(via APOD: 2012 October 24 - NGC 206 and the Star Clouds of Andromeda)
NGC 206 is the star cluster in the center of the image. See those bright blue stars all clumped together? Yeah, that’s an open cluster (or galactic cluster) like the Pleiades or the stars in the Eagle Nebula…except a whole lot bigger. There’s nothing in our own galaxy to compare it to. At 4,000 light-years across, NGC 206 is comparable to the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud or NGC 604 in M33, the Triangulum Galaxy.

Tarantula Nebula, John P. Gleason

NGC 604, from Hubble Heritage
Stellar nurseries are amaaaaaaaazing.

(via APOD: 2012 October 24 - NGC 206 and the Star Clouds of Andromeda)

NGC 206 is the star cluster in the center of the image. See those bright blue stars all clumped together? Yeah, that’s an open cluster (or galactic cluster) like the Pleiades or the stars in the Eagle Nebula…except a whole lot bigger. There’s nothing in our own galaxy to compare it to. At 4,000 light-years across, NGC 206 is comparable to the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud or NGC 604 in M33, the Triangulum Galaxy.

Tarantula NebulaJohn P. Gleason

NGC 604, from Hubble Heritage

Stellar nurseries are amaaaaaaaazing.

(via The Swirling Arms of the M100 Galaxy - NASA Spitzer Space Telescope)

The galaxy Messier 100, or M100, shows its swirling spiral in this infrared image from NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope. The arcing spiral arms of dust and gas that harbor starforming regions glow vividly when seen in the infrared.
M100 is a classic example of a grand design spiral galaxy, with prominent and well-defined spiral arms winding from the hot center, out to the cooler edges of the galaxy. It is located about 55 million light years away from Earth, in the little-known constellation of Coma Berenices, near to the more recognizable Leo.
In the center, we can see a prominent ring of hot, bright dust surrounding the inner galactic core. Moving further out, the spiral arms peter out towards the edges of the galaxy, where thick webs of dust dominate. Beyond the edges of the dust clouds, a faint blue glow of stars extends to the edge of the galaxys disk.
Two small companion galaxies, known as NGC 4323 and NGC 4328, appear as fuzzy blue blobs on the upper side of M100. These so-called lenticular galaxies are virtually clear of any dust, so they lack any of the red/green glow seen in their bigger neighbor. The shape of M100 is probably being perturbed by the gravity of these galaxies.

This, then, is the power of infrared telescopes like Spitzer, their ability to see through the dust, which scatters visible light quite well, but is transparent to infrared, and show us the activity inside of a galaxy’s spiral arms.

(via The Swirling Arms of the M100 Galaxy - NASA Spitzer Space Telescope)

The galaxy Messier 100, or M100, shows its swirling spiral in this infrared image from NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope. The arcing spiral arms of dust and gas that harbor starforming regions glow vividly when seen in the infrared.

M100 is a classic example of a grand design spiral galaxy, with prominent and well-defined spiral arms winding from the hot center, out to the cooler edges of the galaxy. It is located about 55 million light years away from Earth, in the little-known constellation of Coma Berenices, near to the more recognizable Leo.

In the center, we can see a prominent ring of hot, bright dust surrounding the inner galactic core. Moving further out, the spiral arms peter out towards the edges of the galaxy, where thick webs of dust dominate. Beyond the edges of the dust clouds, a faint blue glow of stars extends to the edge of the galaxys disk.

Two small companion galaxies, known as NGC 4323 and NGC 4328, appear as fuzzy blue blobs on the upper side of M100. These so-called lenticular galaxies are virtually clear of any dust, so they lack any of the red/green glow seen in their bigger neighbor. The shape of M100 is probably being perturbed by the gravity of these galaxies.

This, then, is the power of infrared telescopes like Spitzer, their ability to see through the dust, which scatters visible light quite well, but is transparent to infrared, and show us the activity inside of a galaxy’s spiral arms.

