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Space Photos of the Week: Strap on Your Space Goggles and Bask in the Starlight

By July 27, 2019 No Comments
Space Photos of the Week: Strap on Your Space Goggles and Bask in the Starlight

Shannon Stirone

This dreamy photo combines visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope (the purples) and high-frequency light from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (the blues) to showcase the activity at this extremely active star-forming region, called NGC 604, located within Messier 33. (French astronomer Charles Messier began spotting and cataloguing nebulae and star clusters in the early 1700s.) What we can’t really see are the roughly 200 lively young stars in this area, which are the source for NGC 604’s glowing gas and dust puffs.

Introducing Cygnus OB2, an association of astral objects that contains stars much larger than our Sun. Our shining Sun and others like it can live around 10 billion years or so. But like the candle that burns twice as hot, the larger the star, the shorter the life span, going strong for all but a few million years. Nevertheless, in burning bright they create powerful blasts of wind that push gas and dust out at high speeds, glowing in x-ray emissions—allowing NASA’s Chandra telescope to capture incredibly dynamic photos like this one.

All craters of the moon are not created equal. On our satellite’s south pole, you’ll find the coldest, shadowiest, most extreme environments for human beings, yet that’s the destination for astronauts in NASA’s Artemis program by 2024. Why would we send scientific explorers to a place where temperatures can dip to minus-388 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-233 Celsius)? Because the craters there bear something significant: water. Sussing out how to extract water from the lunar surface is the linchpin for future long-term human exploration.

On the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a new crew set off for the International Space Station. Astronauts were strapped in the capsule atop this Russian Soyuz rocket that launched from Kazakhstan, and just six hours later they docked at the ISS, some 254 miles above Earth. Really not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

This light blue object might look like a single star, but it’s actually Omega Centauri, a concentrated collection of some 10 million stars. Objects like these are called globular clusters and are held together by gravity. They’re also typically composed of only very old stars that have lost nearly all gas and dust, leaving just a spherical, tightly bound group of stars. If you let your eyes adjust, you might begin to make out the individual dots. Omega Centauri lives in the halo of the Milky Way, about 16,000 light years from Earth.

Beautiful symmetry: Here we have spiral galaxy NGC 2985, one of the most proportional spiral galaxies out there, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. It seems to turn slowly in the quiet of space over 70 million light years away, in the constellation Ursa Major. What’s more, the bright galactic core adds an even greater visual quality to the photo, with its arms of stars and dust set aglow.

The northern polar cap at Mars often resembles our own planet’s North Pole—with smooth, icy features that are melted and renewed with the seasons. The rippled areas are sand dunes deep in the Martian troughs, created when ice below the surface sublimates away, leaving marks on the ground.

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