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NASA's Kepler Witnesses Vampire Star System Undergoing Super-Outburst

7:00 am PST, January 24, 2020

Astronomers searching archival data from NASA's Kepler exoplanet hunting mission identified a previously unknown dwarf nova that underwent a super-outburst, brightening by a factor of 1,600 times in less than a day. While the outburst itself has a theoretical explanation, the slow rise in brightness that preceded it remains a mystery. Kepler's rapid cadence of observations were crucial for recording the entire event in detail.

The dwarf nova system consists of a white dwarf star with a brown dwarf companion. The white dwarf is stripping material from the brown dwarf, sucking its essence away like a vampire. The stripped material forms an accretion disk around the white dwarf, which is the source of the super-outburst. Such systems are rare and may go for years or decades between outbursts, making it a challenge to catch one in the act.

Goldilocks Stars Are Best Places to Look for Life

12:10 pm PST, January 8, 2020

To date astronomers have discovered over 4,000 planets orbiting other stars. Statistically, there should be over 100 billion planets in our Milky Way galaxy. They come in a wide range of sizes and characteristics, largely unimagined before exoplanets were first discovered in the mid-1990s. The biggest motivation for perusing these worlds is to find "Genesis II," a planet where life has arisen and evolved beyond microbes. The ultimate payoff would be finding intelligent life off the Earth.

A major step in searching for habitable planets is finding suitable stars that could foster the emergence of complex organisms. Because our Sun has nurtured life on Earth for nearly 4 billion years, conventional wisdom would suggest that stars like it would be prime candidates. But stars like our Sun represent only about 10% of the Milky Way population. What's more, they are comparatively short-lived. Our Sun is halfway through its estimated 10 billion-year lifetime.

Complex organisms arose on Earth only 500 million years ago. And, the modern form of humans has been here only for the blink of an eye on cosmological timescales: 200,000 years. The future of humanity is unknown. But what is for certain is that Earth will become uninhabitable for higher forms of life in a little over 1 billion years, as the Sun grows warmer and desiccates our planet.

Therefore, stars slightly cooler than our Sun — called orange dwarfs — are considered better hang-outs for advanced life. They can burn steadily for tens of billions of years. This opens up a vast timescape for biological evolution to pursue an infinity of experiments for yielding robust life forms. And, for every star like our Sun there are three times as many orange dwarfs in the Milky Way.

The only type of star that is more abundant are red dwarfs. But these are feisty little stars. They are so magnetically active they pump out 500 times as much radiation in the form of X-rays and ultraviolet light as our Sun does. Planets around these stars take a beating. They would be no place to call home for organisms like us.

An emerging idea, bolstered by stellar surveys performed by Hubble and other telescopes, is that the orange dwarfs are "Goldilocks stars" — not too hot, not too cool, and above all, not too violent to host life-friendly planets over a vast horizon of cosmic time.

Cosmic Magnifying Glasses Yield Independent Measure of Universe's Expansion

11:55 am PST, January 8, 2020

People use the phrase "Holy Cow" to express excitement. Playing with that phrase, researchers from an international collaboration developed an acronym—H0LiCOW—for their project's name that expresses the excitement over their Hubble Space Telescope measurements of the universe's expansion rate.

Knowing the precise value for how fast the universe expands is important for determining the age, size, and fate of the cosmos. Unraveling this mystery has been one of the greatest challenges in astrophysics in recent years.

Members of the H0LiCOW (H0 Lenses in COSMOGRAIL's Wellspring) team used Hubble and a technique that is completely independent of any previous method to measure the universe's expansion, a value called the Hubble constant.

This latest value represents the most precise measurement yet using the gravitational lensing method, where the gravity of a foreground galaxy acts like a giant magnifying lens, amplifying and distorting light from background objects. This latest study did not rely on the traditional "cosmic distance ladder" technique to measure accurate distances to galaxies by using various types of stars as "milepost markers." Instead, the researchers employed the exotic physics of gravitational lensing to calculate the universe's expansion rate.

The researchers' result further strengthens a troubling discrepancy between the expansion rate calculated from measurements of the local universe and the rate as predicted from background radiation in the early universe, a time before galaxies and stars even existed. The new study adds evidence to the idea that new theories may be needed to explain what scientists are finding.

Hubble Detects Smallest Known Dark Matter Clumps

11:40 am PST, January 8, 2020

When searching for dark matter, astronomers must go on a sort of "ghost hunt." That's because dark matter is an invisible substance that cannot be seen directly. Yet it makes up the bulk of the universe's mass and forms the scaffolding upon which galaxies are built. Dark matter is the gravitational "glue" that holds galaxies as well as galaxy clusters together. Astronomers can detect its presence indirectly by measuring how its gravity affects stars and galaxies.

The mysterious substance is not composed of the same stuff that makes up stars, planets, and people. That material is normal "baryonic" matter, consisting of electrons, protons, and neutrons. However, dark matter might be some sort of unknown subatomic particle that interacts weakly with normal matter.

A popular theory holds that dark matter particles don't move very fast, which makes it easier for them to clump together. According to this idea, the universe contains a broad range of dark matter concentrations, from small to large.

Astronomers have detected dark matter clumps around large- and medium-sized galaxies. Now, using Hubble and a new observing technique, astronomers have found that dark matter forms much smaller clumps than previously known.

The researchers searched for small concentrations of dark matter in the Hubble data by measuring how the light from faraway quasars is affected as it travels through space. Quasars are the bright black-hole-powered cores of very distant galaxies. The Hubble images show that the light from these quasars images is warped and magnified by the gravity of massive foreground galaxies in an effect called gravitational lensing. Astronomers used this lensing effect to detect the small dark matter clumps. The clumps are located along the telescope’s line of sight to the quasars, as well as in and around the foreground lensing galaxies.

NASA's Hubble Surveys Gigantic Galaxy

12:15 pm PST, January 5, 2020

Galaxies are like snowflakes. Though the universe contains innumerable galaxies flung across time and space, no two ever look alike. One of the most photogenic is the huge spiral galaxy UGC 2885, located 232 million light-years away in the northern constellation, Perseus. It's a whopper even by galactic standards. The galaxy is 2.5 times wider than our Milky Way and contains 10 times as many stars, about 1 trillion. This galaxy has lived a quiescent life by not colliding with other large galaxies. It has gradually bulked up on intergalactic hydrogen to make new stars at a slow and steady pace over many billions of years. The galaxy has been nicknamed "Rubin's galaxy," after astronomer Vera Rubin (1928 – 2016). Rubin used the galaxy to look for invisible dark matter. The galaxy is embedded inside a vast halo of dark matter. The amount of dark matter can be estimated by measuring its gravitational influence on the galaxy's rotation rate.

NASA's Great Observatories Help Astronomers Build a 3D Visualization of Exploded Star

11:30 am PST, January 5, 2020

In the year 1054 AD, Chinese sky watchers witnessed the sudden appearance of a "new star" in the heavens, which they recorded as six times brighter than Venus, making it the brightest observed stellar event in recorded history. This "guest star," as they described it, was so bright that people saw it in the sky during the day for almost a month. Native Americans also recorded its mysterious appearance in petroglyphs.

Observing the nebula with the largest telescope of the time, Lord Rosse in 1844 named the object the "Crab" because of its tentacle-like structure. But it wasn't until the 1900s that astronomers realized the nebula was the surviving relic of the 1054 supernova, the explosion of a massive star.

Now, astronomers and visualization specialists from the NASA's Universe of Learning program have combined the visible, infrared, and X-ray vision of NASA's Great Observatories to create a three-dimensional representation of the dynamic Crab Nebula.

The multiwavelength computer graphics visualization is based on images from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. The approximately four-minute video dissects the intricate nested structure that makes up this stellar corpse, giving viewers a better understanding of the extreme and complex physical processes powering the nebula. The powerhouse "engine" energizing the entire system is a pulsar, a rapidly spinning neutron star, the super-dense crushed core of the exploded star. The tiny dynamo is blasting out blistering pulses of radiation 30 times a second with unbelievable clockwork precision.

Simulated Image Demonstrates the Power of NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope

11:00 am PST, January 5, 2020

NASA's upcoming Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), scheduled for launch in the mid-2020s, will have the power to survey the sky 1,000 times faster than the Hubble Space Telescope, with Hubble-quality detail, in the near-infrared.

A simulated image of a 34,000-light-year swath across our neighboring galaxy Andromeda showcases WFIRST’s unique detector configuration, expansive field of view and high resolution. The image was generated using data collected by Hubble, and shows the red and infrared light of more than 50 million individual stars in Andromeda, as they would appear with WFIRST.

WFIRST is designed to address key questions across a wide range of topics, including dark energy, exoplanets, and general astrophysics spanning from our solar system to the most distant galaxies in the observable universe. WFIRST is expected to amass more than 4 petabytes of information per year, all of which will be non-proprietary and immediately accessible to the public.

The simulated image, which represents the staggering amount of data that could be captured in a single pointing over just 90 minutes, demonstrates the power of WFIRST for examining large-scale structures that are otherwise too time-consuming to image. Astronomers are currently using simulations like this to plan future observations.

'Cotton Candy' Planet Mysteries Unravel in New Hubble Observations

10:00 am PST, December 19, 2019

When astronomers look around the solar system, they find that planets can be made out of almost anything. Terrestrial planets like Earth, Mars, and Venus have dense iron cores and rocky mantles. The massive outer planets like Jupiter and Saturn are mostly gaseous and liquid. Astronomers can't peel back their cloud layers to look inside, but their composition is deduced by comparing the planet's mass (as calculated from its orbital motion) to its size. The result is that Jupiter has the density of water, and Saturn has an even lower density (it could float in a huge bathtub). These gas giants are just 1/5th the density of rocky Earth.

Now astronomers have uncovered a completely new class of planet unlike anything found in our solar system. Rather than a "terrestrial" or "gas giant" they might better be called "cotton candy" planets because their density is so low. These planets are so bloated they are nearly the size of Jupiter, but are just 1/100th of its mass. Three of them orbit the Sun-like star Kepler 51, located approximately 2,600 light-years away.

The puffed-up planets might represent a brief transitory phase in planet evolution, which would explain why we don't see anything like them in the solar system. The planets may have formed much farther from their star and migrated inward. Now their low-density hydrogen/helium atmospheres are bleeding off into space. Eventually, much smaller planets might be left behind.

STScI Astronomers Kathryn Flanagan and Colin Norman Elected AAAS Fellows

7:00 am PST, December 16, 2019

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Council has elected Kathryn Flanagan of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Colin Norman of STScI and Johns Hopkins University, and 441 other AAAS members as Fellows of the AAAS.

Dr. Flanagan is cited by the AAAS for her lead role calibrating grating spectrometers for NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory mission; X-ray observations of astrophysical plasmas; and leadership in the James Webb Space Telescope project.

Dr. Norman is cited by the AAAS for distinguished contributions to an array of subjects in theoretical astrophysics, especially in the areas of the interstellar medium, galaxy dynamics, star formation, and galaxy clusters.

For more information about this announcement, visit the AAAS website.

Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov Swings Past the Sun

10:00 am PST, December 12, 2019

When astronomers see something in the universe that at first glance seems like one-of-a-kind, it's bound to stir up a lot of excitement and attention. Enter comet 2I/Borisov. This mysterious visitor from the depths of space is the first identified comet to arrive here from another star. We don't know from where or when the comet started heading toward our Sun, but it won't hang around for long. The Sun's gravity is slightly deflecting its trajectory, but can't capture it because of the shape of its orbit and high velocity of about 100,000 miles per hour.

Telescopes around the world have been watching the fleeting visitor. Hubble has provided the sharpest views as the comet skirts by our Sun. Since October the space telescope has been following the comet like a sports photographer following horses speeding around a racetrack. Hubble revealed that the heart of the comet, a loose agglomeration of ices and dust particles, is likely no more than about 3,200 feet across, about the length of nine football fields. Though comet Borisov is the first of its kind, no doubt there are many other comet vagabonds out there, plying the space between stars. Astronomers will eagerly be on the lookout for the next mysterious visitor from far beyond.

Hubble Studies Gamma-Ray Burst with the Highest Energy Ever Seen

10:00 am PST, November 20, 2019

The Star Wars film trilogies are known best for the iconic "Death Star," an alien battle station that shoots out beams of directed energy powerful enough to blow up planets. The real universe makes much more extraordinary beams that can unleash in a few seconds as much energy as our sun will generate over its 10-billion-year lifetime. These beams blast out of imploding stars at over 99% the speed of light. They carry most of their energy in the form of gamma-rays—a lethal form of radiation that can penetrate bone and tear apart living cells. If our planet got caught in a nearby gamma-ray burst (GRB) the atmosphere would be largely stripped away.

The current record for a super-powerful GRB goes to a January 2019 outburst. The eruption came from a galaxy located so far away that the explosion actually happened 5 billion years ago. When the diluted radiation finally arrived at Earth, it was seen by our satellite sentries that monitor the sky for such fireworks: NASA’s Swift and Fermi telescopes, in addition to the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescopes on the Canary islands.

Hubble can't detect gamma-rays, but its sharp vision was used to see where the burst came from. The host galaxy of the GRB is actually one of a pair of colliding galaxies. The galaxy interactions may have contributed to the blast.

A Weakened Black Hole Allows Its Galaxy To Awaken

10:00 am PST, November 18, 2019

Supermassive black holes, weighing millions or even billions of times our Sun's mass, are still only a tiny fraction of the mass of the galaxies they inhabit. But in some cases, the central black hole is the tail wagging the dog. It seems that black holes can run hot or cold when it comes to either enhancing or squelching star birth inside a cluster of galaxies.

Typically, giant black holes, pumping out energy via jets, keep interstellar gas too warm to condense and form stars. Now, astronomers have found a cluster of galaxies, called the Phoenix cluster, where stars are forming at a furious rate because of the black hole's influence. This stellar turboboost is apparently linked to less energetic jets from a central black hole that do not pump up the gas temperature. Instead, the gas loses energy as it glows in X-rays. The gas cools to where it can form large numbers of stars at a breathtaking rate. Where our Milky Way forms one star per year on average, newborn stars are popping out of this cool gas at a rate of about 500 solar masses per year in the Phoenix cluster.

Unraveling this mystery required the combined power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Very Large Array (VLA) radio observatory near Socorro, New Mexico.

The VLA radio data reveals jets blasting out from the vicinity of the central black hole. These jets inflated bubbles in the hot gas that are detected in X-rays by Chandra. Hubble resolves bright blue filaments of newborn stars in cavities between the hot jet and gas clouds. As the black hole has grown more massive and more powerful, its influence has been increasing.

NASA's Hubble Captures a Dozen Galaxy Doppelgangers

11:00 am PST, November 7, 2019

The “funhouse mirror” has delighted carnival-goers for more than a century by twisting peoples’ images into wildly distorted shapes. Its prolific inventor, Charles Frances Ritchel, called it the "Ritchel's Laugh-O-Graphs.” However, there was nothing funny – but instead practical – about warped images as far as Albert Einstein was concerned. In developing his general theory of relativity, Einstein imagined the universe as a grand funhouse mirror caused by wrinkles in the very fabric of space.

This recent picture from Hubble shows a galaxy nicknamed the "Sunburst Arc" that has been split into a kaleidoscope illusion of no fewer than 12 images formed by a massive foreground cluster of galaxies 4.6 billion light-years away.

This beautifully demonstrates Einstein's prediction that gravity from massive objects in space should bend light in a manner analogous to a funhouse mirror. His idea of space warping was at last proven in 1919 by observations of a solar eclipse where the sun’s bending of space could be measured. A further prediction was that the warping would create a so-called “gravitational lens” that, besides distortion, would increase the apparent size and brightness of distant background objects.

It wasn’t until 1979 that the first such gravitational lens was confirmed. An otherwise obscure galaxy split and amplified the light of a distant quasar located far behind it into a pair of images. Far more than a space-carnival novelty, gravitational lensing observations today are commonly used to find planets around other stars, zoom in on very distant galaxies, and map the distribution of otherwise invisible “dark matter” in the universe.

Hubble Captures Galaxies' Ghostly Gaze

7:00 am PDT, October 28, 2019

The universe is a bubbling cauldron of matter and energy that have mixed together over billions of years to create a witches' brew of birth and destruction.

Firestorms of star birth sweeping across the heavens. Dying stars rattling the very fabric of space in titanic explosions. Death Star-like beams of energy blasting out of overfed black holes at nearly the speed of light. Large galaxies devouring smaller companions, like cosmic Pac-Men. Colossal collisions between galaxies flinging stars around like breaking pool balls. Hubble has seen them all.

This compulsive mayhem in space can produce weird-looking shapes that resemble creepy creatures seemingly conjured up in stories of the paranormal. Among them is the object in this new Hubble image.

The snapshot reveals what looks like an uncanny pair of glowing eyes glaring menacingly in our direction. The piercing "eyes" are the most prominent feature of what resembles the face of an otherworldly creature. This frightening object is actually the result of a titanic head-on collision between two galaxies.

Each "eye" is the bright core of a galaxy, the result of one galaxy slamming into another. The outline of the face is a ring of young blue stars. Other clumps of new stars form a nose and mouth.

The system is catalogued as Arp-Madore 2026-424, from the Arp-Madore "Catalogue of Southern Peculiar Galaxies and Associations."

Although galaxy collisions are common—especially back in the young universe—most of them are not head-on smashups, like the collision that likely created this Arp-Madore system. The violent encounter gives the system an arresting "ring" structure for only a short amount of time, about 100 million years. The two galaxies will merge completely in about 1 to 2 billion years, hiding their messy past.

Super Spirals Spin Super Fast

7:00 am PDT, October 17, 2019

You’ve probably never noticed it, but our solar system is moving along at quite a clip. Stars in the outer reaches of the Milky Way, including our Sun, orbit at an average speed of 130 miles per second. But that’s nothing compared to the most massive spiral galaxies. “Super spirals,” which are larger, brighter, and more massive than the Milky Way, spin even faster than expected for their mass, at speeds up to 350 miles per second.

Their rapid spin is a result of sitting within an extraordinarily massive cloud, or halo, of dark matter – invisible matter detectable only through its gravity. The largest “super spiral” studied here resides in a dark matter halo weighing at least 40 trillion times the mass of our Sun. The existence of super spirals provides more evidence that an alternative theory of gravity known as Modified Newtonian Dynamics, or MOND, is incorrect.

Hubble Observes First Confirmed Interstellar Comet

7:00 am PDT, October 16, 2019

No one knows where it came from. No one knows how long it has been drifting through the empty, cold abyss of interstellar space. But this year an object called comet 2I/Borisov came in from the cold. It was detected falling past our Sun by a Crimean amateur astronomer. This emissary from the black unknown captured the attention of worldwide astronomers who aimed all kinds of telescopes at it to watch the comet sprout a dust tail. The far visitor is only the second known object to enter our solar system coming from elsewhere in the galaxy, based on its speed and trajectory. Like a racetrack photographer trying to capture a speeding derby horse, Hubble took a series of snapshots as the comet streaked along at 110,000 miles per hour. Hubble provided the sharpest image to date of the fleeting comet, revealing a central concentration of dust around an unseen nucleus. The comet was 260 million miles from Earth when Hubble took the photo.

In 2017, the first identified interstellar visitor, an object formally named 'Oumuamua, swung within 24 million miles of the Sun before racing out of the solar system. Unlike comet 2I/Borisov, 'Oumuamua still defies any simple categorization. It did not behave like a comet, and it has a variety of unusual characteristics. Comet 2I/Borisov looks a lot like the traditional comets found inside our solar system, which sublimate ices, and cast off dust as they are warmed by the Sun. The wandering comet provides invaluable clues to the chemical composition, structure, and dust characteristics of planetary building blocks presumably forged in an alien star system.

Milky Way Raids Intergalactic 'Bank Accounts,' Hubble Study Finds

7:00 am PDT, October 10, 2019

Astronomers have discovered an unexplained surplus of gas flowing into our Milky Way after conducting a galaxy-wide audit of outflowing and inflowing gas. Rather than a gas equilibrium and "balanced books," 10 years of data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show there is more gas coming in than going out.

It is no secret that the Milky Way is frugal with its gas. The valuable raw material is recycled over billions of years—thrown out into the galactic halo via supernovas and violent stellar winds, and then used to form new generations of stars once it falls back to the galactic plane. The surplus of inflowing gas, however, was a surprise.

Hubble distinguished between outflowing and inflowing clouds using its sensitive Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), which detects the movement of the invisible gas. As the gas moves away it appears redder, while gas falling back toward the Milky Way is bluer.

The source of the excess gas inflow remains a mystery. Astronomers theorize that the gas could be coming from the intergalactic medium, as well as the Milky Way raiding the gas "bank accounts" of its small satellite galaxies using its considerably greater gravitational pull.

NASA's Hubble Finds Water Vapor on Habitable-Zone Exoplanet for the First Time

8:00 am PDT, September 13, 2019

To date, approximately 4,000 planets have been found orbiting other stars. The majority are extremely hostile to any chances for life: with exotic atmospheres, wide temperature extremes, and oddball orbits. Astronomers have now made an important step toward the ultimate goal of finding an exoplanet with an atmosphere more like Earth's, and having moderate temperatures. Water vapor has been identified in the atmosphere of a planet called K2-18b, located 110 light-years away. And, where there's water there could be clouds and rain. The planet is also at the right distance from its star to have a temperate climate where the water doesn't evaporate or freeze. But don't go looking for real estate yet. The planet is in a category not found in our solar system. It is larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. It might have a rocky surface, but it is more likely a giant ball of liquid and gas, like Neptune. Hundreds of known exoplanets fall into this mass range. So, it's important for astronomers to characterize the worlds and assess the chances for supporting life as we know it.

Saturn's Rings Shine in New Hubble Portrait

7:00 am PDT, September 12, 2019

Saturn is so beautiful that astronomers cannot resist using the Hubble Space Telescope to take yearly snapshots of the ringed world when it is near its closest distance to Earth.

These images, however, are more than just beauty shots. They reveal a planet with a turbulent, dynamic atmosphere. This year's Hubble offering, for example, shows that a large storm visible in the 2018 Hubble image in the north polar region has vanished. Smaller storms pop into view like popcorn kernels popping in a microwave oven before disappearing just as quickly. Even the planet's banded structure reveals subtle changes in color.

But the latest image shows plenty that hasn't changed. The mysterious six-sided pattern, called the "hexagon," still exists on the north pole. Caused by a high-speed jet stream, the hexagon was first discovered in 1981 by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft.

Saturn's signature rings are still as stunning as ever. The image reveals that the ring system is tilted toward Earth, giving viewers a magnificent look at the bright, icy structure. Hubble resolves numerous ringlets and the fainter inner rings.

This image reveals an unprecedented clarity only seen previously in snapshots taken by NASA spacecraft visiting the distant planet. Astronomers will continue their yearly monitoring of the planet to track shifting weather patterns and identify other changes. The second in the yearly series, this image is part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project. OPAL is helping scientists understand the atmospheric dynamics and evolution of our solar system's gas giant planets.

Hubble Explores the Formation and Evolution of Star Clusters in the Large Magellanic Cloud

8:00 am PDT, September 9, 2019

Like batches of cookies, stars are born together in groups. These star clusters, containing as many as 1 million members, evolve over time largely through a gravitational pinball where more massive stars are segregated from lower mass stars. Heavy stars tend to progressively sink toward the central region of the star cluster, while low-mass stars can escape from the system.

For the first time, the Hubble Space Telescope has been used to measure the effects of this dynamical aging on star clusters. They are all located 160,000 light-years from Earth in a satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). The diminutive galaxy is an ideal target because it hosts a selection of easily observed star clusters covering a wide range of ages.

Francesco Ferraro of the University of Bologna in Italy and his team used Hubble to observe five aging LMC star clusters — all born at about the same time but with different sizes — and succeeded in ranking them in terms of the level of dynamical evolution, which affects their shape.

Hubble's New Portrait of Jupiter

7:00 am PDT, August 8, 2019

Jupiter is the king of the solar system, more massive than all of the other solar-system planets combined. Although astronomers have been observing the gas-giant planet for hundreds of years, it still remains a mysterious world.

Astronomers don't have definitive answers, for example, of why cloud bands and storms change colors, or why storms shrink in size. The most prominent long-lasting feature, the Great Red Spot, has been downsizing since the 1800s. However, the giant storm is still large enough to swallow Earth.

The Red Spot is anchored in a roiling atmosphere that is powered by heat welling up from the monster planet's deep interior, which drives a turbulent atmosphere. In contrast, sunlight powers Earth's atmosphere. From Jupiter, however, the Sun is much fainter because the planet is much farther away from it. Jupiter's upper atmosphere is a riot of colorful clouds, contained in bands that whisk along at different wind speeds and in alternating directions. Dynamic features such as cyclones and anticyclones (high-pressure storms that rotate counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere) abound.

Attempting to understand the forces driving Jupiter's atmosphere is like trying to predict the pattern cream will make when it is poured into a hot cup of coffee. Researchers are hoping that Hubble's yearly monitoring of the planet—as an interplanetary weatherman—will reveal the shifting behavior of Jupiter's clouds. Hubble images should help unravel many of the planet's outstanding puzzles. This new Hubble image is part of that yearly study, called the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL.

Hubble Uncovers a 'Heavy Metal' Exoplanet Shaped Like a Football

7:00 am PDT, August 1, 2019

The scorching hot exoplanet WASP-121b represents a new twist on the phrase "heavy metal."

There are no loud electric guitar riffs, characteristic of heavy metal music, streaming into space. What is escaping the planet is iron and magnesium gas, dubbed heavy metals, because they are heavier than lightweight hydrogen and helium. The observations by the Hubble Space Telescope represent the first time heavy metal gas has been detected floating away from an exoplanet.

A scorching planet, WASP-121b orbits precariously close to a star that is even hotter than our Sun. The intense radiation heats the planet's upper atmosphere to a blazing 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Apparently, the lower atmosphere is still so hot that iron and magnesium remain in gaseous form and stream to the upper atmosphere, where they escape into space on the coattails of hydrogen and helium gas.

The sizzling planet is also so close to its star that it is on the cusp of being ripped apart by the star's intense pull. This hugging distance means that the planet is stretched into a football shape due to gravitational tidal forces.

New Hubble Constant Measurement Adds to Mystery of Universe's Expansion Rate

5:00 am PDT, July 16, 2019

In 1924, American astronomer Edwin Hubble announced that he discovered galaxies outside of our Milky Way by using the powerful new Hooker telescope perched above Los Angeles. By measuring the distances to these galaxies, he realized the farther away a galaxy is, the faster it appears to be receding from us. This was incontrovertible evidence the universe is uniformly expanding in all directions. For nearly a decade Albert Einstein refused to accept the observational evidence. His theory of general relativity described a static universe. But this could only be accomplished by invoking a "cosmological constant," which he described as repulsive property of space that would counterbalance the pull of gravity and prevent the universe from imploding. The expansion rate is the basis of the Hubble constant. It is a sought-after value because it yields clues to the origin, age, evolution, and future fate of our universe.

For nearly the past century astronomers have worked meticulously to precisely measure the Hubble constant. Before the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, the universe's age was thought to lie between 10 and 20 billion years, based on different estimates of the Hubble constant. Improving this value was one of the biggest justifications for building the Hubble telescope. This paid off in the early 1990s when a team led by Wendy Freedman of the University of Chicago greatly refined the Hubble constant value to a precision of 10%. This was possible because the Hubble telescope is so sharp at finding and measuring Cepheid variable stars as milepost markers — just as Edwin Hubble did 70 years earlier.

But astronomers strive for ever greater precision, and this requires further refining yardsticks for measuring vast intergalactic distances of billions of light-years. Freedman's latest research looks at aging red giant stars in nearby galaxies. They are also milepost markers because they all reach the same peak brightness at a critical stage of their late evolution. This can be used to calculate distances.

Freedman's research is one of several recent studies that point to a nagging discrepancy between the universe's modern expansion rate and predictions based on the universe as it was more than 13 billion years ago, as measured by the European Space Agency's Planck satellite. This latest measurement offers new evidence suggesting that there may be something fundamentally flawed in the current model of the universe.

Hubble Uncovers Black Hole Disk that Shouldn't Exist

7:00 am PDT, July 11, 2019

Astronomers are always tickled when they find something they didn't expect to be there. Peering deep into the heart of the majestic spiral galaxy NGC 3147, researchers uncovered a swirling gas disk precariously close to a black hole weighing about 250 million times the mass of our Sun. The surprise is that they thought the black hole was so malnourished, it shouldn’t have such a structure around it. It's basically a "Mini-Me" version of more powerful disks seen in very active galaxies.

What's especially intriguing is that the disk is so deeply embedded in the black hole's intense gravitational field, its light is being stretched and intensified by the black hole's powerful grasp. It's a unique, real-world demonstration of Einstein's laws of relativity, formulated a century ago.

Hubble clocked material whirling around the black hole as moving at more than 10% of the speed of light. And, the gas astronomers measured is so entrenched in the gravitational well that light is struggling to climb out, and therefore appears stretched to redder wavelengths.

STScI to Design Science Operations for New Panoramic Space Telescope

2:00 pm PDT, July 2, 2019

NASA has awarded a contract to the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, for the Science Operations Center (SOC) of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) mission. WFIRST is a NASA observatory designed to settle essential questions in a wide-range of science areas, including dark energy and dark matter, and planets outside our solar system.

Atmosphere of Mid-Size Planet Revealed by Hubble and Spitzer

8:00 am PDT, July 2, 2019

Our solar system contains two major classes of planets. Earth is a rocky terrestrial planet, as are Mercury, Venus, and Mars. At about the distance of the asteroid belt, there is a "frost line" where space is so cold more volatile material, like water, can remain frozen. Out here live the gas giants–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune–which have bulked up on hydrogen and helium and other volatiles.

Astronomers are curious about a new class of planet not found in the Solar System. Weighing in at 12.6 Earth masses the planet is more massive than Earth, but less massive than Neptune (hence, intermediate between the rocky and gaseous planets in the Solar System). What's more, the planet, GJ 3470 b, is so close to its red dwarf star that it completes one orbit in just three days! As odd as it seems, planets in this mass range are likely the most abundant throughout the galaxy, based on surveys by NASA's Kepler space telescope. But they are not found in our own solar system.

Astronomers enlisted the combined multi-wavelength capabilities of NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to assemble for the first time a "fingerprint" of the chemical composition of GJ 3470 b's atmosphere, which turns out to be mostly hydrogen and helium, and surprisingly, largely lacking heavier elements. One possible explanation is that the planet formed as a 10-Earth-mass rocky core that then accumulated hydrogen very close to its star, rather than migrated in which is the conventional wisdom for star-hugging planets.

Hubble Captures the Galaxy's Biggest Ongoing Stellar Fireworks Show

7:00 am PDT, July 1, 2019

In the mid-1800s, mariners sailing the southern seas navigated at night by a brilliant star in the constellation Carina. The star, named Eta Carinae, was the second brightest star in the sky for more than a decade. Those mariners could hardly have imagined that by the mid-1860s the brilliant orb would no longer be visible. Eta Carinae was enveloped by a cloud of dust ejected during a violent outburst.

Stars don't normally play vanishing acts unless they are undergoing rapid and violent activity. Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories have helped astronomers piece together the story of this unique star's petulant behavior. During part of its adult life, Eta Carinae has undergone a series of eruptions, becoming extremely bright during each episode, before fading away. One explanation for the monster star's antics is that the convulsions were caused by a complex interplay of as many as three stars, all gravitationally bound in one system. The most massive member – weighing in at 150 times our Sun's mass – swallowed one of the stars. This violent event ignited the massive outburst of the mid-1800s. Evidence for that event, dubbed the Great Eruption, lies in the huge, expanding bipolar lobes of hot gas surrounding the system.

Because of Eta Carinae's violent history, astronomers have kept watch over its activities. Although Hubble has monitored the volatile superstar for 25 years, it still is uncovering new revelations. Using Hubble to map the ultraviolet-light glow of magnesium embedded in warm gas, astronomers were surprised to discover the gas in places they had not seen it before. The newly revealed gas is important for understanding how the eruption began, because it represents the fast and energetic ejection of material that may have been expelled by the star shortly before the expulsion of the bipolar bubbles.

One of the most massive known stars in the Milky Way galaxy, Eta Carinae is destined to finally meet its end by exploding as a supernova.

Table Salt Compound Spotted on Europa

12:00 pm PDT, June 12, 2019

Finding common table salt — sodium chloride — on the surface of a moon is more than just a scientific curiosity when that moon is Europa, a potential abode of life.

If the salt came from the briny subsurface ocean of Europa, a satellite of Jupiter, that ocean may chemically resemble Earth's oceans more than previously thought. Because Europa's solid, icy crust is geologically young it has been suspected that whatever salts exist on the surface may come from the ocean below, which might host microorganisms.

Using visible-light spectral analysis, planetary scientists at Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory discovered that the yellow color visible on portions of the surface of Europa is sodium chloride. They reached this conclusion with spectroscopic data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Researchers were able to identify a distinct absorption in the visible spectrum which matches how salt would look when irradiated by the Sun.

Tara Regio is the yellowish area to left of center, in this NASA Galileo image of Europa’s surface. This region of geologic chaos is the area researchers identified an abundance of sodium chloride.

The finding was published in Science Advances on June 12.

A Pair of Fledgling Planets Directly Seen Growing Around a Young Star

8:00 am PDT, June 3, 2019

In order to grow to Jupiter size or larger, a gas giant planet must slurp large quantities of hydrogen and other gases from the disk in which it forms. Astronomers have looked for evidence of this process, but direct observations are challenging because planets become lost in the glare of their star. A team has succeeded in making ground-based observations of two planets accreting matter from a disk. It represents only the second multi-planet system to be directly imaged.

Galaxy Blazes with New Stars Born from Close Encounter

7:00 am PDT, May 16, 2019

One doesn't need a Ph.D. in astrophysics to recognize there is something odd-looking about this otherwise beautiful galaxy, NCG 4485. Like the Batman character Two-Face, one side looks normal, but the other side looks contorted with a firestorm of star formation going on. Why the colorful asymmetry in an island star city many thousands of light-years across? The clue is off the edge of the photo. It's another galaxy, NGC 4490, that swept by NGC 4485 millions of years ago. The gravitational taffy pull between the two galaxies compressed interstellar gas to trigger a flurry of new star birth as seen in the abundance of young blue stars and pinkish nebulas. So, out of a near-collision between two galaxies comes stellar renewal and birth. It's a trademark of our compulsive universe where even things as big as galaxies can go bump in the night.

Hubble Astronomers Assemble Wide View of the Evolving Universe

7:00 am PDT, May 2, 2019

How far is far? And, how do you know when you get there? In 1995, astronomers decided to use the Hubble Space Telescope to conduct a bold and daring experiment to address this puzzle. For 10 consecutive days, Hubble stared at one tiny, seemingly empty patch of sky for 1 million seconds.

The gamble of precious telescope time paid off. Hubble captured the feeble glow of myriad never-before-seen galaxies. Many of the galaxies are so far away it has taken billions of years for their light to reach us. Therefore, the view is like looking down a "time corridor," where galaxies can be seen as they looked billions of years ago. Hubble became astronomy's ultimate time machine.

The resulting landmark image is called the Hubble Deep Field. At the time, the image won the gold medal for being the farthest peek into the universe ever made. Its stunning success encouraged astronomers to pursue a series of Hubble deep-field surveys. The succeeding surveys uncovered more galaxies at greater distance from Earth, thanks to new cameras installed on Hubble during astronaut servicing missions. The cameras increased the telescope's power to look even deeper into the universe.

These surveys provided astronomers with a huge scrapbook of images, showing how, following the big bang, galaxies built themselves up over time to become the large, majestic assemblages seen today in the nearby universe.

Among the most notable deep-field surveys are the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), in 2003; the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), in 2004; and the eXtreme Deep Field (XDF), in 2012.

Now, astronomers are releasing a new deep-field image by weaving together exposures from several of these previous galaxy "fishing expeditions." Their efforts have produced the largest, most comprehensive “history book” of galaxies in the universe. The snapshot, a combination of nearly 7,500 separate Hubble exposures, represents 16 years' worth of observations. The ambitious endeavor is called the Hubble Legacy Field. The new view contains about 30 times as many galaxies as in the HUDF. The wavelength range stretches from ultraviolet to near-infrared light, capturing all the features of galaxy assembly over time.

The image mosaic presents a wide portrait of the distant universe and contains roughly 265,000 galaxies. They stretch back through 13.3 billion years of time to just 500 million years after the universe's birth in the big bang.

Mystery of the Universe's Expansion Rate Widens with New Hubble Data

7:00 am PDT, April 25, 2019

There is something wrong with our universe. Or, more specifically, it is outpacing all expectations for its present rate of expansion.

Something is amiss in astronomers' efforts to measure the past and predict the present, according to a discrepancy between the two main techniques for measuring the universe's expansion rate – a key to understanding its history and physical parameters.

The inconsistency is between the Hubble Space Telescope measurements of today's expansion rate of the universe (by looking at stellar milepost markers) and the expansion rate as measured by the European Space Agency's Planck satellite. Planck observes the conditions of the early universe just 380,000 years after the big bang.

For years, astronomers have been assuming this discrepancy would go away due to some instrumental or observational fluke. Instead, as Hubble astronomers continue to "tighten the bolts" on the accuracy of their measurements, the discordant values remain stubbornly at odds.

The chances of the disagreement being just a fluke have skyrocketed from 1 in 3,000 to 1 in 100,000.

Theorists must find an explanation for the disparity that could rattle ideas about the very underpinnings of the universe.

Hubble Celebrates 29th Anniversary with a Colorful Look at the Southern Crab Nebula

7:00 am PDT, April 18, 2019

This Hubble image shows the results of two stellar companions in a gravitational waltz, several thousand light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Centaurus. The stellar duo, consisting of a red giant and white dwarf, are too close together to see individually in this view. But the consequences of their whirling about each other are two vast shells of gas expanding into space like a runaway hot air balloon. Both stars are embedded in a flat disk of hot material that constricts the outflowing gas so that it only escapes away above and below the stars. This apparently happens in episodes because the nebula has two distinct nested hourglass-shaped structures. The bubbles of gas and dust appear brightest at the edges, giving the illusion of crab legs. The rich colors correspond to glowing hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen, and oxygen. This image was taken to celebrate Hubble's 29th anniversary since its launch on April 24, 1990.

NASA Awards 2019 Postdoctoral Fellowships

7:00 am PDT, April 4, 2019

NASA has selected 24 new Fellows for its prestigious NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP). The program enables outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue independent research in any area of NASA Astrophysics, using theory, observation, experimentation, or instrument development. Each fellowship provides the awardee up to three years of support.

Hubble Watches Spun-up Asteroid Coming Apart

7:00 am PDT, March 28, 2019

Astronomers once thought asteroids were boring, wayward space rocks that simply orbit around the Sun. These objects were dramatically presented only in science fiction movies.

But recent observations show that asteroids are anything but dull. In reality they are dynamic, active worlds that can ultimately disintegrate due to the long-term subtle effects of sunlight, which can slowly spin them up until they begin to shed material.

Several telescopes, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, have caught the gradual self-destruction of the asteroid (6478) Gault. Images from Hubble show two narrow, comet-like tails of dusty debris streaming from the diminutive asteroid.

For Gault, a mass of rubble a few miles across, mere sunlight set the stage for its gradual demise. The force of sunlight, in concert with Gault's own asymmetrical shape, speeded up the asteroid's rotation over a period of more than 100 million years. The estimated spin-up rate is 1 second every 10,000 years.

Today, the asteroid is rotating once every two hours, a speed so fast that it can no longer hold its surface material. The slightest disturbance — perhaps the impact of a pebble, or just a failure of the stressed material — may have set off a collapse. The dust left the asteroid's surface in gentle, short bursts, perhaps due to landslides lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The particles are drifting away from Gault's surface at the speed of a strolling human. The gentle process is like scattering flour into the air, where wind — or sunlight, in the case of Gault — stretches the debris into a long streamer.

Astronomers will monitor the asteroid for future events. About 800,000 known asteroids reside between Mars and Jupiter, and they may fly apart at the rate of roughly one per year.

What Does the Milky Way Weigh? Hubble and Gaia Investigate

7:00 am PST, March 7, 2019

We live in a gigantic star city. Our Milky Way galaxy contains an estimated 200 billion stars. But that's just the bare tip of the iceberg. The Milky Way is surrounded by vast amounts of an unknown material called dark matter that is invisible because it doesn't release any radiation. Astronomers know it exists because, dynamically, the galaxy would fly apart if dark matter didn't keep a gravitational lid on things.

Still, astronomers would like to have a precise measure of the galaxy's mass to better understand how the myriad galaxies throughout the universe form and evolve. Other galaxies can range in mass from around a billion solar masses to 30 trillion solar masses. How does our Milky Way compare?

Curious astronomers teamed up the Hubble Space Telescope and European Space Agency's Gaia satellite to precisely study the motions of globular star clusters that orbit our galaxy like bees around a hive. The faster the clusters move under the entire galaxy's gravitational pull, the more massive it is. The researchers concluded the galaxy weighs 1.5 trillion solar masses, most of it locked up in dark matter. Therefore, the Milky Way is a "Goldilocks" galaxy, not too big and not too small. Just right!

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys Resumes Operations

1:15 pm PST, March 6, 2019

NASA has recovered the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument, which suspended operations on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. The final tests were conducted and the instrument was brought back to its operational mode on March 6.

Advanced Camera for Surveys Anomaly on Hubble Space Telescope

5:00 pm PST, March 1, 2019

At 8:31 p.m. EST on February 28, 2019, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope suspended operations after an error was detected as the instrument was performing a routine boot procedure. The error indicated that software inside the camera had not loaded correctly. A team of instrument system engineers, flight software experts, and flight operations personnel quickly organized to download and analyze instrument diagnostic information. This team is currently working to identify the root cause and then to construct a recovery plan.

Tiny Neptune Moon Spotted by Hubble May Have Broken from Larger Moon

10:00 am PST, February 20, 2019

The phrase "a chip off the old block" apparently also applies to the outer moons of our solar system.

A tiny moon whirling around Neptune that was uncovered in Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken in 2013 has puzzled astronomers ever since then because it is very close to a much larger moon named Proteus. The orbits of the two moons are presently 7,500 miles apart.

Proteus, at 260 miles in diameter, is roughly the size of the state of Ohio. By contrast, Hippocamp is just 20 miles across, or the size of metropolitan Columbus, Ohio. Proteus should have gravitationally swept aside or swallowed the moon while clearing out its orbital path.

Smoking-gun evidence for Hippocamp's origin comes from NASA Voyager 2 images from 1989 that show a large impact crater on Proteus, almost large enough to have shattered the moon. Apparently, a little piece of Proteus got kicked off and has slowly migrated away from the parent body.

Neptune's satellite system has a violent and tortured history. Many billions of years ago, Neptune captured the large moon Triton from the Kuiper Belt. Triton's gravity would have torn up Neptune's original satellite system. Triton settled into a circular orbit and the debris from shattered Neptunian moons re-coalesced into a second generation of natural satellites. However, comet bombardment continued to tear things up, leading to the birth of Hippocamp, which might be considered a third-generation satellite.

Hubble Reveals Dynamic Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune

7:00 am PST, February 7, 2019

The two major planets beyond Saturn have only been visited once by a spacecraft, albeit briefly. NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft swung by Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. Our robotic deep-space tourist snapped the only close-up, detailed images of these monstrous worlds. For Neptune, the images revealed a planet with a dynamic atmosphere with two mysterious dark vortices. Uranus, however, appeared featureless. But these views were only brief snapshots. They couldn't capture how the planets' atmospheres change over time, any more than a single snapshot of Earth could tell meteorologists about weather behavior. And, they go through protracted seasonal changes in their multi-decades-long orbits. Ever since the Voyager encounter, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided an opportunity to monitor these worlds like a diligent weatherman.

Since Hubble's launch in 1990, astronomers have used it to amass an album of outer planet images. Yearly monitoring of these giant worlds is now allowing astronomers to study long-term seasonal changes, as well as capture transitory weather patterns. One such elusive event is yet another dark storm on Neptune, shown in the latest Hubble image of the planet (right).

The telescope's new snapshot of Uranus (left) shows that the ice giant is not a planetary wallflower. A vast bright polar cap across the north pole dominates the image. The cap, which may form due to seasonal changes in atmospheric flow, has become much more prominent than in previous observations dating back to the Voyager 2 flyby, when the planet, in the throes of winter, looked bland.

Hubble Accidentally Discovers a New Galaxy in Cosmic Neighborhood

7:00 am PST, January 31, 2019

The universe is very cluttered. Myriad island cities of stars, the galaxies, form a backdrop tapestry. Much closer to home are nebulae, star clusters, and assorted other foreground celestial objects that are mostly within our Milky Way galaxy. Despite the vastness of space, objects tend to get in front of each other.

This happened when astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the globular star cluster NGC 6752 (located 13,000 light-years away in our Milky Way's halo). In a celestial game of "Where's Waldo?," Hubble's sharp vision uncovered a never-before-seen dwarf galaxy located far behind the cluster's crowded stellar population. The loner galaxy is in our own cosmic backyard, only 30 million light-years away (approximately 2,300 times farther than the foreground cluster).

The object is classified as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy because it measures only around 3,000 light-years at its greatest extent (barely 1/30th the diameter of the Milky Way), and it is roughly a thousand times dimmer than the Milky Way.

Because of its 13-billion-year-old age, and its isolation — which resulted in hardly any interaction with other galaxies — the dwarf is the astronomical equivalent of a living fossil from the early universe.

The international team of astronomers that carried out this study consists of L. Bedin (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy), M. Salaris (Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, England, UK), R. Rich (University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA), H. Richer (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), J. Anderson (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, USA), B. Bettoni (INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy), D. Nardiello, A. Milone, and A. Marino (University of Padua, Italy), M. Libralato and A. Bellini (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, USA), A. Dieball (University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany), P. Bergeron (University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada), A. Burgasser (University of California, San Diego, California, USA), and D. Apai (University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA).

World's Largest Digital Sky Survey Issues Biggest Astronomical Data Release Ever

6:00 am PST, January 28, 2019

Data from the world's largest digital sky survey is being publicly released today by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Hawaii. Data from the Pan-STARRS1 Surveys will allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies. This data release contains over 1.6 petabytes of data (a petabyte is one million gigabytes), making it the largest volume of astronomical information ever released. The survey data resides in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), which serves as NASA's repository for all of its optical and ultraviolet-light observations.

Hubble Sees Plunging Galaxy Losing Its Gas

10:00 am PST, January 24, 2019

Two's company and three's a crowd. But thousands are a mosh pit. That's the case in the giant Coma cluster of more than 1,000 galaxies.

Hubble spotted a wayward spiral galaxy losing its gas as it plunges toward the center of the massive cluster and is roughed up as it plows through the intergalactic medium. Telltale evidence lies in a long, thin streamer of material that is stretching like taffy from the galaxy's core and on into intergalactic space. Gas is the lifeblood of a galaxy, fueling the birth of new stars. Once it is stripped of all of its gas, the galaxy, named D100, will enter retirement and shine only by the feeble glow of its aging, red stars.

D100 is being stripped of its gas because of the gravitational tug of a grouping of giant "bully" galaxies in the crowded cluster. Their combined gravity is pulling the beleaguered galaxy toward the cluster's center. As D100 falls toward the core, the galaxy barrels through material. This action forces gas from the galaxy.

The gas-stripping process in D100 began roughly 300 million years ago. In the massive Coma cluster this violent gas-loss process occurs in many galaxies. But D100 is unique in several ways. Its long, thin tail is its most unusual feature extending nearly 200,000 light-years. But the pencil-like structure is comparatively narrow, only 7,000 light-years wide. Thankfully, our Milky Way galaxy lives in a sparsely populated small corner of the universe, with only one other big galaxy as a companion.

Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to Resume Operations

11:30 am PST, January 15, 2019

NASA has moved closer to conducting science operations again with the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, which suspended operations on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. Today, Jan. 15, the instrument was brought back to its operations mode. After resetting the telemetry circuits and associated boards, additional engineering data were collected and the instrument was brought back to operations. All values were normal. Additional calibration and tests will be run over the next 48 to 72 hours to ensure that the instrument is operating properly. Assuming that all tests work as planned, it is expected that the Wide Field Camera 3 will start to collect science images again by the end of the week.

Wide Field Camera 3 Anomaly on Hubble Space Telescope Update

9:00 am PST, January 11, 2019

NASA continues to work toward recovering the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, which suspended operations on Tuesday, January 8. A team of instrument system engineers, Wide Field Camera 3 instrument developers, and other experts formed and quickly began collecting all available telemetry and onboard memory information to determine the sequence of events that caused the values to go out of limits. This team is currently working to identify the root cause and then to construct a recovery plan. If a significant hardware failure is identified, redundant electronics built into the instrument will be used to recover and return it to operations.

