Yeah, that’s probably empty

I mean, there are only billions and billions of these. I can see how it might be reasonable to presume each one is empty.

If you’re arrogant, that is.


Thank you, Hubble

So it hasn’t escaped my notice that my hit count has been treading absurdly high in the past couple of days. And it equally hasn’t been missed that most of the views are devoted to my Hubble contest post. Well, it turns out I’m a bit late, but the reason is that NASA has released new images since Hubble’s last repair.

“Hubble is back in action. Together, NASA and Hubble are opening new vistas on the universe,” astronomer and frequent Hubble user Heidi Hammel said.

With the obligatory quote out of the way, let’s get to what everyone wants: the photos.

NGC 6302, Butterfly Nebula

NGC 6302, Butterfly Nebula

 Hickson Compact Group 92, Stephan’s Quintet

Hickson Compact Group 92, Stephan’s Quintet

Abell 37

Abell 37

NGC 6217

NGC 6217

Beautiful Hubble image

It completely slipped my mind that the winner of the Hubble contest had been released until I saw the absurd number of searches for “Hubble” on my stats page. The winner is ARP 274.

On April 1-2, the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the winning target in the Space Telescope Science Institute’s ‘You Decide’ competition in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA).

The winner is a group of galaxies called Arp 274. The striking object received 67,021 votes out of the nearly 140,000 votes cast for the six candidate targets.

Arp 274, also known as NGC 5679, is a system of three galaxies that appear to be partially overlapping in the image, although they may be at somewhat different distances. The spiral shapes of two of these galaxies appear mostly intact. The third galaxy (to the far left) is more compact, but shows evidence of star formation.

Two of the three galaxies are forming new stars at a high rate. This is evident in the bright blue knots of star formation that are strung along the arms of the galaxy on the right and along the small galaxy on the left.

The largest component is located in the middle of the three. It appears as a spiral galaxy, which may be barred. The entire system resides at about 400 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 was used to image Arp 274. Blue, visible and infrared filters were combined with a filter that isolates hydrogen emission. The colors in this image reflect the intrinsic color of the different stellar populations that make up the galaxies. Yellowish older stars can be seen in the central bulge of each galaxy. A bright central cluster of stars pinpoint each nucleus. Younger blue stars trace the spiral arms, along with pinkish nebulae that are illuminated by new star formation. Interstellar dust is silhouetted against the starry population. A pair of foreground stars inside our own Milky Way are at far right.

The International Year of Astronomy is the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first observations with a telescope. People around the world came together to participate in the IYA’s 100 Hours of Astronomy, April 2 to 5. This global astronomy event was geared toward encouraging as many people as possible to experience the night sky.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

ARP 274

ARP 274

Cool Hubble contest

NASA is asking the public to vote on what Hubble should image next.

The U.S. space agency is inviting the public to vote for one of six candidate astronomical objects for Hubble to observe in honor of the International Year of Astronomy, which began this month. The options, which Hubble has not previously photographed, range from far-flung galaxies to dying stars. Votes can be cast until March 1.

Hubble’s camera will take a high-resolution image revealing new details about the object that receives the most votes. The image will be released during the International Year of Astronomy’s “100 Hours of Astronomy” from April 2 to 5.

Everyone who votes also will be entered into a random drawing to receive one of 100 copies of the Hubble photograph made of the winning celestial body.

Voting can be done here. I personally cast my vote for the interacting galaxies. I find it exciting to see two massive, gravity-bound clusters of stars tear each other apart. But maybe I’m too mundane. The spiral galaxy is currently in the lead.


This image is called “The Antennae Galaxies in Collision” (and is just eye-candy for this post; it doesn’t have anything to do with the voting).