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Scientists Photographed Our ‘Galactic Bulge’ Using a Dark Energy Camera

In an effort to research how the center of the Milky Way Galaxy formed what is known as a “galactic bulge,” Scientists used a Dark Energy Camera to survey a portion of the sky and capture a photo of billions of stars.

NASA’s Hubblesite describes our galaxy as “shaped like two fried eggs glued back-to-back.” This depiction makes clear the central bulge of stars that sits in the middle of a sprawling disk of stars that we usually see in two-dimensional drawings. You can get a better idea of how that looks thanks to a rendering from the ESA below:

This makeup is thought to be a common feature among myriad spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, and scientists desired to study how the bulge was formed. Were the stars within the bulge born early in our galaxy’s history, 10 to 12 billion years ago, or did the bulge build up over time through multiple episodes of star formation?

“Many other spiral galaxies look like the Milky Way and have similar bulges, so if we can understand how the Milky Way formed its bulge then we’ll have a good idea for how the other galaxies did too,” said co-principal investigator Christian Johnson of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

The team surveyed a portion of our sky covering more than 200 square degrees – an area approximately equivalent to 1,000 full Moons – using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the Victor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab.

This image shows a wide-field view of the center of the Milky Way with a pull-out image taken by the DECam.

The scientific sensor array on the DECam is made up of 62 separate 2048×4096 pixel backside-illuminated CCD sensors, totaling 520 megapixels. An additional 12 2048×2048 pixel CCD sensors (50 megapixels) are used to guide the telescope, monitor focus, and help with alignment.

This wide-field camera is capable of capturing 3 square degrees of sky in a single exposure and allowed the team to collect more than 450,000 individual photographs. From that data the team was able to determine the chemical compositions for millions of stars. The image below contains billions of stars:

You can view a pannable and zoomable version of this image here. It uses the same interface as the giant 2.5 gigapixel image of the Orion Constellation taken by Matt Harbison.

For this particular study, scientists looked at a subsample of 70,000 stars from the above image. It had been previously believed that the stars in the bulge were born in two separate “waves” early in the history of the galaxy, but thanks to data gleaned from the study, now scientists think that a vast majority were formed at about the same time nearly 10 billion years ago.

According to Nasa, the researchers are looking into the possibility of measuring stellar distances to make a more accurate 3D map of the bulge. They also plan to seek correlations between their metallicity measurements and stellar orbits. That investigation could locate “flocks” of stars with similar orbits, which could be the remains of disrupted dwarf galaxies or identify signs of accretion like stars orbiting opposite the galaxy’s rotation.

(Via Hubblesite and SyFy)

Hubble Space Telescope Has Captured an Image of a Star Being Born

In just one relatively small “bulge” of the Soul Nebula (also known as Westerhout 5) in the constellation of Cassiopeia, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of a star that is still being born.

The corner of the nebula cloud is about 7,500 light-years away and the small corner in question, called J025157.5+600606, depicts what is known as a FrEGGs – Free-Floating Evaporating Gaseous Globules. FrEGGs were only very recently discovered and require a specific set of conditions in order to occur.

The Heart and Soul nebulae are seen in this infrared mosaic from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

According to a description on ScienceAlert, stars in these large clouds of stellar “nurseries” are formed from “cool clumps of dense molecular hydrogen that collapse under their own gravity.” As a result, these stars come into being “nestled in thick, molecular clouds.”

“When a very massive, hot star starts to shine, their intense ultraviolet radiation ionizes their birth cloud, creating a large, hot bubble of ionized gas called a Strömgren sphere,” ScienceAlert describes.

FrEGGs are the dense clumps of cooler gas that cluster around a Strömgren sphere and apparently many of these can continue to form stars of their own.

This is J025157.5+600606, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

The boundary between the FrEGGs and the sphere is depicted in the image from the Hubble telescope as the glowing purple region. “Because the FrEGGs are so dense, this process doesn’t stop the star formation occurring inside. But it does, ultimately, hinder it, curtailing the gas supply that would feed the star forming within.” As a result, the stars born inside a FrEGGs are relatively low mass when compared to other stars.

