would have cloaked the star and reabsorbed much of the light released as the inner star collapsed.

Credit: NASA

New Structures found in the Milky Way - A Black Hole’s Eruption

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way. The feature spans 50,000 light-years and may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy.

“What we see are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and south of the galactic center,” said Doug Finkbeiner, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who first recognized the feature. “We don’t fully understand their nature or origin.”

The structure spans more than half of the visible sky, from the constellation Virgo to the constellation Grus, and it may be millions of years old. A paper about the findings has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Finkbeiner and his team discovered the bubbles by processing publicly available data from Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT). The LAT is the most sensitive and highest-resolution gamma-ray detector ever launched. Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of light.

From end to end, the newly discovered gamma-ray bubbles extend 50,000 light-years, or roughly half of the Milky Way’s diameter, as shown in this illustration. Hints of the bubbles’ edges were first observed in X-rays (blue) by ROSAT, a Germany-led mission operating in the 1990s. The gamma rays mapped by Fermi (magenta) extend much farther from the galaxy’s plane.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Stellar Snowflake Cluster

Newborn stars, hidden behind thick dust, are revealed in this image of a section of the Christmas Tree Cluster from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The newly revealed infant stars appear as pink and red specks toward the center and appear to have formed in regularly spaced intervals along linear structures in a configuration that resembles the spokes of a wheel or the pattern of a snowflake. Hence, astronomers have nicknamed this the “Snowflake Cluster.”

Star-forming clouds like this one are dynamic and evolving structures. Since the stars trace the straight line pattern of spokes of a wheel, scientists believe that these are newborn stars, or “protostars.” At a mere 100,000 years old, these infant structures have yet to “crawl” away from their location of birth. Over time, the natural drifting motions of each star will break this order, and the snowflake design will be no more.

While most of the visible-light stars that give the Christmas Tree Cluster its name and triangular shape do not shine brightly in Spitzer’s infrared eyes, all of the stars forming from this dusty cloud are considered part of the cluster.

Like a dusty cosmic finger pointing up to the newborn clusters, Spitzer also illuminates the optically dark and dense Cone Nebula, the tip of which can be seen towards the bottom left corner of the image.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/P.S. Teixeira (Center for Astrophysics)

The Fairy of the Eagle Nebula

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 Eagle Nebula that might be described as a gigantic alien fairy. 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.

 Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA

The Milky Way’s Center seen in Infrared

This dazzling infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows hundreds of thousands of stars crowded into the swirling core of our spiral Milky Way galaxy. In visible-light pictures, this region cannot be seen at all because dust lying between Earth and the galactic center blocks our view.

Credit: NASA/Spitzer