The Pillars of Creation are only a fraction of the star forming Eagle Nebula and yet are several light years long in of themselves. This photo was taken in 1995 by the Hubble space telescope. So many wonders in the universe inspire my imagination, and this image represents a truly mystical story of creation which captures an enormous beginning to the mystery of life.
[Page work in progress]
From one Ensign Cosmonaut to another…
One of the most difficult things I find to talk about are subjects related to that of exploration, wonder and discovery of what lies beyond our planet. I have such a curiosity about space that every time I come to this page to talk about it in some way, I simply become lost as to where to even begin. So after much deliberation, I have decided to share some areas that I find beautiful, and some of discovery and I’ll see where I go from there. I will try to focus on exploration projects that are normally not known as they involve foreign agencies; those that don’t get the reporting as much as NASA does on this side of the globe. At the same time, I wish to post images of nebula specifically. As my posts grow, I will likely have to organize more, but for now its a start. I must stress, that I am in no way an astronomer, or an astronaut, I have no gear of my own, and so I rely entirely on others’ work, but my thoughts will likely be included as I wonder and bear witness to the discoveries I come across. I’d like to think though, I am still an explorer as much as anyone else is under the direction of Captain Gaia; a person who realizes we are all on a planetary vessel moving 107,000 km/h around the sun. I wonder how fast we move around the interstellar highway? Is there a speed limit? Often times, I have a willingness to look up to the sky and see the vast amount of wondrous interstellar stories unfold. But unfortunately, I live in the city, so I see on average 5-20 stars a night. I hope in the near future, that changes, as I feel so disconnected from the sky, it affects my energies detrimentally.
I guess a good start to nebulae is defining what exactly one is, and by doing so, I feel I learn a little more about them myself. I always found for myself, that asking a question peaks curiosity and interest, and helps me retain information as I am actively seeking answers rather than simply being bombarded by information. And the subject of space is not enjoyable to be bombarded with, as it is infinite.
Essentially, nebulae are made up of gas and dust within galaxies (as far as I have learned) and eventually become stars as the dust and gas clump together. The nebulae I will focus on for now, are the elaborately beautiful formations that we are keen to seeing. The other type is known as dark nebula; which are globs of gas and dust that block out light from other stars. Nebulae that are visible produce light because the constituent atoms absorb radiant energy from other stars, and in turn irradiates that energy into visible and other portions of electromagnetic spectrum that we have been able to capture. Eventually the nebulae form stars. In a way, looking at a nebula is like watching life begin. It also shows that life not only begins alone, but is nurtured by distant stars, giving and only ever receiving in need when those other stars die and explode and begin to form nebula in return. And there you have it, a quick intro to the cycle of star formation.
The next image, is only a section of the star forming Carina Nebula.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured this billowing cloud of cold interstellar gas and dust rising from a tempestuous stellar nursery located in the Carina Nebula, 7500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina. This pillar of dust and gas serves as an incubator for new stars and is teeming with new star-forming activity.
Hot, young stars erode and sculpt the clouds into this fantasy landscape by sending out thick stellar winds and scorching ultraviolet radiation. The low density regions of the nebula are shredded while the denser parts resist erosion and remain as thick pillars. In the dark, cold interiors of these columns new stars continue to form.
In the process of star formation, a disc around the proto-star slowly accretes onto the star’s surface. Part of the material is ejected along jets perpendicular to the accretion disc. The jets have speeds of several hundreds of miles per second. As these jets plough into the surrounding nebula, they create small, glowing patches of nebulosity, called Herbig-Haro (HH) objects.
Long streamers of gas can be seen shooting in opposite directions off the pedestal on the upper right-hand side of the image. Another pair of jets is visible in a peak near the top-centre of the image. These jets (known as HH 901 and HH 902, respectively) are common signatures of the births of new stars.
