Astronomy anyone?

wez

Big Time BS
A Pulsar's Hand
Credit: P. Slane (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA) et al., CXC, NASA

Explanation: As far as pulsars go, PSR B1509-58 appears young. Light from the supernova explosion that gave birth to it would have first reached Earth some 1,700 years ago. The magnetized, 20 kilometer-diameter neutron star spins 7 times per second, a cosmic dynamo that powers a wind of charged particles. The energetic wind creates the surrounding nebula's X-ray glow in this tantalizing image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Low energy X-rays are in red, medium energies in green, and high energies in blue. The pulsar itself is in the bright central region. Remarkably, the nebula's tantalizing, complicated structure resembles a hand. PSR B1509-58 is about 17,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Circinus. At that distance the Chandra image spans 100 light-years.
 

wez

Big Time BS
The Magnificent Horsehead Nebula
Image Credit & Copyright: Marco Burali, Tiziano Capecchi, Marco Mancini (Osservatorio MTM)

Explanation: Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, a magnificent interstellar dust cloud by chance has assumed this recognizable shape. Fittingly named the Horsehead Nebula, it is some 1,500 light-years distant, embedded in the vast Orion cloud complex. About five light-years "tall", the dark cloud is cataloged as Barnard 33 and is visible only because its obscuring dust is silhouetted against the glowing red emission nebula IC 434. Stars are forming within the dark cloud. Contrasting blue reflection nebula NGC 2023, surrounding a hot, young star, is at the lower left. The gorgeous color image combines both narrowband and broadband images recorded using three different telescopes.​
 

wez

Big Time BS
Thor's Helmet
Credit & Copyright: Star Shadows Remote Observatory and PROMPT/UNC
(Steve Mazlin, Jack Harvey, Rick Gilbert, and Daniel Verschatse)



Explanation: This helmet-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages is popularly called Thor's Helmet. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the helmet is actually more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center sweeps through a surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. Cataloged as NGC 2359, the nebula is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The sharp image, made using broadband and narrowband filters, captures striking details of the nebula's filamentary structures. It shows off a blue-green color from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas.
 

wez

Big Time BS
Dark River, Wide Field
Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Explanation: A Dark River of dust seems to run from our Galactic Center, then pool into a starfield containing photogenic sky wonders. Scrolling right will reveal many of these objects including (can you find?) the bright orange star Antares, a blue(-eyed) horsehead nebula, the white globular star cluster M4, the bright blue star system Rho Ophiuchi, the dark brown Pipe nebula, the red Lagoon nebula, the red and blue Trifid nebula, the red Cat's Paw Nebula, and the multicolored but still important center of our Galaxy. This wide view captures in exquisite detail about 50 degrees of the nighttime sky, 100 times the size of the full Moon, covering constellations from the Archer (Sagittarius) through the Snake Holder (Ophiuchus), to the Scorpion (Scorpius). The Dark River itself can be identified as the brown dust lane connected to Antares, and spans about 100 light years. Since the Dark River dust lane lies only about 500 light years away, it only appears as a bridge to the much more distant Galactic Center, that actually lies about 25,000 light years farther away.​
 

wez

Big Time BS
The Crown of the Sun
Credit & Copyright: Alain Maury, Jean-Luc Dauvergne

Explanation: During a total solar eclipse, the Sun's extensive outer atmosphere, or corona, is an inspirational sight. Subtle shades and shimmering features that engage the eye span a brightness range of over 10,000 to 1, making them notoriously difficult to capture in a single photograph. But this composite of 7 consecutive digital images over a range of exposure times comes close to revealing the crown of the Sun in all its glory. The telescopic views were recorded from the Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) during July 11's total solar eclipse and also show solar prominences extending just beyond the edge of the eclipsed sun. Remarkably, features on the dim, near side of the New Moon can also be made out, illuminated by sunlight reflected from a Full Earth.​
 

wez

Big Time BS
Hoag's Object: A Strange Ring Galaxy
Credit: R. Lucas (STScI/AURA), Hubble Heritage Team, NASA



