NHA Blog - Learn About Outer Space

30 Doradus Star Forming Region

May 24, 2017 23:07

See Our 30 Doradus Outer Space Posters:

  1. 30 Doradus
  2. 30 Doradus Star Birth Hi Gloss Space Poster

The star-forming region, 30 Doradus, is one of the largest located close to the Milky Way and is found in the neighboring galaxy, Large Magellanic Cloud. About 2,400 massive stars in the center of 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, are producing intense radiation and powerful winds as they blow off material.

Multimillion-degree gas detected in X-rays (blue) by the Chandra X-ray Observatory comes from shock fronts - similar to sonic booms -formed by these stellar winds and by supernova explosions. This hot gas carves out gigantic bubbles in the surrounding cooler gas and dust shown here in infrared emission from the Spitzer Space Telescope (orange).

Credit: NASA

Active Galaxy Centaurus A Space Poster

April 30, 2017 23:12

See 'Active Galaxy Centaurus A' outer space poster here.

Active Galaxy Centaurus A

Resembling looming rain clouds on a stormy day, dark lanes of dust crisscross the giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A.

Hubble's panchromatic vision, stretching from ultraviolet through near-infrared wavelengths, reveals the vibrant glow of young, blue star clusters and a glimpse into regions normally obscured by the dust.

The warped shape of Centaurus A's disk of gas and dust is evidence for a past collision and merger with another galaxy. The resulting shockwaves cause hydrogen gas clouds to compress, triggering a firestorm of new star formation. These are visible in the red patches in this Hubble close-up.

At a distance of just over 11 million light-years, Centaurus A contains the closest active galactic nucleus to Earth. The center is home for a supermassive black hole that ejects jets of high-speed gas into space, but neither the supermassive black hole or the jets are visible in this image.

This image was taken in July 2010 with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Abstract Art Orion Nebula Space Poster

April 19, 2017 23:11

See our 'Abstract Art in the Orion Nebula' Outer space poster here.

Close inspection of the 2006 Hubble Space Telescope color mosaic of the Orion Nebula (M42) reveals numerous treasures that reside within the nearby, intense star- forming region. Southwest of the Trapezium stars located in the center of the nebula, a stunning Hubble Heritage portrait captures a variety of intricate objects. Deeply contrasting areas of light and dark blend with a palette of colors mix to form rich swirls and fluid motions that would make even the best artists stand back and admire their work.

Visible slightly above left center is the star LL Orionis (LL Ori), originally release by the Hubble Heritage Project in 2002. The delicate bow shock that surrounds LL Ori points towards the stream of gas flowing slowly away from the center of the Orion Nebula, near the Trapezium stars located off the image to the upper left. Close examination of the ends of the bow shock show secondary shocks that are formed as a two-sided jet of gas flowing away from this forming star at high velocity strikes the stream of low velocity gas from the center. To the right of LL Ori, a ghostly veil of material hangs thick and dark, obscuring portions of the nebula behind it.

The bright star toward the lower left of the image, known as LP Orionis (LP Ori), is surrounded by a prominent reflection nebula. Astronomers believe the star is moving within another veil of material that lies in front of M42. The appearance of the bright rim above LP Ori indicates that the teardrop shaped dark region around the illuminating star must be a cavity formed as the star moves through the veil material, rather than being a dusty veil obscuring light behind it.

Object Names: Orion Nebula, M42, NGC 1976

Image Type: Astronomical


Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

A Puzzling Cosmic Ring Space Poster

March 01, 2017 23:09

See 'A Puzzling Cosmic Ring NGC 7538 Hi Gloss Space Poster' here.

The Herschel Space Observatory has uncovered a weird ring of dusty material while obtaining one of the sharpest scans to date of a huge cloud of gas and dust, called NGC 7538. The gigantic ring structure is situated at the center-top of this image. The odd ovoid possesses the mass of 500 suns, with its long axis spanning about 35 light-years and its short axis about 25 light-years.

Astronomers often see ring and bubble-like structures in cosmic dust clouds. The strong winds cast out by the most massive stars, called O-type stars, can generate these expanding puffs, as can their explosive deaths as supernovas. But no energetic source or remnant of a deceased O-type star, such as a neutron star, is apparent within the center of the ring. It is possible that a big star blew the bubble and, because stars are all in motion, subsequently left the scene, escaping detection.