M4 Globular Cluster, From "A Cluster With A Secret" from the ESO:

A new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the spectacular globular star cluster Messier 4. This ball of tens of thousands of ancient stars is one of the closest and most studied of the globular clusters and recent work has revealed that one of its stars has strange and unexpected properties, apparently possessing the secret of eternal youth.
The Milky Way galaxy is orbited by more than 150 globular star clusters that date back to the distant past of the Universe (eso1141). One of the closest to the Earth is the cluster Messier 4 (also known as NGC 6121) in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). This bright object can be easily seen in binoculars, close to the bright red star Antares, and a small amateur telescope can show some of its constituent stars.
This new image of the cluster from the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory reveals many more of the cluster’s tens of thousands of stars and shows the cluster against the rich background of the Milky Way.
Astronomers have also studied many of the stars in the cluster individually using instruments on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. By splitting the light from the stars up into its component colours they can work out their chemical composition and ages.
New results for the stars in Messier 4 have been surprising. The stars in globular clusters are old and hence not expected to be rich in the heavier chemical elements [1]. This is what is found, but one of the stars in a recent survey was also found to have much more of the rare light element lithium than expected. The source of this lithium is mysterious. Normally this element is gradually destroyed over the billions of years of a star’s life, but this one star amongst thousands seems to have the secret of eternal youth. It has either somehow managed to retain its original lithium, or it has found a way to enrich itself with freshly made lithium.

M4 Globular Cluster, From "A Cluster With A Secret" from the ESO:

A new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the spectacular globular star cluster Messier 4. This ball of tens of thousands of ancient stars is one of the closest and most studied of the globular clusters and recent work has revealed that one of its stars has strange and unexpected properties, apparently possessing the secret of eternal youth.

The Milky Way galaxy is orbited by more than 150 globular star clusters that date back to the distant past of the Universe (eso1141). One of the closest to the Earth is the cluster Messier 4 (also known as NGC 6121) in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). This bright object can be easily seen in binoculars, close to the bright red star Antares, and a small amateur telescope can show some of its constituent stars.

This new image of the cluster from the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory reveals many more of the cluster’s tens of thousands of stars and shows the cluster against the rich background of the Milky Way.

Astronomers have also studied many of the stars in the cluster individually using instruments on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. By splitting the light from the stars up into its component colours they can work out their chemical composition and ages.

New results for the stars in Messier 4 have been surprising. The stars in globular clusters are old and hence not expected to be rich in the heavier chemical elements [1]. This is what is found, but one of the stars in a recent survey was also found to have much more of the rare light element lithium than expected. The source of this lithium is mysterious. Normally this element is gradually destroyed over the billions of years of a star’s life, but this one star amongst thousands seems to have the secret of eternal youth. It has either somehow managed to retain its original lithium, or it has found a way to enrich itself with freshly made lithium.

(via Giant galaxy cluster sets record pace for creating stars | UChicago News)

Astronomers have found an extraordinary galaxy cluster — one of the largest objects in the universe — that is breaking several important cosmic records. The discovery of this cluster, known as the Phoenix Cluster, made with the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Telescope, may force astronomers to rethink how these colossal structures, and the galaxies that inhabit them, evolve.

Follow-up observations made in ultraviolet, optical and infrared wavelengths show that stars are forming in this object at the highest rate ever seen in the middle of a galaxy cluster. The object also is the most powerful producer of X-rays of any known cluster, and among the most massive of clusters. The data also suggest that the rate of hot gas cooling in the central regions of the cluster is the largest ever observed.

