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Captions and descriptions for the new space pictures.
(Not every every picture has a description. )



Lagoon nebulaThis NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) image reveals a pair of one-half light-year long interstellar "twisters" -- eerie funnels and twisted-rope structures -- in the heart of the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8) which lies 5,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.

The central hot star, O Herschel 36 (lower right), is the primary source of the ionizing radiation for the brightest region in the nebula, called the Hourglass. Other hot stars, also present in the nebula, are ionizing the extended optical nebulosity. The ionizing radiation induces photo-evaporation of the surfaces of the clouds and drives away violent stellar winds tearing into the cool clouds. Analogous to the spectacular phenomena of Earth tornadoes, the large difference in temperature between the hot surface and cold interior of the clouds, combined with the pressure of starlight, may produce strong horizontal shear to twist the clouds into their tornado-like appearance.

Though the spiral shapes suggest the clouds are "twisting", future observations will be needed, perhaps with Hubble's next generation instruments, with the spectroscopic capabilities of the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) or the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS), to actually measure velocities. The Lagoon Nebula and nebulae in other galaxies are sites where new stars are being born from dusty molecular clouds. These regions are the "space laboratories" for the astronomers to study how stars form and the interactions between the winds from stars and the gas nearby. By studying the wealth of data revealed by HST, astronomers will understand better how stars form in the nebulae.

These color-coded images are the combination of individual exposures taken in July and September, 1995 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) through three narrow-band filters (red light -- ionized sulphur atoms, blue light -- double ionized oxygen atoms, green light -- ionized hydrogen). This work is based on public data retrieved from the HST Archive, cosmic-ray cleaned, calibrated and combined by Adeline Caulet (Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility, European Space Agency).

Credit: A. Caulet (ST-ECF, ESA) and NASA


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Carina nebluaPreviously unseen details of a mysterious, complex structure within the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) are revealed by this image of the "Keyhole Nebula," obtained with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The picture is a montage assembled from four different April 1999 telescope pointings with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, which used six different color filters. The picture is dominated by a large, approximately circular feature, which is part of the Keyhole Nebula, named in the 19th century by Sir John Herschel. This region, about 8000 light-years from Earth, is located adjacent to the famous explosive variable star Eta Carinae, which lies just outside the field of view toward the upper right.

The Carina Nebula also contains several other stars that are among the hottest and most massive known, each about 10 times as hot, and 100 times as massive, as our Sun. The circular Keyhole structure contains both bright filaments of hot, fluorescing gas, and dark silhouetted clouds of cold molecules and dust, all of which are in rapid, chaotic motion. The high resolution of the Hubble images reveals the relative three-dimensional locations of many of these features, as well as showing numerous small dark globules that may be in the process of collapsing to form new stars.

Two striking large, sharp-edged dust clouds are located near the bottom center and upper left edges of the image. The former is immersed within the ring and the latter is just outside the ring. The pronounced pillars and knobs of the upper left cloud appear to point toward a luminous, massive star located just outside the field further toward the upper left, which may be responsible for illuminating and sculpting them by means of its high-energy radiation and stellar wind of high-velocity ejected material. These large dark clouds may eventually evaporate, or if there are sufficiently dense condensations within them, give birth to small star clusters.

The Carina Nebula, with an overall diameter of more than 200 light-years, is one of the outstanding features of the Southern-Hemisphere portion of the Milky Way. The diameter of the Keyhole ring structure shown here is about 7 light-years. These data were collected by the Hubble Heritage Team and Nolan R. Walborn (STScI), Rodolfo H. Barba' (La Plata Observatory, Argentina), and Adeline Caulet (France). Image

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

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Dying StarThese gigantic, tadpole-shaped objects are probably the result of a dying star's last gasps. Dubbed "cometary knots" because their glowing heads and gossamer tails resemble comets, the gaseous objects probably were formed during a star's final stages of life.

Hubble astronomer C. Robert O'Dell and graduate student Kerry P. Handron of Rice University in Houston, Texas discovered thousands of these knots with the Hubble Space Telescope while exploring the Helix nebula, the closest planetary nebula to Earth at 450 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. Although ground-based telescopes have revealed such objects, astronomers have never seen so many of them.

