Whilst visiting London on Thursday I popped into the Science Museum to see the new IMAX film Hubble 3D. After buying my ticket I wandered amongst throngs of people looking at everything from the Apollo 10 Command Module to Stephenson’s Rocket. It was good to see the place heaving with people, hopefully learning about science and clearly having fun. I thought their presence even more remarkable considering it was a glorious sunny day outside! Great, I thought, these people clearly want to be here.
Yet I did wonder to myself whether any of them were a) interested in astronomy and b) sufficiently interested to buy a ticket to see a movie that is essentially about a telescope. Is Hubble really so well-known that it might draw crowds to the box office? Or has its magic only rubbed off on those of us who live and breathe astronomy, I thought? The answer came a little over half an hour before the film was supposed to start.
I had just passed the Apollo 10 command module when I looked to where the IMAX cinema entrance was. Snaking away from it was a rapidly growing line of perhaps fifty people or more. It was the queue for the Hubble IMAX show. Not wanting to miss the chance of a good seat I jumped in line. And still more and more people joined the queue until it had stretched right around the corner out of sight. Before long we were let in and the film started.
So what was it like? Well, frankly, it was stunning – visually, aurally, emotionally. Epic is the word that actually came to my mind as the lights came up.
When writing about science I’ve learnt it’s great if you can capture some essence of the character of a scientist or their own personal story and weave it in and around the hard facts and discoveries you’re trying to discuss. Sometimes that can be difficult, sometimes it comes easily. What struck me about this film is how naturally Hubble’s ‘personality’ leaps out of the screen. It’s every bit as arresting as the 3D effects, even to a hardened space nut like me.
There are some beautiful pieces of CGI which I’ll let you discover for yourselves. Though I shall say that there’s one zoom onto the Orion Nebula that, for me, was worth the ticket price alone. There are also some wonderful scenes which superbly convey why Hubble’s multi-wavelength observing capability makes it such a powerful instrument.
I tried to write down a few notes as I was watching. But in the darkness they just became random scrawled words. One simply says “Launch!!!!”. I’ll admit I had a tear in my eye at that point. It’s an incredible moment of cinematography coupled with a chest rattling crackle like nothing I’ve ever heard.
Do go and see the film if you get a chance. It’s running at the Science Museum until 28 May from what I can tell. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Hubble image credit: NASA/ESA
NASA has just released the first batch of images taken by the WISE spacecraft showing several astronomical objects glowing at infrared wavelengths. The level of detail in those images is really quite impressive. They got me thinking about the best infrared images of celestial subjects that I’ve seen in recent years.
Infrared telescopes are vital tools for astronomers. Observing at infrared wavelengths allows them to see through dust and gas, revealing regions of astronomical objects that may be obscured from view at other wavelengths (like ‘visible light’ that you and I can see). Similarly, powerful infrared telescopes are able to reveal the farthest galaxies in the Universe, allowing astronomers to study how the earliest galaxies evolved.
I’ve put together ten of my favourite infrared space images below but what would your top ones be? Have I missed a real cracker? Let me know in the comments below, or drop me a tweet. Clicking on the images will take you to the big versions (and be warned I mean big!) whilst clicking the title of the picture takes you to a news story about the science behind it.
One section of the Eagle Nebula was made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope image dubbed the ‘Pillars of Creation’. Can you spot the ‘pillars’ glowing in this image from the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope?
Infrared radiation reflected off Saturn reveals the Ringed Planet in this view from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona), and NASA
M81, also known as Bode’s Nebula, is a galaxy in the northern hemisphere constellation of Ursa Major and is a fine sight in a small telescope. Dust clouds within its spiral arms are revealed in red in this picture.
A 900 lightyear diameter region towards the heart of the Milky Way is shown in spectacular detail in this panoramic image from Spitzer.
It might look like the eye of an angry monster staring back at us but this is in fact a planetary nebula – a huge ejected shell (or series of shells) of gas and dust created towards the end of a Sun-like star’s life.
The Pinwheel Galaxy lies 27 million lightyears away from the Earth in the constellation of Ursa Major. Its beautiful twisting spiral arms shine brightly in this detailed image.
