Hubble releases shimmering image of a youthful globular cluster

  Globular clusters offer some of the most spectacular sights in the night sky. These ornate spheres contain hundreds of thousands of stars, and reside in the outskirts of galaxies. The Milky Way contains over 150 such clusters — and the one shown in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, named NGC 362, is one of the more unusual ones. As stars make their way through life they fuse elements together in their cores, creating heavier and heavier elements — known in astronomy as metals — in the process. When these stars die, they flood their surroundings with the material they have formed during their lifetimes, enriching the interstellar medium with metals. Stars that form later therefore contain higher proportions of metals than their older relatives. By studying the different elements present within individual stars in NGC 362, astronomers discovered that the cluster boasts a surprisingly high metal content, indicating that it is younger than expected. Although most globular clusters are much older than the majority of stars in their host galaxy, NGC 362 bucks the trend, with an age lying between 10 and 11 billion years old. For reference, the age of the Milky Way is estimated to be above 13 billion years. This image, in which you can view NGC 362’s individual stars, was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

Recent revised estimates upping the number of galaxies in the universe seem even more mind-boggling when contemplating this image released from Hubble this week. It shows NGC 362, one of about 150 globular clusters on the outskirts of just one galaxy, our own Milky Way. Read the rest

What happens when you look at the sun through a telescope

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TV astronomer and author Mark Thompson uses a pig eye he got from his local butcher to demonstrate what happens to people who make the mistake of looking at the sun through a telescope. Read the rest

Cops mistake students' telescope for rifle, fortunately no shots fired

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A group of Fargo, North Dakota police officers confronted two men they thought were mounting a rifle on a tripod behind a garage at night. One man appeared to be wearing a tactical vest. Turned out that the "tactical vest" was a sweater and the two college students were just setting up a telescope behind their house to check out the moon.

NDSU student Levi Joraanstad told WDAY 6 that he and his buddy thought that it was just a couple of their neighbors trying to prank them by shining bright lights at them and yelling.

"I was kind of fumbling around with my stuff and my roommate and I were kind of talking, we were kind of wondering, what the heck's going on?," Joraanstadt said. "This is pretty dumb that these guys are doing this. And then they started shouting to quit moving or we could be shot. And so at that moment we kind of look at each other and we're thinking we better take this seriously."

Apparently the cops apologized when they realized that they had misread the situation. "Better safe than sorry," said one of the officers. Read the rest

Famous "star cradle" might have been destroyed long before we ever discovered it

This is one of the most-famous astronomy photos in the world. Called "The Pillars of Creation" it was taken by the Hubble telescope in 1995 and shows massive columns of hydrogen gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula—7,000 light years from Earth. Part of why these are a big deal is that columns of dust and gas like this are places where stars form.

But here's a cool and/or disappointing detail I hadn't known about until today. Back in 2007, researchers took more images of this region of space using the Spitzer Space Telescope. These shots suggest that the Pillars of Creation might actually be long gone—destroyed thousands of years ago by a nearby supernova.

A striking image from Spitzer shows the intact dust towers next to a giant cloud of hot dust thought to have been scorched by the blast of a star that exploded, or went supernova. Astronomers speculate that the supernova's shock wave could have already reached the dusty towers, causing them to topple about 6,000 years ago.

However, because light from this region takes 7,000 years to reach Earth, we won't be able to capture photos of the destruction for another millenium or so.

Space is crazy, y'all.

Read the rest at The Daily Galaxy Read the rest