Where Galactic snakes live High Resolution Image
Snake on a Galactic Plane!
Animated Galactic Snake
Something scary appears to be slithering across the plane of our Milky Way galaxy in this new Halloween image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The snake-like object is actually the core of a thick, sooty cloud large enough to swallow dozens of solar systems. In fact, astronomers say its "belly" may be harboring beastly stars in the process of forming.
This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows what astronomers are referring to as a "snake" (upper left) and its surrounding stormy environment.
The galactic creepy crawler to the right of the snake is another thick cloud core, in which additional burgeoning massive stars might be lurking. The colorful regions below the two cloud cores are less dense cloud material, in which dust has been heated by starlight and glows with infrared light. Yellow and orange dots throughout the image are monstrous developing stars; the red star on the "belly" of the snake is 20 to 50 times as massive as our sun. The blue dots are foreground stars.
The red ball at the bottom left is a "supernova remnant," the remains of massive star that died in a fiery blast. Astronomers speculate that radiation and winds from the star before it died, in addition to a shock wave created when it exploded, might have played a role in creating the snake.
Spitzer was able to spot the two black cloud cores using its heat-seeking infrared vision. The objects are hiding in the dusty plane of our Milky Way galaxy, invisible to optical telescopes. Because their heat, or infrared light, can sneak through the dust, they first showed up in infrared images from past missions. The cloud cores are so thick with dust that if you were to somehow transport yourself into the middle of them, you would see nothing but black, not even a star in the sky. Now, that's spooky!
Spitzer's new view of the region provides the best look yet at the massive embryonic stars hiding inside the snake. Astronomers say these observations will ultimately help them better understand how massive stars form. By studying the clustering and range of masses of the stellar embryos, they hope to determine if the stars were born in the same way that our low-mass sun was formed -- out of a collapsing cloud of gas and dust -- or by another mechanism in which the environment plays a larger role.
The snake is located about 11,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. This false-color image is a composite of infrared data taken by Spitzer's infrared array camera and multiband imaging photometer. Blue represents 3.6-micron light; green shows light of 8 microns; and red is 24-micron light.
NASA news 27th October 2006
Light Echo from Star V838 Monocerotis
These are the most recent NASA Hubble Space Telescope views of an unusual phenomenon in space called a light echo. Light from a star that erupted nearly five years ago continues propagating outward through a cloud of dust surrounding the star. The light reflects or "echoes" off the dust and then travels to Earth.
Because of the extra distance the scattered light travels, it reaches the Earth long after the light from the stellar outburst itself. Therefore, a light echo is an analog of a sound echo produced, for example, when sound from an Alpine yodeler echoes off of the surrounding mountainsides.
The echo comes from the unusual variable star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon), located 20,000 light-years away on the periphery of our Galaxy. In early 2002, V838 Mon increased in brightness temporarily to become 600,000 times brighter than our Sun. The reason for the eruption is still unclear.
Hubble has been observing the V838 Mon light echo since 2002. Each new observation of the light echo reveals a new and unique "thin-section" through the interstellar dust around the star. The new images of the light echo were taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in November 2005 (left) and September 2006 (right). Particularly noticeable in the images are numerous whorls and eddies in the interstellar dust, which are possibly produced by effects of magnetic fields.
hubblesite 26th Oct 2006 News Release Number: STScI-2006-50
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Lighting Up a Dead Star's Layers @ NASA news release 26 Oct 2006
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