RSSArchive for March, 2011

Hubble bursts dark energy bubble

Galaxy NGC 5584

Galaxy NGC 5584 was one of eight galaxies astronomers studied to measure the universe's expansion rate. Two special kinds of stars—Type Ia supernovae and Cepheid variable stars—were used as "cosmic yardsticks", due to their predictable brightnesses.

  • Our universe seems to be expanding faster and faster with time
  • ‘Dark energy’ proposed as an explanation, but its nature remains a mystery
  • Hubble observations have ruled out one dark energy hypothesis

ASTRONOMERS USING NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have ruled out one explanation for the nature of dark energy after recalculating the expansion rate of the universe to unprecedented accuracy.

The universe appears to be expanding at an increasing rate. Some think this is because it is filled with a ‘dark energy’ that works in the opposite way to gravity.

An alternative to that hypothesis is that an enormous ‘bubble’ of relatively empty space eight billion light-years wide surrounds our galactic neighbourhood.

If we lived near the centre of this void, observations of galaxies being pushed away from each other at accelerating speeds would be an illusion.

This hypothesis has now been invalidated because astronomers have refined their understanding of the universe’s present expansion rate.

“We are using the new camera on Hubble like a policeman’s radar gun to catch the universe speeding,” said Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Johns Hopkins University, and leader of the science team. “It looks more like it’s dark energy that’s pressing the [accelerator] pedal.”

Portion of NGC 5584 with Cepheid locations marked

A portion of galaxy NGC 5584 with the location of Cepheid variable stars marked.

The observations helped determine a figure for the universe’s current expansion rate to an uncertainty of just 3.3 percent. The new measurement reduces the error margin by 30 percent over Hubble’s previous best measurement in 2009.

Cosmic yardsticks

Riess’ team first had to determine accurate distances to galaxies near and far from Earth, and then compare those distances with the speed at which the galaxies are apparently receding because of the expansion of space.

They used those two values to calculate the Hubble constant, the number that relates the speed at which a galaxy appears to recede to its distance from the Milky Way.

Because we cannot physically measure the distances to galaxies, astronomers have to find stars or other objects that serve as reliable cosmic yardsticks. These are objects with known intrinsic brightness—brightness that hasn’t been dimmed by distance, an atmosphere or interstellar dust. Their distances, therefore, can be inferred by comparing their intrinsic brightness with their apparent brightness as seen from Earth.

To calculate long distances, Riess’ team chose a special class of exploding star called Type Ia supernovae. These stellar blasts all have similar luminosity and are brilliant enough to be seen far across the universe.

By cross-correlating the apparent brightness of Type Ia supernovae with pulsating Cepheid stars (another class of stars whose intrinsic brightness is known), the team could accurately gauge the distances to Type Ia supernovae in far-flung galaxies.

WFC3

Hubble's latest camera, the Wide Field Camera 3, was instrumental in the research.

Bubble is burst

By using the sharpness of Hubble’s new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) to study more stars in visible and near-infrared light, the team eliminated systematic errors introduced by comparing measurements from different telescopes.

“WFC3 is the best camera ever flown on Hubble for making these measurements, improving the precision of prior measurements in a small fraction of the time it previously took,” said Lucas Macri, a collaborator on the Supernova Ho for the Equation of State (SHOES) Team from Texas A&M in College Station.

Knowing the precise value of the universe’s expansion rate further restricts the range of dark energy’s strength and helps astronomers tighten up their estimates of other cosmic properties, including the universe’s shape and its roster of neutrinos, or ghostly particles, that filled the early cosmos.

“Thomas Edison once said ‘every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward,’ and this principle still governs how scientists approach the mysteries of the cosmos,” said Jon Morse, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“By falsifying the bubble hypothesis of the accelerating expansion, NASA missions like Hubble bring us closer to the ultimate goal of understanding this remarkable property of our universe.”

Adapted from information issued by STScI. NGC 5584 image credit: NASA / ESA / A. Riess (STScI/JHU), L. Macri (Texas A&M University) / Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). NGC 5584 illustrations credit: NASA / ESA / L. Frattare (STScI) / Z. Levay (STScI).