Explanation:
Is this one galaxy or two? This question came to light in 1950 when astronomer Art Hoag chanced upon this unusual extragalactic object. On the outside is a ring dominated by bright blue stars, while near the center lies a ball of much redder stars that are likely much older. Between the two is a gap that appears almost completely dark. How Hoag's Object formed remains unknown, although similar objects have now been identified and collectively labeled as a form of ring galaxy. Genesis hypotheses include a galaxy collision billions of years ago and the gravitational affect of a central bar that has since vanished. The above photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in July 2001 reveals unprecedented details of Hoag's Object and may yield a better understanding. Hoag's Object spans about 100,000 light years and lies about 600 million light years away toward the constellation of the Snake (Serpens). Coincidentally, visible in the gap (at about one o'clock) is yet another ring galaxy that likely lies far in the distance.
 
Here is a picture and post on a local board of someone in my hometown...

Just returned from the Nebraska Star Party a few days ago. It's a gathering of amateur astronomers from all over the United States to a very dark corner of Nebraska, Merritt Reservoir. Few other places in the United States, and almost none east of the Mississippi can compare with our dark skies. They mow and bail the grass over a large area so everyone can spread out and set up their telescopes.

I went again this year and got a pretty good picture of Andromeda (M31) while there. Andromeda is our nearest large neighbor galaxy. The smaller galaxy is M110 which is a satellite galaxy of Andromeda.

http://co-www2.columbustelegram.com/shared-content/phpBB/viewtopic.php?p=32315#32315
 

wez

Big Time BS
Wow.. very cool pic IWS..

M27: Not a Comet
Credit & Copyright: Matthew T. Russell



Explanation: While hunting for comets in the skies above 18th century France, astronomer Charles Messier diligently kept a list of the things he encountered that were definitely not comets. This is number 27 on his now famous not-a-comet list. In fact, 21st century astronomers would identify it as a planetary nebula, but it's not a planet either, even though it may appear round and planet-like in a small telescope. Messier 27 (M27) is an excellent example of a gaseous emission nebula created as a sun-like star runs out of nuclear fuel in its core. The nebula forms as the star's outer layers are expelled into space, with a visible glow generated by atoms excited by the dying star's intense but invisible ultraviolet light. Known by the popular name of the Dumbbell Nebula, the beautifully symmetric interstellar gas cloud is over 2.5 light-years across and about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula. This impressive color composite highlights details within the well-studied central region and fainter, seldom imaged features in the nebula's outer halo. It includes narrowband images recorded using filters sensitive to emission from oxygen atoms, shown in blue-green hues, and hydrogen atoms in red.​
 

wez

Big Time BS
Reminds me of a Soundgarden song..
Hole in the Sun
Credit: NASA / Goddard / SDO AIA Team



Explanation: This ominous, dark shape sprawling across the face of the Sun is a coronal hole -- a low density region extending above the surface where the solar magnetic field opens freely into interplanetary space. Studied extensively from space since the 1960s in ultraviolet and x-ray light, coronal holes are known to be the source of the high-speed solar wind, atoms and electrons which flow outward along the open magnetic field lines. During periods of low activity, coronal holes typically cover regions just above the Sun's poles. But this extensive coronal hole dominated the Sun's northern hemisphere earlier this week, captured here in extreme ultraviolet light by cameras onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The solar wind streaming from this coronal hole triggered auroral displays on planet Earth.​
 

wez

Big Time BS
Vela Supernova Remnant
Credit & Copyright: Marco Lorenzi (Star Echoes)


Explanation: The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy runs through this complex and beautiful skyscape. At the northwestern edge of the constellation Vela (the Sails) the four frame mosaic is over 10 degrees wide, centered on the glowing filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant, the expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the supernova explosion that created the Vela remnant reached Earth about 11,000 years ago. In addition to the shocked filaments of glowing gas, the cosmic catastrophe also left behind an incredibly dense, rotating stellar core, the Vela Pulsar. Some 800 light-years distant, the Vela remnant is likely embedded in a larger and older supernova remnant, the Gum Nebula.
 

