Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hubble Watches the Icy Blue Wings of Hen 2-437

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Picture Credits: NASA App, Hubble Space Telescope..

In this cosmic snapshot, the spectacularly symmetrical wings of Hen 2-437 show up in a magnificent icy blue hue. Hen 2-437 is a planetary nebula, one of around 3,000 such objects known to reside within the Milky Way.

Located within the faint northern constellation of Vulpecula (The Fox), Hen 2-437 was first identified in 1946 by Rudolph Minkowski, who later also discovered the famous and equally beautiful M2-9 (otherwise known as the Twin Jet Nebula). Hen 2-437 was added to a catalog of planetary nebula over two decades later by astronomer and NASA astronaut Karl Gordon Henize.

Planetary nebulae such as Hen 2-437 form when an aging low-mass star — such as the sun — reaches the final stages of life. The star swells to become a red giant, before casting off its gaseous outer layers into space. The star itself then slowly shrinks to form a white dwarf, while the expelled gas is slowly compressed and pushed outwards by stellar winds. As shown by its remarkably beautiful appearance, Hen 2-437 is a bipolar nebula — the material ejected by the dying star has streamed out into space to create the two icy blue lobes pictured here.

Image credit: ESA (European Space Agency)/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt
Text credit: ESA

Hubble Space Telescope

LIGO Detects Gravitational waves from Merging Block Holes

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Picture Credits: NASA App

Gravitational radiation has been directly detected. The first-ever detection was made by both facilities of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Washington and Louisianasimultaneously last September. After numerous consistency checks, the resulting 5-sigmadiscovery was published today. The measuredgravitational waves match those expected from two large black holes merging after a death spiralin a distant galaxy, with the resulting new black hole momentarily vibrating in a rapid ringdown. A phenomenon predicted by Einstein, the historic discovery confirms a cornerstone of humanity's understanding of gravity and basic physics. It is also the most direct detection of black holes ever. The featured illustration depicts the two merging black holes with the signal strength of the two detectors over 0.3 seconds superimposed across the bottom. Expected future detections by Advanced LIGO and other gravitational wave detectorsmay not only confirm the spectacular nature of this measurement but hold tremendous promise of giving humanity a new way to see and explore our universe.
For image credit and copyright guidance, please visit the image websitehttp://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap160211.html

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Galaxies in the river

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Image courtesy: NASA

Large galaxies grow by eating small ones. Even our own galaxy practices galactic cannibalism, absorbing small galaxies that get too close and are captured by the Milky Way's gravity. In fact, the practice is common in the universe and illustrated by this striking pair of interacting galaxies from the banks of the southern constellation EridanusThe River. Located over 50 million light years away, the large, distorted spiral NGC 1532 is seen locked in a gravitational struggle with dwarf galaxy NGC 1531 (right of center), a struggle the smaller galaxy will eventually lose. Seen edge-on, spiral NGC 1532 spans about 100,000 light-years. Nicely detailedin this sharp image, the NGC 1532/1531 pair is thought to be similar to the well-studied system of face-on spiral and small companion known as M51.
Image Credit & CopyrightCEDIC Team - Processing:Markus Blauensteiner