NASA's Hubble Helps Astronomers Uncover the Brightest Quasar in the Early Universe

2:15 pm PST, January 9, 2019

Less than a billion years after the big bang, a monster black hole began devouring anything within its gravitational grasp. This triggered a firestorm of star formation around the black hole. A galaxy was being born. A blowtorch of energy, equivalent to the light from 600 trillion Suns, blazed across the universe. Now, 12.8 billion years later, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the beacon from this event. But Hubble astronomers needed help to spot it. The gravitational warping of space by a comparatively nearby intervening galaxy greatly amplified and distorted the quasar's light, making it the brightest such object seen in the early universe. It offers a rare opportunity to study a zoomed-in image of how supermassive black holes accompanied star formation in the very early universe and influenced the assembly of galaxies.

Wide Field Camera 3 Anomaly on Hubble Space Telescope

8:00 am PST, January 9, 2019

The Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope suspended operations on January 8 due to a hardware problem. Hubble will continue to perform science observations with its other three active instruments, while the Wide Field Camera 3 anomaly is investigated. Wide Field Camera 3, installed during Servicing Mission 4 in 2009, is equipped with redundant electronics should they be needed to recover the instrument.

Young Planets Orbiting Red Dwarfs May Lack Ingredients for Life

10:00 am PST, January 8, 2019

Our Sun is not one of the most abundant types of star in our Milky Way galaxy. That award goes to red dwarfs, stars that are smaller and cooler than our Sun. In fact, red dwarfs presumably contain the bulk of our galaxy's planet population, which could number tens of billions of worlds. Surveys by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope and other observatories have shown that rocky planets are common around these diminutive stars. Some of these rocky worlds are orbiting within the habitable zones of several nearby red dwarfs. The temperate climates on such worlds could allow for oceans to exist on their surface, possibly nurturing life.

That's the good news. The bad news is that many of these rocky planets may not harbor water and organic material, the necessary ingredients for life as we know it. Earth, which formed as a "dry" planet, was seeded over hundreds of millions of years with icy material from comets and asteroids arriving from the outer solar system.

If the same life-nurturing process is needed for planets around red dwarfs, then they may be in trouble. Researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have discovered a rapidly eroding dust-and-gas disk encircling the young, nearby red dwarf star AU Microscopii (AU Mic). The disk is being excavated by fast-moving blobs of material, which are acting like a snowplow by pushing small particles — possibly containing water and other volatiles — out of the system. Astronomers don’t yet know how the blobs were launched. One theory is that powerful mass ejections from the turbulent star expelled them. Such energetic activity is common among young red dwarfs.

If the disk around AU Mic continues to dissipate at the current pace, it will be gone in about 1.5 million years, which is the blink of an eye in cosmic time. Smaller bodies, such as comets and asteroids, could be cleared out of the disk within that short time span. Planets, however, would be too massive to be displaced. Without enrichment from comet and asteroid material, the planets may end up dry, dusty, and lifeless.

Triangulum Galaxy Shows Stunning Face in Detailed Hubble Portrait

9:00 am PST, January 7, 2019

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has produced this stunningly detailed portrait of the Triangulum galaxy (M33), displaying a full spiral face aglow with the light of nearly 25 million individually resolved stars. It is the largest high-resolution mosaic image of Triangulum ever assembled, composed of 54 Hubble fields of view spanning an area more than 19,000 light-years across.

The Local Group of galaxies is dominated by the Milky Way, Andromeda, and Triangulum. As the junior member of this trio of spiral galaxies, Triangulum provides the valuable comparisons and contrasts that only a close companion can. Most notably, Triangulum's star formation is 10 times more intense than in the comparable Hubble panorama of the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. Astronomers have only begun to mine the enormous amount of data generated by these new Hubble observations, and expect they will yield important insights into the effects of such vigorous star formation.

The orderly nature of Triangulum's spiral, with dust distributed throughout, is another distinctive feature. Astronomers think that in the Local Group, Triangulum has been something of an introvert, isolated from frequent interactions with other galaxies while keeping busy producing stars along organized spiral arms. Uncovering the Triangulum galaxy’s story will provide an important point of reference in understanding how galaxies develop over time, and the diverse paths that shape what we see today.

Hubble Takes a Close Look at the Brightest Comet of the Year

11:00 am PST, December 20, 2018

On December 13th, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope photographed comet 46P/Wirtanen, a periodic comet that orbits the Sun once every 5.4 years. These observations were taken days before the comet’s closest approach to Earth on December 16th, when it passed just over 7 million miles from our planet. Astronomers took advantage of this unusually close approach to study the comet’s inner cloud of gas and dust, or coma, in detail. Their goal was to study how gases are released from ices in the nucleus, what the comet’s ices are composed of, and how gas in the coma is chemically altered by sunlight and solar radiation. In this image, the comet’s nucleus is hidden in the center of a fuzzy glow from the comet’s coma.

Faint Glow Within Galaxy Clusters Illuminates Dark Matter

7:00 am PST, December 20, 2018

Utilizing the powerful Hubble Frontier Fields observations of galaxy clusters, a study demonstrates that intracluster light — the light of stars orphaned in galaxy cluster mergers — aligns with dark matter, tracing its distribution more accurately than other methods. With broader use, astronomers think the technique could be a first step in exploring the nature of the unobservable, elusive dark matter that makes up the majority of the universe.

In Search of Missing Worlds, Hubble Finds a Fast Evaporating Exoplanet

7:00 am PST, December 13, 2018

In nabbing exoplanets that are precariously close to their stars, astronomers have discovered a shortage of one type of alien world. It's a predicted class of Neptune-sized world that orbits just a few million miles from its star, much closer than the 93-million-mile distance between Earth and the Sun. Dubbed "hot Neptunes," these planets would have atmospheres that are heated to more than 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit (hot enough to melt silver).

However, the mysterious hot-Neptune deficiency suggests that these planets are rare, or, they were plentiful at one time, but have since disappeared. In fact, most of the known Neptune-sized exoplanets are merely "warm," because they orbit farther away from their star than those in the region where astronomers would expect to find hot Neptunes.

To date, astronomers have discovered two warm Neptunes that are leaking their atmospheres into space. The most recent finding, a planet cataloged as GJ 3470b, is losing its atmosphere at a rate 100 times faster than that of the previously discovered evaporating warm Neptune, GJ 436b.

These discoveries reinforce the idea that the hotter version of these distant worlds may be a class of transitory planet whose ultimate fate is to shrink down to the most common type of known exoplanet, mini-Neptunes — planets with heavy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres that are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Eventually, these planets may downsize even further to become super-Earths, more massive, rocky versions of Earth. If GJ 3470b continues to rapidly lose mass, in a few billion years, perhaps it, too, will dwindle to a mini-Neptune.

Celebratory Galaxy Photo Honors 25th Anniversary of NASA's First Hubble Servicing Mission

8:00 am PST, December 4, 2018

Over the past 28 years Hubble has photographed innumerable galaxies throughout the universe, near and far. But one especially photogenic galaxy located 55 million light-years away holds a special place in Hubble history. As NASA made plans to correct Hubble's blurry vision in 1993 (due to a manufacturing flaw in its primary mirror) they selected several astronomical objects that Hubble should be aimed at to demonstrate the planned optical fix. The magnificent grand spiral galaxy M100 seemed an ideal target that would just fit inside Hubble's field-of-view. This required that a comparison photo be taken while Hubble was still bleary-eyed. The Wide Field/Planetary Camera 1 was selected for the task. And, the picture had to be taken before astronauts swapped-out the camera with the vision-corrected Wide Field/Planetary Camera 2, in December 1993. Following the servicing mission Hubble re-photographed the galaxy again, and it snapped into crystal clear focus. The public celebrated with Hubble's triumphant return to the clear vision that had been promised. And, jaw-dropping pictures of the vast universe that followed have not disappointed space enthusiasts. Because of the astronaut servicing missions, Hubble's capabilities have only gotten better. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first servicing mission, this 2-panel photo compares the blurry, pre-servicing 1993 image to a 2009 image taken with Hubble's newer, Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, installed during the last astronaut servicing mission to the space telescope.

Hubble Uncovers Thousands of Globular Star Clusters Scattered Among Galaxies

7:00 am PST, November 29, 2018

Globular star clusters are favorite targets for amateur sky watchers. To the naked eye they appear as fuzzy-looking stars. Through a small telescope they resolve into glittering snowball-shaped islands of innumerable stars crowded together. About 150 globular star clusters orbit our Milky Way, like bees buzzing around a hive. They are the earliest homesteaders of our galaxy, containing the universe's oldest known stars.

Hubble is so powerful it can see globular star clusters 300 million light-years away. And, a lot of them. Peering into the heart of the giant Coma cluster of galaxies Hubble captured a whopping 22,426 globular star clusters. The survey found the globular clusters scattered in space among the 1,000 galaxies inside the Coma cluster. They have been orphaned from their home galaxy due to galaxy near-collisions inside the traffic-jammed galaxy cluster. Because they are so numerous in the Coma cluster, they are excellent tracers of the entire gravitational field that keeps the galaxies from flinging off into space. The gravity is a tracer of the distribution of dark matter.

Behind the Scenes of Recovering NASA's Hubble

8:30 am PST, November 27, 2018

In the early morning of October 27, 2018, the Hubble Space Telescope targeted a field of galaxies not far from the Great Square in the constellation Pegasus. Contained in the field were star-forming galaxies up to 11 billion light-years away. With the target in its sights, Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 recorded an image. It was the first picture captured by the telescope since it closed its eyes on the universe three weeks earlier, and it was the result of an entire team of engineers and experts working tirelessly to get the telescope exploring the cosmos once again.

STScI Visualizations of the Universe Form Heart of New "Deep Field" Film

7:00 am PST, November 16, 2018

November 16 marks the premiere of a unique film and musical experience inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope’s famous Deep Field image. It represents a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Grammy award-winning American composer and conductor Eric Whitacre, producers Music Productions, multi award-winning artists 59 Productions, and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe features a variety of Hubble’s stunning imagery and includes 11 computer-generated visualizations of far-flung galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters developed by STScI. The film is available on YouTube and will be shared with the world through screenings and live performances around the globe.

Astronomers Find Possible Elusive Star Behind Supernova

10:00 am PST, November 15, 2018

The explosive end to a massive star's life is one of the most powerful blasts in the universe. The material expelled by the violent stellar death enriches our galaxy with heavier elements, the building blocks of new stars and even planetary systems. Astronomers have diligently searched for the doomed progenitor stars in pre-explosion images. Studying these stars could help them in their quest to better understand stellar evolution.

Their quest has turned up a few pre-supernova stars. But the doomed stars for one class of supernova have eluded discovery: the hefty stars that explode as Type Ic supernovas. These stars, weighing more than 30 times our Sun's mass, lose their hydrogen and helium layers before their cataclysmic death. Researchers thought they should be easy to find because they are big and bright. However, they have come up empty. Finally, in 2017, astronomers got lucky. A nearby star ended its life as a Type Ic supernova. Two teams of researchers pored through the archive of Hubble images to uncover the putative precursor star in pre-explosion photos taken in 2007. The supernova, catalogued as SN 2017ein, appeared near the center of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 3938, located roughly 65 million light-years away.

An analysis of the candidate star's colors shows that it is blue and extremely hot. Based on that assessment, both teams suggest two possibilities for the source's identity. The progenitor could be a single star between 45 and 55 times more massive than our Sun. Another idea is that it could have been a binary-star system in which one of the stars weighs between 60 and 80 times our Sun's mass and the other roughly 48 solar masses. In this latter scenario, the stars are orbiting closely and interact with each other. The more massive star is stripped of its hydrogen and helium layers by the close companion, and eventually explodes as a supernova.

Astronomers Unveil Growing Black Holes in Colliding Galaxies

10:00 am PST, November 7, 2018

Some of the Hubble Space Telescope's most stunning images reveal galaxies in distress. Many of them are in the throes of a gravitational encounter with another galaxy. The photos show perfect pinwheel patterns stretched and pulled into irregular shapes. Streamers of gas and dust flow from galaxies into space. And in this chaos, batches of young, blue stars glow like tree lights, fueled by the dust and gas kicked up by the galactic encounter. For some galaxies, the powerful meeting with a passing galaxy will eventually end in mergers.

But hidden from view deep inside the dusty cores of these merging galaxies is the slow dance of their supermassive black holes toward an eventual union. Visible light cannot penetrate these shrouded central regions. X-ray data, however, have detected the black-hole courtship. And now astronomers analyzing near-infrared images from the sharp-eyed Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii are offering the best view yet of close pairs of black holes as they move slowly toward each other.

The study is the largest survey of the cores of nearby galaxies in near-infrared light. The Hubble observations represent over 20 years' worth of snapshots from its vast archive. The survey targeted galaxies residing an average distance of 330 million light-years from Earth.

The census helps astronomers confirm computer simulations showing that black holes grow faster during the last 10 million to 20 million years of the galactic merger. The Hubble and Keck Observatory images captured close-up views of this final stage, when the bulked-up black holes are only about 3,000 light-years apart — a near-embrace in cosmic terms. The study shows that galaxy encounters are important for astronomers' understanding of how black holes became so monstrously big.

These monster black holes also unleash powerful energy in the form of gravitational waves, the kind of ripples in space-time that were just recently detected by ground-breaking experiments. The images also provide a close-up preview of a phenomenon that must have been more common in the early universe, when galaxy mergers were more frequent.

Kepler Science Will Continue Using STScI Archive

7:00 am PDT, November 1, 2018

The Kepler spacecraft launched in 2009 with the goal of finding exoplanets orbiting distant stars. In the years since, astronomers have used Kepler observations to discover 2,818 exoplanets as well as another 2,679 exoplanet candidates which need further confirmation. On October 30, 2018 NASA announced that Kepler had run out of fuel and would be decommissioned. While spacecraft operations have ceased, its data will continue to be publicly available through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute. These data will enable new scientific discoveries for years to come.

Hubble Reveals a Giant Cosmic "Bat Shadow"

10:00 am PDT, October 31, 2018

Like a fly that wanders into a flashlight’s beam, a young star’s planet-forming disk is casting a giant shadow, nicknamed the “Bat Shadow.” Hubble’s near-infrared vision captured the shadow of the disk of this fledgling star, which resides nearly 1,300 light-years away in a stellar nursery called the Serpens Nebula. In this Hubble image, the shadow spans approximately 200 times the length of our solar system. It is visible in the upper right portion of the picture. The young star and its disk likely resemble what the solar system looked like when it was only 1 or 2 million years old.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Returns to Science Operations

8:30 am PDT, October 27, 2018

On Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2:10 a.m. EDT, Hubble completed its first science operations since entering safe mode on Oct. 5. The return to conducting science comes after successfully recovering a backup gyroscope, or gyro, that had replaced a failed gyro three weeks earlier. Hubble is now back in its normal science operations mode with three fully functional gyros. Originally required to last 15 years, Hubble has now been at the forefront of scientific discovery for more than 28 years. The team expects the telescope will continue to yield amazing discoveries well into the next decade.

Hubble Captures the Ghost of Cassiopeia

7:00 am PDT, October 25, 2018

The brightest stars embedded in nebulae throughout our galaxy pour out a torrent of radiation that eats into vast clouds of hydrogen gas – the raw material for building new stars. This etching process sculpts a fantasy landscape where human imagination can see all kinds of shapes and figures. A nebula in the constellation of Cassiopeia has flowing veils of gas and dust that have earned it the nickname "Ghost Nebula." The nebula is being blasted by a torrent of radiation from a nearby, blue-giant star called Gamma Cassiopeiae, which can be easily seen with the unaided eye at the center of the distinctive "W" asterism that forms the constellation. This Hubble Space Telescope view zooms in on the creepy-looking top of the nebula, material is swept away from it, forming a fantail shape. IC 63 is located 550 light-years away.

Superflares From Young Red Dwarf Stars Imperil Planets

10:00 am PDT, October 18, 2018

The term "HAZMAT" connotes danger. In this case, it's on a cosmic scale, where violent flares of seething gas from small, young stars may make entire planets uninhabitable. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is observing such stars through a large program called HAZMAT — HAbitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time. This is an ultraviolet survey of red dwarfs — referred to as "M dwarfs" in astronomical circles — at three different ages: young, intermediate, and old.

Approximately three-quarters of the stars in our galaxy are red dwarfs. Most of the galaxy's "habitable-zone" planets orbit these small stars. But young red dwarfs are active stars, producing ultraviolet flares that blast out million-degree plasma with an intensity that could influence atmospheric chemistry and possibly strip off the atmospheres of these fledgling planets. The HAZMAT team found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — around 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. This is the age when terrestrial planets are forming around their stars. Scientists also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light. Dubbed the "Hazflare," this event was more energetic than the most powerful flare from our Sun ever recorded.

Hubble in Safe Mode as Gyro Issues are Diagnosed

1:00 pm PDT, October 8, 2018

On Friday, October 5, 2018, at approximately 6:00 p.m. EDT, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode. NASA is working to resume science operations. Hubble’s instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come.

Astronomers Find First Evidence of Possible Moon Outside Our Solar System

11:00 am PDT, October 3, 2018

Our solar system has eight major planets, and nearly 200 moons. Though astronomers have to date found nearly 4,000 planets orbiting other stars, no moons have yet been found. That hasn't been for any lack of looking, it’s just that moons are smaller than planets and therefore harder to detect.

The Hubble and Kepler space telescopes found evidence for what could be a giant moon accompanying a gas-giant planet that orbits the star Kepler-1625, located 8,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The moon may be as big as Neptune and it orbits a planet several times more massive than Jupiter.

If our solar system is a typical example, moons may outnumber planets in our galaxy by at least an order of magnitude or more. This promises a whole new frontier for characterizing the nature of moons and their potential for hosting life as we know it.

The exomoon at Kepler-1625b is too far away to be directly photographed. Its presence is inferred when it passes in front of the star, momentarily dimming its light. Such an event is called a transit. However, the "footprint" of the moon's transit signal is weaker than for the host planet.

The researchers caution that the moon’s presence will need to be conclusively proven by follow-up Hubble observations.

Hubble Uncovers Never Before Seen Features Around a Neutron Star

8:00 am PDT, September 17, 2018

Imagine crushing more than 50,000 aircraft carriers into the size of a baseball. This describes neutron stars. They are among the strangest objects in the universe. Neutron stars are a case of extreme physics produced by the unforgiving force of gravity. The entire core of an exploded star has been squeezed into a solid ball of neutrons with the density of an atom’s nucleus. Neutron stars spin as fast as a blender on puree. Some spit out death-star beams of intense radiation — like interstellar lighthouses. These are called pulsars.

These beams are normally seen in X-rays, gamma-rays, and radio waves. But astronomers used Hubble's near-infrared (IR) vision to look at a nearby neutron star cataloged RX J0806.4-4123. They were surprised to see a gush of IR light coming from a region around the neutron star. That infrared light might come from a circumstellar disk 18 billion miles across. Another idea is that a wind of subatomic particles from the pulsar’s magnetic field is slamming into interstellar gas. Hubble's IR vision opens a new window into understanding how these "infernal machines" work.

Hubble Goes Wide to Seek Out Far-Flung Galaxies

8:00 am PDT, September 13, 2018

The universe is a big place. The Hubble Space Telescope's views burrow deep into space and time, but cover an area a fraction the angular size of the full Moon. The challenge is that these "core samples" of the sky may not fully represent the universe at large. This dilemma for cosmologists is called cosmic variance. By expanding the survey area, such uncertainties in the structure of the universe can be reduced.

A new Hubble observing campaign, called Beyond Ultra-deep Frontier Fields And Legacy Observations (BUFFALO), will boldly expand the space telescope's view into regions that are adjacent to huge galaxy clusters previously photographed by NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes under a program called Frontier Fields.

The six massive clusters were used as "natural telescopes," to look for amplified images of galaxies and supernovas that are so distant and faint that they could not be photographed by Hubble without the boost of light caused by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. The clusters' large masses, mainly composed of dark matter, magnify and distort the light coming from distant background galaxies that otherwise could not be detected. The BUFFALO program is designed to identify galaxies in their earliest stages of formation, less than 800 million years after the big bang.

Retiring Hubble Visualization Expert Blended the Best of Science and Art

7:00 am PDT, August 30, 2018

Astronomy has always been a preeminently visual science, going back thousands of years to the early sky watchers. Hubble’s jaw-dropping views of far-flung planets, nebulas, and galaxies have redefined the universe for whole new generations. Nearly all of Hubble’s dazzling images have been prepared with the skills of Zoltan Levay, in the STScI Office of Public Outreach. Levay is retiring now to pursue his hobby of photography on a more earth-bound plane. He leaves behind a 25-year-long legacy of several thousand colorful space pictures that communicate the mystery and wonder of the universe. Levay blended traditional photographic skills with science data to yield aesthetically pleasing pictures that are both enticing and informative. He carefully balanced the objective and subjective elements of imagery to capture the essence of intrinsically wondrous celestial landscapes.

Hubble Paints Picture of the Evolving Universe

10:00 am PDT, August 16, 2018

Astronomers have just assembled one of the most comprehensive portraits yet of the universe’s evolutionary history, based on a broad spectrum of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and other space and ground-based telescopes. In particular, Hubble’s ultraviolet vision opens a new window on the evolving universe, tracking the birth of stars over the last 11 billion years back to the cosmos’ busiest star-forming period, about 3 billion years after the big bang. This photo encompasses a sea of approximately 15,000 galaxies — 12,000 of which are star-forming — widely distributed in time and space.

Astronomers Uncover New Clues to the Star that Wouldn't Die

10:00 am PDT, August 2, 2018

It takes more than a massive outburst to destroy the mammoth star Eta Carinae, one of the brightest known stars in the Milky Way galaxy. About 170 years ago, Eta Carinae erupted, unleashing almost as much energy as a standard supernova explosion.

Yet that powerful blast wasn’t enough to obliterate the star, and astronomers have been searching for clues to explain the outburst ever since. Although they cannot travel back to the mid-1800s to witness the actual eruption, they can watch a rebroadcast of part of the event — courtesy of some wayward light from the explosion. Rather than heading straight toward Earth, some of the light from the outburst rebounded or “echoed” off of interstellar dust, and is just now arriving at Earth. This effect is called a light echo.

The surprise is that new measurements of the 19th-century eruption, made by ground-based telescopes, reveal material expanding with record-breaking speeds of up to 20 times faster than astronomers expected. The observed velocities are more like the fastest material ejected by the blast wave in a supernova explosion, rather than the relatively slow and gentle winds expected from massive stars before they die.

Based on the new data, researchers suggest that the 1840s eruption may have been triggered by a prolonged stellar brawl among three rowdy sibling stars, which destroyed one star and left the other two in a binary system. This tussle may have culminated with a violent explosion when Eta Carinae devoured one of its two companions, rocketing more than 10 times the mass of our Sun into space. The ejected mass created gigantic bipolar lobes resembling the dumbbell shape seen in present-day images.

Saturn and Mars Team Up to Make Their Closest Approaches to Earth in 2018

7:00 am PDT, July 26, 2018

As Saturn and Mars ventured close to Earth, Hubble captured their portraits in June and July 2018, respectively. The telescope photographed the planets near opposition, when the Sun, Earth and an outer planet are lined up, with Earth sitting in between the Sun and the outer planet. Around the time of opposition, a planet is at its closest distance to Earth in its orbit. Hubble viewed Saturn on June 6, when the ringed world was approximately 1.36 billion miles from Earth, as it approached a June 27 opposition. Mars was captured on July 18, at just 36.9 million miles from Earth, near its July 27 opposition. Hubble saw the planets during summertime in Saturn’s northern hemisphere and springtime in Mars’ southern hemisphere. The increase in sunlight in Saturn’s northern hemisphere heated the atmosphere and triggered a large storm that is now disintegrating in Saturn’s northern polar region. On Mars, a spring dust storm erupted in the southern hemisphere and ballooned into a global event enshrouding the entire planet.

Hubble and Gaia Team Up to Fuel Cosmic Conundrum

7:00 am PDT, July 12, 2018

Using the powerful Hubble and Gaia space telescopes, astronomers just took a big step toward finding the answer to the Hubble constant, one of the most important and long-sought numbers in all of cosmology. This number measures the rate at which the universe is expanding since the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago. The constant is named for astronomer Edwin Hubble, who nearly a century ago discovered that the universe was uniformly expanding in all directions. Now, researchers have calculated this number with unprecedented accuracy.

Intriguingly, the new results further intensify the discrepancy between measurements for the expansion rate of the nearby universe, and those of the distant, primeval universe — before stars and galaxies even existed. Because the universe is expanding uniformly, these measurements should be the same. The so-called “tension” implies that there could be new physics underlying the foundations of the universe.

Our Solar System’s First Known Interstellar Object Gets Unexpected Speed Boost

10:00 am PDT, June 27, 2018

Using observations from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories, an international team of scientists have confirmed `Oumuamua (oh-MOO-ah-MOO-ah), the first known interstellar object to travel through our solar system, got an unexpected boost in speed and shift in trajectory as it passed through the inner solar system last year.

Astronomers Release Most Complete Ultraviolet-Light Survey of Nearby Galaxies

10:00 am PDT, May 17, 2018

Much of the light in the universe comes from stars, and yet, star formation is still a vexing question in astronomy.

To piece together a more complete picture of star birth, astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope to look at star formation among galaxies in our own cosmic back yard. The survey of 50 galaxies in the local universe, called the Legacy ExtraGalactic UV Survey (LEGUS), is the sharpest, most comprehensive ultraviolet-light look at nearby star-forming galaxies.

The LEGUS survey combines new Hubble observations with archival Hubble images for star-forming spiral and dwarf galaxies, offering a valuable resource for understanding the complexities of star formation and galaxy evolution. Astronomers are releasing the star catalogs for each of the LEGUS galaxies and cluster catalogs for 30 of the galaxies, as well as images of the galaxies themselves. The catalogs provide detailed information on young, massive stars and star clusters, and how their environment affects their development.

The local universe, stretching across the gulf of space between us and the great Virgo cluster of galaxies, is ideal for study because astronomers can amass a big enough sample of galaxies, and yet, the galaxies are close enough to Earth that Hubble can resolve individual stars. The survey will also help astronomers understand galaxies in the distant universe, where rapid star formation took place.

Hubble Detects Helium in the Atmosphere of an Exoplanet for the First Time

10:00 am PDT, May 2, 2018

There may be no shortage of balloon-filled birthday parties or people with silly high-pitched voices on the planet WASP-107b. That's because NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was used to detect helium in the atmosphere for the first time ever on a world outside of our solar system. The discovery demonstrates the ability to use infrared spectra to study exoplanet atmospheres.

Though as far back as 2000 helium was predicted to be one of the most readily-detectable gases on giant exoplanets, until now helium had not been found — despite searches for it. Helium was first discovered on the Sun, and is the second-most common element in the universe after hydrogen. It's one of the main constituents of the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

An international team of astronomers led by Jessica Spake of the University of Exeter, UK, used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to discover helium. The atmosphere of WASP-107b must stretch tens of thousands of miles out into space. This is the first time that such an extended atmosphere has been discovered at infrared wavelengths.

Stellar Thief Is the Surviving Companion to a Supernova

10:00 am PDT, April 26, 2018

In the fading afterglow of a supernova explosion, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have photographed the first image of a surviving companion to a supernova. This is the most compelling evidence that some supernovas originate in double-star systems. The companion to supernova 2001ig’s progenitor star was no innocent bystander to the explosion—it siphoned off almost all of the hydrogen from the doomed star’s stellar envelope. SN 2001ig is categorized as a Type IIb stripped-envelope supernova, which is a relatively rare type of supernova in which most, but not all, of the hydrogen is gone prior to the explosion. Perhaps as many as half of all stripped-envelope supernovas have companions—the other half lose their outer envelopes via stellar winds.

Hubble 28th Anniversary Image Captures Roiling Heart of Vast Stellar Nursery

7:00 am PDT, April 19, 2018

For 28 years, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been delivering breathtaking views of the universe. Although the telescope has made more than 1.5 million observations of over 40,000 space objects, it is still uncovering stunning celestial gems.

The latest offering is this image of the Lagoon Nebula to celebrate the telescope’s anniversary. Hubble shows this vast stellar nursery in stunning unprecedented detail.

At the center of the photo, a monster young star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun is blasting powerful ultraviolet radiation and hurricane-like stellar winds, carving out a fantasy landscape of ridges, cavities, and mountains of gas and dust. This region epitomizes a typical, raucous stellar nursery full of birth and destruction.

Hubble Makes the First Precise Distance Measurement to an Ancient Globular Star Cluster

10:00 am PDT, April 4, 2018

When you want to know the size of a room, you use a measuring tape to calculate its dimensions.

But you can’t use a tape measure to cover the inconceivably vast distances in space. And, until now, astronomers did not have an equally precise method to accurately measure distances to some of the oldest objects in our universe – ancient swarms of stars outside the disk of our galaxy called globular clusters.

Estimated distances to our Milky Way galaxy’s globular clusters were achieved by comparing the brightness and colors of stars to theoretical models and observations of local stars. But the accuracy of these estimates varies, with uncertainties hovering between 10 percent and 20 percent.

Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers were able to use the same sort of trigonometry that surveyors use to precisely measure the distance to NGC 6397, one of the closest globular clusters to Earth. The only difference is that the angles measured in Hubble’s camera are infinitesimal by earthly surveyors’ standards.

The new measurement sets the cluster’s distance at 7,800 light-years away, with just a 3 percent margin of error, and provides an independent estimate for the age of the universe. The Hubble astronomers calculated NGC 6397 is 13.4 billion years old and so formed not long after the big bang. The new measurement also will help astronomers improve models of stellar evolution.

NASA Awards Prestigious Postdoctoral Fellowships

10:00 am PDT, April 3, 2018

NASA has selected 24 new Fellows for its prestigious NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP). The program enables outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue independent research in any area of NASA Astrophysics, using theory, observation, experimentation, or instrument development. Each fellowship provides the awardee up to three years of support.

Hubble Uncovers the Farthest Star Ever Seen

8:00 am PDT, April 2, 2018

Through a quirk of nature called “gravitational lensing,” a natural lens in space amplified a very distant star’s light. Astronomers using Hubble took advantage of this phenomenon to pinpoint the faraway star and set a new distance record for the farthest individual star ever seen. They also used the distant star to test one theory of dark matter, and to probe the make-up of a galaxy cluster. The team dubbed the star “Icarus,” after the Greek mythological character who flew too near the Sun on wings of feathers and wax that melted. Its official name is MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1.

Dark Matter Goes Missing in Oddball Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, March 28, 2018

Grand, majestic spiral galaxies like our Milky Way are hard to miss. Astronomers can spot these vast complexes because of their large, glowing centers and their signature winding arms of gas and dust, where thousands of glowing stars reside.

But some galaxies aren't so distinctive. They are big, but they have so few stars for their size that they appear very faint and diffuse. In fact, they are so diffuse that they look like giant cotton balls.

Observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of one such galaxy have turned up an oddity that sets it apart from most other galaxies, even the diffuse-looking ones. It contains little, if any, dark matter, the underlying scaffolding upon which galaxies are built. Dark matter is an invisible substance that makes up the bulk of our universe and the invisible glue that holds visible matter in galaxies — stars and gas — together.

Called NGC 1052-DF2, this "ghostly" galaxy contains at most 1/400th the amount of dark matter that astronomers had expected. How it formed is a complete mystery. The galactic oddball is as large as our Milky Way, but the galaxy had escaped attention because it contains only 1/200th the number of stars as our galaxy.

Based on the colors of its globular clusters, NGC 1052-DF2 is about 10 billion years old. It resides about 65 million light-years away.

Kepler Solves Mystery of Fast and Furious Explosions

8:00 am PDT, March 26, 2018

The universe is so huge that it's estimated that a star explodes as a supernova once every second. Astronomers capture a small fraction of these detonations because they are comparatively short-lived, like fireflies flickering on a summer evening. After skyrocketing to a sudden peak in brightness, a supernova can take weeks to slowly fade away.

For the past decade astronomers have been befuddled by a more curious "flash-in-the-pan" that pops up and then disappears in just a few days, not weeks. It's called a Fast-Evolving Luminous Transient (FELT). Only a few FELTs have been seen in telescopic sky surveys because they are so brief.

Then along came NASA's Kepler Space Telescope that caught a FELT in the act. Kepler's outstanding ability to precisely record changes in the brightness of celestial objects was designed to look for planets across our galaxy. But a great spinoff from the observatory is to go supernova hunting too.

Kelper's unique capabilities captured the properties of the blast. This allowed astronomers to exclude a range of theories about how FELTs happen, and converge on a plausible model. They conclude that the brief flash is from a vast shell of material around a supernova that abruptly lights up when the supernova blast wave crashes into it.

Hubble Solves Cosmic 'Whodunit' with Interstellar Forensics

10:00 am PDT, March 22, 2018

In a cosmic tug-of-war between two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, only NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope can see who’s winning. The players are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and as they gravitationally tug at each other, one of them has pulled out a huge amount of gas from its companion. This shredded and fragmented gas, called the Leading Arm, is being devoured by the Milky Way and feeding new star birth in our galaxy. But which dwarf galaxy is doing the pulling, and whose gas is now being feasted upon? Scientists used Hubble’s ultraviolet vision to chemically analyze the gas in the Leading Arm and determine its origin. After years of debate, we now have the answer to this “whodunit” mystery.

Arrested Development: Hubble Finds Relic Galaxy Close to Home

11:00 am PDT, March 12, 2018

The adventuring cinema archeologist Indiana Jones would be delighted to find a long-sought relic in his own backyard. Astronomers have gotten lucky enough to achieve such a quest. They identified a very rare and odd assemblage of stars that has remained essentially unchanged for the past 10 billion years. The diffuse stellar island provides valuable new insights into the origin and evolution of galaxies billions of years ago.

As far as galaxy evolution goes, this object is clearly a case of “arrested development.” The galaxy, NGC 1277, started its life with a bang long ago, ferociously churning out stars 1,000 times faster than seen in our own Milky Way today. But it abruptly went quiescent as the baby boomer stars aged and grew ever redder. Though Hubble has seen such “red and dead” galaxies in the early universe, one has never been conclusively found nearby. Where the early galaxies are so distant, they are just red dots in Hubble deep-sky images. NGC 1277 offers a unique opportunity to see one up close and personal.

The telltale sign of the galaxy’s state lies in the ancient globular clusters that swarm around it. Massive galaxies tend to have both metal-poor (appearing blue) and metal-rich (appearing red) globular clusters. The red clusters are believed to form as the galaxy forms, while the blue clusters are later brought in as smaller satellites are swallowed by the central galaxy. However, NGC 1277 is almost entirely lacking in blue globular clusters. The red clusters are the strongest evidence that the galaxy went out of the star-making business long ago. However, the lack of blue clusters suggests that NGC 1277 never grew further by gobbling up surrounding galaxies.

Hubble Finds Huge System of Dusty Material Enveloping the Young Star HR 4796A

10:00 am PST, March 6, 2018

Finding lots of dust around stars may not sound like anything astronomers would get excited about. The universe is a dusty place. But dust around a young star can be evidence that planet formation is taking place. This isn’t a new idea. In 1755, German Philosopher Immanuel Kant first proposed that planets formed around our Sun in a debris disk of gas and dust. Astronomers imagined that this process might take place around other stars.

They had to wait until the early 1980s for the first observational evidence for a debris disk around any star to be uncovered. An edge-on debris disk was photographed around the southern star Beta Pictoris. Beta Pictoris remained the poster child for such debris systems until the late 1990s when the Hubble Space Telescope’s second-generation instruments, which had the capability of blocking out the glare of a central star, allowed many more disks to be photographed. Now, they are thought to be common around stars. About 40 such systems have been imaged to date, largely by Hubble.

In this recent image, Hubble uncovers a vast, complex dust structure, about 150 billion miles across, enveloping the young star HR 4796A. A bright, narrow inner ring of dust is already known to encircle the star, based on much earlier Hubble photographs. It may have been corralled by the gravitational pull of an unseen giant planet. This newly discovered huge dust structure around the system may have implications for what this yet-unseen planetary system looks like around the 8-million-year-old star, which is in its formative years of planet construction.

NASA Finds a Large Amount of Water in an Exoplanet's Atmosphere

10:00 am PST, March 1, 2018

Using Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, scientists studied the “hot Saturn” called WASP-39b — a hot, bloated, Saturn-mass exoplanet located about 700 light-years from Earth. By dissecting starlight filtering through the planet’s atmosphere into its component colors, the team found clear evidence for a large amount of water vapor. In fact, WASP-39b has three times as much water as Saturn does. Although the researchers predicted they’d see water, they were surprised by how much they found. This suggests that the planet formed farther out from the star, where it was bombarded by a lot of icy material. Because WASP-39b has so much more water than Saturn, it must have formed differently from our famously ringed neighbor.

Improved Hubble Yardstick Gives Fresh Evidence for New Physics in the Universe

12:00 pm PST, February 22, 2018

The good news: Astronomers have made the most precise measurement to date of the rate at which the universe is expanding since the big bang. The possibly unsettling news: This may mean that there is something unknown about the makeup of the universe. The new numbers remain at odds with independent measurements of the early universe's expansion. Is something unpredicted going on in the depths of space?

Astronomers have come a long way since the early 1900s when they didn't have a clue that we lived in an expanding universe. Before this could be realized, astronomers needed an accurate celestial measuring stick to calculate distances to far-flung objects. At that time, faint, fuzzy patches of light that we now know as galaxies were thought by many astronomers to be objects inside our Milky Way. But, in 1913, Harvard astronomer Henrietta Leavitt discovered unique pulsating stars that maintain a consistent brightness no matter where they reside. Called Cepheid variables, these stars became reliable yardsticks for astronomers to measure cosmic distances from Earth.

A few years later, building on Leavitt's pioneering work, astronomer Edwin Hubble found a Cepheid variable star in the Andromeda nebula. By measuring the star's tremendous distance, Hubble proved that the nebula was really an entire galaxy — a separate island of billions of stars far outside our Milky Way.

He went on to find many more galaxies across space. When he used Cepheid variables to measure galaxy distances, he found that the farther away a galaxy is, the faster it appears to be receding from us. This led him to the monumental discovery that our universe is uniformly expanding in all directions. And, even the universe's age, which today we know is 13.8 billion years, could be calculated from the expansion rate.

Little would Leavitt have imagined that her Cepheid variable work would become the solid bottom rung of a cosmic distance ladder of interlinked techniques that would allow for measurements across billions of light-years.

The latest Hubble telescope results that solidify the cosmic ladder confirm a nagging discrepancy showing the universe is expanding faster now than was expected from its trajectory seen shortly after the big bang. Researchers suggest that there may be new physics at work to explain the inconsistency. One idea is that the universe contains a new high-speed subatomic particle. Another possibility is that dark energy, already known to be accelerating the cosmos, may be shoving galaxies away from each other with even greater — or growing — strength.

The Hubble study extends the number of Cepheid stars analyzed to distances of up to 10 times farther across our galaxy than previous Hubble results. The new measurements help reduce the chance that the discrepancy in the values is a coincidence to 1 in 5,000.

Hubble Sees Neptune's Mysterious Shrinking Storm

10:00 am PST, February 15, 2018

Three billion miles away on the farthest known major planet in our solar system, an ominous, stinky, dark storm is shrinking out of existence as seen in pictures of Neptune taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Immense dark storms on Neptune were first discovered in the late 1980s by the Voyager 2 spacecraft. Since then, only Hubble has tracked these elusive features that play a game of peek-a-boo over the years. Hubble found two dark storms that appeared in the mid-1990s and then vanished. This latest storm was first seen in 2015, but is now shrinking away. The dark spot material may be hydrogen sulfide, with the pungent smell of rotten eggs.

Hubble Probes Atmospheres of Exoplanets in TRAPPIST-1 Habitable Zone

8:00 am PST, February 5, 2018

Only 40 light-years away — a stone’s throw on the scale of our galaxy — several Earth-sized planets orbit the red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1. Four of the planets lie in the star’s habitable zone, a region at a distance from the star where liquid water, the key to life as we know it, could exist on the planets’ surfaces.

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have conducted the first spectroscopic survey of these worlds. Hubble reveals that at least three of the exoplanets do not seem to contain puffy, hydrogen-rich atmospheres similar to gaseous planets such as Neptune. This means the atmospheres may be more shallow and rich in heavier gases like those found in Earth’s atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and oxygen.

Astronomers plan to use NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2019, to probe deeper into the planetary atmospheres to search for the presence of such elements that could offer hints of whether these far-flung worlds are habitable.

Hubble Finds Substellar Objects in the Orion Nebula

11:15 am PST, January 11, 2018

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to peer deep into the vast stellar nursery called the Orion Nebula, astronomers searched for small, faint bodies. What they found was the largest population yet of brown dwarfs — objects that are more massive than planets but do not shine like stars. Researchers identified 17 brown dwarf companions to red dwarf stars, one brown dwarf pair, and one brown dwarf with a planetary companion. They also found three giant planets, including a binary system where two planets orbit each other in the absence of a parent star. This survey could only be done with Hubble’s exceptional resolution and infrared sensitivity.

Researchers Catch Supermassive Black Hole Burping — Twice

7:15 am PST, January 11, 2018

Supermassive black holes, weighing millions of times as much as our Sun, are gatherers not hunters. Embedded in the hearts of galaxies, they will lie dormant for a long time until the next meal happens to come along.

The team of astronomers using observations from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and as well as the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Apache Point Observatory (APO) near Sunspot, New Mexico, zeroed in on a flickering black hole.

A black hole in the center of galaxy SDSS J1354+1327, located about 800 million light-years away, appears to have consumed large amounts of gas while blasting off an outflow of high-energy particles. The fresh burst of fuel might have been supplied by a bypassing galaxy. The outflow eventually switched off then turned back on about 100,000 years later. This is strong evidence that accreting black holes can switch their power output off and on again over timescales that are short compared to the 13.8-billion-year age of the universe.

NASA's Great Observatories Team Up to Find Magnified and Stretched Out Image of Distant Galaxy

7:15 am PST, January 11, 2018

As powerful as NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes are, they need a little help from nature in seeking out the farthest, and hence earliest galaxies that first appeared in the universe after the big bang. This help comes from a natural zoom lens in the universe, formed by the warping of space by intense gravitational fields.

The most powerful “zoom lenses” out there are formed by very massive foreground clusters that bend space like a bowling ball rolling across a soft mattress. The lens boosts the brightness of distant background objects. The farthest candidates simply appear as red dots in Hubble photos because of their small size and great distance.

However, astronomers got very lucky when they looked at galaxy cluster SPT-CL J0615-5746. Embedded in the photo is an arc-like structure that is not only the amplified image of a background galaxy, but an image that has been smeared into a crescent-shape. This image allowed astronomers to estimate that the diminutive galaxy weighs in at no more than 3 billion solar masses (roughly 1/100th the mass of our fully grown Milky Way galaxy). It is less than 2,500 light-years across, half the size of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. The object is considered prototypical of young galaxies that emerged during the epoch shortly after the big bang. Hubble’s clarity, combined with Spitzer’s infrared sensitivity to light reddened by the expanding universe, allowed for the object’s vast distance to be calculated.

Hubble Probes the Archeology of Our Milky Way's Ancient Hub

7:15 am PST, January 11, 2018

Every star has a story to tell. Study a star and it will give you information about its composition, age, and possibly even clues to where it first formed. The stars residing in the oldest structure of our Milky Way galaxy, the central bulge, offer insight into how our pinwheel-shaped island of myriad stars evolved over billions of years. Think of our Milky Way as a pancake-shaped structure with a big round dollop of butter in the middle — that would be our galaxy’s central hub.

For many years, astronomers had a simple view of our Milky Way’s bulge as a quiescent place composed of old stars, the earliest homesteaders of our galaxy. A new analysis of about 10,000 normal Sun-like stars in the bulge reveals that our galaxy’s hub is a dynamic environment of variously aged stars zipping around at different speeds, like travelers bustling about a busy airport. This conclusion is based on nine years’ worth of archival data from the Hubble Space Telescope. The faster-moving and later-generation stars may have arrived at the hub through our Milky Way cannibalizing smaller galaxies. They mingle with a different population of older, slowing-moving stars. Currently, only Hubble has sharp enough resolution to simultaneously measure the motions of thousands of Sun-like stars at the bulge's distance from Earth.

NASA Space Telescopes Provide a 3D Journey Through the Orion Nebula

7:00 am PST, January 11, 2018

By combining the visible and infrared capabilities of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, astronomers and visualization specialists from NASA's Universe of Learning program have created a spectacular, three-dimensional, fly-through movie of the magnificent Orion nebula, a nearby stellar nursery. Using actual scientific data along with Hollywood techniques, a team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California, has produced the best and most detailed multi-wavelength visualization yet of the Orion nebula. The three-minute movie allows viewers to glide through the picturesque star-forming region and experience the universe in an exciting new way.

Hubble's Celestial Snow Globe

10:00 am PST, December 12, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like the holiday season in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of a blizzard of stars, which resembles a swirling snowstorm in a snow globe. The stars are residents of the globular star cluster Messier 79, or M79, located 41,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Lepus. The cluster is also known as NGC 1904.

Hubble Movie Shows Movement of Light Echo Around Exploded Star

10:00 am PST, November 9, 2017

Voices reverberating off mountains and the sound of footsteps bouncing off walls are examples of an echo. Echoes happen when sound waves ricochet off surfaces and return to the listener.

Space has its own version of an echo. It’s not made with sound but with light, and occurs when light bounces off dust clouds.

The Hubble telescope has just captured one of these cosmic echoes, called a “light echo,” in the nearby starburst galaxy M82, located 11.4 million light-years away. A movie assembled from more than two years’ worth of Hubble images reveals an expanding shell of light from a supernova explosion sweeping through interstellar space three years after the stellar blast was discovered. The “echoing” light looks like a ripple expanding on a pond. The supernova, called SN 2014J, was discovered on Jan. 21, 2014.

A light echo occurs because light from the stellar blast travels different distances to arrive at Earth. Some light comes to Earth directly from the supernova blast. Other light is delayed because it travels indirectly. In this case, the light is bouncing off a huge dust cloud that extends 300 to 1,600 light-years around the supernova and is being reflected toward Earth.

So far, astronomers have spotted only 15 light echoes around supernovae outside our Milky Way galaxy. Light echo detections from supernovae are rarely seen because they must be nearby for a telescope to resolve them.

Hubble Sees Nearby Asteroids Photobombing Distant Galaxies

10:00 am PDT, November 2, 2017

Photobombing asteroids from our solar system have snuck their way into this deep image of the universe taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. These asteroids are right around the corner in astronomical terms, residing roughly 160 million miles from Earth. Yet they’ve horned their way into this picture of thousands of galaxies scattered across space and time at inconceivably farther distances.

Hubble Observes Exoplanet that Snows Sunscreen

10:00 am PDT, October 26, 2017

Travelers to the nightside of exoplanet Kepler-13Ab should pack an umbrella because they will be pelted with precipitation. But it's not the kind of watery precipitation that falls on Earth. On this alien world, the precipitation is in the form of sunscreen.

Ironically, the sunscreen (titanium dioxide) is not needed on this side of the planet because it never receives any sunlight. But bottling up some sunlight protection is a good idea if travelers plan on visiting the sizzling hot, permanent dayside, which always faces its star. Visitors won't find any desperately needed sunscreen on this part of the planet.

Astronomers didn't detect the titanium dioxide directly. They used Hubble to find that the atmospheric temperature grows increasingly colder with altitude on the dayside of Kepler-13Ab, which was contrary to what they had expected. On this super-hot dayside, titanium dioxide should exist as a gas, called titanium oxide. If titanium oxide were present in the daytime atmosphere, it would absorb light and heat the upper atmosphere. Instead, high winds carry the titanium oxide around to the permanently dark side of the planet where it condenses to form clouds and precipitation, and rains down as titanium dioxide. The planet's crushing gravity pulls all the titanium dioxide so far down it can't be recycled back into the upper atmosphere on the daytime side.

The Hubble observations represent the first time astronomers have detected this precipitation process, called a "cold trap," on an exoplanet.

Kepler-13Ab is one of the hottest known planets, with a dayside temperature of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Kepler-13 system resides 1,730 light-years from Earth.

NASA Missions Catch First Light From a Gravitational-Wave Event

7:00 am PDT, October 16, 2017

When some people get in the kitchen, they create a delicious meal but leave behind a chaotic mess of splattered food and dirty dishes. Cosmic cookery can be just as messy. While a star can create chemical elements as heavy as iron within its core, anything heavier needs a more powerful source like a stellar explosion or the collision of two neutron stars.

Colliding neutron stars can yield gold, plutonium, and a variety of other elements. Theoretically, they also generate gravitational waves as they spiral together at breakneck speed before merging. The first gravitational wave signal from a neutron star merger was detected on August 17. It was accompanied by gamma rays and other light, allowing astronomers to locate a gravitational wave source for the first time.

Hubble photographed the glow from this titanic collision, shining within the galaxy NGC 4993 at a distance of 130 million light-years. Hubble also obtained an infrared spectrum that may yield signs of exotic, radioactive elements. The analysis will continue while astronomers wait for the gravitational wave source to emerge from behind the Sun from Earth’s point of view, where it slipped just days after discovery.