Astronomers study stellar nurseries such as NGC 7538 to better learn how stars come into being. The Herschel observations have revealed numerous clumps of material in NGC 7538, a baker's dozen of which may evolve into O-type stars. Early in the star-formation process, these clumps remain quite cold, just a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. At these temperatures, the clumps emit the bulk of their radiation in the low-energy, submillimeter and infrared light that Herschel was specifically designed to detect.

Finding the mysterious ring came as an unexpected bonus during the Herschel observing run.   

The blue and green colors in this image represent 70- and 160-micron data, respectively, from Herschel's Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) instrument. The red colors are 250-micron observations obtained from Herschel's Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) instrument.

Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Whitman College

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon Poster

February 08, 2017 23:14

See our 'Aldrin on the Moon Outer Space Poster' here.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module Eagle during the Apollo 11 mission. Mission commander Neil Armstrong took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. While astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Sea of Tranquility region of the moon, astronaut Michael Collins remained with the command and service modules in lunar orbit.

Ancient Supernova Outer Space Poster

January 18, 2017 23:15

See our 'Ancient Supernova' outer space poster here.

Ancient Supernova Revealed

About 3,700 years ago people on Earth would have seen a brand-new bright star in the sky. As it slowly dimmed out of sight, it was eventually forgotten, until modern astronomers found its remains -- called Puppis A. Seen as a red dusty cloud in this image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, Puppis A is the remnant of a supernova explosion.

Puppis A (pronounced PUP-pis) was formed when a massive star ended its life in an extremely bright and powerful explosion. The expanding shock waves from that explosion are heating up the dust and gas clouds surrounding the supernova, causing them to glow and creating the beautiful red cloud we see here. Much of the material from that original star was violently thrown out into space. However, some of the material remained in an incredibly dense object called a neutron star. This particular neutron star (too faint to be seen in this image) is moving inexplicably fast: over 3 million miles per hour! Astronomers are perplexed over its absurd speed, and have nicknamed the object the "Cosmic Cannonball."

Some of the green-colored gas and dust in the image is from yet another ancient supernova -- the Vela supernova remnant. That explosion happened around 12,000 years ago and was four times closer to us than Puppis A. If you had X-ray vision like the comic book hero Superman, both of these remnants would be among the largest and brightest objects you would see in the sky.

This image was made from observations by all four infrared detectors aboard WISE. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent infrared light at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is primarily from stars, the hottest objects pictured. Green and red represent light at 12 and 22 microns, which is primarily from warm dust.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Ancient Supernova RCW 86 Poster

December 21, 2016 23:16

See our 'Ancient Supernova RCW 86' Outer Space Poster here.

A mystery that began nearly 2,000 years ago, when Chinese astronomers witnessed what would turn out to be an exploding star in the sky, has been solved. New infrared observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, reveal how the first supernova ever recorded occurred and how its shattered remains ultimately spread out to great distances.

The findings show that the stellar explosion took place in a hollowed-out cavity, allowing material expelled by the star to travel much faster and farther than it would have otherwise.

"This supernova remnant got really big, really fast," said Brian J. Williams, an astronomer at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Williams is lead author of a new study detailing the findings online in the Astrophysical Journal. "It's two to three times bigger than we would expect for a supernova that was witnessed exploding nearly 2,000 years ago. Now, we've been able to finally pinpoint the cause."

A new image of the supernova, known as RCW 86, is online at http://go.nasa.gov/pnv6Oy .

In 185 A.D., Chinese astronomers noted a "guest star" that mysteriously appeared in the sky and stayed for about 8 months. By the 1960s, scientists had determined that the mysterious object was the first documented supernova. Later, they pinpointed RCW 86 as a supernova remnant located about 8,000 light-years away. But a puzzle persisted. The star's spherical remains are larger than expected. If they could be seen in the sky today in infrared light, they'd take up more space than our full moon.

The solution arrived through new infrared observations made with Spitzer and WISE, and previous data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory.

The findings reveal that the event is a "Type Ia" supernova, created by the relatively peaceful death of a star like our sun, which then shrank into a dense star called a white dwarf. The white dwarf is thought to have later blown up in a supernova after siphoning matter, or fuel, from a nearby star.