The Orion Nebula (M42) at the centre of the Sword of Orion is one of the finest night sky sights through binoculars or a small telescope. This image from the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA telescope however reveals regions of the nebula that amateur astronomers cannot see.
At a distance of roughly 2.5 million lightyears away the Andromeda Galaxy is one of the nearest galaxies to the Milky Way. Young stars in its spiral arms glow yellow in this image from the WISE telescope, whilst older stars are represented with a blue hue.
Myriad stars sparkle in this image taken using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. It’s thought that hidden within this region (the central region of the Milky Way) is a supermassive black hole.
The Pleiades star cluster is a familiar sight to amateur astronomers observing the winter night skies. This image from the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope shows the vast cirrus like dust clouds which currently surround the stars of the cluster.
A section of the new Hubble image showing the star cluster R136 and surroundings.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and F. Paresce (INAF-IASF, Bologna, Italy), R. O’Connell (University of Virginia, Charlottesville), and the Wide Field Camera 3 Science Oversight Committee. Click for a larger version.
I’ve thought hard about how I might write this post. How do you go about introducing the incredible image above?
I could tell you that it’s a new image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s shiny new Wide Field Camera 3. I’d probably say that it shows a region of frenetic star formation in the Large Magellanic Cloud (a nearby galaxy to the Milky Way) known as 30 Doradus. Undoubtedly I’d draw your attention to the cluster of stars to the centre right of the image, designated R136. It’s full of infant massive stars whose winds are sculpting the gas around the cluster; seen clearly in the great, roughly 70 lightyear wide, cavern forming at the centre of the image. I’d likely also talk about the huge billowing clouds of hydrogen gas which are glowing red around the young cluster – a typical trait of star forming regions. And I’d definitely say that using Hubble to study regions like this one allows astronomers to examine the processes which create and shape the stars in vast stellar clusters like R136.
Of course, in the end, the image speaks for itself in many ways; its sheer beauty, the vivid colours, the stunning detail that shows the power of the instrument that made it. We’re going to miss Hubble when it’s gone. But images like this one show that it’s got a lot more to offer before that time comes.
With the Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-125) and her crew now waiting for the right conditions to come home and land after repairing and upgrading Hubble, I thought now would be a good time to look back at what has happened over the past ten days or so. Servicing Mission 4, to Hubble, has been nothing short of spectacular – with risky spacewalks, dramatic repairs and a real sense of cutting edge space exploration. Spaceflight author Andrew Chaikin has recently blogged on why he felt “amazed, inspired–and grateful” watching the Hubble Servicing Mission unfold, and it’s really worth reading his thoughts here. This mission has been especially exciting and indeed has been different – both in terms of the added public interest and in how the community of space and astronomy enthusiasts has followed along.
To me this has been largely, if not wholly, because of the constant stream of images, tweets, blogs and live video streams that NASA has been sending out on a frequent basis. With video cameras in the astronauts’ helmets we’ve been able to literally peer over their shoulders and watch live what they were doing up there on Hubble. This really hit home to me, a couple of days ago, when I saw a video that was filmed in the cockpit of the Shuttle Atlantis, as the astronauts parted ways with Hubble. The video gives a real sense of what it’s like to be working on the deck of the Shuttle and, as Phil says, there’s something about the clear audio which greatly adds to this. It’s a must see. Stuart has the story of the video here.
For my part I’ll be remembering and reliving the exploits of this incredible mission through the many pictures taken by the astronauts. I’ve put a few of my favourites in this post, but there are hundreds out there. Click on the images, in the post, to get the NASA high res. versions. And why not let me know what your favourites are in the comments below, or on my Twitter feed.
All images courtesy NASA.
Jupiter might not exactly be well placed for observing from the Northern Hemisphere this year, due to its relatively low altitude, but all is not lost. NASA have just released this beautiful, “close to natural” colour, image from the Hubble Space Telescope. It shows the Galilean moon Ganymede beginning to disappear behind the southwestern part of Jupiter’s enormous disc. You can watch a video of Ganymede disappearing behind Jupiter (over the course of two hours) on the NASA Hubble site. The images were taken in April 2007 and, as can be seen in the crop of the main image below, they show the huge rocky and icy moon in quite some detail.