NASA's Hubble Observes the Farthest Active Inbound Comet Yet Seen

10:00 am PDT, September 28, 2017

A solitary frozen traveler has been journeying for millions of years toward the heart of our planetary system. The wayward vagabond, a city-sized snowball of ice and dust called a comet, was gravitationally kicked out of the Oort Cloud, its frigid home at the outskirts of the solar system. This region is a vast comet storehouse, composed of icy leftover building blocks from the construction of the planets 4.6 billion years ago.

The comet is so small, faint, and far away that it eluded detection. Finally, in May 2017, astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii spotted the solitary intruder at a whopping 1.5 billion miles away — between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. The Hubble Space Telescope was enlisted to take close-up views of the comet, called C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS (K2).

The comet is record-breaking because it is already becoming active under the feeble glow of the distant Sun. Astronomers have never seen an active inbound comet this far out, where sunlight is merely 1/225th its brightness as seen from Earth. Temperatures, correspondingly, are at a minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at such bone-chilling temperatures, a mix of ancient ices on the surface — oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide — is beginning to sublimate and shed as dust. This material balloons into a vast 80,000-mile-wide halo of dust, called a coma, enveloping the solid nucleus.

Astronomers will continue to study K2 as it travels into the inner solar system, making its closest approach to the Sun in 2022.

Comet or Asteroid? Hubble Discovers that a Unique Object is a Binary

10:00 am PDT, September 20, 2017

Astronomers categorize the minor bodies in the solar system according to their location and physical composition. Comets are a loose collection of ice and dust that fall in toward the Sun from beyond the orbits of the major planets, and grow long tails of dust and gas along the way. Asteroids are rocky or metallic and are relegated to a zone between Mars and Jupiter. But nature isn't that tidy. The Hubble Space Telescope photographed a pair of asteroids orbiting each other that have a tail of dust, which is definitely a comet-like feature. The odd object, called 2006 VW139/288P, is the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet. Roughly 5,000 years ago, 2006 VW139/288P probably broke into two pieces due to a fast rotation.

NASA's Hubble Captures Blistering Pitch-Black Planet

7:00 am PDT, September 14, 2017

Don't go looking for the proverbial black cat eating licorice in a coal bin on the planet WASP-12b. Twice the size of any planet found in our solar system, the world is as black as fresh asphalt. Unlike other planets in its class, WASP-12b has the unique capability to trap at least 94 percent of the visible starlight falling into its atmosphere.

The temperature of the atmosphere is a seething 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit, which prevents the formation of reflective clouds on the day side. The planet orbits so close to its host that it is tidally locked, which means that it keeps the same side always facing the star.

The exoplanet isn't dining alone. Its host star is also having a feast: gobbling up material swirling off the exoplanet's super-heated atmosphere.

This oddball exoplanet is one of a class of so-called "hot Jupiters" that orbit very close to their host star and are heated to extreme temperatures. WASP-12b circles a Sun-like star 1,400 light-years from Earth.

Hubble Detects Exoplanet with Glowing Water Atmosphere

10:00 am PDT, August 2, 2017

Only when we fly in a commercial jet at an altitude of about 33,000 feet do we enter Earth's stratosphere, a cloudless layer of our atmosphere that blocks ultraviolet light. Astronomers were fascinated to find evidence for a stratosphere on a planet orbiting another star. As on Earth, the planet's stratosphere is a layer where temperatures increase with higher altitudes, rather than decrease. However, the planet (WASP-121b) is anything but Earth-like. The Jupiter-sized planet is so close to its parent star that the top of the atmosphere is heated to a blazing 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 degrees Celsius), hot enough to rain molten iron! This new Hubble Space Telescope observation allows astronomers to compare processes in exoplanet atmospheres with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system.

NASA's Hubble Sees Martian Moon Orbiting the Red Planet

10:00 am PDT, July 20, 2017

While photographing Mars, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured a cameo appearance of the tiny moon Phobos on its trek around the Red Planet. Discovered in 1877, the diminutive, potato-shaped moon is so small that it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures. Phobos orbits Mars in just 7 hours and 39 minutes, which is faster than Mars rotates. The moon’s orbit is very slowly shrinking, meaning it will eventually shatter under Mars’ gravitational pull, or crash into the planet. Hubble took 13 separate exposures over 22 minutes to create a time-lapse video showing the moon’s orbital path.

Hubble Pushed Beyond Limits to Spot Clumps of New Stars in Distant Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, July 6, 2017

When the universe was young, stars formed at a much higher rate than they do today. By peering across billions of light-years of space, Hubble can study this early era. But at such distances, galaxies shrink to smudges that hide key details. Astronomers have teased out those details in one distant galaxy by combining Hubble’s sharp vision with the natural magnifying power of a gravitational lens. The result is an image 10 times better than what Hubble could achieve on its own, showing dense clusters of brilliant, young stars that resemble cosmic fireworks.

Hubble Captures Massive Dead Disk Galaxy that Challenges Theories of Galaxy Evolution

10:00 am PDT, June 21, 2017

Astronomers combined the power of a “natural lens” in space with the capability of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to make a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang. Researchers say that finding such a galaxy so early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve. Astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together. Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk. The galaxy, called MACS 2129-1, is considered “dead” because it is no longer making stars. This new insight is forcing astronomers to rethink their theories of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies. “Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early ‘dead’ galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them,” said study leader Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.

Hubble Astronomers Develop a New Use for a Century-Old Relativity Experiment to Measure a White Dwarf's Mass

8:15 am PDT, June 7, 2017

Albert Einstein reshaped our understanding of the fabric of space. In his general theory of relativity in 1915, he proposed the revolutionary idea that massive objects warp space, due to the effects of gravity. Until that time, Isaac Newton's theory of gravity from two centuries earlier held sway: that space was unchanging. Einstein's theory was experimentally verified four years later when a team led by British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington measured how much the sun's gravity deflected the image of a background star as its light grazed the sun during a solar eclipse. Astronomers had to wait a century, however, to build telescopes powerful enough to detect this gravitational warping phenomenon caused by a star outside our solar system. The amount of deflection is so small only the sharpness of the Hubble Space Telescope could measure it.

Hubble observed the nearby white dwarf star Stein 2051 B as it passed in front of a background star. During the close alignment, the white dwarf's gravity bent the light from the distant star, making it appear offset by about 2 milliarcseconds from its actual position. This deviation is so small that it is equivalent to observing an ant crawl across the surface of a quarter from 1,500 miles away.

Jackpot! Cosmic Magnifying-Glass Effect Captures Universe's Brightest Galaxies

12:15 pm PDT, June 6, 2017

Astronomers were fascinated in the 1980s with the discovery of nearby dust-enshrouded galaxies that glowed thousands of times brighter than our Milky Way galaxy in infrared light. Dubbed ultra-luminous infrared galaxies, they were star-making factories, churning out a prodigious amount of stars every year. What wasn't initially clear was what powered these giant infrared light bulbs. Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope helped astronomers confirm the source of the galaxies' light output. Many of them reside within "nests" of galaxies engaged in multiple pile-ups of three, four or even five galaxies. The dust is produced by the firestorm of star birth, which glows fiercely in infrared light.

Now Hubble is illuminating the bright galaxies' distant dust-enshrouded cousins. Boosted by natural magnifying lenses in space, Hubble has captured unique close-up views of the universe's brightest infrared galaxies. The galaxies are ablaze with runaway star formation, pumping out more than 10,000 new stars a year. This unusually rapid star birth is occurring at the peak of the universe's star-making boom more than 8 billion years ago. The star-birth frenzy creates lots of dust, which enshrouds the galaxies, making them too faint to detect in visible light. But they glow fiercely in infrared light, shining with the brilliance of 10 trillion to 100 trillion suns.

The galaxy images, magnified through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, reveal a tangled web of misshapen objects punctuated by exotic patterns such as rings and arcs. The odd shapes are due largely to the foreground lensing galaxies' powerful gravity distorting the images of the background galaxies. Two possibilities for the star-making frenzy are galaxy collisions or gas spilling into the galaxies.

Mini-Flares Potentially Jeopardize Habitability of Planets Circling Red Dwarf Stars

8:15 am PDT, June 6, 2017

Solar flares and associated eruptions can trigger auroras on Earth or, more ominously, damage satellites and power grids. Could flares on cool, red dwarf stars cause even more havoc to orbiting planets, even rendering them uninhabitable? To help answer that question, astronomers sought to find out how many flares such stars typically unleash.

A new study of archival ultraviolet observations from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spacecraft detected dozens of flares from red dwarf stars. Some flares were weaker than any previously detected. Since smaller flares tend to occur more frequently, these tiny flares might have big implications for planetary habitability.

Hubble's Tale of Two Exoplanets: Nature vs. Nurture

12:15 pm PDT, June 5, 2017

Astronomers once thought that the family of planets that orbit our sun were typical of what would eventually be found around other stars: a grouping of small rocky planets like Earth huddled close to their parent star, and an outer family of monstrous gaseous planets like Jupiter and Saturn.

But ever since the discovery of the first planet around another star (or exoplanet) the universe looks a bit more complicated — if not downright capricious. There is an entire class of exoplanets called "hot Jupiters." They formed like Jupiter did, in the frigid outer reaches of their planetary system, but then changed Zip code! They migrated inward to be so close to their star that temperatures are well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Astronomers would like to understand the weather on these hot Jupiters and must tease out atmospheric conditions by analyzing how starlight filters through a planet's atmosphere. If the spectral fingerprint of water can be found, then astronomers conclude the planet must have relatively clear skies that lets them see deep into the atmosphere. If the spectrum doesn't have any such telltale fingerprints, then the planet is bland-looking with a high cloud deck.

Knowing the atmospheres on these distant worlds yields clues to how they formed and evolved around their parent star. In a unique experiment, astronomers aimed the Hubble Space Telescope at two "cousin" hot Jupiters that are similar in several respects. However, the researchers were surprised to learn that one planet is very cloudy, and the other has clear skies.

Collapsing Star Gives Birth to a Black Hole

10:00 am PDT, May 25, 2017

Every second a star somewhere out in the universe explodes as a supernova. But some super-massive stars go out with a whimper instead of a bang. When they do, they can collapse under the crushing tug of gravity and vanish out of sight, only to leave behind a black hole. The doomed star, named N6946-BH1, was 25 times as massive as our sun. It began to brighten weakly in 2009. But, by 2015, it appeared to have winked out of existence. By a careful process of elimination, based on observations by the Large Binocular Telescope and the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the researchers eventually concluded that the star must have become a black hole. This may be the fate for extremely massive stars in the universe.

Hubble Spots Moon Around Third Largest Dwarf Planet

10:00 am PDT, May 18, 2017

Beyond the orbit of Neptune lies a frigid, dark, vast frontier of countless icy bodies left over from the solar system's construction 4.6 billion years ago. This region, called the Kuiper Belt, was hypothesized by astronomer Gerard Kuiper in 1951. But it took another four decades for astronomers to confirm its existence. The largest bodies are called dwarf planets, with Pluto being the biggest member. Pluto is so big, in fact, that it was discovered 60 years before other Kuiper worlds were detected. Moons around dwarf planets are elusive, though. Pluto's moon Charon wasn't found until the mid-1970s.

Now, astronomers have uncovered a moon around another dwarf planet by using the combined power of three space observatories, including archival images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Called 2007 OR10, it is the third-largest dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt. With this moon's discovery, most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 600 miles across have companions. These bodies provide insight into how moons formed in the young solar system. In fact, there is an emerging view that collisions between planetary bodies can result in the formation of moons. Based on moon rock samples from NASA's Apollo mission, astronomers believe that Earth's only natural satellite was born out of a collision with a Mars-sized object 4.4 billion years ago.

Observatories Combine to Crack Open the Crab Nebula

10:00 am PDT, May 10, 2017

In the summer of the year 1054 AD, Chinese astronomers saw a new "guest star," that appeared six times brighter than Venus. So bright in fact, it could be seen during the daytime for several months. Halfway around the world, Native Americans made pictographs of a crescent moon with the bright star nearby that some think may also have been a record of the supernova.

This "guest star" was forgotten about until 700 years later with the advent of telescopes. Astronomers saw a tentacle-like nebula in the place of the vanished star and called it the Crab Nebula. Today we know it as the expanding gaseous remnant from a star that self-detonated as a supernova, briefly shining as brightly as 400 million suns. The explosion took place 6,500 light-years away. If the blast had instead happened 50 light-years away it would have irradiated Earth, wiping out most life forms.

In the late 1960s astronomers discovered the crushed heart of the doomed star, an ultra-dense neutron star that is a dynamo of intense magnetic field and radiation energizing the nebula. Astronomers therefore need to study the Crab Nebula across a broad range of electromagnetic radiation, from X-rays to radio waves. This composite picture from five observatories captures the complexity of this tortured-looking supernova remnant.

A Lot of Galaxies Need Guarding in This NASA Hubble View

7:00 am PDT, May 4, 2017

Like the quirky characters in the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has some amazing superpowers, specifically when it comes to observing galaxies across time and space. One stunning example is galaxy cluster Abell 370, which contains a vast assortment of several hundred galaxies tied together by the mutual pull of gravity. That's a lot of galaxies to be guarding, and just in this one cluster! Photographed in a combination of visible and near-infrared light, the immense cluster is a rich mix of galaxy shapes. Entangled among the galaxies are mysterious-looking arcs of blue light. These are actually distorted images of remote galaxies behind the cluster. These far-flung galaxies are too faint for Hubble to see directly. Instead, the gravity of the cluster acts as a huge lens in space, magnifying and stretching images of background galaxies like a funhouse mirror. Abell 370 is located approximately 4 billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus, the Sea Monster. It is the last of six galaxy clusters imaged in the recently concluded Frontier Fields project — an ambitious, community-developed collaboration among NASA's Great Observatories and other telescopes that harnessed the power of massive galaxy clusters and probed the earliest stages of galaxy development.

A New Angle on Two Spiral Galaxies for Hubble's 27th Birthday

7:00 am PDT, April 20, 2017

When the Hubble Space Telescope launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, astronomers could only dream what they might see. Now, 27 years and more than a million observations later, the telescope delivers yet another magnificent view of the universe — this time, a striking pair of spiral galaxies much like our own Milky Way. These island cities of stars, which are approximately 55 million light-years away, give astronomers an idea of what our own galaxy would look like to an outside observer. The edge-on galaxy is called NGC 4302, and the tilted galaxy is NGC 4298. Although the pinwheel galaxies look quite different because they are angled at different positions on the sky, they are actually very similar in terms of their structure and contents.

Hubble Spots Possible Venting Activity on Europa

11:00 am PDT, April 13, 2017

When Galileo discovered Jupiter's moon Europa in 1610, along with three other satellites whirling around the giant planet, he could have barely imagined it was such a world of wonder.

This revelation didn't happen until 1979, when NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 flew by Jupiter and found evidence that Europa's interior, encapsulated under a crust of ice, has been kept warm over billions of years. The warmer temperature is due to gravitational tidal forces that flex the moon's interior — like squeezing a rubber ball — keeping it warm. At the time, one mission scientist even speculated that the Voyagers might catch a snapshot of geysers on Europa.

Such activity turned out to be so elusive that astronomers had to wait over three decades for the peering eye of Hubble to monitor the moon for signs of venting activity. A newly discovered plume seen towering 62 miles above the surface in 2016 is at precisely the same location as a similar plume seen on the moon two years earlier by Hubble. These observations bolster evidence that the plumes are a real phenomenon, flaring up intermittently in the same region on the satellite.

The location of the plumes corresponds to the position of an unusually warm spot on the moon's icy crust, as measured in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. Researchers speculate that this might be circumstantial evidence for material venting from the moon's subsurface. The material could be associated with the global ocean that is believed to be present beneath the frozen crust. The plumes offer an opportunity to sample what might be in the ocean, in the search for life on that distant moon.

Hubble Takes Close-up Portrait of Jupiter

10:00 am PDT, April 6, 2017

Named after the Roman king of the gods, the immense planet Jupiter is undoubtedly king of the solar system. Containing more mass than all the other planets combined, Jupiter's immense gravitational field deflects wayward comets that otherwise might slam into Earth, wreaking havoc.

This dazzling Hubble Space Telescope photo of Jupiter was taken when it was comparatively close to Earth, at a distance of 415 million miles. Hubble reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter's clouds as arranged into bands of different latitudes, known as tropical regions. These bands are produced by air flowing in different directions at various latitudes. Lighter colored areas, called zones, are high-pressure where the atmosphere rises. Darker low-pressure regions where air falls are called belts. The planet's trademark, the Great Red Spot, is a long-lived storm roughly the diameter of Earth. Much smaller storms appear as white or brown-colored ovals. Such storms can last as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries.

Search For Stellar Survivor of a Supernova Explosion

10:00 am PDT, March 30, 2017

Of all the varieties of exploding stars, the ones called Type Ia are perhaps the most intriguing. Their predictable brightness lets astronomers measure the expansion of the universe, which led to the discovery of dark energy. Yet the cause of these supernovae remains a mystery. Do they happen when two white dwarf stars collide? Or does a single white dwarf gorge on gases stolen from a companion star until bursting?

If the second theory is true, the normal star should survive. Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to search the gauzy remains of a Type Ia supernova in a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. They found a sun-like star that showed signs of being associated with the supernova. Further investigations will be needed to learn if this star is truly the culprit behind a white dwarf's fiery demise.

NASA Announces Astronomy and Astrophysics Fellows for 2017

10:00 am PDT, March 29, 2017

NASA has selected 28 Fellows for its prestigious Einstein, Hubble, and Sagan fellowships. Each post-doctoral fellowship provides three years of support to awardees to pursue independent research in astronomy and astrophysics. The new Fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2017 at a host university or research center of their choosing in the United States.

Gravitational Wave Kicks Monster Black Hole Out Of Galactic Core

10:00 am PDT, March 23, 2017

Normally, hefty black holes anchor the centers of galaxies. So researchers were surprised to discover a supermassive black hole speeding through the galactic suburbs. Black holes cannot be observed directly, but they are the energy source at the heart of quasars — intense, compact gushers of radiation that can outshine an entire galaxy. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope made the discovery by finding a bright quasar located far from the center of the host galaxy.

Researchers estimate that it took the equivalent energy of 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously to jettison the black hole. What could pry this giant monster from its central home? The most plausible explanation for this propulsive energy is that the monster object was given a kick by gravitational waves unleashed by the merger of two black holes as a result of a collision between two galaxies. First predicted by Albert Einstein, gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space that are created when two massive objects collide.

Hubble Discovery of Runaway Star Yields Clues to Breakup of Multiple-Star System

10:00 am PDT, March 17, 2017

In the 1400s, two power struggles were taking place quadrillions of miles apart. In England, two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet were battling each other for control of the country's throne. And, in a nebula far, far away, a cluster of stars was waging a real-life star wars, with the stellar members battling each other for supremacy in the Orion Nebula. The gravitational tussle ended with the system breaking apart and at least three stars being ejected in different directions.

Astronomers spotted two of the speedy, wayward stars over the past few decades. They traced both stars back 540 years to the same location and suggested they were part of a now-defunct multiple-star system. But the duo's combined energy, which is propelling them outward, didn't add up. The researchers reasoned there must be at least one other culprit that robbed energy from the stellar toss-up. Now NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has helped astronomers find the final piece of the puzzle by nabbing a third runaway star, which was a member of the same system as the two previously known stars. The stars reside in a small region of young stars called the Kleinmann-Low Nebula, near the center of the vast Orion Nebula complex, located 1,300 light-years from Earth.

Hubble Dates Black Hole’s Last Big Meal

10:00 am PST, March 9, 2017

About 6 million years ago, when our very remote ancestors began to evolve away from chimpanzees, our Milky Way galaxy's hefty black hole was enjoying a sumptuous feast. It gulped down a huge clump of interstellar hydrogen.

Now, eons later, we see the result of the black hole feast. The black hole "burped" hot plasma that is now towering far above and below the plane of our galaxy. These invisible bubbles, weighing the equivalent of millions of suns, are called the Fermi Bubbles. Their energetic gamma-ray glow was first discovered in 2010 by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. (Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist who created the world's first nuclear reactor.)

Astronomers have wondered how long ago the gaseous lobes were created, and if the process was slow or rapid. Hubble observations of the northern bubble have solved the question by determining a more precise age for the bubbles. Hubble was used to measure the speed of the gasses in the billowing bubbles, and astronomers could then calculate back to the time when they were born in a fast, energetic event.

The 20th Anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope's STIS Instrument

10:00 am PST, February 28, 2017

Twenty years ago, astronauts on the second servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope installed the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) aboard Hubble. This pioneering instrument combines a camera with a spectrograph, which provides a "fingerprint" of a celestial object's temperature, chemical composition, density, and motion. STIS also reveals changes in the evolving universe and leads the way in the field of high-contrast imaging. The versatile instrument is sensitive to a wide range of wavelengths of light, from ultraviolet through the optical and into the near-infrared. From studying black holes, monster stars, and the intergalactic medium, to analyzing the atmospheres of worlds around other stars, STIS continues its epic mission to explore the universe.

The Dawn of a New Era for Supernova 1987A

7:00 am PST, February 24, 2017

In February 1987, on a mountaintop in Chile, telescope operator Oscar Duhalde stood outside the observatory at Las Campanas and looked up at the clear night sky. There, in a hazy-looking patch of brightness in the sky — the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a neighboring galaxy - was a bright star he hadn't noticed before.

That same night, Canadian astronomer Ian Shelton was at Las Campanas observing stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud. As Shelton was studying a photographic plate of the LMC later that night, he noticed a bright object that he initially thought was a defect in the plate. When he showed the plate to other astronomers at the observatory, he realized the object was the light from a supernova. Duhalde announced that he saw the object too in the night sky. The object turned out to be Supernova 1987A, the closest exploding star observed in 400 years. Shelton had to notify the astronomical community of his discovery. There was no Internet in 1987, so the astronomer scrambled down the mountain to the nearest town and sent a message to the International Astronomical Union's Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, a clearing house for announcing astronomical discoveries.

Since that finding, an armada of telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, has studied the supernova. Hubble wasn't even in space when SN 1987A was found. The supernova, however, was one of the first objects Hubble observed after its launch in 1990. Hubble has continued to monitor the exploded star for nearly 30 years, yielding insight into the messy aftermath of a star's violent self-destruction. Hubble has given astronomers a ring-side seat to watch the brightening of a ring around the dead star as the supernova blast wave slammed into it.

NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star

10:00 am PST, February 22, 2017

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are located in an area called the habitable zone, where liquid water is most likely to thrive on a rocky planet. The system sets a new record for the greatest number of habitable zone planets found outside our solar system. Any of these seven planets could have liquid water, the key to life as we know it. The exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1 and is only 40 light-years away. Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets. In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This finding strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are terrestrial in nature. Astronomers plan follow-up studies using NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures — key factors in assessing their habitability.

Hubble Witnesses Massive Comet-Like Object Pollute Atmosphere of a White Dwarf

7:00 am PST, February 9, 2017

Astronomers have found the best evidence yet of the remains of a comet-like object scattered around a burned-out star. They used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to detect the debris, which has polluted the atmosphere of a compact star known as a white dwarf. The icy object, which has been ripped apart, is similar to Halley's Comet in chemical composition, but it is 100,000 times more massive and has a much higher amount of water. It is also rich in the elements essential for life, including nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, and sulfur. These findings are evidence for a belt of comet-like bodies similar to our solar system's Kuiper Belt orbiting the white dwarf. This is the first evidence of comet-like material polluting a white dwarf's atmosphere. The results also suggest the presence of unseen, surviving planets around the burned-out star.

Dr. Margaret Meixner and Dr. Marc Postman Promoted to STScI Distinguished Astronomers

8:00 am PST, January 24, 2017

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, has appointed Dr. Margaret Meixner and Dr. Marc Postman to the position of STScI Distinguished Astronomer. Distinguished Astronomer is the highest level of appointment on the tenure track at STScI and represents a rank commensurate with the highest level of professorial appointments at major universities.

Meixner's promotion recognizes her long-term contributions to research and service at STScI. She has led international teams to study the life cycle of dust in the Magellanic Clouds using the Hubble, Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes. Postman is being recognized for his long-term contributions to the study of the formation and evolution of galaxies and clusters of galaxies. He has led important research to determine how the environments of galaxies determine their shapes and how the most massive galaxies evolve.

'Our Place In Space:' Astronomy and Art Combine in Brand New Hubble-Inspired Exhibition

6:00 am PST, January 20, 2017

Since the dawn of civilization, we have gazed into the night sky and attempted to make sense of what we saw there, asking questions such as: Where do we come from? What is our place in the universe? And are we alone? As we ask those questions today and new technology expands our horizons further into space, our yearning for their answers only grows. Since its launch in 1990, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has continued this quest for answers while orbiting Earth every 90 minutes. Hubble has not only made countless new astronomical discoveries, but also brought astronomy to the public eye, satisfying our curiosity, sparking our imaginations, and greatly impacting culture, society, and art.

A new traveling exhibition, "Our Place in Space" features iconic Hubble images. It presents not only a breathtaking pictorial journey through our solar system and to the edges of the known universe, but also Hubble-inspired works by selected Italian artists. By seamlessly integrating perspectives from both artists and astronomers, the exhibition will inspire visitors to think deeply about how humanity fits into the grand scheme of the universe. Before moving to other venues, the exhibition will be on display from February 1 to April 17, 2017, in the Istituto Veneto di Science, Lettere ed Arti, Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti, on the banks of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy.

Hubble Captures 'Shadow Play' Caused by Possible Planet

8:15 am PST, January 7, 2017

Eerie mysteries in the universe can be betrayed by simple shadows. The wonder of a solar eclipse is produced by the moon's shadow, and over 1,000 planets around other stars have been cataloged by the shadow they cast when passing in front of their parent star. Astronomers were surprised to see a huge shadow sweeping across a disk of dust and gas encircling a nearby, young star. They have a bird's-eye view of the disk, because it is tilted face-on to Earth, and the shadow sweeps around the disk like the hands moving around a clock. But, unlike the hands of a clock, the shadow takes 16 years to make one rotation.

Hubble has 18 years' worth of observations of the star, called TW Hydrae. Therefore, astronomers could assemble a time-lapse movie of the shadow's rotation. Explaining it is another story. Astronomers think that an unseen planet in the disk is doing some heavy lifting by gravitationally pulling on material near the star and warping the inner part of the disk. The twisted, misaligned inner disk is casting its shadow across the surface of the outer disk. TW Hydrae resides 192 light-years away and is roughly 8 million years old.

Hubble Detects 'Exocomets' Taking the Plunge into a Young Star

12:15 pm PST, January 6, 2017

Interstellar forecast for a nearby star: Raining comets! The comets are plunging into the star HD 172555, which resides 95 light-years from Earth. The comets were not seen directly around the star. Astronomers inferred their presence when they used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to detect gas that is likely the vaporized remnants of their icy nuclei.

The presence of these doomed comets provides circumstantial evidence for "gravitational stirring" by an unseen Jupiter-size planet, where comets deflected by the massive object's gravity are catapulted into the star. These events also provide new insights into the past and present activity of comets in our solar system. It's a mechanism where infalling comets could have transported water to Earth and the other inner planets of our solar system. HD 172555 represents the third extrasolar system where astronomers have detected doomed, wayward comets. All of these systems are young, under 40 million years old.

Hubble Provides Interstellar Road Map for Voyagers' Galactic Trek

8:15 am PST, January 6, 2017

In 1977, NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft began their pioneering journey across the solar system to visit the giant outer planets. Now, the Voyagers are hurtling through unexplored territory on their road trip beyond our solar system. Along the way, they are measuring the interstellar medium, the mysterious environment between stars that is filled with the debris from long-dead stars. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is providing the road map, by measuring the material along the probes' trajectories as they move through space. Hubble finds a rich, complex interstellar ecology, containing multiple clouds of hydrogen, laced with other elements. Hubble data, combined with the Voyagers, have also provided new insights into how our sun travels through interstellar space.

Festive Nebulas Light Up Milky Way Galaxy Satellite

10:00 am PST, December 20, 2016

Two glowing nebulas in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that is a satellite of our Milky Way galaxy, have been observed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Young, brilliant stars at the center of each nebula are heating hydrogen, causing these clouds of gas and dust to glow red. The image is part of a study called Small Magellanic Cloud Investigation of Dust and Gas Evolution (SMIDGE). Astronomers are using Hubble to probe the Milky Way satellite to understand how dust is different in galaxies that have a far lower supply of heavy elements needed to create dust.

Space Telescope Science Institute to Host Data from World's Largest Digital Sky Survey

5:00 am PST, December 19, 2016

Data from the world's largest digital sky survey is being publicly released today by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Hawaii. Data from the Pan-STARRS1 Surveys will allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies. The four years of data comprise 3 billion separate sources, including stars, galaxies, and various other objects. The immense collection, only a fraction of which is being released today, contains nearly 2 petabytes of data, which is equivalent to two billion selfies, or 30,000 times the total text content of Wikipedia.

STScI Astronomers Nancy Levenson and David Soderblom Elected AAAS Fellows

10:00 am PST, November 21, 2016

Nancy A. Levenson and David R. Soderblom of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

The AAAS cited Dr. Levenson for her exemplary service and distinguished contributions to the field of astrophysics as Deputy Director of the international Gemini Observatory in La Serena, Chile. She is currently STScI's Deputy Director. Soderblom is cited by the AAAS for his distinguished work in the field of astrophysics, with contributions to understanding low-mass stars and exoplanet searches. An Astronomer at STScI since 1984, Soderblom is also a Principal Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In honor of their efforts, Levenson, Soderblom, and the 389 other newly elected Fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on February 18, 2017, at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2017 AAAS annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Laurent Pueyo Receives 2016 Outstanding Young Scientist Award

10:00 am PST, November 16, 2016

The Maryland Academy of Sciences has selected Dr. Laurent Pueyo of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, as the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Young Scientist award. He will receive the award in a ceremony on Nov. 16 at the Maryland Science Center, located in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Pueyo joined STScI in 2013 as an associate astronomer after spending three years as a Sagan Fellow at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His duties at STScI include working on improving the extrasolar-planet imaging capabilities of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in late 2018. The STScI astronomer was a member of the team, led by STScI's Remi Soummer, that discovered that three planets around the nearby star HR 8799 had been hiding in plain sight since 1998 in archival images taken by Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.

A Death Star's Ghostly Glow

7:00 am PDT, October 27, 2016

In writer Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart," a killer confesses his crime after he thinks he hears the beating of his victim's heart. The heartbeat turns out to be an illusion. Astronomers, however, discovered a real "tell-tale heart" in space, 6,500 light-years from Earth. The "heart" is the crushed core of a long-dead star, called a neutron star, which exploded as a supernova and is now still beating with rhythmic precision. Evidence of its heartbeat are rapid-fire, lighthouse-like pulses of energy from the fast-spinning neutron star. The stellar relic is embedded in the center of the Crab Nebula, the expanding, tattered remains of the doomed star.

The nebula was first identified in 1731 and named in 1844. In 1928, Edwin Hubble linked the nebula to a supernova first witnessed in the spring of 1054 A.D. Now, the eerie glow of the burned-out star reveals itself in this new Hubble Space Telescope snapshot of the heart of the Crab Nebula. The green hue, representative of the broad color range of the camera filter used, gives the nebula a Halloween theme.

STScI Appoints Head of Newly Created Data Science Mission Office

8:00 am PDT, October 21, 2016

Dr. Arfon Smith has been selected to lead the newly created Data Science Mission Office at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. The Data Science Mission Head is responsible for maximizing the scientific returns from a huge archive containing astronomical observations from 17 space astronomy missions and ground-based observatories.

Since 2013, Smith has been a project scientist and program manager at GitHub, Inc., the world's largest platform for open source software. His duties included working to develop innovative strategies for sharing data and software in academia. Smith also helped to define GitHub's business strategy for public data products, and he played a key role in establishing the company's first data science and data engineering teams.

Hubble Reveals Observable Universe Contains 10 Times More Galaxies Than Previously Thought

7:00 am PDT, October 13, 2016

In Arthur C. Clarke's novel "2001: A Space Odyssey," astronaut David Bowman exclaims, "My God, it's full of stars!" before he gets pulled into an alien-built wormhole in space. When the Hubble Space Telescope made its deepest views of the universe, astronomers might have well exclaimed: "My God, it's full of galaxies!" The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, for example, revealed 10,000 galaxies of various shapes, sizes, colors, and ages, all within an area roughly one-tenth the diameter of the full moon. What's mind-blowing is that these myriad galaxies, though plentiful, may represent merely 10 percent of the universe's total galaxy population. That's according to estimates from a new study of Hubble's deep-field surveys. The study's authors came to the staggering conclusion that at least 10 times more galaxies exist in the observable universe than astronomers thought.

According to the authors, the missing 90 percent of the universe's galaxies are too faint and too far away to be detected by the current crop of telescopes, including Hubble. To uncover them, astronomers will have to wait for much larger and more powerful future telescopes. The researchers arrived at their result by painstakingly converting Hubble deep-field images into 3-D pictures so they could make accurate measurements of the number of galaxies at different epochs in the universe's history.

Hubble Detects Giant 'Cannonballs' Shooting from Star

10:00 am PDT, October 6, 2016

Great balls of fire! The Hubble Space Telescope has detected superhot blobs of gas, each twice as massive as the planet Mars, being ejected near a dying star. The plasma balls are zooming so fast through space that they would travel from Earth to the moon in 30 minutes. This stellar "cannon fire" has continued once every 8.5 years for at least the past 400 years, astronomers estimate. The fireballs present a puzzle to astronomers because the ejected material could not have been shot out by the host star, called V Hydrae. The star is a bloated red giant, residing 1,200 light-years away, which has probably shed at least half of its mass into space during its death throes.

The current best explanation is that the plasma balls were launched by an unseen companion star in an elliptical orbit around the red giant. The elongated orbit carries the companion every 8.5 years to within the puffed-up atmosphere of V Hydrae, where it gobbles up material from the bloated star. This material then settles into a disk around the companion, and serves as the launching pad for blobs of plasma, which travel at roughly a half-million miles per hour. This star system could explain a dazzling variety of glowing shapes uncovered by Hubble that are seen around dying stars, called planetary nebulae, researchers say.

Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa

11:00 am PDT, September 26, 2016

New findings from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show suspected water plumes erupting from Jupiter's icy moon Europa. These observations bolster earlier Hubble work suggesting that Europa is venting water vapor. A team of astronomers, led by William Sparks of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, observed these finger-like projections while viewing Europa's limb as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. The team was inspired to use this observing method by studies of atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars.

The plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles before, presumably, raining material back down onto Europa's surface. This is exciting because Europa is a plausible place for life to have developed beyond the Earth. If the venting plumes originate in a subsurface ocean, they could act as an elevator to bring deep-sea life above Europa's surface, where it could be sampled by visiting spacecraft. This offers a convenient way to access the chemistry of that ocean without drilling through miles of ice.

Hubble Finds Planet Orbiting Pair of Stars

7:00 am PDT, September 22, 2016

Two is company, but three might not always be a crowd, at least in space. When astronomers found an extrasolar planet orbiting a neighboring star, a detailed analysis of the data uncovered a third body. But astronomers couldn't definitively identify whether the object was another planet or another star in the system.

Now, nine years later, astronomers have used ultra-sharp images from the Hubble Space Telescope to determine that the system consists of a Saturn-mass planet circling two diminutive, faint stars in a tight orbit around each other. The system, called OGLE-2007-BLG-349, resides 8,000 light-years away. Astronomers teased the signature of the three objects using an observational technique called gravitational microlensing. This occurs when the gravity of a foreground star bends and amplifies the light of a background star that momentarily aligns with it. The particular character of the light magnification can reveal clues to the nature of the foreground star and any associated planets.

Barry M. Lasker Data Science Fellowship

10:00 am PDT, September 16, 2016

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, announces the initiation of the Barry M. Lasker Data Science Postdoctoral Fellowship. The Lasker Fellowship is a STScI-funded program designed to provide up to three years of support for outstanding postdoctoral researchers conducting innovative astronomical studies that involve the use or creation of one or more of the following: large astronomical databases, massive data processing, data visualization and discovery tools, or machine-learning algorithms. The first recipient of the fellowship is Dr. Gail Zasowski of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, Maryland. The fellowship is named in honor of STScI astronomer Barry M. Lasker (1939-1999).

Hubble Takes Close-up Look at Disintegrating Comet

10:00 am PDT, September 15, 2016

Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami survived for 4.5 billion years in the frigid Kuiper Belt, a vast reservoir of icy bodies on the outskirts of our solar system. The objects are the leftovers from our solar system's construction. But within the last few million years, the unlucky comet was gravitationally kicked to the inner solar system by the outer planets. The comet, dubbed 332P, found a new home, settling into an orbit just beyond Mars. But the new home, closer to the sun, has doomed the comet. Sunlight is heating up Comet 332P's surface, causing jets of gas and dust to erupt. The jets act like rocket engines, spinning up the comet's rotation. The faster spin rate loosened chunks of material, which are drifting off the surface and into space.

The Hubble Space Telescope caught the latest cloud of debris ejected by Comet 332P. The images, taken over three days in January 2016, represent one of the sharpest, most detailed observations of a comet breaking apart. Hubble reveals about 25 building-size chunks from the comet floating through space at roughly the walking speed of an adult. Material will continue to break away from Comet 332P. Astronomers estimate that the comet, which has survived for 4.5 billion years, will be gone in another 150 years.

Dr. Nancy A. Levenson Appointed Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute

10:00 am PDT, September 8, 2016

Dr. Nancy A. Levenson has been appointed Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. The Institute is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Telescope (JWST) that is scheduled to launch in 2018.

Since 2009, Levenson served as Deputy Director and Head of Science at the Gemini Observatory in La Serena, Chile. She also led the Gemini Observatory as Acting Director for several months in 2012.

Hubble Uncovers a Galaxy Pair Coming in from the Wilderness

10:00 am PDT, August 11, 2016

The galaxies in the early universe were much smaller than our Milky Way and churned out stars at a rapid pace. They grew larger through mergers with other dwarf galaxies to eventually build the magnificent spiral and elliptical galaxies we see around us today. But astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have looked at two small galaxies that were left off the star party list. For many billions of years Pisces A and Pisces B lived in a vast intergalactic wilderness that was devoid of gas, which fuels star formation. They got left out in the cold.

Better late than never. Like Rip van Winkle awakening from a long slumber, the dwarf galaxies have now ended their star-making drought and have joined the party. Astronomers estimate that less than 100 million years ago the galaxies doubled their star-formation rate. For most of the universe's history these puny galaxies dwelled in the Local Void, a region of the universe sparsely populated with galaxies. Now the galaxies have moved into a region crowded with galaxies and full of intergalactic gas. This dense environment is triggering star birth.

NASA's Hubble Looks to the Final Frontier

7:00 am PDT, July 21, 2016

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the TV series "Star Trek" has captured the public's imagination with the signature phrase, "To boldly go where no one has gone before." The Hubble Space Telescope simply orbits Earth and doesn't "boldly go" deep into space. But it looks deeper into the universe than ever before possible to explore the fabric of time and space and find the farthest objects ever seen. This is epitomized in this Hubble image that is part of its Frontier Fields program to probe the far universe. This view of a massive cluster of galaxies unveils a very cluttered-looking universe filled with galaxies near and far. Some are distorted like a funhouse mirror through a warping-of-space phenomenon first predicted by Einstein a century ago.

NASA's Hubble Telescope Makes First Atmospheric Study of Earth-Sized Exoplanets

10:00 am PDT, July 20, 2016

The possibility of life on other worlds has fueled humankind's imagination for centuries. Over the past 20 years, the explosion of discoveries of planets orbiting other stars has sparked the search for worlds like Earth that could sustain life. Most of those candidates were found with other telescopes, including NASA's Kepler space observatory. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has also made some unique contributions to the planet hunt. Astronomers used Hubble, for example, to make the first measurements of the atmospheric composition of extrasolar planets.

Now, astronomers have used Hubble to conduct the first search for atmospheres around temperate, Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system, uncovering clues that increase the chances of habitability on two exoplanets. They discovered that the exoplanets TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c, approximately 40 light-years away, are unlikely to have puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres usually found on gaseous worlds. Those dense atmospheres act like a greenhouse, smothering any potential life. Observations from NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will help determine the full composition of these atmospheres and hunt for potential biosignatures, such as carbon dioxide and ozone, and methane.

A Surprising Planet with Three Suns

11:00 am PDT, July 7, 2016

A team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona has directly imaged with the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope the first planet ever found in a wide orbit inside a triple-star system. The orbit of such a planet had been expected to be unstable, probably resulting in the planet being quickly ejected from the system. But somehow this one survives. This observation of the HD 131399 system suggests that such systems may actually be more common than previously thought. The results will be published online in the journal Science on July 7, 2016. The artist's impression shows a view of the triple-star system HD 131399 from the giant planet orbiting the system. The planet is HD 131399Ab and appears at the lower left of the picture.

Hubble Captures the Beating Heart of the Crab Nebula

7:00 am PDT, July 7, 2016

At the center of the Crab Nebula, located in the constellation Taurus, lies a celestial "beating heart" that is an example of extreme physics in space. The tiny object blasts out blistering pulses of radiation 30 times a second with unbelievable clock-like precision. Astronomers soon figured out that it was the crushed core of an exploded star, called a neutron star, which wildly spins like a blender on puree. The burned-out stellar core can do this without flying apart because it is 10 billion times stronger than steel. This incredible density means that the mass of 1.4 suns has been crushed into a solid ball of neutrons no bigger than the width of a large city. This Hubble image captures the region around the neutron star. It is unleashing copious amounts of energy that are pushing on the expanding cloud of debris from the supernova explosion — like an animal rattling its cage. This includes wave-like tsunamis of charged particles embedded in deadly magnetic fields.

On July 4, 1054, Chinese astronomers recorded the supernova that formed the Crab Nebula. The ultimate celestial firework, this "guest star" was visible during the daytime for 23 days, shining six times brighter than the planet Venus. The supernova was also recorded by Japanese, Arabic, and Native American stargazers. While searching for a comet that was predicted to return in 1758, French astronomer Charles Messier discovered a hazy nebula in the direction of the long-vanished supernova. He would later add it to his celestial catalog as "Messier 1." Because M1 didn't move across the sky like a comet, Messier simply ignored it other than just marking it as a "fake comet." Nearly a century later the British astronomer William Parsons sketched the nebula. Its resemblance to a crustacean led to M1's other name, the Crab Nebula. In 1928 Edwin Hubble first proposed associating the Crab Nebula to the Chinese "guest star" of 1054.

Hubble Captures Vivid Auroras in Jupiter's Atmosphere

7:00 am PDT, June 30, 2016

Astronomers are using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras — stunning light shows in a planet's atmosphere — on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. The auroras were photographed during a series of Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph far-ultraviolet-light observations taking place as NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches and enters into orbit around Jupiter. The aim of the program is to determine how Jupiter's auroras respond to changing conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted from the sun. Auroras are formed when charged particles in the space surrounding the planet are accelerated to high energies along the planet's magnetic field. When the particles hit the atmosphere near the magnetic poles, they cause it to glow like gases in a fluorescent light fixture. Jupiter's magnetosphere is 20,000 times stronger than Earth's. These observations will reveal how the solar system's largest and most powerful magnetosphere behaves.

The full-color disk of Jupiter in this image was separately photographed at a different time by Hubble's Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) program, a long-term Hubble project that annually captures global maps of the outer planets.

German Astronomical Society (AG) Awards Robert Williams the Karl Schwarzschild Medal

8:00 am PDT, June 29, 2016

The German Astronomical Society (AG) has announced that the most prestigious prize in Germany in the field of astronomy and astrophysics, the Karl Schwarzschild Medal, will be awarded this year to Robert Williams of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. In Robert Williams the AG honors not only an outstanding scientist, but also a man with a dedication to scientific training and astronomical outreach. His name is inseparably linked to the most celebrated observation target of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST): the famous Hubble Deep Field (HDF). The German Astronomical Society will award the Karl Schwarzschild Medal, whose previous recipients include five Nobel laureates, to Robert Williams on September 13, 2016, during the opening ceremony of the annual conference of the AG in Bochum, Germany. The award is named after the German physicist and astronomer Karl Schwarzschild (1863-1916), one of the pioneers of modern astrophysics.

Hubble Reveals Stellar Fireworks in 'Skyrocket' Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, June 28, 2016

As we celebrate the Fourth of July by watching dazzling fireworks shows, another kind of fireworks display is taking place in a small, nearby galaxy.

A stellar fireworks show is lighting up one end of the diminutive galaxy Kiso 5639. The dwarf galaxy is shaped like a flattened pancake, but because it is tilted edge-on, it resembles a skyrocket, with a brilliant blazing head and a long, star-studded tail. Kiso 5639 is a rare, nearby example of elongated galaxies seen in abundance in the early universe. Astronomers suggest that the frenzied star birth is sparked by intergalactic gas raining on one end of the galaxy as it drifts through space.

Hubble Confirms New Dark Spot on Neptune

10:00 am PDT, June 23, 2016

Pancake-shaped clouds not only appear in the children's book "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," but also 3 billion miles away on the gaseous planet Neptune. When they appeared in July 2015, witnessed by amateur astronomers and the largest telescopes, scientists suspected that these clouds were bright companions to an unseen, dark vortex. The dark vortex is a high-pressure system where the flow of ambient air is perturbed and diverted upward over the vortex. This forms huge, lens-shaped clouds, that resemble clouds that sometimes form over mountains on Earth.

When NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Neptune in 1989, astronomers were surprised to see such a gaping, dark hole at southern latitudes in the giant planet's cyan-colored atmosphere. The dark spot later disappeared. But the Hubble Space Telescope captured a new northern dark spot of comparable size in 1994. Hubble captured the appearance of a new dark spot on May 16, 2016. The spot would span the width of the continental United States.

Gluttonous Star May Hold Clues to Planet Formation

12:00 pm PDT, June 14, 2016

In 1936, astronomers observed signs that the young star FU Orionis had begun gobbling material from its surrounding disk of gas and dust with a sudden voraciousness. During a three-month binge, as matter turned into energy, the star became 100 times brighter, heating the disk around it to temperatures of up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The brightening is the most extreme event of its kind that has been confirmed around a star the size of the sun, and may have implications for how stars and planets form. The intense baking of the star's surrounding disk likely changed its chemistry, permanently altering material that could one day turn into planets. FU Orionis is still devouring gas to this day, although not as quickly.

Visible-light observations of FU Orionis, which is about 1,500 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Orion, have shown astronomers that the star's extreme brightness began slowly fading after its initial 1936 burst. But to understand the relationship between the star and the surrounding disk, and to find out what the star was still snacking on, astronomers combined infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), the world's largest airborne observatory, which is jointly owned by NASA and the German Aerospace Center. They found that FU Orionis had continued its ravenous snacking after the initial brightening event, eating the equivalent of 18 Jupiters over the next 80 years. They also predict that FU Orionis will have run out of hot material to nosh on within a few hundred years. At that point, the star will return to the state it was in before the dramatic 1936 brightening event.

Cloudy Days on Exoplanets May Hide Atmospheric Water

9:30 am PDT, June 8, 2016

Water is a hot topic in the study of exoplanets, including "hot Jupiters," whose masses are similar to that of Jupiter, but lie much closer to their parent star than Jupiter is to the sun. They are estimated to be a scorching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning any water they host would take the form of water vapor.

Astronomers have found many hot Jupiters with water in their atmospheres, but other hot Jupiters appear to have none. In a new study, scientists used exoplanet data from a single instrument on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to uniformly characterize a group of 19 hot Jupiters previously studied with Hubble. They found that as much as half of the water in the atmospheres of the exoplanets may be blocked by these clouds or hazes. The new findings suggest that clouds or haze layers could be preventing a substantial amount of atmospheric water from being detected by space telescopes. The study is the first to quantify how much of the atmosphere would be shielded as a result of clouds or haze.

NASA's Hubble Finds Universe Is Expanding Faster Than Expected

8:30 am PDT, June 2, 2016

When astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered nearly 100 years ago that the universe was uniformly expanding in all directions, the finding was a big surprise. Then, in the mid-1990s, another shocker occurred: astronomers found that the expansion rate was accelerating perhaps due to a repulsive property called "dark energy." Now, the latest measurements of our runaway universe suggest that it is expanding faster than astronomers thought. The consequences could be very significant for our understanding of the shadowy contents of our unruly universe. It may mean that dark energy is shoving galaxies away from each other with even greater – or growing – strength. Or, the early cosmos may contain a new type of subatomic particle referred to as "dark radiation." A third possibility is that "dark matter," an invisible form of matter that makes up the bulk of our universe, possesses some weird, unexpected characteristics. Finally, Einstein's theory of gravity may be incomplete.

These unnerving scenarios are based on the research of a team led by Nobel Laureate Adam Riess, who began a quest in 2005 to measure the universe's expansion rate to unprecedented accuracy with new, innovative observing techniques. The new measurement reduces the rate of expansion to an uncertainty of only 2.4 percent. That's the good news. The bad news is that it does not agree with expansion measurements derived from probing the fireball relic radiation from the big bang. So it seems like something's amiss – possibly sending cosmologists back to the drawing board.