…

Officially known as SPT-CLJ2344-4243, this galaxy cluster has been dubbed the “Phoenix Cluster” because it is located in the constellation of the Phoenix, and because of its remarkable properties.
Stars forming at incredible rates
Like other galaxy clusters, Phoenix holds a vast reservoir of hot gas that contains more normal matter than all of the galaxies in the cluster combined. The reservoir of hot gas can be detected with X-ray telescopes like NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the shadow it makes in the light from the big bang can be detected with the South Pole Telescope. The prevailing wisdom had once been that this hot gas should cool over time and sink to the center of the cluster, forming huge numbers of stars.
However, most galaxy clusters have formed very few stars over the last few billion years.
Astronomers think that the supermassive black hole in the central galaxy of clusters pumps energy into the system, preventing cooling of gas from causing a burst of star formation. The famous Perseus Cluster is an example of a black hole bellowing out energy and preventing the gas from cooling to form stars at a high rate.
With its black hole not producing powerful enough jets, the center of the Phoenix Cluster is buzzing with stars that are forming 20 times faster than in the Perseus Cluster. This rate is the highest seen in the center of a galaxy cluster and is comparable to the highest seen anywhere in the universe.

…

Galaxy clusters contain enough hot gas to create detectable “shadows” in the light left over from the big bang, which also is known as the cosmic microwave background radiation. This light has literally travelled for 14 billion years across the entire observable universe to get to Earth. If it passes through a massive cluster on its way, then a tiny fraction of the light gets scattered to higher energies — the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect.
The South Pole Telescope collaboration has now completed an SZ survey of a large region of the sky finding hundreds of distant, massive galaxy clusters. Further follow-up observations of the clusters at X-ray and other wavelengths may reveal the existence of additional Phoenix-like galaxy clusters.


Artist’s impression of the galaxy at the center of the Phoenix Cluster. Courtesy of NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

(via Giant galaxy cluster sets record pace for creating stars | UChicago News)

Astronomers have found an extraordinary galaxy cluster — one of the largest objects in the universe — that is breaking several important cosmic records. The discovery of this cluster, known as the Phoenix Cluster, made with the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Telescope, may force astronomers to rethink how these colossal structures, and the galaxies that inhabit them, evolve.

Follow-up observations made in ultraviolet, optical and infrared wavelengths show that stars are forming in this object at the highest rate ever seen in the middle of a galaxy cluster. The object also is the most powerful producer of X-rays of any known cluster, and among the most massive of clusters. The data also suggest that the rate of hot gas cooling in the central regions of the cluster is the largest ever observed.

Officially known as SPT-CLJ2344-4243, this galaxy cluster has been dubbed the “Phoenix Cluster” because it is located in the constellation of the Phoenix, and because of its remarkable properties.

Stars forming at incredible rates

Like other galaxy clusters, Phoenix holds a vast reservoir of hot gas that contains more normal matter than all of the galaxies in the cluster combined. The reservoir of hot gas can be detected with X-ray telescopes like NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the shadow it makes in the light from the big bang can be detected with the South Pole Telescope. The prevailing wisdom had once been that this hot gas should cool over time and sink to the center of the cluster, forming huge numbers of stars.

However, most galaxy clusters have formed very few stars over the last few billion years.

Astronomers think that the supermassive black hole in the central galaxy of clusters pumps energy into the system, preventing cooling of gas from causing a burst of star formation. The famous Perseus Cluster is an example of a black hole bellowing out energy and preventing the gas from cooling to form stars at a high rate.

With its black hole not producing powerful enough jets, the center of the Phoenix Cluster is buzzing with stars that are forming 20 times faster than in the Perseus Cluster. This rate is the highest seen in the center of a galaxy cluster and is comparable to the highest seen anywhere in the universe.

Galaxy clusters contain enough hot gas to create detectable “shadows” in the light left over from the big bang, which also is known as the cosmic microwave background radiation. This light has literally travelled for 14 billion years across the entire observable universe to get to Earth. If it passes through a massive cluster on its way, then a tiny fraction of the light gets scattered to higher energies — the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect.

The South Pole Telescope collaboration has now completed an SZ survey of a large region of the sky finding hundreds of distant, massive galaxy clusters. Further follow-up observations of the clusters at X-ray and other wavelengths may reveal the existence of additional Phoenix-like galaxy clusters.

