Data haul from Gaia space observatory offers a glimpse of what Earth’s night sky will look like for 1.6 million years to come.
Big, beautiful spiral galaxy M101 is one of the last entries in Charles Messier's famous catalog, but definitely not one of the least. About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is enormous, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way galaxy. M101 was also one of the original spiral nebulae observed by Lord Rosse's large 19th century telescope, the Leviathan of Parsontown. M101 shares this modern telescopic field of view with spiky foreground stars within the Milky Way, and more distant background galaxies. The colors of the Milky Way stars can also be found in the starlight from the large island universe. Its core is dominated by light from cool yellowish stars. Along its grand spiral arms are the blue colors of hotter, young stars mixed with obscuring dust lanes and pinkish star forming regions. Also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101 lies within the boundaries of the northern constellation Ursa Major, about 25 million light-years away.
A bright spiral galaxy of the northern sky, Messier 63 is nearby, about 30 million light-years distant toward the loyal constellation Canes Venatici. Also cataloged as NGC 5055, the majestic island universe is nearly 100,000 light-years across, about the size of our own Milky Way. Its bright core and majestic spiral arms lend the galaxy its popular name, The Sunflower Galaxy, while this exceptionally deep exposure also follows faint, arcing star streams far into the galaxy's halo. Extending nearly 180,000 light-years from the galactic center the star streams are likely remnants of tidally disrupted satellites of M63. Other satellite galaxies of M63 can be spotted in this remarkable wide-field image, made with a small telescope, including five newly identified faint dwarf galaxies, which could contribute to M63's star streams in the next few billion years.
It was the Middle Ages the last time humans witnessed the brilliant astronomical phenomenon we are about to see.
The planets Jupiter and Saturn align in the sky every 20 years or so, but it's been nearly 800 years since they've been close enough together from Earth's vantage point to create the double planet "star" known as the "Christmas star" or "Star of Bethlehem." This alignment will appear as a bright point of light that stands out starkly in the night sky.
"You'd have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky," Patrick Hartigan, astronomer at Rice University, told Forbes.
In infrared, Jupiter lights up the night. Recently, astronomers at the Gemini North Observatory in Hawaii, USA, created some of the best infrared photos of Jupiter ever taken from Earth’s surface, pictured. Gemini was able to produce such a clear image using a technique called lucky imaging, by taking many images and combining only the clearest ones that, by chance, were taken when Earth's atmosphere was the most calm. Jupiter’s jack-o’-lantern-like appearance is caused by the planet’s different layers of clouds. Infrared light can pass through clouds better than visible light, allowing us to see deeper, hotter layers of Jupiter's atmosphere, while the thickest clouds appear dark. These pictures, together with ones from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Juno spacecraft, can tell us a lot about weather patterns on Jupiter, like where its massive, planet-sized storms form.
Sixty million light-years away toward the southerly constellation Corvus, these two large galaxies are colliding. The cosmic train wreck captured in stunning detail in this Hubble Space Telescope snapshot takes hundreds of millions of years to play out. Cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, the galaxies' individual stars don't often collide though. Their large clouds of molecular gas and dust do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the wreckage. New star clusters and interstellar matter are jumbled and flung far from the scene of the accident by gravitational forces. This Hubble close-up frame is about 50,000 light-years across at the estimated distance of the colliding galaxies. In wider-field views their suggestive visual appearance, with extended structures arcing for hundreds of thousands of light-years, gives the galaxy pair its popular name, The Antennae Galaxies.
A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday.
Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The object was classified as an asteroid after its discovery in September. But NASA's top asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, quickly suspected it was the Centaur upper rocket stage from Surveyor 2, a failed 1966 moon-landing mission. Size estimates had put it in the range of the old Centaur, which was about 32 feet (10 meters) long and 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter.
Gaia EDR3 contains detailed information on more than 1.8 billion sources, detected by the Gaia spacecraft. This represents an increase of more than 100 million sources over the previous data release (Gaia DR2), which was made public in April 2018. Gaia EDR3 also contains colour information for around 1.5 billion sources, an increase of about 200 million sources over Gaia DR2. As well as including more sources, the general accuracy and precision of the measurements has also improved.
Lying inside our home galaxy, the Milky Way, this Herbig–Haro object is a turbulent birthing ground for new stars in a region known as the Orion B molecular cloud complex, located 1,350 light-years away.
Herbig–Haro (HH) objects are bright patches of nebulosity associated with newborn stars that form when narrow jets of partially ionized gas ejected by stars collide with nearby clouds of gas and dust. This image of Herbig-Haro Jet HH 24 was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2015.
When stars form within giant clouds of cool molecular hydrogen, some of the surrounding material collapses under gravity to form a rotating, flattened disk encircling the newborn star.
Although planets will later congeal in the disk, at this early stage the protostar is feeding on the disk with a voracious appetite. Gas from the disk rains down onto the protostar and engorges it. Superheated material spills away and is shot outward from the star in opposite directions along an uncluttered escape route – the star's rotation axis.
Shock fronts develop along the jets and heat the surrounding gas to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. The jets collide with the surrounding gas and dust and clear vast spaces, like a stream of water plowing into a hill of sand.
The Chang'e 5 probe touched down Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moon's near side after descending from an orbiter, the China National Space Administration said. It released images of the barren landing site showing the lander's shadow.
"Chang'e has collected moon samples," the agency said in a statement.
The probe, launched Nov. 24 from the tropical island of Hainan, is the latest venture by a space program that sent China's first astronaut into orbit in 2003. Beijing also has a spacecraft en route to Mars and aims eventually to land a human on the moon.
Do other stars have planets like our Sun? Previous evidence shows that they do, coming mostly from slight shifts in the star's light created by the orbiting planets. Recently, however, and for the first time, a pair of planets has been directly imaged around a Sun-like star. These exoplanets orbit the star designated TYC 8998-760-1 and are identified by arrows in the featured infrared image. At 17 million years old, the parent star is much younger than the 5-billion-year age of our Sun. Also, the exoplanets are both more massive and orbit further out than their Solar System analogues: Jupiter and Saturn. The exoplanets were found by the ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile by their infrared glow – after the light from their parent star was artificially blocked. As telescope and technology improve over the next decade, it is hoped that planets more closely resembling our Earth will be directly imaged.