"A white dwarf is like a smoking cinder from a burnt-out fire," Williams said. "If you pour gasoline on it, it will explode."

The observations also show for the first time that a white dwarf can create a cavity around it before blowing up in a Type Ia event. A cavity would explain why the remains of RCW 86 are so big. When the explosion occurred, the ejected material would have traveled unimpeded by gas and dust and spread out quickly.

Spitzer and WISE allowed the team to measure the temperature of the dust making up the RCW 86 remnant at about minus 325 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 200 degrees Celsius. They then calculated how much gas must be present within the remnant to heat the dust to those temperatures. The results point to a low-density environment for much of the life of the remnant, essentially a cavity.

Scientists initially suspected that RCW 86 was the result of a core-collapse supernova, the most powerful type of stellar blast. They had seen hints of a cavity around the remnant, and, at that time, such cavities were only associated with core-collapse supernovae. In those events, massive stars blow material away from them before they blow up, carving out holes around them.

But other evidence argued against a core-collapse supernova. X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton indicated that the object consisted of high amounts of iron, a telltale sign of a Type Ia blast. Together with the infrared observations, a picture of a Type Ia explosion into a cavity emerged.

"Modern astronomers unveiled one secret of a two-millennia-old cosmic mystery only to reveal another," said Bill Danchi, Spitzer and WISE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Now, with multiple observatories extending our senses in space, we can fully appreciate the remarkable physics behind this star's death throes, yet still be as in awe of the cosmos as the ancient astronomers."

Credit: NASA

Apollo 14 Outer Space Poster

October 19, 2016 23:19

See our 'Apollo 14 Hi Gloss Space Poster' here.

What Was the Apollo Program?

Apollo was the NASA program that resulted in American astronauts' making a total of 11 spaceflights and walking on the moon.

The first four flights tested the equipment used in the Apollo Program. Six of the other seven flights landed on the moon. The first Apollo flight happened in 1968. The first moon landing took place in 1969. The last moon landing was in 1972.

A total of 12 astronauts walked on the moon. The astronauts conducted scientific research there. They studied the lunar surface. They collected moon rocks to bring back to Earth.

What Spacecraft Were Used for the Apollo Program?
NASA designed the Apollo Command Module for this program. It was a capsule with room for three astronauts. The astronauts rode in the Command Module on the way to the moon and back. It was larger than the spacecraft used in the Mercury and Gemini programs. The astronauts had room to move around inside the spacecraft. The crew area had about as much room as a car.

Another spacecraft, the Lunar Module, was used for landing on the moon. This spacecraft carried astronauts from orbit around the moon to the moon's surface, then back into orbit. It could carry two astronauts.

Two types of rockets were used for the Apollo program. The first flights used the smaller Saturn I (1) B rocket. It was about as tall as a 22-story building. This rocket had two stages. That means it was made of two parts. When the first part ran out of fuel, it dropped away from the other and burned up in Earth's atmosphere. The second part continued flying. The Saturn IB rocket was used to test the new Apollo capsule in Earth orbit.

The other flights used the more powerful Saturn V (5) rocket. This three-stage rocket sent the Apollo spacecraft to the moon. It was about as tall as a 36-story building.

When Did Humans First Visit the Moon?
The first manned mission to the moon was Apollo 8. It circled around the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968. However, Apollo 8 did not land on the moon. It orbited the moon, then came back to Earth. The crew was Frank Borman, Bill Anders and Jim Lovell.

The first moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969, on the Apollo 11 mission. The crew of Apollo 11 was Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. Armstong and Aldrin walked on the lunar surface while Collins remained in orbit around the moon. When Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, he said, "That's one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind."

The following missions flew humans during Apollo:

 Apollo Flight Date Mission Crew 7 Oct. 11-22, 1968 Tested the Command Module Schirra, Eisele, Cunningham 8 Dec. 21-27, 1968 First to orbit the moon Borman, Lovell, Anders 9 March 3-13, 1969 Tested the Lunar Module McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart 10 May 18-26, 1969 Tested the Lunar Module around the moon Cernan, Young, Stafford 11 July 16-24, 1969 First to land on the moon Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins 12 Nov. 14-24, 1969 Landed on the moon Conrad, Bean, Gordon 13 April 11-17, 1970 Was supposed to land on the moon but had a malfunction Lovell, Swigert, Haise 14 Jan. 31-Feb. 9, 1971 Landed on the moon Shepard, Mitchell, Roosa 15 July 26-Aug. 7, 1971 Landed on the moon Scott, Irwin, Worden 16 April 16-27, 1972 Landed on the moon Young, Duke, Mattingly 17 Dec. 7-19, 1972 Landed on the moon Cernan, Schmitt, Evans

