Each Egg a Universe Unto Itself

Image Credit & Copyright: Allison Murray.

If you’re like me, you enjoy finding new and exciting ways to have fun and open your kids minds to new things so what a great idea for those of us who are space nuts and also love painting up Easter eggs.  I don’t celebrate these holidays per-se but there’s something to be said for traditions and taking part in moments that create memories like coloring eggs and egg hunts.  I still remember countless holidays through my childhood and I cherish many of them.  I’ll keep this short and sweet but I’ve placed Allison’s link below so you can give these galactic eggs a shot yourself!

Allison’s tutorial on this egg design: http://www.dreamalittlebigger.com/post/galaxy-easter-eggs.html

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The Flashy NGC 3370

Image credit & copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Located about 98 million light years away in the constellation Leo (The Lion) is this beautiful Grand Design Spiral Galaxy cataloged as NGC 3370 and it’s shown here in amazing HD thanks to the great orbiting legend in the sky; the Hubble Space Telescope. This nearly face-on view of the galaxy shows brilliant areas of star formation as well as the classical dust lanes that mirror the spiral arms. At its heart is the telltale yellow glow of older, ancient stars that have pooled to the center over the eons.

In late 1994 this galaxy became popular for being home to what’s called a standard candle; a Type 1a supernova cataloged as SN 1994ae. Type 1a supernovae are currently one of the most accurate ways astronomers measure distance in the universe. This image is also detailed enough to actually spot and measure Cepheid Variable Stars (another way that distance in the universe is measured).  Those two facts lead astronomers to a very accurate measure of distance to this object.

Of the seemingly endless background galaxies, two really stand out. 48kb in the upper right corner is a galaxy much more distant than 3370 and it appears to be tidally interacting with its companion. Lower down on the right is a Sombrero Galaxy look alike cataloged as 45kb and it too is much more distant than 3370 but close enough to it to stand out in the photo.  Go ahead and expand this image and explore for yourself.

Name: NGC 3370.

What is it?: Grand Design Spiral Galaxy.

How big is it?: Roughly 100,000 light years in diameter.

How far away is it?: Roughly 98 million light years (30 megaparsecs).

Apparent magnitude?: A pretty dim 12 or +12.

Where is it? (General): Constellation Leo (The Lion).

Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): R.A. 10h 47m 04s.18 / Dec. +17° 16′ 22″.8.

NASA APOD page for this photo: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130808.html

NASA Hubblesite page for this photo: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/wallpaper/pr2003024a/

NASA Hubblesite News Center page for this photo: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2003/24/image/a/

Hubble Heritage Site page for background galaxies in this photo: http://heritage.stsci.edu/2003/24/supplemental.html

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The Beautifully Twisted M106

Photo Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble, Hubble Heritage team, Robert Gendler.

Located relatively close (for a galaxy) at 23.5 million light years away in the constellation Canes Venatici, is this beautiful yet oddly shaped spiral galaxy named Messier 106 (M106). At first glance, it seems like any other spiral galaxy in the universe, but when you examine it closely (as in the photo provided) you can begin to get a feeling that not all is what it seems.

In this image you see the typical yet beautiful structure of a grand spiral galaxy. The yellowish hue in the core region; a telltale signature of the ancient stars that reside there while the youthful vibrant stars show up as the beautiful vast blue arms rotating all the way out to the edge of the galaxy. Strewn among the arms are the pink furnaces of star forming regions and the star forming fuel in the form of thick dust lanes still waiting to be recycled into new stars.

It’s near the core or nucleus where we begin to see the discrepancy here, as there are two sweeping vast, high rising filament arms of glowing hydrogen gas (shown here in red/pink) rising out of the core region of the galaxy. The cause of this odd feature is actually quite violent. At the center of M106 lies a hungry supermassive black hole that’s devouring the in falling gas at a rapid rate. You may be thinking to yourself that, “Hey every spiral galaxy likely has a supermassive black hole at its center doesn’t it?” and you would be correct in your thought process. Our own Milky Way Galaxy for example, has a supermassive black hole about 4 million times more massive than our Sun and for the moment lies quiet, like a spider waiting for a fly to enter its web so it can begin feeding.

The monster tearing through the core of M106 however is estimated to be about 30 million times the mass of our sun and is feeding at an astonishing rate. As the black hole eats, it fires incredible jets of energy which interacts with the hydrogen and excites it, giving it its unusual color as it rides the strong magnetic fields streaming away from the hot accretion disk at the entrance to the black hole itself.

