February 6, 2016

100 Million Stars: Sharpest Ever View of the Andromeda Galaxy

andromeda galaxy largest picture

  • This image, captured with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31.
  • This is a cropped version of the full image and has 1.5 billion pixels. You would need more than 600 HD television screens to display the whole image.
  • It is the biggest Hubble image ever released and shows over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disc stretching across over 40 000 light-years.

The largest NASA Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled, this sweeping bird’s-eye view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) is the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our galactic next-door neighbor. Though the galaxy is over 2 million light-years away, The Hubble Space Telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars in a 61,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disk. It's like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand. And there are lots of stars in this sweeping view -- over 100 million, with some of them in thousands of star clusters seen embedded in the disk.

This ambitious photographic cartography of the Andromeda galaxy represents a new benchmark for precision studies of large spiral galaxies that dominate the universe's population of over 100 billion galaxies. Never before have astronomers been able to see individual stars inside an external spiral galaxy over such a large contiguous area. Most of the stars in the universe live inside such majestic star cities, and this is the first data that reveal populations of stars in context to their home galaxy.

Hubble traces densely packed stars extending from the innermost hub of the galaxy seen at the left. Moving out from this central galactic bulge, the panorama sweeps from the galaxy's central bulge across lanes of stars and dust to the sparser outer disk. Large groups of young blue stars indicate the locations of star clusters and star-forming regions. The stars bunch up in the blue ring-like feature toward the right side of the image. The dark silhouettes trace out complex dust structures. Underlying the entire galaxy is a smooth distribution of cooler red stars that trace Andromeda’s evolution over billions of years.

Because the galaxy is only 2.5 million light-years from Earth, it is a much bigger target in the sky than the myriad galaxies Hubble routinely photographs that are billions of light-years away. This means that the Hubble survey is assembled together into a mosaic image using 7,398 exposures taken over 411 individual pointings.

The panorama is the product of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) program. Images were obtained from viewing the galaxy in near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared wavelengths, using the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3 aboard Hubble. This cropped view shows a 48,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy in its natural visible-light color, as photographed with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in red and blue filters.

Image Credit: Credits: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton, B.F. Williams, and L.C. Johnson, the PHAT team, and R. Gendler
Explanation from: https://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic1502a/ and http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-s-high-definition-panoramic-view-of-the-andromeda-galaxy

October 2014 Antares Rocket Explosion

October 2014 Antares Rocket Explosion

Cygnus CRS Orb-3, also known as Orbital Sciences CRS Flight 3 or Orbital 3, was an attempted flight of Cygnus, an automated cargo spacecraft developed by United States-based company Orbital Sciences, on 28 October 2014. This flight, which would have been its fourth to the International Space Station and the fifth of an Antares launch vehicle, resulted in the Antares rocket exploding seconds after liftoff.

The Antares rocket carrying the Orb-3 Cygnus launched as scheduled from Launch Pad 0A on 28 October 2014. Fifteen seconds after liftoff a failure of propulsion occurred in the first stage and the vehicle began falling back to the launch pad; before reaching the ground it was destroyed by its flight termination system which was engaged by a command from the Wallops Range Control Center.

The resulting explosion was felt in Pocomoke City, Maryland, 20 miles (32 km) away. The fire at the site was quickly contained and allowed to burn itself out overnight. Initial review of telemetry data found no abnormalities in the pre-launch, the launch sequence, and the flight, until the time of the failure.

In a press release, NASA stated that there were no known issues prior to launch and that no personnel were injured or missing but that the entire payload was lost and there was significant damage to the launch pad. However, a survey on 29 October found no serious damage to the launch pad and site fuel tanks, although some repairs will be required.

Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, USA
October 28, 2014

Image Credit: Jay Diem
Explanation from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cygnus_CRS_Orb-3

The Milky Way Galaxy over Paddys River Falls

The Milky Way Galaxy over Paddys River Falls

Paddys River Falls in the Snowy Mountains, New South Wales, Australia
August 3, 2014

Image Credit & Copyright: Greg Gibbs

February 5, 2016

2011 Puyehue-Cordón Caulle Volcano Eruption

2011 Puyehue-Cordón Caulle Volcano Eruption

An aerial view shows ash and steam from an eruption in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain near Osorno city in south-central Chile, on June 5, 2011. Picture taken through a plane window.

Osorno, Los Lagos, Chile
June 5, 2011

Image Credit: Ivan Alvarado

Aurora over Steinsvik Beach

Aurora over Steinsvik Beach

A flamboyant flare up of the aurora over Steinsvik Beach, in Nordreisa, Troms, Norway. It lasted no more than 10 minutes from start to finish but it lit up the entire sky and took the photographer by surprise, just as he was about to leave the shoot. The figure on the right is his brother, furiously searching for his lens cap to capture the same phenomena. It was hard for the photographer not to laugh at his brother while moving the camera left to right capturing the panorama, but luckily he stood still long enough to make the final capture.

