The central part of this picture of the Milky Way galaxy, as taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, shows an amazing feature of our universe. The yellow parts of the infrared image, referred to as “yellowballs” by researchers, represent a phase of massive star formation in the galaxy. They are at an intermediary stage of massive star formation taking place before these stars create an emptiness in the surrounding gas and dust. These yellowballs are many times (100s or 1000s) the size of our solar system.
It is amazing to think that we are able to study the demise of a galaxy and the subsequent interaction of gases with two adjacent galaxies. And oh yeah, these galaxies are located about 49+ million light-years away. The two galaxies are NGC 3226 (top) and NGC 3227 (bottom) with the areas in blue representing warm gas that is moving into the former. This picture and the related data comes from the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory, NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes (including Spitzer’s infrared camera). The blue coloured areas represents cool hydrogen gas ‘seen’ via radio waves and the redder areas are warmer gas and dust captured via their infrared emissions.
A perfect picture in time for the holidays. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Festivus (or something else or nothing), this time of the year has a festive vibe in many places across our world and maybe even out of this world. This composite image from constellation Canis Major shows spiral galaxies in a one of a kind light show. NGC 2207 and IC 2163 are about 130 million light years away from Earth and were captured by three NASA missions. The x-ray spectrum data was provided by Chandra X-Ray observatory; visible spectrum by Hubble Space Telescope and infrared spectrum data by the Spitzer space telescope.
This composite, multi-spectrum picture of the Cigar galaxy (M82) includes images taken under the visible light spectrum by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona and in the x-ray spectrum by NuSTAR and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The magenta coloured center represents high-energy x-rays streaming from a rare and brightest to date pulsar which is also known as an ultraluminous x-ray source, or ULX.
Low-energy x-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are coloured blue while the higher-energy x-ray data from NuSTAR is the pink areas of the image. NASA’s NuSTAR mission spotted some pulsing x-rays from this ULX (called M82 X-2) leading scientists to discover this pulsar (a pulsar is a type of neutron star that sends out rotating beams of high-energy radiation).
What do new young stars look like as they heat up the surrounding space dust? The Spitzer Space Telescope looked out to the galaxy NGC 1291 and captured an infrared image of quite the firestorm created by this awe inspiring phenomenon. The distinctive outer red ring in this 12 billion year old galaxy from the Eridanus constellation, consists of new stars and is the “Ring of Fire“. The older stars lie in the central blue coloured “S” area of the galaxy and produce shorter-wavelength infrared light.