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Posted on March 3rd, 2015

Out of This World – Images of Space!

Supernova remnant G299 is too ethereal to look real, as this colorful image of the remnant, captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, attests to. Even in death, stars are still beautiful; and this remnant is believed to be the product of a Type 1a supernova. This is where a white dwarf star is orbiting a companion star and either merges with another white dwarf; or it explodes while drawing material from the companion star, causing a thermonuclear explosion, which releases massive amounts of energy and creates a very bright remnant. Type 1a supernova not only create a beautiful death, they are also used as markers because they out shine the light of the galaxy where they reside. Scientists can also more accurately estimate their distance from Earth and therefore the distance of other objects by comparison, including the expansion of the Universe.

In October of 2011, the Hubble Space Telescope captured a stunning image of the NGC 7714 galaxy, located 100 million light-years away in the Pisces constellation. While it may appear that the stars of the galaxy are spiraling inward, they are actually being pulled outwards from the center by the gravity of nearby galaxies. Its nearest neighbor, NGC 7715, is causing the interstellar gas to compress, forcing star formation which is seen in the bright blue arcs rotating from its center.

You don’t need to have a PhD in Astronomy to make breakthroughs in astronomical science. A vast amount of data is collected by NASA satellites, so much so it would take an eternity for all of it to be sifted through by the earlier mentioned PhDs. So Zooniverse has set up a crowdsourcing platform that encourages people to search through images from the Spitzer Space Telescope and highlight certain objects and stars. It’s a lot like Open Street Maps, except you are mapping the Universe. From star clusters to galaxies, every-day people are helping us better understand star formation. Recently, volunteers brought an overlooked star feature to the attention of scientists, yellow balls. While they aren’t actually yellow, they are a new way to detect early phases of large star formation. The bubbles appears yellow as the star starts to form before intense radiation blasts away surrounding hydrocarbons, changing the balls from yellow to green. Back in 2009, volunteers also discovered small, green bubbles that turned out to be dense galaxies that manufacture an astounding amount of stars. So you don’t need a fancy telescope to look to the heavens, luckily we have a large supply of cosmic imagery that is right at your fingertips!

Katie Nelson
Geospatial Ninja
(303) 718-7163


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