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NASA's Spitzer space telescope.

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space telescope.
space telescope has provided a detailed view of a hatchery for new stars.

Stellar Incubators in the Trifid Nebula.

NASA's Spitzer space telescope has provided a detailed view of a hatchery for new stars in the Trifid Nebula. Obscured in visible light, the heat from these stellar incubators can be detected by Spitzer's Infrared instruments. The Trifid Nebula is a giant star-forming cloud of gas and dust located 5,400 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius. Previous images had hinted that the nebula contained four cold "knots" of dust. Astronomers knew these these are the incubators, where new stars are born, but they didn't think they had actually begun star formation yet. Spitzer revealed that they had already formed at least 30 embryonic stars.

Cluster Filled with Pulsars.

A dense globular cluster near the heart of the Milky Way has been found to contain dozens of rapidly-spinning microsecond pulsars. The discovery was made using the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank telescope (GBT) in West Virginia. Many of the pulsars are interesting, too; there are 13 in binary systems, and two that rotate 600 times a second - as fast as a household blender. The discovery of this many pulsars in a star cluster should keep Astronomers busy for years, gaining insight into both the nature of these objects, and the conditions they formed in.

New Stars Forming in Our Closest Neighbour.

This image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the nearby Small Magellanic Cloud - a satellite Galaxy located 210,000 light-years away. Hubble's powerful optics have helped Astronomers discover a population of infant stars embedded in the nebula NGC 346. Although there are many regions of star formation in the Milky Way, our companion Galaxy is much smaller and lacks many of heavier elements forged in stars. This means that star formation in the SMC is much more like the star formation of the early Universe, before many of the heavier elements that make our planets had formed (carbon, iron, oxygen etc).

New View of Colliding Galaxies.

The W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii took this photograph of two Galaxies about to collide over 5 billion light-years away from us. The image was possible because of the new laser guide star system for adaptive optics which corrects the distorting effects of the Earth's atmosphere. This allows Keck to have nearly the same view as space-based observatories like Hubble. Both Galaxies in this collision are mature, and seem to have used up all their gas. This won't create spectacular amounts of new star formation, which is what happens with less mature galaxies.

Gemini Sees Smashing Planetesimals.

Astronomers using the giant Gemini South 8-metre telescope in Chile have spotted what seems to be a collision between two planet-sized objects orbiting the nearby star Beta Pictoris. A collision like this would create a lot of dust, but the star is like a powerful fan that should quickly blow it all away. Based on the amount of dust still there, Astronomers think the collision happened only 100 years ago, or so. This is exactly like the scenario Astronomers believe our own solar system went through 5 billion years ago as the various planets formed through multiple collisions.

Huygens probe Descent Timeline.

On Friday, January 14, the European Space Agency's Huygens probe will plunge through the atmosphere of Saturn's smog-enshrouded Moon Titan. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will have two hours to record everything it can about the moon's atmosphere before it meets an unknown fate on the surface - it could land with a splash, splat, or a smash. Huygens will reach Titan at 1013 UTC (5:15 am EST), and then deploy its parachute a few minutes after that. It will reach the surface by 1234 UTC (7:34 am EST), and data about the journey will arrive at Earth shortly after.

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