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Red rover’s Santa Maria visions

MRO image of Opportunity rover at Santa Maria crater

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired this colour image on March 9, 2011, of the 90-metre-wide "Santa Maria" crater, showing the rover Opportunity (arrowed) perched on the southeast rim.

NASA’S MARS ROVER Opportunity has nearly completed its three-month examination of a crater informally named “Santa Maria”.

But before the rover resumes its overland trek, an orbiting camera has provided a colour image of the intrepid rover beside Santa Maria.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired the image on March 1, while Opportunity was extending its robotic arm to take close-up photos of a rock called “Ruiz Garcia.”

From orbit, the tracks Opportunity made as it approached the crater from the west are clearly visible. Santa Maria crater is about 90 metres in diameter.

March 1 corresponded to the 2,524th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars. A raw image (below) from Opportunity’s front hazard-avoidance camera from the same day shows the arm extended out to investigate a rock. And to complete the scale of imaging, another raw image (below)—taken by Opportunity’s microscopic imager on the same day—shows a close-up image of the rock’s surface.

View from Opportunity's front hazard-avoidance camera

The view from Opportunity's front hazard-avoidance camera, showing its robot arm extended to a nearby rock.

Opportunity close-up image of a rock

An imager on the end of Opportunity's robot arm took this close-up image of the rock seen in the other image.

Opportunity has been studying the relatively fresh Santa Maria crater to better understand how crater excavation occurred during the impact and how it has been modified by weathering and erosion since.

Visible in the overhead view are bright blocks and rays of ejecta surrounding the crater. (Ejecta is the debris thrown outwards by the force of the impact that formed the crater.)

Opportunity will soon resume a long-term trek toward a much larger crater, Endeavour, about six kilometres away.

Opportunity completed its three-month prime mission on Mars in April 2004 and has been working in extended mission status since then. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which arrived at Mars on March 10, 2006, has also completed its prime mission and is operating in an extended mission.

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Arizona.

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The day we met Halley

HISTORY WAS MADE 25 years ago when a small spacecraft swept to within 600 km of Halley’s comet. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Giotto probe was nearly destroyed by the encounter, but what it saw changed our picture of comets forever.

As debuts go, it doesn’t get any better than Giotto. The spacecraft was ESA’s first deep-space mission. Built to a design that drew on the Geos Earth-orbiting research satellites, it was fitted with shielding to protect it from the ‘sand-blasting’ it was going to receive as it sped through the comet’s tail.

It was originally conceived as a joint mission with NASA, the Tempel-2 Rendezvous-Halley Intercept mission. When the USA pulled out after budget cuts, ESA took the bold decision to forge on, finding Japan and Russia willing to contribute their own missions. Together, they sent a flotilla, with the Russian missions serving as pathfinders to guide Giotto to its dangerous encounter.

Comet Halley's nucleus

Giotto's encounter with Comet Halley provided the first ever opportunity to take images of a comet nucleus, which turned out to be blacker than coal.

Scientists, controllers and engineers gathered at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, on the night of 13-14 March 1986 to witness the flyby.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime event and it had a big impact on the general public,” says Giotto’s former Deputy Project Scientist, Gerhard Schwehm.

Heart of the comet

The scientific harvest from Giotto changed people’s perception of comets. By measuring its composition, Giotto confirmed Halley as a primitive remnant of the Solar System, billions of years old. It detected complex molecules locked in Halley’s ices that could have provided the chemical building blocks of life on Earth.

Yet the biggest triumph was the image of Halley itself. “It may sound simple to say that but the picture was the best thing, the moment you saw it…it was tremendous,” remembers Gerhard.

Countless people have seen the ghostly shimmer of Halley’s comet from Earth. Records of it stretch back to China in 240 BCE. It famously appears on the Bayeux Tapestry, and the Italian artist Giotto di Bondone used it to symbolize the star of Bethlehem in his masterpiece, The Adoration of the Magi.

