Babak Tafreshi, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors, has captured the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) under the southern sky in another breathtaking image. The photograph was taken on the Chajnantor Plateau, at an altitude of 5000 metres in the Chilean Andes.
This animated flight through the universe was made by Miguel Aragon of Johns Hopkins University with Mark Subbarao of the Adler Planetarium and Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins. There are close to 400,000 galaxies in the animation, with images of the actual galaxies in these positions derived from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Release 7.
Vast as this slice of the universe seems, its most distant reach is to redshift 0.1, corresponding to roughly 1.3 billion light years from Earth. SDSS Data Release 9 from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) includes spectroscopic data for well over half a million galaxies at redshifts up to 0.8 — roughly 7 billion light years distant — and over a hundred thousand quasars to redshift 3.0 and beyond.
This graphical timeline shows the launch dates of the more than 100 missions that JPL has either managed or participated in since 1958 — and has planned through 2019. JPL is inviting members of the public to submit their own space and mission-themed visualizations as part of its newly-launched JPL Infographics website. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A NASA-sponsored researcher at the University of Iowa has developed a way for spacecraft to hunt down hidden magnetic portals in the vicinity of Earth. These portals link the magnetic field of our planet to that of the sun.
This spectacular image shows Yepun , the fourth 8.2-metre Unit Telescope of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) facility, launching a powerful yellow laser beam into the sky. The beam creates a glowing spot — an artificial star — in the Earth’s atmosphere by exciting a layer of sodium atoms at an altitude of 90 km.
This Laser Guide Star (LGS) is part of the VLT’s adaptive optics system. The light coming back from the artificial star is used as a reference to control the deformable mirrors and remove the effects of atmospheric distortions, producing astronomical images almost as sharp as if the telescope were in space.
Yepun’s laser is not the only thing glowing brightly in the sky. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds can be seen, to the left and to the right of the laser beam, respectively. These nearby irregular dwarf galaxies are conspicuous objects in the southern hemisphere, and can be easily observed with the unaided eye.
The prominent bright star to the left of the Large Magellanic Cloud is Canopus, the brightest star in the constellation Carina (The Keel), while the one towards the top-right of the image is Achernar, the brightest in the constellation Eridanus (The River).
Since its birth, fifty years ago, ESO has helped to improve our knowledge of the Universe by means of successive generations of powerful optical ground-based telescopes. But there are other ways to collect the light from distant objects. This video shows how ESO has helped astronomers to explore the Universe at longer wavelengths, such as the infrared and radio regimes.
ESO Photo Ambassador Babak Tafreshi snapped this remarkable image of the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), set against the splendour of the Milky Way. The richness of the sky in this picture attests to the unsurpassed conditions for astronomy on the 5000-metre-high Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region.
This view shows the constellations of Carina and Vela. The dark, wispy dust clouds of the Milky Way streak from middle top left to middle bottom right. The bright orange star in the upper left is Suhail in Vela, while the similarly orange star in the upper middle is Avior, in Carina.
Of the three bright blue stars that form an “L” near these stars, the left two belong to Vela, and the right one to Carina. And exactly in the centre of the image below these stars gleams the pink glow of the Carina Nebula.
Beautiful images from the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites are used by people all over the world every day. But MODIS is about more than just pretty pictures — the instrument’s contributions to science include a better understanding of the Earth’s cloud cover, aerosols, phytoplankton levels, and land cover.
New IBEX data show heliosphere’s long-theorized bow shock does not exist
New results from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) reveal that the bow shock, widely accepted by researchers to precede the heliosphere as it plows through tenuous gas and dust in interstellar space (similar to the sonic boom made by a jet breaking the sound barrier), does not exist.
The latest refinements in relative speed and local interstellar magnetic field strength prevent the heliosphere, the magnetic “bubble” that cocoons Earth and the other planets, from developing a bow shock. The bow shock would consist of ionized gas or plasma that abruptly and discontinuously changes in density in the region of space that lies straight ahead of the heliosphere.
For about a quarter-century, researchers believed that the heliosphere moved through the interstellar medium at a speed fast enough to form a bow shock. IBEX data have shown that the heliosphere actually moves through the local interstellar cloud at about 84,000 km/h, roughly 11,000 km/h slower than previously thought — slow enough to create more of a bow “wave” than a shock.
While bow shocks certainly exist ahead of many other stars, we’re finding that our Sun’s interaction doesn’t reach the critical threshold to form a shock, so a wave is a more accurate depiction of what’s happening ahead of our heliosphere — much like the wave made by the bow of a boat as it glides through the water.
Above: The heliosphere is the region of space dominated by the Sun that cocoons Earth and the other planets. Inflated by the million-mile-per-hour solar wind, the bubble-shaped heliosphere pushes its way through the galaxy.