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To: All explorers, new and seasoned From: The Universe 🎁 This beautiful image from the @NASAWebb Telescope is a gift from a past star. In near-infrared light, supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A) resembles a shiny ornament that decks the halls of homes during the holiday season. With its powerful vision, the Webb Telescope can detect the tiniest knots of sulfur, oxygen, argon and neon gas from the star. Embedded in the gas are dust and molecules that will eventually become part of new stars and planets. See that blob in the bottom right? Scientists have nicknamed it Baby Cas A since it looks like a tiny version of Cas A itself. Baby Cas A is a light echo: Light from the supernova has reached and is warming the distant dust in this blob. Although Baby Cas A appears very close to Cas A, it’s actually about 170 light-years behind the supernova remnant. It is our hope that this breathtaking image and stunning science inspires a bit of magic, wonder, and joy for anyone who takes a moment to look up at our shared starry-night sky. Image Description: Cassiopeia A, a round cloud of gas and dust with complex structure. The inner shell is made of bright pink and orange filaments studded with clumps and knots. Around the exterior of the inner shell, particularly at the upper right, there are curtains of wispy gas that look like campfire smoke. The white smoke-like material also appears to fill the cavity of the inner shell, featuring structures shaped like large bubbles. Around and within the nebula, there are various stars seen as points of blue and white light. Outside the nebula, there are also clumps of yellow dust, with a particularly large clump at the bottom right corner that appears to have very detailed striations. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University), T. Temim (Princeton University), I. De Looze (Ghent University) #JWST#Holiday#Supernova#Star#Cassiopeia#NASA#Space
Did you see our posts? No wait, don’t miss them!
This post is a tour of the solar system.
The Sun’s gravity keeps us in orbit, from the smallest planet to the Oort Cloud. Swipe for a @NASASolarSystem tour.
Captions & image descriptions:
1. The Sun shines bright in the blackness of space, with orange eruptions emanating from its surface. Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO
2. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, which it zips around every 88 days. The planet is gray, and its cratered surface is almost fully lit, with shadow enveloping the left side. Credit: NASA/APL/CIS
3. Venus is blanketed by a thick atmosphere that traps heat. A runaway greenhouse gas effect makes it the hottest planet in the solar system at 900°F (475°C). Venus appears wispy in shades of white, beige, and tan, partially illuminated in the blackness of space. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
4. Earth is our home and the only known location of life in the universe. It appears in black space, with blue oceans, white clouds, and brown land. The gray horizon of the Moon stretches across the bottom of the image. Credit: NASA
5. Mars is inhabited entirely by robots (as far as we know). Mars looks red-brown, with a deep chasm spanning the planet’s equator. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
6. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. The gas giant is known for its iconic storms swirling in white, red, pink, blue, and tan. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon
7. Saturn isn’t the only planet with rings, but no other is as complex. The rings are likely made from the fragments of asteroids, comets, and shattered moons. Saturn and its rings stand out against the blackness of space in shades of tan and blue. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Cornell
8. Uranus is an ice giant that rotates at a nearly 90-degree angle and is the first planet to be discovered with a telescope. Uranus appears pale blue in black space. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
9. Neptune is an extremely cold ice giant with temps around -330°F (-200°C), and was first discovered with math (predicted before it was observed). Neptune is dark blue with white wisps. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Star light, star bright 🌟
A densely-packed globular cluster lies about 157,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) captured by @NASAHubble . Globular clusters are very stable, tightly bound clusters of thousands or even millions of stars. Their stability means that they can last a long time, and therefore globular clusters are often studied to investigate potentially very old stellar populations.
Research from 2017 estimates that this globular cluster probably clocks in at around 11.6 billion years old. Even though this is only a couple billion years younger than the universe itself – this globular is the youngest cluster in their sample. All of the LMC globular clusters studied in the same work were found to be older, with four of them over 13 billion years old.
This globular cluster is as interesting as it is beautiful with its highly concentrated population of stars. The night sky would look very different from the perspective of an inhabitant of a planet orbiting one of the stars in a globular cluster’s center: the sky would appear to be stuffed full of stars, in a stellar environment that is thousands of times more crowded than our own.
Image Description: A dense cluster of stars. It is brightest and most crowded in the center, where the stars are mostly a cool white color. Moving out towards the edges the stars become more spread out and reddish until a noticeable ‘edge’ to the cluster is reached. Beyond that edge there are still many stars, more disorganized and seen on a black background. Some stars appear to be in front of the cluster.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Sarajedini
How it started vs. how it's going
Today marks the 25th anniversary of operations on the International Space Station (@ISS ). On Dec. 6, 1998, the station's first two elements—the Unity and Zarya modules—were joined in low Earth orbit.
Since Nov. 2, 2000, humans have lived and worked continuously on the orbiting laboratory, bringing together international flight crews to perform more than 3,300 research and educational investigations for the benefit of humanity. The ISS has been visited by 273 people from 21 countries working together to prepare future human explorations for travel to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Swipe to see how the International Space Station started and what it looks like now.
1. View of the space station circa 2000 in the darkness of space. It consists of two cylindrical modules joined at their short ends. The Unity module on the left is slightly more gray than the longer cream-colored Zarya module on the right. A pair of solar panels extend upwards and downwards from Zarya.
2. The station as seen during a fly-arond by the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Nov. 8, 2021. Four pairs of golden solar arrays are on each side, and three different sets of gray radiator panels accordion upward. The entire craft is nearly the size of a football field.