Another question arises…..why then, are the cosmic jets not firing straight “up” with respect to the plane of the galaxy? The answer to that appears to be that the accretion disk of the black hole itself is tilted relative to the galactic plane and this fires the jets off at about 30 degrees and as they encounter the material of the galaxy they heat and gain a slight spiral bend to their arms.

Name: M106, Messier-106 or NGC 4258.

What is it? : Seyfert II – Grand Spiral Galaxy.

How big is it? : About 100,000 light years in diameter.

How far away is it? : About 23.5 million light years.

Where is it? (General): Constellation Canes Venatici

Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA: 12h, 18m, 57s / DEC: +47deg, 18’ 16”

Robert Gendler Astrophotography: http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/

NASA Page on M106: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/m106.html

NASA Hubblesite M106: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/06

NASA Hubble Heritage Project M106: http://heritage.stsci.edu/2013/06/

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Seeds of Things to Come

Image credit & copyright: Don Goldman.

Roughly 800 light years away in the southern constellation Vela (Sails) is the Vela Supernova Remnant, of which this is a small portion of. Once part of a massive star, (a star with at least the mass of eight times that of our Sun) the material seen here was exploded out into the surrounding cosmos about 11,000 years ago when that star decided that it would try fusing silicon into iron.  Interesting thought right?  The iron in your blood and in your frying pan destroyed a star.  When that star exploded, it’s possible that it created the very gold that you’re wearing on your neck and or hands.

I like to explain this using the ash analogy. When a fire builds up too much ash, the fire dies because it can’t burn the ash.  I know, stars don’t burn, they’re a nuclear reaction but the analogy holds.  Once a star has begun to fuse silicon into iron, that star is as good as dead because it can’t fuse iron into anything.  Iron is the star’s ash.  You may now be asking yourself, “How we get the heavier elements such as gold if stars can’t even fuse iron?”  Turns out that even though the star doesn’t have the energy to fuse iron, there’s enough energy in the instant of the supernova explosion to create the heavier elements we see in the universe.

The exploded stellar remnant in this image will also serve the same purpose as its material will someday merge into a larger cloud of material and in time gravity will do what it does and collapse that cloud in onto itself. Eventually, pressures and temperatures will reach the point where fusion can spark another star to life.  If planets form around it and if life forms on those planets, this material that we see right here in this image will have contributed to their arrival.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Name: Vela Supernova Remnant.

What is it?: The remains of a star that exploded approximately 12,000 years ago near the dawn of written history.

How far away is it?: 800 light years.

How big is it?: Roughly 55 light years in diameter and 8 degrees of the night sky or 16 times the diameter of the full moon. This small section of the remnant is much smaller.

Apparent magnitude: A very dim 12 or +12.

Where is it? (General): Constellation Vela (The Sails) within the Gum Nebula.

Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 08h 35m 20.60s / DEC -45° 10 35“.

Don Goldman: http://astrodonimaging.com/

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Arianespace Ariane 5 to Launch SGDC & Koreasat 7

Image credit & copyright: ESA of the VA233 launch.

LAUNCH ALERT: DELAYED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Arianespace will launch their massive heavy lift, Ariane 5 ECA rocket, designated VA236. This mission will deliver a dual payload of Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications (SGDC) and Koreasat 7 satellites into orbit.

Launch will take place from Launch Site, Ensemble de Lancement Ariane-3 (ELA-3) at the Arianespace Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. This will be the 92nd launch of the Ariane 5 and its 2nd launch in 2017.

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ULA & Delta IV to Serve the U.S. Military This Week

Images credit & copyright: United Launch Alliance (ULA).

LAUNCH ALERT: Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 19:44 EDT (23:44 UTC) the United Launch Alliance (ULA), will be launching a Delta IV rocket in its Medium + (5,4) configuration carrying the ninth Wideband Global SATCOM satellite (WGS 9) for the U.S. Air Force from Space Launch Complex-37B (SLC-37B) at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida.

This will be the ULA’s 118th flight, the 35th flight for the Delta IV and the 7 flight of the Delta IV in the medium + (5,4) configuration.

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JAXA H-IIA to Launch IGS Radar 5 for the Japanese Government

Image credit & copyright: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Launch Alert: Friday, March 17, 2017 at 01:20 UTC (21:20 EDT on the 16th), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will be launching the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA (H-2A) rocket; Launch Vehicle No. 33 (F33) flying in its 202 configuration (H-IIA 202). It will be carrying the Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) Radar 5 for the Japanese government, from Launch Area-Y1 (Also known as Area-Y1 or LA-Y1) at the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), Japan.

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