NASA Telescopes Find Clues for How Giant Black Holes Formed So Quickly

10:00 am PDT, May 24, 2016

Using data from three of NASA's Great Observatories (the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope), scientists have found the best evidence to date that supermassive black holes in the early universe were produced by the direct collapse of a gas cloud. If confirmed, this result could lead to new insight into how black holes were formed and grew billions of years ago. This artist's illustration depicts a possible "seed" for the formation of a supermassive black hole. The inset boxes contain Chandra (top) and Hubble (bottom) images of one of two candidate seeds, where the properties in the data matched those predicted by sophisticated models produced by researchers of the direct-collapse mechanism.

Hubble Takes Mars Portrait Near Close Approach

10:00 am PDT, May 19, 2016

On May 12, 2016, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured this striking image of Mars, when the planet was 50 million miles from Earth. The photo reveals details as small as 20 miles to 30 miles across. This observation was made just a few days before Mars opposition on May 22, when the sun and Mars will be on exact opposite sides of Earth. Mars also will be 47.4 million miles from Earth. On May 30, Mars will be the closest it has been to Earth in 11 years, at a distance of 46.8 million miles. Mars is especially photogenic during opposition because it can be seen fully illuminated by the sun as viewed from Earth.

Hubble Catches Views of a Jet Rotating with Comet 252P/LINEAR

10:00 am PDT, May 12, 2016

For thousands of years, humans have recorded sightings of mysterious comets sweeping across the nighttime skies. These celestial wanderers, "snowballs" of dust and ice, are swift-moving visitors from the cold depths of space. Some of them periodically visit the inner solar system during their journeys around the sun.

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured images of Comet 252P/LINEAR just after it swept by Earth on March 21. The visit was one of the closest encounters between a comet and our planet. The comet traveled within 3.3 million miles of Earth, or about 14 times the distance between our planet and the moon. The images reveal a narrow, well-defined jet of dust ejected by the comet's icy, fragile nucleus. The jet also appears to change direction in the images, which is evidence that the comets nucleus is spinning. The spinning nucleus makes the jet appear to rotate like the water jet from a rotating lawn sprinkler. These observations also represent the closest celestial object Hubble has observed, other than the moon. The comet will return to the inner solar system again in 2021.

Hubble Discovers Moon Orbiting the Dwarf Planet Makemake

10:00 am PDT, April 26, 2016

Makemake is one of several dwarf planets that reside in the frigid outer realm of our solar system called the Kuiper Belt, a "junkyard" of countless icy bodies left over from our solar system's formation.

After discovering Makemake in 2005, astronomers had searched several times for a companion orbiting the icy world. Now, the Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a tiny moon around Makemake that is estimated to be 100 miles wide. Nicknamed MK 2, the moon is more than 1,300 times fainter than Makemake, which is 870 miles across. MK 2 is 13,000 miles away from the dwarf planet.

Hubble Sees a Star 'Inflating' a Giant Bubble

8:00 am PDT, April 21, 2016

Twenty-six candles grace NASA's Hubble Space Telescope's birthday cake this year, and now one giant space "balloon" will add to the festivities. Just in time for the 26th anniversary of Hubble's launch on April 24, 1990, the telescope has photographed an enormous, balloon-like bubble being blown into space by a super-hot, massive star. Astronomers trained the iconic telescope on this colorful feature, called the Bubble Nebula, or NGC 7635. The bubble is 7 light-years across – about one-and-a-half times the distance from our sun to its nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri. The Bubble Nebula lies 7,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia.

Behemoth Black Hole Found in an Unlikely Place

10:00 am PDT, April 6, 2016

Imagine driving through a small town containing modest-sized buildings and seeing a 100-story skyscraper. Astronomers found the equivalent monstrosity in space: a near-record supermassive black hole that weighs 17 billion suns and lives in a cosmic backwater community of a few galaxies. Until now, extremely massive black holes have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. This is not just coincidence. Like a cosmic Pac-Man, a monster black hole gobbles smaller black holes when two galaxies collide. This game of bumper cars is common in large galaxy clusters. In fact, the current black hole record holder tips the scale at 21 billion suns and resides in the crowded Coma galaxy cluster, located 330 million light-years away.

The newly discovered supersized black hole resides in the center of a massive elliptical galaxy, NGC 1600, located in a small grouping of about 20 galaxies. Astronomers estimate that these smaller galactic groupings are about 50 times more abundant than spectacular galaxy clusters like the Coma cluster. Based on this discovery, astronomers are now asking, Is this the tip of an iceberg? Maybe there are more monster black holes out there that don't live in a skyscraper in Manhattan, but in a tall building somewhere in the Midwestern plains.

Hubble's Journey to the Center of Our Galaxy

7:00 am PDT, March 31, 2016

Hubble's infrared vision pierced the dusty heart of our Milky Way galaxy to reveal more than half a million stars at its core. Except for a few blue, foreground stars, the stars are part of the Milky Way's nuclear star cluster, the most massive and densest stellar cluster in our galaxy. Located 27,000 light-years away, this region is so packed with stars, it is equivalent to having a million suns crammed into the volume of space between us and our closest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light-years away. At the very hub of our galaxy, this star cluster surrounds the Milky Way's central supermassive black hole, which is about 4 million times the mass of our sun.

NASA and STScI Select Hubble Fellows for 2016

10:00 am PDT, March 25, 2016

NASA has selected 36 fellows for its prestigious Einstein, Hubble, and Sagan Fellowships. Each postdoctoral fellowship provides three years of support to awardees to pursue independent research in astronomy and astrophysics. The new fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2016 at a host university or research center of their choosing in the United States.

Hubble Unveils Monster Stars

8:00 am PDT, March 17, 2016

An international team of astronomers using the ultraviolet capabilities of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has identified nine monster stars with masses over 100 times the mass of the sun in the star cluster R136. This makes for the largest sample of very massive stars identified to date. The results, which will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, raise many new questions about the formation of massive stars. R136 is only a few light-years across and is located in the Tarantula Nebula within the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 170,000 light-years away from Earth. The young cluster hosts many extremely massive, hot, and luminous stars whose energy is mostly radiated in the ultraviolet.

Telescopes Combine to Push Frontier on Galaxy Clusters

10:00 am PST, March 10, 2016

To learn more about galaxy clusters, including how they grow via collisions, astronomers have used some of the world's most powerful telescopes, looking at different types of light. They have focused long observations with these telescopes on a half-dozen galaxy clusters. The name for the galaxy cluster project is the "Frontier Fields." Two of these Frontier Fields galaxy clusters, MACS J0416.1-2403 (abbreviated MACS J0416) in the right panel and MACS J0717.5+3745 (MACS J0717 for short) in the left panel, are featured here in a pair of multiwavelength images.

Located about 4.3 billion light-years from Earth, MACS J0416 is a pair of colliding galaxy clusters that will eventually combine to form an even bigger cluster. MACS J0717, one of the most complex and distorted galaxy clusters known, is the site of a collision between four clusters. It is located about 5.4 billion light-years away from Earth. These new images of MACS J0416 and MACS J0717 contain data from three different telescopes: NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (diffuse emission in blue), Hubble Space Telescope (red, green, and blue), and the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (diffuse emission in pink). Where the X-ray and radio emission overlap the image appears purple. Astronomers also used data from the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India in studying the properties of MACS J0416.

Hubble Team Breaks Cosmic Distance Record

9:00 am PST, March 3, 2016

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is an amazing time machine; by looking back through space, astronomers actually look back through time. Now, by pushing Hubble to its limits, an international team of astronomers has shattered the cosmic distance record by viewing the farthest galaxy ever seen. Named GN-z11, this surprisingly bright, infant galaxy is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past. The astronomers saw it as it existed just 400 million years after the big bang, when the universe was only three percent of its current age. At a spectroscopically confirmed redshift of 11.1, the galaxy is even farther away than originally thought. It existed only 200 million to 300 million years after the time when scientists believe the very first stars started to form. At a billion solar masses, it is producing stars surprisingly quickly for such an early time. This new record will most likely stand until the launch of Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which will look even deeper into the universe for early galaxies.

Hubble Directly Measures Rotation of Cloudy 'Super-Jupiter'

10:00 am PST, February 18, 2016

Though nearly 2,000 planets have been found around other stars, the light from only a handful of them has ever been collected by the world's most powerful telescopes. Ironically, a lot of them are detected by the shadows they cast, as they pass in front of their parent stars. Follow-up observations measure the planet's feeble, but telltale, gravitational tug on its parent star. Now, Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have been able to pick up the faint infrared glow of a giant planet located 170 light-years away from Earth. Not only is it glowing, but also rhythmically flickering as the planet spins on its axis like a top. The interpretation is that the subtle changes in the planet's brightness are due to a variegated cloud cover of comparatively bright and dark patches coming and going. These measurements have led to an estimate of how fast the planet is spinning through direct observation – a first for exoplanet astronomers. The gaseous world completes one rotation approximately every 10 hours, which, coincidentally, is the same rotation rate as Jupiter.

The planet is dubbed a "super-Jupiter" because it is four times the mass of Jupiter, the largest known planet in our solar system. Because the planet is a comparative newborn, it is still hot as it contracts under gravity. These characteristics allow for infrared observations. The planet orbits a faint brown dwarf, designated 2M1207. The dwarf is too small to shine as stars do through nuclear fusion. The dwarf is so dim and far from the planet astronomers were able to isolate the planet's glow.

NASA Introduces New, Wider Set of Eyes on the Universe: Baltimore's Space Telescope Science Institute to Partner on New NASA 'Wide-View' Space Telescope

8:00 am PST, February 18, 2016

After years of preparatory studies, NASA is formally starting an astrophysics mission designed to help unlock the secrets of the universe the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). WFIRST will image large regions of the sky in near-infrared light to answer fundamental questions about dark energy and the structure and evolution of the universe. It will also find and characterize planets beyond our solar system, and as a general-purpose observatory, revolutionize many other astrophysical topics. WFIRST will have a mirror the same size as Hubble's, but it will have a 100 times wider view of space. Slated for launch in the mid-2020s, it will complement the capabilities of NASA's other major astrophysical observatories.

WFIRST is managed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, with participation by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California; the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland; the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), also in Pasadena; and a science team comprised of members from U.S. research institutions across the country. STScI will be a partner on the WFIRST science operations and will focus during the mission formulation phase on the observation scheduling system, wide-field imaging data processing system, and the data archive.

Monstrous Cloud Boomerangs Back to Our Galaxy

12:00 pm PST, January 28, 2016

The old adage "what goes up must come down" even applies to an immense cloud of hydrogen gas outside our Milky Way galaxy. First discovered in the 1960s, the comet-shaped cloud is 11,000 light-years long and 2,500 light-years across. If the cloud could be seen in visible light, it would span the sky with an apparent diameter 30 times greater than the size of the full moon. The cloud, which is invisible at optical wavelengths, is plummeting toward our galaxy at nearly 700,000 miles per hour. Hubble was used to measure the chemical composition of the cloud as a means of assessing where it came from. Hubble astronomers were surprised to find that the cloud, which is largely composed of hydrogen, also has heavier elements that could only come from stars. This means the cloud came from the star-rich disk of our galaxy. The Smith Cloud is following a ballistic trajectory and will plow back into the Milky Way's disk in about 30 million years. When it does, astronomers believe it will ignite a spectacular burst of star formation, perhaps providing enough gas to make 2 million suns.

Hubble Unveils a Tapestry of Dazzling Diamond-Like Stars

7:00 am PST, January 21, 2016

Some of the Milky Way's "celebrity stars" — opulent, attention-getting, and short-lived — can be found in this Hubble Space Telescope image of the glittering star cluster called Trumpler 14. It is located 8,000 light-years away in the Carina Nebula, a huge star-formation region in our galaxy. Because the cluster is only 500,000 years old, it has one of the highest concentrations of massive, luminous stars in the entire Milky Way. Like some Hollywood celebrities, the stars will go out in a flash. Within just a few million years they will burn out and explode as supernovae. But the story's not over. The blast waves will trigger the formation of a new generation of stars inside the nebula in an ongoing cycle of star birth and death.

NASA's Great Observatories Weigh Massive Young Galaxy Cluster

11:15 am PST, January 7, 2016

Astronomers have made the most detailed study yet of an extremely massive young galaxy cluster using three of NASA's Great Observatories. This multiwavelength image shows this galaxy cluster, called IDCS J1426.5+3508 (IDCS 1426 for short), in X-rays recorded by the Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue, visible light observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in green, and infrared light from the Spitzer Space Telescope in red.

This rare galaxy cluster, which is located 10 billion light-years from Earth, is almost as massive as 500 trillion suns. This object has important implications for understanding how these megastructures formed and evolved early in the universe. Astronomers have observed IDCS 1426 when the universe was less than a third of its current age. It is the most massive galaxy cluster detected at such an early age.

NASA's Spitzer, Hubble Find 'Twins' of Superstar Eta Carinae in Other Galaxies

7:15 am PST, January 6, 2016

Eta Carinae, the most luminous and massive stellar system located within 10,000 light-years of Earth, is best known for an enormous eruption seen in the mid-19th century that hurled an amount of material at least 10 times the sun's mass into space. Still shrouded by this expanding veil of gas and dust, Eta Carinae is the only object of its kind known in our galaxy. Now a study using archival data from NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes has found five similar objects in other galaxies for the first time.

Hubble Sees the Force Awakening in a Newborn Star

7:00 am PST, December 17, 2015

Just about anything is possible in our remarkable universe, and it often competes with the imaginings of science fiction writers and filmmakers. Hubble's latest contribution is a striking photo of what looks like a double-bladed lightsaber straight out of the Star Wars films. In the center of the image, partially obscured by a dark, Jedi-like cloak of dust, a newborn star shoots twin jets out into space as a sort of birth announcement to the universe. Gas from a surrounding disk rains down onto the dust-obscured protostar and engorges it. The material is superheated and shoots outward from the star in opposite directions along an uncluttered escape route – the star's rotation axis. Much more energetic than a science fiction lightsaber, these narrow energetic beams are blasting across space at over 100,000 miles per hour. This celestial lightsaber does not lie in a galaxy far, far away but rather inside our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

Caught in the Act: Hubble Captures First-Ever Predicted Exploding Star

7:00 am PST, December 16, 2015

Hubble has captured an image of the first-ever predicted supernova explosion. The reappearance of the supernova dubbed "Refsdal" was calculated by different mass models of a galaxy cluster whose immense gravity is warping the supernova's light as the light travels toward Earth. The supernova was previously seen in November 2014 behind the galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+2223, part of Hubble's Frontier Fields program. Astronomers spotted four separate images of the supernova in a rare arrangement known as an Einstein Cross. This pattern was seen around a galaxy within MACS J1149.5+2223. While the light from the cluster has taken about five billion years to reach us, the supernova itself exploded much earlier, nearly 10 billion years ago. The detection of Refsdal's reappearance served as a unique opportunity for astronomers to test their models of how mass – especially that of mysterious dark matter – is distributed within this galaxy cluster.

NASA Space Telescopes Solve Missing Water Mystery in Comprehensive Survey of Exoplanets

8:00 am PST, December 14, 2015

A survey of Jupiter-sized exoplanets conducted with the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes has solved a long-standing mystery – why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected. Astronomers have found that planets called hot Jupiters (which orbit very close to their stars) that are apparently cloud-free show strong signs of water. However, atmospheres of other planets with faint water signals also contained clouds and haze – both of which are known to hide water from view. The findings show that planetary atmospheres are much more diverse than expected. Also, the results offer insights into the wide range of planetary atmospheres in our galaxy and how planets are assembled.

Hubble Helps Solve Mystery of 'Born Again' Stars

10:00 am PST, December 7, 2015

For the past 60 years, astronomers have been puzzled by an unusual type of star that looks hotter and bluer than it should for its age. It has been dubbed a "blue straggler" because it seems to lag behind the evolution of neighboring stars. Blue stragglers dwell inside ancient star clusters that should have stopped making youthful and short-lived blue stars billions of years ago. The most popular explanation among several competing theories is that an aging star spills material onto a smaller companion star. The small star bulks up on mass to become hotter and bluer, while the aging companion burns out and collapses to a white dwarf – a burned out cinder. To test this theory, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope conducted a survey of the open star cluster NGC 188 that has 21 blue stragglers. Of those they found that seven had white dwarf companions, by identifying their ultraviolet glow that is detectable by Hubble. This confirms the binary star theory for their origin.

NASA Space Telescopes See Magnified Image of the Faintest Galaxy from the Early Universe

10:00 am PST, December 3, 2015

Hunting for faraway galaxies that existed long, long ago is like a fishing trip for astronomers. So far only the "big fish" have been found, bright galaxies that existed just a few hundred million years after the big bang. Now, using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, astronomers have caught a "smaller fish," a very compact and faint early galaxy that was forming 400 million years after the big bang, which happened 13.8 billion years ago.

As there are many smaller fish than big fish in the sea, the new finding is evidence for an underlying population of dim galaxies that must have been common in the early universe. Hubble's upcoming successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, should be able to survey this population. But for now, Hubble can do some pioneering work by exploiting a "zoom lens" in space that captures a galaxy that would otherwise not be detectible. The phenomenon is called gravitational lensing, where the intense gravity of a cluster of galaxies magnifies the light of fainter background sources. Astronomers needed the infrared sensitivity of both the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes to measure the galaxy's great distance through its color, which is affected by the expanding universe.

Hubble Uncovers Fading Cinders of Some of Our Galaxy's Earliest Homesteaders

10:00 am PST, November 5, 2015

About 13 billion years ago, long before our sun formed, the construction of our Milky Way galaxy was just beginning. Young, mostly sun-like stars in the core, or central bulge, provided the building blocks for the galaxy's foundation. Many of these building-block stars have long since burned out, and are now just dying embers. But contained within these dead stars, called white dwarfs, is the early history of our galaxy, providing clues on how it came to be.

Finding these stellar relics, however, is a daunting task. Astronomers have had a difficult time picking out these dim objects from among the crowd of bright stars that fill the space between us and the core. Using Hubble Space Telescope images, astronomers have now conducted a "cosmic archaeological dig" of our Milky Way's heart, uncovering the blueprints of our galaxy's early construction phase. Hubble researchers have uncovered for the first time a population of ancient white dwarfs. The Hubble analysis represents the deepest, most detailed study of our galaxy's central bulge of stars.

AURA Appoints New STScI Director

8:00 am PDT, October 30, 2015

Dr. Kenneth R. Sembach has been appointed director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore.

STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under contract with NASA to conduct the science program of the Hubble Space Telescope and to develop the Science and Mission Operations Center for the James Webb Space Telescope. The Institute also operates the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes for NASA. Sembach succeeds Dr. Matt Mountain, who had served as STScI director since 2005.

Spirals in Dust Around Young Stars May Betray Presence of Massive Planets

10:00 am PDT, October 29, 2015

A team of astronomers is proposing that huge spiral patterns seen around some newborn stars, merely a few million years old (about one percent our sun's age), may be evidence for the presence of giant, unseen planets. This idea not only opens the door to a new method of planet detection, but also could offer a look into the early formative years of planet birth. Though astronomers have cataloged thousands of planets orbiting other stars, the very earliest stages of planet formation are elusive because nascent planets are born and embedded inside vast, pancake-shaped disks of dust and gas encircling newborn stars. The conclusion that planets may betray their presence by modifying circumstellar disks on large scales is based on detailed computer modeling of how gas-and-dust disks evolve around newborn stars.

Most Earth-Like Worlds Have Yet to Be Born, According to Theoretical Study

7:00 am PDT, October 20, 2015

Astronomers are conducting extensive observations to estimate how many planets in our Milky Way galaxy might be potential abodes for life. These are collectively called "Earth-like" – in other words, Earth-sized worlds that are at the right distances from their stars for moderate temperatures to nurture the origin of life. The search for extraterrestrial intelligent life in the universe (SETI) is based on the hypothesis that some fraction of worlds, where life originates, go on to evolve intelligent technological civilizations. Until we ever find such evidence, Earth is the only known abode of life in the universe. But the universe is not only vastly big, it has a vast future. There is so much leftover gas from galaxy evolution available that the universe will keep cooking up stars and planets for a very long time to come. In fact, most of the potentially habitable Earth-like planets have yet to be born. This theoretical conclusion is based on an assessment of star-birth data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope and exoplanet surveys made by the planet-hunting Kepler space observatory.

Hubble's Planetary Portrait Captures New Changes in Jupiter's Great Red Spot

10:00 am PDT, October 13, 2015

Scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have produced new global maps of Jupiter – the first in a series of annual portraits of the solar system's outer planets from the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program (OPAL). The two Jupiter maps, representing nearly back-to-back rotations of the planet on Jan. 19, 2015, show the movements of the clouds and make it possible to determine the speeds of Jupiter's winds. The Hubble observations confirm that the Great Red Spot continues to shrink and become more circular. In addition, an unusual wispy filament is seen, spanning almost the entire width of the vortex. These findings are described in a new paper published online in the October 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

The collection of maps to be obtained over time from the OPAL program will not only help scientists understand the atmospheres of our giant planets, but also the atmospheres of planets being discovered around other stars.

Mysterious Ripples Found Racing Through Planet-Forming Disk

10:00 am PDT, October 7, 2015

Though astronomers have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars, very little is known about how they are born. The conventional wisdom is that planets coagulate inside a vast disk of gas and dust encircling newborn stars. But the details of the process are not well understood because it takes millions of years to happen as the disk undergoes numerous changes until it finally dissipates.

The young, nearby star AU Microscopii (AU Mic) is an ideal candidate to get a snapshot of planet birthing because the disk is tilted nearly edge on to our view from Earth. This very oblique perspective offers an opportunity to see structure in the disk that otherwise might go unnoticed. Astronomers are surprised to uncover fast-moving, wave-like features embedded in the disk that are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted. Whatever they are, these ripples are moving at 22,000 miles per hour – fast enough to escape the star's gravitational pull. This parade of blob-like features stretches farther from the star than Pluto is from our sun. They are so mysterious it's not known if they are somehow associated with planet formation, or some unimagined, bizarre activity inside the disk.

Hubble Zooms in on Shrapnel from an Exploded Star

7:00 am PDT, September 24, 2015

Not long before the dawn of recorded human history, our distant ancestors would have witnessed what appeared to be a bright new star briefly blazing in the northern sky, rivaling the glow of our moon. In fact, it was the titanic detonation of a bloated star much more massive than our sun. Now, thousands of years later, the expanding remnant of that blast can be seen as the Cygnus Loop, a donut-shaped nebula that is six times the apparent diameter of the full moon. The Hubble Space Telescope was used to zoom into a small portion of that remnant, called the Veil Nebula. Hubble resolves tangled rope-like filaments of glowing gases. Supernovae enrich space with heavier elements used in the formation of future stars and planets – and possibly life.

NASA Telescopes Find Galaxy Cluster with Vibrant Heart

10:00 am PDT, September 10, 2015

Astronomers have discovered a rare beast of a galaxy cluster whose heart is bursting with new stars. The unexpected find, made with the help of NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, suggests that behemoth galaxies at the cores of these massive clusters can grow significantly by feeding on gas stolen from other galaxies. The cluster in the new study, referred to by astronomers as SpARCS1049+56, has at least 27 galaxy members, and a combined mass equal to nearly 400 trillion suns. It is located 9.8 billion light-years away in the Ursa Major constellation. The object was initially discovered using Spitzer and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, and confirmed using the W. M. Keck Observatory. Hubble helped confirm the source of the fuel for the new stars.

Hubble Uncovers Clues of Earliest Galaxies

10:00 am PDT, September 9, 2015

Astronomers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) and the Space Telescope Science Institute have made the most accurate statistical estimate of the number of faint, small galaxies that existed only 500 million years after the big bang. This was culled from an analysis of the deepest Hubble Space Telescope sky survey, CANDELS (Cosmic Assembly Near-Infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey). Previously, studies using Caltech's CIBER (the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment) rocket-borne instrument and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope images confirmed the presence of "intra-halo light" from stars distributed outside of galaxies. The Hubble data found a new component in the infrared background in addition to intra-halo light – the collective glow of entire galaxies that formed first in the universe. UCI's Asantha Cooray believes that these early galaxies are very different from the well-defined spiral and disk-shaped galaxies seen in the present-day universe. They were more diffuse and populated by giant stars. This discovery paves the way for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to see these very faint galaxies individually, after its launch in 2018.

Hubble Survey Unlocks Clues to Star Birth in Neighboring Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, September 3, 2015

All stars are not created equal. They can vary in mass by over a factor of 1,000. Our sun is classified as a diminutive yellow dwarf. What's more, stars are not born in isolation, but inside giant molecular clouds of hydrogen. The question has been: what fraction of stars precipitate out of these clouds into clusters that contain blue giants, yellow dwarfs, and red dwarfs? It's like asking if all automobile manufacturers fabricate the same proportion of trucks, SUVs, sedans, and subcompacts. The best way to address the question is not to look around our Milky Way – which we are inside – but far out into space to the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, 2.5 million light-years away. Embedded in a sweeping Hubble Space Telescope mosaic of 117 million stars in the galaxy's disk are 2,753 star clusters. Hubble astronomers found that, for whatever reason, nature apparently cooks up stars like batches of cookies. There is a consistent distribution from massive stars to small stars. It is surprising to find that this ratio is the same across our neighboring galaxy (as well as inside our stellar neighborhood in the Milky Way), given the complex physics of star formation.

Hubble Finds That the Nearest Quasar Is Powered by a Double Black Hole

10:00 am PDT, August 27, 2015

Quasars are the light fantastic. These brilliant cores of active galaxies blaze with the radiance of a hundred billion stars compressed into a region of space not much larger than our solar system. Supermassive black holes, with millions or billions of times the mass of our sun, are the only imaginable powerhouse behind these tsunamis of raw energy.

Hubble Space Telescope astronomers set their sights on the nearest quasar to Earth, Markarian 231, located 581 million light-years away. Black holes – even supermassive ones – are too compact to be resolved by any present-day telescope. So, astronomers did the next best thing, measure all the light from a disk of infalling material around the black hole. The ultraviolet radiation – only measurable by Hubble – revealed evidence for a curious gap in the disk. Instead of being pancake shaped, it looks more like it has a big donut hole. The best explanation for the gap is that two black holes are orbiting each other in a dizzying dance that powers the quasar fireworks. This carves out the gap. The second black hole must have come from a smaller galaxy that merged with Markarian 231 to ignite the quasar about 1 million years ago.

Newly Discovered World Is Most Like Jupiter

11:25 am PDT, August 13, 2015

A team of astronomers, including half a dozen from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, have used the Gemini Observatory's new Gemini Planet Imager to find the most solar system-like planet ever directly imaged around another star. The planet, known as 51 Eridani b, is about two times the mass of Jupiter and orbits its host star at about 13 times the Earth-sun distance (equivalent to being between Saturn and Uranus in our solar system). The planet is located about 100 light-years away from Earth. The Gemini data provide scientists with the strongest-ever spectroscopic detection of methane in the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet, adding to its similarities to giant planets in our solar system. "This planet looks like a younger, slightly bigger version of Jupiter," said Dr. Laurent Pueyo of STScI, one of the astronomers who carefully measured the planet's light against the background glare of starlight. "That we can see so clearly the presence of methane for a planet a million times fainter than its star, even through the atmosphere, bodes very well for the future characterization of even fainter planets from space using the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope."

NASA's Hubble Finds Supernovae in 'Wrong Place at Wrong Time'

10:00 am PDT, August 13, 2015

What happens when you find something in the wrong place at the wrong time? That's a question astronomers have been trying to answer after finding several exploding stars outside the cozy confines of galaxies, where most stars reside. These wayward supernovae also have puzzled astronomers because they exploded billions of years before their predicted detonations. Astronomers using archived observations from several telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, have developed a theory for where these doomed stars come from and how they arrived at their current homes.

According to their scenario, the supernovae were once stars in double-star systems that wandered too close to twin supermassive black holes at the core of a merging galaxy. The black-hole duo gravitationally catapulted the stars out of their home galaxies. The interaction pulled the stars closer together, which accelerated the merger between each pair. Eventually, the stars moved close enough to trigger a supernova blast.

NASA's Hubble Finds Evidence of Galaxy Star Birth Regulated by Black-Hole Fountain

10:00 am PDT, August 6, 2015

Astronomers have long wondered how the universe's largest elliptical galaxies continue making stars long after their peak years of star birth. By combining data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope with observations from a suite of ground-based and space telescopes, two independent teams have uncovered a unique process to explain how this star birth continues. The teams found that that the galaxy's central black hole, jets, and newborn stars are all parts of a self-regulating cycle. In that cycle, jets shooting out of the galaxy's center heat a halo of surrounding gas, controlling the rate at which it cools and falls into the galaxy. The astronomers used Hubble's high resolution and ultraviolet vision to resolve brilliant knots of hot, blue stars forming along the jets from active black holes in the centers of these giant galaxies.

Telescopes Team Up to Find Distant Uranus-Sized Planet Through Microlensing

10:00 am PDT, July 30, 2015

The majority of planets discovered outside our solar system orbit close to their parent stars because these planets are the easiest to find. But to fully understand how distant planetary systems are put together, astronomers must conduct a census of all the planets around a star. So they need to look farther away from the star-from about the distance of Jupiter is from our sun, and beyond.

Now, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii have confirmed the existence of a Uranus-sized exoplanet orbiting far from its central star, discovered through a technique called gravitational microlensing. Microlensing occurs when a foreground star magnifies the light of a background star that momentarily aligns with it. The unique signature of the event, which is influenced by the relative motion of the stars across space, can reveal clues to the nature of the foreground star and any associated planets. Gravitational microlensing can find cold planets in long-period orbits that other methods cannot detect. This finding opens a new piece of discovery space in the extrasolar planet hunt: to uncover planets as far from their central stars as Jupiter and Saturn are from our sun.

Hubble Sees a 'Behemoth' Bleeding Atmosphere Around a Warm Neptune-Sized Exoplanet

10:00 am PDT, June 24, 2015

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered an immense cloud of hydrogen dubbed "The Behemoth" bleeding off a planet orbiting a nearby star. The enormous, comet-like feature is about 50 times the size of the parent star. The hydrogen is evaporating from a warm, Neptune-sized planet, due to extreme radiation from the star. A phenomenon this large has never before been seen around any exoplanet. It may offer clues to how Super-Earths – massive, rocky, versions of Earth – are born around other stars through the evaporation of their outer layers of hydrogen. Finding "The Behemoth" could be a game-changer for characterizing atmospheres of the whole population of Neptune-sized planets and Super-Earths in ultraviolet observations.

Hubble Sees the 'Teenage Years' of Quasars

10:00 am PDT, June 18, 2015

Quasars are the light fantastic. They are the brightest beacons in the universe, blazing across space with the intrinsic brightness of one trillion suns. Yet the objects are not vast galaxies, but they appear as pinpoint sources in the biggest telescopes of today – hence the term "quasar" for quasi-stellar object. Discovered in the 1960s, it took more than two decades of research to come to the conclusion that quasars are produced by the gusher of energy coming from over-fed supermassive black holes inside the cores of very distant galaxies. And, most quasars bloomed into a brief existence 12 billion years ago.

The big question has been, why? What was happening in the universe 12 billion years ago? The universe was smaller and so crowded that galaxies collided with each other much more frequently than today. Astronomers using Hubble's near-infrared vision tested this hypothesis by looking at dusty quasars where their glow was suppressed by dust, allowing a view of the quasar's surroundings. Hubble's sharp vision revealed chaotic collisions between galaxies that gave birth to quasars by fueling a supermassive central black hole.

Hubble Telescope Detects 'Sunscreen' Layer on Distant Planet

11:00 am PDT, June 11, 2015

Researchers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have detected a stratosphere and temperature inversion in the atmosphere of a planet several times the mass of Jupiter, called WASP-33b. Earth's stratosphere sits above the troposphere, the turbulent, active-weather region that reaches from the ground to the altitude where nearly all clouds top out. In the troposphere, the temperature is warmer at the bottom – ground level – and cools down at higher altitudes. The stratosphere is just the opposite: There, the temperature rises at higher altitudes. This is called a temperature inversion, and it happens because ozone in the stratosphere absorbs some of the sun's radiation, preventing it from reaching the surface and warming this layer of the atmosphere. Similar temperature inversions occur in the stratospheres of other planets in our solar system, such as Jupiter and Saturn. But WASP-33b is so close to its star that its atmosphere is a scathing 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and its atmosphere is so hot the planet might actually have titanium oxide rain.

Lonely Galaxy 'Lost in Space'

7:00 am PDT, June 10, 2015

This magnificent spiral galaxy is at the edge of what astronomers call the Local Void. The Local Void is a huge volume of space that is at least 150 million light-years across that doesn't seen to contain anything much. There are no obvious galaxies. This void is simply part of the structure of the universe where matter grows clumpy over time so that galaxies form clusters and chains, which are separated by regions mostly devoid of galaxies. This results in sort of a "soap bubble" structure on large scales. The galaxy, as photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is especially colorful where bright red patches of gas can be seen scattered through its spiral arms. Bright blue regions contain newly forming stars. Dark brown dust lanes snake across the galaxy's bright arms and center, giving it a mottled appearance.

Hubble Finds Two Chaotically Tumbling Pluto Moons

10:00 am PDT, June 3, 2015

Two of the most reliable changes in the sky are the daily rising of the sun in the east and setting of the sun in the west. But if you lived on a couple of Pluto's moons you wouldn't know when the day would begin, or even what direction the sun would rise. That's because, unlike Earth's moon, at least two of Pluto's small moons, Hydra and Nix, are tumbling chaotically through space. Why? Because they orbit inside a dynamically shifting gravitational field caused by the system's two central bodies, Pluto and Charon, that are whirling around each other. The moons are also football shaped, and this contributes to the chaotic rotation.

By contrast, Earth's moon keeps the same face toward us, because the gravitational forces between Earth and the moon cause the moon to dynamically settle into a condition called tidal lock, where it keeps one hemisphere facing Earth. Almost all of the solar system's major moons also behave similarly. But the Pluto moons essentially orbit a "double planet." And this makes life complicated. Over the past several years, the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered four tiny satellites orbiting Pluto and Charon. Researchers were puzzled by unpredictable changes in the sunlight reflected off the two brighter moons. They finally concluded that at least two of the moons must be tumbling unpredictably.

Hubble Video Shows Shock Collision Inside Black Hole Jet

10:00 am PDT, May 27, 2015

One of the trademarks of the Star Wars film episodes is the dreaded Death Star battle station that fires a beam of directed energy powerful enough to blow up planets. The real universe has such fireworks, and they are vastly more powerful than the Star Wars creation. These extragalactic jets are tearing across hundreds of light-years of space at 98 percent the speed of light. Instead of a battle station, the source of the killer beam is a supermassive black hole weighing many million or even a billion times the mass of our sun. Energy from the spinning black hole, and its titanic magnetic fields, shape a narrow jet of gas blasting out a galaxy's center. Hubble has been used over the past 25 years to photograph and rephotograph a jet blasting out the heart of the elliptical galaxy 3C 264 (also known as NGC 3862). Hubble's sharp vision reveals that the jet has a string-of-pearls structure of glowing knots of material. When these images were assembled into a time-lapse movie, they reveal – to the surprise of astronomers – a faster-moving bright knot rear-ending the bright knot in front of it. The resulting shock collision further accelerates particles that produce a focused beam of deadly radiation. The jet is moving so fast toward us it gives the illusion that it is traveling faster than the speed of light. But not to worry, the host galaxy is 260 million light-years away. We are seeing the jet as it looked before the dinosaurs appeared on Earth, and our planet was suffering a global mass extinction.

Hubble Observes One-of-a-Kind Star Nicknamed 'Nasty'

10:00 am PDT, May 21, 2015

Astronomers have spent decades trying to determine the oddball behavior of an aging star nicknamed "Nasty 1" residing in our Milky Way galaxy. Nasty 1 was identified as a Wolf-Rayet star, a rapidly evolving star that is much more massive than our sun. The star loses its hydrogen-filled outer layers quickly, exposing its super-hot and extremely bright helium-burning core.

But Nasty 1 doesn't look like a typical Wolf-Rayet star. Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope had expected to see a bipolar outflow of twin lobes of gas from the star, perhaps similar to those emanating from the massive star Eta Carinae. The astronomers were surprised, however, to find a pancake-shaped disk of gas encircling the star. The vast disk is nearly 1,000 times the diameter of our solar system. It may have formed from the interaction between Nasty 1 and an unseen companion star. The star may represent a brief transitory stage in the evolution of extremely massive stars. Nasty 1's nickname was derived from its catalog name of NaSt1.

Hubble Catches a Stellar Exodus in Action

10:00 am PDT, May 14, 2015

Globular star clusters are isolated star cities, home to hundreds of thousands of stars. And like the fast pace of cities, there's plenty of action in these stellar metropolises. The stars are in constant motion, orbiting around the cluster's center. Past observations have shown that the heavyweight stars live in the crowded downtown, or core, and lightweight stars reside in the less populated suburbs.

But as heavyweight stars age, they rapidly lose mass, cool down, and shut off their nuclear furnaces. After the purge, only the stars' bright, super-hot cores remain, and they are called white dwarfs. This weight-loss program causes the now lighter-weight white dwarfs to be nudged out of the downtown through gravitational interactions with the heftier stars. At each encounter, the white dwarfs' orbits begin to expand outward from the cluster's packed center. Until these Hubble observations, astronomers had never seen the dynamical conveyor belt in action. The new Hubble results reveal young white dwarfs on their slow-paced 40-million-year exodus from the bustling center of the globular cluster 47 Tucanae in our Milky Way galaxy.

Hubble Finds Giant Halo Around the Andromeda Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, May 7, 2015

The Andromeda galaxy is our Milky Way's nearest neighbor in space. The majestic spiral of over 100 billion stars is comparable in size to our home galaxy. At a distance of 2.5 million light-years, it is so close to us the galaxy can be seen as a cigar-shaped smudge of light high in the autumn sky. But if you could see the huge bubble of hot, diffuse plasma surrounding it, it would appear 100 times the angular diameter of the full Moon! The gargantuan halo is estimated to contain half the mass of the stars in the Andromeda galaxy itself. It can be thought of as the "atmosphere" of a galaxy. Astronomers using Hubble identified the gas in Andromeda's halo by measuring how it filtered the light of distant bright background objects called quasars. It is akin to seeing the glow of a flashlight shining through a fog. This finding promises to tell astronomers more about the evolution and structure of one of the most common types of galaxies in the universe.

Astronomers Set a New Galaxy Distance Record

10:00 am PDT, May 5, 2015

The universe is incredibly big. But how do astronomers know that? Billion-mile-long tape measures can't be found at the hardware store. Instead, astronomers use the expansion of the universe itself to establish milepost markers. The light from remote objects is attenuated and weakened as space stretches like a rubber band. The consequences are that starlight will look redder relative to a nearby star of the same temperature. When starlight is spread into its component color via spectroscopy, features in the light will be shifted to the red end of the spectrum. This "redshift" can be used to reliably calibrate distances. The challenge is the farthest objects in the universe are typically too faint for spectroscopy to work. So instead, astronomers deduce a galaxy's distance by precisely measuring its colors in visible and infrared light. This technique has found candidates for the farthest object in the universe.

Now, in a synergy between the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, and the giant W. M. Keck Observatory, astronomers have set a new distance record to the farthest redshift-confirmed galaxy. It is so far away the light we receive left the galaxy over 13 billion years ago, and it is just arriving now. Hubble found the galaxy in deep-sky surveys, and Keck's 10-meter-diameter segmented mirror is powerful enough to collect a spectrum from the unusually bright galaxy. The new observations underline the very exciting discoveries that NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will enable when it is launched in 2018.

Hubble Space Telescope Celebrates 25 Years of Unveiling the Universe

6:15 am PDT, April 23, 2015

NASA and ESA are celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope's silver anniversary of 25 years in space by unveiling some of nature's own fireworks – a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars called Westerlund 2. The cluster resides inside a vibrant stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina. The comparatively young, 2-million-year-old star cluster contains some of our galaxy's hottest, brightest, and most massive stars. The largest stars are unleashing a torrent of ultraviolet light and hurricane-force winds that etch away the enveloping hydrogen gas cloud. This creates a fantasy celestial landscape of pillars, ridges, and valleys.

Our Sun Came Late to the Milky Way's Star-Birth Party

11:00 am PDT, April 9, 2015

Our Sun missed the stellar "baby boom" that erupted in our young Milky Way galaxy 10 billion years ago. During that time the Milky Way was churning out stars 30 times faster than it does today. Our galaxy was ablaze with a firestorm of star birth as its rich reservoir of hydrogen gas compressed under gravity, creating myriad stars. But our Sun was not one of them. It was a late "boomer," arising 5 billion years later, when star birth had plunged to a trickle.

Astronomers compiled this story of our Milky Way's growth from studying galaxies similar in mass to our galaxy, found in deep surveys of the universe. Stretching back in time more than 10 billion years, the census contains nearly 2,000 snapshots of Milky Way-like galaxies. The analysis comprises the most comprehensive multi-observatory galaxy survey yet, and includes data from the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS), taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA and STScI Select Hubble Fellows for 2015

11:00 am PDT, April 6, 2015

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have announced the selection of 17 new Hubble Fellows. STScI in Baltimore, Maryland, administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA. The Hubble Fellowship Program includes all research relevant to present and future missions relating to NASA's Cosmic Origins Program. These missions currently include the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the James Webb Space Telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The new Hubble Fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2015.

Hubble Finds Phantom Objects Near Dead Quasars

8:00 am PDT, April 2, 2015

In 2007, Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel discovered a never-before-seen ghostly structure near a galaxy, while she was participating in an online amateur scientist project called Galaxy Zoo. The galaxy hosts a bright quasar that may have illuminated the apparition by hitting it with a beam of light from hot gas around a central black hole. Astronomers eagerly used the Hubble Space Telescope to do follow-up observations, which revealed knots of dust and gas in the "greenish blob." Assuming that this feature could offer insights into the puzzling behavior of active galaxies, Bill Keel of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, initiated a search for other similar phenomenon. After all, where there's one strange blob there could be more. Keel had 200 volunteers look at archival data of 15,000 galaxies hosting quasars. In the end, he found eight other galaxies with bright active nuclei that have illuminated material far outside the radius of the galaxy. The eerie structures have looping, spiral, and braided shapes. Hubble's images show that they are like the remnants of galaxy collisions.

Hubble and Chandra Discover Dark Matter Is Not as Sticky as Once Thought

11:00 am PDT, March 26, 2015

In particle physics labs, like the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, scientists smash atoms together to study the underpinnings of matter and energy. On the scale of the macrocosm, nature provides a similar experiment by crashing clusters of galaxies together. Besides galaxies and gas, the galaxy clusters contain huge amounts of dark matter. Dark matter is a transparent form of matter that makes up most of the mass in the universe. During collisions, the clouds of gas enveloping the galaxies crash into each other and slow down or stop. Astronomers found that the dark matter continued straight through the violent collisions, without slowing down relative to the galaxies. Their best explanation is that the dark matter did not interact with visible particles, and it also interacted less frequently with other dark matter than previously thought. Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory to study 72 large galaxy cluster collisions. Chandra traced the hot gas, and Hubble saw how the invisible dark matter warps space and distorts the images of background stars. This allowed for the distribution of dark matter in the collision to be mapped. The finding narrows down the options for what this dark matter might be.

Hubble Source Catalog: One-Stop Shopping for Astronomers

10:00 am PDT, March 13, 2015

Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland, have created a new master catalog of astronomical objects called the Hubble Source Catalog. The catalog provides one-stop shopping for measurements of objects observed with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble has amassed a rich legacy of images and other scientific data over its 25 years of exploring the universe. All of the images are stored in the computer-based Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), which astronomers use for their research. The archive is bursting with more than a million images, which contain roughly 100 million small sources ranging from distant galaxies to compact star clusters to individual stars. For astronomers, however, a major challenge is the difficulty involved with sifting through the archival gold mine to collect the data they want to analyze. The Hubble Source Catalog now allows astronomers to perform a computer search for characteristics of these sources, receiving information within seconds or minutes.

NASA's Hubble Observations Suggest Underground Ocean on Jupiter's Largest Moon

8:00 am PDT, March 12, 2015

Nearly 500 million miles from the Sun lies a moon orbiting Jupiter that is slightly larger than the planet Mercury and may contain more water than all of Earth's oceans. Temperatures are so cold, though, that water on the surface freezes as hard as rock and the ocean lies roughly 100 miles below the crust. Nevertheless, where there is water there could be life as we know it. Identifying liquid water on other worlds — big or small — is crucial in the search for habitable planets beyond Earth. Though the presence of an ocean on Ganymede has been long predicted based on theoretical models, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope found the best evidence for it. Hubble was used to watch aurorae glowing above the moon's icy surface. The aurorae are tied to the moon's magnetic field, which descends right down to the core of Ganymede. A saline ocean would influence the dynamics of the magnetic field as it interacts with Jupiter's own immense magnetic field, which engulfs Ganymede. Because telescopes can't look inside planets or moons, tracing the magnetic field through aurorae is a unique way to probe the interior of another world.

Hubble Sees Supernova Split into Four Images by Cosmic Lens

11:00 am PST, March 5, 2015

Three-leaf clover plants abound everywhere: on lawns, in gardens, and in forests. But spotting a four-leaf clover is a rare, lucky find. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have found the equivalent of a four-leaf clover with the discovery of four images of the same supernova. The images are arranged around a giant foreground elliptical galaxy embedded in a cluster of galaxies. The arrangement forms a cross-shaped pattern called an Einstein Cross. The powerful gravity from both the elliptical galaxy and its galaxy cluster magnifies the light from the supernova behind them in an effect called gravitational lensing. The elliptical galaxy and its galaxy cluster, MACS J1149.6+2223, are 5 billion light-years away from Earth. The supernova behind it is 9.3 billion light-years away.

Once the four images fade away, astronomers predict they will have a rare opportunity to watch a rerun of the supernova's appearance. Computer models of the cluster predict that another image of the stellar blast will appear within five years. Astronomers may have missed an earlier appearance of the supernova in 1995. These multiple appearances of the exploding star are due to the various paths its divided light is taking through the maze of clumpy dark matter in the galactic grouping. Each image takes a different route through the cluster and arrives at a different time, due, in part, to differences in the length of the pathways the light follows to reach Earth.

Hubble Gets Best View of a Circumstellar Debris Disk Distorted by a Planet

11:00 am PST, February 19, 2015

Over a decade before planets were found orbiting normal stars, the astronomy world was intrigued by the discovery of a vast, edge-on, pancake-flat disk of dust and gas encircling the newborn star Beta Pictoris. It appeared to validate the hypothesis by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, 230 years ago, that our solar system was born when planets condensed from nebular material in the plane of such a disk. (This model was independently proposed by French scholar Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1796.) Kant regarded the coplanar obits of the planets a fossil skeleton of the long-ago disintegrated disk. Though nearly two dozen circumstellar debris disks have been viewed by the Hubble Space Telescope to date, Beta Pictoris is the first and best example of what a forming young planetary system looks like. That's because it can be seen edge on, and it is the only disk to date where a planet has also been imaged. Hubble has been used to intensively study the disk for the past two decades and this latest picture – when compared to previous observations – shows that the disk particles appear to smoothly revolve around the star like a majestic carousel. Ground-based telescopes found a Jupiter-sized world embedded in the disk in 2009, and future observations may yield more planetary objects.

Hubble Captures Rare Triple-Moon Conjunction

7:00 am PST, February 5, 2015

Firing off a string of snapshots like a sports photographer at a NASCAR race, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured a rare look at three of Jupiter's largest moons zipping across the banded face of the gas-giant planet: Europa, Callisto, and Io. Jupiter's four largest moons can commonly be seen transiting the face of the giant planet and casting shadows onto its cloud tops. However, seeing three moons transiting the face of Jupiter at the same time is rare, occurring only once or twice a decade. Missing from the sequence, taken on January 24, 2015, is the moon Ganymede that was too far from Jupiter in angular separation to be part of the conjunction.

Join Hubble Heritage Team members during the live Hubble Hangout event at 3:00 pm (EST) today (Thursday, February 5) to learn more about Jupiter's rare triple-moon conjunction.

Hubble Spies a Loopy Galaxy

7:00 am PST, January 29, 2015

At first glance, galaxy NGC 7714 resembles a partial golden ring from an amusement park ride. This unusual structure is a river of Sun-like stars that has been pulled deep into space by the gravitational tug of a bypassing galaxy (not seen in this Hubble Space Telescope photo). Though the universe is full of such colliding galaxies that are distorted in a gravitational taffy-pull, NGC 7714 is particularly striking for the seeming fluidity of the stars along a vast arc. The near-collision between the galaxies happened at least 100 million years ago.

Hubble Discovers that Milky Way Core Drives Wind at 2 Million Miles Per Hour

2:15 pm PST, January 5, 2015

At a time when our earliest human ancestors had recently mastered walking upright, the heart of our Milky Way galaxy underwent a titanic eruption, driving gases and other material outward at 2 million miles per hour. Now, at least 2 million years later, astronomers are witnessing the aftermath of the explosion: billowing clouds of gas towering about 30,000 light-years above and below the plane of our galaxy.

