Credits: NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (PSI), C.M. Lisse (JHU/APL), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
4229 Galaxy Cluster Abell 370
This image shows a massive galaxy cluster embedded in the middle of a field of nearly 8,000 galaxies scattered across space and time. This "galaxies galore" snapshot is from a new Hubble Space Telescope survey to boldly expand its view by significantly enlarging the area covered around huge galaxy clusters previously photographed by Hubble. The program, called Beyond Ultra-deep Frontier Fields And Legacy Observations (BUFFALO), is built around the six massive galaxy clusters that Hubble first observed under its Frontier Fields program. In this view the huge cluster Abell 370, located about 4 billion light-years away, lies in the center of this image. It contains several hundred galaxies. The mosaic of fields flanking the cluster contains myriad background galaxies flung across space and time. Massive galaxy clusters like Abell 370 are mainly composed of dark matter. Their large masses distort space, turning them into gravitational lenses that magnify and distort the light coming from distant background galaxies. The Frontier Fields program, a previous joint effort from NASA's Great Observatories to study several clusters, allowed for the discovery of background galaxies and supernovas that are so distant and faint that they could not have been photographed by Hubble without the aid of this additional gravitational amplification. The regions that Hubble will map for BUFFALO were previously observed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope for the Frontier Fields program, in which Spitzer and Hubble worked together to detect and study some of the universe’s earliest galaxies. Spitzer imaged a much larger area of the sky than Hubble but could not measure the distances to the galaxies it observed in those regions. With BUFFALO, Hubble is now coming back to the full area of sky covered by Spitzer, to measure the distances to thousands of galaxies. This is important because the six fields observed by Hubble are relatively small and might not fully represent the number of early galaxies in the wider universe. Abell 370 is the first cluster to be observed. An important motive for the BUFFALO program is the possibility that there may be significantly fewer than predicted extremely distant galaxies found in the Frontier Fields survey. This led astronomers to propose expanding the search area around each Frontier Fields cluster to seek out more distant galaxies, and therefore more accurately determine the numbers of such galaxies. Although the Frontier Fields have already discovered some of the earliest galaxies, these fields are comparatively small and so may not represent the universe at large. This dilemma for cosmologists is called cosmic variance. By expanding the survey area, such uncertainties in the structure of the universe can be reduced. This means conducting a concise census of the first galaxies in as wide of an area as feasible. The goal is to improve the probability of identifying some of the rare regions of space with a concentration of early galaxies and the far more common regions that had not yet been able to form galaxies so quickly. Because Frontier Fields observations have already established what the first galaxies look like, the wider area of BUFFALO will enable searches for these galaxies several times more efficiently than the original Frontier Fields. It will also take advantage of observations from other space telescopes, including ultra-deep Spitzer Space Telescope observations that already exist around these clusters. The BUFFALO program is designed to identify galaxies in their earliest stages of formation, less than 800 million years after the big bang. These galaxies should help shed light on the processes by which galaxies first assembled. One of BUFFALO’s key goals is to determine how rapidly galaxies formed in this early epoch. This will help astronomers design strategies for using NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to probe the distant universe with its infrared vision. Astronomers anticipate that the survey will yield new insights into when the most massive and luminous galaxies formed and how they are linked to dark matter, and how the dynamics of the clusters influence the galaxies in and around them. The survey also will provide a chance to pinpoint images of distant galaxies and supernovas. The BUFFALO program is jointly led by Charles Steinhardt (Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen) and Mathilde Jauzac (Durham University, UK), and involves an international team of nearly 100 astronomers from 13 countries, including experts in theory, in computer simulations, and in observations of early galactic evolution, gravitational lensing, and supernovas. Approximately 160 hours of Hubble observing time is scheduled for the BUFFALO project. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.
Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Koekemoer (STScI), M. Jauzac (Durham University), C. Steinhardt (Niels Bohr Institute), and the BUFFALO team
3875 Planetary Nebula NGC 6302
The spectacular planetary nebula NGC 6302 lies roughly 3,800 light-years away in the constellation Scorpius. More popularly known as the Bug Nebula or the Butterfly Nebula, this celestial object looks like a delicate butterfly. But what resemble dainty wings are actually roiling regions of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The gas is tearing across space at more than 600,000 miles an hour — fast enough to travel from Earth to the Moon in 24 minutes. The glowing gas is the star's outer layers, expelled over about 2,200 years. The "butterfly" stretches for more than two light-years, which is about half the distance from the Sun to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. A dying star that was once about five times the mass of the Sun is at the center of this fury. It has ejected its envelope of gases and is now unleashing a stream of ultraviolet radiation that is making the cast-off material glow. This object is an example of a planetary nebula, so-named because many of them have a round appearance resembling that of a planet when viewed through a small telescope. The central star itself cannot be seen, because it is hidden within a doughnut-shaped ring of dust, or torus, which appears as a dark band pinching the nebula in the center. The thick dust belt constricts the star's outflow, creating the classic "bipolar" or hourglass shape displayed by some planetary nebulae. The star's surface temperature is estimated to be about 400,000 degrees Fahrenheit, making it one of the hottest known stars in our galaxy. Spectroscopic observations made with ground-based telescopes show that the gas is roughly 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is unusually hot compared to a typical planetary nebula. Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) reveals a complex history of ejections from the star. The star first evolved into a red giant with a diameter of about 1,000 times that of our Sun. It then lost its extended outer layers. Some of this gas was cast off from its equator at a relatively slow speed, perhaps as low as 20,000 miles an hour, creating the torus. Other gas was ejected perpendicular to the ring at higher speeds, producing the elongated lobes or "wings" of the butterfly-shaped structure. Later, as the central star heated up, a much faster stellar wind (a stream of charged particles traveling at more than 2 million miles an hour) plowed through the existing wing-shaped structure, further modifying its shape. The image also shows numerous finger-like projections pointing back to the star, which may mark denser blobs in the outflow that have resisted the pressure from the stellar wind. The nebula's reddish outer edges are largely due to light emitted by nitrogen, which marks the coolest gas visible in the Hubble image. WFC3 is equipped with a wide variety of filters that isolate light emitted by various chemical elements, allowing astronomers to infer properties of the nebular gas, such as its temperature, density, and composition. The white-colored regions are areas where light is emitted by sulfur. These are regions where fast-moving gas overtakes and collides with slow-moving gas that left the star at an earlier time, producing shock waves in the gas (the bright white edges on the sides facing the central star). The white blob with the crisp edge at upper right is an example of one of those shock waves. Using Hubble data in 2009, Cezary Szyszka of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and collaborators directly detected NGC 6302's central star for the first time. In 2011, Szyszka and his team further analyzed Hubble data to determine the motions of two lobes of the ejected material, which appear to have been created rapidly in an event 2,250 years ago. Other parts of the nebula, specifically the dense massive torus of molecular material, was produced more slowly, starting about 5,000 years ago and then terminating about 2,900 years ago, preceding the lobe ejection. This time delay gives clues to how the stellar system was modified through the final stages of the central star. In 2014, Lucero Uscanga of the Institute of Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space Applications and Remote Sensing, National Observatory of Athens, and collaborators were able to use Hubble data to model both the complex shape and also the movement of the nebula, possibly caused by the interaction of two stellar winds. Constellation: Scorpius Distance: 3,800 light-years (1,200 parsecs) Instrument: Wide Field Camera 3/IR Image Filters: F373N ([O II]), F469N (He II), F502N ([O III]), F656N (H-alpha), F658N ([N II]), F673N ([S II])
Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
1459 Close-Up of Galaxies from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image
Credits: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team
444 Hubble Follows Rapid Changes in Jupiter's Aurora
Hubble Space Telescope's sharp view of the rapid, spectacular dance of luminescent gasses high in Jupiter's atmosphere - better known as aurora - is allowing astronomers to map Jupiter's immense magnetic field and better understand how it generates such phenomena. "Now that we have pinpointed the general location of the auroral curtains and have mapped their daily changes, eventually we should be able to find out what causes the aurora on Jupiter," said John T. Clarke, an astronomer at the University of Michigan's College of Engineering. The new Hubble observations simultaneously show warped oval rings at the north and south poles (offset from Jupiter's spin axis by 10-15 degrees), as well as an auroral "footprint" created by a river of electrical current of about one million amperes flowing between Jupiter and the volcanic moon Io. The Hubble images provide enough detail to allow Clarke and his colleagues to record daily changes in the auroras' intensity and motion. They find that changes in brightness occur over the course of a Jovian day, perhaps due to compression of Jupiter's magnetic field on the sun-facing side of the planet. They also find emission features that are fixed on the planet, co-rotating with it. This global view is complemented by in situ measurements of the magnetic field and charged particles by the Galileo spacecraft, now orbiting Jupiter. By comparing close-up and global views scientists expect to refine theories about how Jupiter creates and maintains its electrical, incandescent light shows. The team of scientists, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD and other institutions, studied Jupiter's auroras for two years with the telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Their results have led to two papers, one first authored by Clarke and the other by Gilda Ballester, also of the University of Michigan's College of Engineering. Both papers appear in the October 18 issue of Science. The images, taken in ultraviolet light, are the most sensitive and sharply-detailed views of the auroras to date. Previous observations of Jupiter's aurora have been recorded by Hubble's Faint Object Camera and by ground-based telescopes using near-infrared filters. Hubble sees features as small as 186 miles across (300 kilometers). This allows Clarke and his colleagues to watch small-scale, rapid changes in the auroral pattern, map changes in both magnetic poles, and pinpoint the effects of emissions from Io. Auroras occur when charged particles (electrons, protons, and positive ions) are captured in the magnetic field surrounding a planet. Falling toward the magnetic north and south poles, they collide with molecules and atoms in a planet's upper atmosphere. The atoms become energized and release the extra energy in the form of light, just as gas in florescent and neon lights glows when an electric current is applied. By studying images of Jupiter's entire disk, the investigators found, surprisingly, the auroras mirror each other at the north and south poles. Though Earth's auroras at each pole also are carbon copies of each other, previous spatially-unresolved observations and theories for Jupiter suggested that some locations on the auroral ovals should be brighter. That's because, in Jupiter's case, the magnetic field has large asymmetries and more charged particles trapped in the field could, under specific mechanisms, eventually fall into the atmosphere at the weaker locations, and would thus create a brighter light show. A critical difference is that auroras on Earth are triggered by a barrage of charged particles from the Sun. This process is different on Jupiter, although not well understood. Fundamentally, the planet's immense magnetic field, coupled with its fast, 10-hour rotation, helps generate auroras that are 1,000 times more powerful than even Earth's spectacular light shows. The situation is complicated by material released by Jupiter's moon, Io. Scientists believe that volcanic eruptions on Io churn out particles that become