The most visible knots all lie along the inner edge of the doomed star's ring, trillions of miles away from the star's nucleus. Although these gaseous knots appear small, they're actually huge. Each gaseous head is at least twice the size of our solar system; each tail stretches for 100 billion miles, about 1,000 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Astronomers theorize that the doomed star spews hot, lower-density gas from its surface, which collides with cooler, higher-density gas that had been ejected 10,000 years before.

The crash fragments the smooth cloud surrounding the star into smaller, denser finger-like droplets, like dripping paint. This image was taken in August, 1994 with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The red light depicts nitrogen emission ([NII] 6584A); green, hydrogen (H-alpha, 6563A); and blue, oxygen (5007A).


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Jupiter and its four planet-size moons

Jupiter and moonsJupiter and its four planet-size moons, called the Galilean satellites, were photographed in early March by Voyager 1 and assembled into this collage. They are not to scale but are in their relative positions. Startling new discoveries on the Galilean moons and the planet Jupiter made by Voyager 1 have been factored into a new mission design for Voyager 2.

Voyager 2 will fly past Jupiter on July 9. Reddish Io (upper left) is nearest Jupiter; then Europa (center); Ganymede and Callisto (lower right). Nine other much smaller satellites circle Jupiter, one inside Io's orbit and the others millions of miles from the planet. Not visible is Jupiter's faint ring of particles, seen for the first time by Voyager 1. The Voyager project is managed for NASA's Office of Space Science by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.


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Hubble's Sharpest View Of Mars

MarsThe sharpest view of Mars ever taken from Earth was obtained by the recently refurbished NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This stunning portrait was taken with the HST Wide Field Planetary Camera-2 (WFPC2) on March 10, 1997, just before Mars opposition, when the red planet made one of its closest passes to the Earth (about 60 million miles or 100 million km).

At this distance, a single picture element (pixel) in WFPC2's Planetary Camera spans 13 miles (22 km) on the Martian surface. The Martian north pole is at the top (near the center of the bright polar cap) and East is to the right. The center of the disk is at about 23 degrees north latitude, and the central longitude is near 305 degrees. This view of Mars was taken on the last day of Martian spring in the northern hemisphere (just before summer solstice). It clearly shows familiar bright and dark markings known to astronomers for more than a century.

The annual north polar carbon dioxide frost (dry ice) cap is rapidly sublimating (evaporating from solid to gas), revealing the much smaller permanent water ice cap, along with a few nearby detached regions of surface frost. The receding polar cap also reveals the dark, circular sea' of sand dunes that surrounds the north pole (Olympia Planitia).

Other prominent features in this hemisphere include Syrtis Major Planitia, the large dark feature seen just below the center of the disk. The giant impact basin Hellas (near the bottom of the disk) is shrouded in bright water ice clouds. Water ice clouds also cover several great volcanos in the Elysium region near the eastern edge of the planet (right).

A diffuse water ice haze covers much of the Martian equatorial region as well. The WFPC2 was used to monitor dust storm activity to support the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter Missions, which are currently en route to Mars. Airborne dust is most easily seen in WFPC2's red and near-infrared images. Hubble's "weather report" from these images in invaluable for Mars Pathfinder, which is scheduled for a July 4 landing. Fortunately, these images show no evidence for large-scale dust storm activity, which plagued a previous Mars mission in the early 1970s.

The WFPC2 was used to observe Mars in nine different colors spanning the ultraviolet to the near infrared. The specific colors were chosen to clearly discriminate between airborne dust, ice clouds, and prominent Martian surface features. This picture was created by combining images taken in blue (433 nm), green (554 nm), and red (763 nm) colored filters.

Credit: David Crisp and the WFPC2 Science Team (Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology)


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Three filter colour image of the Moon

MoonThis color image of the Moon was taken by the Galileo spacecraft at 9:35 a.m. PST Dec. 9, 1990, at a range of about 350,000 miles. The color composite uses monochrome images taken through violet, red, and near-infrared filters. The concentric, circular Orientale basin, 600 miles across, is near the center; the near side is to the right, the far side to the left.

