Researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope have released a new image of the iconic Horsehead Nebula. The release of this image coincides with the upcoming 23rd anniversary of the space-based observatory being launched into space aboard space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.
A mainstay of astronomy textbooks, the Horsehead Nebula is one of many targets favored by backyard astronomers. In visible light, the nebula is shadowy, but when viewed in the infrared portion of electromagnetic spectrum the nebula appears striking. In addition, many stars and distant galaxies are also visible when viewing the Horsehead Nebula in infrared.
For over twenty years, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided astronomers with breathtaking views of our universe. Several Space Shuttle missions were devoted to upgrading and maintaining HST, including the most recent servicing mission in 2009.
Source: NASA Image Of The Day Gallery
The image shown above maps out the oldest light visible in our Universe. ESA’s Planck mission collected the data used to create this map over a period of about 15 months, and is some of the highest precision yet.
The primordial light, known as the cosmic microwave background, shined brightly when the universe was less than 400,000 years old. The colors on the map above indicate extremely small temperature fluctuations, which also happen to correspond to areas that are just slightly denser than others, which allowed said regions to cool quicker. These slightly denser regions of the Universe are thought to be the “seeds” that allowed galaxies, galaxy clusters, and other large-scale structures in the Universe.
Planck is a European Space Agency mission, with significant participation from NASA. To learn more about the Planck mission, visit: http://www.rssd.esa.int/index.php?project=planck
Source: NASA Planck Mission Updates
Organics are carbon-based molecules – key ingredients to life. If Curiosity finds organics in ancient rocks, thereʼs a better chance Mars once had good conditions for small life forms called microbes.
But, finding organics is hard! Thatʼs because organics easily break down when exposed to harsh things like extreme radiation and chemical oxidants that gave the Martian surface its rusty color.
A great place to look for ancient organics today is in rock layers. Organics that were quickly trapped and buried in layers of mud or in sediments that sank to the bottom of a body of water could have an especially good chance of being preserved.
Scientists think Curiosityʼs landing site, Gale Crater, contains those special layers, created in ancient times when water was present. The water dried up long ago, but rock layers that remain today could still preserve organics inside.
If Curiosity finds organics, it wouldnʼt prove life existed, but it sure would improve the odds that Mars once had the right ingredients for life!
In a phenomenon known as “gravitational lensing” the light from distant galaxies is bent and magnified by the massive galaxy cluster Abell 68.
Shown in the image above, the spiral galaxy at upper left has been distorted in such a way that it resembles one of the iconic aliens from the classic Atari game Space Invaders!. A less distorted image of the galaxy can be found to the left of the large, bright elliptical galaxy. Last month we had Asteroids with 2012 DA14, and now we have Space Invaders!. I sure hope Missile Command isn’t next!
Learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html
Source: NASA Image of the Day Gallery
Peering over the shoulder of giant Saturn, through its rings, and across interplanetary space, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spies the bright, cloudy terrestrial planet, Venus. The vast distance from Saturn means that Venus only shows up as a white dot, just above and to the right of the image center.
Venus, along with Mercury, Earth, and Mars, is one of the rocky ‘terrestrial’ planets in the solar system that orbit relatively close to the sun. Though Venus has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide that reaches nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius) and a surface pressure 100 times that of Earth, it is considered a twin to our planet because of their similar size, mass, rocky composition and orbit. Venus is covered in thick sulfuric acid clouds, making it very bright.
Read the full NASA/JPL article at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA14935
Source: NASA/JPL Cassini Mission Updates
One of my absolute favorite objects in the night sky to image with my telescope is the Whirlpool Galaxy. Of course, my 8″ telescope can’t match the views from a 0.9 meter telescope at Kitt Peak, and the Hubble space telescope, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to get the best images I can with my telescope and DSLR.
Also known as NGC 5194, and Messier Object 51, The Whirlpool Galaxy is a near-textbook example of a “classic” spiral galaxy. Since M51 is only 30 million light years away, and has a diameter of 60 thousand light years, it is one of the brightest and often imaged galaxies in the night sky.
Source: NASA Image of the Day Gallery