When a dying star exploded, it shot out a "bullet" of matter that's speeding away at about five million miles (eight million kilometers) an hour, as seen in a new picture of the supernova remnant N49.
The image, released Monday, combines visible-light data from the Hubble Space Telescope (yellow) and x-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue). Rich in silicon, sulfur, and neon, the bullet appears to be traveling away from a bright source of light near the top of the remnant, which astronomers say might be the neutron star left over after the massive star collapsed and exploded.
At that stage of its mission, Atlantis was approaching the space station "upside down" so crew members aboard the station could check the shuttle's heat shield for damage. That means the shuttle's open payload bay was facing Earth at the time this picture was snapped.
Light from bubbles, shock waves, and clusters of newborn stars spangles the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 1313 in a composite picture released May 25 by the Gemini Observatory.
The image contains data on three wavelengths of visible light, as seen by the Gemini South telescope in Chile. Red represents ionized hydrogen, green shows ionized oxygen, and blue shows ionized helium.
NGC 1313 is a starburst galaxy, or one that shows an unusually high rate of star formation. Normally galaxies get a star-making boost from interactions with their neighbors—close galactic encounters can create gravitational effects that ignite stellar birth. But NGC 1313 is a drifter, far from other galaxy groups, so the reason for its starburst activity is a mystery.
Image courtesy Travis Rector, Gemini Observatory/University of Alaska
In a cosmic case of a "mother" eating her young, matter from the extrasolar planet WASP-12b gets pulled toward its sunlike parent star in an artist's depiction.
The Jupiter-like gas giant planet orbits just two million miles from its star in our own Milky Way galaxy. Being so close means that WASP-12b is the hottest known planet in the galaxy.
On May 20 scientists announced that new observations of the system made by the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that WASP-12b is losing mass to its star, and it's happening so fast that the planet probably has just ten million years left to live.
The small crater is actually in the floor of a larger crater in the southwestern part of the near side of the moon. Scientists were able to trace the boulder's path as it rolled down the larger crater's wall based on the tracks it left in the lunar soil. The team thinks the boulder was shaken loose from its resting place by a minor impact or moonquake.
Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Heart and Soul
A new infrared picture is giving astronomers an unprecedented glimpse into the "heart" and "soul" of the Perseus Arm, one of the spiral arms of our Milky Way galaxy.
The Heart nebula (right) was named for its resemblance to a human heart. Like its neighbor the Soul nebula, the swirling cloud of gas and dust is a star-forming region. Intense radiation and winds from the newborn stars inside have carved giant bubbles in these two clouds, giving the nebulae their distinctive shapes.
Green jets of charged particles stream from dark blobs of gas and dust thought to surround newborn twin stars in a series of six pictures released May 20 and taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
Two of the six blobs—seen at top left and top middle—are already known to house twin, or binary, stars. Astronomers think irregularly shaped gas-and-dust envelopes, like those around the two stars, might be what trigger binary stars to form. (Related picture: "First Proof 'Tight' Double Suns Can Have Planets.")
Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan
An oddly flat-looking solar filament seems to create a scar on the sun's surface in a picture taken from the ground on May 17 by U.K.-based astrophotographer Pete Lawrence.
A few days before the shot was taken, a solar prominence had appeared on the sun. A prominence is a region of very dense, cool gas that rises above the solar surface but is held in place by the sun's magnetic fields. Seen along the edge of the sun's disk, prominences appear as bright loops against the dark expanse of space.
When the sun rotates, however, we see the same prominences against the warmer, brighter solar surface, where they resemble dark "cracks" (as above) and are then called filaments.