2019 May 17 RS Puppis Image Credit & Copyright: Image Data:…

2019 May 17

RS Puppis
Image Credit & Copyright: Image Data: NASA, ESA, Hubble Legacy Archive;
Processing & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (DeepSkyColors.com)

Explanation: Pulsating RS Puppis, the brightest star in the image center, is some ten times more massive than our Sun and on average 15,000 times more luminous. In fact, RS Pup is a Cepheid variable star, a class of stars whose brightness is used to estimate distances to nearby galaxies as one of the first steps in establishing the cosmic distance scale. As RS Pup pulsates over a period of about 40 days, its regular changes in brightness are also seen along its surrounding nebula delayed in time, effectively a light echo. Using measurements of the time delay and angular size of the nebula, the known speed of light allows astronomers to geometrically determine the distance to RS Pup to be 6,500 light-years, with a remarkably small error of plus or minus 90 light-years. An impressive achievement for stellar astronomy, the echo-measured distance also more accurately establishes the true brightness of RS Pup, and by extension other Cepheid stars, improving the knowledge of distances to galaxies beyond the Milky Way.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190517.html

The Birth of the Hunter

NGC 2023
Credit: ESO
The constellation of Orion (The Hunter) is one of the most recognisable collections of stars in the night sky. We have noted Orion’s prominent stars for tens of thousands of years at least, and likely far longer. Chinese astronomers called it 参宿 or Shēn, literally “three stars”, for its three bright dots (which form the Hunter’s belt). The ancient Egyptians regarded it as the gods Sah and Sopdet, manifestations of Osiris and Isis, respectively, whereas Greek astronomers saw a brave hunter — the eponymous Orion — with his sword above his head, ready to strike.
Mythology aside, Orion is a fascinating patch of sky. This image, from ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shows a reflection nebula nestled at the heart of the constellation — NGC 2023. Located close to the well-known Horsehead and Flame Nebulae, NGC 2023 lurks about 1500 light-years away from Earth, and is one of the largest reflection nebulae in the sky.
Reflection nebulae are clouds of interstellar dust that reflect the light from nearby or internal sources, like fog around a car headlight. NGC 2023 is illuminated by a massive young star named HD 37903. The star is extremely hot — several times hotter than the Sun — and its bright blue-white light causes NGC 2023’s milky glow. Such nebulae are often the birthplaces of stars, and contain a clumpy distribution of gas that’s significantly denser than the surrounding medium. Under the influence of gravity, these clumps attract one another and merge, eventually creating a new star. In a few million years time, Orion’s Belt may gain a new star!
The image was taken with the VLT’s FORS (FOcal Reducer and Spectrograph) instrument as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme. This initiative produces images of interesting and visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and outreach. The programme makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for science observations. All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes, and are made available to astronomers through ESO’s science archive.
Source: ESO/Potw


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Hubble Observes Creative Destruction as Galaxies Collide

On the verge

Distant view of a galactic crash — NGC 4490 and NGC 4485 (ground-based image)


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Zoom-in on NGC 4485

Zoom-in on NGC 4485

Pan on NGC 4485

Pan on NGC 4485


The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken a new look at the spectacular irregular galaxy NGC 4485, which has been warped and wound by its larger galactic neighbour. The gravity of the second galaxy has disrupted the ordered collection of stars, gas and dust, giving rise to an erratic region of newborn, hot, blue stars and chaotic clumps and streams of dust and gas.

The irregular galaxy NGC 4485 has been involved in a dramatic gravitational interplay with its larger galactic neighbour NGC 4490 — out of frame to the bottom right in this image. Found about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs), the strange result of these interacting galaxies has resulted in an entry in the Atlas of Peculiar galaxies: Arp 269.

Having already made their closest approach, NGC 4485 and NGC 4490 are now moving away from each other, vastly altered from their original states. Still engaged in a destructive yet creative dance, the gravitational force between them continues to warp each of them out of all recognition, while at the same time creating the conditions for huge regions of intense star formation.

This galactic tug-of-war has created a stream of material about 25 000 light-years long which connects the two galaxies. The stream is made up of bright knots and huge pockets of gassy regions, as well as enormous regions of star formation in which young, massive, blue stars are born. Short-lived, however, these stars quickly run out of fuel and end their lives in dramatic explosions. While such an event seems to be purely destructive, it also enriches the cosmic environment with heavier elements and delivers new material to form a new generation of stars.

Two very different regions are now apparent in NGC 4485; on the left are hints of the galaxy’s previous spiral structure, which was at one time undergoing “normal” galactic evolution. The right of the image reveals a portion of the galaxy ripped towards its larger neighbour, bursting with hot, blue stars and streams of dust and gas.

This image, captured by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on the Hubble Space Telescope, adds light through two new filters compared with an image released in 2014. The new data provide further insights into the complex and mysterious field of galaxy evolution.


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The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.
Image credit: ESA, NASA


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Bethany Downer
ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
Garching, Germany
Email: bethany.downer@partner.eso.org


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