Tarantula Nebula

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Hubble captures fireworks

How a theist can look at all the fantastic images Hubble has offered humanity and somehow not feel insignificant in the Universe is one of the greatest feats of arrogance there is.

This gorgeous star cluster doesn’t need a holiday to set off fireworks. Officially called NGC 3603, the small community of young stars is located about 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.

Ultraviolet radiation and violent stellar winds from the cluster’s stars shoved away the cloud of gas and dust in which the stars formed, giving the Hubble Space Telescope’s new Wide Field Camera 3 a clear view. Hubble captured this image in August 2009 and December 2009, just a few months after the new camera was installed, in both visible and infrared light. The image shows a sharper view of the stars than an earlier image taken with Hubble’s NICMOS infrared camera in 2007, and traces sources of sulfur, hydrogen and iron.

Most of the stars in the cluster were born around the same time, but age differently depending on their masses. Clusters like NGC 3603 give astronomers a lab to study stars’ life cycles in detail, as well as a window into the origin of massive star formation in the distant universe. NGC 3603’s stars are among the most massive known. After they burn through their fuel, these stars will end their lives in spectacular supernova explosions.

Via Wired.

20 year Hubble anniversary

My favorite thing about showing up 3rd for searches of “Hubble” in Google image is that whenever Hubble is in the news, I know it pretty quickly thanks to the sharp increase in hits. (Right now the third result is some website that has swiped my Hubble image, but it still links back to FTSOS.) For instance, tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the launch of Hubble.

The universe was a different-looking place 20 years ago. The most powerful optical telescopes on Earth could see only halfway across the cosmos. Estimates for the age of the universe disagreed by a big margin. Supermassive black holes were only suspected to be the powerhouses behind a rare zoo of energetic phenomena seen at great distances. Einstein’s cosmological constant, a hypothesized repulsive property of space, was merely a skeleton in the astrophysics closet.

But astronomy was kicked-started into fast-forward on April 24th, 1990 when NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope left the blurry skies of Earth for the stars. Tucked away inside the space shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay, the telescope was set free into low earth orbit on April 25th.

Of course, this naturally means eye candy on FTSOS.