Baby stars create cosmic shockwaves, a dying star emits halos of different ages and a spiral galaxy can help refine physicists’ understanding of the universe’s expansion. These are some of the top photos this week from Space.com.
Halos of different ages
This high-definition image from the Hubble Space Telescope showcases NGC 6891, a structure that formed after a supernova explosion. The bright spot in the center is a cooling stellar corpse called a white dwarf, and the orbs surrounding it are shells of gas.
The inner shell and the outer shell have different ages, meaning that the dying star experienced a series of outbursts. The inner shell is 4,800 years old, according to estimates by astronomers, and the outer halo is about 28,000 years old.
Yutu 2 spots weird cube-shaped lunar object
China’s Yutu 2 rover spotted an interesting feature on the moon’s horizon, and the public has been fascinated by the object.
Yutu 2 landed on the far side of the moon onboard the Chang’e 4 lander in January 2019, and since then, it has used its four science payloads to study the unfamiliar lunar terrain. The cube-shaped object in this recent image from the rover is most likely just a rock.
Astronomers captured this incredible image of a galactic jet being ejected from the supermassive black hole at the center of Messier 87.
Messier 87 is an elliptical galaxy located about 55 million light-years from Earth. The gigantic black hole at its center is the famous subject of the first-ever photo taken of a black hole. The new image that showcases the galactic jet’s corkscrew-like shape was taken by astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico.
Exoplanet b Centauri b
Meet b Centauri b, the giant exoplanet indicated by an arrow in this image from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. This planet is about 11 times more massive than Jupiter and it orbits the two-star system called b Centauri, which is located a short distance from Earth at about 325 lightyears away.
The b Centauri system is the hottest-known planet-hosting star system, according to researchers. The two stars are young, at just 15 million years old. Our sun, by comparison, is about 4.5 billion years old. The b Centauri stellar pair appears as the big bright object on the left. (The bright dot on the upper right is a background star.)
Baby stars create shockwaves
Baby stars created the shockwaves seen in this new image from the Hubble Space Telescope. Known as Herbig-Haro 45, this region of space is a small part of a larger gas cloud object called the Running Man nebula.
The shock waves are produced as the new stars spew hot gas, which collides with the material surrounding it at hundreds of miles per second to create bright waves. The blue color in this image shows where the gas has collided with oxygen, and the purple color is where the baby gas has struck magnesium.
Astronomers benefit from images of grand galaxies like this one, because it helps them better understand Earth’s own galactic home.
The Hubble Space Telescope captured this glittery image of spiral galaxy Mrk (Markarian) 1337, which is located in the constellation Virgo about 120 million light-years away from Earth. While the structure of this galaxy can help researchers learn more about the Milky Way, this observation was taken as part of another campaign to figure out how fast the universe is expanding. Scientists hope to use data from galaxies like Mrk 1337 to refine the physics models and rates currently in use.
‘Space suits’ protect James Webb technicians from toxic fuels
Engineers fueling the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) wear protective ‘space suits’ to avoid poisoning by toxic chemicals that will help keep the precious spacecraft stable in space. The engineers took ten days to fill the telescope’s propellant tanks with 79.5 liters of dinitrogen tetroxide oxidiser and 159 liters of hydrazine. The operation was completed on Dec. 3, more than two weeks ahead of the mission’s Dec. 22 launch.
As both, hydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide, are extremely toxic, only a few trained specialists wearing protective suits resembling spacewalking attire were allowed into the fueling hall. The engineers will next place the 6.2 metric ton JWST inside a protective rocket fairing that will be mounted on top of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle prior to the transfer of the combo for final assembly. — Tereza Pultarova
Satellites observe as climate change speeds up Antarctic current
Satellite data reveal the climate change-related speeding up of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The current, which circles the icy continent from west to east, is the largest ocean current on the planet and the dominant feature influencing the Southern Ocean. In recent years, scientists have noticed the current is speeding up due to the progressing climate change.
Some experts worry the acceleration of the powerful current might further speed up climate change as it could decrease the capacity of the Southern Ocean to absorb carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. This image, based on data from the European Copernicus Earth-observation program, shows the ocean flow around the south-pole ice cap on Dec.3. — Tereza Pultarova
Space station crew poses for family portrait with Japanese space tourists
Astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station welcomed Japanese space tourists, billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant Yozo Hirano, who arrived accompanied by cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin.
The latest arrival expanded the current crew of the space station to ten members. The crew posed for this family portrait on Wednesday (Dec. 8) shortly after the arrival of the Soyuz capsule that brought Maezawa, Hirano and Misurkin to the station. The two tourists will return to Earth, accompanied by Misurkin, on Dec. 20. — Tereza Pultarova
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa heads for space station
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa tucked inside Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft heading for a nearly two-week trip at the International Space Station. Maezawa, who launched to the orbital outpost from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome on Wednesday 2:38 a.m. EST (0738 GMT or 12:38 p.m. local time), is the first space tourist to visit the orbital outpost since 2009.
He is accompanied by his assistant Yozo Hirano, who will film the entire experience. With them inside the Soyuz capsule was the flight’s commander Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin. Maezawa, a life-long space enthusiast, is also expected to fly to the moon with SpaceX’s dearMoon mission, currently scheduled for 2023. — Tereza Pultarova