martes, 6 de enero de 2009

Astronomy Picture of the Day

The North America Nebula

Explanation: The North America Nebula in the sky can do what most North Americans on Earth cannot -- form stars. Specifically, in analogy to the Earth-confined continent, the bright part that appears as Central America and Mexico is actually a hot bed of gas, dust, and newly formed stars known as the Cygnus Wall. This beautiful skyscape shows the star forming wall lit and eroded by bright young stars, and partly hidden by the dark dust they have created. 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).

Fox Fur, a Unicorn, and a Christmas Tree

Explanation: Clouds of glowing hydrogen gas fill this colorful skyscape in the faint but fanciful constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. A star forming region cataloged as NGC 2264, the complex jumble of cosmic gas and dust is about 2,700 light-years distant and mixes reddish emission nebulae excited by energetic light from newborn stars with dark interstellar dust clouds. Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds lie close to the hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue reflection nebulae. The wide mosaic spans about 3/4 degree or nearly 1.5 full moons, covering 40 light-years at the distance of NGC 2264. Its cast of cosmic characters includes the the Fox Fur Nebula, whose convoluted pelt lies at the upper left, bright variable star S Mon immersed in the blue-tinted haze just below the Fox Fur, and the Cone Nebula at the far right. Of course, the stars of NGC 2264 are also known as the Christmas Tree star cluster. The triangular tree shape traced by the stars appears sideways here, with its apex at the Cone Nebula and its broader base centered near S Mon.

Crab Pulsar Wind Nebula

Explanation: The Crab Pulsar, a city-sized, magnetized neutron star spinning 30 times a second, lies at the center of this remarkable image from the orbiting Chandra Observatory. The deep x-ray image gives the first clear view of the convoluted boundaries of the Crab's pulsar wind nebula. Like a cosmic dynamo the pulsar powers the x-ray emission. The pulsar's energy accelerates charged particles, producing eerie, glowing x-ray jets directed away from the poles and an intense wind in the equatorial direction. Intriguing edges are created as the charged particles stream away, eventually losing energy as they interact with the pulsar's strong magnetic field. With more mass than the Sun and the density of an atomic nucleus, the spinning pulsar itself is the collapsed core of a massive star. The stellar core collapse resulted in a supernova explosion that was witnessed in the year 1054. This Chandra image spans just under 9 light-years at the Crab's estimated distance of 6,000 light-years.

NGC 1569: Starburst in a Dwarf Irregular Galaxy

Explanation: Grand spiral galaxies often seem to get all the glory, flaunting their young, bright, blue star clusters in beautiful, symmetric spiral arms. But small, irregular galaxies form stars too. In fact, as pictured here, dwarf galaxy NGC 1569 is apparently undergoing a burst of star forming activity, thought to have begun over 25 million years ago. The resulting turbulent environment is fed by supernova explosions as the cosmic detonations spew out material and trigger further star formation. Two massive star clusters - youthful counterparts to globular star clusters in our own spiral Milky Way galaxy - are seen left of center in the gorgeous Hubble Space Telescope image. The above picture spans about 8,000 light-years across NGC 1569. A mere 11 million light-years distant, this relatively close starburst galaxy offers astronomers an excellent opportunity to study stellar populations in rapidly evolving galaxies. NGC 1569 lies in the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis.

Double Cluster in Perseus

Explanation: Some 7,000 light-years away, this pair of open or galactic star clusters is an easy binocular target, a lovely starfield in the northern constellation Perseus. Also visible to the unaided eye from dark sky areas, it was cataloged in 130 BC by Greek astronomer Hipparchus. Now known as h and chi Persei, or NGC 869(above right) and NGC 884, the clusters themselves are separated by only a few hundred light-years and contain stars much younger and hotter than the Sun. In addition to being physically close together, the clusters' ages based on their individual stars are similar - evidence that both clusters were likely a product of the same star-forming region.

Comet and Meteor

Explanation: This meteor streaking toward the horizon through the early morning sky of January 4th is from the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. Aligned with the shower's radiant point high in the north (off the top of the view), the meteor trail passes to the right of bright bluish star Beta Scorpii. Remarkably, near the top of the trail is a small spot, the fuzzy greenish glow of a comet. Discovered in July of 2007, Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3), is too faint now to be easily seen by the unaided eye, but will likely brighten to become visible to skygazers by late February. The well-timed skyscape featuring both comet and meteor is particularly appropriate as cometary bodies are known to be the origins of planet Earth's annual meteor showers.

Jupiter Eclipsing Ganymede

Explanation: How hazy is Jupiter's upper atmosphere? To help find out, astronomers deployed the Hubble Space Telescope to watch Jupiter eclipse its moon Ganymede. Although Ganymede circles Jupiter once a week, a particularly useful occultation occurs more rarely. Such an occultation was captured in great visual detail in April 2007. When near Jupiter's limb, Ganymede reflects sunlight though Jupiter's upper atmosphere, allowing astronomers to search for haze by noting a slight dimming at different colors. One result of this investigation was the above spectacular image, where bands of clouds that circle Jupiter are clearly visible, as well as magnificent swirling storm systems such as the Great Red Spot. Ganymede, at the image bottom, also shows noticeable detail on its dark icy surface. Since Jupiter and Ganymede are so bright, many eclipses can be seen right here on Earth with a small telescope.

The Galactic Core in Infrared

Explanation: What's happening at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy? To help find out, the orbiting Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have combined their efforts to survey the region in unprecedented detail in infrared light. Infrared light is particularly useful for probing the Milky Way's center because visible light is more greatly obscured by dust. The above image encompasses over 2,000 images from the Hubble Space Telescope's NICMOS taken last year. The image spans 300 by 115 light years with such high resolution that structures only 20 times the size of our own Solar System are discernable. Clouds of glowing gas and dark dust as well as three large star clusters are visible. Magnetic fields may be channeling plasma along the upper left near the Arches Cluster, while energetic stellar winds are carving pillars near the Quintuplet Cluster on the lower left. The massive Central Cluster of stars surrounding Sagittarius A* is visible on the lower right. Why several central, bright, massive stars appear to be unassociated with these star clusters is not yet understood.

(Click sobre las imágenes para ampliarlas)


4 comentarios:

Zion Kid dijo...

Pasaste una vez a visitarme y no regresé la visita. Te dejo un saludo y prometo dar más vueltas por aquí.

programero dijo...

Hola, he añadido el banner, abrazos ...

Achernar dijo...


Gracias. Muy amable.


saturnorings dijo...

Es increible la cantidad de poesia que hay en el universo. Muy interesante tu blog.