Part of the Bayeux Tapestry

Comet Halley, in its 1066 appearance, is shown in the Bayeux Tapestry.

But none saw what his spacecraft namesake saw: the very heart of the comet, the nucleus.

Just 10 x 15 km, it surprised everyone by being darker than coal, reflecting just 4% of the light falling on its surface.

Instead of the whole surface boiling away, ‘jets’ were localized in specific areas.

Life after Halley

Giotto nearly did not survive. As expected, the probe was pummelled. Dust from the comet ripped into it at speeds of 68 km/s, eroding away the shielding and the sensors, destroying the camera.

But Giotto itself lived on and was sent to meet a second comet, Grigg-Skjellerup, in 1992.

Since Giotto’s encounter, Halley has continued its journey, covering about a third of its 76-year orbit. Although it will not return until 2061, there are other cometary targets.

“Giotto ignited the planetary science community in Europe—we had demonstrated that we could successfully lead demanding missions—and people started thinking about what else we could do,” says Gerhard.

Artist's impression of the Rosetta spacecraft

ESA's Rosetta spacecraft is on its way to a rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014.

ESA’s Rosetta mission is next. The spacecraft is en route to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, for arrival in 2014. It will study the comet and release a lander to analyse the surface material.

Recently, Rosetta flew by asteroid Lutetia and is now preparing to hibernate for the rest of its cruise. Once at Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta will follow the comet for months.

Where Giotto gave us the night of the comet, Rosetta promises the year of the comet.

Adapted from information issued by ESA. Image credits: Halley Multicolour Camera Team / Giotto Project / ESA / AOES Medialab.

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Black hole in the ‘Eye of Sauron’

Eye of Sauron image of NGC 4151

This false-colour image (using X-ray, visible light and radio wave data) of the core of galaxy NGC 4151 resembles the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings movies. In reality, it shows the region surrounding a supermassive black hole.

  • Spiral galaxy NGC 4151 has a growing, giant black hole at its centre.
  • Dubbed “The Eye of Sauron” for its resemblance to the “The Lord of the Rings” character

AT THE HEART OF MANY (perhaps most) galaxies there lives a dark, malevolent force—a black hole.

And they aren’t just ordinary black holes. They are giants…what astronomers call ‘supermassive’ black holes, which can have masses hundreds of millions or billions of times the mass of our Sun.

One such galaxy is NGC 4151. Located about 43 million light-years from Earth, it is one of the nearest galaxies to contain an actively growing black hole.

A new false-colour image put together using different wavelength data makes the local region surrounding the black hole look like the ‘Eye of Sauron’ from the Lord of the Rings movies.

In the ‘pupil’ of the eye, X-rays (coloured blue) detected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory are combined with visible light wavelengths (yellow) showing positively charged hydrogen atoms (from observations with the Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope in the Canary Islands).

The red surrounding the pupil shows neutral hydrogen detected by radio observations with the Very Large Array radio telescope in the USA.

Because it is so close (in astronomical terms), NGC 4151 offers one of the best opportunities to study the interaction between an active supermassive black hole and the surrounding gas of its host galaxy.

Such interaction, or ‘feedback’, is recognised to play a key role in the growth of both black holes and their host galaxies.

Gas falls into the black hole, feeding it and making it grow larger.

But as the gas approaches the black hole, it heats up…to the point where some of it shoots back into the galaxy in a process known as an outflow. That hot gas emits X-rays.

If the X-ray emission seen in the core of NGC 4151 indeed originates from hot gas heated by the outflow from the black hole, it would be strong evidence for black hole feedback occurring within individual galaxies.

Such feedback has already been seen on larger scales—in clusters of galaxies such as the Perseus Cluster, where active black holes interact with surrounding gas.

Adapted from information issued by Chandra X-ray Centre. Image credit: X-ray, NASA / CXC / CfA / J.Wang et al.; optical, Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, La Palma / Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope; radio, NSF / NRAO / VLA.

