5 May 2017

Humbled by Hubble

Whenever you feel confined, restricted, by the paradigm of modern life, the Deep State and the fake news and the rigged financial system and the pettiness of politics and the media circus, when all of this gets to you... Look up the sky and reach for the stars!

Orion Nebula
Hubble Captures Wide View of Supernova 1987A

Unlimited, free-flowing, unbiased, space transcends imagination. Gases, dust clouds, fired-up rocks, molten matter, hazardous fluids and solid ice in movement, forming, expanding, fusing, travelling, spinning, clashing to breaking point, recomposing and splitting some more... A composition piece made up of velocity and timelessness and never-stunted evolution. A humbling sight, even from a safe distance - light years away - from the safety of the telescope or the computer screen, (relatively for now) sheltered as we stand from the brutal, hostile, unredeeming, all-consuming and seemingly unpredictable mass-scale action of titans devoid of our human proclivities of reason and emotion.

"Dust is a really critical part of how a galaxy works, how it forms stars" - Dr. Karin Sandstrom, University of California, San Diego

NGC 248 in the Small Magellanic Cloud
Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635)

Hubble Space Telescope and Cassini and countless other shuttles are on a scientific mission of discovery, with aha moments and wows of wonder guaranteed every step of the way! And more unanswered questions popping up too! The viewer and the observer get sucked into the mermaid-like eery and dangerous beauty of nebulae and cosmic clouds, faraway, unnamed galaxies sitting on the edge of time and space, defying human comprehension just by their stark, blank, matter-of-fact presence, while putting us firmly back in check. No, we humans are not at the (epi-)centre of the Universe. Merely an adjunct fluke form of intelligence oblivious to the wider macrocosm made up of stellar births and meltdowns, black holes and intergalactic chaos.

M101 (HST) Spiral Galaxy
Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant

Source: All photography via HubbleSite, laid out chronologically, with most recent first.  

(1) The Orion Nebula, credits: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team. No picture caption provided.

(2) Hubble Captures Wide View of Supernova 1987A, credits: NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), and M. Mutchler and R. Avila (STScI). The picture caption reads: 'Supernova 1987A within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way. Distant stars serve as a backdrop for Supernova 1987A, located in the center of the image. The bright ring around the central region of the exploded star is composed of material ejected by the star about 20,000 years before its demise. Gaseous clouds surround the supernova. The clouds' red color represents the glow of hydrogen gas, which is fueling a firestorm of star birth.'

(3) NGC 248 in the Small Magellanic Cloud, credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, K. Sandstrom (University of California, San Diego), and the SMIDGE (Small Magellanic Cloud Investigation of Dust and Gas Evolution) team. The picture caption reads: 'two festive-looking nebulas, situated so as to appear as one. They reside in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that is a satellite of our Milky Way galaxy. Intense radiation from the brilliant central stars is heating hydrogen in each of the nebulas, causing them to glow red. The nebulas, together, are called NGC 248. They were discovered in 1834 by the astronomer Sir John Herschel. NGC 248 is about 60 light-years long and 20 light-years wide. It is among a number of glowing hydrogen nebulas in the dwarf satellite galaxy, which is located approximately 200,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Tucana.'  

(4) Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635), credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). The picture caption reads: 'For the 26th birthday of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers are highlighting a Hubble image of an enormous bubble being blown into space by a super-hot, massive star. The Hubble image of the Bubble Nebula, or NGC 7635, was chosen to mark the 26th anniversary of the launch of Hubble into Earth orbit by the STS-31 space shuttle crew on April 24, 1990. "As Hubble makes its 26th revolution around our home star, the sun, we celebrate the event with a spectacular image of a dynamic and exciting interaction of a young star with its environment. The view of the Bubble Nebula, crafted from Wide Field Camera 3 images, reminds us that Hubble gives us a front-row seat to the awe-inspiring universe we live in," said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington, D.C. The Bubble Nebula is 7 light-years across – about one-and-a-half times the distance from our sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri – and resides 7,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia.'

(5) M101 (HST) Spiral Galaxy, credits:  NASA, ESA, K. Kuntz (JHU), F. Bresolin (University of Hawaii), J. Trauger (Jet Propulsion Lab), J. Mould (NOAO), Y.-H. Chu (University of Illinois, Urbana), Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope/J.-C. Cuillandre/Coelum, and G. Jacoby, B. Bohannan, and M. Hanna/NOAO/AURA/NSF. No picture caption provided.

(6) Veil Nebula Supernova Remnant, credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). The picture caption reads: '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.'

Westerlund 2: Detail 3
NGC 2174

(7) Westerlund 2: Detail 3 (pictured just above), credits: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team. The picture caption reads: The pillars in the star-forming region surrounding Westerlund 2, composed of dense gas, are a few light-years tall and point to the central cluster. They are thought to be incubators for new stars. Besides sculpting the gaseous terrain, intense radiation from the most brilliant of the cluster stars is creating a successive generation of baby stars. The bluish haze is an indicator of oxygen gas in the nebula.'

(8) NGC 2174 (picture just above), credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). The picture caption reads: 'In celebration of the 24th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (on April 24, 1990) astronomers have taken an infrared-light portrait of a roiling region of starbirth located 6,400 light-years away. The Hubble mosaic unveils a collection of carved knots of gas and dust in a small portion of the Monkey Head Nebula (also known as NGC 2174 and Sharpless Sh2-252). The nebula is a star-forming region that hosts dusky dust clouds silhouetted against glowing gas.'

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