Compare this new Hubble image of Ganymede to the one (below) from the New Horizons mission en-route to Pluto and you get a feel for just how good Hubble’s resolution is! The bright splodge towards the upper middle of Ganymede’s terminator in the New Horizons image is a huge crater known as Tros and it’s clearly visible, as a bright white spot, in Hubble’s shot as well. There are features smaller than Tros visible in the Hubble image too. That’s not to say that the New Horizons image isn’t any good. Far from it, it’s amazing — it’s just that Hubble is one impressive instrument!
A view of Ganymede from the New Horizons spacecraft as it whisked by.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Anyway I’m moving a little away from my point. Not only is Hubble’s new shot a wonderful picture, full of intriguing details on both Jupiter and Ganymede (especially the high resolution versions), it also illustrates nicely how astronomers have been able to study Jupiter’s atmosphere. The method astronomers have been using to do this is also similar to how astronomers ‘probe’ the atmospheres of distant exoplanets. Ganymede is reflecting light from the Sun back towards us (that’s how we can see it). That light passes through the upper reaches of Jupiter’s atmosphere, towards us, as Ganymede disappears behind the limb of the huge planet. By spectroscopically studying the chemical fingerprints stamped on this light, by Jupiter’s atmosphere, astronomers can then work out important properties and compositions of the gases in this part of the Jovian atmosphere.
An illustration showing light passing through the atmosphere of an exoplanet.
Credit: ESA, NASA and Frederic Pont (Geneva University Observatory)
In a very similar way, when studying exoplanets, astronomers have been able to detect the chemical signatures of interesting molecules in exoplanetary atmospheres, that have been stamped on the light from the exoplanet’s parent star. So it isn’t just in studying the gas giants of our own Solar System that this versatile astronomical technique is used. It will be interesting to see what these observations from Hubble tell us about Jupiter’s atmosphere. If they are anything like the results seen from studying the atmospheres of distant exoplanets, they will be very interesting indeed.
An artist’s impression of Formalhalt b orbiting its parent star.
Credit: ESA, NASA and L. Calçada (ESO)
In two separate papers published in the journal Science today, astronomers announced that they have directly imaged several extrasolar planets around other stars. One team used Hubble to find an approximately 3 Jupiter mass planet orbiting the star Formalhalt, whilst another team used Keck and the Gemini telescopes to find a family of planets around the star HR8799. Hubble studied Formalhalt in visible light and was able to make what can only be described as a truly remarkable image (see below), of the planet embedded within the star’s dusty disc. I think Stuart’s suggestion for its name is spot on.
The view of Formalhalt (masked by a coronagraph) showing the new planet embedded within a dusty disc (inset). See the annotated full-resolution image here.
Credit: NASA, ESA and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley, USA)
These discoveries clearly mark an important waypoint in our efforts to image an Earth like planet around a distant star, but they are also absolutely amazing in their own right. There’s far more in-depth commentary out there in the blogosphere, so I’ll point you in the direction of Sarah Askew, Phil Plait, Dave Mosher (who has a great IM interview with an exoplanet expert) and of course there’s an episode of the Hubblecast that you can watch below!
For any of you reading the blog who came to my Hubble talk last night, hello! As promised here are a few select links to some of the videos from the presentation. First up is a zoom into the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.
Next is a pair of videos showing the creation of the stunning Cat’s Eye nebula – first the companion star dies creating the concentric shells of material, then the jets and magnetic field of the other (alive) star warp and twist into the nebula to create the central detail and swirls. The first part is here and the second you’ll find by clicking here.
Lastly then is a video of the bizarre object called V838 Monocerotis. You can download the video by clicking here. And remember that you can see more videos and (almost) all of the images from my talk on the ESA Hubble website here – www.spacetelescope.org.
On Monday (13th October) I will be giving my final Hubble talk of the year to the West of London Astronomical Society (WOLAS). It will be, once again, entitled “Not just pretty pictures – the science behind Hubble’s greatest images”. The society has written a nice synopsis of the background of the talk, on their meetings page here.
What are these (different) things coming out of this cloud? Come to my lecture to find out! Credit: NASA and Jeff Hester (Arizona State University)
I’ve really enjoyed giving this particular talk this year however I’m going to be busy working on something else for the next few months, so this will be my last one for a bit. For now though if you are interested in coming along to the WOLAS meet-up here’s a map to Christ Church, Redford Way, Uxbridge where the meeting is being held.