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Tracking a dangerous asteroid

Illustration of a spacecraft heating part of Apophis' surface using mirrors

One way to tackle an errant asteroid is to heat part of its surface. Material will be expelled one way, and the asteroid will move slightly in the opposite direction. Done far enough ahead of any potential collision, it will keep a rocky body from coming near Earth.

  • Asteroid Apophis will make a close approach to Earth in 2029
  • Has the potential to strike our planet later this century
  • More observations are needed to clarify its orbit

ASTRONOMERS HAVE TAKEN THE FIRST new images in over three years of the potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroid Apophis as it emerged into view from behind the Sun.

The object became famous in late 2004, when it appeared to have a 1-in-37 chance of colliding with Earth in 2029, but additional data eventually ruled out that possibility.

However, on April 13, 2029, the asteroid, which is 270 metres in diameter, will come closer to Earth than the geosynchronous communications satellites that orbit Earth at an altitude of about 36,000 kilometres. Apophis will then be briefly visible to the naked eye as a fast-moving starlike object.

This close encounter with Earth will significantly change Apophis’s orbit, which could lead to a collision with Earth later this century. For that reason, astronomers have been eager to obtain new data to further refine the details of the 2029 encounter.

Astronomer David Tholen (University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa), one of the co-discoverers of Apophis, and graduate students Marco Micheli and Garrett Elliott obtained the new images on January 31 using the UH 2.2-metre telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Composite image of Apophis

Apophis (circled) in a composite of five exposures taken on January 31 with the University of Hawaii 2.2-metre telescope. (The blemish in the upper left corner is an artefact caused by a dust speck on the camera.)

At the time, the asteroid was less than 44 degrees from the Sun and about a million times fainter than the faintest star that the average human eye can see without optical aid.

“The superb observing conditions that are possible on Mauna Kea made the observations relatively easy,” said Tholen.

Out of the glare

Astronomers measure the position of an asteroid by comparing it with the known positions of stars that appear in the same image as the asteroid. As a result, any tiny error in the catalogue of star positions—due, for example, to the very slow motions of the stars around the centre of our Milky Way galaxy—can affect the measurement of the position of the asteroid.

“We will need to repeat the observation on several different nights using different stars to average out this source of imprecision before we will be able to significantly improve the orbit of Apophis and therefore the details of the 2029 close approach and future impact possibilities,” noted Tholen.

Apophis’s elliptical orbit around the Sun will take it back into the Sun’s glare in the middle of 2011, inhibiting the acquisition of additional position measurements.

However, in 2012, Apophis will again become observable for approximately nine months. In 2013, the asteroid will pass close enough to Earth for ultra-precise radar signals to be bounced off its surface.

Adapted from information issued by the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Apophis image courtesy D. Tholen, M. Micheli, G. Elliott, UH Institute for Astronomy. Apophis illustration courtesy SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc.

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Aussies unite for outback astronomy

MWA antennae

A small part of the Murchison Wide-field Array, which will comprise over 500 separate antennae…most of them located in a cluster 1.5km wide. The antennae are of an advanced new type, with no moving parts.

A QUEST TO DISCOVER the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang is underway with the first major pieces of a revolutionary new radio telescope built in remote Western Australia.

The Murchison Wide-field Array (MWA) is being built by an Australian consortium led by The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia, in close collaboration with US and Indian partners.

MWA industry partner and Fremantle-based high-technology company, Poseidon Scientific Instruments (PSI), recently succeeded in packaging sensitive electronics into environmentally controlled enclosures tough enough to withstand the harsh conditions of outback WA.

Professor Steven Tingay, ICRAR Deputy Director, said PSI’s delivery of this first electronics package was a critical milestone for the MWA project.

MWA receiver

The MWA Receiver with Professor Steven Tingay (ICRAR), Jesse H Searls (PSI), Derek Carroll (PSI), and Mark Waterson (ICRAR).

“This is the first of 64 such enclosures that will service a telescope made up of over 500 antennae, spread over a nine square-kilometre area of the remote Murchison region in WA,” said Professor Tingay.

Professor Tingay said the innovative enclosure would also prevent electronics from interfering with other equipment on the site, preserving the uniquely quiet environment of the Murchison.