These smaller lower mass, cooler temperature stars can actually last longer than the larger, hotter siblings. Some suggest this might be how our own star, often poetically referred to as Sol, was formed.

If you’re curious how photos like the ones here are constructed, it’s not as straightforward as you might think. The Hubble Space Telescope doesn’t capture full-color images, as described in a 2015 interview with CalTech scientist Robert Hurt.

“The main difference between normal astronomical data collection and earthbound photography is that astronomy is intrinsically monochromatic,” Hurt told Resource Magazine. “That image may be obtained through a filter, a detector, but we’re only getting back one channel of information at a time.”

The beautiful colors seen in the image of J025157.5+600606 were interpreted from the multi-channel infrared images sent back from Hubble by a trained scientist like Hurt.

Another FrEGGs called J025027.7+600849

Hubble captured the above image of anotehr FrEGGs earlier this year, also located in Cassiopeia. You can learn more about that image here.

(Via DIY Photography)

Image Credits: ESA/Hubble

Get the best NASA astronomy photo every day with this iOS 14 widget

  NASA’s gallery is full of astonishing photos of space. If you like them as much as I do, you can now get the selection of astronomy photos to your iPhone every day. NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) project is now available as an iOS 14 widget, all thanks to developer Mark Hambly. […]

The post Get the best NASA astronomy photo every day with this iOS 14 widget appeared first on DIY Photography.

This iOS Widget Puts NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day on Your Home Screen

Developer Mark Hambly has created a free NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day app that takes advantage of the new widgets feature in iOS 14 to add a bit of astrophotography inspiration to your iPhone’s home screen every day.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day (APOD) is a popular website that, as the name suggests, shares a different celestial image each day. Sometimes the photos come from NASA’s archives, other times they’re captured by individual photographers from around the globe, and once in a while NASA will use the site to share something new and exciting that was just beamed back to Earth from one of its spacecraft.

Whatever they share, it’s usually quite spectacular, and many astrophotography and astronomy fans visit APOD regularly to get their dose of inspiration and awe. For example, here was the photo posted on October 5th: an image of galaxy NGC 5643 as captured by the Hubble space telescope.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al.

Hambly was apparently inspired by the latest version of the iOS Reddit client Apollo, which allows him to load images from r/astrophotography into a dedicated widget on his home screen.

“That led me to looking for an APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) widget,” explains Hambly on Reddit. “While there are plenty of great, free APOD apps, none have widgets yet. So I had a little personal hackathon over a few evenings this past week and I’m pretty pleased with where I ended up! Planning on some updates soon to improve it.”

The app is “free and ad free forever” says Hambly, since he has another job that pays the bills. This was just a fun side-project that could bring some enjoyment to astrophotography fans everywhere. Once installed, you can choose between a “Today Widget” that shows today’s APOD, a “Random Widget” that shows a random entry, and a “Favorites Widget” that shows APODs that you’ve identified as “favorites” through the app’s built-in browsing feature.

To download and try the app for yourself, head over to the iOS App store. As mentioned, the app is both free and ad free, but if you really love it you can buy Hambly a coffee ($2.99) through the Settings tab, or send feedback to ensure the app keeps improving.

(via DPReview)

NASA satellite photo captures wildfire smoke in the US West Coast

The wildfires in the US West Coast have been raging for a while now, destroying a record 4 million acres in California so far. NASA’s Aqua satellite captured the impressive, eye-opening, and above all devastating image of the fires that keep raging in the West. Aqua captured the composite visible (left) and infrared (right) image […]

The post NASA satellite photo captures wildfire smoke in the US West Coast appeared first on DIY Photography.

NASA Turns Space Photos Into Music

NASA has a new project that turns space photos into sounds. Using sonification, images obtained from telescopes are turned into “music” that sounds like what you’d hear when your operating system boots up.

The creative project is being carried out by scientists at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

“Telescopes give us a chance to see what the Galactic Center looks like in different types of light,” NASA writes. “By translating the inherently digital data (in the form of ones and zeroes) captured by telescopes in space into images, astronomers create visual representations that would otherwise be invisible to us.