At the upper right is the large, dark Oceanus Procellarum; below it is the smaller Mare Humorum. These, like the small dark Mare Orientale in the center of the basin, formed over 3 billion years ago as basaltic lava flows. At the lower left, among the southern cratered highlands of the far side, is the South-Pole-Aitken basin, similar to Orientale but twice as great in diameter and much older and more degraded by cratering and weathering.

The cratered highlands of the near and far sides and the Maria are covered with scattered bright, young ray craters.


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View of rising Earth about five degrees above the Lunar horizon

EarthriseThe rising Earth is about five degrees above the lunar horizon in this telephoto view taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft near 110 degrees east longitude. The horizon, about 570 kilometers (250 statute miles) from the spacecraft, is near the eastern limb of the Moon as viewed from the Earth. On the earth, the sunset terminator crosses Africa. The south pole is in the white area near the left end of the terminator. North and South America are under the clouds. The lunar surface probably has less pronounced color than indicated by this print.


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The Earth and Moon

Earth and MoonEight days after its encounter with the Earth, the Galileo spacecraft was able to look back and capture this remarkable view of the Moon in orbit about the Earth, taken from a distance of about 6.2 million kilometers (3.9 million miles), on December 16. The picture was constructed from images taken through the violet, red, and 1.0-micron infrared filters. The Moon is in the foreground, moving from left to right. The brightly-colored Earth contrasts strongly with the Moon, which reflects only about one-third as much sunlight as Earth. Contrast and color have been computer-enhanced for both objects to improve visibility. Antarctica is visible through clouds (bottom). The Moon's far side is seen; the shadowy indentation in the dawn terminator is the south-Pole/Aitken Basin, one of the largest and oldest lunar impact features, extensively studied from Galileo during the first Earth flyby in December 1990. The Galileo project, whose primary mission is the exploration of the Jupiter system in 1995-97, is managed for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


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Saturn IRIn honor of NASA Hubble Space Telescope's eighth anniversary, Saturn was gift wrapped in vivid colors. Actually, this image is courtesy of the new Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS), which has taken its first peek at Saturn. The false-color image - taken Jan. 4, 1998 - shows the planet's reflected infrared light. This view provides detailed information on the clouds and hazes in Saturn's atmosphere.

The blue colors indicate a clear atmosphere down to a main cloud layer. Different shadings of blue indicate variations in the cloud particles, in size or chemical composition. The cloud particles are believed to be ammonia ice crystals. Most of the northern hemisphere that is visible above the rings is relatively clear. The dark region around the south pole at the bottom indicates a big hole in the main cloud layer.

The green and yellow colors indicate a haze above the main cloud layer. The haze is thin where the colors are green but thick where they are yellow. Most of the southern hemisphere (the lower part of Saturn) is quite hazy. These layers are aligned with latitude lines, due to Saturn's east-west winds. The red and orange colors indicate clouds reaching up high into the atmosphere. Red clouds are even higher than orange clouds. The densest regions of two storms near Saturn's equator appear white.

On Earth, the storms with the highest clouds are also found in tropical latitudes. The smaller storm on the left is about as large as the Earth, and larger storms have been recorded on Saturn in 1990 and 1994. The rings, made up of chunks of ice, are as white as images of ice taken in visible light. However, in the infrared, water absorption causes various colorations. The most obvious is the brown color of the innermost ring. The rings cast their shadow onto Saturn. The bright line seen within this shadow is sunlight shining through the Cassini Division, the separation between the two bright rings. It is best observed on the left side, just above the rings. This view is possible due to a rare geometry during the observation.

The next time this is observable from Earth will be in 2006. An accurate investigation of the ring's shadow also shows sunlight shining through the Encke Gap, a thin division very close to the outer edge of the ring system. Two of Saturn's satellites were recorded, Dione on the lower left and Tethys on the upper right. Tethys is just ending its transit across the disk of Saturn. They appear in different colors, yellow and green, indicating different conditions on their icy surfaces. Wavelengths: A color image consists of three exposures (or three film layers).

