Astro-Images | Stellar Nursery NGC3603

The Carina constellation lies about 20,000 light years away. It is too far south in the sky for me to see. Within Carina is a cluster of bright stars surrounded by clouds of gas and dust. These stars formed about the same time. Their intense light has blown away the nearby gas and dust revealing the group of bright stars in this ESA image from Chile.

European Space Agency | VLT Unit Telescopes | Cerro Paranal, Chile

The stars differ in size, mass, temperature, and color. The mass of a star determines the pace of its evolution over time. This cluster contain stars in various stages of their lives. Astronomers are able to do detailed analyses of their life cycles with this snapshot in time.

This cluster NGC 3603 has some of the most massive stars known. They burn through their hydrogen fuel quickly demonstrating the phrase to ‘live fast and die young’.


Zoom into Carina to find the location of NGC 3603. Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI).

Below is my version of the colorized NGC 3603 using greyscale images from Hubble. The resulting colors depend on several factors such as color filters used to make the original greyscale images and the choices made in hue and saturation in software such as Photoshop. An important point to make is that various colors help us see different features, structures, and processes. They are not typically what the eye would see.

Hubble Legacy Archive | NGC 3603 | My Version

Hubble | 31 yrs in space

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into space 24 April 1990. Astronomers recently aimed Hubble at one of the brightest known stars, AG Carinae, in the constellation Carina. This luminous blue variable lies about 20,000 lt-yr from Earth. It exploded about 10,000 yrs ago. The nebula surrounding the star contains the equivalent of about 15 times the mass of our Sun. The star has about 55 times the mass of our Sun. Scientists from NASA, ESA, and STScI made this color image by combining four color-filtered greyscale images listed at the left.


The following video was released by NASA Goddard to celebrate this occasion. It lasts about 5 minutes.

Ingenuity Flights | Enhanced Views

See flights 2 and 3 at the end of this post.

The first video view of the flight of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars was short and jerky. It lasted 13 sec. The initial video data omitted many frames in order to quickly confirm for scientists that the flight was successful. Since that time, the rest of the frames have been downloaded and compiled into this version of 57 sec. The camera used was on the Perseverance rover several meters away.

Things to watch for include spin-up of the rotors at 7 sec. Liftoff takes place at 15 sec. It reaches 3 meter altitude at 19 sec. It hovers and does a 90˚ turn at 24 sec. It holds that position for several seconds. During that time, notice how it drifts to the right and then left a little bit. The gentle Martian breeze that day caused the drift. Ingenuity regained its position correctly. It started to descend at 37 sec with touchdown 3 sec later.

Scientists at JPL used special video filtering to capture the faint dust cloud stirred up by the rotors of the helicopter.

“The Mastcam-Z imager aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover shot video of the helicopter’s flight. The video is presented here in side-by-side formats that have both been enhanced to show a dust plume swirling during takeoff and again on landing. The view on the left uses motion filtering to show where dust was detected during liftoff and landing and the view on the right is enhanced with the motion filtering. Scientists use this image processing to detect dust devils as they pass by Mars rovers.”

While Ingenuity hovered, the camera on the bottom aimed straight down captured this image of its shadow. Imagine looking straight down from the height of a basketball hoop. The fast shutter speed froze the positions of the two counter-rotating rotor blades spinning at about 2500 rpm. The 4 legs of the copter are visible.

UPDATE: Flight 2 and images taken by Ingenuity in this video.

UPDATE: Flight 3 starts at the lower left. Lift-off at 10 sec. Cruises off screen to the right. Returns to view at 49 sec and then to touchdown.

M87 Black Hole Revisited

In April 2019, astronomers with the Event Horizon Telescope EHT released the most detailed image of the region near a black hole in the large elliptical galaxy M87. This image was the first view inside the core of a galaxy showing the extremely energetic spinning disc, or donut, of material and radiation surrounding the invisible black hole at the center. Material falling into the black hole disappears within this horizon. Not even light can escape. This black hole is about 55 million light-years from us and has a mass 6.5 million times that of our Sun.

We are not seeing the black hole. We are aware of the absence of anything visible in the center. That is where the black hole is located. I invite you to read my previous non-technical post about this story.

Near M87 Black Hole | Event Horizon Telescope

In April 2021, new findings from multiple radio, optical, X-ray, and gamma-ray telescopes were shared revealing greater detail about the broader surroundings and processes taking place in the vicinity of galaxy M87. The telescopes are ground based and some are space based. They observed in wavelengths from long radio waves of many meters, the more familiar shorter waves of the optical spectrum, and in extremely short X-ray and gamma-ray wavelengths. Such broad coverage will give scientists greater insights into the dynamics near black holes and aid their understanding of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Continue reading

Astro-Images | The Meathook

In the far southern skies is the constellation Piscis Volans, the flying fish. Within Volans lies this galaxy NGC 2442. It is distorted from the more common spiral shape into a meathook appearance. The unusual shape is likely the result of a close encounter with another galaxy not in the field of view. The galaxy lies about 50 million light years away. Visible are darkened dust lanes, young blueish star clusters, and reddish star forming regions. More views are from Astronomy Picture of the Day here, here, and here.

European Southern Observatory

I tried my hand at producing a color version of the Meathook galaxy using 3 greyscale images from the Hubble Telescope. The process is described in this previous post. The Hubble images provide rich detail.

Hubble Legacy Archive | NGC 2442 | My version