The enormous structure, dubbed the Fermi Bubbles, was discovered five years ago as a gamma-ray glow on the sky in the direction of the galactic center. The balloon-like features have since been observed in X-rays and radio waves. But astronomers needed NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to measure for the first time the velocity and composition of the mystery lobes. They now seek to calculate the mass of the material being blown out of our galaxy, which could lead them to determine the outburst's cause from several competing scenarios. The graphic shows how Hubble probed the light from a distant quasar to analyze the outflow. The quasar's light passed through one of the bubbles. Imprinted on that light is information about the outflow's speed, composition, and eventually mass.

Hubble's High-Definition Panoramic View of the Andromeda Galaxy

2:15 pm PST, January 5, 2015

The largest NASA Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled, this sweeping view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) is the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our galactic neighbor. Though the galaxy is over 2 million light-years away, the Hubble telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars in a 61,000-light-year-long section of the galaxy's pancake-shaped disk. It's like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand. And, there are lots of stars in this sweeping view – over 100 million, with some of them in thousands of star clusters seen embedded in the disk. This ambitious photographic cartography of the Andromeda galaxy represents a new benchmark for precision studies of large spiral galaxies which dominate the universe's population of over 100 billion galaxies. Never before have astronomers been able to see individual stars over a major portion of an external spiral galaxy. Most of the stars in the universe live inside such majestic star cities, and this is the first data that reveal populations of stars in context to their home galaxy.

The panorama is the product of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) program. Images were obtained from viewing the galaxy in near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared wavelengths, using the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3 aboard Hubble. This view shows the galaxy in its natural visible-light color, as photographed with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in red and blue filters July 2010 through October 2013.

Hubble Goes High Def to Revisit the Iconic 'Pillars of Creation'

2:15 pm PST, January 5, 2015

Although NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken many breathtaking images of the universe, one snapshot stands out from the rest: the iconic view of the so-called "Pillars of Creation." The jaw-dropping photo, taken in 1995, revealed never-before-seen details of three giant columns of cold gas bathed in the scorching ultraviolet light from a cluster of young, massive stars in a small region of the Eagle Nebula, or M16.

Though such butte-like features are common in star-forming regions, the M16 structures are by far the most photogenic and evocative. The Hubble image is so popular that it has appeared in movies and television shows, on tee-shirts and pillows, and even on a postage stamp. And now, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, Hubble has revisited the famous pillars, providing astronomers with a sharper and wider view, shown in the right-hand image. For comparison, the original 1995 Hubble image of the gaseous towers appears in the left-hand view. Streamers of gas can be seen bleeding off pillars as the intense radiation heats and evaporates it into space. Stars are being born deep inside the pillars.

Institute Astronomers Share Prize for Discovery of Accelerating Universe

12:00 pm PST, December 16, 2014

It's the stuff of a science fiction movie: a mysterious form of energy that is pulling the universe apart at an ever-faster rate. Astronomers around the world are befuddled and are marshaling the world's most powerful telescopes in their search for clues to understanding what this "dark force" could be. Who knows how the story will end?

This script was not written by Hollywood writers but by two teams of astronomers, including scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. And now Hollywood has taken notice. The two groups received the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, Saul Perlmutter of the University of California, Berkeley, and Brian P. Schmidt of the Australian National University accepted the award on behalf of their teams at an Academy Awards-style ceremony in California. Riess (at far right in the photo) and Schmidt led the High-Z Supernova Team, Perlmutter the Supernova Cosmology Project. Other Institute scientists sharing the prize are Susana Deustua, Nino Panagia, and Andy Fruchter of the Supernova Cosmology team (seen left to right in the photo) and Ron Gilliland of the High-Z team.

STScI Astronomer Margaret Meixner Elected AAAS Fellow

10:00 am PST, November 24, 2014

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Council has elected Margaret Meixner of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and 401 other AAAS members as Fellows of AAAS. Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

Meixner is cited by the AAAS for her "leadership in the area of infrared instrumentation for astronomy, both from the ground and from space and for distinguished service in science team management for the James Webb Space Telescope." The new Fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on November 28, 2014. The new Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on February 14, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.

AURA Announces Selection of New AURA President

5:15 am PST, November 24, 2014

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) announced today that Dr. Matt Mountain, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, will become AURA President beginning March 1, 2015. Mountain will succeed William S. Smith who served as President since 2000. In announcing the selection, the Chair of the AURA Board of Directors, Dr. Richard Green, said, "AURA is heading into an exciting period, and Matt has enormous experience in large program and large facility management in ground- and space-based organizations. This will be a great asset for AURA as we complete construction on the Daniel K. Inoue Solar Telescope, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and the James Webb Space Telescope."

In accepting this appointment, Mountain said, "I am looking forward to working with the Board and our impressive Centers on the many challenging, yet exciting opportunities for astronomy, our community, and AURA in the coming years. I believe AURA has a great future, and I feel especially privileged to be chosen to help craft that future in partnership with the AURA Board." Mountain served as Gemini Observatory Director from 1999 to 2005. In 2005 he was then appointed Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, where he has served until the present. STScI is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA, and is preparing for the science and mission operations of the Webb telescope.

Dr. Roeland van der Marel Appointed as STScI Lead on Proposed "Wide View" Space Telescope

7:00 am PST, November 14, 2014

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, has appointed Dr. Roeland van der Marel to lead its work on a proposed NASA space telescope that will provide images as sharp as the Hubble Space Telescope, but over a hundred times larger area. The space observatory, called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (WFIRST-AFTA), is being studied for launch in the mid-2020s, pending program approval by NASA. The telescope will be used to probe the distribution of dark matter and the characteristics of dark energy, measure the abundance and characteristics of planets orbiting other stars, and will provide observations and surveys to study many other astrophysical subjects. STScI is presently the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and the science and mission operations center for the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018. Van der Marel joined the STScI staff in 1997. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He is an expert on black holes and the structure of galaxies.

The Party's Over for These Youthful Compact Galaxies

10:00 am PST, November 13, 2014

Hubble has uncovered young, massive, compact galaxies whose raucous star-making parties are ending early. The firestorm of star birth has blasted out most of the remaining gaseous fuel needed to make future generations of stars. Now the party's over for these gas-starved galaxies, and they are on track to possibly becoming so-called "red and dead galaxies," composed only of aging stars. An analysis of 12 merging galaxies is suggesting that energy from the star-birthing frenzy created powerful winds that are blowing out the gas, squelching future generations of stars. This activity occurred when the universe was half its current age of 13.7 billion years.

The graphic illustrates how a vibrant, star-forming galaxy quickly transforms into a sedate galaxy composed of old stars. The scenario begins when two galaxies merge (Panel 1), funneling a large amount of gas into the central region. The gas compresses, sparking a firestorm of star birth, which blows out most of the remaining star-forming gas (Panel 2). Devoid of its fuel, the galaxy settles into a quiet existence, composed of aging stars (Panel 3).

Hubble Surveys Debris-Strewn Exoplanetary Construction Yards

10:00 am PST, November 6, 2014

Over the past few years, astronomers have found an incredible diversity in the architecture of exoplanetary systems, as well as the planets themselves. A survey using the sharp view of the Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a similar diversity in the debris systems that coincide with the formation of exoplanets. These circumstellar dusty disks are likely generated by collisions between objects left over from planet formation around stars. The survey's results suggest that there is some sort of interdependence between a planet and the accompanying debris system.

Hubble Sees 'Ghost Light' From Dead Galaxies

10:00 am PDT, October 30, 2014

The universe is an infinite sea of galaxies, which are majestic star-cities. When galaxies group together in massive clusters, some of them can be ripped apart by the gravitational tug of other galaxies. It's a giant cosmic mosh pit. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to probe the massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 – nicknamed Pandora's Cluster – have found forensic evidence of galaxies torn apart long ago. It's in the form of a phantom-like faint glow filling the space between the galaxies. This glow comes from stars scattered into intergalactic space as a result of a galaxy's disintegration.

Here's Looking At You: Spooky Shadow Play Gives Jupiter a Giant Eye

7:00 am PDT, October 28, 2014

The Hubble Space Telescope treats astronomers to gorgeous close-up views of the eerie outer planets. But it's a bit of a trick when it seems like the planet's looking back at you! In this view, the shadow of the Jovian moon Ganymede swept across the center of the Great Red Spot – a giant storm on the planet. This gave Jupiter the uncanny appearance of having a pupil in the center of a 10,000-mile-diameter "eye." Now if it blinks, we may really have to worry!

Close Encounters: Comet Siding Spring Seen Next to Mars

9:00 am PDT, October 23, 2014

This is a photo composite of the encounter of Comet Siding Spring with Mars on October 19, 2014. Separate Hubble Space Telescope images of Mars and the comet have been combined together into a single picture. This is a composite image because a single exposure of the stellar background, Comet Siding Spring, and Mars would be problematic because the objects are all moving with respect to each other and the background stars. Hubble can only track one planetary target at a time. Also, Mars is actually 10,000 times brighter than the comet, and the exposure here has been adjusted so that details on the Red Planet can be seen.

Hubble Finds Extremely Distant Galaxy through Cosmic Magnifying Glass

10:00 am PDT, October 16, 2014

Peering through a giant cosmic magnifying glass, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted one of the farthest, faintest, and smallest galaxies ever seen. The diminutive object is estimated to be more than 13 billion light-years away. This new detection is considered one of the most reliable distance measurements of a galaxy that existed in the early universe, said the Hubble researchers. Hubble detected the galaxy due to the lensing power of the mammoth galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora's Cluster. The cluster is so massive that its powerful gravity bends the light from galaxies far behind it, making the background objects appear larger and brighter in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.

In this Hubble image, the cluster produced three magnified images of the background galaxy, marked by the small white boxes, labeled "a," "b," and "c." The arrows in the enlarged views point to the tiny galaxy far behind the cluster. Each magnified image makes the galaxy appear as much as 10 times larger and brighter than it would look without the intervening lens. The galaxy was detected as part of the Frontier Fields program, an ambitious three-year effort, begun in 2013, that teams Hubble with NASA's other Great Observatories – the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory – to probe the early universe by studying large galaxy clusters.

NASA's Hubble Telescope Finds Potential Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons Pluto Mission

10:00 am PDT, October 15, 2014

The Kuiper Belt is a vast disk of icy debris left over from our Sun's formation 4.6 billion years ago. Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) are a unique class of solar-system body that has never been visited by interplanetary spacecraft. They contain well-preserved clues to the origin of our solar system. NASA's New Horizons probe will fly by Pluto in mid-2015 and then continue across the Kuiper Belt on its way toward interstellar space. The Hubble Space Telescope was used to do a deep sky survey to identify KBOs that the New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit on its outbound trajectory. The deep sky survey was successful, and Hubble found targetable KBOs for New Horizons.

Hubble Maps the Temperature and Water Vapor on an Extreme Exoplanet

11:00 am PDT, October 9, 2014

Located 260 light-years away, exoplanet WASP-43b is no place to call home. It is a world of extremes, where seething winds howl at the speed of sound from a 3,000-degree-Fahrenheit day side, hot enough to melt steel, to a pitch-black night side with plunging temperatures below 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Hubble Space Telescope has been used to make the most detailed global map yet of the thermal glow from this turbulent world. The astronomers were also able to map temperatures at different layers of the world's atmosphere and traced the amount and distribution of water vapor. The Jupiter-sized planet lies so close to its orange dwarf host star that it completes an orbit in just 19 hours. The planet is also gravitationally locked so that it keeps one hemisphere facing the star.

NASA Telescopes Find Clear Skies and Water Vapor on Exo-Neptune

10:00 am PDT, September 24, 2014

The weather forecast for a planet 120 light-years from Earth is clear skies and steamy water vapor. Finding clear skies on a gaseous world the size of Neptune is a good sign that even smaller, Earth-size planets might have similarly good visibility. This would allow earthbound astronomers to measure the underlying atmospheric composition of an exoplanet. Astronomers using the Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler space telescopes were able to determine that the planet, cataloged HAT-P-11b, has water vapor in its atmosphere. The world is definitely steamy with temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The planet is so hot because it orbits so close to its star, completing one orbit every five days.

Hubble Helps Find Smallest Known Galaxy with a Supermassive Black Hole

10:00 am PDT, September 17, 2014

Astronomers have found an unlikely object in an improbable place: a monster black hole lurking inside one of the tiniest galaxies known. The dwarf galaxy containing the black hole is the densest galaxy ever seen, cramming 140 million stars within a diameter of about 300 light-years (just 1/500th of our Milky Way galaxy's diameter). However, the black hole inside the galaxy is five times the mass of the black hole at the center of our Milky Way. This suggests that the dwarf galaxy may actually be the stripped remnant of a larger galaxy that was torn apart during a close encounter with a more massive galaxy. The finding implies that there are many other compact galaxies in the universe that contain supermassive black holes.

Hubble Finds Companion Star Hidden for 21 Years in a Supernova's Glare

10:00 am PDT, September 9, 2014

For over two decades astronomers have been patiently monitoring the fading glow of a supernova in a nearby galaxy. They've been looking for a suspected companion star that pulled off almost all of the hydrogen from the doomed star that exploded. At last Hubble's ultraviolet-light sensitivity pulled out the blue glow of the star from the cluttered starlight in the disk of the galaxy. This observation confirms the theory that the supernova originated in a double-star system where one star fueled the mass-loss from the aging primary star. The surviving star's brightness and estimated mass provide insight into the conditions that preceded the 1993 explosion.

New iBooks Textbook Helps Visually Impaired Visit the Stars Through Touch and Sound

7:30 am PDT, September 4, 2014

Children with visual disabilities can experience striking deep-space images in a free, multi-touch iBooks textbook for the iPad entitled "Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn." Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute have teamed up with the SAS Corporation, the National Braille Press, and the National Federation of the Blind to create a book to inspire students of all abilities. Students with visual impairments can access the book using the VoiceOver screen reader that is available on every iPad. The book is available as a free download from Apple's iBooks Store.

NASA Telescopes Help Uncover Early Construction Phase of Giant Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, August 27, 2014

The birth of massive galaxies, according to galaxy formation theories, begins with the buildup of a dense, compact core that is ablaze with the glow of millions of newly formed stars. Evidence of this early construction phase, however, has eluded astronomers until now. Astronomers identified a dense galactic core, dubbed "Sparky," using a combination of data from Hubble and Spitzer, other space telescopes, and the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Hubble photographed the emerging galaxy as it looked 11 billion years ago, just 3 billion years after the birth of our universe in the big bang.

This illustration reveals the celestial fireworks deep inside the crowded core of a developing galaxy, as seen from a hypothetical planetary system. The sky is ablaze with the glow from nebulae, fledgling star clusters, and stars exploding as supernovae. The rapidly forming core may eventually become the heart of a mammoth galaxy similar to one of the giant elliptical galaxies seen today.

NASA's Hubble Finds Supernova Star System Linked to Potential 'Zombie Star'

10:00 am PDT, August 6, 2014

Supernovae are the most powerful stellar explosions in the universe. Some of them are produced by the detonation of a white dwarf, the stripped-down core of an ordinary star at the end of its life. But 12 years ago, astronomers began noticing weak stellar blasts, a kind of mini-supernova. When one such explosion occurred in the galaxy NGC 1309, astronomers looking through Hubble archival images found for the first time the star system that produced the supernova blast of a white dwarf.

The inset panel from 2013 shows the supernova; archival Hubble data from 2005 and 2006 show the progenitor system for the supernova, thought to be a binary system containing a helium star transferring material to a white dwarf that exploded.

Hubble Shows Farthest Lensing Galaxy Yields Clues to Early Universe

7:00 am PDT, July 31, 2014

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have unexpectedly discovered the most distant cosmic magnifying glass yet, produced by a monster elliptical galaxy. The galaxy, seen here as it looked 9.6 billion years ago, is so massive that its gravity bends, magnifies, and distorts light from objects behind it, a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. In the Hubble image, the galaxy is the red object in the enlarged view at left.

The object behind the cosmic lens is a tiny spiral galaxy undergoing a rapid burst of star formation. Its light has taken 10.7 billion years to arrive here. In the Hubble image, the galaxy is seen in the enlarged view at right. Seeing this chance alignment at such a great distance from Earth is a rare find.

Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets

5:00 am PDT, July 24, 2014

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun – and have come up nearly dry. The planets spectroscopically surveyed have only one-tenth to one one-thousandth the amount of water predicted by standard planet-formation theories. The planets are not habitable because they are gaseous and are as big as Jupiter. They lie so much closer to their host star than Jupiter is to our Sun, so their atmospheres are seething between 1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, this result suggests that some percentage of Earth-size exoplanets may be more deficient in water than predicted. And, water is a necessary prerequisite for life as we know it. The search for water-bearing terrestrial worlds may be more challenging than thought for future space telescopes. And, scientists may have to revisit their theories of planet formation.

Hubble Sees Spiral Bridge of Young Stars Between Two Ancient Galaxies

7:00 am PDT, July 10, 2014

It seems like our compulsive universe can be downright capricious when it comes to making oddball-looking things in the cosmos. The latest surprise to Hubble astronomers is a 100,000-light-year-long structure that looks like a string of pearls twisted into a corkscrew shape. This Slinky-like structure forms a bridge between two giant elliptical galaxies that are colliding. The "pearls" on the Slinky are superclusters of blazing, blue-white, newly born stars. The whole assembly, which looks like a tug-of-war, must result from the gravitational tidal forces present in the collision.

If that's not strange enough, the underlying physics behind the "beads on a string" shape is related to describing the behavior of self-gravitating clumps of gas. It's analogous to the process where rain falls in drops rather than in continuous filaments from clouds. It's called the Jeans instability, and it can play out on distance scales of enormous orders of magnitude – from being inches across to many thousands of light-years in length.

Hubble to Proceed with Full Search for New Horizons Targets

11:00 am PDT, July 1, 2014

Planetary scientists have successfully used the Hubble Space Telescope to boldly look out to the far frontier of the solar system to find suitable targets for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. After the marathon probe zooms past Pluto in July 2015, it will travel across the Kuiper Belt – a vast rim of primitive ice bodies left over from the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. If NASA approves, the probe could be redirected to fly to a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) and photograph it up close.

As a first step, Hubble found two KBOs drifting against the starry background. They may or may not be the ideal target for New Horizons. Nevertheless, the observation is proof of concept that Hubble can go forward with an approved deeper KBO search, covering an area of sky roughly the angular size of the full Moon. The exceedingly challenging observation amounted to finding something no bigger than Manhattan Island, and charcoal black, located 4 billion miles away.

Swiftly Moving Gas Streamer Eclipses Supermassive Black Hole

11:00 am PDT, June 19, 2014

Active galaxies host supermassive black holes in their cores. The intense gravity of the black hole creates a turbulent cauldron of extreme physics. These galaxies, such as NGC 5548 in this study, are too far away for the plasma fireworks to be directly imaged. Therefore astronomers use X-ray and ultraviolet spectroscopy to infer what is happening near the black hole. The new twist is the detection of a clumpy stream of gas that has swept in front of the black hole, blocking its radiation. This deep look into a black hole's environment yields clues to the behavior of active galaxies.

The science team consists of J. Kaastra (SRON Utrecht/Universiteit Utrecht/Leiden University, the Netherlands), G. Kriss (STScI/JHU, Baltimore, Maryland, USA), M. Cappi (INAF-IASF Bologna, Italy), M. Mehdipour (SRON Utrecht, the Netherlands/University College of London, Holmbury St. Mary, UK), P.-O. Petrucci (University Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, France), K. Steenbrugge (Universidad Católica del Norte, Antofagasta, Chile/University of Oxford, UK), N. Arav (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA), E. Behar (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel), S. Bianchi (Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Italy), R. Boissay (University of Geneva, Switzerland), G. Branduardi-Raymont (MSSL/University College of London, Holmbury St. Mary, UK), C. Chamberlain (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA), E. Costantini (SRON Utrecht, the Netherlands), J. Ely (STScI, Baltimore, Maryland, USA), J. Ebrero (SRON Utrecht, the Netherlands/ESAC, Spain), L. Di Gesu (SRON Utrecht, the Netherlands), F. Harrison (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA), S. Kaspi (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel), J. Malzac (Université de Toulouse/CNRAS, France), B. De Marco (Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany), G. Matt (Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Italy), P. Nandra (Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany), S. Paltani (University of Geneva, Switzerland), R. Person (St. Jorioz, France), B. Peterson (Ohio State University, Columbus, USA), C. Pinto (University of Cambridge, UK), G. Ponti (Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany), F. Pozo Nuñez (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany), A. De Rosa (INAF/IAPS, Roma, Italy), H. Seta (Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan), F. Ursini (University of Grenoble, CNRS, France), C. de Vries (SRON Utrecht, the Netherlands), D. Walton (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA), and M. Whewell (MSSL/University College of London, Holmbury St. Mary, UK).

Hubble Finds That Dwarf Galaxies Formed More Than Their Fair Share of the Universe's Stars

5:00 am PDT, June 19, 2014

They may be little, but they pack a big star-forming punch. Hubble astronomers have found that dwarf galaxies in the young universe were responsible for an "early wave" of star formation not long after the big bang. The galaxies churned out stars at a furiously fast rate, far above the "normal" star formation expected of galaxies. Understanding the link between a galaxy's mass and its star-forming activity helps to assemble a consistent picture of events in the early universe.

The international team associated with this study consists of H. Atek (EPFL, Switzerland and Spitzer Science Center, California), J.-P. Kneib (EPFL, Switzerland and CNRS, France), C. Pacifici (Yonsei University Observatory, Republic of Korea), M. Malkan (University of California, Los Angeles), S. Charlot (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris), J. Lee (STScI), A. Bedregal (Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics), A. Bunker (University of Oxford, UK), J. Colbert (Spitzer Science Center), A. Dressler (Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science), N. Hathi (Aix Marseille University, France), M. Lehnert (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, France), C. Martin (University of California, Santa Barbara), P. McCarthy (Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science), M. Rafelski (Spitzer Science Center), N. Ross (University of California, Los Angeles), B. Siana (University of California, Riverside), and H. Teplitz (Caltech).

NASA's Hubble to Begin Search Beyond Pluto for a New Horizons Mission Target

8:00 am PDT, June 16, 2014

The Kuiper Belt is the final frontier of our solar system, and also the vastest. Stretching from 3 to 5 billion miles from the Sun, it contains myriad primitive icy bodies left over from the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. After passing the dwarf planet Pluto in July 2015, NASA's New Horizons space probe will hurtle deep into the Kuiper Belt at nearly 35,000 miles per hour. The Hubble Space Telescope is being used to search for a suitable Kuiper Belt object that New Horizons could pay a visit to. It would be our first and perhaps last look at such a remote relic from the distant past. The search is very challenging even for Hubble's sharp vision. It has to find something the size of Manhattan Island, as black as charcoal, and embedded against a snowstorm of background stars.

This artist's rendering shows the New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Kuiper Belt object.

Hubble Team Unveils Most Colorful View of Universe Captured by Space Telescope

11:15 am PDT, June 3, 2014

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have assembled a comprehensive picture of the evolving universe – among the most colorful deep space images ever captured by the 24-year-old telescope. This study, which includes ultraviolet light, provides the missing link in star formation.

Hubble Shows that Jupiter's Great Red Spot Is Smaller than Ever Seen Before

7:00 am PDT, May 15, 2014

Jupiter's monster storm, the Great Red Spot, was once so large that three Earths would fit inside it. But new measurements by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the largest storm in our solar system has downsized significantly. The red spot, which has been raging for at least a hundred years, is only the width of one Earth. What is happening? One possibility is that some unknown activity in the planet's atmosphere may be draining energy and weakening the storm, causing it to shrink. The Hubble images were taken in 1995, 2009, and 2014.

Hubble Astronomers Check the Prescription of a Cosmic Lens

10:00 am PDT, May 1, 2014

If you need to check whether the prescription for your eye glasses or contact lenses is still accurate, you visit an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. The doctor will ask you to read an eye chart, which tests your visual acuity. Your score helps the doctor determine whether to change your prescription.

Astronomers don't have a giant eye chart to check the prescription for natural cosmic lenses, created by galaxy clusters. The gravity of these cosmic lenses warps space around them, magnifying and brightening the light from distant objects behind them. Without these lenses, background objects would be too dim to be detected by even NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. But how do astronomers know whether the prescription for these zoom lenses, which tells them how much an object will be magnified, is accurate? Astronomers using the Hubble telescope have discovered the next best thing to a giant cosmic eye chart: the light from distant exploding stars behind galaxy clusters.

Astronomical Forensics Uncover Planetary Disks in Hubble Archive

11:00 am PDT, April 24, 2014

Nearly 2,000 planets have been confirmed to be orbiting other stars in our galaxy. But the details of planet birth and formation are sparse. The conventional wisdom, dating back to a hypothesis by philosopher Immanuel Kant in the late 1700s, considered the orbit of the planets in our solar system to be the skeleton of disks of dust and gas that swirled around the newborn sun. The dust particles clumped together to build planets from the ground up.

More than 200 years later the Hubble Space Telescope's exquisite resolution and sensitivity have allowed astronomers to discover dusty disks around young stars. These disks are believed to be fed by dust blasted off newborn planets colliding with a clutter of other bodies in the system. The disks only reflect light, and so are much fainter than their parent star. The disks are warmed by the star, and so glow at infrared wavelengths as well. Applying new image processing techniques, astronomers have been able to tease out images of disks hidden away in Hubble infrared data taken over a decade ago. This underscores the importance of archiving astronomical observations for future astronomers. If at first you don't find something wonderful and mysterious out there, try, try again.

Hubble Stretches Stellar Tape Measure 10 Times Farther into Space

7:00 am PDT, April 10, 2014

Astronomers continue refining the precision of distance measurement techniques to better understand the dimensions of the universe. Calculating the age of the universe, its expansion rate, and the nature of dark energy all depend on the precise distance measurements to stars and galaxies. If the astronomical yardsticks are off, the astronomical interpretation may be flawed. The most reliable method for making astronomical distance measurements is to use straightforward geometry where the 186-million-mile diameter of Earth's orbit is used to construct a baseline of a triangle, much as a land surveyor would use. If a target star is close enough, it will appear to zigzag on the sky during the year as a reflection of Earth's orbit about the Sun. This technique is called parallax. The stars are so far away that the angle of this parallax shift is incredibly tiny. An innovative new observing technique has extended Hubble's yardstick 10 times farther into our galaxy, out to a distance of 7,500 light-years from Earth.

Hubble Finds That Monster 'El Gordo' Galaxy Cluster Is Bigger Than Thought

11:00 am PDT, April 3, 2014

If someone told you there was an object in space called "El Gordo" (Spanish for "the fat one") you might imagine some kind of planet-eating monster straight out of a science fiction movie. The nickname refers to a monstrous cluster of galaxies that is being viewed at a time when the universe was just half of its current age of 13.8 billion years. This is an object of superlatives. It contains several hundred galaxies swarming around under a collective gravitational pull. The total mass of the cluster, and refined in new Hubble measurements, is estimated to be as much as 3 million billion stars like our Sun (about 3,000 times more massive than our own Milky Way galaxy) – though most of the mass is hidden away as dark matter. The cluster may be so huge because it is the result of a titanic collision and merger between two separate galaxy clusters. Thankfully, our Milky Way galaxy grew up in an uncluttered backwater region of the universe.

NASA and STScI Select 17 Hubble Fellows for 2014

11:00 am PDT, April 2, 2014

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have announced the selection of 17 new Hubble Fellows. STScI in Baltimore, Md., administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA. The Hubble Fellowship Program includes all research relevant to present and future missions in NASA's Cosmic Origins theme. These missions currently include the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The new Hubble Fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2014.

Hubble Sees Mars-Bound Comet Sprout Multiple Jets

7:00 am PDT, March 27, 2014

Comet Siding Spring is plunging toward the Sun along a roughly 1-million-year orbit. The comet, discovered in 2013, was within the radius of Jupiter's orbit when the Hubble Space Telescope photographed it on March 11, 2014. Hubble resolves two jets of dust coming from the solid icy nucleus. These persistent jets were first seen in Hubble pictures taken on Oct. 29, 2013. The feature should allow astronomers to measure the direction of the nucleus's pole, and hence, rotation axis. The comet will make its closest approach to our Sun on Oct. 25, 2014, at a distance of 130 million miles, well outside Earth's orbit. On its inbound leg, Comet Siding Spring will pass within 84,000 miles of Mars on Oct. 19, 2014, which is less than half the Moon's distance from Earth. The comet is not expected to become bright enough to be seen by the naked eye.

Hubble Celebrates Its 24th Anniversary with an Infrared Look at a Nearby Star Factory

2:00 am PDT, March 17, 2014

This colorful Hubble Space Telescope mosaic of a small portion of the Monkey Head Nebula unveils a collection of carved knots of gas and dust silhouetted against glowing gas. The cloud is sculpted by ultraviolet light eating into the cool hydrogen gas. As the interstellar dust particles are warmed from the radiation from the stars in the center of the nebula, they heat up and begin to glow at infrared wavelengths, as captured by Hubble. The space photo superficially resembles the "The Great Wave" print by 19th century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

Hubble Witnesses an Asteroid Mysteriously Disintegrating

7:00 am PST, March 6, 2014

Though fragile comet nuclei have been seen falling apart as they near the Sun, nothing like the slow breakup of an asteroid has ever before been observed in the asteroid belt. A series of Hubble Space Telescope images shows that the fragments are drifting away from each other at a leisurely one mile per hour. This makes it unlikely that the asteroid is disintegrating because of a collision with another asteroid. A plausible explanation is that the asteroid is crumbling due to a subtle effect of sunlight. This causes the rotation rate to slowly increase until centrifugal force pulls the asteroid apart. The asteroid's remnant debris, weighing in at 200,000 tons, will in the future provide a rich source of meteoroids.

Life Is Too Fast, Too Furious for This Runaway Galaxy

7:00 am PST, March 4, 2014

Our spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy lives in a comparatively quiet backwater region of the universe. This is not the case for galaxies crammed together inside huge clusters. As they zip around within a cluster, gas can be pulled from their disks due to a process called ram pressure stripping. Galaxy ESO 137-001 is one example. The star-city looks like it is "leaking" as it plunges through the Norma galaxy cluster.

Hubble Monitors Supernova in Nearby Galaxy M82

8:00 am PST, February 26, 2014

This is a Hubble Space Telescope composite image of a supernova explosion designated SN 2014J in the galaxy M82, at a distance of approximately 11.5 million light-years from Earth. Astronomers using a ground-based telescope discovered the explosion on January 21, 2014. This Hubble photograph was taken on January 31, as the supernova approached its peak brightness.

Hubble Watches Stars' Clockwork Motion in Nearby Galaxy

10:00 am PST, February 18, 2014

Using the sharp-eyed NASA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have for the first time precisely measured the rotation rate of a galaxy based on the clock-like movement of its stars.

According to their analysis, the central part of the neighboring galaxy, called the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), completes a rotation every 250 million years. Coincidentally, it takes our Sun the same amount of time to complete a rotation around the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The arrows in this photo illustration represent the highest-quality Hubble measurements of the motion of the LMC's stars to show how the galaxy rotates.

Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes Find One of the Youngest Galaxies in the Universe

7:00 am PST, February 7, 2014

An international team led by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) and La Laguna University (ULL) has just released the first analysis of the observations of the Abell 2744 cluster of galaxies, a coordinated program of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. They have discovered one of the most distant galaxies known to date, which clearly shows the potential of the multi-year Frontier Fields project. The project uses a phenomenon called "gravitational lensing" where select foreground galaxy clusters amplify the faint light from far-more-distant background objects. By combining Hubble and Spitzer data, these astrophysicists have determined the properties of this young galaxy with a better precision than previous studies of other samples at similar cosmic epochs. This galaxy, named Abell2744-Y1, is about 30 times smaller than our galaxy, the Milky Way, but is producing at least 10 times more stars. From Earth, this galaxy is seen as it was 650 million years after the big bang. It is one of the brightest galaxies discovered at such a lookback time, say researchers. This study provides new constraints on the density and properties of the galaxies in the early universe. These results are accepted for publication in the scientific journal Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters.

In addition to the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) and La Laguna University (ULL), the team is composed of researchers from France (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie and Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon), Switzerland (Geneva University and Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne), and the United States (University of Arizona).

Kepler Finds a Very Wobbly Planet

10:00 am PST, February 4, 2014

Imagine living on a planet with seasons so unpredictable you would hardly know what to wear: Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat! That's the situation on a weird world found by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The planet, designated Kepler-413b, is located 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It circles a close pair of orange and red dwarf stars every 66 days. But what makes this planet very unusual is that it wobbles, or precesses, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child's top. The planet's orbit is tilted with respect to the plane of the binary star's orbit. Over an 11-year period, the planet's orbit too would appear to wobble as it circles around the star pair. All of this complex movement leads to rapid and erratic changes in seasons.

Hubble Helps Solve Mystery of Ultra-Compact, Burned-Out Galaxies

7:00 am PST, January 29, 2014

A certain class of massive galaxies in the early universe lived fast and died young. By "died" astronomers mean that the galaxies had completed building stars just 3 billion years after the big bang. By contrast, our 12-billion-year-old Milky Way galaxy continues making stars today. When star formation stops, the aging stellar population looks redder in the star-forming galaxies that are more bluish. The nickname for the essentially "burned-out" galaxies is "red and dead."

By combining the power of Hubble with infrared space-based telescopes and ground-based telescopes, astronomers have now solved a decade-long mystery as to how compact elliptical-shaped galaxies existed when the universe was so young. These "red and dead" galaxies have now been linked directly to an earlier population of dusty starburst galaxies. These objects voraciously used up available gas for star formation very quickly. Then they grew slowly through merging as the star formation in them was quenched, and they eventually became giant elliptical galaxies.

2014 Van Biesbroeck Prize Awarded to Former STScI Deputy Director Hauser

7:30 am PST, January 16, 2014

Michael Hauser, former deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and an adjunct professor in the Johns Hopkins University's Physics and Astronomy Department, will receive the 2014 George Van Biesbroeck Prize from the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

The prize honors a living individual for long-term extraordinary or unselfish service to astronomy, often beyond the requirements of his or her paid position. In its citation, the Van Biesbroeck Prize committee recognized Hauser's long service to the astronomy community. The committee emphasized Hauser's "strategic vision" in establishing and leading the infrared group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and later, as STScI's deputy director, where he played a key role in turning STScI into a multi-mission institution.

Hubble Views Stellar Genesis in the Southern Pinwheel

7:15 am PST, January 9, 2014

The vibrant magentas and blues in this Hubble image of the barred spiral galaxy M83 reveal that the galaxy is ablaze with star formation. The galactic panorama unveils a tapestry of the drama of stellar birth and death. The galaxy, also known as the Southern Pinwheel, lies 15 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra.

This image is being used to support a citizen science project titled STAR DATE: M83. The primary goal is to estimate ages for approximately 3,000 star clusters. Amateur scientists will use the presence or absence of the pink hydrogen emission, the sharpness of the individual stars, and the color of the clusters to estimate ages. Participants will measure the sizes of the star clusters and any associated emission nebulae. Finally, the citizen scientists will "explore" the image, identifying a variety of objects ranging from background galaxies to supernova remnants to foreground stars. STAR DATE: M83 is a joint collaborative effort between the Space Telescope Science Institute and Zooniverse, creators of several citizen science projects including Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, and the Andromeda Project (go to to see the full list). The M83 project is scheduled to launch on Monday, January 13, 2014.

Electronic Book for Students with Visual Impairments Reaches for the Stars

7:15 am PST, January 9, 2014

This huge Hubble Space Telescope mosaic, spanning a width of 600 light-years, shows a star factory of more the 800,000 stars being born. The stars are embedded inside the Tarantula Nebula, a vibrant region of star birth that resides 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. Hubble's near-infrared sensitivity allows astronomers to see behind clouds of dust in the nebula to unveil where the newborn stars are clustered.

Hubble Unveils a Deep Sea of Small and Faint Early Galaxies

11:15 am PST, January 7, 2014

Scientists have long suspected there must be a hidden population of small, faint galaxies that were responsible during the universe's early years for producing a majority of stars now present in the cosmos. At last Hubble has found them in the deepest ultraviolet-light exposures made of the early universe. This underlying population is 100 times more abundant in the universe than their more massive cousins that were detected previously.

NASA Great Observatories Team Up to Discover Ultra-Bright Young Galaxies

11:15 am PST, January 7, 2014

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope joined forces to discover and characterize four unusually bright galaxies as they appeared more than 13 billion years ago, just 500 million years after the big bang. Although Hubble has previously identified galaxies at this early epoch, astronomers were surprised to find objects that are about 10 to 20 times more luminous than anything seen previously.

The tiny galaxies are bursting with star formation activity, which accounts for their brilliance. The brightest one is forming stars approximately 50 times faster than the Milky Way does today. Although these fledgling galaxies are only one-twentieth the size of the Milky Way, they probably contain around a billion stars crammed together.

Hubble Images Become Tactile 3-D Experience for the Blind

11:15 am PST, January 7, 2014

Three-dimensional printers are transforming the business, medical, and consumer landscape by creating a vast variety of objects, including airplane parts, football cleats, lamps, jewelry, and even artificial human bones.

Now astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., are experimenting with the innovative technology to transform astronomy education by turning images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope into tactile 3-D pictures for people who cannot explore celestial wonders by sight. The 3-D print design is also useful and intriguing for sighted people who have different learning styles. In the 3-D representations, stars, filaments, gas, and dust shown in Hubble images of the bright star cluster NGC 602 have been transformed through 3-D printing into textures, appearing as raised open circles, lines, and dots in the 3-D printout. These features also have different heights to correspond with their brightness.

Hubble's First Frontier Field Finds Thousands of Unseen, Faraway Galaxies

11:15 am PST, January 7, 2014

With the help of a natural "zoom lens" in space, Hubble astronomers are looking farther than anyone has before. The ambitious, collaborative, multiyear program among NASA's Great Observatories is called The Frontier Fields. The first of a set of unprecedented, super-deep views of the universe contain images of some of the intrinsically faintest and youngest galaxies ever detected. This is just the first of several primary target fields in the program. The immense gravity in this foreground galaxy cluster, Abell 2744, warps space to brighten and magnify images of far-more-distant background galaxies as they looked over 12 billion years ago, not long after the big bang. The Hubble exposure reveals nearly 3,000 of these background galaxies interleaved with images of hundreds of foreground galaxies in the cluster.

STScI Astronomers Help Develop and Operate World's Most Powerful Planet Finder

7:15 am PST, January 7, 2014

Space Telescope Science Institute astronomers have been involved in nearly a decade of development, construction, and testing of the world's most advanced instrument for directly photographing and analyzing planets around other stars. Called the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), the instrument will be used to photograph faint planets next to bright stars and probe their atmospheres, and to study dusty disks around young stars. GPI was used to image Beta Pictoris b, a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. The bright star Beta Pictoris is hidden behind a mask in the center of the image that blocks out the glare of the central star.

Hubble Sees Cloudy Super-Worlds with Chance for More Clouds

10:00 am PST, December 31, 2013

Weather forecasters on a pair of exoplanets would have an easy job. Today's forecast: cloudy. Tomorrow: overcast. Extended outlook: more clouds. Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have characterized the atmospheres of two of the most common type of planets in the Milky Way galaxy and found both may be blanketed with clouds. The best guess is that the clouds are not like anything found on Earth. Their scorching atmospheres are predicted to be hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit – too hot for a rainy day.

Hubble Watches Super Star Create Holiday Light Show

7:00 am PST, December 17, 2013

This festive NASA Hubble Space Telescope image resembles a holiday wreath made of sparkling lights. The bright southern hemisphere star RS Puppis, at the center of the image, is swaddled in a gossamer cocoon of reflective dust illuminated by the glittering star. RS Puppis rhythmically brightens and dims over a six-week cycle. It is one of the most luminous in the class of so-called Cepheid variable stars. The nebula flickers in brightness as pulses of light from the Cepheid propagate outwards. Hubble took a series of photos of light flashes rippling across the nebula in a phenomenon known as a "light echo."

Hubble Space Telescope Sees Evidence of Water Vapor Venting off Jovian Moon

8:00 am PST, December 12, 2013

Though it's five times farther from the Sun than Earth, and therefore so cold that ice becomes as hard as rock, Jupiter's moon Europa may be the first place to go to look for extraterrestrial life. Ever since the moon, which superficially resembles a cracked eggshell, was photographed close-up by the Voyager space probe, scientists have been intrigued by its potential as a niche for life.

For over the past 30 years it has been hypothesized that the icy crust covers a subsurface ocean. Where there is water there could be life. Now NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found something the Jovian probes may have missed, plumes of water vapor leaking off into space near the moon's south pole. Astronomers do not know yet if these gas plumes are connected to subsurface liquid water or not. This venting doesn't seem unique. In 2005, NASA's Cassini orbiter discovered similar water vapor plumes spewing off of the tiny moon Enceladus, 1 billion miles away.

Hubble Traces Subtle Signals of Water on Hazy Worlds

9:30 am PST, December 3, 2013

Astronomers continue to tally up how many planets are orbiting other stars. But finding out what their atmospheres are made of is another story. Two teams of scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant exoplanets. The planets are not the size of Earth, but rather massive worlds known as hot Jupiters because they orbit so close to their stars. Hubble's instruments can deduce the types of gases in the atmospheres of these monsters by determining which colors of a star's light are transmitted and which are partially absorbed as the planet passes in front of its star. The observations demonstrate Hubble's continuing exemplary performance in exoplanet research.

Infant Galaxies Merging Near 'Cosmic Dawn'

7:00 am PST, November 21, 2013

Astronomers using the combined power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope have discovered a far-flung trio of primitive galaxies nestled inside an enormous blob of primordial gas. The rare triple system existed when the universe was only 800 million years old. The trio may eventually merge into a single massive galaxy, researchers predict. The researchers state that the system provides key insights into the earliest stages of galaxy formation.

Dr. Jason Kalirai Honored as 2013 Outstanding Young Scientist

10:00 am PST, November 19, 2013

Dr. Jason Kalirai, James Webb Space Telescope Project Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute and associate researcher at the Center for Astrophysical Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., will be presented the 2013 Annual Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) award by the Maryland Academy of Sciences and the Maryland Science Center on Nov. 20.

The OYS award program was established in 1959 and recognizes Maryland residents who have distinguished themselves early in their careers for accomplishments in science. Award recipients are chosen by members of the Maryland Academy of Sciences' Scientific Advisory Council, which provides expertise and content review to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, Md. Kalirai will share this year's award with Dr. Claire E. Cramer of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Hubble Reveals First Scrapbook Pictures of Milky Way's Formative Years

8:00 am PST, November 14, 2013

According to new Hubble Space Telescope observations of our Milky Way's siblings, which existed long ago, the night sky must have looked much emptier in the distant past, when our galaxy was still under construction. The vast majority of our Milky Way's stars had not yet been born. Yet the heavens were ablaze with a firestorm of new star formation.

By tracing the Milky Way's siblings, astronomers find that our galaxy built up most of its stars between 11 billion and 7 billion years ago. The Hubble telescope's superb resolving power allowed the researchers to study how the structure of Milky Way-like galaxies changed over time. The observations suggest that our galaxy's flat disk and central bulge grew simultaneously into the majestic spiral galaxy of today.

NASA's Hubble Sees Asteroid Spout Six Comet-like Tails

8:00 am PST, November 7, 2013

It's not often that astronomers stumble across a celestial interloper that they can only describe as "weird and freakish." Hubble researchers say they were "literally dumbfounded" when they took a close-up look at an object that lives in the asteroid belt but superficially looks like a comet. It has no less than six dust tails that seem to be forming sequentially. The entire structure rotates like a bicycle wheel with spokes on one side.

One explanation is that the tails formed through a series of impulsive dust-ejection events. These could have been triggered when the gentle nudge of sunlight spun up the asteroid to the point where dust is falling off the surface and into space. Solar radiation stretches the dust into finger-like streamers.

Hubble's New Shot of Proxima Centauri, Our Nearest Neighbor

8:30 am PDT, November 1, 2013

Proxima Centauri lies in the constellation of Centaurus (the Centaur), just over four light-years from Earth. Although it looks bright through the eye of the Hubble Space Telescope, as you might expect from the nearest star to the solar system, Proxima Centauri is not visible to the naked eye. Its average luminosity is very low, and it is quite small compared to other stars, at only about an eighth of the mass of the Sun. These observations were taken using Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) in 1996. Proxima Centauri is actually part of a triple star system – its two companions, Alpha Centauri A and B, lie out of frame.

NASA's Great Observatories Begin Deepest Ever Probe of the Universe

10:00 am PDT, October 24, 2013

NASA's Great Observatories are teaming up to look deeper into the universe than ever before. With a boost from natural "zoom lenses" found in space, they should be able to uncover galaxies that are as much as 100 times fainter than what the Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra space telescopes can typically see.

This ambitious collaborative program is called The Frontier Fields. Astronomers will spend the next three years peering at six massive clusters of galaxies. Researchers are interested not only as to what's inside the clusters, but also what's behind them. The gravitational fields of the clusters brighten and magnify distant background galaxies that are so faint they would otherwise be unobservable.

Despite several deep field surveys, astronomers realized that a lot is still to be learned about the distant universe. And, such knowledge will help in planning the observing strategy for the next-generation space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope.

Galaxy Found in Hubble Survey Has Farthest Confirmed Distance

10:00 am PDT, October 23, 2013

A team of astronomers has discovered a galaxy that sets the current distance record for galaxies whose distance has been definitively measured by spectroscopic redshift. The galaxy is seen as it was at a time just 700 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only about 5 percent of its current age of 13.8 billion years. This galaxy and dozens of others were selected for follow-up observations from the approximately 100,000 galaxies discovered in the Hubble Space Telescope CANDELS survey (Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey). The team used the Keck I Telescope in Hawaii to measure the redshift of the CANDELS galaxy, designated z8_GND_5296, at 7.51. This is the highest galaxy redshift ever confirmed. The spectral redshift of galaxies is caused by the expansion of space from the Big Bang.

Comet ISON Appears Intact

11:00 am PDT, October 17, 2013

A new image of the sunward plunging Comet ISON taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on October 9, 2013, suggests that the comet is intact despite some predictions that the fragile icy nucleus might disintegrate as the Sun warms it. The comet will pass closest to the Sun on November 28.

Most Distant Gravitational Lens Helps Weigh Galaxies and Deepens a Galactic Mystery

7:00 am PDT, October 17, 2013

An international team of astronomers has found the most distant gravitational lens yet a galaxy that, as predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, deflects and intensifies the light of an even more distant object. The discovery provides a rare opportunity to directly measure the mass of a distant galaxy. The observation also poses a mystery: lenses of this kind should be exceedingly rare. Given this and other recent finds, astronomers either have been phenomenally lucky or, more likely, they have underestimated substantially the number of small, very young galaxies in the early universe.

The team is composed of Arjen van der Wel, Glenn van de Ven, Michael Maseda, and Hans-Walter Rix (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy [MPIA]), Gregory Rudnick (University of Kansas and MPIA), Andrea Grazian (INAF), Steven Finkelstein (University of Texas at Austin), David Koo and Sandra M. Faber (University of California, Santa Cruz), Henry Ferguson, Anton Koekemoer, and Norman Grogin (STScI), and Dale Kocevski (University of Kentucky).

Dr. Jason Kalirai Selected as One of Baltimore's Future Visionaries

11:00 am PDT, October 16, 2013

Astronomer Dr. Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has been cited by Baltimore Magazine as one of the "top 40 under 40" up-and-comers in the Baltimore metropolitan region. The selection, which the magazine does every five years, looks at young Baltimore professionals in a diversity of fields who in the editor's opinion are an exceptional selection of people that will have an important impact on the future. The 35-year-old Kalirai was selected from several hundred potential candidates to be highlighted in the magazine's October issue.

Water-rich Planetary Building Blocks Found Around White Dwarf

11:00 am PDT, October 10, 2013

If you go walking along the beach or take an ocean cruise, it's hard to believe that Earth is essentially a "dry" planet. Barely 0.02 percent of our home planet's mass is surface water. In fact, our oceans came along a few hundred million years after Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago. Though still debated, astronomers think that the primeval Earth was most likely irrigated when water-rich asteroids in the solar system crashed into our planet.

Now astronomers have found that the same water "delivery system" could have occurred in a dying star's planetary system. Hubble Space Telescope spectroscopic observations have found forensic evidence for the same kind of water-rich asteroids that may have once brought water to Earth. Observations made with Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) allowed the team of astronomers to do a robust chemical analysis of debris falling into the white dwarf star GD 61, located 150 light-years from Earth. They didn't detect planets but the building blocks of planets. The asteroids are plummeting deep into the gravitational field of the white dwarf, presumably due to gravitational perturbations from a surviving Jupiter-sized planet in the system. This is circumstantial evidence that potentially habitable planets once existed in this star system. However, the star burned out 200 million years ago.

Hubble and Chandra Find Evidence for Densest Galaxy in Nearby Universe

1:15 pm PDT, September 24, 2013

Astronomers may have found the densest galaxy in the nearby universe. The galaxy, known as M60-UCD1, is located near a massive elliptical galaxy NGC 4649, also called M60, about 54 million light-years from Earth. This composite image shows M60 and the region around it, where data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are pink and data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are red, green, and blue. The Chandra image shows hot gas and double stars containing black holes and neutron stars, and the Hubble image reveals stars in M60 and neighboring galaxies including M60-UCD1. The arrow points to M60-UCD1.

