Hubble Space Telescope Solves Galactic Mystery

Hubble Image of Magellanic Stream courtesy of NASA

Hubble Image of Magellanic Stream courtesy of NASA

Hubble Image of Magellanic Stream courtesy of NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope has been one of NASA’s many shining successes. The images Hubble has taken and scientists have compiled over its brief lifespan have been nothing short of breathtaking. The Hubble Space Telescope Deep Field Survey expanded our universe by lightyears upon lightyears.

Recently Hubble was turned on a puzzling feature of our Galaxy: A long ribbon of gas, called the Magellanic Stream, that reaches quite literally almost half way around our own Milky Way Galaxy.

For 40 years scientists have wondered about this feature that seemed to follow behind the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies that orbit our own galaxy. According to NASA:

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have solved a 40-year mystery on the origin of the Magellanic Stream, a long ribbon of gas stretching nearly halfway around our Milky Way galaxy.
The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, are at the head of the gaseous stream. Since the stream’s discovery by radio telescopes in the early 1970s, astronomers have wondered whether the gas comes from one or both of the satellite galaxies. New Hubble observations reveal most of the gas was stripped from the Small Magellanic Cloud about 2 billion years ago, and a second region of the stream originated more recently from the Large Magellanic Cloud.
A team of astronomers, led by Andrew J. Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., determined the source of the gas filament by using Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph to measure the amount of heavy elements, such as oxygen and sulfur, at six locations along the Magellanic Stream. They observed faraway quasars, the brilliant cores of active galaxies, that emit light that passes through the stream. They detected the heavy elements from the way the elements absorb ultraviolet light.
Fox’s team found a low amount of oxygen and sulfur along most of the stream, matching the levels in the Small Magellanic Cloud about 2 billion years ago, when the gaseous ribbon is thought to have formed. In a surprising twist, the team discovered a much higher level of sulfur in a region of the stream that is closer to the Magellanic Clouds.

Also a quick video also from NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope featuring comet ISON

You can follow the Hubble Space Telescope very easily at the NASA web site. K.

The Latest News for Comet ISON

Hubble's view of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) on April 10, 2013. This image was taken in visible light. The blue false color was added to bring out details in the comet structure. Credit:NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

Hubble's view of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) on April 10, 2013. This image was taken in visible light. The blue false color was added to bring out details in the comet structure. Credit:NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

Hubble’s view of Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) on April 10, 2013. This image was taken in visible light. The blue false color was added to bring out details in the comet structure. Credit:NASA, ESA, J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute), and the Hubble Comet ISON Imaging Science Team

NASA’s Hubble Telescope took an amazing shot of Comet ISON in April that shows its coma against the velvety backdrop of space. The coma is already approximately 3,100 miles across (approx: 4,988.97 km). The really mind boggling thing about this is that early measurements indicate that the nucleus that is producing this enormous coma is no more than 3 or 4 miles across (4.828 to 6.437 km).

There is some speculation that it could get as bright as the full moon come late November, early December after it skims a bare 700,000 miles (1,126,540.8 km) above the surface of the sun on November 28th during the swing around before heading back out of the solar system.

For more information and to keep track look to NASA’s website.

New Moon On Monday NASA Discovers New Moon Orbiting Neptune

This composite Hubble Space Telescope picture shows the location of a newly discovered moon, designated S/2004 N 1, orbiting Neptune. The black and white image was taken in 2009 with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 in visible light. Hubble took the color inset of Neptune on August 2009.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter/SETI Institute

This composite Hubble Space Telescope picture shows the location of a newly discovered moon, designated S/2004 N 1, orbiting Neptune. The black and white image was taken in 2009 with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 in visible light. Hubble took the color inset of Neptune on August 2009. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter/SETI Institute

This composite Hubble Space Telescope picture shows the location of a newly discovered moon, designated S/2004 N 1, orbiting Neptune. The black and white image was taken in 2009 with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 in visible light. Hubble took the color inset of Neptune on August 2009.
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Showalter/SETI Institute

Astronomer Mark Showalter, with the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California discovered the wiley little moon by searching through Hubble Telescope images for moons. On July 1st he found it, you might say he found the New Moon on Monday (you’re welcome). This brings the total number of moons orbiting the Gas Giant to 14. Designated S/2004 N 1 it is estimated to be around 12 miles in diameter, so quite tiny. It orbits at around 65,400 miles (approximately 105,251.1 km) from Neptune, between the orbits of the two moons Larissa and Proteus. It makes an orbit in around 23 hours. A paper on the discovery is pending. You can find all of the details at the official NASA website, one of my favorites. This is just one more reason to be delighted by the knowledge we’ve gained from the Hubble Space Telescope. Long may she fly. K.