These earthly godfathers of Heaven's lights, that give a name to every fixed star, have no more profit of their shining nights than those that walk and know not what they are.

— William Shakespeare

Hubblesite Newscenter

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This news collection compiles news releases and supporting materials published by the Officeof Public Outreach of the Space Telescope Science Institute, to further your knowledge of astronomy. The different news releases are organized by space telecope (Hubble, James Webb, WFIRST, etc.), and different categories (like galaxies, nebulae, planets, stars, etc.).
Updated: 3 hours 42 min ago

Hubble Reveals Dynamic Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 10:00am

The two major planets beyond Saturn have only been visited once by a spacecraft, albeit briefly. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft swung by Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. Our robotic deep-space tourist snapped the only close-up, detailed images of these monstrous worlds. For Neptune, the images revealed a planet with a dynamic atmosphere with two mysterious dark vortices. Uranus, however, appeared featureless. But these views were only brief snapshots. They couldn't capture how the planets' atmospheres change over time, any more than a single snapshot of Earth could tell meteorologists about weather behavior. And, they go through protracted seasonal changes in their multi-decades-long orbits. Ever since the Voyager encounter, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided an opportunity to monitor these worlds like a diligent weatherman.

Since Hubble's launch in 1990, astronomers have used it to amass an album of outer planet images. Yearly monitoring of these giant worlds is now allowing astronomers to study long-term seasonal changes, as well as capture transitory weather patterns. One such elusive event is yet another dark storm on Neptune, shown in the latest Hubble image of the planet (right).

The telescope's new snapshot of Uranus (left) shows that the ice giant is not a planetary wallflower. A vast bright polar cap across the north pole dominates the image. The cap, which may form due to seasonal changes in atmospheric flow, has become much more prominent than in previous observations dating back to the Voyager 2 flyby, when the planet, in the throes of winter, looked bland.

Categories: NASA

Hubble Reveals Dynamic Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 10:00am

The two major planets beyond Saturn have only been visited once by a spacecraft, albeit briefly. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft swung by Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. Our robotic deep-space tourist snapped the only close-up, detailed images of these monstrous worlds. For Neptune, the images revealed a planet with a dynamic atmosphere with two mysterious dark vortices. Uranus, however, appeared featureless. But these views were only brief snapshots. They couldn't capture how the planets' atmospheres change over time, any more than a single snapshot of Earth could tell meteorologists about weather behavior. And, they go through protracted seasonal changes in their multi-decades-long orbits. Ever since the Voyager encounter, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided an opportunity to monitor these worlds like a diligent weatherman.

Since Hubble's launch in 1990, astronomers have used it to amass an album of outer planet images. Yearly monitoring of these giant worlds is now allowing astronomers to study long-term seasonal changes, as well as capture transitory weather patterns. One such elusive event is yet another dark storm on Neptune, shown in the latest Hubble image of the planet (right).

The telescope's new snapshot of Uranus (left) shows that the ice giant is not a planetary wallflower. A vast bright polar cap across the north pole dominates the image. The cap, which may form due to seasonal changes in atmospheric flow, has become much more prominent than in previous observations dating back to the Voyager 2 flyby, when the planet, in the throes of winter, looked bland.

Categories: NASA

Hubble Accidentally Discovers a New Galaxy in Cosmic Neighborhood

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 10:00am

The universe is very cluttered. Myriad island cities of stars, the galaxies, form a backdrop tapestry. Much closer to home are nebulae, star clusters, and assorted other foreground celestial objects that are mostly within our Milky Way galaxy. Despite the vastness of space, objects tend to get in front of each other.

This happened when astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the globular star cluster NGC 6752 (located 13,000 light-years away in our Milky Way's halo). In a celestial game of "Where's Waldo?", Hubble's sharp vision uncovered a never-before-seen dwarf galaxy located far behind the cluster's crowded stellar population. The loner galaxy is in our own cosmic backyard, only 30 million light-years away (approximately 2,300 times farther than the foreground cluster).

The object is classified as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy because it measures only around 3,000 light-years at its greatest extent (barely 1/30th the diameter of the Milky Way), and it is roughly a thousand times dimmer than the Milky Way.