The Hubble Space Telescope is renowned for its incredible resolution used in studying the depths of the Universe – from the earliest galaxies to some of the grandest spirals. Recently though it has been using these superb capabilities to observe nearby galaxies – that is, a selection of galaxies between about 7 and 13 million light years from the Earth.
Above: Hubble’s resolution has revealed NGC 253 as a swirl of countless stars and dust lanes, enabling new insights into the character and structure of this beautiful galaxy.
At this time of year I love to get out a wide-field refracting telescope and use it to spot the relatively bright galaxies M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy) and M33. Through the eyepiece they appear as bright smudges of light, M31 being slightly elongated in shape. Those smudges are in fact the accumulated light of billions of stars shining away brightly, inside their respective galaxies. Yet we can’t see the individual stars in the galaxy with our amateur telescopes because their resolving power is simply too low, they appear blurred and merged together. But with Hubble things are much different.
When it looked at 69 nearby galaxies, its powerful optics were able to show individual stars and glittering star clusters within them. This ability to look at the fine detail has allowed astronomers to make important studies into the lives of these stars, how they are born and more. Astronomers can then also use the observations to make detailed conclusions about the shape and structure of the (often intricate) galaxy they are studying.
We can liken some of the previous observations to trying to understand how the population of a city lives, interacts and moves around, just by looking at a street-map. With Hubble’s brilliant resolution astronomers have been able to get a far more detailed view of the lives of galaxies and their stars – we can study the people in the street as it were. As Benjamin Williams, of the University of Washington says in the ESA press release “With these images, we can see what makes each galaxy unique”.
Left: A maelstrom of thousands upon thousands of individual stars reveals itself in this Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys image of NGC 300, some 7 million light years away from Earth.
These observations are important because it is essential for astronomers to build an understanding of galaxies close to the Milky Way, in order to investigate (and hopefully understand) those which might be subtly different in the farther, or even extremely distant Universe. How are stars forming and how fast? Where are the old stars and why are some galaxies so massive? These are all questions which studies like these look to answer. Thankfully the survey which Hubble was working on (the ANGST or ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury) is wide ranging and shows a diverse sample of galaxies. It aims to create a practically complete study of all the galaxies in what is known as the Local Neighbourhood. So slowly but surely we are getting to know our cosmic neighbours!
Meanwhile, with the Hubble Servicing Mission 4 postponed until further notice (due to an anomaly with Hubble’s control unit) we are going to have to sit back and wait patiently to see if, and when, Hubble can get back to doing its usual spectacular science.
Image credits – Top; NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton and B. Williams (University of Washington), T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, T. Abbott and NOAO/AURA/NSF: Left hand side; NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton and B. Williams (University of Washington)
One of the legacies of next year’s International Year of Astronomy will be the education of people from around the world about the history of the telescope and astronomy. As part of this, the team at ESA Hubble has just released a great new vodcast/mini-documentary about the history of the telescope’s invention, in preparation for next year. This first episode introduces the great players in the telescope’s design and invention – including Galilei, Lipperhay and the pioneers of early observational astronomy like Huygens, Herschel (whose house is just down the road from where I am writing this!) and the Earl of Rosse.
This vodcast is actually part of a series that the ESA Hubble team are making so look out for the next few episodes. It’s a perfect introduction to the history of the telescope if you’re learning astronomy, or if you’re simply interested in the halcyon days of leviathan telescopes and the great discoveries of those brilliant early astronomers. Check it out below, or download different formats of the video here.
I will be giving a talk on the Hubble Space Telescope to the Bristol Astronomical Society this Friday at 7:15pm. It’s being held at Bristol Grammar School and members of the public are welcome to come along. For more information please visit the BAS website.
For a long time the beautiful colliding galaxies known as the ‘Antennae Galaxies’, NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, (pictured above) have thought to have been somewhat unusual, a bit abnormal if you will. That’s because astronomers had thought they were between 65 to 100 million light years away. In order for them to be this distant, astronomers reasoned, their current appearance could only be explained by several strange intrinsic properties. To understand why they appeared this way, astronomers argued that they must be undergoing tremendous star formation, with super-massive clusters of stars and even hidden bright X-ray sources. But now new observations from Hubble seem to suggest that we don’t need all these unusual attributes to describe this intriguing merger.
Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 have found that actually the Antennae Galaxies are closer than we thought. By observing red giant stars in the tidal tails of the colliding galaxies, the astronomers found that they are in fact about 45 million light years away. The red giant stars nearing the end of their life are good for measuring distances to galaxies; as, at certain points in their life, they have a known brightness which can make them good ‘standard candles’ or distance markers. So we now know that this beautiful merging swirl confirms to our models of galaxy evolution and is in fact how we expect a galaxy merger at this distance to look.
You can read the full story here.
Top image: The Antennae Galaxies by Hubble. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: B. Whitmore (Space Telescope Science Institute) and James Long (ESA/Hubble).
OK I admit it. Galaxies are my favourite objects that the Hubble Space Telescope studies and images. But it’s true; there’s something so awesome about the HST images that ooze detail in a way that captures the vast and magnificent nature of these ‘stellar cities’. But it’s not all about the pictures. Hubble has allowed scientists to see the farthest galaxies in the Universe, that also happen to be some of the earliest too. Those observations have given us a real insight into how the galaxies we see today form. Hubble has studied Cepheid variables in distant galaxies too, allowing us to make accurate distance measurements of far off galaxies.
Today the Hubble team have released the most stunning collection of galaxy images I have ever seen. Fifty nine images in total showing many galaxies merging. What’s fascinating is that you can piece together a rough idea of how a merger takes place, out of several images of different ‘collisions’. This isn’t unusual. Astronomers do it all the time. If you wanted to see the lifetime of a Sun-like star you obviously wouldn’t hang around for 10 billion years to watch it from start to finish. What you do is look around the Universe for different Sun-like stars at different points in their life. We can do this now to get at a very basic overview of how a galaxy merger unfolds.
The above image is made from six separate images of differing collisions. Yet put together they show the progression of a galaxy merger. In reality a galaxy collision is a slow and stately affair. In fact during galaxy mergers the stars within the galaxy generally don’t smash together. That’s because of the vast distances between stars; however some stars will ultimately be thrown from the galaxies out into the depths of space.
Over millions of years the gravity of the galaxies begins to twist and shape streams of stars. In the first panel you can see the left hand galaxy is slowly starting to deform as the two galaxies begin to interact. Emerging from the lower left of the left galaxy is a noticeable stream of stars – the first sign that a merger is underway. In the second panel the merger is further along. Here much bigger streams, called ‘tidal tails’, extend out from the galaxies as the two get ever closer. In the third panel the merger is advanced even more with a massive bridge of millions of stars stretching between the two galaxies’ cores. In the last three images the mergers show dramatic twisting and swirling shapes. As the collisions of clouds of dust and gas take place, shockwaves travel through the galaxies. This results in a staggering burst of star formation (note the young blueish stars in the fourth image). Eventually the two galaxies will become one – usually a enormous dusty elliptical galaxy.
First image credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and K. Noll (STScI). Second image credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University), K. Noll (STScI), and J. Westphal (Caltech). Third image credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)
The Hubble Space Telescope has recently found the organic molecule methane on the extrasolar planet HD 189733b. Here’s a section of the ESA press release below.
“Under the right circumstances methane can play a key role in prebiotic chemistry – the chemical reactions considered necessary to form life as we know it. Although methane has been detected on most of the planets in our Solar System, this is the first time any organic molecule has been detected on a world orbiting another star”
With an atmospheric temperature of around 900 degrees there certainly isn’t going to be life (at least as we know it) on HD 189733b. The importance of this observation is more that it is “proof that spectroscopy can eventually be done on a cooler and potentially habitable Earth-sized planet orbiting a dimmer red dwarf-type star” says Mark Swain who led the team that made the discovery at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
I saw this exciting news come in when I was working with the Hubble group in Germany and I began scripting a Hubblecast to cover the result. To see the finished piece visit the ESA Hubblecast no.14 page here.
Above: An artist’s impression of HD 189733b around its parent star.