wez

Big Time BS
The Veil Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh


Explanation: Delicate in appearance, these filaments of shocked, glowing gas, draped in planet Earth's sky toward the constellation of Cygnus, make up the Veil Nebula. The nebula is a large supernova remnant, an expanding cloud born of the death explosion of a massive star. Light from the original supernova explosion likely reached Earth over 5,000 years ago. Also known as the Cygnus Loop, the Veil Nebula now spans nearly nearly 3 degrees or about 6 times the diameter of the full Moon. That translates to over 70 light-years at at its estimated distance of 1,500 light-years. In fact, the Veil is so large its brighter parts are recognized as separate nebulae, including The Witch's Broom (NGC 6960) at the bottom of this stunning skyview and Pickering's Triangle (NGC 6979) below and right of center. At the top is the haunting IC 1340.​
 

wez

Big Time BS
Ghost of the Cepheus Flare
Credit & Copyright: Stephen Leshin


Explanation: Spooky shapes seem to haunt this starry expanse, drifting through the night in the royal constellation Cepheus. Of course, the shapes are cosmic dust clouds faintly visible in dimly reflected starlight. Far from your own neighborhood on planet Earth, they lurk at the edge of the Cepheus Flare molecular cloud complex some 1,200 light-years away. Over 2 light-years across the ghostly nebula known as vdB 141 or Sh2-136 is near the center of the field. The core of the dark cloud on the right is collapsing and is likely a binary star system in the early stages of formation.
 

wez

Big Time BS
Nebulae in the Northern Cross
Credit & Copyright: Rolf Geissinger

Explanation: Explore a beautiful and complex region of nebulae strewn along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy in this widefield skyscape. The image emphasizes cosmic gas clouds in a 25 by 25 degree view centered on the Northern Cross, the famous asterism in the constellation Cygnus. Bright, hot, supergiant star Deneb at the top of the cross, Sadr near the center, and beautiful Albireo run diagonally through the scene. Popular telescopic tour destinations such as the North America and Pelican emission regions, the Butterfly Nebula (IC 1318), and the Crescent and Veil nebulae can be identified by placing your cursor over the image. Silhouetted by the glowing interstellar clouds and crowded star fields, the dark Northern Coal Sack also stands out, part of a series of obscuring dust clouds forming the Great Rift in the Milky Way. These Northern Cross nebulosities are all located about 2,000 light-years away. Along with the Sun, they lie within the Orion spiral arm of our galaxy.
 

wez

Big Time BS
The North America Nebula in Infrared
Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, L. Rebull (SSC, Caltech); Optical Rollover: DSS, D. De Martin


Explanation: The North America Nebula can do what most North Americans cannot -- form stars. Precisely where in the nebula these stars are forming has been mostly obscured by some of the nebula's thick dust that is opaque to visible light. However, a new view of the North America Nebula in infrared light by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope has peered through much of the dust and uncovered thousands of newly formed stars. Rolling your cursor over the above scientifically-colored infrared image will bring up a corresponding optical image of the same region for comparison. The new infrared image neatly captures young stars in many stages of formation, from being imbedded in dense knots of gas and dust, to being surrounded by disks and emitted jets, to being clear of their birth cocoons. The North America Nebula (NGC 7000) spans about 50 light years and lies about 1,500 light years away toward the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). Still, of all the stars known in the North America Nebula, which massive stars emit the energetic light that gives the ionized red glow is still debated.​
 

wez

Big Time BS
Cygnus-X: The Inner Workings of a Nearby Star Factory
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA
Explanation: How do stars form? To help study this complex issue, astronomers took a deep infrared image of Cygnus X, the largest known star forming region in the entire Milky Way Galaxy. The above recently-released image was taken in 2009 by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope and digitally translated into colors humans can see, with the hottest regions colored the most blue. Visible are large bubbles of hot gas inflated by the winds of massive stars soon after they form. Current models posit that these expanding bubbles sweep up gas and sometimes even collide, frequently creating regions dense enough to gravitationally collapse into yet more stars. The star factory Cygnus-X spans over 600 light years, contains over a million times the mass of our Sun, and shines prominently on wide angle infrared panoramas of the night sky. Cygnus X lies 4,500 light years away towards the constellation of the Swan (Cygnus). In a few million years, calm will likely be restored and a large open cluster of stars will remain -- which itself will disperse over the next 100 million years.