Artist’s impression of the galaxy at the center of the Phoenix Cluster.
Courtesy of NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

(via APOD: 2012 June 12 - Thackerays Globules)
IC 2944 is a stellar nursery in Centaurus, about 5900 light-years away. That’s the background for these “dark globules” discovered by A.D. Thackeray in 1950 in South Africa. They’re gas and dust, probably the remains of a much larger cloud of interstellar medium which gave rise this area becoming a stellar nursery. The last few stars that can form may already be collapsing into existence in these globules.
As stars form with a gas and dust cloud, they begin to exert pressure on the remaining matter as the hot, young stars burn intensely. Stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation push outward and carve out empty regions around the new stars. All of this pressure, though, also creates new densities in the matter which is left, creating conditions ripe for another generation of stars to be born. This process continues until the matter has all been pulled into star formation or blown away by the stars.
Credit & Copyright: T. Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), & N.S. van der Bliek (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

(via APOD: 2012 June 12 - Thackerays Globules)

IC 2944 is a stellar nursery in Centaurus, about 5900 light-years away. That’s the background for these “dark globules” discovered by A.D. Thackeray in 1950 in South Africa. They’re gas and dust, probably the remains of a much larger cloud of interstellar medium which gave rise this area becoming a stellar nursery. The last few stars that can form may already be collapsing into existence in these globules.

As stars form with a gas and dust cloud, they begin to exert pressure on the remaining matter as the hot, young stars burn intensely. Stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation push outward and carve out empty regions around the new stars. All of this pressure, though, also creates new densities in the matter which is left, creating conditions ripe for another generation of stars to be born. This process continues until the matter has all been pulled into star formation or blown away by the stars.

Credit & CopyrightT. Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), & N.S. van der Bliek (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

(via APOD: 2012 June 1 - A Sagittarius Triplet)
At the top is NGC 6559, separated from the Lagoon Nebula by a dust lane, with M8 dominating the frame (that’s the Lagoon’s Messier designation), and the multi-colored Trifid Nebula, M20, off to the right.
All three of these are star-forming regions in Sagittarius, the centaur archer shooting his arrow at Antares, the heart of Scorpio. It happens that Sagittarius sits over the central Milky Way, so there is a lot of dust and gas.
As a final bonus, M21, an open star cluster, is sitting just above the Trifid. (The Trifid, in case you are wondering, is named as such because it shows off all three types of nebulae: emission (red), reflection (blue), dark (lack of light, obscured by dust).)
Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh

(via APOD: 2012 June 1 - A Sagittarius Triplet)

At the top is NGC 6559, separated from the Lagoon Nebula by a dust lane, with M8 dominating the frame (that’s the Lagoon’s Messier designation), and the multi-colored Trifid Nebula, M20, off to the right.

All three of these are star-forming regions in Sagittarius, the centaur archer shooting his arrow at Antares, the heart of Scorpio. It happens that Sagittarius sits over the central Milky Way, so there is a lot of dust and gas.

As a final bonus, M21, an open star cluster, is sitting just above the Trifid. (The Trifid, in case you are wondering, is named as such because it shows off all three types of nebulae: emission (red), reflection (blue), dark (lack of light, obscured by dust).)

Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh

(via APOD: 2012 May 26 - At the Edge of NGC 891)
NGC 891 is edge-on to us, as you can see in this Subaru/Hubble combination. This allows us to have a better view of the dust and gas blown away from the plane of the galaxy in filaments. This is likely from supernovas or star formation in the disk itself.
Credit: Composite Image Data - Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Legacy Archive, Michael Joner, David Laney (West Mountain Observatory, BYU); Processing - Robert Gendler

(via APOD: 2012 May 26 - At the Edge of NGC 891)

NGC 891 is edge-on to us, as you can see in this Subaru/Hubble combination. This allows us to have a better view of the dust and gas blown away from the plane of the galaxy in filaments. This is likely from supernovas or star formation in the disk itself.