Packed with an extraordinary number of stars, M60-UCD1 is an "ultra-compact dwarf galaxy." It is one of the most massive galaxies of its kind, weighing 200 million times more than our Sun, based on observations with the Keck 10-meter telescope in Hawaii. Remarkably, about half of this mass is found within a radius of only about 80 light-years. This would make the density of stars about 15,000 times greater than found in Earth's neighborhood in the Milky Way, meaning that the stars are about 25 times closer.

Hubble Uncovers Largest Known Population of Star Clusters

8:00 am PDT, September 12, 2013

Ten years ago, astronomer John Blakeslee spotted dots of light peppered throughout images of a giant cluster of galaxies, called Abell 1689. Each dot was not one star, but hundreds of thousands of stars crowded together in groupings called globular clusters. Blakeslee counted 500 such clusters, the brightest members of a teeming population of globular clusters.

Now, a new Hubble census of globular clusters in Abell 1689 reveals that an estimated 160,000 such groupings are huddled near the galaxy cluster's core. The Hubble observations break the record for the farthest and the most globular clusters ever seen. Globular clusters are the homesteaders of galaxies, containing some of the oldest surviving stars in the universe. These stellar relics are important to study because they help reveal the story of galaxy formation in the early universe. By comparison, only 150 globular clusters orbit the Milky Way galaxy.

Some Planetary Nebulae Have Bizarre Alignment to Our Galaxy

6:00 am PDT, September 4, 2013

Hubble astronomers have found an unexpected surprise while surveying more than 100 planetary nebulae in the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy. Those nebulae that are butterfly-shaped or hourglass-shaped tend to be mysteriously aligned such that their rotation axis is perpendicular to the plane of our galaxy.

Planetary nebulae are the expanding gaseous shrouds encircling dying stars. A subset of this population has bipolar outflows that align to the star's rotation axis. Such nebulae formed in different places and have different characteristics and so it is a puzzle why they should always point on the same sky direction, like bowling pins set up in an alley.

Researchers suggest that there is something bizarre about star systems within the central hub of our galaxy. They would all have to be rotating perpendicular to the interstellar clouds from which they formed. At present, the best guess is that the alignment is caused by strong magnetic fields that were present when the galactic bulge formed billions of years ago.

Hubble Sees a Cosmic Caterpillar

9:00 am PDT, August 29, 2013

This light-year-long knot of interstellar gas and dust resembles a caterpillar on its way to a feast. But the meat of the story is not only what this cosmic caterpillar eats for lunch, but also what's eating it. Harsh winds from extremely bright stars are blasting ultraviolet radiation at this 'wanna-be' star and sculpting the gas and dust into its long shape.

Hubble Takes Movies of Space Slinky

8:45 am PDT, August 22, 2013

The universe is so big, and it takes so long for most celestial objects to change, that it is rare a telescope can catch something in motion. It helps if the target is moving at nearly the speed of light, and that the Hubble Space Telescope's crystal-clear view can catch subtle changes in one-tenth the time it might take for a ground-based telescope. Astronomers collected 500 Hubble pictures, taken over 13 years to make a movie flipbook of a blowtorch-like jet of gas blasted from the vicinity of a supermassive black hole. The black hole resides in the center of the galaxy M87. The jet has been known about for nearly a century. But the new Hubble movie provides a look at the jet's dynamics. The movie shows that the hot plasma is spiraling along magnetic field lines generated by the 7-billion-solar-mass black hole. These so-called extragalactic jets are seen elsewhere in the universe, but this comparatively nearby jet is offering a detailed look at what powers and aligns them. When Lick Observatory astronomer Heber Curtis first saw the jet in 1918 he described it as "a curious straight ray." Little might Curtis have imagined that we'd someday follow it blazing across space.

Hubble Sees True Shapes of Galaxies 11 Billion Years Back in Time

6:00 am PDT, August 15, 2013

Looking 11 billion years back in time to when the universe was very young, astronomers have found that the anatomy of distant galaxies is not that different from galaxies seen in the nearby universe today. The results come from the Hubble Space Telescope Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS). The largest project in the history of Hubble, it aims to explore galactic evolution in the early universe, and the very first seeds of cosmic structure at less than 1 billion years after the Big Bang.

Previous studies of this early epoch were inconclusive because they were limited to visible light. Because of the stretching of light by the expansion of the universe the visible light detected in distant galaxies actually maps only the ultraviolet emissions of the galaxies. Because this radiation only comes from regions of active star formation the galaxies appeared to be clumpy and messy, with no resemblance to the galaxy shapes we see around us today. By observing the galaxies in infrared light with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, astronomers could observe how these distant galaxies would appear normally in visible light if their radiation were not stretched to infrared wavelengths by the expanding universe.

Hubble Finds Source of Magellanic Stream

7:00 am PDT, August 8, 2013

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have solved a 40-year mystery on the origin of the Magellanic Stream, a long ribbon of gas stretching nearly halfway around our Milky Way galaxy.

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, are at the head of the gaseous stream. Since the stream's discovery by radio telescopes in the early 1970s, astronomers have wondered whether the gas comes from one or both of the satellite galaxies. Now, new Hubble observations reveal that most of the gas was stripped from the Small Magellanic Cloud about 2 billion years ago, and a second region of the stream originated more recently from the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Hubble Finds 'Smoking Gun' After Gamma-Ray Blast

9:45 am PDT, August 3, 2013

Ever since U.S. Air Force satellites serendipitously discovered gamma-ray bursts in the 1960s, astronomers have been searching for the triggering mechanism. Gamma-ray bursts are mysterious flashes of intense high-energy radiation that appear from random directions in space. These titanic explosions unleash as much energy in less than a second as the Sun does in 1 million years.

Now, astronomers are using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to gather key evidence on what powers short-duration gamma-ray bursts, which last up to two seconds. Probing the location of a recent short-duration burst in near-infrared light, Hubble found the fading fireball produced in the aftermath of the blast. The afterglow reveals for the first time a new kind of stellar blast called a kilonova, an explosion predicted to accompany a short-duration gamma-ray burst. The kilonova is the "smoking gun" evidence that short-duration bursts are sparked by the merger of two small, super-dense stellar objects, such as a pair of neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole.

Galaxies, Comets, and Stars! Oh My!

9:00 am PDT, July 25, 2013

In this Hubble Space Telescope composite image taken in April 2013, the sun-approaching Comet ISON floats against a seemingly infinite backdrop of numerous galaxies and a handful of foreground stars. The icy visitor, with its long gossamer tail, appears to be swimming like a tadpole through a deep pond of celestial wonders.

This photo is one of the original images featured on ISONblog, a new online source offering unique analysis of Comet ISON by Hubble Space Telescope astronomers and staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.

Hubble Shows Link Between Stars' Ages and Their Orbits in Dense Cluster

10:00 am PDT, July 18, 2013

Billions of years ago in our Milky Way galaxy, long before the Earth was born, swarms of stars formed in giant clusters. Each grouping of stars, called a globular cluster, was held together by the mutual gravity of its stars. These globular star clusters became the homesteaders of our Milky Way.

Astronomers have probed the galaxy's globular clusters using many telescopes, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, to dig into the Milky Way's past and uncover what was happening in these early, formative years. Recent stellar archaeological excavations with Hubble into one such globular cluster, 47 Tucanae, have allowed astronomers to piece together a timeline of the stars' births.

Hopkins Astronomer Holland Ford Receives NASA Award for Hubble Contributions

9:00 am PDT, July 18, 2013

Holland Ford, an astronomer at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., has received NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal for his outstanding contributions to the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Distinguished Public Service Medal is NASA's highest form of recognition, awarded to someone who has made a profound impact on the success of a NASA mission. The medal is one of several NASA Agency Honor Awards given annually.

Hubble Finds New Neptune Moon

10:00 am PDT, July 15, 2013

In the summer of 1989, a robotic emissary from Earth visited the farthest major planet from the Sun, Neptune. Like any good tourist, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft snapped a lot of pictures during the brief flyby. The prolific probe discovered several moons orbiting close to the blue-green planet. But one moon, no bigger than a metropolitan city and nearly coal-black, escaped detection because it was too faint to be seen. Until now.

While analyzing Neptune photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomer Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute noticed an extra white dot about 65,400 miles from Neptune, located between the orbits of the moons Larissa and Proteus. Hubble's extraordinary sensitivity and sharpness caught an object that is roughly one hundred million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the naked eye. Thankfully, Showalter also had 150 archival Neptune photographs taken by Hubble from 2004 to 2009. The same white dot appeared over and over again. This allowed him to plot a circular orbit for the moon, designated S/2004 N 1, which completes one revolution around Neptune every 23 hours. His discovery raises the number of known moons orbiting Neptune to 14.

NASA's Hubble Finds a True Blue Planet

6:40 am PDT, July 11, 2013

Hubble has identified the true visible-light color of a giant Jupiter-sized planet located 63 light-years away. The planet has a cobalt blue color. It has torrential 4,500-mile-per-hour winds that are so hot they melt silicates into raindrops of molten glass. And that's where the cobalt-blue hue comes from, not oceans. The glass droplets scatter blue light more readily than green or red light.

The planet's color provides unique clues to the atmosphere and weather on a truly alien world that orbits much closer to its star than the innermost planet Mercury is to our Sun.

Comet ISON Brings Holiday Fireworks

9:00 am PDT, July 2, 2013

This July 4th, the solar system is showing off some fireworks of its own. Superficially resembling a skyrocket, Comet ISON is hurtling toward the Sun at a whopping 48,000 miles per hour. Unlike a firework, the comet is not combusting, but in fact is pretty cold. Its skyrocket-looking tail is really a streamer of gas and dust bleeding off the icy nucleus. The video shows a sequence of Hubble observations taken over a 43-minute span, compressed into just five seconds. The comet travels 34,000 miles during the exposure sequence.

Colliding Galaxy Pair Takes Flight

9:00 am PDT, June 20, 2013

What looks like a celestial hummingbird is really the result of a collision between a spiral and an elliptical galaxy at a whopping 326 million light- years away. The flat disk of the spiral NGC 2936 is warped into the profile of a bird by the gravitational tug of the companion NGC 2937. The object was first cataloged as a "peculiar galaxy" by Halton Arp in the 1960s. This interacting galaxy duo is collectively called Arp 142.

Hubble Uncovers Evidence for Extrasolar Planet Under Construction

10:00 am PDT, June 13, 2013

Nearly 900 extrasolar planets have been confirmed to date, but now for the first time astronomers think they are seeing compelling evidence for a planet under construction in an unlikely place, at a great distance from its diminutive red dwarf star.

The keen vision of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected a mysterious gap in a vast protoplanetary disk of gas and dust swirling around the nearby star TW Hydrae, located 176 light-years away in the constellation Hydra (the Sea Serpent). The gap's presence is best explained as due to the effects of a growing, unseen planet that is gravitationally sweeping up material and carving out a lane in the disk, like a snow plow.

Hubble Maps 3-D Structure of Ejected Material Around Erupting Star

7:15 am PDT, June 4, 2013

After 45 years of peaceful bliss, the nova T Pyxidis erupted again in 2011. Astronomers took advantage of a flash of light accompanying the blast to map the ejecta from previous outbursts surrounding the double-star system. The team used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to trace the light as it sequentially illuminated different parts of the disk, a phenomenon called a light echo. Contrary to some predictions, the astronomers were somewhat surprised to find that the ejecta stayed in the vicinity of the star and formed a disk of debris. The discovery suggests that material continues expanding outward along the system's orbital plane, but it does not escape the system.

Rare Stellar Alignment Offers Opportunity to Hunt for Planets

7:15 am PDT, June 3, 2013

The ancients thought that stars were fixed pinpoints of light on the sky. Today we know that they are all moving, like fish in a pond. This so-called proper motion is so small that it is not noticeable to the human eye over a single lifetime. But Hubble can precisely track stellar motions to razor-sharp precision. Not surprisingly the nearest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri, is one of the fastest moving across the sky. Hubble astronomers have found that it will pass in front of two far-more distant background stars, once in 2014 and again in 2016. This will afford a very rare opportunity to see how Proxima's gravity warps the image of the background stars by bending their light. This effect, called gravitational lensing, can be used to estimate Proxima Centauri's mass and establish the presence of any planets orbiting the star.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Reveals the Ring Nebula's True Shape

7:00 am PDT, May 23, 2013

The distinctive shape of the Ring Nebula, the glowing shroud around a dying Sun-like star, makes it a popular celestial object that appears in many astronomy books. New observations of the Ring Nebula by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, however, reveal a new twist on an iconic nebula.

The Hubble images offer the best view yet of the nebula, revealing a complex structure. The observations have allowed astronomers to construct the most precise three-dimensional model of the glowing gas shroud, called a planetary nebula. Based on the new observations, the Hubble research team suggests that the ring wraps around a blue football-shaped structure that protrudes out of opposite sides of the ring. The nebula is tilted toward Earth so that astronomers see the ring face-on.

Hubble Finds Dead Stars 'Polluted' with Planet Debris

7:00 am PDT, May 9, 2013

Deep inside the Hyades star cluster, a pair of burned-out stars are yielding clues to the presence of rocky planets that may have whirled around them. Asteroid debris is 'raining' into the hot atmospheres of these white dwarfs. Asteroids should consist of the same material that form terrestrial planets, and seeing evidence of asteroids points to the possibility of Earth-sized planets in the same system.

Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph observed silicon and only low levels of carbon in the white dwarfs' atmospheres. Silicon is a major ingredient of the rocky material that constitutes Earth and other solid planets in our solar system. Astronomers used sophisticated computer models of white dwarf atmospheres to determine the abundances of various elements that can be traced to planets in the Hubble spectrograph data.

STScI Appoints New Mission Head for the James Webb Space Telescope

8:00 am PDT, May 7, 2013

The Space Telescope Science Institute has appointed Dr. Massimo Stiavelli as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Mission Head. Stiavelli will be responsible for the development and operations of the JWST Science and Operations Center at STScI. He has been acting JWST Mission Head since January 2012. The largest space observatory ever developed, JWST is scheduled for launch in 2018. Stiavelli succeeds Dr. Kathy Flanagan, who was appointed the Institute's Deputy Director in October 2012. Stiavelli has worked at the Institute for over 17 years. His many positions at the Institute include instrument scientist for three Hubble cameras. Stiavelli has been working on the JWST project since 1996.

Hubble Captures Comet ISON

10:00 am PDT, April 23, 2013

Comet ISON is potentially the "comet of the century" because around the time the comet makes its closest approach to the Sun, on November 28, it may briefly become brighter than the full Moon. Right now the comet is far below naked-eye visibility, and so Hubble was used to snap the view of the approaching comet, which is presently hurtling toward the Sun at approximately 47,000 miles per hour. When the Hubble picture was taken on April 10, the comet was slightly closer than Jupiter's orbit at a distance of 386 million miles from the Sun. Even at that great distance the Sun is warming the comet enough to trigger outgassing from its frozen gases locked up in the solid nucleus. Hubble photographed a jet blasting dust particles off the sunward-facing side of the comet's nucleus. Preliminary measurements from the Hubble images suggest that the nucleus of ISON is no larger than three or four miles across. The comet was discovered in September 2012 by the Russian-led International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) using a 16-inch telescope.

Hubble Sees a Horsehead of a Different Color

5:50 am PDT, April 19, 2013

Unlike other celestial objects there is no question how the Horsehead Nebula got its name. This iconic silhouette of a horse's head and neck pokes up mysteriously from what look like whitecaps of interstellar foam. The nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery over a century ago. But Hubble's infrared vision shows the horse in a new light. The nebula, shadowy in optical light, appears transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths. This pillar of tenuous hydrogen gas laced with dust is resisting being eroded away by the radiation from a nearby star. The nebula is a small part of a vast star-forming complex in the constellation Orion. The Horsehead will disintegrate in about 5 million years.

As part of Hubble's 23rd anniversary Horsehead Nebula release, amateur astronomers around the world were invited to send in their Horsehead Nebula photos. Visit the Hubble Heritage Horsehead Image Release to view the contributions via Flickr and Tumblr and to send us your own image.

NASA and STScI Select 17 Hubble Fellows for 2013

11:00 am PDT, April 9, 2013

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have announced the selection of 17 new Hubble Fellows. The Hubble Fellowship Program now includes all research relevant to present and future missions in NASA's Cosmic Origins theme. These missions currently include the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and the Spitzer Space Telescope. STScI in Baltimore, Md., administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA.

More than 310 of the most prominent and active scientists in this field have been supported at a crucial phase in their careers by this program, and the Hubble Fellowship Program continues to be one of the highlights of NASA's pursuit of excellence in space science. The new Hubble Fellows will begin their programs in the fall of 2013.

Hubble Breaks Record in Search for Farthest Supernova

7:00 am PDT, April 4, 2013

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a star detonated with enough energy to briefly shine with an intrinsic brightness of one billion of our suns. The beacon of radiation arrived at Earth 10 billion years later and was captured in a Hubble Space Telescope deep survey of the universe. It is the farthest, and earliest, supernova of its type detected to date. More than simply an example of the ancient fireworks in the young and effervescent universe, the supernova belongs to a special class of stellar detonations that are so reliably bright, they can be used as intergalactic milepost markers.

Supernovae like this one provided the first observational evidence that the universe is expanding at an ever-faster rate. Our understanding of the accelerating universe, however, is only as solid as the reliability of supernovae as solid yardsticks for measuring cosmic distances. This record-breaker is so ancient it can be used to test competing theories about how such supernovae exploded in the universe's early days and compare them with nearby supernovae seen today. Its discovery is part of an ongoing program, where different teams of astronomers are using Hubble to push ever farther back into the early epoch of star formation.

Taken Under the "Wing" of the Small Magellanic Cloud

6:00 am PDT, April 4, 2013

NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope has made the first detection of X-ray emission from young solar-type stars that lie outside our Milky Way galaxy. They live in a region known as the "Wing" of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. X-rays from young stars trace how active their magnetic fields are. Magnetic activity provides clues to a star's rotation rate and the rising and falling of hot gas in the star's interior. Astronomers suggest that if the X-ray properties of young stars are similar in different environments around our galaxy, then other related properties, such as the formation of planets, are also likely to be similar.

In this composite image from NASA's Great Observatories of the Wing, the Chandra data are shown in purple; visible light seen by the Hubble Space Telescope is in red, green, and blue; and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope are colored red.

NASA Helps Make Guinness World Record for Largest Astronomy Lesson at SXSW

10:00 am PDT, March 13, 2013

Looking up through hundreds of colored filters and spectral glasses, 526 people shattered the record for the Largest Astronomy Lesson. Under the Texas night sky, students were instructed on the lawn of the Long Center for the Performing Arts at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin on Sunday, March 10, 2013.

Hubble Finds Birth Certificate of Oldest Known Star

11:00 am PST, March 7, 2013

You can't be older than your parents. But there is a nearby star that at first glance looks like it is older than the universe! Hubble Space Telescope astronomers are coming to grips with this paradox by improving the precision of the observations used to estimate the age of this "Methuselah star."

Around the year 2000, estimates for the star's age were about 16 billion years. But the universe is about 13.8 billion years old, based on a meticulous calibration of the expansion of space and analysis of the microwave afterglow from the big bang. Hubble data and improved theoretical calculations were used to recalculate the star's age and lower the estimate to 14.5 billion years, within a measurement uncertainty of plus or minus 800 million years. This places the star within a comfortable range to be younger than the universe. Astronomers have to collect a lot of information to deduce a star's age because it doesn't come with a birth certificate. They have to take into account where the star is in its life history, the detailed chemistry of the star, and its intrinsic brightness. Hubble's contribution was to reduce the uncertainty on the star's true distance. With that improved accuracy, the intrinsic brightness of the star is better known. The ancient star is still spry for its age. It is speeding past us at 800,000 miles per hour. Its orbit can be traced back to the halo of our galaxy, which is a "retirement home" for stars that were born long before the Milky Way was even fully assembled.

Gravitational Lens Creates Cartoon of Space Invader

6:00 am PST, March 5, 2013

The universe is eerie enough without giving us an apparition of a 1980s video game alien attacker. This oddball-looking object is really a mirage created by the gravitational field of a foreground cluster of galaxies warping space and distorting the background images of more distant galaxies.

This effect, called gravitational lensing, can make multiple mirror image copies of the light coming from a far-flung galaxy. It is a powerful tool for seeing remote galaxies that otherwise would not be observable by Hubble because they are too dim and far away. In this Hubble photo a background spiral galaxy is warped into an image that resembles a cartoon of a simulated space invader. The foreground massive cluster, called Abell 68, lies 2 billion light-years away. The brightened and stretched lensed images come from galaxies far behind it.

Stellar Motions in Outer Halo Shed New Light on Milky Way Evolution

10:00 am PST, February 21, 2013

Peering deep into the vast stellar halo that envelops our Milky Way galaxy, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered tantalizing evidence for the possible existence of a shell of stars that are a relic of cannibalism by our Milky Way.

Hubble was used to precisely measure, for the first time ever, the sideways motions of a small sample of stars located far from the Milky Way galaxy's center. Their unusual lateral motion is circumstantial evidence that the stars may be the remnants of a shredded galaxy that was gravitationally ripped apart by the Milky Way billions of years ago. These stars support the idea that the Milky Way grew, in part, through the accretion of smaller galaxies.

NASA's Webb Telescope to Have a Texas-Sized Presence at the South by Southwest Festival

8:00 am PST, February 19, 2013

Everything's bigger in Texas, and a life-sized model of the world's largest space telescope, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, will be on display at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival along with Webb-related exhibits, educational events, interactives, visualizations, scientists, and much more. The NASA events at SXSW will occur March 8-10, 2013, in Austin.

The Webb telescope model is coming to SXSW just in time to highlight the fact that this spring NASA is starting to bring together some of the major parts of the observatory. In 2013, NASA will begin to integrate the four science instruments that will be attached to the telescope. NASA is partnering with Northrop Grumman, the Space Telescope Science Institute, Ball Aerospace, Microsoft Research, and the University of Texas' Astronomy Department to bring an amazing display of science and technology to SXSW.

Strobe-like Flashes Discovered in a Suspected Binary Protostar

10:00 am PST, February 7, 2013

A mysterious infant star, swaddled inside a dusty blanket, behaves like a police strobe light. The newly discovered object offers clues into the early stages of star formation, when a lot of gas and dust is being rapidly sucked into a newly forming binary star. Every 25.34 days, the object, designated LRLL 54361, unleashes a burst of light. The flashes may be due to material suddenly being dumped onto the growing protostars, unleashing a blast of radiation each time the stars get close to each other in their orbits. The phenomenon has been seen in later stages of star birth, but never in such a young system, nor with such intensity and regularity.

LRLL 54361 was discovered by the Spitzer Space Telescope as a variable object inside the star-forming region IC 348, located 950 light-years away. The Hubble Space Telescope was used to confirm the Spitzer observations and revealed the detailed structure around the protostar. Hubble resolved two cavities that are traced by light scattered off their edges above and below a dusty disk. Astronomers will continue monitoring LRLL 54361 using other telescopes, including the Herschel Space Telescope, and hope to eventually obtain more direct measurements of the binary star and its orbit.

Amateur and Professional Astronomers Team Up to Create a Cosmological Masterpiece

7:00 am PST, February 5, 2013

Working with astronomical image processors at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., renowned astrophotographer Robert Gendler has taken science data from the Hubble Space Telescope archive and combined it with his own ground-based observations to assemble a photo illustration of the magnificent spiral galaxy M106.

Gendler retrieved archival Hubble images of M106 to assemble a mosaic of the center of the galaxy. He then used his own and fellow astrophotographer Jay GaBany's observations of M106 to combine with the Hubble data in areas where there was less coverage, and finally, to fill in the holes and gaps where no Hubble data existed.

Dr. Jason Kalirai Awarded the 2013 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize

6:00 pm PST, January 23, 2013

Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., has been awarded the 2013 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize. This annual prize from the American Astronomical Society is for outstanding achievement in observational astronomy by an astronomer under the age of 36.

Kalirai, 34, received the award for his contributions to the field of stellar and galactic astrophysics. Kalirai has also devised new methods to measure the age of the Milky Way galaxy.

NASA Space Telescopes See Weather Patterns in Brown Dwarf

2:30 pm PST, January 8, 2013

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have probed the stormy atmosphere of a brown dwarf named 2MASSJ22282889-431026, creating the most detailed "weather map" yet for this class of cool, star-like orbs. The forecast shows wind-driven, planet-sized clouds enshrouding these strange worlds. Brown dwarfs form out of condensing gas, as stars do, but lack the mass to fuse atoms and produce energy. Instead, these objects, which some call failed stars, are more similar to gas planets with their complex, varied atmospheres. The new research is a stepping stone toward a better understanding not only brown dwarfs, but also of the atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system.

Hubble and Spitzer simultaneously watched the brown dwarf as its light varied in time, brightening and dimming about every 90 minutes as the body rotated. Astronomers found the timing of this change in brightness depended on whether they looked using different wavelengths of infrared light. The variations are the result of different layers or patches of material swirling around in the brown dwarf in windy storms as large as Earth itself. Spitzer and Hubble see different atmospheric layers because certain infrared wavelengths are blocked by vapors of water and methane high up, while other infrared wavelengths emerge from much deeper layers. Daniel Apai, the principal investigator of the research from the University of Arizona, Tucson, presented the results at the American Astronomical Society meeting on January 8 in Long Beach, Calif. A study describing the results, led by Esther Buenzli, also of the University of Arizona, is published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Hubble Reveals Rogue Planetary Orbit for Fomalhaut b

2:30 pm PST, January 8, 2013

Newly released Hubble Space Telescope images of a vast debris disk encircling the nearby star Fomalhaut, and of a mysterious planet circling it, may provide forensic evidence of a titanic planetary disruption in the system. Astronomers are surprised to find that the debris belt is wider than previously known, spanning a gulf of space from 14 billion miles to nearly 20 billion miles from the star. Even more surprisingly, the latest Hubble images have allowed a team of astronomers to calculate that the planet follows an unusual elliptical orbit that carries it on a potentially destructive path through the vast dust ring.

The planet, called Fomalhaut b, swings as close to its star as 4.6 billion miles, and the outermost point of its orbit is 27 billion miles away from the star. The orbit was re-calculated from the newest Hubble observation made in 2012. The Fomalhaut team led by Paul Kalas (University of California, Berkeley) considers this circumstantial evidence that there may be other planet-like bodies in the system that gravitationally disrupted Fomalhaut b to place it in such a highly eccentric orbit. His team is presenting their finding today at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.

New Free E-books Available about Two Famous NASA Space Telescopes

10:00 am PST, December 21, 2012

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been providing astounding images of the universe since April 1990 and has led to remarkable discoveries. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the next-generation telescope that will peer even deeper into space and unveil even more mysteries. Both of these extraordinary telescopes are now the topics of two free e-books available from the Apple iBookstore.

The e-book "Hubble Space Telescope: Discoveries" takes the reader on a tour of some of Hubble's most significant science successes, combined with some of the telescope's technology and history.

In the e-book called the "James Webb Space Telescope: Science Guide," readers will learn how the Webb telescope will reveal in much more detail mysteries of the universe that the Hubble is not able to see.

A Cosmic Holiday Ornament, Hubble-Style

6:00 am PST, December 18, 2012

'Tis the season for holiday decorating and tree-trimming. Not to be left out, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have photographed a festive-looking nearby planetary nebula called NGC 5189. The intricate structure of this bright gaseous nebula resembles a glass-blown holiday ornament with a glowing ribbon entwined.

Hubble Provides First Census of Galaxies Near Cosmic Dawn

11:00 am PST, December 12, 2012

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have uncovered a previously unseen population of seven primitive galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 3 percent of its present age. The deepest images to date from Hubble yield the first statistically robust sample of galaxies that tells how abundant they were close to the era when galaxies first formed. The results show a smooth decline in the number of galaxies with increasing look-back time to about 450 million years after the big bang. The observations support the idea that galaxies assembled continuously over time and also may have provided enough radiation to reheat, or reionize, the universe a few hundred million years after the big bang. These pioneering observations blaze a trail for future exploration of this epoch by NASA's next-generation spacecraft, the James Webb Space Telescope. Looking deeper into the universe also means peering farther back in time. The universe is now 13.7 billion years old. The newly discovered galaxies are seen as they looked 350 million to 600 million years after the big bang. Their light is just arriving at Earth now.

The public is invited to participate in a "First Census of Galaxies Near Cosmic Dawn" webinar, in which key astronomers of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2012 team will discuss how they obtained their result and what it tells us about galaxy formation in the very early universe. Participants will be able to send in questions for the panel of experts to discuss. The webinar will be broadcast at 1:00 pm EST on Friday, December 14, 2012.

Hubble Sees a Galaxy Hit a Bull's-Eye

6:00 am PST, December 6, 2012

Bright pink nebulae almost completely encircle a spiral galaxy in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 922. The ring structure and the galaxy's distorted spiral shape result from a smaller galaxy scoring a cosmic bull's-eye, hitting the center of NGC 922 some 330 million years ago. Hubble's image of NGC 922 consists of a series of exposures taken in visible light with the Wide Field Camera 3, and in visible and near-infrared light with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

'Dark Core' May Not Be So Dark After All

9:30 am PST, November 30, 2012

Now you see it, now you don't. Douglas Clowe of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, is reporting on new Hubble observations that do not find an unusually dense clump of dark matter in the universe that a different Hubble team reported on earlier this year. The region of interest lies at the center of a collision among massive galaxy clusters in Abell 520, located 2.4 billion light-years away. "The earlier result presented a mystery. But in our observations we didn't see anything surprising in the core," said Clowe. "Our measurements are in complete agreement with how we would expect dark matter to behave." Because dark matter is not visible, its presence and distribution is found indirectly through its gravitational effects. The gravity from both dark and luminous matter warps space, bending and distorting light from galaxies and clusters behind it like a giant magnifying glass. Astronomers can use this effect, called gravitational lensing, to infer the presence of dark matter in massive galaxy clusters. Both teams used this technique to map the dark matter in the merging cluster. Clowe is encouraging other scientists to study the Hubble data and conduct their own analysis on the cluster.

A Multi-Wavelength View of Radio Galaxy Hercules A

6:00 am PST, November 29, 2012

Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A illustrate the combined imaging power of two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.

NASA Great Observatories Find Candidate for Most Distant Galaxy Yet Known

10:00 am PST, November 15, 2012

By combining the power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and one of nature's own natural "zoom lenses" in space, astronomers have set a new distance record for finding the farthest galaxy yet seen in the universe. The diminutive blob, which is only a tiny fraction of the size of our Milky Way galaxy, offers a peek back into a time when the universe was 3 percent of its present age of 13.7 billion years. The newly discovered galaxy, named MACS0647-JD, is observed 420 million years after the big bang. Its light has traveled 13.3 billion years to reach Earth.

This is the latest discovery from a large program that uses natural zoom lenses to reveal distant galaxies in the early universe. The Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH) is using massive galaxy clusters as cosmic telescopes to magnify distant galaxies behind them, an effect called gravitational lensing.

Asteroid Belts of Just the Right Size are Friendly to Life

10:05 am PDT, November 1, 2012

Solar systems with life-bearing planets may be rare if they are dependent on the presence of asteroid belts of just the right mass, according to a study by Rebecca Martin, a NASA Sagan Fellow from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and astronomer Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.

They suggest that the size and location of an asteroid belt, shaped by the evolution of the Sun's protoplanetary disk and by the gravitational influence of a nearby giant Jupiter-like planet, may determine whether complex life will evolve on an Earth-like planet. The findings will appear today in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters (published by Oxford University Press).

Additional Kepler Data Now Available to All Planet Hunters

10:00 am PDT, October 29, 2012

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., is releasing 12 additional months worth of planet-searching data meticulously collected by one of the most prolific planet-hunting endeavors ever conceived, NASA's Kepler Mission.

As of Oct. 28, 2012, every observation from the extrasolar planet survey made by Kepler since its launch in 2009 through June 27, 2012, is available to scientists and the public. This treasure-trove contains more than 16 terabytes of data and is housed at the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, or MAST, at the Space Telescope Science Institute. MAST is a huge data archive containing astronomical observations from 16 NASA space astronomy missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope. It is named in honor of Maryland U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski.

Monster Galaxy May Have Been Stirred Up By Black-hole Mischief

10:00 am PDT, October 25, 2012

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have obtained a remarkable new view of a whopper of an elliptical galaxy that may have been puffed up by the actions of one or more black holes in its core. The galaxy's core measures about 10,000 light-years and is the largest yet seen.

Dr. Kathryn Flanagan Appointed Deputy Director of STScI

11:00 am PDT, October 23, 2012

Dr. Kathryn Flanagan has been appointed the Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md. STScI is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled to launch in 2018. Dr. Flanagan had been the Institute's acting Deputy Director since January 2012. She came to STScI in 2007 to lead the JWST Mission Office, where she was responsible for the development and operations of the JWST Science and Operations Center at the Institute.

Hubble Goes to the eXtreme to Assemble Farthest Ever View of the Universe

10:00 am PDT, September 25, 2012

Like photographers assembling a portfolio of best shots, astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time. The new full-color XDF image reaches much fainter galaxies and includes very deep exposures in red light from Hubble's new infrared camera, enabling new studies of the earliest galaxies in the universe. The XDF contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

Astronomers continue studying this area of sky with Hubble. Extensive ongoing observing programs, led by Harry Teplitz and Richard Ellis at the California Institute of Technology, will allow astronomers to study the deep-field galaxies with Hubble to even greater depths in ultraviolet and infrared light prior to the launch of JWST. These new results will provide even more extraordinary views of this region of the sky and will be shared with the public in the coming months.

NASA Telescopes Spy Ultra-Distant Galaxy Amidst Cosmic 'Dark Ages'

10:00 am PDT, September 19, 2012

With the combined power of NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, as well as a cosmic magnification effect, astronomers have spotted what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen. Light from the young galaxy captured by the orbiting observatories first shone when our 13.7-billion-year-old universe was just 500 million years old. The far-off galaxy existed within an important era when the universe began to transit from the so-called cosmic dark ages. During this period, the universe went from a dark, starless expanse to a recognizable cosmos full of galaxies. The discovery of the faint, small galaxy opens a window onto the deepest, remotest epochs of cosmic history.

In the big image at left, the many galaxies of the massive cluster MACS J1149+2223 dominate the scene. Gravitational lensing by the giant cluster brightened the light from the newfound galaxy, known as MACS1149-JD, some 15 times. At upper right, a partial zoom-in shows MACS1149-JD in more detail, and a deeper zoom appears to the lower right.

Odd Galaxy Couple on Space Voyage

6:00 am PDT, September 6, 2012

Two very different galaxies drift through space together in this image taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The peculiar galaxy pair is called Arp 116. Arp 116 is composed of a giant elliptical galaxy known as Messier 60 (or M60) and a much smaller spiral galaxy, NGC 4647. The faint bluish spiral galaxy NGC 4647 is about two-thirds of M60 in size and much lower in mass – roughly the size of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

M60 lies roughly 54 million light-years away from Earth; NGC 4647 is about 63 million light-years away. This image combines exposures from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

Hubble's Photo Contest Selects Winners

6:00 am PDT, August 23, 2012

Congratulations to the winners of the European Space Agency's Hubble's Hidden Treasures Competition! The Hubble's Hidden Treasures contest asked amateur image processors to select and process a never-before-publicized image from Hubble's archives. Almost 3,000 submissions were received, with over a thousand of these images fully processed, revealing some stunning Hubble imagery.

Ten winners were selected from both the Basic Image Category and the Advanced Image Processing Category, along with a People's Choice winner from each.

Hubble Watches Star Clusters on a Collision Course

7:00 am PDT, August 16, 2012

Astronomers using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have caught two clusters full of massive stars that may be in the early stages of merging. The 30 Doradus Nebula is 170,000 light-years from Earth. What at first was thought to be only one cluster in the core of the massive star-forming region 30 Doradus has been found to be a composite of two clusters that differ in age by about one million years.

The entire 30 Doradus complex has been an active star-forming region for 25 million years, and it is currently unknown how much longer this region can continue creating new stars. Smaller systems that merge into larger ones could help to explain the origin of some of the largest known star clusters. The Hubble observations, made with the Wide Field Camera 3, were taken Oct. 20-27, 2009. The blue color is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; and the red from fluorescing hydrogen.

ESO Telescopes Find Most Stellar Heavyweights Don't Live Alone

11:00 am PDT, July 26, 2012

A new study using European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes, including the Very Large Telescope, has shown that most very bright high-mass stars, which drive the evolution of galaxies, do not live alone. Almost three-quarters of the stars studied are found to have a close companion star, far more than previously thought. Surprisingly most of these pairs are also experiencing disruptive interactions, such as mass transfer from one star to the other, and about one-third are even expected to ultimately merge to form a single star. The results are published in the July 27 issue of the journal Science.

The science team is composed of H. Sana (Amsterdam University, The Netherlands), S.E. de Mink (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.), A. de Koter (Amsterdam University; Utrecht University, The Netherlands), N. Langer (University of Bonn, Germany), C.J. Evans (UK Astronomy Technology Center, Edinburgh, UK), M. Gieles (University of Cambridge, UK), E. Gosset (Liege University, Belgium), R.G. Izzard (University of Bonn, Germany), J.-B. Le Bouquin (Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France) and F.R.N. Schneider (University of Bonn, Germany).

Why Is Earth So Dry?

10:00 am PDT, July 17, 2012

With large swaths of oceans, rivers that snake for hundreds of miles, and behemoth glaciers near the north and south poles, Earth doesn't seem to have a water shortage. And yet, less than one percent of our planet's mass is locked up in water, and even that may have been delivered by comets and asteroids after Earth's initial formation. Astronomers have been puzzled by Earth's water deficiency. The standard model explaining how the solar system formed from a protoplanetary disk, a swirling disk of gas and dust surrounding our Sun, billions of years ago, suggests that our planet should be a water world. Earth should have formed from icy material in a zone around the Sun where temperatures were cold enough for ices to condense out of the disk. Therefore, Earth should have formed from material rich in water. So why is our planet comparatively dry?

A new analysis of the common accretion-disk model explaining how planets form in a debris disk around our Sun uncovered a possible reason for Earth's comparative dryness. In this study astrophysicists Rebecca Martin and Mario Livio found that our planet formed from rocky debris in a dry, hotter region, inside of the so-called "snow line." The snow line in our solar system currently lies in the middle of the asteroid belt, a reservoir of rubble between Mars and Jupiter; beyond this point, the Sun's light is too weak to melt the icy debris left over from the protoplanetary disk. Previous accretion-disk models suggested that the snow line was much closer to the Sun 4.5 billion years ago, when Earth formed.

Hubble Discovers a Fifth Moon Orbiting Pluto

8:30 am PDT, July 11, 2012

A team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is reporting the discovery of another moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The moon is estimated to be irregular in shape and 6 to 15 miles across. It is in a 58,000-mile-diameter circular orbit around Pluto that is assumed to be co-planar with the other satellites in the system. Provisionally designated S/2012 (134340) 1, the latest moon was detected in nine separate sets of images taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on June 26, 27, and 29, 2012 and July 7 and 9, 2012. This discovery increases the number of known moons orbiting Pluto to five.

Hubble Unmasks Ghost Galaxies

10:00 am PDT, July 10, 2012

Astronomers have puzzled over why some puny, extremely faint dwarf galaxies spotted in our Milky Way galaxy's back yard contain so few stars. These ghost-like galaxies are thought to be some of the tiniest, oldest, and most pristine galaxies in the universe. They have been discovered over the past decade by astronomers using automated computer techniques to search through the images of the Sloan Sky Survey. But astronomers needed NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to help solve the mystery of these star-starved galaxies.

Hubble views of Leo IV and two other small-fry galaxies in this study reveal that their stars share the same birth date. The galaxies all started forming stars more than 13 billion years ago – and then abruptly stopped – all in the first billion years after the universe was born in the big bang. Because the stars in these galaxies are so ancient and share the same age, astronomers suggest that a global event, such as reionization, shut down star formation in them. Reionization is a transitional phase in the early universe when the first stars burned off a fog of cold hydrogen.

NASA's Hubble Views a Cosmic Skyrocket

6:00 am PDT, July 3, 2012

Resembling a Fourth of July skyrocket, Herbig-Haro 110 is a geyser of hot gas from a newborn star that splashes up against and ricochets from the dense core of a cloud of molecular hydrogen. This image was taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in 2004 and 2005 and the Wide Field Camera 3 in April 2011.

Hubble, Swift Detect First-Ever Changes in an Exoplanet Atmosphere

6:00 am PDT, June 28, 2012

An international team of astronomers using data from the NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond the solar system. The scientists conclude that the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet's host star, an event observed by NASA's Swift satellite. This artist's rendering illustrates the evaporation of exoplanet HD 189733b's atmosphere in response to the powerful eruption from its host star on Sept. 7, 2011. Hubble detected the escaping gases, and Swift caught the stellar flare.

NASA's Hubble Spots Rare Gravitational Arc from Distant, Hefty Galaxy Cluster

10:00 am PDT, June 26, 2012

Seeing is believing, except when you don't believe what you see. Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have found a puzzling arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing 10 billion light-years away. The galactic grouping, discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, was observed when the universe was roughly a quarter of its current age of 13.7 billion years.

The giant arc is the stretched shape of a more distant galaxy whose light is distorted by the monster cluster's powerful gravity, an effect called gravitational lensing. The trouble is, the arc shouldn't exist.

Most Quasars Live on Snacks, Not Large Meals

10:00 am PDT, June 19, 2012

Black holes in the early universe needed a few snacks rather than one giant meal to fuel their quasars and help them grow, a new study shows. Quasars are the brilliant beacons of light that are powered by black holes feasting on captured material, and in the process, heating some of the matter to millions of degrees. The brightest quasars reside in galaxies distorted by collisions with other galaxies. These encounters send lots of gas and dust into the gravitational whirlpool of hungry black holes. Now, however, astronomers are uncovering an underlying population of fainter quasars that thrive in normal-looking spiral galaxies. They are triggered by black holes snacking on such tasty treats as a batch of gas or the occasional small satellite galaxy.

A census of 30 quasar host galaxies conducted with two of NASA's premier observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, has found that 26 of the host galaxies bear no tell-tale signs of collisions with neighbors, such as distorted shapes. Only one galaxy in the sample shows evidence of an interaction with another galaxy. The galaxies existed roughly 8 billion to 12 billion years ago, during a peak epoch of black-hole growth. The study bolsters evidence that the growth of most massive black holes in the early universe was fueled by small, long-term events rather than dramatic short-term major mergers.

Chance Alignment Between Galaxies Mimics a Cosmic Collision

6:00 am PDT, June 14, 2012

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a rare view of a pair of overlapping galaxies, called NGC 3314. The two galaxies look as if they are colliding, but they are actually separated by tens of millions of light-years, or about ten times the distance between our Milky Way and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. The chance alignment of the two galaxies, as seen from Earth, gives a unique look at the silhouetted spiral arms in the closer face-on spiral, NGC 3314A. The motion of the two galaxies indicates that they are both relatively undisturbed and that they are moving in markedly different directions.

The color composite was produced from exposures taken in blue and red light with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The pair of galaxies lie roughly 140 million light-years from Earth, in the direction of the southern hemisphere constellation Hydra.

NASA's Hubble Shows Milky Way is Destined for Head-on Collision with Andromeda Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, May 31, 2012

NASA astronomers announced Thursday they can now predict with certainty the next major cosmic event to affect our galaxy, Sun, and solar system: the titanic collision of our Milky Way galaxy with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy.

The Milky Way is destined to get a major makeover during the encounter, which is predicted to happen four billion years from now. It is likely the Sun will be flung into a new region of our galaxy, but our Earth and solar system are in no danger of being destroyed.

Stellar Archaeology Traces Milky Way's History

10:00 am PDT, May 30, 2012

Unfortunately, stars don't have birth certificates. So, astronomers have a tough time figuring out their ages. Knowing a star's age is critical for understanding how our Milky Way galaxy built itself up over billions of years from smaller galaxies. But Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute and The Johns Hopkins University's Center for Astrophysical Sciences, both in Baltimore, Md., has found the next best thing to a star's birth certificate.

Using a new technique, Kalirai probed the burned-out relics of Sun-like stars, called white dwarfs, in the inner region of our Milky Way galaxy's halo. The halo is a spherical cloud of stars surrounding our galaxy's disk. Those stars, his study reveals, are 11.5 billion years old, younger than the first generation of Milky Way stars. They formed more than 2 billion years after the birth of the universe 13.7 billion years ago. Previous age estimates, based on analyzing normal stars in the inner halo, ranged from 10 billion to 14 billion years. Kalirai's study reinforces the emerging view that our galaxy's halo is composed of a layer-cake structure that formed in stages over billions of years.

Hubble to Use Moon as Mirror to See Venus Transit

8:00 am PDT, May 4, 2012

The mottled landscape showing the impact crater Tycho is among the most violent-looking places on our Moon. Astronomers didn't aim NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study Tycho, however. The image was taken in preparation to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun's face on June 5-6.

Hubble cannot look at the Sun directly, so astronomers are planning to point the telescope at Earth's moon, using it as a mirror to capture reflected sunlight and isolate the small fraction of the light that passes through Venus's atmosphere. Imprinted on that small amount of light are the fingerprints of the planet's atmospheric makeup. These observations will mimic a technique that is already being used to sample the atmospheres of giant planets outside our solar system passing in front of their stars. In the case of the Venus transit observations, astronomers already know the chemical makeup of Venus's atmosphere, and that it does not show signs of life on the planet. But the Venus transit will be used to test whether this technique will have a chance of detecting the very faint fingerprints of an Earth-like planet, even one that might be habitable for life, outside our solar system that similarly transits its own star. Venus is an excellent proxy because it is similar in size and mass to our planet.

Black Hole Caught Red-handed in a Stellar Homicide

10:00 am PDT, May 2, 2012

NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, a space-based observatory, and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on the summit of Haleakala in Hawaii were the first to the scene of the crime, helping to identify the stellar remains.

Hubble Spots Aurorae on the Planet Uranus

9:00 am PDT, April 19, 2012

These are among the first clear images, taken from the distance of Earth, to show aurorae on the planet Uranus. This composite image combines 2011 Hubble observations of the aurorae in visible and ultraviolet light, 1986 Voyager 2 photos of the cyan disk of Uranus as seen in visible light, and 2011 Gemini Observatory observations of the faint ring system as seen in infrared light.

Hubble's 22nd Anniversary Image Shows Turbulent Star-making Region

10:00 am PDT, April 17, 2012

Several million young stars are vying for attention in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of a raucous stellar breeding ground in 30 Doradus, located in the heart of the Tarantula Nebula. 30 Doradus is the brightest star-forming region visible in a neighboring galaxy and home to the most massive stars ever seen. The nebula resides 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. No known star-forming region that is inside our Milky Way is as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus.

The image comprises one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble photos and includes observations taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. Hubble made the observations in October 2011. NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute are releasing the image to celebrate Hubble's 22nd anniversary.

Space Astronomy Archive and Distant Supernova Are Named in Honor Of U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

8:00 am PDT, April 5, 2012

One of the world's largest astronomy archives, containing a treasure trove of information about myriad stars, planets, and galaxies, has been named in honor of the United States Senator from Maryland Barbara Mikulski.

Called MAST, for the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, the huge database contains astronomical observations from 16 NASA space astronomy missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope. The archive is located at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.

Space Telescope Science Institute Announces the 2012 Hubble Fellows

11:00 am PDT, April 2, 2012

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) announces today the selection of 17 new candidates for the Hubble Fellowship Program. This is one of the three prestigious postdoctoral fellowship programs funded by NASA. The other programs are the Sagan and the Einstein Fellowships. STScI administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA.

Help Find Hubble's Hidden Treasures

8:30 am PDT, March 27, 2012

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made over one million observations during its more than two decades in orbit. New images are published nearly every week, but hidden in Hubble's huge data archives are some truly breathtaking images that have never been seen. They're called Hubble's Hidden Treasures, and between now and May 31, 2012, the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA's partner in the Hubble mission, invites you to help bring them to light. Just explore the Hubble Legacy Archive (HLA), dig out a great dataset, adjust the contrast and colors using the simple online tools, and submit to the Hubble's Hidden Treasures Contest Flickr group.

Astronomers Using NASA's Hubble Discover Quasars Acting as Gravitational Lenses

6:00 am PDT, March 15, 2012

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have found several examples of galaxies containing quasars, which act as gravitational lenses, amplifying and distorting images of galaxies aligned behind them.

Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe, far outshining the total starlight of their host galaxies. Quasars are powered by supermassive black holes. To find these rare cases of galaxy-quasar combinations acting as lenses, a team of astronomers selected 23,000 quasar spectra in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). They looked for the spectral imprint of galaxies at much greater distances that happened to align with foreground galaxies. Once candidates were identified, Hubble's sharp view was used to look for gravitational arcs and rings (indicated by the arrows in these three Hubble photos) that would be produced by gravitational lensing.

