The Butterfly Nebula from Hubble : The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth’s night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up of the dying star’s nebula was recorded in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, and is presented here in reprocessed colors. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot star’s dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4,000 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius). via NASA
Arp 286: Trio in Virgo
A remarkable telescopic composition in yellow and blue, this scene features a trio of interacting galaxies almost 90 million light-years away, toward the constellation Virgo. On the left, two,spiky, foreground Milky Way stars echo the trio galaxy hues, a reminder that stars in our own galaxy are like those in the distant island universes. Predominately yellow, with sweeping spiral arms and dust lanes, NGC 5566 is enormous, about 150,000 light-years across. Just below it lies small, blue NGC 5569. Near center, the third galaxy, NGC 5560, is multicolored and apparently stretched and distorted by its interaction with NGC 5566. The galaxy trio is also included in Halton Arp’s 1966 Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 286. Of course, such cosmic interactions are now appreciated as a common part of the evolution of galaxies.
Image credit & copyright: Stephen Leshin
Photo sequence of Saturn: 24 February 2009
This Hubble image shows the progression of four of Saturn’s moon as they circle their parent planet. The orange moon in the image is Titan, Saturn’s largest.
Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: M. Wong (STScI/UC Berkeley) and C. Go (Philippines)