Betelgeuse’s Recent Dimming Likely Caused by a Dusty Outburst

From October 2019 to February 2020, Betelgeuse (the bright orange star at Orion’s right shoulder, not Tim Burton’s magical necroprankster) was seen to dim dramatically, even more so than it typically does. It was something that wasn’t just observed with telescopes but also it was quite obvious to the naked eye from most locations. This…

Thousands of Black Holes Surround the Heart of our Galaxy

(From NASA’s Image of the Day, June 19, 2020) Astronomers have discovered evidence for thousands of black holes located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This black hole bounty consists of stellar-mass black holes, which typically weigh between five to 30 times the mass of our Sun….

NGC 6441: One of the Milky Way’s Most Massive Star Clusters

(NASA’s image of the day on June 5, 2020) Almost like snowflakes, the stars of the globular cluster NGC 6441 sparkle peacefully in the night sky, about 13,000 light-years from the Milky Way’s galactic center. Like snowflakes, the exact number of stars in such a cluster is difficult to discern. It is estimated that together…

Hypothesized First-Gen Stars Remain Unseen in Hubble Deep Views

(News from NASA) New results from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope suggest the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the early universe took place sooner than previously thought. A European team of astronomers have found no evidence of the first generation of stars, known as Population III stars, as far back as when…

NGC 3147: A Spiral Giant

Here’s a view of NGC 3147, a spiral galaxy 130 million light-years away in the constellation Draco. This image is made from data acquired by Hubble’s WFC3/UVIS instrument in November 2017 (PI Adam Riess). NGC 3147 is about 140,000 light-years wide, so almost half again as big as our Milky Way. See this and more…

A Dark Horse in a Different Light

Here’s a view of the famous Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) located 1,375 light-years away from Earth, just under Alnitak, the first star in Orion’s belt. This is a color-composite made from images acquired with Hubble in wide-band infrared in October and November of 2012. (Principal Investigator Z. Levay).

When Galaxies Collide

Here’s a cosmic curiosity: Arp 148, aka “Mayall’s Object,” the aftermath of a collision between two galaxies. It’s located 450 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major (of which the Big Dipper is part.) This is my color-composite of Hubble images originally acquired in April 2007 in optical and near-infrared light.

A Dusty Twist Marks the Site of a New Planet’s Birth

  All of the planets in our Solar System formed from a disk of dust and gas surrounding our home star—the Sun—about four and a half billion years ago. Many—maybe even most—of the stars we see in the sky have planets orbiting them, and they all probably formed the same way. But planetary formation is…

Ten Discoveries from SOFIA

(From NASA) Ten years ago, NASA’s telescope on an airplane, SOFIA (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), first peered into the cosmos. Since the night of May 26, 2010, SOFIA’s observations of infrared light, invisible to the human eye, have made many scientific discoveries about the hidden universe.

The Glowing Shroud of a Newborn Star

Here’s another of my processed Hubble data images: it’s a look into the star-forming region “S106,” made from data captured in infrared wavelengths on Feb. 13, 2011. Here, a newborn star is in the process of blasting away a clear space while still surrounded by the cloud of dust and hydrogen gas it formed within.

I Took a Crack at the Egg Nebula

This is an interesting object: it’s called the Egg Nebula, a protoplanetary nebula located in our galaxy 3,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. Here, an opaque cloud of dust and gas hides a central star that’s expelling its outer layers. Beams of the star’s light escape the cloud through holes, illuminating the layers. This…