The Hubble Space Telescope has produced a time-lapse movie of a mysterious protostar that behaves like a flashing light. Every 25.34 days, the object, designated LRLL 54361, unleashes a burst of light which propagates through the surrounding dust and gas. This is only the third time this phenomenon has been observed, and it is the most powerful such beacon seen to date. It is also the first to be seen associated with a light echo.
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.
From high above the Earth, the International Space Station (ISS) provides a unique vantage point to view our home planet. Stunning time-lapse photography of cities, aurora, lightning and other sights are seen from orbit. Famed astronomer Galileo imagined these views from space and now through the technological marvel of the space station, we can see them for ourselves.
This artist’s impression shows how hot, brilliant and high-mass stars evolve. New work using ESO telescopes has shown that most such stars are in pairs. These stars are up to one million times brighter than the Sun, and evolve about one thousand times more quickly.
As the stars evolve they expand slowly. The more massive brighter star expands first, until the outer layers start to strongly feel the gravitational pull of the companion, deforming the star into a teardrop shape. The companion then starts to suck material from the primary star.
When the primary has been stripped from its entire hydrogen rich envelope it shrinks. At this point the secondary star is now rotating very fast and has an oblate shape. The hot compact star continues to fuse heavier and heavier elements in its centre until it explodes as a supernova.
During the explosion a neutron star is born which probably escapes. The secondary is left behind alone. It swells up and becomes a red supergiant with a radius a few times larger than the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. Eventually the second star also explodes as a supernova.
This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 31 on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken from June 29, 2012 from 02:24:38 to 02:41:11 GMT, on a pass from the Caribbean Sea, near the border of Honduras and Nicaragua, to the South Atlantic Ocean, east of Brazil.
This night pass begins looking southeast over the Caribbean Sea. The only thing visible to the camera are the several lightning strikes resembling storms over the sea. As the ISS continues southeast over South America, there are a small number of city lights seen before the ISS flies over the Atlantic Ocean, where another line of lightning storms is seen.
How do galaxies like our Milky Way form? Since our universe moves too slowly to watch, faster-moving computer simulations are created to help find out. Green depicts (mostly) hydrogen gas in the above movie, while time is shown in billions of years since the Big Bang on the lower right. Pervasive dark matter is present but not shown.
As the simulation begins, ambient gas falls into and accumulates in regions of relatively high gravity. Soon numerous proto-galaxies form, spin, and begin to merge. After about four billion years, a well-defined center materializes that dominates a region about 100,000 light-years across and starts looking like a modern disk galaxy.
After a few billion more years, however, this early galaxy collides with another, all while streams of gas from other mergers rain down on this strange and fascinating cosmic dance. As the simulation reaches half the current age of the universe, a single larger disk develops.
Even so, gas blobs fall into and become absorbed by the rotating galaxy as the present epoch is reached and the movie ends. For our Milky Way Galaxy, however, big mergers may not be over — recent evidence indicates that our large spiral disk Galaxy will collide and coalesce with the slightly larger Andromeda spiral disk galaxy in the next few billion years.
Astronomers already know of some of the bizarre objects that exist at our Galactic center, including like vast cosmic dust clouds, bright star clusters, swirling rings of gas, and even a supermassive black hole.
Much of the Galactic Center is shielded from our view in visible light by the intervening dust and gas, but it can be explored using other forms of electromagnetic radiation.
The above video is actually a digital zoom into the Milky Way’s center which starts by utilizing visible light images from the Digitized Sky Survey. As the movie proceeds, the light shown shifts to dust-penetrating infrared and highlights gas clouds that were recently discovered to be falling toward central black hole.
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.
Fermi detects the highest-energy light from a solar flare
During a powerful solar blast in March, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected the highest-energy light ever associated with an eruption on the sun. The discovery heralds Fermi’s new role as a solar observatory, a powerful new tool for understanding solar outbursts during the sun’s maximum period of activity.
While astronomers around the world looked to the skies last week to witness Venus move across the face of the Sun, ESA’s Venus Express took measurements of the transiting planet from its unique viewpoint.
Venus Express is currently the only spacecraft orbiting Venus, but of course could not tell that the 5–6 June transit was occurring from its location. Instead, it watched the Sun setting through the planet’s thick atmosphere towards the end of the transit as seen from Earth, a technique used to reveal the concentration of different gas molecules at different altitudes.
The movie tracks cloud motions in the planet’s thick atmosphere on 1 June, initially looking at the southern hemisphere. As the spacecraft moves closer, cloud structures are seen around the planet’s equator, before moving to high latitudes by the end of the sequence.