Credit: Credit: ESA, NASA and G. Tinetti (University College London, UK & ESA)
Just a reminder to those of you in the south-west UK that on Thursday evening ( 20.03.08 ) I will be giving a lecture to the Torbay Astronomical Society. The title of the talk is “Not just pretty pictures – the science behind Hubble’s greatest images”.
All are welcome and the talk starts at around 7:30pm at Torquay Boys’ Grammar School. For information on how to get there and visitor fees see the TAS website.
Hubble Space Telescope scientists have recently announced that they have discovered 67 gravitational lenses lurking in images taken for a survey of galaxies. Hubble has spotted the gravitational lenses as part of the COSMOS survey into large scale structure of the Universe. The scientists have found some really cool lenses like the ‘Einstein Ring’ on the left. The results show that if the number of lenses seen by Hubble in this survey is typical of large sections of the sky then there could be hundreds of thousands of this type of gravitational lens across the whole night-sky!
This is one of the press releases that I worked on whilst in Germany last year. If you want to read the full story check it out on the ESA Hubble website here. As an aside it’s great to see Atlantis landed safely. Columbus is now installed on the International Space Station which is now looking incredible. The Columbus module is the one jutting out to the right hand side of the line of vertical modules in that image.
Above: This incredible ‘Einstein Ring’ captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is the product of a rare line-of-sight alignment of massive lensing galaxy, background galaxy and Hubble itself.
Credit: NASA, ESA, C. Faure (Zentrum für Astronomie, University of Heidelberg) and J.P. Kneib (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille)
A monster so huge it is capable of slowly devouring whole galaxies at a time. Sounds incredible doesn’t it? But that is what astronomers working on the Hubble Space Telescope think that the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1132 is – a cosmic cannibal if you will. In this stunning new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble mission astronomers are seeing the vast hulk of a galaxy, 320 million light years distant, whose past is much darker than it might at first seem. That’s because whilst the stunning elliptical in Hubble’s new image looks serene and peaceful, it is in fact the aftermath of gravitational dance which saw the death of many smaller galaxies; and it all clinches on how astronomers think galaxies form.
One of the most popular current theories is that giant galaxies like NGC 1132 are made from the merger and assimilation of lots of smaller galaxies. Over time these vast elliptical giants like NGC 1132 emerge as enormous conglomerations of stars. Sounds all very vicious but in fact this galactic cannibalism is probably quite commonplace in the Universe if our theories of galaxy evolution are correct. Indeed Hubble scientists believe that our own Milky Way may have been partial to devouring the odd dwarf galaxy which strayed too close to it.
Yet the one question that we are bound to ask is how do we know? Well the answer comes from two main lines of evidence. The first is globular clusters. Galaxies like the Milky Way are home to globular clusters which reside above and below the disc of the galaxy. These are extremely ancient (and fairly compact) balls of stars and are useful tools for studying the evolution of stars. If you know where to look you can spot them through a small telescope on a clear night.
When Hubble scientists looked at NGC 1132 they noticed something interesting. A vast collection of globular clusters around the massive galaxy. They believe that what they are seeing are the globular clusters of NGC 1132′s victims – whole globular clusters that have been cast away as NGC 1132 merges with their parent galaxies. Since the stars in globulars are packed much more densely than the normal stars in the unfortunate galaxies their collective gravity holds the globular together. This means they can survive the huge gravitational disruptions involved in the merger and breakup of their parent galaxy.
The second piece of evidence comes from material we can’t see in this image – dark matter. Observations have shown that NGC 1132 is surrounded by a truly enormous cloud of dark matter. The dark matter cloud is thought to hold quantities of dark matter that are normally found residing in whole galaxy clusters of between ten and a few hundred galaxies – not one galaxy as seen with NGC 1132! NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory was able to show that the galaxy is also surrounded by a glow from X-rays emitted from hot gas – about 120,000 light years in diameter – roughly the size of a galaxy cluster, giving yet more support to the idea that NGC 1132 is the result of the merging of one entire galaxy cluster.
Above: NGC 1132 from the HST
Image credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgment: M. West (ESO, Chile)
I achieved a milestone today in that I have finally got all the necessary image permissions for my book. The images are really cool and I can’t wait to submit my manuscript later in the year. Now I just have to finish the text…so it’s back to the word processor for me! In the mean time check out this incredible new image from Hubble and if you want to find out more about what’s going on in the image download the Hubblecast!