Dark Matter Core Defies Explanation in Hubble Image

6:00 am PST, March 2, 2012

Astronomers observed what appeared to be a clump of dark matter left behind during a bizarre wreck between massive clusters of galaxies. The dark matter collected into a "dark core" containing far fewer galaxies than would be expected if the dark matter and galaxies hung together. Most of the galaxies apparently have sailed far away from the collision. This result could present a challenge to basic theories of dark matter, which predict that galaxies should be anchored to the invisible substance, even during the shock of a collision.

The initial observations, made in 2007, were so unusual that astronomers shrugged them off as unreal, due to poor data. However, new results obtained in 2008 from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope confirm that dark matter and galaxies parted ways in the gigantic merging galaxy cluster called Abell 520, located 2.4 billion light-years away. Now, astronomers are left with the challenge of trying to explain dark matter's seemingly oddball behavior in this cluster.

NASA's Hubble Reveals a New Class of Extrasolar Planet

6:00 am PST, February 21, 2012

Observations of the extrasolar planet GJ1214b by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have come up with a new class of planet, a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere. It's smaller than Uranus but larger than Earth. A paper reporting these results has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online.

NASA's Hubble Spots a Relic from a Shredded Galaxy

8:00 am PST, February 17, 2012

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope may have found evidence for a cluster of young, blue stars encircling HLX-1, one of the first intermediate-mass black holes ever discovered. Astronomers believe the black hole may once have been at the core of a now-disintegrated dwarf galaxy. The discovery of the black hole and the possible star cluster has important implications for understanding the evolution of supermassive black holes and galaxies.

Astronomers Watch Delayed Broadcast of a Powerful Stellar Eruption

10:00 am PST, February 15, 2012

Astronomers are watching a delayed broadcast of a spectacular outburst from the unstable, behemoth double-star system Eta Carinae, an event initially seen on Earth nearly 170 years ago. Dubbed the "Great Eruption," the outburst first caught the attention of sky watchers in 1837 and was observed through 1858. But astronomers didn't have sophisticated science instruments to accurately record the star system's petulant activity. Luckily for today's astronomers, some of the light from the eruption took an indirect path to Earth and is just arriving now, providing an opportunity to analyze the outburst in detail. The wayward light was heading in a different direction, away from our planet, when it bounced off dust clouds lingering far from the turbulent stars and was rerouted to Earth, an effect called a "light echo." Because of its longer path, the light reached Earth 170 years later than the light that arrived directly.

The astronomers' study involved a mix of visible-light and spectroscopic observations from ground-based telescopes. The team's paper will appear Feb. 16 in a letter to the journal Nature.

Hubble Zooms in on a Magnified Galaxy

10:00 am PST, February 2, 2012

A team of astronomers aimed Hubble at one of the most striking examples of gravitational lensing, a nearly 90-degree arc of light in the galaxy cluster RCS2 032727-132623. Hubble's view of the distant background galaxy, which lies nearly 10 billion light-years away, is significantly more detailed than could ever be achieved without the help of the gravitational lens.

This observation provides a unique opportunity to study the physical properties of a galaxy vigorously forming stars when the universe was only one-third its present age. The results have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

The Milky Way Contains at Least 100 Billion Planets According to Survey

10:15 am PST, January 11, 2012

Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three extrasolar planets by an observational technique called microlensing.

Kailash Sahu, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., is part of an international team reporting today that our galaxy contains a minimum of one planet for every star on average. This means that there is likely to be a minimum of 1,500 planets within just 50 light-years of Earth.

Hubble Solves Mystery on Source of Supernova in Nearby Galaxy

10:00 am PST, January 11, 2012

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have solved a longstanding mystery on the type of star, or so-called progenitor, that caused a supernova in a nearby galaxy. The finding yields new observational data for pinpointing one of several scenarios that could trigger such outbursts.

Based on previous observations from ground-based telescopes, astronomers knew that a kind of supernova called a Type Ia created a remnant named SNR 0509-67.5, which lies 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. The type of system that leads to this kind of supernova explosion has long been a high importance problem with various proposed solutions but no decisive answer. All these solutions involve a white dwarf star that somehow increases in mass to the highest limit. Astronomers failed to find any companion star near the center of the remnant, and this rules out all but one solution, so the only remaining possibility is that this one Type Ia supernova came from a pair of white dwarfs in close orbit.

NASA's Hubble Breaks New Ground with Distant Supernova Discovery

9:30 am PST, January 11, 2012

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected a distant Type Ia supernova, the farthest stellar explosion that can be used to measure the expansion rate of the universe. The supernova is the remnant of a star that exploded 9 billion years ago. The sighting is the first finding of an ambitious survey that will help astronomers place better constraints on the nature of dark energy: a mysterious repulsive force that is causing the universe to fly apart ever faster. The object, nicknamed SN Primo, belongs to a special class called Type Ia supernovae, which are bright beacons used as distance markers for studying the expansion rate of the universe.

SN Primo is the farthest Type Ia supernova whose distance has been confirmed through spectroscopic observations. The supernova was discovered as part of a three-year Hubble program to survey faraway Type Ia supernovae, enabling searches for this special class of stellar explosion at greater distances than previously possible. The remote supernovae will help astronomers determine whether the exploding stars remain dependable distance markers across vast distances of space in an epoch when the cosmos was only one-third its current age of 13.7 billion years. Called the CANDELS+CLASH Supernova Project, the census uses the sharpness and versatility of Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) to look in regions targeted by two large Hubble programs: the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS) and the Cluster Lensing and Supernova Survey with Hubble (CLASH).

Hubble Zooms in on Double Nucleus in Andromeda Galaxy

7:45 am PST, January 11, 2012

A new Hubble Space Telescope image centers on the 100-million-solar-mass black hole at the hub of the neighboring spiral galaxy M31, or the Andromeda galaxy, one of the few galaxies outside the Milky Way visible to the naked eye and the only other giant galaxy in the Local Group. This is the sharpest visible-light image ever made of the nucleus of an external galaxy.

The Hubble image is being presented today at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas.

Rare Ultra-blue Stars Found in Neighboring Galaxy's Hub

7:30 am PST, January 11, 2012

While Hubble has spied ultra-blue stars before in Andromeda, the new observation covers a much broader area, revealing that these stellar misfits are scattered throughout the galaxy's bustling center.

Astronomers used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to find roughly 8,000 of the ultra-blue stars in a stellar census made in ultraviolet light, which traces the glow of the hottest stars. The study is part of the multi-year Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury survey to map stellar populations across the Andromeda galaxy. The team's results are being presented today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas.

Hubble Pinpoints Farthest Protocluster of Galaxies Ever Seen

8:00 am PST, January 10, 2012

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a cluster of galaxies in the initial stages of construction – the most distant such grouping ever observed in the early universe.

In a random sky survey made in near-infrared light, Hubble spied five tiny galaxies clustered together 13.1 billion light-years away. They are among the brightest galaxies at that epoch and very young, existing just 600 million years after the universe's birth in the big bang.

Distant Galaxy Bursts with Stars

12:00 pm PST, December 21, 2011

One of the most distant galaxies known, called GN-108036, dates back to 750 million years after the Big Bang that created our universe. The galaxy's light took 12.9 billion years to reach us. GN-108036 was discovered and confirmed using the Subaru telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory. After the galaxy was discovered, astronomers looked at infrared observations of it taken by NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.

Physicist and Former Astronaut John Grunsfeld to Head NASA Science Directorate

8:00 am PST, December 19, 2011

NASA has named physicist and former astronaut John Grunsfeld as the new Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Grunsfeld will take the reins of the office effective January 4, 2012. He succeeds Ed Weiler, who retired from NASA on Sept. 30. Grunsfeld currently serves as the Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which manages the science program of the Hubble Space Telescope and is partner in the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

Hubble Serves Up a Holiday Snow Angel

6:00 am PST, December 15, 2011

The bipolar star-forming region, called Sharpless 2-106, or S106 for short, looks like a soaring, celestial snow angel. The outstretched "wings" of the nebula record the contrasting imprint of heat and motion against the backdrop of a colder medium. Twin lobes of super-hot gas, glowing blue in this image, stretch outward from the central star. This hot gas creates the "wings" of our angel. A ring of dust and gas orbiting the star acts like a belt, cinching the expanding nebula into an "hourglass" shape.

Hubble Racks Up 10,000 Science Papers

6:00 am PST, December 6, 2011

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has passed another milestone in its 21 years of exploration: the 10,000th refereed science paper has been published. This makes Hubble one of the most prolific astronomical endeavors in history.

Fastest Rotating Star Found in Neighboring Galaxy

6:00 am PST, December 5, 2011

An international team of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope have found the fastest spinning star ever discovered. VFTS 102 rotates at a dizzying 1 million miles per hour and is very close to the point at which it would be torn apart due to centrifugal forces. The star lies in a neighboring dwarf galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 160,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers think that it may have had a violent past and has been ejected from a double star system by its exploding companion. The team will use NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to make precise measurements of the star's proper motion across space.

NASA's Hubble Finds Stellar Life and Death in a Globular Cluster

6:00 am PST, November 22, 2011

A new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows globular cluster NGC 1846, a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars in the outer halo of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring dwarf galaxy of the Milky Way that can be seen from the southern hemisphere. The most intriguing object, however, doesn't seem to belong in the cluster. It is a faint green bubble in the white box near the bottom center of the image. This so-called "planetary nebula" is the aftermath of the death of a star.

NASA's Hubble Confirms that Galaxies Are the Ultimate Recyclers

11:00 am PST, November 17, 2011

Galaxies learned to "go green" early in the history of the universe, continuously recycling immense volumes of hydrogen gas and heavy elements to build successive generations of stars stretching over billions of years. In other words they are more fuel efficient than any hybrid car on the road. This ongoing recycling keeps galaxies from emptying their "fuel tanks" and therefore stretches out their star-forming epoch to over 10 billion years. The catch is that those galaxies that crank up the rate of star formation can blow away their remaining fuel, essentially turning off further star-birth activity. But galaxies like our Milky Way that frugally pace the rate of star birth can go on building new stars at least one billion years into the future.

This conclusion is based on a series of Hubble Space Telescope observations that flexed the special capabilities of its comparatively new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) to detect otherwise invisible mass in the halo of our Milky Way and a sample of more than 40 other galaxies. The three studies investigated different aspects of the gas-recycling phenomenon in galaxies. The results are being published in three papers in the November 18 issue of Science magazine.

Hubble Uncovers Tiny Galaxies Bursting with Star Birth in Early Universe

6:00 am PST, November 10, 2011

Using its near-infrared vision to peer 9 billion years back in time, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered an extraordinary population of tiny, young galaxies that are brimming with star formation. The galaxies are typically a hundred times less massive than the Milky Way galaxy, yet they churn out stars at such a furious pace that their stellar content would double in just 10 million years. By comparison, the Milky Way would take a thousand times longer to double its population.

The observations were part of the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS), an ambitious three-year survey to analyze the most distant galaxies in the universe. CANDELS is the census of dwarf galaxies at such an early epoch in the universe's history.

Was the Real Discovery of the Expanding Universe Lost in Translation?

10:00 am PST, November 9, 2011

Writing in the Nov. 10 issue of the journal Nature, Space Telescope Science Institute astrophysicist Mario Livio solves the mystery of why paragraphs disappeared during the 1931 translation of Belgian cosmologist Georges Lemaître's remarkable 1927 paper showing that the universe is expanding. For nearly a century, American astronomer Edwin Hubble has held the fame for this landmark discovery, which would recast all of 20th century astronomy. After going through hundreds of pieces of correspondence of the Royal Astronomical Society, as well as minutes of the RAS meetings, and material from the Lemaître Archive, Livio has discovered that Lemaître omitted the passages himself when he translated the paper into English!

This illustration shows Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) on the right and Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) on the left. The telescope on the left is the 100-inch Hooker Telescope on Mt. Wilson in California. The Hubble Space Telescope is on the right.

Astronomers Pin Down Galaxy Collision Rate

6:00 am PDT, October 27, 2011

A new analysis of Hubble surveys, including the All-Wavelength Extended Groth Strip International Survey (AEGIS), the Cosmological Evolution Survey (COSMOS), and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), combined with simulations of galaxy interactions, reveals that the merger rate of galaxies over the last 8 billion to 9 billion years falls between previous estimates.

The galaxy merger rate is one of the fundamental measures of galaxy evolution, yielding clues to how galaxies bulked up over time through encounters with other galaxies. And yet, a huge discrepancy exists over how often galaxies coalesced in the past. Earlier measurements of galaxies in deep-field surveys made by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope generated a broad range of results: anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent of the galaxies were merging. Results from this new study are accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Ambitious Hubble Survey Obtaining New Dark Matter Census

6:00 am PDT, October 13, 2011

Cluster MACS J1206.2-0847 (or MACS 1206 for short) is one of the first targets in a Hubble Space Telescope survey that will allow astronomers to construct the highly detailed dark matter maps of more galaxy clusters than ever before. These maps are being used to test previous but surprising results that suggest that dark matter is more densely packed inside galaxy clusters than some models predict. This might mean that galaxy cluster assembly began earlier than commonly thought. The multiwavelength survey, called the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), probes, with unparalleled precision, the distribution of dark matter in 25 massive clusters of galaxies. So far, the CLASH team has completed observations of six of the 25 clusters. MACS 1206 lies 4.5 billion light-years from Earth. This image was taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3 in April 2011 through July 2011.

Giant Webb Space Telescope Model to "Land" in Baltimore

7:00 am PDT, October 12, 2011

Baltimore's Maryland Science Center is going to be the "landing site" for the full-scale model of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, and it's free for all to see. The Webb telescope life-sized model is as big as a tennis court, and it's coming to the Maryland Science Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor from October 14 through 26, 2011. It's a chance for young and old to get a close-up look at the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope in the same size it will be launched into space. Experts will be on hand to discuss the Webb telescope's deep-space mission, how it will observe distant galaxies and nearby stars and planets, and the progress made to date in building the observatory. Spokespeople will also be available starting at 10 a.m. EDT and throughout the model exhibition. There will also be educational activities and an "Ask the Scientist" booth in front of the model during the daytime. Accompanying the display in the evening is a laser-art lightshow that converts Hubble data into brilliant green graphics that are projected onto the side of the Science Center. The display also accompanies the annual meeting of the Association of Science-Technology Centers that will be held in Baltimore October 15-18. The Maryland Science Center is located at 601 Light Street, Baltimore, Md. 21230. For directions and more information, call the center at 410-685-5225.

Astronomers Find Elusive Planets in Decade-Old Hubble Data

6:00 am PDT, October 6, 2011

In a painstaking re-analysis of Hubble Space Telescope images from 1998, astronomers have found visual evidence for two extrasolar planets that went undetected back then.

Finding these hidden gems in the Hubble archive gives astronomers an invaluable time machine for comparing much earlier planet orbital motion data to more recent observations. It also demonstrates a novel approach for planet hunting in archival Hubble data.

Astrophysicist Adam Riess Wins the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics

6:00 am PDT, October 4, 2011

Adam Riess, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Krieger-Eisenhower Professor in Physics and Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, today was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The academy recognized him for leadership in the High-z Team's 1998 discovery that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating, a phenomenon widely attributed to a mysterious, unexplained "dark energy" filling the universe.

Space Telescopes Reveal Secrets of Turbulent Black Hole

6:00 am PDT, September 29, 2011

An international team of astronomers using five different telescopes has uncovered striking features around a supermassive black hole in the core of the distant galaxy Markarian 509. They found a very hot corona hovering above the black hole and cold gas "bullets" in hotter diffuse gas, speeding outward with velocities over 1 million miles per hour. This corona absorbs and reprocesses the ultraviolet light from the accretion disk encircling the black hole, energizing it and converting it into X-rays. This discovery allows astronomers to make sense of some of the observations of active galaxies that have been hard to explain so far. The heart of the campaign consisted of repeated visible, X-ray, and gamma-ray observations with ESA's XMM-Newton and INTEGRAL satellites, which monitored Markarian 509 for six weeks. This was followed by long observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. Prior to these observations short snapshots to monitor the behavior of the source at all wavelengths were taken with NASA's Swift satellite. The combined efforts of all these instruments gave astronomers an unprecedented insight into the core of an active galaxy.

The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph aboard Hubble reveals that the coolest gas in the line of sight toward Markarian 509 has 14 different velocity components at various locations in the innermost parts of this galaxy. Hubble's data, combined with X-ray observations, show that most of the visible outflowing gas is blown off from a dusty gas disk surrounding the central region more than 15 light-years away from the black hole. This outflow consists of dense, cold blobs or gas bullets embedded in hotter diffuse gas. The international consortium responsible for this campaign consists of 26 astronomers from 21 institutes on 4 continents. The first results of this campaign will be published as a series of seven papers in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. More results are in preparation.

Light Fantastic: Laser at Inner Harbor Beams Hubble's Heartbeat

6:00 am PDT, September 22, 2011

Beginning on Sunday, September 25 an outdoor laser exhibit at the Maryland Science Center will present a unique blend of astronomy and art. Hubble spectral observations of distant galaxies will be projected onto the Maryland Science Center with an intense green laser. Educational activities will allow students to explore the world of light and color in astronomy.

Even Low-Mass Galaxies Can Harbor Supermassive Black Holes

9:00 am PDT, September 15, 2011

Using the slitless grism on Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 to probe the distant universe, astronomers have found supermassive black holes growing in surprisingly small galaxies. The findings suggest that central black holes formed at an earlier stage in galaxy evolution. This study is part of the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS) and will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Hubble Movies Provide Unprecedented View of Supersonic Jets from Young Stars

6:00 am PDT, August 31, 2011

A team of scientists has collected enough high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope images over a 14-year period to stitch together time-lapse movies of powerful jets ejected from three young stars.

The jets, a byproduct of gas accretion around newly forming stars, shoot off at supersonic speeds in opposite directions through space. These phenomena are providing clues about the final stages of a star's birth, offering a peek at how our Sun came into existence 4.5 billion years ago. Hubble's unprecedented sharpness allows astronomers to see changes in the jets over just a few years' time. Most astronomical processes change over timescales that are much longer than a human lifetime.

Fast Falling Clouds Fuel Milky Way Star Formation

12:00 pm PDT, August 25, 2011

The long-term forecast for the Milky Way is cloudy with gaseous rain. A study by Nicolas Lehner and Christopher Howk of the University of Notre Dame concludes that massive clouds of ionized gas are raining down from our galaxy's halo and intergalactic space and will continue to provide fuel for the Milky Way to keep forming stars. Using the Hubble Space Telescope's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph they measured for the first time the distances to huge, fast-moving clouds of ionized gas previously seen covering a large fraction of the sky.

Hubble Offers a Dazzling View of the 'Necklace' Nebula

6:00 am PDT, August 11, 2011

A giant cosmic necklace glows brightly in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. The object, aptly named the Necklace Nebula, is a recently discovered planetary nebula, the glowing remains of an ordinary, Sun-like star. The nebula consists of a bright ring, measuring 12 trillion miles across, dotted with dense, bright knots of gas that resemble diamonds in a necklace. The knots glow brightly due to absorption of ultraviolet light from the central stars.

The Necklace Nebula is located 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagitta (the Arrow). In this composite image, taken on July 2, 2011, Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 captured the glow of hydrogen (blue), oxygen (green), and nitrogen (red).

NASA's Hubble Discovers Another Moon Around Pluto

6:00 am PDT, July 20, 2011

These two images, taken about a week apart by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, show four moons orbiting the distant, icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle in both snapshots marks the newly discovered moon, temporarily dubbed P4, found by Hubble in June. P4 is the smallest moon yet found around Pluto, with an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 km). By comparison, Pluto's largest moon Charon is 746 miles (1,200 km) across. Nix and Hydra are 20 to 70 miles (32 to 113 km) wide. The new moon lies between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, two satellites discovered by Hubble in 2005. P4 completes an orbit around Pluto roughly every 31 days.

The new moon was first seen in a photo taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on June 28, 2011. The sighting was confirmed in follow-up Hubble observations taken July 3 and July 18. P4, Nix, and Hydra are so small and so faint that scientists combined short and long exposures to create this image of Pluto and its entire moon system. The speckled background is camera "noise" produced during the long exposures. The linear features are imaging artifacts. The Hubble observations will help NASA's New Horizons mission, scheduled to fly through the Pluto system in 2015. Space Telescope Science Institute director's discretionary time was allocated to make the Hubble observations.

Neptune Completes Its First Circuit Around The Sun Since Its Discovery

10:00 am PDT, July 12, 2011

These four images of Neptune were taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope during the planet's 16-hour rotation. The snapshots were taken at roughly four-hour intervals, offering a full view of the blue-green planet. Today marks Neptune's first orbit around the Sun since it was discovered nearly 165 years ago. These images were taken to commemorate the event.

The Hubble images, taken with the Wide Field Camera 3 on June 25-26, reveal high-altitude clouds in the northern and southern hemispheres. The clouds are composed of methane ice crystals. In the Hubble images, absorption of red light by methane in Neptune's atmosphere gives the planet its distinctive aqua color. The clouds look pink because they are reflecting near-infrared light. A faint, dark band near the bottom of the southern hemisphere is probably caused by a decrease in the hazes in the atmosphere that scatter blue light. The band was imaged by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989, and may be tied to circumpolar circulation created by high-velocity winds in that region. Neptune is the most distant major planet in our solar system. German astronomer Johann Galle discovered the planet on September 23, 1846. At the time, the discovery doubled the size of the known solar system. The planet is 2.8 billion miles (4.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun, 30 times farther than Earth. Under the Sun's weak pull at that distance, Neptune plods along in its huge orbit, slowly completing one revolution approximately every 165 years.

NASA's Hubble Makes One Millionth Science Observation

10:00 am PDT, July 5, 2011

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope crossed another milestone in its 21-year space odyssey of exploration and discovery. On Monday, July 4, the Earth-orbiting observatory logged its one millionth science observation during a search for water in an exoplanet's atmosphere 1,000 light-years away. Although Hubble is best known for its stunning imagery of the cosmos, the millionth exposure is a spectroscopic measurement, where light is divided into its component colors. These color patterns can reveal the chemical composition of cosmic sources. This is an artist's concept of Hubble's millionth exposure, the extrasolar planet HAT-P-7b. It is a gas planet larger than Jupiter orbiting a star hotter than our Sun. HAT-P-7b, also known as Kepler 2b, has been studied by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler observatory after it was discovered by ground-based observations.

Pandora's Cluster – Clash of the Titans

6:00 am PDT, June 22, 2011

A team of scientists studying the galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora's Cluster, have pieced together the cluster's complex and violent history using telescopes in space and on the ground, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, the Japanese Subaru telescope, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The giant galaxy cluster appears to be the result of a simultaneous pile-up of at least four separate, smaller galaxy clusters that took place over a span of 350 million years. The galaxies in the cluster make up less than five percent of its mass. The gas (around 20 percent) is so hot that it shines only in X-rays (colored red in this image). The image is a composite of separate exposures made by Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys detectors in October 2009, the VLT, and the Chandra ACIS detector. Hubble provides the central, most detailed part of the image, while the VLT, which has a wider field of view, provides the outer parts of the image. The distribution of invisible dark matter (making up around 75 percent of the cluster's mass) is colored here in blue.

Firestorm of Star Birth in the Active Galaxy Centaurus A

6:00 am PDT, June 16, 2011

Resembling looming rain clouds on a stormy day, dark lanes of dust crisscross the giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A. Hubble's panchromatic vision, stretching from ultraviolet through near-infrared wavelengths, reveals the vibrant glow of young, blue star clusters and a glimpse into regions normally obscured by the dust. This image was taken in July 2010 with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3.

New Supernova Remnant Lights Up

9:25 am PDT, June 9, 2011

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are witnessing the unprecedented transition of a supernova to a supernova remnant, where light from an exploding star in a neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, reached Earth in February 1987. Named Supernova 1987A, it was the closest supernova explosion witnessed in almost 400 years. The supernova's close proximity to Earth has allowed astronomers to study it in detail as it evolves. Now, the supernova debris, which has faded over the years, is brightening. This means that a different power source has begun to light the debris. The debris of SN 1987A is beginning to impact the surrounding ring, creating powerful shock waves that generate X-rays observed with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Those X-rays are illuminating the supernova debris and shock heating is making it glow in visible light. The results are being reported in today's issue of the journal Nature by a team including Robert Kirshner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), who leads a long-term study of SN 1987A with Hubble. Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble telescope has provided a continuous record of the changes in SN 1987A.

NASA's Hubble Finds Rare Blue Straggler Stars in the Milky Way's Hub

11:00 am PDT, May 25, 2011

Peering deep into the star-filled, ancient hub of our Milky Way (left), NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found a rare class of oddball stars called blue stragglers. This is the first time such objects have been detected within our galaxy's bulge. Blue stragglers are so named because they seem to be lagging behind in their rate of aging compared with nearby older stars.

The discovery is a spin-off from a seven-day-long survey conducted in 2006 called the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS). Hubble peered at and obtained variability information for 180,000 stars in the crowded central bulge of our galaxy, 26,000 light-years away.

Hubble Views the Star that Changed the Universe

11:00 am PDT, May 23, 2011

Though the universe is filled with billions upon billions of stars, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been trained on a single variable star that in 1923 altered the course of modern astronomy. And, at least one famous astronomer of the time lamented that the discovery had shattered his world view. The star goes by the inauspicious name of Hubble variable number one, or V1, and resides two million light-years away in the outer regions of the neighboring Andromeda galaxy, or M31. V1 is a special class of pulsating star called a Cepheid variable that can be used to make reliable measurements of large cosmic distances. The star helped Edwin Hubble show that Andromeda lies beyond our galaxy. Prior to the discovery of V1 many astronomers, including Harlow Shapley, thought spiral nebulae, such as Andromeda, were part of our Milky Way galaxy. Others weren't so sure. In fact, Shapley and Heber Curtis held a public debate in 1920 over the nature of these nebulae. But it took Edwin Hubble's discovery just a few years later to settle the debate. Hubble sent a letter, along with a light curve of V1, to Shapley telling him of his discovery. After reading the note, Shapley reportedly told a colleague, "here is the letter that destroyed my universe." The universe became a much bigger place after Edwin Hubble's discovery.

In commemoration of this landmark observation, astronomers with the Space Telescope Science Institute's Hubble Heritage Project partnered with the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) to study the star. AAVSO observers followed V1 for six months, producing a plot, or light curve, of the rhythmic rise and fall of the star's light. Based on this data, the Hubble Heritage team scheduled Hubble telescope time to capture Wide Field Camera 3 images of the star at its dimmest and brightest light levels. The observations are being presented on May 23 at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Boston, Mass. Copies of the photograph Edwin Hubble made in 1923 flew onboard space shuttle Discovery in 1990 on the mission that deployed Hubble. Two of the remaining five copies were part of space shuttle Atlantis's cargo in 2009 for NASA's fifth servicing mission to Hubble. Edwin Hubble's observations of V1 became the critical first step in uncovering a larger, grander universe. He went on to measure the distances to many galaxies beyond the Milky Way by finding Cepheid variables within them. The velocities of those galaxies, in turn, allowed him to determine that the universe is expanding. The space telescope that bears his namesake continues using Cepheids to refine the expansion rate of the universe and probe galaxies far beyond Edwin Hubble's reach.

Galaxy NGC 4214: A Star-Formation Laboratory

6:00 am PDT, May 12, 2011

The dwarf galaxy NGC 4214 is ablaze with young stars and gas clouds. Located around 10 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs), the galaxy's close proximity, combined with the wide variety of evolutionary stages among the stars, make it an ideal laboratory to research the triggers of star formation and evolution. This color image was taken using the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 in December 2009.

NASA's SWIFT and Hubble Probe Asteroid Collision Debris

8:00 am PDT, April 28, 2011

Late last year, astronomers noticed an asteroid named Scheila had unexpectedly brightened, and it was sporting short-lived plumes. Data from NASA's Swift satellite and Hubble Space Telescope showed these changes likely occurred after Scheila was struck by a much smaller asteroid.

This visible-light image of asteroid (596) Scheila was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on Dec. 27, 2010, when the asteroid was approximately 217 million miles away. The asteroid is surrounded by a C-shaped cloud, or coma, of dust particles. The asteroid body, which is approximately 70 miles across, appears star-like because it is overexposed so that the faint dust can be imaged.

NASA's Hubble Celebrates 21st Anniversary with "Rose" of Galaxies

6:00 am PDT, April 20, 2011

To celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope's deployment into space, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., pointed Hubble's eye at an especially photogenic pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. This image is a composite of Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 data taken on December 17, 2010, with three separate filters that allow a broad range of wavelengths covering the ultraviolet, blue, and red portions of the spectrum.

Hubble was launched April 24, 1990, aboard Discovery's STS-31 mission. Hubble discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of current astronomical research from planetary science to cosmology.

NASA Telescopes Help Discover Surprisingly Young Galaxy

6:00 am PDT, April 12, 2011

Astronomers have uncovered one of the youngest galaxies in the distant universe, with stars that formed 13.5 billion years ago, a mere 200 million years after the Big Bang. The finding addresses questions about when the first galaxies arose, and how the early universe evolved. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was the first to spot the newfound galaxy. Detailed observations from the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii revealed the observed light dates to when the universe was only 950 million years old; the universe formed about 13.7 billion years ago. Infrared data from both Hubble and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the galaxy's stars are quite mature, having formed when the universe was just a toddler at 200 million years old. The galaxy's image is being magnified by the gravity of a massive cluster of galaxies (Abell 383) parked in front of it, making it appear 11 times brighter. This phenomenon is called gravitational lensing.

NASA Telescopes Join Forces to Observe Unprecedented Explosion

6:00 am PDT, April 7, 2011

NASA's Swift satellite, Hubble Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory have teamed up to study one of the most puzzling cosmic blasts ever observed. More than a week later, high-energy radiation continues to brighten and fade from its location. Astronomers say they have never seen such a bright, variable, high-energy, long-lasting burst before. Usually, gamma-ray bursts mark the destruction of a massive star, and flaring emission from these events never lasts more than a few hours.

On Monday, March 28, 2011, the Swift satellite's Burst Alert Telescope discovered the source in the constellation Draco when it erupted with the first in a series of powerful blasts. Swift determined a position for the explosion, which is now cataloged as gamma-ray burst (GRB) 110328A, and informed astronomers worldwide. As dozens of telescopes turned to the spot, astronomers quickly noticed a small, distant galaxy very near the Swift position. A deep image, taken by Hubble on Monday, April 4, 2011, pinpointed the source of the explosion at the center of this galaxy, which lies 3.8 billion light-years away from Earth. That same day, astronomers used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to make a four-hour-long exposure of the puzzling source. The image, which locates the X-ray object 10 times more precisely than Swift, shows that the source lies at the center of the galaxy Hubble imaged.

Astronomers previously have detected stars disrupted by supermassive black holes, but none have shown the X-ray brightness and variability seen in GRB 110328A. The source has undergone numerous flares. Since Sunday, April 3, it has brightened by more than five times. Although research is ongoing, astronomers feel the unusual blast likely arose when a star wandered too close to its galaxy's central black hole. Intense tidal forces tore the star apart, and the infalling gas continues to stream toward the hole. According to this model, the spinning black hole formed an outflowing jet along its rotational axis. A powerful blast of X-rays and gamma rays is seen if this jet is pointed in our direction.

Hubble observations of GRB 110328A's host galaxy were taken with the Wide Field Camera 3 in visible and near-infrared light. This Hubble image of the galaxy was taken in visible light. Astronomers plan additional Hubble observations to see if the galaxy's core changes brightness.

Space Telescope Science Institute Announces the 2011 Hubble Fellows

9:00 am PDT, March 29, 2011

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) announces today the selection of 17 new candidates for the Hubble Fellowship Program. This is one of the three prestigious postdoctoral fellowship programs funded by NASA. The other programs are the Sagan and the Einstein Fellowships. STScI administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA.

NASA's Hubble Rules Out One Alternative to Dark Energy

1:30 pm PDT, March 14, 2011

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have ruled out an alternate theory on the nature of dark energy after recalculating the expansion rate of the universe to unprecedented accuracy. The universe appears to be expanding at an ever-increasing rate, and one explanation is that the universe is filled with a dark energy that works in the opposite way of gravity. One alternative to that hypothesis is that an enormous bubble of relatively empty space eight billion light-years across surrounds our galactic neighborhood. If we lived near the center of this void, observations of galaxies being pushed away from each other at accelerating speeds would be an illusion. This hypothesis has been invalidated because astronomers have refined their current understanding of the universe's present 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. The results are reported in the April 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Amongst the myriad stars in spiral galaxy NGC 5584, imaged in visible light with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 between January and April 2010, are pulsating stars called Cepheid variables and one recent Type Ia supernova, a special class of exploding stars. Astronomers used Cepheid variables and Type Ia supernovae as reliable distance markers to measure the universe's expansion rate. NGC 5584 lies 72 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo and was one of the eight galaxies astronomers studied to measure the universe's expansion rate. In those galaxies, astronomers analyzed more than 600 Cepheid variables, including 250 in NGC 5584. Cepheid variables pulsate at a rate matched closely by their intrinsic brightness, making them ideal for measuring distances to relatively nearby galaxies. Type Ia supernovae flare with the same brightness and are brilliant enough to be seen from relatively longer distances. Astronomers search for Type Ia supernovae in nearby galaxies containing Cepheid variables so they can compare true brightness of both types of stars. That brightness information is used to calibrate the measurement of Type Ia supernova in far-flung galaxies and calculate their distance from Earth. Once astronomers know accurate distances to galaxies near and far, they can determine the universe's expansion rate.

Astrophysicist Adam Riess Wins the 2011 Einstein Medal

10:00 am PST, February 18, 2011

Adam Riess, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and a professor in physics and astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University, today was awarded the 2011 Einstein Medal by the Albert Einstein Society, located in Bern, Switzerland. The Society recognized him for leadership in the High-z Supernova Search Team's 1998 discovery that the expansion rate of the universe is accelerating, a phenomenon widely attributed to a mysterious, unexplained "dark energy" filling the universe. Riess will receive the medal at a ceremony in Bern in May 2011.

Hubble Shows New Image of Spiral Galaxy NGC 2841

6:00 am PST, February 17, 2011

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals a majestic disk of stars and dust lanes in this view of the spiral galaxy NGC 2841, which lies 46 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). This image was taken in 2010 through four different filters on Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Wavelengths range from ultraviolet light through visible light to near-infrared light.

NASA's Hubble Finds Most Distant Galaxy Candidate Ever Seen in Universe

10:20 am PST, January 26, 2011

How far is far? And, when do you know when you get there? This is not a Dr. Seuss riddle, but the ultimate "final frontier" confronting astronomers. We are on the cusp of seeing nearly as far as we ever can into the universe of stars and galaxies. The question can be better phrased: How young is young? And how do you know when you've seen the earliest objects that ever existed? That's because the farther we look into space the further back into time we see. We're accustomed to instantaneous communications on Earth, but starlight carries a roaming fee. It takes billions of years for information to reach us from the remote universe.

Now astronomers have pushed the Hubble Space Telescope to its limits by finding what they believe is the most distant object ever seen in the universe. Its light traveled 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble. The dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the Big Bang, only four percent of the universe's current age. It is tiny. Astronomers were surprised to discover that these observations offer evidence that the rate at which the universe was forming stars grew precipitously in about a 200-million-year time span. This huge change in the rate of star birth means that if astronomers can probe a little further back in time they are going to see even more dramatic changes. This will require the power of the James Webb Space Telescope, the planned successor to Hubble, which will be launched later this decade.

The Two-faced Whirlpool Galaxy

12:45 pm PST, January 13, 2011

These images by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show off two dramatically different face-on views of the spiral galaxy M51, dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy.

The image at left, taken in visible light, highlights the attributes of a typical spiral galaxy, including graceful, curving arms, pink star-forming regions, and brilliant blue strands of star clusters. In the image at right, most of the starlight has been removed, revealing the Whirlpool's skeletal dust structure, as seen in near-infrared light. This new image is the sharpest view of the dense dust in M51. The narrow lanes of dust revealed by Hubble reflect the galaxy's moniker, the Whirlpool Galaxy, as if they were swirling toward the galaxy's core. These images will be presented on Jan. 13, 2011, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Wash.

In Deep Galaxy Surveys, Astronomers Get a Boost – from Gravity

10:00 am PST, January 12, 2011

Astronomers are finding that the idiom "can't see the forest for the trees" applies to the universe of galaxies as well. In a paper published today in the science journal Nature, an international team of astronomers predicts that foreground galaxies will affect images of extremely far galaxies. The gravitational fields of the foreground galaxies distort space like a funhouse mirror. This means that a significant fraction of far background galaxies will appear on the sky near foreground galaxies. The good news is that the remote galaxies will appear brighter because of a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. This will need to be factored in when astronomers plan to look for the farthest galaxies in the universe with the planned James Webb Space Telescope.

Hubble Zooms in on a Space Oddity

12:45 pm PST, January 10, 2011

A ghostly, glowing, green blob of gas has become one of astronomy's great cosmic mystery stories. The space oddity was spied in 2007 by Dutch high-school teacher Hanny van Arkel while participating in the online Galaxy Zoo project. The cosmic blob, called Hanny's Voorwerp (Hanny's Object in Dutch), appears to be a solitary green island floating near a normal-looking spiral galaxy, called IC 2497. Since the discovery, puzzled astronomers have used a slew of telescopes, including X-ray and radio observatories, to help unwrap the mystery. Astronomers found that Hanny's Voorwerp is the only visible part of a 300-light-year-long gaseous streamer stretching around the galaxy. The greenish Voorwerp is visible because a searchlight beam of light from the galaxy's core illuminated it. This beam came from a quasar, a bright, energetic object that is powered by a black hole. An encounter with another galaxy may have fed the black hole and pulled the gaseous streamer from IC 2497.

Now, with the help of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have uncovered a pocket of young star clusters (colored yellow-orange in the image) at the tip of the green-colored Hanny's Voorwerp. Hubble also shows that gas flowing from IC 2497 (the pinkish object with the swirling spiral arms) may have instigated the star birth by compressing the gas in Hanny's Voorwerp.

NASA's Hubble Finds that Puny Stars Pack a Big Punch

10:00 am PST, January 10, 2011

A survey of more than 200,000 stars in our Milky Way galaxy has unveiled the sometimes petulant behavior of tiny dwarf stars. These stars, which are smaller than the Sun, can unleash powerful eruptions called flares that may release the energy of more than 100 million atomic bombs. Red dwarfs are the most abundant stars in our universe and are presumably hosts to numerous planets. However, their erratic behavior could make life unpleasant, if not impossible, for many alien worlds. The flares the stars unleash would blast any planets orbiting them with ultraviolet light, bursts of X-rays, and a gush of charged particles called a stellar wind.

Studying the light from 215,000 dwarfs collected in observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers found 100 stellar flares. The observations, taken over a seven-day period, constitute the largest continuous monitoring of red dwarf stars ever undertaken. The illustration shows a red dwarf star unleashing a powerful flare. A hypothetical planet is in the foreground.

Hubble Supernova Bubble Resembles Holiday Ornament

6:00 am PST, December 14, 2010

A delicate sphere of gas, photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, floats serenely in the depths of space. The pristine shell, or bubble, is the result of gas that is being shocked by the expanding blast wave from a supernova. Called SNR 0509-67.5 (or SNR 0509 for short), the bubble is the visible remnant of a powerful stellar explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small galaxy about 160,000 light-years from Earth. Ripples in the shell's surface may be caused by either subtle variations in the density of the ambient interstellar gas, or possibly driven from the interior by pieces of the ejecta. The bubble-shaped shroud of gas is 23 light-years across and is expanding at more than 11 million miles per hour (5,000 kilometers per second).

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys observed the supernova remnant on Oct. 28, 2006, with a filter that isolates light from glowing hydrogen seen in the expanding shell. These observations were then combined with visible-light images of the surrounding star field that were imaged with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on Nov. 4, 2010.

Hubble Captures New Life in an Ancient Galaxy

6:00 am PST, November 18, 2010

Elliptical galaxies were once thought to be aging star cities whose star-making heyday was billions of years ago. But new observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are helping to show that elliptical galaxies still have some youthful vigor left, thanks to encounters with smaller galaxies.

Images of the core of NGC 4150, taken in near-ultraviolet light with the sharp-eyed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), reveal streamers of dust and gas and clumps of young, blue stars that are significantly less than a billion years old. Evidence shows that the star birth was sparked by a merger with a dwarf galaxy. The new study helps bolster the emerging view that most elliptical galaxies have young stars, bringing new life to old galaxies. In the large-scale image, the dark strands of dust in the center provide tentative evidence of a recent galaxy merger. The inset image shows a magnified view of the chaotic activity inside the galaxy's core. The blue areas indicate a flurry of recent star birth. The stellar breeding ground is about 1,300 light-years across. The stars in this area are less than a billion years old.

Detailed Dark Matter Map Yields Clues to Galaxy Cluster Growth

8:00 am PST, November 11, 2010

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope received a boost from a cosmic magnifying glass to construct one of the sharpest maps of dark matter in the universe. They used Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys to chart the invisible matter in the massive galaxy cluster Abell 1689, located 2.2 billion light-years away. The cluster contains about 1,000 galaxies and trillions of stars. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe's mass. Hubble cannot see the dark matter directly. Astronomers inferred its location by analyzing the effect of gravitational lensing, where light from galaxies behind Abell 1689 is distorted by intervening matter within the cluster.

Researchers used the observed positions of 135 lensed images of 42 background galaxies to calculate the location and amount of dark matter in the cluster. They superimposed a map of these inferred dark matter concentrations, tinted blue, on a Hubble image of the cluster. The new dark matter observations may yield new insights into the role of dark energy in the universe's early formative years.

Hubble Data Used to Look 10,000 Years into the Future

6:00 am PDT, October 26, 2010

The globular star cluster Omega Centauri has caught the attention of sky watchers ever since the ancient astronomer Ptolemy first catalogued it 2,000 years ago. Ptolemy, however, thought Omega Centauri was a single star. He didn't know that the "star" was actually a beehive swarm of nearly 10 million stars, all orbiting a common center of gravity. The stars are so tightly crammed together that astronomers had to wait for the powerful vision of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to peer deep into the core of the "beehive" and resolve individual stars. Hubble's vision is so sharp it can even measure the motion of many of these stars, and over a relatively short span of time.

Analyzing archived images taken over a four-year period by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, astronomers have made the most accurate measurements yet of the motions of more than 100,000 cluster inhabitants, the largest survey to date to study the movement of stars in any cluster. A precise measurement of star motions in giant clusters can yield insights into how stellar groupings formed in the early universe, and whether an "intermediate mass" black hole, one roughly 10,000 times as massive as our Sun, might be lurking among the stars.

Pinwheel of Star Birth

6:00 am PDT, October 19, 2010

This face-on spiral galaxy, called NGC 3982, is striking for its rich tapestry of star birth, along with its winding arms. The arms are lined with pink star-forming regions of glowing hydrogen, newborn blue star clusters, and obscuring dust lanes that provide the raw material for future generations of stars. The bright nucleus is home to an older population of stars, which grow ever more densely packed toward the center.

NGC 3982 is located about 68 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The galaxy spans about 30,000 light-years, one-third of the size of our Milky Way galaxy. This color image is composed of exposures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). The observations were taken between March 2000 and August 2009.

Hubble Finds that a Bizarre X-Shaped Intruder Is Linked to an Unseen Asteroid Collision

9:45 am PDT, October 13, 2010

Last January astronomers thought they had witnessed a fresh collision between two asteroids when images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope revealed a bizarre X-shaped object. After using Hubble to track the oddball body for five months, astronomers were surprised to find that they had missed the suspected smashup by a year. The science results are reported in the October 14 issue of the science journal Nature.

NASA Mission to Asteroid Gets Help from Hubble Space Telescope

11:20 am PDT, October 8, 2010

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured images of the large asteroid Vesta that will help scientists refine plans for the Dawn spacecraft's rendezvous with Vesta in July 2011. Scientists have constructed a video from the images that will help improve pointing instructions for Dawn as it is placed in a polar orbit around Vesta. Analyses of Hubble images revealed a pole orientation, or tilt, of approximately four degrees more to the asteroid's east than scientists previously thought.

Hubble Astronomers Uncover an Overheated Early Universe

6:00 am PDT, October 7, 2010

If you think global warming is bad, 11 billion years ago the entire universe underwent, well, universal warming. The consequence was that fierce blasts of radiation from voracious black holes stunted the growth of some small galaxies for a stretch of 500 million years. Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) to identify an era, from 11.7 to 11.3 billion years ago, when the universe burned off a fog of primeval helium. This heated intergalactic gas was inhibited from gravitationally collapsing to form new generations of stars in some small galaxies.

The telltale helium spectral absorption lines were measured in the ultraviolet light from a quasar – the brilliant core of an active galaxy. The quasar beacon shines light through intervening clouds of invisible gas, like a headlight shining through a fog. The beam allows for a core-sample probe of the clouds of gas interspersed between galaxies in the early universe. The universe was a rambunctious place back then. Giant galaxies frequently collided. This engorged supermassive black holes in the cores of galaxies with infalling gas. The black holes furiously converted some of this mass to powerful far-ultraviolet radiation that would blaze out of galaxies. This heated intergalactic helium from 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit to nearly 40,000 degrees. Only after the helium cooled down could small galaxies resume normal assembly.

Hubble Probes Comet 103P/Hartley 2 in Preparation for DIXI/EPOXI Flyby

12:00 pm PDT, October 5, 2010

Hubble Space Telescope observations of comet 103P/Hartley 2, taken on September 25, are helping in the planning for a November 4 flyby of the comet by NASA's Deep Impact eXtended Investigation (DIXI) on NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft performing the EPOXI mission.

Cosmic Ice Sculptures: Dust Pillars in the Carina Nebula

6:00 am PDT, September 16, 2010

Enjoying a frozen treat on a hot summer day can leave a sticky mess as it melts in the Sun and deforms. In the cold vacuum of space, there is no edible ice cream, but there is radiation from massive stars that is carving away at cold molecular clouds, creating bizarre, fantasy-like structures. These one-light-year-tall pillars of cold hydrogen and dust, imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope, are located in the Carina Nebula.

This image is a composite of Hubble observations taken of the Carina Nebula region in 2005 in hydrogen light (light emitted by hydrogen atoms) along with observations taken in oxygen light (light emitted by oxygen atoms) in 2010, both times with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The immense Carina Nebula is an estimated 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina.

Hubble Harvests Distant Solar System Objects

6:00 am PDT, September 13, 2010

This is an artist's concept of a craggy piece of solar system debris that belongs to a class of bodies called trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). Most TNOs are small and faint, making them difficult to spot. Generally, they are more than 100 million times fainter than objects visible to the unaided eye. The newfound TNOs range from 25 to 60 miles (40-100 km) across. In this illustration, the distant Sun is reduced to a bright star at a distance of over 3 billion miles. Astronomers culling the data archives of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have added 14 new TNOs to the catalog. Their search method promises to turn up hundreds more.

New Hubble Observations of Supernova 1987A Trace Shock Wave

11:00 am PDT, September 2, 2010

An international team of astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope reports a significant brightening of the emissions from Supernova 1987A. The results, which appear in this week's Science magazine, are consistent with theoretical predictions about how supernovae interact with their immediate galactic environment.

First Use of Cosmic Lens to Probe Dark Energy

11:00 am PDT, August 19, 2010

An international team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has devised a new method for measuring perhaps the greatest puzzle of our universe – dark energy. This mysterious phenomenon, discovered in 1998, is pushing our universe apart at ever-increasing speeds. The team's results appear in the August 20, 2010 issue of the journal Science.

An "Island Universe" in the Coma Cluster

6:00 am PDT, August 10, 2010

A long-exposure Hubble Space Telescope image shows a majestic face-on spiral galaxy located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, which lies 320 million light-years away in the northern constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxy, known as NGC 4911, contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its center. These are silhouetted against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. Hubble has also captured the outer spiral arms of NGC 4911, along with thousands of other galaxies of varying sizes. The high resolution of Hubble's cameras, paired with considerably long exposures, made it possible to observe these faint details.

This natural-color Hubble image, which combines data obtained in 2006, 2007, and 2009 from the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys, required 28 hours of exposure time.

A Galactic Spectacle

8:00 am PDT, August 5, 2010

A beautiful new image of two colliding galaxies has been released by NASA's Great Observatories. The Antennae galaxies, located about 62 million light-years from Earth, are shown in this composite image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (gold and brown), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (red). The imaging data were taken in 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2005. The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like "arms," seen in wide-angle views of the system. These features were produced by tidal forces generated in the collision.

Hyperfast Star Was Booted from Milky Way

6:00 am PDT, July 22, 2010

A hundred million years ago, a triple-star system was traveling through the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy when it made a life-changing misstep. The trio wandered too close to the galaxy's giant black hole, which captured one of the stars and hurled the other two out of the Milky Way. Adding to the stellar game of musical chairs, the two outbound stars merged to form a super-hot, blue star.

