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Galactic Metropolis – Latest Images from the Past

Posted by feww on May 12, 2010

Just a reminder of what 99.99 percent of us would miss

What is out there, in deep space? How much of it is alive? How much illusory? How many of us will survive the looming planetary collapse to learn more about the stars?

Stellar Nursery in the arms of NGC 1672


The barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672, showing up clusters of hot young blue stars along its spiral arms, and clouds of hydrogen gas glowing in red. Delicate curtains of dust partially obscure and redden the light of the stars behind them. NGC 1672’s symmetric look is emphasized by the four principal arms, edged by eye-catching dust lanes that extend out from the center. Source: NASA/ESA

Galactic Metropolis

A surprisingly large collections of galaxies (red dots) stands out at a remarkably large distance in this composite image combining infrared and visible-light observations. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope contributed to the infrared component of the observations, while shorter-wavelength infrared and visible data are provided by Japan’s Subaru telescope atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Looking out to this distance, the cluster appears as it was 9.6 billion years ago, only about three billion years after the Big Bang. Astronomers were surprised to find such a “modern” cluster at an era when its peers tended to be much smaller, presumably taking billions of more years to collect enough galaxies to reach such a size.

Infrared light from Spitzer at wavelengths of 3.6 and 4.5 microns is displayed in red. Subaru observations of near infrared and visible light with wavelengths of 0.9 and 0.44 microns are rendered in green and blue, respectively. The purple overlay is a calculated measure of overall galaxy density and highlights the high concentration of galaxies in the distant cluster. Source: Spitzer/Caltech. Click image to enlarge.

Illustration of Sculptor Wall

Using observations with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton, astronomers have announced a robust detection of a vast reservoir of intergalactic gas about 400 million light years from Earth. This discovery is the strongest evidence yet that the “missing matter” in the nearby Universe is located in an enormous web of hot, diffuse gas.

This missing matter – which is different from dark matter — is composed of baryons, the particles, such as protons and electrons, that are found on the Earth, in stars, gas, galaxies, and so on. A variety of measurements of distant gas clouds and galaxies have provided a good estimate of the amount of this “normal matter” present when the universe was only a few billion years old. However, an inventory of the much older, nearby universe has turned up only about half as much normal matter, an embarrassingly large shortfall. More from Chandra X-ray Center

This artist’s illustration shows a close-up view of the Sculptor Wall, which is comprised of galaxies along with the warm-hot intergalactic medium. Scientists used Chandra and XMM-Newton to detect the WHIM in this structure by examining the X-ray light from a distant quasar, which is represented in the inset to the upper right. This discovery is the strongest evidence yet that the “missing matter” in the nearby Universe is located in an enormous web of hot, diffuse gas. Credit: Spectrum: NASA/CXC/Univ. of California Irvine/T. Fang Illustration: CXC/M. Weiss

Black holes—gas blowers of the Universe

Supermassive black holes with the mass of many millions of stars have been detected at the centre of many large galaxies. A super-massive black hole acts like a lurking “monster” at the centre of the galaxy which swallows the surrounding material through the intensity of its gravitational pull. X-ray observations indicate that a large amount of energy is produced by the in-fall of matter into a black hole, and ejected in powerful jets. Astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics have now shown that these jets eject matter not only from their host galaxies but even the gas between the galaxy group members. (Astrophysical Journal, May 1st 2010)

Astronomers have long been trying to understand how black holes interact with the environment (the so-called feedback), but to date the process is poorly understood. Observations and simulations have shown that active galaxies transport huge amounts of material with their jets, which are particularly luminous at radio wavelengths, into the intra-cluster gas. Signatures of this “radio-mode feedback” are observed both in radio and in X-rays. More from Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Left  is a false color image of the central region of a galaxy group in X-rays. The jet of matter blown out of the central black hole can be clearly identified by its radio luminosity (overlaid, purple-blue). Credit: Image: S. Giodini/A. Finoguenov/MPE

Little Galaxy with a Tail

The infrared portrait of the Small Magellanic Cloud, taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, reveals the stars and dust in this galaxy as never seen before. The Small Magellanic Cloud is a nearby satellite galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy, approximately 200,000 light-years away.