“The combination of the MWA and the radio quiet environment of the Murchison will allow us to search for the incredibly weak signals that come from the early stages in the evolution of the Universe, some 13 billion years ago,” he said.

The MWA is located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, a site operated by the CSIRO and a proposed core site for the multi-billion dollar Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

It is one of only three official SKA Precursor telescopes, proving the technology and science on the path to the SKA.

One of ICRAR’s goals is to partner with Australian industries, helping position them to participate in future radio astronomy opportunities, such as the SKA. The MWA partnership with PSI is one such success story.

Breaking new ground

Meanwhile, work is gathering pace out in the Western Australian desert.

Following a tender evaluation process, McConnell Dowell Constructors (Aust) Pty Ltd. has been selected by CSIRO as the successful tender in the construction of support infrastructure at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO).

Artist's impression of the SKA

Artist's impression of the central part of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The project commences immediately, has a 45-week schedule and is a significant milestone in the ongoing development of the site.

The scope of work involves the construction of several kilometres of access roads and tracks, power and data infrastructure, a central control building and 30 radio antenna concrete foundations, as well as ancillary works.

The MRO is located in the Mid West region of Western Australia, and will be home to world-class instruments including CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope. The MRO is also the Australia–New Zealand candidate core site for the future $2.5bn Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope project.

Adapted from information issued by ICRAR / CSIRO. MWA image courtesy Paul Bourke and Jonathan Knispel (supported by WASP (UWA), iVEC, ICRAR, and CSIRO).

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Jupiter mission – 5 months ’til launch

NASA’S NEXT JUPITER PROBE, called Juno, is currently undergoing environmental testing at Lockheed Martin Space Systems near Denver.

The solar-powered Juno spacecraft will orbit Jupiter’s poles 33 times to find out more about the gas giant planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. The launch window for Juno from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida opens on August 5, 2011.

The video above is a parody of a “coming attraction” trailer created by NASA Television. The video was produced for a NASA movie-themed exhibit at an international conference.

The spacecraft is fully assembled and all instruments have been integrated.

In the photo below, taken on January 26, Juno had just completed acoustics testing that simulated the soundwave and vibration environment the spacecraft will experience during launch.

Juno spacecraft undergoing testing

NASA's fully assembled Juno spacecraft is undergoing testing to ensure it can withstand launch and the harsh environment of space.

The photo shows Lockheed Martin technicians inspecting the spacecraft just after the test. All three solar array wings were installed and stowed, and the spacecraft’s large high-gain antenna was in place on the top of the avionics vault.

At present, Juno is sealed in a large thermal vacuum chamber, where it is being exposed to the extreme cold and vacuum conditions it will experience on its voyage to Jupiter. The two-week-long test will also simulate many of the flight activities the spacecraft will execute during the mission.

Juno is scheduled to ship from Lockheed Martin’s facility to Kennedy Space Centre in early April, where it will undergo final preparations and launch.

More information: Juno mission

Adapted from information issued by NASA / JPL-Caltech / LMSS.

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Top astronomer joins Aussie uni

A spiral galaxy

Swinburne University's newest astronomy professor, Jeremy Mould, is a specialist in the hunt for the universe's 'dark matter'.

SWINBURNE UNIVERSITY’S REPUTATION as a world leader in astronomy research has been cemented, with the arrival of pre-eminent astrophysicist Professor Jeremy Mould.

A recipient of the prestigious Gruber Prize for Cosmology, Professor Mould is a ‘Hi-Ci’ researcher, putting him in the world’s top 0.5 per cent of cited researchers in the astronomy and space sciences field.

Professor Mould is Swinburne’s third Hi-Ci astronomy researcher, joining Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing Director, Professor Warrick Couch and galaxy expert Professor Karl Glazebrook.

With only ten active Hi-Ci astronomy researchers in all of Australia, this represents a significant cluster of world-leading experts at the one institution.

Professor Couch said that the centre’s newest arrival, who has come from the University of Melbourne, is one of the most respected researchers in the field of cosmology.