This image celebrates the 20th anniversary of Hubble’s launch and deployment into an orbit around Earth. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed the pillar on 1-2 February 2010. The colours in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green) and sulphur (red). – Wikimedia Commons, retrieved Sept. 4, 2012
Here is an example, of a nebula formed from a dying star. This is NGC 2440. Usually, planetary nebulae formed by dying stars look more violent and turbulent than the nebulae I have shown above, however this particular one appears more delicate; almost heavenly like. I especially enjoy the somber fluorescence that fades outward from the central luminescence.
NGC 2440 is another planetary nebula ejected by a dying star, but it has a much more chaotic structure than NGC 2346. The central star of NGC 2440 is one of the hottest known, with a surface temperature near 200000 degrees Celsius. The complex structure of the surrounding nebula suggests to some astronomers that there have been periodic oppositely directed outflows from the central star, somewhat similar to that in NGC 2346, but in the case of NGC 2440 these outflows have been episodic, and in different directions during each episode. The nebula is also rich in clouds of dust, some of which form long, dark streaks pointing away from the central star. In addition to the bright nebula, which glows because of fluorescence due to ultraviolet radiation from the hot star, NGC 2440 is surrounded by a much larger cloud of cooler gas which is invisible in ordinary light but can be detected with infrared telescopes. NGC 2440 lies about 4000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Puppis. – Wikimedia Commons, retrieved Sept. 4, 2012
The Orion Nebula is next, I’ll come back to this in the future…
In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. … This extensive study took 105 Hubble orbits to complete. All imaging instruments aboard the telescope were used simultaneously to study Orion. The Advanced Camera mosaic covers approximately the apparent angular size of the full moon. – Wikimedia Commons, retrieved Sept. 4, 2012
Up next is an image of a portion of the Cygnus Loop, part of the Veil Nebula. I’ll get back to this in the future, but for now marvel at its beauty. It looks as if there is a ghostly angel in awe or peril…
This is an image of a small portion of the Cygnus Loop supernova remnant, which marks the edge of a bubble-like, expanding blast wave from a colossal stellar explosion, occurring about 15,000 years ago.
The HST image shows the structure behind the shock waves, allowing astronomers for the first time to directly compare the actual structure of the shock with theoretical model calculations. Besides supernova remnants, these shock models are important in understanding a wide range of astrophysical phenomena, from winds in newly-formed stars to cataclysmic stellar outbursts. The supernova blast is slamming into tenuous clouds of insterstellar gas. This collision heats and compresses the gas, causing it to glow. The shock thus acts as a searchlight revealing the structure of the interstellar medium.
The detailed HST image shows the blast wave overrunning dense clumps of gas, which despite HST’s high resolution, cannot be resolved. This means that the clumps of gas must be small enough to fit inside our solar system, making them relatively small structures by interstellar standards. A bluish ribbon of light stretching left to right across the picture might be a knot of gas ejected by the supernova; this interstellar “bullet” traveling over three million miles per hour (5 million kilometres) is just catching up with the shock front, which has slowed down by ploughing into interstellar material.
The Cygnus Loop appears as a faint ring of glowing gases about three degrees across (six times the diameter of the full Moon), located in the northern constellation, Cygnus the Swan. The supernova remnant is within the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and is 2,600 light-years away.
The photo is a combination of separate images taken in three colors, oxygen atoms (blue) emit light at temperatures of 30,000 to 60,000 degrees Celsius (50,000 to 100,000 degrees Farenheit). Hydrogen atoms (green) arise throughout the region of shocked gas. Sulfur atoms (red) form when the gas cools to around 10,000 degrees Celsius (18,000 degrees Farenheit).
– Wikimedia Commons, NASA image, retrieved Sept. 4, 2012
Stellar Spire Eagle Nebula – NASA, ESA Hubble Image
As I Continue to Wonder…
Some questions I will explore in the future:
What does the CETI institute send and receive?
What anomalies have they come across?
I am beginning to see stories of beasts and men unfold within these images. As I let my imagination wander, layers upon layers of imagery enter my mind. It is one of the most simple and fulfilling pleasures I have come to adore. I truly feel at peace when viewing these images, much like when I lay on the earth and stare into billowing clouds ready to surmount into a phenomenal battle, and as the tears of the gods come crashing down upon me, I am left ordained in a state of euphoria.