Here is the latest release from the ESA/Hubble office that I have been working on. Hubble astronomers have used the orbiting space observatory to study the atmosphere of the extrasolar planet HD189733b (a number I can’t seem to get out of my head having written it so many times over the past few weeks). This world had previously been observed by the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope but now Hubble has shown that it actually has a layer of hazes in its upper atmosphere made up of tiny grains of (probably) silicates, iron and aluminum oxide. To read the full press release visit the ESA/Hubble website and of course there is the latest episode of the Hubblecast out where Dr J talks to the head of the ESA/Hubble group Dr Bob Fosbury about this amazing world.
Image credit: ESA, NASA and Frédéric Pont (Geneva University Observatory)
The latest Hubblecast is out! Episode number 10 explores behind the scenes of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
“We live in a Universe of unimaginable scale and almost incomprehensible beauty. How is the light from the Universe transformed into the images that have inspired generations by making the Universe come to life?”
If you have ever wondered how the incredible images from Hubble are made then this Hubblecast is for you!
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: B. Whitmore ( Space Telescope Science Institute) and James Long (ESA/Hubble).
The latest news release from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is out now on the ESA Hubble website – http://www.spacetelescope.org. It’s the story of how a galaxy we thought (for quite a long time as it happens) was really young is in fact very old.
“The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has found out the true nature of a dwarf galaxy that astronomers had for a long time identified as one of the youngest galaxies in the Universe. Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have made observations of the galaxy I Zwicky 18 which seem to indicate that it is in fact much older and much farther away than previously thought.”
Image credit: NASA, ESA and A. Aloisi (ESA/STScI)
Finally it’s here! – News from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope “NGC3603 – An extreme star cluster bursting into life!”
Image credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration
On Tuesday morning a small team from the ESA/Hubble office here traveled to a studio to film the next episode of the Hubblecast (no.9). The studio is located about 70km south of ESO headquarters, in the foothills of the Alps on the shore of Tegernsee a perfect place for the creative juices to flow!
We began work at about 9am with the shooting of Dr J’s introduction scenes as well as some more regular pieces to camera. In this episode we have pushed the boat out with some of the graphic effects too, the results of which you will see soon! After a couple of hours work the filming was complete and it was back to the office where the video could be added to the images and animations made by the graphic designer.
Image credit: Will Gater
I’ve just watched a preliminary cut of one scene and it is looking really very cool! Hopefully this will be one of the best Hubblecasts yet!
A few days ago I arrived in Germany to begin three months working on a science communication internship for the ESO/ESA/ST-ECF Hubble Europe Information Centre (HEIC) in Garching near Munich. The centre is located about 2km from Garching and is about an hour and a half from the Bavarian Alps. HEIC is part of the ESO headquarters here (alongside the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics) and is the central production hub for all media/press information and science communication literature and media, from Europe, about Hubble.
Each month our group sends out news and photo releases, vodcasts and much more about Hubble’s latest discoveries. They also manage outreach and public affairs for a number of other astronomical organizations and projects such as the IYA 2009.
Yesterday was my first day working in the offices here and I enjoyed it hugely! My job here is as a science writer so my main responsibilities lie in writing news and photo releases for the press, editing other releases and scripting the Hubblecast, ESA’s vodcast about recent Hubble results. I am also editing part of the Hubble website www.spacetelescope.org, helping to update sections with the latest science results. The pace of the work makes for a really exciting day. I started work at 9am and by 10am was doing my first teleconference with a scientist in Spain whose research I was writing a photo release on. The image we are working on is incredible and I will show everyone on this site once it is released (and the embargo is lifted) sometime in the coming weeks.
Within our offices there are graphic designers, science writers, web developers and others working on cool projects that the HEIC teams are related to. The team also consists of many other people who work on Hubble outreach and science communication projects, these include the people who turn data into amazing images. One of the coolest things to see is how the image you see on the news or in astronomy magazines goes from the raw Hubble data to these stunning pictures we’ve come to know and love. I think I’ll devote another whole post to that process later. It is quite something to see a fresh image which only the scientists working on and the people in the HEIC office have seen!
For now though why not go and watch the latest version of the Hubblecast here?