Central NGC 1316: After Galaxies Collide

How did this strange-looking galaxy form? Astronomers turn detectives when trying to figure out the cause of unusual jumbles of stars, gas, and dust like NGC 1316. Inspection indicates that NGC 1316 is an enormous elliptical galaxy that somehow includes dark dust lanes usually found in a spiral galaxy. Detailed images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope shows details, however, that help in reconstructing the history of this gigantic tangle. Deep and wide images show huge collisional shells, while deep central images reveal fewer globular clusters of stars toward NGC 1316’s interior. Such effects are expected in galaxies that have Read more »

Southern Cross over Chilean Volcano

Have you ever seen the Southern Cross? This famous four-star icon is best seen from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. The featured image was taken last month in Chile and captures the Southern Cross just to the left of erupting Villarrica, one of the most active volcanos in our Solar System. Connecting the reddest Southern Cross star Gacrux through the brightest star Acrux points near the most southern location in the sky: the South Celestial Pole (SCP), around which all southern stars appear to spin as the Earth turns. In modern times, no bright star resides near the SCP, unlike in the Read more »

Southern Cross over Chilean Volcano

Have you ever seen the Southern Cross? This famous four-star icon is best seen from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. The featured image was taken last month in Chile and captures the Southern Cross just to the left of erupting Villarrica, one of the most active volcanos in our Solar System. Connecting the reddest Southern Cross star Gacrux through the brightest star Acrux points near the most southern location in the sky: the South Celestial Pole (SCP), around which all southern stars appear to spin as the Earth turns. In modern times, no bright star resides near the SCP, unlike in the Read more »

Massive Nearby Spiral Galaxy NGC 2841

It is one of the more massive galaxies known. A mere 46 million light-years distant, spiral galaxy NGC 2841 can be found in the northern constellation of Ursa Major. This sharp view of the gorgeous island universe shows off a striking yellow nucleus and galactic disk. Dust lanes, small, pink star-forming regions, and young blue star clusters are embedded in the patchy, tightly wound spiral arms. In contrast, many other spirals exhibit grand, sweeping arms with large star-forming regions. NGC 2841 has a diameter of over 150,000 light-years, even larger than our own Milky Way. The featured composite image merges Read more »

Recycling Cassiopeia A

Massive stars in our Milky Way Galaxy live spectacular lives. Collapsing from vast cosmic clouds, their nuclear furnaces ignite and create heavy elements in their cores. After a few million years, the enriched material is blasted back into interstellar space where star formation can begin anew. The expanding debris cloud known as Cassiopeia A is an example of this final phase of the stellar life cycle. Light from the explosion which created this supernova remnant would have been first seen in planet Earth’s sky about 350 years ago, although it took that light about 11,000 years to reach us. This Read more »

The Milky Ring

An expanse of cosmic dust, stars and nebulae along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy form a beautiful ring in this projected all-sky view. The creative panorama covers the entire galaxy visible from planet Earth, an ambitious 360 degree mosaic that took two years to complete. Northern hemisphere sites in western China and southern hemisphere sites in New Zealand were used to collect the image data. Like a glowing jewel set in the milky ring, the bulge of the galactic center, is at the very top. Bright planet Jupiter is the beacon just above the central bulge and left Read more »

M78 Wide Field

Interstellar dust clouds and glowing nebulae abound in the fertile constellation of Orion. One of the brightest, M78, is centered in this colorful, wide field view, covering an area north of Orion’s belt. At a distance of about 1,500 light-years, the bluish reflection nebula is around 5 light-years across. Its tint is due to dust preferentially reflecting the blue light of hot, young stars. Reflection nebula NGC 2071 is just to the left of M78. Flecks of emission from Herbig-Haro objects, energetic jets from stars in the process of formation, stand out against the dark dust lanes. The exposure also Read more »