“But what about experiencing these data with other senses like hearing?”

Sonification is the process of translating data into sound. Starting on the left side of images and moving toward the right, NASA’s sonification system reads in the vertical rows of pixels and creates sounds that represent the position and brightness of things seen.

“The light of objects located towards the top of the image are heard as higher pitches while the intensity of the light controls the volume,” NASA says regarding the Milky Way photo and music in the 1-minute video above. “Stars and compact sources are converted to individual notes while extended clouds of gas and dust produce an evolving drone.

“The crescendo happens when we reach the bright region to the lower right of the image. This is where the 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center of the Galaxy, known as Sagittarius A* (A-star), resides, and where the clouds of gas and dust are the brightest.”

Here are the sounds created from other photos:

Now NASA just needs to release these songs as galactic ringtones for our smartphones.

(via NASA via Laughing Squid)

NASA Satellite Photo Shows Fires and Smoke ‘Dominating’ the West Coast

Here’s an eye-opening satellite photo captured by NASA showing the wildfires and smoke “dominating” the landscape of the western United States.

NASA’s Aqua captured the visible (left) and infrared (right) images on September 29th. The visible imagery shows the widespread smoke blanketing much of California, while the infrared imagery shows heat from the wildfires as orange points.

“NASA’s satellite instruments are often the first to detect wildfires burning in remote regions, and the locations of new fires are sent directly to land managers worldwide within hours of the satellite overpass,” NASA writes. “Together, NASA instruments detect actively burning fires, track the transport of smoke from fires, provide information for fire management, and map the extent of changes to ecosystems, based on the extent and severity of burn scars.”

New Hubble timelapse shows a supernova brighter than any star in its galaxy

Hubble Space Telescope has been in space for over 30 years and has treated us with plenty of awe-inspiring images. This time, the telescope has captured quite a firework. It took a photo and timelapse of a bright supernova outshining every star in its galaxy and unleashing the energy of 5 billion Suns.  NASA writes that […]

The post New Hubble timelapse shows a supernova brighter than any star in its galaxy appeared first on DIY Photography.

NASA Shares Time-Lapse of Exploding Star that Outshone Its Entire Galaxy

NASA has just published a stunning, one-of-a-kind time-lapse captured by the Hubble telescope. The short video shows an exploding star (AKA a supernova) in a galaxy 70-million light-years from Earth—a fireworks show so bright it outshone every other star in its galaxy before fading into oblivion.

In total, the time-lapse captures a full year of observations from February 2018 to February 2019. During this time, the supernova in galaxy NGC 2525 reached peak brightness, outshining every other star in its own galaxy, before “fading into obscurity” as humans watched on from million of light years away.

As Nobel Laureate Adam Riess put it in a blog post on the Hubble website, “no Earthly fireworks display can compete with this supernova, captured in its fading glory by the Hubble Space Telescope.”

You can see a wide-angle view of the full galaxy below, with the supernova very obviously shining on the outer edge of one of its spiral arms:

According to NASA, the energy released was “equal to the radiance of 5 billion Suns,” a light show worth capturing to be sure. However, Hubble wasn’t just interested in this supernova because NASA is eager to share celestial fireworks with the public; this kind of supernova is important in measuring our distance to its host galaxy and answering questions about the expansion of the universe.

“Because supernovae of this type all peak at the same brightness, they are known as ‘standard candles,’ which act as cosmic tape measures,” explains NASA. “Knowing the actual brightness of the supernova and observing its brightness in the sky, astronomers can calculate the distances of their host galaxies. This allows astronomers to measure the expansion rate of the universe.”

To learn more about this process or see more images of this supernova, head over to the Hubble website or check out the time-lapse video up top. Whether or not you’re interested in the science behind the photograph though, you have to admit that NASA captured something truly incredible here.

(via Engadget)

Credits: Photos and videos by ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Kornmesser, M. Zamani, A. Riess and the SH0ES team.