Nordreisa, Troms, Norway
February 8, 2014

Image Credit & Copyright: Tommy Richardsen
Explanation by: Royal Observatory Greenwich

Pleiades (Messier 45)


August 10, 2013

Image Credit & Copyright: astrojoe via astrobin.com

February 4, 2016

Bioluminescent Phytoplankton and the Milky Way Galaxy

Bioluminescent Phytoplankton and the Milky Way Galaxy

South Arm Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia
May 18, 2015

Image Credit & Copyright: James Garlick

Solar Prominence

Solar Prominence

Searing hot loops of plasma radiate from the edge of our local star – the Sun – in a phenomenon known as a solar prominence. Emanating from the Sun’s outer shell, from which light is emitted, prominences extend to the corona, which is the aura of the plasma surrounding it. A typical prominence covers over thousands of kilometres, with the largest ever recorded estimated to be over 800,000 kilometres, equalling roughly the radius of the Sun itself.

Image Credit & Copyright: Gary Palmer
Explanation by: Royal Observatory Greenwich

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2)

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2)

December 29, 2014

Image Credit & Copyright: Phil Hart

February 3, 2016

Mammatus Clouds and Lightning over Nebraska

Mammatus Clouds and Lightning over Nebraska

Broken Bow, Nebraska, USA
May 26, 2013

Image Credit & Copyright: Anne Goforth

The Eta Carinae Nebula

The Eta Carinae Nebula

The hypergiant star Eta Carinae glows against the background of swirling clouds of dust and gases that form the Carina Nebula. The Carina Nebula is one of the largest diffuse nebulae - meaning that it has no well-defined boundaries - in our skies and is about four times as large as the famed Orion Nebula

Image Credit & Copyright: Terry Robison
Explanation by: Royal Observatory Greenwich

Perseids over Snowy Range

Perseids over Snowy Range

Snowy Range in Wyoming, USA
August 12, 2012

Image Credit & Copyright: David Kingham

February 2, 2016

Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) and the Milky Way Galaxy seen from Queensland

Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) and the Milky Way Galaxy over Queensland

Roma, Queensland, Australia
December 25, 2011

Image Credit & Copyright: Naskies via wikipedia.org

The NGC 3521 Galaxy

The NGC 3521 Galaxy

This image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3521 from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is not out of focus. Instead, the galaxy itself has a soft, woolly appearance as it a member of a class of galaxies known as flocculent spirals.

Like other flocculent galaxies, NGC 3521 lacks the clearly defined, arcing structure to its spiral arms that shows up in galaxies such as Messier 101, which are called grand design spirals. In flocculent spirals, fluffy patches of stars and dust show up here and there throughout their disks. Sometimes the tufts of stars are arranged in a generally spiraling form, as with NGC 3521, but illuminated star-filled regions can also appear as short or discontinuous spiral arms.

About 30 percent of galaxies share NGC 3521's patchiness, while approximately 10 percent have their star-forming regions wound into grand design spirals.

NGC 3521 is located almost 40 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). The British astronomer William Herschel discovered the object in 1784. Through backyard telescopes, NGC 3521 can have a glowing, rounded appearance, giving rise to its nickname, the Bubble Galaxy.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA and S. Smartt, Robert Gendler
Explanation from: https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/goddard/hubble-shears-a-woolly-galaxy

February 1, 2016

Perseid Meteors over Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Perseid Meteors over Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains, California, USA
August 12, 2013

Image Credit & Copyright: Kenneth Brandon

Aurora over Lyngen

Aurora over Lyngen

Lyngen, Troms, Norway
March 2015

Image Credit & Copyright: Jan R. Olsen

January 31, 2016

Supernova Remnant: The Veil Nebula

Supernova Remnant: The Veil Nebula

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has unveiled in stunning detail a small section of the expanding remains of a massive star that exploded about 8,000 years ago.

Called the Veil Nebula, the debris is one of the best-known supernova remnants, deriving its name from its delicate, draped filamentary structures. The entire nebula is 110 light-years across, covering six full moons on the sky as seen from Earth, and resides about 2,100 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.

This view is a mosaic of six Hubble pictures of a small area roughly two light-years across, covering only a tiny fraction of the nebula’s vast structure.

This close-up look unveils wisps of gas, which are all that remain of what was once a star 20 times more massive than our sun. The fast-moving blast wave from the ancient explosion is plowing into a wall of cool, denser interstellar gas, emitting light. The nebula lies along the edge of a large bubble of low-density gas that was blown into space by the dying star prior to its self-detonation.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team
Explanation from: https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/veil-nebula-supernova-remnant

Lightning above Chaiten Volcano

Lightning Chaiten Volcano

Chaitén, Chile
May 2008

Image Credit: Carlos Gutierrez