August 21, 2015

A Hubble Cosmic Couple

WR 124, Nebula M1-67

Here we see the spectacular cosmic pairing of the star Hen 2-427 — more commonly known as WR 124 — and the nebula M1-67 which surrounds it. Both objects, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope are found in the constellation of Sagittarius and lie 15,000 light-years away.

The star Hen 2-427 shines brightly at the very center of this explosive image and around the hot clumps of surrounding gas that are being ejected into space at over 93,210 miles (150,000 km) per hour.

Hen 2-427 is a Wolf–Rayet star, named after the astronomers Charles Wolf and Georges Rayet. Wolf–Rayet are super-hot stars characterized by a fierce ejection of mass.

The nebula M1-67 is estimated to be no more than 10,000 years old — just a baby in astronomical terms — but what a beautiful and magnificent sight it makes.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Judy Schmidt, European Space Agency
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July 28, 2015

Kepler-452b: Exoplanet Most Like Earth

This artistic animation depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun. The habitable zone is a region around a star where temperatures are right for water -- an essential ingredient for life as we know it -- to pool on the surface. Scientists do not know if Kepler-452b can support life or not. What is known about the planet is that it is about 60 percent larger than Earth, placing it in a class of planets dubbed "super-Earths." While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a better than even chance of being rocky. Kepler-452b orbits its star every 385 days. The planet's star is about 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It is a G2-type star like our sun, with nearly the same temperature and mass. This star is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun. As stars age, they grow in size and give out more energy, warming up their planets over time. The planet's rotation is sped up.

Image Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
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Earth and Kepler-452b - Artistic Concept

Scientists using data from NASA's Kepler mission have confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. The habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures are just right for water to exist in its liquid form. The artistic concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger. The illustration represents one possible appearance for Kepler-452b -- scientists do not know whether the planet has oceans and continents like Earth. Both planets orbit a G2-type star of about the same temperature; however, the star hosting Kepler-452b is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun. As stars age, they become larger, hotter and brighter, as represented in the illustration. Kepler-452b's star appears a bit larger and brighter. 

Image Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
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