For visible true-color images, the wavelengths of these three exposures are 0.4, 0.5, and 0.6 micrometers for blue, green, and red light, respectively. This Saturn image was taken at longer infrared wavelengths of 1.0, 1.8, and 2.1 micrometers, displayed as blue, green, and red. Reflected sunlight is seen at all these wavelengths, since Saturn's own heat glows only at wavelengths above 4 micrometers.

Image credit: Erich Karkoschka (University of Arizona), and NASA.


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SaturnThis is the first image of Saturn's ultraviolet aurora taken by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) on board the Hubble Space Telescope in October 1997, when Saturn was a distance of 810 million miles (1.3 billion kilometers) from Earth. The new instrument, used as a camera, provides more than ten times the sensitivity of previous Hubble instruments in the ultraviolet. STIS images reveal exquisite detail never before seen in the spectacular auroral curtains of light that encircle Saturn's north and south poles and rise more than a thousand miles above the cloud tops.

Saturn's auroral displays are caused by an energetic wind from the Sun that sweeps over the planet, much like the Earth's aurora that is occasionally seen in the night-time sky and similar to the phenomenon that causes fluorescent lamps to glow. But unlike the Earth, Saturn's aurora is only seen in ultraviolet light that is invisible from the Earth's surface, hence the aurora can only be observed from space. New Hubble images reveal ripples and overall patterns that evolve slowly, appearing generally fixed in our view and independent of planet rotation. At the same time, the curtains show local brightening that often follow the rotation of the planet and exhibit rapid variations on time scales of minutes. These variations and regularities indicate that the aurora is primarily shaped and powered by a continual tug-of-war between Saturn's magnetic field and the flow of charged particles from the Sun.

Study of the aurora on Saturn had its beginnings just seventeen years ago. The Pioneer 11 spacecraft observed a far-ultraviolet brightening on Saturn's poles in 1979. The Saturn flybys of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft in the early 1980s provided a basic description of the aurora and mapped for the first time planet's enormous magnetic field that guides energetic electrons into the atmosphere near the north and south poles. The first images of Saturn's aurora were provided in 1994-5 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera (WFPC2). Much greater ultraviolet sensitivity of the new STIS instrument allows the workings of Saturn's magnetosphere and upper atmosphere to be studied in much greater detail.

These Hubble aurora investigations provide a framework that will ultimately complement the in situ measurements of Saturn's magnetic field and charged particles by NASA/ESA's Cassini spacecraft, now en route to its rendezvous with Saturn early in the next decade. Two STIS imaging modes have been used to discriminate between ultraviolet emissions predominantly from hydrogen atoms (shown in red) and emissions due to molecular hydrogen (shown in blue). Hence the bright red aurora features are dominated by atomic hydrogen, while the white traces within them map the more tightly confined regions of molecular hydrogen emissions. The southern aurora is seen at lower right, the northern at upper left.

Credits: J.T. Trauger (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and NASA.


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VenusThis colorized picture of Venus was taken on February 14th, 1990, from a distance of almost 1.7 million miles, about 6 days after Galileo's closest approach to the planet. It has been colorized to a bluish hue to emphasize subtle contrasts in the cloud markings and to indicate that it was taken through a violet filter. Features in the sulfuric acid clouds near the top of the planet's atmosphere are most prominent in violet and ultraviolet light. This image shows the east-to- west-trending clound banding and the brighter polar hoods familiar from past studies of Venus. The features are embedded in winds that flow from east to west at about 230 mph. The smallest features visible are about 45 miles across. An intriguing filimentary dark pattern is seen immediately left of the bright region at the subsolar point (equatorial "noon"). North is at the top and the evening terminator is to the left. The Galileo project is managed for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; its mission is to study Jupiter and its satellites and magnetosphere after multiple gravity-assist flybys at Venus and Earth.


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