Because of its 13-billion-year-old age, and its isolation — which resulted in hardly any interaction with other galaxies — the dwarf is the astronomical equivalent of a living fossil from the early universe.

The international team of astronomers that carried out this study consists of L. Bedin (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy), M. Salaris (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, England, UK), R. Rich (University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA), H. Richer (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), J. Anderson (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, USA), B. Bettoni (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy), D. Nardiello, A. Milone, and A. Marino (University of Padua, Italy), M. Libralato and A. Bellini (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, USA), A. Dieball (University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany), P. Bergeron (University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada), A. Burgasser (University of California, San Diego, California, USA), and D. Apai (University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA).

The science team's results will be published online January 31, 2019, in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

Categories: NASA

World's Largest Digital Sky Survey Issues Biggest Astronomical Data Release Ever

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 9:00am

Data from the world's largest digital sky survey is being publicly released today by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Hawaii. Data from the Pan-STARRS1 Surveys will allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies. This data release contains over 1.6 petabytes of data (a petabyte is one million gigabytes), making it the largest volume of astronomical information ever released. The survey data resides in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), which serves as NASA's repository for all of its optical and ultraviolet-light observations.

Categories: NASA

Hubble Sees Plunging Galaxy Losing Its Gas

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 1:00pm

Two's company and three's a crowd. But thousands are a mosh pit. That's the case in the giant Coma cluster of more than 1,000 galaxies.

Hubble spotted a wayward spiral galaxy losing its gas as it plunges toward the center of the massive cluster and is roughed up as it plows through the intergalactic medium. Telltale evidence lies in a long, thin streamer of material that is stretching like taffy from the galaxy's core and on into intergalactic space. Gas is the lifeblood of a galaxy, fueling the birth of new stars. Once it is stripped of all of its gas, the galaxy, named D100, will enter retirement and shine only by the feeble glow of its aging, red stars.

D100 is being stripped of its gas because of the gravitational tug of a grouping of giant "bully" galaxies in the crowded cluster. Their combined gravity is pulling the beleaguered galaxy toward the cluster's center. As D100 falls toward the core, the galaxy barrels through material. This action forces gas from the galaxy.

The gas-stripping process in D100 began roughly 300 million years ago. In the massive Coma cluster this violent gas-loss process occurs in many galaxies. But D100 is unique in several ways. Its long, thin tail is its most unusual feature extending nearly 200,000 light-years. But the pencil-like structure is comparatively narrow, only 7,000 light-years wide. Thankfully, our Milky Way galaxy lives in a sparsely populated small corner of the universe, with only one other big galaxy as a companion.

Categories: NASA

Hubble Sees Plunging Galaxy Losing Its Gas

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 1:00pm

Two's company and three's a crowd. But thousands are a mosh pit. That's the case in the giant Coma cluster of more than 1,000 galaxies.

Hubble spotted a wayward spiral galaxy losing its gas as it plunges toward the center of the massive cluster and is roughed up as it plows through the intergalactic medium. Telltale evidence lies in a long, thin streamer of material that is stretching like taffy from the galaxy's core and on into intergalactic space. Gas is the lifeblood of a galaxy, fueling the birth of new stars. Once it is stripped of all of its gas, the galaxy, named D100, will enter retirement and shine only by the feeble glow of its aging, red stars.

D100 is being stripped of its gas because of the gravitational tug of a grouping of giant "bully" galaxies in the crowded cluster. Their combined gravity is pulling the beleaguered galaxy toward the cluster's center. As D100 falls toward the core, the galaxy barrels through material. This action forces gas from the galaxy.

The gas-stripping process in D100 began roughly 300 million years ago. In the massive Coma cluster this violent gas-loss process occurs in many galaxies. But D100 is unique in several ways. Its long, thin tail is its most unusual feature extending nearly 200,000 light-years. But the pencil-like structure is comparatively narrow, only 7,000 light-years wide. Thankfully, our Milky Way galaxy lives in a sparsely populated small corner of the universe, with only one other big galaxy as a companion.

Categories: NASA