Tuesday, May 30, 2023

How did we get here? We know that we live on a planet orbiting a star orbiting a galaxy, but how did all of this form? Since our universe moves too slowly to watch, faster-moving computer simulations are created to help find out. Specifically, this featured video from the IllustrisTNG collaboration tracks gas from the early universe (redshift 12) until today (redshift 0). As the simulation begins, ambient gas falls into and accumulates in a region of relatively high gravity. After a few billion years, a well-defined center materializes from a strange and fascinating cosmic dance. Gas blobs -- some representing small satellite galaxies -- continue to fall into and become absorbed by the rotating galaxy as the present epoch is reached and the video ends. For the Milky Way Galaxy, however, big mergers may not be over -- recent evidence indicates that our large spiral disk Galaxy will collide and coalesce with the slightly larger Andromeda spiral disk galaxy in the next few billion years. via NASA https://ift.tt/gmWGzf2

Monday, May 29, 2023

Is this what will become of our Sun? Quite possibly. The first hint of our Sun's future was discovered inadvertently in 1764. At that time, Charles Messier was compiling a list of diffuse objects not to be confused with comets. The 27th object on Messier's list, now known as M27 or the Dumbbell Nebula, is a planetary nebula, one of the brightest planetary nebulae on the sky and visible with binoculars toward the constellation of the Fox (Vulpecula). It takes light about 1000 years to reach us from M27, featured here in colors emitted by sulfur (red), hydrogen (green) and oxygen (blue). We now know that in about 6 billion years, our Sun will shed its outer gases into a planetary nebula like M27, while its remaining center will become an X-ray hot white dwarf star. Understanding the physics and significance of M27 was well beyond 18th century science, though. Even today, many things remain mysterious about planetary nebulas, including how their intricate shapes are created. via NASA https://ift.tt/a97NMWd

Sunday, May 28, 2023

What glows there? The answer depends: sea or sky? In the sea, the unusual blue glow is bioluminescence. Specifically, the glimmer arises from Noctiluca scintillans, single-celled plankton stimulated by the lapping waves. The plankton use their glow to startle and illuminate predators. This mid-February display on an island in the Maldives was so intense that the astrophotographer described it as a turquoise wonderland. In the sky, by contrast, are the more familiar glows of stars and nebulas. The white band rising from the artificially-illuminated green plants is created by billions of stars in the central disk of our Milky Way Galaxy. Also visible in the sky is the star cluster Omega Centauri, toward the left, and the famous Southern Cross asterism in the center. Red-glowing nebulas include the bright Carina Nebula, just right of center, and the expansive Gum Nebula on the upper right. via NASA https://ift.tt/kO1KIzZ

Saturday, May 27, 2023

This asteroid has a moon. The robot spacecraft Galileo on route to Jupiter in 1993 encountered and photographed two asteroids during its long interplanetary voyage. The second minor planet it photographed, 243 Ida, was unexpectedly discovered to have a moon. The tiny moon, Dactyl, is only about 1.6 kilometers across and seen as a small dot on the right of the sharpened featured image. In contrast, the potato-shaped Ida is much larger, measuring about 60 kilometers long and 25 km wide. Dactyl is the first moon of an asteroid ever discovered -- now many asteroids are known to have moons. The names Ida and Dactyl are from Greek mythology. via NASA https://ift.tt/xDQ3y8a

Friday, May 26, 2023

Crescent Neptune and Triton

Gliding through the outer Solar System, in 1989 the Voyager 2 spacecraft looked toward the Sun to find this view of most distant planet Neptune and its moon Triton together in a crescent phase. The elegant image of ice-giant planet and largest moon was taken from behind just after Voyager's closest approach. It could not have been taken from Earth because the most distant planet never shows a crescent phase to sunward eyes. Heading for the heliopause and beyond, the spacecraft's parting vantage point also robs Neptune of its familiar blue hue. via NASA https://ift.tt/YXhORtN

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Virgo Cluster Galaxies

Galaxies of the Virgo Cluster are scattered across this nearly 4 degree wide telescopic field of view. About 50 million light-years distant, the Virgo Cluster is the closest large galaxy cluster to our own local galaxy group. Prominent here are Virgo's bright elliptical galaxies Messier catalog, M87 at bottom center, and M84 and M86 (top to bottom) near top left. M84 and M86 are recognized as part of Markarian's Chain, a visually striking line-up of galaxies on the left side of this frame. Near the middle of the chain lies an intriguing interacting pair of galaxies, NGC 4438 and NGC 4435, known to some as Markarian's Eyes. Of course giant elliptical galaxy M87 dominates the Virgo cluster. It's the home of a super massive black hole, the first black hole ever imaged by planet Earth's Event Horizon Telescope. via NASA https://ift.tt/an1To6v

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Cat s Eye Wide and Deep

The Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae in the sky. Its more familiar outlines are seen in the brighter central region of the nebula in this impressive wide-angle view. But this wide and deep image combining data from two telescopes also reveals its extremely faint outer halo. At an estimated distance of 3,000 light-years, the faint outer halo is over 5 light-years across. Planetary nebulae have long been appreciated as a final phase in the life of a sun-like star. More recently, some planetary nebulae are found to have halos like this one, likely formed of material shrugged off during earlier episodes in the star's evolution. While the planetary nebula phase is thought to last for around 10,000 years, astronomers estimate the age of the outer filamentary portions of this halo to be 50,000 to 90,000 years. Visible on the right, some 50 million light-years beyond the watchful planetary nebula, lies spiral galaxy NGC 6552. via NASA https://ift.tt/5wgoFS7