ionized, expand radially, and are trapped by Jupiter's immense magnetic field. These charges are forced to co-rotate with the planet, creating an immense sheet of current that in turn modifies Jupiter's magnetic field. What has not been clear on Jupiter is the balance of the internal processes versus the Sun-driven processes, and how these processes produce the auroral lights. On Earth, magnetic storms are triggered by large changes in the solar particles, producing very bright auroras. These storms can disrupt radio signals and communication systems, interfere with airplane navigation and cause power outages. One storm in 1989 knocked out a Quebec power station serving 9 million people. The team has found that energetic auroral storms also occur on Jupiter, but that these storms may be triggered instead by internal processes. Some of the material released by Io produces a fierce current of charged particles. The particles become ionized and are then drawn into Jupiter's intense magnetic field along an invisible "flux tube," which bridges both worlds. This creates small auroral spots just outside the ovals around both magnetic poles. By studying changes in the intensity of these spots, Clarke and his colleagues were able to map Jupiter's magnetic field as Io orbits through it. The scientists linked the spots to Io's "flux tube" because the auroral emissions rotate with Jupiter while the spots remain in a fixed location underneath Io. "The size of the aurora at the magnetic footprint of Io is 600 to 1,200 miles (1,000 to 2,000 kilometers) across," Clarke said. "If you were at Jupiter's cloudtops, under Io's footprint, the aurora would fill the entire sky. You would see an explosion as the gasses 250 miles above you rapidly heated to more than 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The aurora would speed overhead from east to west at more than 10,000 miles per hour (5 kilometers per second) because Jupiter's fast rotation moves it rapidly underneath Io, which orbits more slowly. Clarke and his colleagues hope that future observations will yield more information about the auroras. The team also is sharing data with the scientists operating the Galileo spacecraft, which moves through Jupiter's magnetic field repeatedly as it orbits the giant planet and surveys the Galilean satellites. Galileo can record the type of charged particles (ions, protons, electrons) in the field, their location and energy. Information from Hubble and Galileo is important because scientists can create a more accurate picture of the charged particles which produce the auroral lights, which eventually could lead them to its source on Io.
Credits: J. Clarke and G Ballester (University of Michigan), J. Trauger and R. Evans (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and NASA
2274 Methane Absorption by the Atmosphere of Extrasolar Planet 189733b
Credits: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)
3678 NGC 6946 (HST, Subaru)
Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, R. Gendler, and the Subaru Telescope (NAOJ)
2066 Hubble Images Chronicle the Inner Ring's Light Show
This photo album of images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a ring of gas beginning to glow around an exploded star. The stellar blast, called Supernova 1987A, was first spotted 20 years ago. The explosion is one of the brightest supernova blasts in more than 400 years. Hubble began watching the blast's aftermath shortly after it was launched in 1990. The growing number of bright spots on the ring was produced by an onslaught of material unleashed by the blast. The shock wave of material is slamming into the ring's innermost regions, heating them up, and causing them to glow. The ring, about a light-year across, was probably shed by the star about 20,000 years before the star exploded. Astronomers detected the first bright spot in 1997, but now they see dozens of spots around the ring. Only Hubble can see the individual bright spots. In the next few years, the entire ring will be ablaze as it absorbs the full force of the crash. The glowing ring is expected to become bright enough to illuminate the star's surroundings, providing astronomers with new information on how the star expelled material before the explosion. The bright spot that appears to be on the ring at lower right is actually a foreground star. Supernova 1987A is 163,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The images were taken between 1994 and 2006 with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and Advanced Camera for Surveys.