Credit: Composite Image Data - Subaru Telescope (NAOJ), Hubble Legacy Archive
Michael Joner, David Laney (West Mountain Observatory, BYU); Processing - Robert Gendler

tinystarkitten

the-star-stuff:

Star Factory Blazes Bright in Stunning New Photo

This new view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Europe’s Herschel space observatory highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation.

An annotated picture of the region Cygnus-X, highlighting numerous dense sites of new star formation in the right-hand complex, and the swan-like structure in the left-hand portion of the scene. The image was taken by the European Space Agency’s Herschel space telescope. (2nd picture)

CREDIT: ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frédérique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu – CNRS/INSU – Univ. Paris Diderot, France 

Herschel sees into the infrared. It’s like Spitzer, but whereas Spitzer’s coolant ran out about a thousand days ago (3 years or so), Herschel was launched in 2009 and is expected to reach end of mission next year. (Although, as we’ve seen with NASA ‘scopes, there’s a good chance it will keep working, in a slightly diminished capacity, far beyond that point.)

I’d be interested to see what other features can be seen in Cygnus-X by XMM/Newton, the other “long wavelength” satellite that the ESA runs. In its case, millimeter waves.

ridingrootless

FS pointed this out to me, and I think I’ve seen a couple going around. I suspect these are from NASA animations.

Top-to-bottom, left-then-right (best guesses):

  • Active sunspot region
  • Star formation or quasar/galaxy with active galactic nucleus
  • Pulsar formed from white dwarf->neutron star degeneration lighting up the inside of the dust cloud left over from the supernova event that preceded it
  • Possible exoplanet with moon
  • Stellar-mass black hole in a binary system pulling matter off its partner (possibly also a spinning white dwarf drawing mass off its partner and about to hit critical mass and go supernova/black hole), the “jets” shooting out are actually only “visible” in the x-ray spectrum or in radio astronomy
  • "Top" view of star formation or quasar/galaxy with active galactic nucleus
  • Newly formed star with leftover accretion disc, which looks like it is forming planetary “clumps”
  • Star birth inside a molecular cloud, as the hydrogen fusion suddenly begins, the star’s ultraviolet radiation excites the molecules in the surrounding cloud, causing them to ionize and then de-ionize, giving off their own glow - an emission nebula, additionally, the bright new star’s light will reflect off parts of the cloud - a reflection nebula, and the powerful stellar wind and radiation from the star will collide with the particles, beginning to “carve out” space around the star, but also adding more compression to other parts of the cloud, making more areas ripe for star formation
(via APOD: 2005 December 29 - The Iris Nebula from CFHT)
A combination reflection and emission nebula, the Iris Nebula is Cepheus, the King, houses a young star. (Yes, that was a pun, Cepheus’s main stars look like a kid’s drawing of a house in the night sky.)
The main blue color of the nebula comes from dust particles scattering light from the star itself reflecting it toward us, with a blue preference (the same reason the sky is blue), but the faint red glow closer to the star itself is a result of ultraviolet light exciting hydrogen in the cloud, ionizing it. When the electrons re-attach to an ionized hydrogen atom, the resulting energy is emitted as red light.
Infrared examination of the nebula indicates that there may be complex PAH carbon molecules in the dust cloud.
Credit & Copyright: Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT), Hawaiian Starlight, CFHT 

(via APOD: 2005 December 29 - The Iris Nebula from CFHT)

A combination reflection and emission nebula, the Iris Nebula is Cepheus, the King, houses a young star. (Yes, that was a pun, Cepheus’s main stars look like a kid’s drawing of a house in the night sky.)

The main blue color of the nebula comes from dust particles scattering light from the star itself reflecting it toward us, with a blue preference (the same reason the sky is blue), but the faint red glow closer to the star itself is a result of ultraviolet light exciting hydrogen in the cloud, ionizing it. When the electrons re-attach to an ionized hydrogen atom, the resulting energy is emitted as red light.

Infrared examination of the nebula indicates that there may be complex PAH carbon molecules in the dust cloud.

Credit & CopyrightJean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT), Hawaiian StarlightCFHT