This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a variety of intriguing cosmic phenomena.
Surrounded by bright stars, towards the upper middle of the frame we see a small young stellar object (YSO) known as SSTC2D J033038.2+303212. Located in the constellation of Perseus, this star is in the early stages of its life and is still forming into a fully-grown star. In this view from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys(ACS) it appears to have a murky chimney of material emanating outwards and downwards, framed by bright bursts of gas flowing from the star itself. This fledgling star is actually surrounded by a bright disk of material swirling around it as it forms — a disc that we see edge-on from our perspective.
However, this small bright speck is dwarfed by its cosmic neighbor towards the bottom of the frame, a clump of bright, wispy gas swirling around as it appears to spew dark material out into space. The bright cloud is a reflection nebula known as [B77] 63, a cloud of interstellar gas that is reflecting light from the stars embedded within it. There are actually a number of bright stars within [B77] 63, most notably the emission-line star LkHA 326, and it nearby neighbor LZK 18.
These stars are lighting up the surrounding gas and sculpting it into the wispy shape seen in this image. However, the most dramatic part of the image seems to be a dark stream of smoke piling outwards from [B77] 63 and its stars — a dark nebula called Dobashi 4173. Dark nebulae are incredibly dense clouds of pitch-dark material that obscure the patches of sky behind them, seemingly creating great rips and eerily empty chunks of sky. The stars speckled on top of this extreme blackness actually lie between us and Dobashi 4173.
The planet Saturn, observed by the Hubble Space Telescope on February 24, 2009. The moon Titan can be seen at upper righ while the white icy moons — much closer to Saturn, hence much closer to the ring plane in this view — are, from left to right, Enceladus, Dione, and Mimas. (Hubblesite)
Happy 1 (Martian) Year Anniversary Mars Curiosity!
Today NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover will complete a Martian year — 687 Earth days on the Red Planet. Below are some of Curiosity’s accomplishments in Year 1 as compiled by NASA.
In August 2012, Curiosity discovered an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms. The answer, a historic “yes,” came from two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill. Analysis of these samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth. If Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them.
Assessed natural radiation levels both during the flight to Mars and on the Martian surface provides guidance for designing the protection needed for human missions to Mars.
Measured heavy-versus-light variants of elements in the Martian atmosphere indicate that much of Mars’ early atmosphere disappeared by processes favoring loss of lighter atoms, such as from the top of the atmosphere. Other measurements found that the atmosphere holds very little, if any, methane, a gas that can be produced biologically.
Made first determinations of the age of a rock on Mars and how long a rock has been exposed to harmful radiation provide prospects for learning when water flowed and for assessing degradation rates of organic compounds in rocks and soils.
Orion’s belt runs just along the horizon, seen through Earth’s atmosphere and rising in this starry snapshot from low Earth orbit on board the International Space Station. The belt stars, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka run right to left and Orion’s sword, home to the great Orion Nebula, hangs above his belt, an orientation unfamiliar to denizens of the planet’s northern hemisphere. That puts bright star Rigel, at the foot of Orion, still higher above Orion’s belt. Of course the brightest celestial beacon in the frame is Sirius, alpha star of the constellation Canis Major. The station’s Destiny Laboratory module is in the foreground at the top right.
Image credit: NASA, ISS Expedition 40, Reid Wiseman