Credits: NASA, ESA, P. Challis and R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
1469 Galaxies on a Collision Course in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image
Credits: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team
3025 Galaxy Cluster IDCS J1426.5+3508
Credits: Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Gonzalez (University of Florida, Gainesville), A. Stanford (University of California, Davis and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and M. Brodwin (University of Missouri-Kansas City and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
277 Mars at Opposition: February 1995
These NASA Hubble Space Telescope views provide the most detailed complete global coverage of the red planet Mars ever seen from Earth. The pictures were taken on February 25, 1995, when Mars was at a distance of 65 million miles (103 million km). To the surprise of researchers, Mars is cloudier than seen in previous years. This means the planet is cooler and drier, because water vapor in the atmosphere freezes out to form ice-crystal clouds. Hubble resolves Martian surface features with a level of detail only exceeded by planetary probes, such as impact craters and other features as small as 30 miles (50 kilometers) across. [Tharsis region] - A crescent-shaped cloud just right of center identifies the immense shield volcano Olympus Mons, which is 340 miles (550 km) across at its base. Warm afternoon air pushed up over the summit forms ice-crystal clouds downwind from the volcano. Farther to the east (right) a line of clouds forms over a row of three extinct volcanoes which are from north to south: Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons, Arsia Mons. It's part of an unusual, recurring "W"-shaped cloud formation that once mystified earlier ground-based observers. [Valles Marineris region] - The 16 mile-high volcano Ascraeus Mons pokes through the cloud deck along the western (left) limb of the planet. Other interesting geologic features include (lower left) Valles Marineris, an immense rift valley the length of the continental United States. Near the image center lies the Chryse basin made up of cratered and chaotic terrain. The oval-looking Argyre impact basin (bottom) appears white due to clouds or frost. [Syrtis Major region] - The dark "shark fin" feature left of center is Syrtis Major. Below it the giant impact basin Hellas. Clouds cover several great volcanos in the Elysium region near the eastern (right) limb. As clearly seen in the Hubble images, past dust storms in Mars' southern hemisphere have scoured the plains of fine light dust and transported the dust northward. This leaves behind a relatively coarser, and less reflective sand in, predominantly, the southern hemisphere. The pictures were taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.
Credits: Philip James (University of Toledo), Steven Lee (University of Colorado), NASA
1108 Comparison of Martian Atmospheric Activity From 1997 and 2001
Credits: Photo Credit: J. Bell (Cornell University)
4415 HUBBLE FAVORITE: Star-Forming Region LH 95 in the LMC
Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration; Acknowledgment: D. Gouliermis (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg)
2480 M101 Composite Image: Spitzer Data (Red Component)
The red color shows Spitzer's view in infrared light. It highlights the heat emitted by dust lanes in the galaxy where stars can form.
Credits: NASA, Jet Propulsion Lab/Caltech, and K. Gordon (STScI)
1591 Spitzer Space Telescope Infrared Data of Kepler's Supernova Remnant
Credits: NASA, ESA, R. Sankrit and W. Blair (Johns Hopkins University)
4232 Artist's Impression of Pulsar Wind from a Neutron Star
This is an illustration of a pulsar wind nebula produced by the interaction of the outflow particles from the neutron star with gaseous material in the interstellar medium that the neutron star is plowing through. Such an infrared-only pulsar wind nebula is unusual because it implies a rather low energy of the particles accelerated by the pulsar’s intense magnetic field. This hypothesized model would explain the unusual infrared signature of the neutron star as detected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and N. Tr’Ehnl (Pennsylvania State University)
104 A Stellar Close Encounter at the Core of Globular Cluster M15
The sky is ablaze with several hundred thousand stars in the imaginary view from the surface of a hypothetical planet at the center if the globular star cluster called M15 (located 30,000 light- years away in the constellation Pegasus). The average distance between stars is a fraction of a light-year. A new population of extremely hot and blue stars - recently discovered by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope - stand out like diamonds on black velvet. At the center of the image, a bypassing star gravitationally pulls the outer envelop of gas from a red giant star. This process will expose the giant's core - the nuclear fusion "engine" that powers the star. This stellar cannibalism could only take place where stars are so crowded together, that chances for close encounters are exceptionally high. This new class of blue star is possibly fossil evidence that the center of the globular cluster has contracted to an extremely dense condition called "core collapse." This research, by DeMarchi and Dr. Francesco Paresce of the Space Telescope Science Institute and the European Space Agency, is being announced at a press conference at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Berkeley, California.
Credits: Illustration by: G. Dana Berry, STSCI
4476 HUBBLE FAVORITE: Close-up Portrait of Jupiter
Credits: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (GSFC)
1980 Planetary Host Star Enlarged Detail
Processed/resampled ACS/HRC image showing color separation between lens (planet host OGLE-2003-BLG-235L/MOA-2003-BLG-53L) and lensed star.
Credits: NASA, ESA, D. Bennett (University of Notre Dame), and J. Anderson (Rice University)
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