Apollo 13 is one of the more famous lunar missions. A movie was made about this flight. Apollo 13 was supposed to land on the moon. On the way there, the spacecraft had a problem. NASA had to figure out how to bring the astronauts home safely. Apollo 13 flew all the way around the moon before returning home. Despite the problem, they were able to land safely on Earth.

How Did Astronauts Land on the Moon?
The Apollo spacecraft were launched on top of the Saturn V rocket. The Saturn V was made of three stages. The first two stages used up their fuel reaching orbit. The third stage was used to push the Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module to the moon. Once the spacecraft reached the moon, the two modules separated from each other. Two astronauts in the Lunar Module landed on the lunar surface. The third astronaut stayed in the Command Module in orbit around the moon.

On the last three missions, astronauts drove on the moon with the lunar rover. Astronauts drove the lunar rover to explore more of the moon's surface. The lunar rovers were made so they could be folded to fit in a storage area on the Lunar Module. The lunar rovers were left on the moon.

When the two astronauts were finished working on the surface, they got back in the Lunar Module and launched. It went back into orbit around the moon and connected with the Command Module. The two astronauts got back into the Command Module. They left the Lunar Module behind and flew back to Earth. The Lunar Module crashed into the moon. The Command Module landed in the ocean, and a ship picked up the astronauts.

Why Was the Apollo Program Important?
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to land astronauts on the moon by the end of the decade. NASA met that challenge with the Apollo program. It was the first time human beings left Earth orbit and visited another world. These missions made it possible to explore more distant worlds further in the future.

Andromeda M31 Outer Space Poster

October 19, 2016 23:18

See our 'Andromeda M31 Neighbor Galaxy' outer space poster here.

The immense Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31 or simply M31, is captured in full in this new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The mosaic covers an area equivalent to more than 100 full moons, or five degrees across the sky. WISE used all four of its infrared detectors to capture this picture (3.4- and 4.6-micron light is colored blue; 12-micron light is green; and 22-micron light is red). Blue highlights mature stars, while yellow and red show dust heated by newborn, massive stars.

Andromeda is the closest large galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy, and is located 2.5 million light-years from our sun. It is close enough for telescopes to spy the details of its ringed arms of new stars and hazy blue backbone of older stars. Also seen in the mosaic are two satellite galaxies, known as M32, located just a bit above Andromeda to the left of center, and the fuzzy blue M110, located below the center of the great spiral arms. These satellites are the largest of several that are gravitationally bound to Andromeda.

The Andromeda galaxy is larger than our Milky Way and contains more stars, but the Milky Way is thought to perhaps have more mass due to its larger proportion of a mysterious substance called dark matter. Both galaxies belong to our so-called Local Group, a collection of more than 50 galaxies, most of which are tiny dwarf systems. In its quest to map the whole sky, WISE will capture the entire Local Group.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Andromeda Spiral Galaxy Messier 31 (M31)

May 21, 2015 23:07

The Andromeda Galaxy is our nearest Spiral Galaxy.  Also known as Messier 31 or simply M31 this galaxy is on a collision course with our own Milky Way Galaxy.  Fortunately at approximately 2.5 million light-years away we will not have to worry about this collision which is estimated to occur more than 3 billion years from now.  The Andromeda Galaxy's bright core is the only part of the galaxy that is visible with the naked eye at night.  If you could see the entire Galaxy at night such as with a powerful enough telescope, it would span across the sky 6 times the distance that of the moon!  The total mass of the Andromeda Galaxy is believed to be approximately the same as our own Milky Way Galaxy.  The Andromeda Galaxy is only 1 of approximately 30 other galaxies within the Local Group.  See our Andromeda Galaxy posters using the following links:

    1. NASA Andromeda Galaxy
    2. Milky Way Andromeda Galaxy Collision
    3. Fiery Andromeda
    4. Andromeda M31 Neighbor Galaxy
    5. Warped Andromeda by WISE
    6. Andromeda Optical