The image shows the main body of the Small Magellanic Cloud, which is comprised of the “bar” and “wing” on the left and the “tail” extending to the right. The bar contains both old stars (in blue) and young stars lighting up their natal dust (green/red). The wing mainly contains young stars. The tail contains only gas, dust and newly formed stars. Spitzer data has confirmed that the tail region was recently torn off the main body of the galaxy. Two of the tail clusters, which are still embedded in their birth clouds, can be seen as red dots.

In addition, the image contains a galactic globular cluster in the lower left (blue cluster of stars) and emission from dust in our own galaxy (green in the upper right and lower right corners).

The data in this image are being used by astronomers to study the lifecycle of dust in the entire galaxy: from the formation in stellar atmospheres, to the reservoir containing the present day interstellar medium, and the dust consumed in forming new stars. The dust being formed in old, evolved stars (blue stars with a red tinge) is measured using mid-infrared wavelengths. The present day interstellar dust is weighed by measuring the intensity and color of emission at longer infrared wavelengths. The rate at which the raw material is being consumed is determined by studying ionized gas regions and the younger stars (yellow/red extended regions). The Small Magellanic Cloud, and its companion galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud, are the two galaxies where this type of study is possible, and the research could not be done without Spitzer.

This image was captured by Spitzer’s infrared array camera and multiband imaging photometer (blue is 3.6-micron light; green is 8.0 microns; and red is combination of 24-, 70- and 160-micron light). The blue color mainly traces old stars. The green color traces emission from organic dust grains (mainly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). The red traces emission from larger, cooler dust grains.

The image was taken as part of the Spitzer Legacy program known as SAGE-SMC: Surveying the Agents of Galaxy Evolution in the Tidally-Stripped, Low Metallicity Small Magellanic Cloud.

Hubble catches heavyweight runaway star speeding from 30 Doradus


This image of the 30 Doradus Nebula, a rambunctious stellar nursery, and the enlarged inset photo show a heavyweight star that may have been kicked out of its home by a pair of heftier siblings. In the inset image at right, an arrow points to the stellar runaway and a dashed arrow to its presumed direction of motion. The image was taken by the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The heavyweight star, called 30 Dor #016, is 90 times more massive than the Sun and is traveling at more than 400,000 kilometers an hour from its home. In the wider view of 30 Doradus, the homeless star, located on the outskirts of the nebula, is centered within a white box. The box shows Hubble’s field of view. The image was taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Wide Field Imager at the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope on La Silla, Chile. The young star, only one million to two million years old, may have traveled about 375 light-years from its suspected home in R136, the bright star cluster marked by a circle. Nestled in the core of 30 Doradus, R136 is one of the most massive young star clusters in nearby galaxies, containing several stars topping 100 solar masses each. 30 Doradus, also called the Tarantula Nebula, resides roughly 170 000 light-years from Earth, in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Instruments at three observatories, including Hubble’s WFPC2 and recently installed Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, have provided tantalising clues that the star was ejected from R136. In the ESO and WFPC2 images, hot stars are represented by the color blue. Hydrogen is in red and oxygen in green. Radiation from the runaway star is making the nebula glow. The Hubble image was taken on June 30, 1995; the ESO image was released in December 2006.  Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Walsh (ST-ECF) Acknowledgment: Z. Levay (STScI). Credit for ESO image: ESO Acknowledgments: J. Alves (Calar Alto, Spain), B. Vandame, and Y. Beletski (ESO). Processing by B. Fosbury (ST-ECF).

Exotic Exoplanet: ‘This Planet Tastes Funny’

An unusual, methane-free world is partially eclipsed by its star in this artist’s concept. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has found evidence that a hot, Neptune-sized planet orbiting a star beyond our sun lacks methane — an ingredient common to many planets in our own solar system.

Models of planetary atmospheres indicate that any world with the common mix of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, and a temperature up to 1,000 Kelvin (1,340 degrees Fahrenheit) should have a large amount of methane and a small amount of carbon monoxide.

The planet illustrated here, called GJ 436b is about 800 Kelvin (or 980 degrees Fahrenheit) – it was expected to have methane but Spitzer’s observations showed it does not. Source: Spitzer/Caltech

Serial No 1,713. Starting April 2010, each entry on this blog has a unique serial number. If any of the numbers are missing, it may mean that the corresponding entry has been blocked by Google/the authorities in your country. Please drop us a line if you detect any anomaly/missing number(s).

One Response to “Galactic Metropolis – Latest Images from the Past”

  1. WR said

    [Thank you! Moderator]

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