Big Dipper and ISS Pass

This email notification a few days ago said the International Space Station would pass over me at 6:20 am. Astronaut Scott Kelly is on-board starting his mission for the next year.


I checked the weather the night before and expected it to be cloudy this morning. What a pleasant surprise when I discovered the sky was clear. The ISS pass was right on time. Best wishes for a successful and safe mission.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen


Solar Activity | Types | Impacts on Earth

The Sun is a very busy place. Close inspection through telescopes such as the New Solar Telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California reveals a surface roiling with activity.

New Solar Telescope | Big Bear Solar Observatory

Types of Activity 

Sunspots There are regions where the temperature is somewhat cooler than the surroundings. These show as darker and are known as sunspots. Four Earths would fit in the dark center of this sunspot. They are not cool by any means. The yellow area is 5800 Kelvin (9980˚F). The sunspot is 3800 K (6380˚F).

New Solar Telescope | Big Bear Solar Observatory

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Astro-Images | Pinwheels-Quintet-Bubbles

Visit the gallery of my previous images at this link.


NGC 6782

How a galaxy appears depends on the color of the light viewed. This image used wavelengths of ultraviolet and visible light. The visible light from this spiral galaxy shows a tightly wound pinwheel shape. That is typical of many spirals.

Viewed in ultraviolet light, the shape can be very different. Ultraviolet light is a shorter wavelength than visible light. It is emitted by stars much hotter than the Sun. They are seen as blue in this image of NGC 6782. The central and outer rings have a lot of these hot stars. Darker lanes of cooler dust can also be seen. Click any image to embiggen.


From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush


NGC 7318

Known as Stephan’s Quintet, this tight gravitationally bound group was discovered in 1877 by Édouard Stephan. The Hubble greyscale images I used to form this color image show only four of the five members of the quintet. It is one of the most studied galaxy groups.

As noted above, young hot stars show as blue. Older and more mature stars are tinted red in this image giving the glow we see. There is a great deal of activity taking place in this group.

From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush

From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush


NGC 7635

The Bubble Nebula was first observed in 1787 by William Herschel. It is found in the constellation Cassiopeia at a distance of 7100 light years. The star at lower left center, visible through the shell of gas, is 40 times the mass of our Sun. It is driving the expansion of the gases of the shell at 2000 km/s from it. Intense ultraviolet light is illuminating gases nearby to the right and in the more distant upper left. Light travels much faster than the expanding nebular shell of gas.

From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush

From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush


Astro-Images | Sextet and Cat’s Eye

If you are interested, visit the gallery of my previous images at this link.


NGC 6027

Also known as the Seyfert Sextet, five members of this group of six galaxies is receding from us at nearly the same velocity of more than 4000 km/s. The sixth member is receding at almost 20000 km/s suggesting it is not a gravitationally bound member of the group. Instead, it is likely coincidently aligned and is much farther away that the others.

The small image at the left shows each member of the Sextet and their redshift velocities. In time, the five bound neighbors will merge into one larger diffuse elliptical galaxy. The farther member will remain undisturbed. Note the large number of very small images of other galaxies scattered about which are not part of the Sextet.

From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush

From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush


NGC 6543

The Cat’s Eye Nebula is estimated to be only about 1000 yrs old. It might have been a binary of two stars orbiting in close proximity. The center of the image shows a remnant white dwarf star, common to other nebulae. It is too small to resolve whether there are two. It is about 3000 light years away. The complex structure twists around the central star(s) due to the rotation of the binary as it expelled the gases during the last stages of the stellar life cycle.

From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush

From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush

The Daughter Files

Originally posted on Our View From Iowa:

The view on daughter’s Facebook wall today…

Being a mother is like trying to juggle 15 balls at once. Flaming balls. While someone throws marbles at you. And you are on a unicycle blindfolded in a rainstorm. And there are 5 people talking to you all at once then getting mad because you didn’t answer and clearly didn’t listen. And they want to know if you were a superhero and could fly over hot lava would your cape catch on fire and who built the first yurt and how long would you live if you had no eyeballs. And the math. Sweet Jesus. The math. It all sounds like: if Tom has 7 oranges and Paul has 13 triangles, how long would it take Susie to travel West 3.5 miles if she is wearing a green shirt? Explain how you got your answer. And then when you get mad at them…

View original 125 more words

Dawn | Orbits Ceres March 6

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a video announcing the upcoming capture to orbit of the Dawn spacecraft around dwarf planet Ceres on March 6. Marc Rayman, Dawn Chief Engineer and Mission director, presented the information in a light-hearted connection to the word cereal. He and the mission team as well as tens of thousands of space enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the images and findings. Previous posts about Dawn can be found here and here. A special briefing was held on March 2nd which lasted about an hour.

Astro-Images | Mice-Edges-Birth

Follow the astro-images tab above to see previous posts including this how-to.


NGC 4676

This colliding pair is about 300 million miles away. Computer simulations say we are seeing two nearly identical spiral galaxies about 160 million years after they started colliding. Collision of galaxies is not like a car collision. Very little material actually hits other material. It is more of a distorting gravitational interaction. The long arm to the upper left is actually curved, but looks straight because we see it edge-on. They will merge and form a spherical elliptical galaxy. The blue regions are places where young hot new stars are forming.

Click the image to see a much larger version showing a multitude of tiny more distant galaxies all over the field of view.


From original grayscales | Hubble Legacy Archive | J. Ruebush


NGC 5866

The NASA Hubble Space Telescope view of this disk galaxy is nearly edge-on to our line-of-sight. A dark dust lane divides the galaxy into two halves. The image shows a subtle central bulge around a bright nucleus. Imagine two dinner plates with one upside-down on top of the other.



NGC 4449

This dwarf and disorganized galaxy is 12.5 million light-years away. There are hundreds of thousands of blue and red stars in this Hubble Space Telescope image. Hot blue clusters of massive stars are scattered around the galaxy. New star birth regions show as reddish regions. Clouds of gas and dust are silhouetted against the starlight.

NGC 4449 has a high rate star formation. The gas supply that feeds the star birth will only last for another billion years or so.