Give the gift of space these holidays!
Free artwork provided. All you need to do is download, print and frame.
Inspire the space lover in your family with amazing wall art. Our Exoplanet Travel Bureau put together this poster series called “Visions of the Future.” Nine artists, designers, and illustrators were involved in designing the original 14 posters, which are the result of any brainstorming sessions with @NASAJPL scientists, engineers, and expert communicators. These images are free for you to print, and can be found at jpl.nasa.gov/galleries/visions-of-the-future/ (link in bio).
Image descriptions: A swipe-through of four illustrated posters.
1. A retro-styled graphic of five spacecraft fly across a conceptual take on Saturn. “The Grand Tour” is written at the bottom.
2. Bold shapes and colors in reds, purples, and blues contrast in this abstract travel poster for Mars. The text reads, “Visit the Historic Sites. Mars, Multiple Tours Available."
3. Hot air balloons hover above a conceptual take of Jupiter’s surface in shades of purple and brown. Auroras in shades of green and purple shine above. The text reads, “Experience the mighty auroras of Jupiter."
4. In shades of blue, three look through a window, peering into a world under water. A diver swims among the tendrils of a structure in the distance. The text reads, “Europa: Discover life under the ice."
Putting a spin on astrophotography 🌀
Stars leave streaks of light in concentric circles in this view from the International Space Station (@ISS ) on March 16, 2012. To create this composite long exposure, NASA astronaut Don Pettit (@astro_pettit ) combined multiple 30-second exposures from a mounted camera on the station into one image.
Image description: A portion of an ISS module is pictured in the top center of the image. Around it, lines in circular shapes make star trails. Below the star trails, Earth’s airglow hovers above its surface in shades of yellow and green. On Earth’s surface, lines of the light make out the planet’s rotation in shades of yellow and blue.
Credit: NASA/Don Pettit
It takes two to tango. 💃
When this galaxy cluster was first discovered, it was documented as a single cluster, but further research revealed that it was actually two. @NASAHubble spotted this double cluster of brightly-glowing galaxies in the constellation Eridanus. One group is around 2.3 billion light-years away, and the other, included in the Massive Cluster Survey, is about 5.4 billion light-years from Earth. The two groups are known to have 30 trillion and 120 trillion times the mass of our Sun, respectively.
Image description: A cluster of galaxies, concentrated around what appear to be two large elliptical galaxies. The rest of the black background is covered in smaller galaxies of all shapes and sizes. In the top left and bottom right, beside the two large galaxies, some galaxies appear notably distorted into curves by gravity.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, G. Smith, H. Ebeling, D. Coe
We all have those days, amirite?
Compared to most spiral galaxies, this one looks a little lopsided. The classic, centered shape of spiral galaxies is one with a bulge of older stars in the middle and arms of young stars swirling outward. In this case, a neighboring galaxy is tugging this one’s blue arms off to the right.
Captured by @NASAHubble , this dueling pair is located 120 million light-years away in the constellation Cepheus. It is not uncommon for galaxies to come close enough to engage in a celestial tug-of-war. Galaxies are not solid objects, so gravitational pull distorts their shape in a manner similar to pulling off a piece of cotton candy.
Image description: A large spiral galaxy takes up most of the image, skewed so that its center stretches towards its upper left. We see it face-on as a mix of cool blue and whitish-yellow light, with smoky brown dust lining its blue, spiraling arms. In the background, orange and white stars and galaxies dot the blackness of space.
Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, Paul Sell (University of Florida)
The last celestial sights of 2023 ✨
Planets and the Moon, the Geminid meteor shower, and a chance to observe an asteroid with your own eyes. This month, you’ll see Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter near the Moon, and the year's most reliable meteor shower, the Geminids, will peak mid-December. Giant asteroid Vesta reaches its closest to Earth, and can be viewed with a pair of binoculars.
Is your spidey sense tingling?
@NASAChandraXRay captured spider pulsars in the Omega Centauri star cluster, located about 17,700 light-years away from Earth. These observations are helping astronomers study why these spider pulsars are preying on nearby stars.
What are spider pulsars? A group of dead stars known to inflict damage on other small stars that orbit around them. A pulsar is the spinning dense core which remains after a star has collapsed into itself to form a neutron star. Those neutron stars are rapidly rotating and produce beams of radiation. This causes the outer layers of companion stars to be stripped away due to winds of energetic particles that are flowing from the pulsar stars.
Image description: Tiny white stars dot the blackness of space, many appearing to glow with a white or hot pink aura. Like other globular clusters, this conglomeration, named Omega Centauri, is more densely packed near the center.
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA; IR:NASA/JPL/Caltech; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/N. Wolk
That's hot. ✨
Huge waves are sculpted in the Red Spider nebula some 3000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius.
This two-lobed planetary nebula is the home of one of the hottest stars known and its powerful stellar winds generate waves 62.4 billion miles (100 billion km) high. The waves are caused by supersonic shocks, formed when the local gas is compressed and heated in front of the rapidly expanding lobes. The atoms caught in the shock emit the spectacular radiation seen in this image.
Image description: The nebula glows in shades of gold, from the bright center the two lobes reach out, with gas and dust scattering out. Bright white stars contrast with the black background of space.
Credit: ESA & Garrelt Mellema (Leiden University, the Netherlands)