Professor Jeremy Mould

Professor Jeremy Mould

“Jeremy has an incredible record of achievement in astronomy research and management and we are extremely excited to have him on board,” he said.

“When it comes to leaders in his field, Jeremy really is the king of the castle.”

Focus on dark matter

Professor Mould is best known for his role in determining the precise value of the Hubble Constant, one of the most important numbers in astronomy.

This finding effectively determined the age of the universe (about 14 billion years), and has since enabled researchers to more accurately investigate other profound questions about the universe’s birth, evolution and composition.

As well as being a Hi-Ci researcher and recipient of the Gruber Prize, Professor Mould is also a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and a previous Director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University and US National Optical Astronomy Observatories.

He is a chief investigator in the Australian Research Council’s new Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics and leads its programme on the hunt for the mysterious dark matter. How dark matter is distributed on billion light year scales is his current focus. CSIRO’s new radiotelescope in WA is the key to this, together with the ANU’s new optical survey telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.

His arrival bolsters Swinburne’s place as one of the world’s leading astronomy research institutions.

In the Australian Research Council’s recent Excellence for Research in Australia report, Swinburne was awarded a five rating in the Astronomical Space Sciences category, recognising outstanding research that is well above world standard.

Adapted from information issued by Swinburne University.

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Saturn’s three-in-one

Image showing Rhea, Dione and Saturn's rings

This image shows two of Saturn's moons—Rhea (foreground, top) and Dione (background)—with the planet's famous rings in between.

THIS IMAGE ISN’T made up. It’s a real shot from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, showing three components of the Saturnian system in the one frame.

In the foreground at top is the south polar area of Saturn’s moon Rhea. In the background is another moon, Dione, with Saturn’s almost edge-on rings in between.

Visible on Dione is its famous light-coloured ‘wispy’ terrain.

Rhea is 1,528 kilometres in diameter, and Dione is 1,123 kilometres wide.

At the moment the image was taken, on January 11, 2011, the Cassini spacecraft was about 61,000 kilometres from Rhea and 924,000 kilometres from Dione.

Detail down to a resolution of 358 is visible on Rhea, and to a resolution of six kilometres on Dione.

Story copyright 2011 Jonathan Nally, SpaceInfo.com.au. Image courtesy NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute.

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Ghostly veil in space

Part of the Veil Nebula

The eastern section of the Veil Nebula, part of a much larger nebula called the Cygnus Loop.

HANGING IN SPACE LIKE A GHOSTLY curtain in space is the Veil Nebula, part of a much larger nebula called the Cygnus Loop.

The Cygnus Loop is the expanding gas cloud remnant of a supernova (exploded star) which happened between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago. It is almost 1,500 light-years from Earth.

In effect it is a giant gas bubble in space, and what we see is the edge of the bubble. It’s also very large—about 90 light-years wide. If we could see the whole Loop with the naked eye in the night sky, it would appear three times wider than the full Moon.

The entire Loop can be picked up a certain special wavelengths, but at visible light wavelengths only part of it is visible. The Veil Nebula is one of those parts.

The image above shows the eastern part of the Veil, and was taken with the Wide Field Camera on the Isaac Newton Telescope in the Canary Islands.

It is a combination of three images made with special filters: one that brings out the presence of hydrogen (coloured red in the image), one that highlights doubly ionised oxygen (green) and one that reveals sulphur (blue).

See the full-size image here. Warning – huge file! 3.67MB – 6,079 x 3,880 pixels.

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) comprises the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope (WHT), the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope (INT), and the 1.0m Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope (JKT), operating on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain.

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes is operated on behalf of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Nederlanse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO), and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). The STFC, the NWO, and the IAC have entered into collaborative agreements for the operation of and the sharing of observing time on the ING telescopes.

Story copyright Jonathan Nally, SpaceInfo.com.au. Additional info courtesy ING. Image courtesy of the IAC astrophotography group (A. Oscoz, D. López, P. Rodríguez-Gil and L. Chinarro).

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