This story may seem like science fiction, but astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope say it is the most likely scenario for a so-called hypervelocity star, known as HE 0437-5439, one of the fastest ever detected. It is blazing across space at a speed of 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) an hour, three times faster than our Sun's orbital velocity in the Milky Way. Hubble observations confirm that the stellar speedster hails from our galaxy's core.

Superhot Planet Likely Possesses Comet-like Tail

6:00 am PDT, July 15, 2010

As if the debate over what is and what is not a planet hasn't gotten confusing enough, Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have now confirmed the existence of a tortured, baked object that could be called a "cometary planet." The gas giant planet, dubbed HD 209458b, is orbiting so close to its star that its heated atmosphere is escaping away into space. Now, observations by the new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) aboard NASA's Hubble suggest that powerful stellar winds are sweeping the castoff material behind the scorched planet and shaping it into a comet-like tail.

This artist's illustration shows a view of HD 209458b, as seen from the surface of a hypothetical nearby companion object.

"Hubble Repairman" Becomes Research Professor at Johns Hopkins University

8:00 am PDT, July 8, 2010

NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld has walked in space eight times and logged more than 800 hours floating in that deep, dark void over the course of five space flights, including three to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Now, he is about to explore a new frontier: The Johns Hopkins University.

On July 1, the man nicknamed "the Hubble Repairman" became a research professor in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. While at Johns Hopkins, Grunsfeld, who is deputy director at the Space Telescope Science Institute, will continue his research in astrophysics and the development of new technology and systems for space astronomy.

Starburst Cluster Shows Celestial Fireworks

6:00 am PDT, July 6, 2010

Like a July 4 fireworks display, a young, glittering collection of stars looks like an aerial burst. The cluster is surrounded by clouds of interstellar gas and dust—the raw material for new star formation. The nebula, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina, contains a central cluster of huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603. Star clusters like NGC 3603 provide important clues to understanding the origin of massive star formation in the early, distant universe.

This Hubble Space Telescope image was captured in August 2009 and December 2009 with the Wide Field Camera 3 in both visible and infrared light, which trace the glow of sulfur, hydrogen, and iron.

Mysterious Flash on Jupiter Left No Debris Cloud

6:00 am PDT, June 16, 2010

Detailed observations made by the Wide Field Camera 3 on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have found an answer to the flash of light seen June 3 on Jupiter. It came from a giant meteor burning up high above Jupiter's cloud tops. The space visitor did not plunge deep enough into the atmosphere to explode and leave behind any telltale cloud of debris, as seen in previous Jupiter collisions.

Hubble Images Suggest Rogue Asteroid Smacked Jupiter

6:00 am PDT, June 3, 2010

Without warning, a mystery object struck Jupiter on July 19, 2009, leaving a dark bruise the size of the Pacific Ocean. The spot first caught the eye of an amateur astronomer in Australia, and soon, observatories around the world, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, were zeroing in on the unexpected blemish. Astronomers had witnessed this kind of cosmic event before. Similar scars had been left behind during the course of a week in July 1994, when more than 20 pieces of Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9) plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere. The 2009 impact occurred during the same week, 15 years later.

This Hubble image of Jupiter's full disk, taken July 23, 2009, revealed an elongated, dark spot at lower, right (inside the rectangular box). The unexpected blemish was created when an unknown object plunged into Jupiter and exploded, scattering debris into the giant planet's cloud tops. The strike was equal to the explosion of a few thousand standard nuclear bombs. The series of close-up images at right, taken between July 23, 2009 and Nov. 3, 2009, show the impact site rapidly disappearing. Jupiter's winds also are spreading the debris into intricate swirls. The natural-color images are composites made from separate exposures in blue, green, and red light. Astronomers who compared Hubble images of the two collisions (in 1994 and 2009) say that the culprit in the 2009 event may have been an asteroid about 1,600 feet (500 meters) wide. The images, therefore, may show for the first time the immediate aftermath of an asteroid, rather than a comet, striking another planet.

Supermassive Black Holes May Frequently Roam Galaxy Centers

11:30 am PDT, May 25, 2010

A team of astronomy researchers at Florida Institute of Technology and Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States and University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, find that the supermassive black hole (SMBH) at the center of the most massive local galaxy (M87) is not where it was expected. Their research, conducted using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), concludes that the SMBH in M87 is displaced from the galaxy center. The most likely cause for this SMBH to be off center is a previous merger between two older, less massive, SMBHs. The iconic M87 jet may have pushed the SMBH away from the galaxy center, say researchers. The research is being presented today at the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami. It will also be published in The Astrophysical Journal Lettters.

Out of Whack Planetary System Offers Clues to a Disturbed Past

11:00 am PDT, May 24, 2010

For just over a decade, astronomers have known that three Jupiter-type planets orbit the yellow-white star Upsilon Andromedae. But to their surprise it's now been discovered that not all planets orbit this star in the same plane, as the major planets in our solar system orbit the Sun. The orbits of two of the planets are inclined by 30 degrees with respect to each other. Such a strange orientation has never before been seen in any other planetary system. This surprising finding will impact theories of how planetary systems form and evolve, say researchers. It suggests that some violent events can happen to disrupt planets' orbits after a planetary system forms. The discovery was made by joint observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, the giant Hobby-Eberly Telescope, and other ground-based telescopes.

These findings were presented in a press conference today at the 216th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Miami.

Hubble Finds Star Eating a Planet

6:00 am PDT, May 20, 2010

"The Star That Ate My Planet" may sound like a B-grade science fiction movie title, but this is really happening 600 light-years away. Like a moth in a candle flame, a doomed Jupiter-sized planet has moved so close to its sunlike parent star that it is spilling its atmosphere onto the star. This happens because the planet gets so hot that its atmosphere puffs up to the point where the star's gravity pulls it in. The planet will likely be completely devoured in 10 million years. Observations by Hubble's new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph measured a variety of elements in the planet's bloated atmosphere as the planet passed in front of its star. The planet, called WASP-12b, is the hottest known world ever discovered, with an atmosphere seething at 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hubble Catches Heavyweight Runaway Star Speeding from 30 Doradus

6:00 am PDT, May 11, 2010

A blue-hot star, 90 times more massive than our Sun, is hurtling across space fast enough to make a round trip from Earth to the Moon in merely two hours. Though the speed is not a record-breaker, it is unique to find a homeless star that has traveled so far from its nest. The only way the star could have been ejected from the star cluster where it was born is through a tussle with a rogue star that entered the binary system where the star lived, which ejected the star through a dynamical game of stellar pinball. This is strong circumstantial evidence for stars as massive as 150 times our Sun's mass living in the cluster. Only a very massive star would have the gravitational energy to eject something weighing 90 solar masses. The runaway star is on the outskirts of the 30 Doradus nebula, a raucous stellar breeding ground in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud. The finding bolsters evidence that the most massive stars in the local universe reside in 30 Doradus, making it a unique laboratory for studying heavyweight stars. 30 Doradus, also called the Tarantula Nebula, is roughly 170,000 light-years from Earth.

Starry-Eyed Hubble Celebrates 20 Years of Awe and Discovery

7:00 pm PDT, April 22, 2010

NASA's best-recognized, longest-lived, and most prolific space observatory zooms past a threshold of 20 years of operation this month. On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle and crew of STS-31 were launched to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope into a low Earth orbit. What followed was one of the most remarkable sagas of the space age. Hubble's unprecedented capabilities made it one of the most powerful science instruments ever conceived by humans, and certainly the one most embraced by the public. Hubble discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of current astronomical research, from planetary science to cosmology. And, its pictures were unmistakably out of this world. This brand new Hubble photo is of a small portion of one of the largest seen star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. The scene is reminiscent of Hubble's classic "Pillars of Creation" photo from 1995, but is even more striking in appearance. The image captures the top of a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks like arrows sailing through the air.

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are celebrating Hubble's journey of exploration with this stunning new picture, online educational activities, an opportunity for people to explore galaxies as armchair scientists, and an opportunity for astronomy enthusiasts to send in their own personal greetings to Hubble for posterity.

Small Companion to Brown Dwarf Challenges Simple Definition

6:00 am PDT, April 6, 2010

As our telescopes grow more powerful, astronomers are uncovering objects that defy conventional wisdom. This latest example is the discovery of a planet-like object circling a brown dwarf. It's the right size for a planet, estimated to be 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter. There has been a lot of discussion in the context of the Pluto debate over how small an object can be and still be called a planet. This new observation addresses the question at the other end of the size spectrum: How small can an object be and still be a brown dwarf rather than a planet? This new companion is within the range of masses observed for planets around stars – less than 15 Jupiter masses. But should it be called a planet? The answer is strongly connected to the mechanism by which the companion most likely formed. What's even more puzzling is that the object formed in just 1 million years, a very short time to make a planet according to conventional theory.

Exploring the Carina Nebula By Touch

6:00 am PDT, March 30, 2010

The Hubble Space Telescope's dramatic glimpse of the Carina Nebula, a gigantic cloud of dust and gas bustling with star-making activity, is a glorious feast for the eyes. Energetic young stars are sculpting a fantasy landscape of bubbles, valleys, mountains, and pillars. Now this celestial fantasyland has been brought into view for people who cannot explore the image by sight. Max Mutchler, a research and instrument scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Noreen Grice, president of You Can Do Astronomy LLC and author of several tactile astronomy books, have created a touchable image of the Carina Nebula that is engaging for everyone, regardless of their visual ability.

The 17-by-11-inch color image is embossed with lines, slashes, and other markings that correspond to objects in the giant cloud, allowing visually impaired people to feel what they cannot see and form a picture of the nebula in their minds. The image's design is also useful and intriguing for sighted people who have different learning styles.

Experience Hubble's Universe in 3-D

6:00 am PDT, March 19, 2010

Take an exhilarating ride through the Orion Nebula, a vast star-making factory 1,500 light-years away. Swoop through Orion's giant canyon of gas and dust. Fly past behemoth stars whose brilliant light illuminates and energizes the entire cloudy region. Zoom by dusty tadpole-shaped objects that are fledgling solar systems. This virtual space journey isn't the latest video game but one of several groundbreaking astronomy visualizations created by specialists at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, the science operations center for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The cinematic space odysseys are part of the new Imax film "Hubble 3D," which opens today at select Imax theaters worldwide. The 43-minute movie chronicles the 20-year life of Hubble and includes highlights from the May 2009 servicing mission to the Earth-orbiting observatory, with footage taken by the astronauts. The giant-screen film showcases some of Hubble's breathtaking iconic pictures, such as the Eagle Nebula's "Pillars of Creation," as well as stunning views taken by the newly installed Wide Field Camera 3.

STScI Announces the 2010 Hubble Fellows

10:00 am PST, February 26, 2010

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md. has selected 17 new candidates for the 2010 Hubble Fellowship Program. The fellows may pursue their research at any host university or research center of their choosing in the United States and will begin their programs in the fall of 2010. Each fellowship provides support to the awardees for three years. The awardees pursue research broadly related to NASA's Cosmic Origins Program. The missions in this program examine the origins of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems, and the evolution of these structures with cosmic time, and presently include: the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Inaugurated in 1990, the Hubble Fellowship Program funds research opportunities for outstanding candidates selected in 2010 from more than 230 applicants.

Jurassic Space: Ancient Galaxies Come Together After Billions of Years

6:00 am PST, February 18, 2010

Imagine finding a living dinosaur in your backyard. Astronomers have found the astronomical equivalent of prehistoric life in our intergalactic backyard: a group of small, ancient galaxies that has waited 10 billion years to come together. These "late bloomers" are on their way to building a large elliptical galaxy. Such encounters between dwarf galaxies are normally seen billions of light-years away and therefore occurred billions of years ago. But these galaxies, members of Hickson Compact Group 31, are relatively nearby, only 166 million light-years away. New images of these galaxies by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope offer a window into what commonly happened in the universe's formative years when large galaxies were created from smaller building blocks. The Hubble observations have added important clues to the story of this interacting foursome, allowing astronomers to determine when the encounter began and to predict a future merger. Astronomers know the system has been around for a while, because the oldest stars in a few of its ancient globular clusters are about 10 billion years old. The encounter, though, has been going on for about a few hundred million years, the blink of an eye in cosmic history. Everywhere the astronomers looked in this compact group they found batches of infant star clusters and regions brimming with star birth. Hubble reveals that the brightest clusters, hefty groups each holding at least 100,000 stars, are less than 10 million years old. The entire system is rich in hydrogen gas, the stuff of which stars are made. Astronomers used Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys to resolve the youngest and brightest of those clusters, which allowed them to calculate the clusters' ages, trace the star-formation history, and determine that the galaxies are undergoing the final stages of galaxy assembly.

The composite image of Hickson Compact Group 31 shows the four galaxies mixing it up. The bright, distorted object at middle, left, is actually two colliding dwarf galaxies. The bluish star clusters have formed in the streamers of debris pulled from the galaxies and at the site of their head-on collision. The cigar-shaped object above the galaxy duo is another member of the group. A bridge of star clusters connects the trio. A longer rope of bright star clusters points to the fourth member of the group, at lower right. The bright object in the center is a foreground star. The image was composed from observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX).

Hubble Captures Saturn's Double Light Show

1:00 pm PST, February 15, 2010

In January and March 2009, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took advantage of a rare opportunity to record Saturn when its rings were edge-on, resulting in a unique movie featuring the nearly symmetrical light show at both of the giant planet's poles. It takes Saturn almost thirty years to orbit the Sun, with the opportunity to image both of its poles occurring only twice during that time. The 2009 Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys data used in this movie have allowed astronomers to monitor the behavior of Saturn's poles in the same shot over a sustained period of time and to analyze the planet's northern and southern lights simultaneously.

New Hubble Maps of Pluto Show Surface Changes

10:00 am PST, February 4, 2010

Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been a speck of light in the largest ground-based telescopes. But NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has now mapped the dwarf planet in never-before-seen detail. The new map is so good, astronomers have even been able to detect changes on the dwarf planet's surface by comparing Hubble images taken in 1994 with the newer images taken in 2002-2003. The task is as challenging as trying to see the markings on a soccer ball 40 miles away.

Hubble's view isn't sharp enough to see craters or mountains, if they exist on the surface, but Hubble reveals a complex-looking and variegated world with white, dark-orange, and charcoal-black terrain. The overall color is believed to be a result of ultraviolet radiation from the distant Sun breaking up methane that is present on Pluto's surface, leaving behind a dark, molasses-colored, carbon-rich residue. Astronomers were very surprised to see that Pluto's brightness has changed – the northern pole is brighter and the southern hemisphere is darker and redder. Summer is approaching Pluto's north pole, and this may cause surface ices to melt and refreeze in the colder shadowed portion of the planet. The Hubble pictures underscore that Pluto is not simply a ball of ice and rock but a dynamic world that undergoes dramatic atmospheric changes.

Suspected Asteroid Collision Leaves Odd X-Pattern of Trailing Debris

7:00 am PST, February 2, 2010

Something awfully curious is happening 100 million miles from Earth in the asteroid belt. There's a newly discovered object that superficially looks like a comet but lives among the asteroids. The distinction? Comets swoop along elliptical orbits close in to the Sun and grow long gaseous and dusty tails, as ices near the surface turn into vapor and release dust. But asteroids are mostly in circular orbits in the asteroid belt and are not normally expected to be "volatile."

The mystery object was discovered on January 6, 2010, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) sky survey. The object appears so unusual in ground-based telescopic images that discretionary time on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was used to take a close-up look. The observations show a bizarre X-pattern of filamentary structures near the point-like nucleus of the object and trailing streamers of dust. This complex structure suggests the object is not a comet but instead the product of a head-on collision between two asteroids traveling five times faster than a rifle bullet. Astronomers have long thought that the asteroid belt is being ground down through collisions, but such a smashup has never before been seen.

Hubble Catches End of Star-Making Party in Nearby Dwarf Galaxy

6:00 am PST, January 14, 2010

Galaxies throughout the universe are ablaze with star birth. But for a nearby, small spiral galaxy, the star-making party is almost over. Astronomers were surprised to find that star-formation activities in the outer regions of NGC 2976 have been virtually asleep because they shut down millions of years ago. The celebration is confined to a few die-hard partygoers huddled in the galaxy's inner region. The explanation, astronomers say, is that a raucous interaction with the neighboring M81 group of galaxies ignited star birth in NGC 2976. Now the star-making fun is beginning to end. Images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show that star formation in the galaxy began fizzling out in its outskirts about 500 million years ago as some of the gas was stripped away and the rest collapsed toward the center. With no gas left to fuel the party, more and more regions of the galaxy are taking a much-needed nap. The star-making region is now confined to about 5,000 light-years around the core.

NGC 2976 does not look like a typical spiral galaxy, as this Hubble image shows. In this view of the oddball galaxy's inner region, there are no obvious spiral arms. Dusty filaments running through the disk show no clear spiral structure. Although the gas is centrally concentrated, the galaxy does not have a central bulge of stars. Astronomers pieced together the galaxy's star-formation story with the help of Hubble's sharp vision. The galaxy's relatively close distance to Earth allowed Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to resolve hundreds of thousands of individual stars. What look like grains of sand in the image are actually individual stars. Studying the individual stars allowed astronomers to determine their color and brightness, which provided information about when they formed. The astronomers combined the Hubble results with a map, made from radio observations, showing the current distribution of hydrogen across the galaxy. By analyzing the combined data, the Hubble research team then reconstructed the star-making history for large areas of the galaxy. The Hubble observations are part of the ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury (ANGST) program. The map is part of The HI Nearby Galaxy Survey by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array in New Mexico. The blue dots are fledgling blue giant stars residing in the remaining active star-birth regions. NGC 2976 resides on the fringe of the M81 group of galaxies, located about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.

Hubble Reaches the "Undiscovered Country" of Primeval Galaxies

7:30 am PST, January 5, 2010

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has broken the distance limit for galaxies and uncovered a primordial population of compact and ultra-blue galaxies that have never been seen before. The deeper Hubble looks into space, the farther back in time it looks, because light takes billions of years to cross the observable universe. This makes Hubble a powerful "time machine" that allows astronomers to see galaxies as they were 13 billion years ago, just 600 million to 800 million years after the Big Bang.

The data from Hubble's new infrared camera, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), on the Ultra Deep Field (taken in August 2009) have been analyzed by no less than five international teams of astronomers. A total of 15 papers have been submitted to date by astronomers worldwide. Some of these early results are being presented by various team members on Jan. 6, 2010, at the 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C.

Galaxy History Revealed in This Colorful Hubble View

7:30 am PST, January 5, 2010

More than 12 billion years of cosmic history are shown in this unprecedented, panoramic, full-color view of thousands of galaxies in various stages of assembly. This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, was made from mosaics taken in September and October 2009 with the newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and in 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The view covers a portion of the southern field of a large galaxy census called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), a deep-sky study by several observatories to trace the evolution of galaxies.

The final image combines a broad range of colors, from the ultraviolet, through visible light, and into the near-infrared. Such a detailed multi-color view of the universe has never before been assembled in such a combination of color, clarity, accuracy, and depth.

Astronaut John Grunsfeld Appointed STScI Deputy Director

6:00 am PST, January 4, 2010

Dr. John M. Grunsfeld has been appointed Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md. effective January 4, 2010. He succeeds Dr. Michael Hauser, who stepped down in October. STScI is the science operations center for NASA's orbiting Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope planned to be launched in 2014.

STScI Senior Astrophysicist Mario Livio Elected AAAS Fellow

1:30 pm PST, December 18, 2009

In November, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Council elected Space Telescope Science Institute's senior astrophysicist Mario Livio and 530 other AAAS members as Fellows of AAAS. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers. These individuals will be recognized for their contributions to science and technology at the Fellows Forum to be held on February 20, 2010, during the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif. The new Fellows will receive a certificate and a blue and gold rosette in recognition of their distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Dr. Livio is cited for his "distinguished contributions to astrophysics through research on stars and galaxies and through communicating and interpreting science and mathematics to the public." The new Fellows are being announced in the AAAS News and Notes section of today's issue of the journal Science.

Hubble Finds Smallest Kuiper Belt Object Ever Seen

10:00 am PST, December 16, 2009

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the smallest object ever seen in visible light in the Kuiper Belt, a vast ring of icy debris that is encircling the outer rim of the solar system just beyond Neptune.

The needle-in-a-haystack object found by Hubble is only 3,200 feet across and a whopping 4.2 billion miles away. The smallest Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) seen previously in reflected light is roughly 30 miles across, or 50 times larger.

Hubble's Festive View of a Grand Star-Forming Region

6:00 am PST, December 15, 2009

Just in time for the holidays: a Hubble Space Telescope picture postcard of hundreds of brilliant blue stars wreathed by warm, glowing clouds. The festive portrait is the most detailed view of the largest stellar nursery in our local galactic neighborhood. The massive, young stellar grouping, called R136, is only a few million years old and resides in the 30 Doradus Nebula, a turbulent star-birth region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. There is no known star-forming region in our galaxy as large or as prolific as 30 Doradus. Many of the diamond-like icy blue stars are among the most massive stars known. Several of them are over 100 times more massive than our Sun. These hefty stars are destined to pop off, like a string of firecrackers, as supernovas in a few million years.

The image, taken in ultraviolet, visible, and red light by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, spans about 100 light-years. The nebula is close enough to Earth that Hubble can resolve individual stars, giving astronomers important information about the birth and evolution of stars in the universe. The Hubble observations were taken Oct. 20-27, 2009. The blue color is light from the hottest, most massive stars; the green from the glow of oxygen; and the red from fluorescing hydrogen.

Hubble's Deepest View of Universe Unveils Never-Before-Seen Galaxies

6:00 am PST, December 8, 2009

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made the deepest image of the universe ever taken in near-infrared light. The faintest and reddest objects in the image are galaxies that formed 600 million years after the Big Bang. No galaxies have been seen before at such early times. The new deep view, taken in late August 2009, also provides insights into how galaxies grew in their formative years early in the universe's history. The image was taken in the same region as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), which was taken in 2004 and is the deepest visible-light image of the universe. Hubble's newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) collects light from near-infrared wavelengths and therefore looks even deeper into the universe, because the light from very distant galaxies is stretched out of the ultraviolet and visible regions of the spectrum into near-infrared wavelengths by the expansion of the universe.

Galaxy on Edge

6:00 am PST, November 18, 2009

The magnificent galaxy NGC 4710 is tilted nearly edge-on to our view from Earth. This perspective allows astronomers to easily distinguish the central bulge of stars from its pancake-flat disk of stars, dust, and gas. What's striking in the image is a ghostly "X" pattern of stars. This natural-color photo was taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys on January 15, 2006.

NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate International Year of Astronomy

8:00 am PST, November 10, 2009

A never-before-seen view of the turbulent heart of our Milky Way galaxy is being unveiled by NASA on Nov. 10. This event will commemorate the 400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609. In celebration of this International Year of Astronomy, NASA is releasing images of the galactic center region as seen by its Great Observatories to more than 150 planetariums, museums, nature centers, libraries, and schools across the country.

Hubble Image Showcases Star Birth in M83, the Southern Pinwheel

6:00 am PST, November 5, 2009

The spectacular new camera installed on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope during Servicing Mission 4 in May has delivered the most detailed view of star birth in the graceful, curving arms of the nearby spiral galaxy M83.

Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp "eye" of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants. The image at right, taken in August 2009, is Hubble's close-up view of the myriad stars near the galaxy's core, the bright whitish region at far right. An image of the entire galaxy, taken by the European Southern Observatory's Wide Field Imager on the ESO/MPG 2.2-meter telescope at La Silla, Chile, is shown at left. The white box outlines Hubble's view.

Hubble Project Pioneer Rodger Doxsey Passes Away

11:30 am PDT, October 14, 2009

Dr. Rodger Doxsey, head of the Space Telescope Science Institute's (STScI) Hubble Mission Office, passed away on October 13 after a prolonged illness. The New York native was 62 years old.

Doxsey oversaw Hubble science operations at STScI in Baltimore, Md., for nearly three decades. Astronomers credit Doxsey for being one of the key Hubble program people who had a working knowledge of the extremely complex Hubble Space Telescope from top to bottom. Doxsey dedicated his career to making Hubble a success, working closely with the scientists and engineers at the institute that operate the telescope, the engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the scientists from around the world who use the telescope.

Hubble Observes LCROSS Impact Event

3:00 pm PDT, October 9, 2009

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made a series of observations immediately preceding and following the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) Centaur rocket stage and shepherding spacecraft impacts at the lunar south pole, on October 9 at 7:31 and 7:35 a.m. EDT.

Hubble Opens New Eyes on the Universe

8:00 am PDT, September 9, 2009

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, ready to uncover new worlds, peer ever deeper into space, and even map the invisible backbone of the universe. The first snapshots from the refurbished Hubble showcase the 19-year-old telescope's new vision. Topping the list of exciting new views are colorful multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densely packed star cluster, an eerie "pillar of creation," and a "butterfly" nebula. With its new imaging camera, Hubble can view galaxies, star clusters, and other objects across a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. A new spectrograph slices across billions of light-years to map the filamentary structure of the universe and trace the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life. The telescope's new instruments also are more sensitive to light and can observe in ways that are significantly more efficient and require less observing time than previous generations of Hubble instruments. NASA astronauts installed the new instruments during the space shuttle servicing mission in May 2009. Besides adding the instruments, the astronauts also completed a dizzying list of other chores that included performing unprecedented repairs on two other science instruments.

Now that Hubble has reopened for business, it will tackle a whole range of observations. Looking closer to Earth, such observations will include taking a census of the population of Kuiper Belt objects residing at the fringe of our solar system, witnessing the birth of planets around other stars, and probing the composition and structure of the atmospheres of other worlds. Peering much farther away, astronomers have ambitious plans to use Hubble to make the deepest-ever portrait of the universe in near-infrared light. The resulting picture may reveal never-before-seen infant galaxies that existed when the universe was less than 500 million years old. Hubble also is now significantly more well-equipped to probe and further characterize the behavior of dark energy, a mysterious and little-understood repulsive force that is pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

Astronomers Find Hyperactive Galaxies in the Early Universe

10:00 am PDT, August 5, 2009

Looking almost 11 billion years into the past, astronomers have measured the motions of stars for the first time in a very distant galaxy. They are whirling at a speed of one million miles per hour-about twice the speed of our Sun through the Milky Way. Even stranger, the galaxies are a fraction the size of our Milky Way, and so may have evolved over billions of years into the full-grown galaxies seen around us today. Astronomers are puzzled by how galaxies like these formed. They may be what will eventually become the dense central regions of very large galaxies.

The galaxies were found by using the combined power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the 8-meter Gemini South telescope in Chile. Hubble shows that the galaxies are a fraction the size of most galaxies we see today. The Gemini telescope clocks their speed by using spectroscopy. To witness the formation of these extreme galaxies astronomers plan to observe galaxies even farther back in time with Hubble's new Wide Field Camera 3.

Hubble Captures Rare Jupiter Collision

12:00 pm PDT, July 24, 2009

NASA scientists have interrupted the checkout and calibration of the Hubble Space Telescope to aim the recently refurbished observatory at a new expanding spot on the giant planet Jupiter. The spot, caused by the impact of a comet or an asteroid, is changing day to day in the planet's cloud tops. The Hubble picture, taken on July 23, is the sharpest visible-light picture taken of the impact feature. The observations were made with Hubble's new camera, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). WFC3 is not yet fully calibrated, and while it is possible to obtain celestial images, the camera's full power cannot yet be realized for most observations. The WFC3 can still return meaningful science images that will complement the Jupiter pictures being taken with ground-based telescopes.

STScI Joins the Search for Other Earths in Space

6:00 am PDT, June 25, 2009

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., is partnering on a historic search for Earth-size planets around other stars. STScI is the data archive center for NASA's Kepler mission, a spacecraft that is undertaking a survey for Earth-size planets in our region of the galaxy. The spacecraft sent its first raw science data to STScI on June 19. The Institute's role is to convert the raw science data into files that can be analyzed by Kepler researchers and to store the files every three months in an archive.

Refined Hubble Constant Narrows Possible Explanations for Dark Energy

6:00 am PDT, May 7, 2009

Less than 100 years ago scientists didn't know if the universe was coming or going, literally. It even fooled the great mind of Albert Einstein. He assumed the universe must be static. But to keep the universe from collapsing under gravity like a house of cards, Einstein hypothesized there was a repulsive force at work, called the cosmological constant, that counterbalanced gravity's tug. Along came Edwin Hubble in 1923 who found that galaxies were receding from us at a proportional rate, called the Hubble constant, which meant the universe was uniformly expanding, so there was no need to shore it up with any mysterious force from deep space. In measuring how this expansion was expected to slow down over time, 11 years ago, two studies, one led by Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Johns Hopkins University and Brian Schmidt of Mount Stromlo Observatory, and the other by Saul Perlmutter of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, independently discovered dark energy, which seems to behave like Einstein's cosmological constant.

To better characterize dark energy, Riess used Hubble Space Telescope's crisp view (combined with 2003 data from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, WMAP) to refine the value of the universe's expansion rate to a precision of three percent. That's a big step from 20 years ago when astronomers' estimates for the Hubble constant disagreed by a factor of two. This new value implies that dark energy really is a steady push on the universe as Einstein imagined, rather than something more effervescent (like the early inflationary universe) that changes markedly over time.

Starbursts in Dwarf Galaxies are a Global Affair

6:00 am PDT, April 30, 2009

Bursts of star making in a galaxy have been compared to a Fourth of July fireworks display: They occur at a fast and furious pace, lighting up a region for a short time before winking out. But these fleeting starbursts are only pieces of the story, astronomers say. An analysis of archival images of small, or dwarf, galaxies taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope suggests that starbursts, intense regions of star formation, sweep across the whole galaxy and last 100 times longer than astronomers thought. The longer duration may affect how dwarf galaxies change over time, and therefore may shed light on galaxy evolution.

Space Telescope Science Institute Astrophysicist Elected to National Academy of Sciences

1:00 pm PDT, April 28, 2009

Adam Riess was among 72 scientists elected today to membership in the National Academy of Sciences at the organization's 146th annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C. Riess, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and professor in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, joins 20 other Johns Hopkins faculty members currently in the Academy, an honorary society that advises the government on scientific matters.

Hubble Celebrates Its 19th Anniversary with a "Fountain of Youth"

6:00 am PDT, April 21, 2009

Over the past 19 years Hubble has taken dozens of exotic pictures of galaxies going "bump in the night" as they collide with each other and have a variety of close encounters of the galactic kind. Just when you thought these interactions couldn't look any stranger, this image of a trio of galaxies, called Arp 194, looks like one of the galaxies has sprung a leak. The bright blue streamer is really a stretched spiral arm full of newborn blue stars. This typically happens when two galaxies interact and gravitationally tug at each other.

Resembling a pair of owl eyes, the two nuclei of the colliding galaxies can be seen in the process of merging at the upper left. The blue bridge looks like it connects to a third galaxy. In reality the galaxy is in the background and not connected at all. Hubble's sharp view allows astronomers to try and visually sort out what are foreground and background objects when galaxies, superficially, appear to overlap. This picture was issued to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. During the past 19 years Hubble has made more than 880,000 observations and snapped over 570,000 images of 29,000 celestial objects.

Galaxy Cluster MACS J0717

8:00 am PDT, April 16, 2009

The most crowded collision of galaxy clusters has been identified by combining information from three different telescopes. This result gives scientists a chance to learn what happens when some of the largest objects in the universe go at each other in a cosmic free-for-all. Using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, astronomers were able to determine the three-dimensional geometry and motion in the system MACS J0717.5+3745 (or MACS J0717, for short), located about 5.4 billion light-years from Earth.

Hubble Witnesses Spectacular Flaring in Gas Jet from M87's Black Hole

6:00 am PDT, April 14, 2009

In our violent, discordant, and effervescent universe, reality always seems to be stranger than fiction. Case in point: there is a galaxy 54 million light-years away that is shooting out a 5,000-light-year-long, narrow beam of radiation and plasma that is as opulent as a Star Wars light saber and as destructive as the film's Death Star. This extragalactic jet is being fueled and ejected from the vicinity of a monster black hole that is 3 billion times the mass of our Sun. The disk around a rapidly spinning black hole has magnetic field lines that entrap ionized gas falling toward the black hole. These particles, along with radiation, flow rapidly away from the black hole along the magnetic field lines. The rotational energy of the spinning accretion disk adds momentum to the outflowing jet.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been used to keep an eye on these million-degree fireworks for more than a decade. Hubble has caught the jet flickering. In particular, a glowing knot in the outflowing stream has gotten as bright as the galaxy's star-crowded nucleus, only to dim and then brighten again. Astronomers don't know why the black-hole torch is fluctuating, but it may be similar to the physics that causes flares to explode on the Sun. Plasma trapped in the Sun's magnetic field gets pinched and heated as the lines collapse and put the squeeze on it. Or, more simply, the jet may be plowing into an unseen clump of interstellar matter — at more than half the speed of light!

Hubble Celebrates the International Year of Astronomy with the Galaxy Triplet Arp 274

10:00 am PDT, April 3, 2009

On April 1-2, the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the winning target in the Space Telescope Science Institute's "You Decide" competition in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA). The winner is a group of galaxies called Arp 274. The striking object received 67,021 votes out of the nearly 140,000 votes cast for the six candidate targets.

Hubble Finds Hidden Exoplanet in Archival Data

6:00 am PDT, April 1, 2009

In 19 years of observations, the Hubble Space Telescope has amassed a huge archive of data. That archive may contain the telltale glow of undiscovered extrasolar planets, says David Lafrenière of the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His team found the outermost of three massive planets known to orbit the young star HR 8799, which is 130 light-years away. The planetary trio was originally discovered in images taken with the Keck and Gemini North telescopes in 2007 and 2008. But using a new image processing technique that suppresses the glare of the parent star, Lafrenière found the telltale glow of the outermost planet in the system while studying Hubble archival data taken in 1998. The giant planet is young and hot, but still only 1/100,000th the brightness of its parent star (by comparison, cooler Jupiter is one-billionth the brightness of the sun).

Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has looked at over 200 other stars in coronagraphic mode, where the light of the star is largely blocked out, to search for the feeble glow of planets. Lafrenière plans to look for undiscovered planets in the NICMOS archive dataset and do follow-up observations with ground-based telescopes on any candidates that pop up. As an added bonus, NICMOS made a near-infrared measurement that suggests water vapor is in the atmosphere of the planet. This could not be easily achieved with ground-based telescopes, because water vapor in Earth's atmosphere absorbs some infrared wavelengths. Measuring the water absorption properties on this exoplanet will tell astronomers a great deal about the temperatures and pressures in the atmosphere, and about the prevalence of dust clouds. But don't go looking for beachfront property; the planet is 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit -- too hot even for water vapor clouds.

Hubble Uncovers an Unusual Stellar Progenitor to a Supernova

11:00 am PDT, March 22, 2009

Astronomers have detailed theories about what type of stars self-destruct in titanic supernova explosions. However, it would be useful to test stellar theory by actually seeing what a doomed star looked like before it blew apart. The problem is that a supernova blast pretty much eradicates all evidence of what the progenitor star was. Like a surveillance camera photographing the scene of a crime before it happened, the Hubble Space Telescope has a priceless archival photo of the galaxy that contains a picture of the supernova progenitor star as it appeared eight years before it exploded. The progenitor was comparatively easy to find because it was one of the brightest stars in the host galaxy. But the discovery has only further confounded supernova mysteries. The progenitor star belongs to a class of luminous blue variable stars that are not expected to explode at such an early stage of their existence.

Quadruple Saturn Moon Transit Snapped by Hubble

6:00 am PDT, March 17, 2009

Saturn's comparatively paper-thin rings are tilted edge on to Earth every 15 years. Because the orbits of Saturn's major satellites are in the ring plane, too, this alignment gives astronomers a rare opportunity to capture a truly spectacular parade of celestial bodies crossing the face of Saturn. Leading the parade is Saturn's giant moon Titan - larger than the planet Mercury. The frigid moon's thick nitrogen atmosphere is tinted orange with the smoggy byproducts of sunlight interacting with methane and nitrogen. Several of the much smaller icy moons that are closer in to the planet line up along the upper edge of the rings. Hubble's exquisite sharpness also reveals Saturn's banded cloud structure.

Hubble Provides New Evidence for Dark Matter Around Small Galaxies

6:00 am PDT, March 12, 2009

When it comes to finding dark matter in space, astronomers need to go on sort of a ghost hunt. Dark matter can't be directly seen or isolated in a laboratory. Yet it makes up the bulk of the matter in the universe. It is the invisible scaffolding for the formation of stars and galaxies. Dark matter is not made of the same stuff that stars, planets, and people are made of. That stuff is normal "baryonic" matter, consisting of electrons, protons, and neutrons. For 80 years astronomers have known about dark matter's "ghostly" pull on normal matter. They've known that without the gravitational "glue" of dark matter galaxy clusters would fly apart, and even galaxies would have a hard time holding together.

Now the Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a strong new line of evidence that galaxies are embedded in halos of dark matter. Peering into the tumultuous heart of the nearby Perseus galaxy cluster, Hubble's sharp view resolved a large population of small galaxies that have remained intact while larger galaxies around them are being ripped apart by the gravitational tug of other galaxies. The dwarfs' "invisible shield" is a robust halo of dark matter that keeps them intact despite a several-billion-year-long bumper-car game inside the massive galaxy cluster.

Trio of Galaxies Mix It Up

3:00 am PST, March 3, 2009

Though they are the largest and most widely scattered objects in the universe, galaxies do go bump in the night. The Hubble Space Telescope has photographed many pairs of galaxies colliding. Like snowflakes, no two examples look exactly alike. This is one of the most arresting galaxy smash-up images to date.

At first glance, it looks as if a smaller galaxy has been caught in a tug-of-war between a Sumo-wrestler pair of elliptical galaxies. The hapless, mangled galaxy may have once looked more like our Milky Way, a pinwheel-shaped galaxy. But now that it's caught in a cosmic Cuisinart, its dust lanes are being stretched and warped by the tug of gravity. Unlike the elliptical galaxies, the spiral is rich in dust and gas for the formation of new stars. It is the fate of the spiral galaxy to be pulled like taffy and then swallowed by the pair of elliptical galaxies. This will trigger a firestorm of new stellar creation. If there are astronomers on any planets in this galaxy group, they will have a ringside seat to seeing a flurry of starbirth unfolding over many millions of years to come. Eventually the ellipticals should merge too, creating one single super-galaxy many times larger than our Milky Way. This trio is part of a tight cluster of 16 galaxies, many of them being dwarf galaxies. The galaxy cluster is called the Hickson Compact Group 90 and lies about 100 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish.

NASA Announces 2009 Astronomy and Astrophysics Fellows

8:10 am PST, February 25, 2009

NASA has selected fellows in three areas of astronomy and astrophysics for its Einstein, Hubble, and Sagan Fellowships. The recipients of this year's postdoctoral fellowships will conduct independent research at institutions around the country.

NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy with a National Unveiling of Spectacular Images

6:00 am PST, February 10, 2009

In 1609, Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens and gave birth to modern astronomy. To commemorate four hundred years of exploring the universe, 2009 is designated the International Year of Astronomy. NASA's Great Observatories - the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory - are marking the occasion with the release of a suite of images at over 100 planetariums, museums, nature centers, and schools across the country in conjunction with Galileo's birthday on February 15. The selected sites will unveil a large, 9-square-foot print of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 that combines the optical view of Hubble, the infrared view of Spitzer, and the X-ray view of Chandra into one multiwavelength picture.

The International Year of Astronomy Great Observatories Image Unveiling is supported by the NASA Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics Division. The project is a collaboration between the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Spitzer Science Center, and the Chandra X-ray Center.

Hubble's Next Discovery, You Decide

9:00 am PST, January 28, 2009

In 1609, Galileo turned his telescope on the night sky for the first time. Now, 400 years later, your vote will help make the momentous decision of where to point modern astronomy's most famous telescope.

"Hubble's Next Discovery, You Decide" is part of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's observations. People around the world can vote to select the next object the Hubble Space Telescope will view. Choose from a list of objects Hubble has never observed before and enter a drawing for one of 100 new Hubble pictures of the winning object. The winning image will be released between April 2 to 5, during the IYA's 100 Hours of Astronomy, a global astronomy event geared toward encouraging as many people as possible to experience the night sky. Vote by March 1 to swing Hubble towards your favorite target.

Hubble Snaps a Splendid Planetary Nebula

6:00 am PST, January 15, 2009

The Hubble Space Telescope has imaged striking details of the famed planetary nebula designated NGC 2818, which lies in the southern constellation of Pyxis (the Compass). The spectacular structure of the planetary nebula contains the outer layers of a star that were expelled into interstellar space. The glowing gaseous shrouds in the nebula were shed by the central star after it ran out of fuel to sustain the nuclear reactions in its core.

This Hubble image was taken in November 2008 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. The colors in the image represent a range of emissions coming from the clouds of the nebula: red represents nitrogen, green represents hydrogen, and blue represents oxygen.

Hubble Finds Stars That 'Go Ballistic'

9:20 am PST, January 7, 2009

Resembling comets streaking across the sky, these four speedy stars are plowing through regions of dense interstellar gas and creating brilliant arrowhead structures and trailing tails of glowing gas. The stars in these NASA Hubble Space Telescope images are among 14 young runaway stars spotted by the Advanced Camera for Surveys between October 2005 and July 2006. The images will be presented today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif.

Star Light, Star Bright, Its Explanation is Out of Sight

9:20 am PST, January 6, 2009

This pair of NASA Hubble Space Telescope pictures shows the appearance of a mysterious burst of light that was detected on February 21, 2006, brightened over 100 days, and then faded into oblivion after another 100 days. The source of the outburst remains unidentified. The event was detected serendipitously in a Hubble search for supernovae in a distant cluster of galaxies. The light-signature of this event does not match the behavior of a supernova or any previously observed astronomical transient phenomenon in the universe.

Hubble Views Galactic Core in Unprecedented New Detail

10:00 am PST, January 5, 2009

This composite color infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy reveals a new population of massive stars and new details in complex structures in the hot ionized gas swirling around the central 300 light-years. This sweeping panorama is the sharpest infrared picture ever made of the Galactic core. It offers a nearby laboratory for how massive stars form and influence their environment in the often violent nuclear regions of other galaxies. This view combines the sharp imaging of the Hubble Space Telescope's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with color imagery from a previous Spitzer Space Telescope survey done with its Infrared Astronomy Camera (IRAC). The Galactic core is obscured in visible light by intervening dust clouds, but infrared light penetrates the dust. The spatial resolution of NICMOS corresponds to 0.025 light-years at the distance of the galactic core of 26,000 light-years. Hubble reveals details in objects as small as 20 times the size of our own solar system. The NICMOS images were taken between February 22 and June 5, 2008.

Brown Dwarfs Don't Hang Out With Stars

9:20 am PST, January 5, 2009

Brown dwarfs, objects that are less massive than stars but larger than planets, just got more elusive, based on studies of nearby multiple-star systems by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble found only two brown dwarfs as companions to normal stars. This means the so-called "brown dwarf desert" (the absence of brown dwarfs around solar-type stars) extends to the smallest stars in the universe. The results are being reported today at the 213th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.

Hubble Catches Jupiter's Largest Moon Going to the 'Dark Side'

6:00 am PST, December 18, 2008

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has caught Jupiter's moon Ganymede playing a game of "peek-a-boo." In this crisp Hubble image, Ganymede is shown just before it ducks behind the giant planet. This color photo was made from three images taken on April 9, 2007, with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in red, green, and blue filters. The image shows Jupiter and Ganymede in close to natural colors.

Hubble Finds Carbon Dioxide on an Extrasolar Planet

10:00 am PST, December 9, 2008

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star. This is an important step along the trail of finding the chemical biotracers of extraterrestrial life as we know it.

The Jupiter-sized planet, called HD 189733b, is too hot for life. But the Hubble observations are a proof-of-concept demonstration that the basic chemistry for life can be measured on planets orbiting other stars. Organic compounds can also be a by-product of life processes, and their detection on an Earth-like planet may someday provide the first evidence of life beyond Earth.

A Celestial Snow Globe of Stars

6:00 am PST, December 4, 2008

Like a whirl of shiny flakes sparkling in a snow globe, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope catches an instantaneous glimpse of many hundreds of thousands of stars moving about in the globular cluster M13, one of the brightest and best-known globular clusters in the northern sky. This glittering metropolis of stars is easily found in the winter sky in the constellation Hercules. This image is a composite of archival Hubble data taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys. Observations from four separate science proposals taken in November 1999, April 2000, August 2005, and April 2006 were used. The image includes broadband filters that isolate light from the blue, visible, and infrared portions of the spectrum.

Hubble Resolves Puzzle about Loner Starburst Galaxy

6:00 am PST, November 20, 2008

Astronomers have long puzzled over why a small, nearby, isolated galaxy is pumping out new stars faster than any galaxy in our local neighborhood. Now NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has helped astronomers solve the mystery of the loner starburst galaxy, called NGC 1569, by showing that it is one and a half times farther away than astronomers thought. Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and Advanced Camera for Surveys made the observations of NGC 1569 in September 1999, November 2006, and January 2007.

Hubble Directly Observes Planet Orbiting Fomalhaut

11:30 am PST, November 13, 2008

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet orbiting another star. The images show the planet, named Fomalhaut b, as a tiny point source of light orbiting the nearby, bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis. An immense debris disk about 21.5 billion miles across surrounds the star. Fomalhaut b is orbiting 1.8 billion miles inside the disk's sharp inner edge.

Hubble Scores a Perfect Ten

6:00 am PDT, October 30, 2008

Just a couple of days after the orbiting observatory was brought back online, Hubble aimed its prime working camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), at a particularly intriguing target, a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147. The image demonstrated that the camera is working exactly as it was before going offline, thereby scoring a "perfect 10" both for performance and beauty.

A Celestial Landscape in Celebration of 10 Years of Stunning Hubble Heritage Images

6:00 am PDT, October 2, 2008

The landmark 10th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope's Hubble Heritage Project is being celebrated with a 'landscape' image from the cosmos. Cutting across a nearby star-forming region, called NGC 3324, are the "hills and valleys" of gas and dust displayed in intricate detail. Set amid a backdrop of soft, glowing blue light are wispy tendrils of gas as well as dark trunks of dust that are light-years in height.

When It Comes to Galaxies, Diversity Is Everywhere

7:00 am PDT, September 30, 2008

There's an old saying in astronomy: "Galaxies are like people. They're only normal until you get to know them." That view is supported by a group of astronomers after using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study a large number of galaxies in our cosmic backyard. The detailed survey, called the ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury (ANGST) program, observed roughly 14 million stars in 69 galaxies. The survey explored a region called the "Local Volume," and the galaxy distances ranged from 6.5 million light-years to 13 million light-years from Earth. The Local Volume resides beyond the Local Group of galaxies, an even nearer collection of a few dozen galaxies within about 3 million light-years of our Milky Way Galaxy. The observations were made in November 2006 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

STScI Astrophysicist Adam Riess Receives MacArthur Fellowship

9:01 pm PDT, September 22, 2008

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today named Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and the Johns Hopkins University among 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2008. Riess is the leader of the seminal study for a team that in 1998 co-discovered "dark energy," a mysterious repulsive force in the universe.

Galaxy Silhouettes

6:00 am PDT, September 16, 2008

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a rare alignment between two spiral galaxies. The outer rim of a small, foreground galaxy is silhouetted in front of a larger background galaxy. Skeletal tentacles of dust can be seen extending beyond the small galaxy's disk of starlight. From ground-based telescopes, the two galaxies look like a single blob. But the Advanced Camera's sharp "eye" distinguished the blob as two galaxies, cataloged as 2MASX J00482185-2507365. The images were taken on Sept. 19, 2006.

A Clash of Clusters Provides New Clue to Dark Matter

7:00 am PDT, August 27, 2008

A powerful collision of galaxy clusters has been captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. The observations of the cluster known as MACS J0025.4-1222 indicate that a titanic collision has separated the dark from ordinary matter and provide an independent confirmation of a similar effect detected previously in a target dubbed the Bullet Cluster. These new results show that the Bullet Cluster is not an anomalous case.

Hubble Sees Magnetic Monster in Erupting Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, August 20, 2008

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found an answer to a long-standing puzzle by resolving giant but delicate filaments shaped by a strong magnetic field around the active galaxy NGC 1275. It is the most striking example of the influence of the immense tentacles of extragalactic magnetic fields. The galaxy was photographed in July and August 2006 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in three color filters.

Globular Clusters Tell Tale of Star Formation in Nearby Galaxy Metropolis

6:00 am PDT, August 5, 2008

Globular star clusters, dense bunches of hundreds of thousands of stars, have some of the oldest surviving stars in the universe. A new study of globular clusters outside our Milky Way Galaxy has found evidence that these hardy pioneers are more likely to form in dense areas, where star birth occurs at a rapid rate, instead of uniformly from galaxy to galaxy. Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to identify over 11,000 globular clusters in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Most are older than 5 billion years. The sharp vision of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys resolved the star clusters in 100 galaxies of various sizes, shapes, and brightnesses, even in faint, dwarf galaxies. The images in this photo show four members of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. Comprised of over 2,000 galaxies, the Virgo cluster is the nearest large galaxy cluster to Earth, located about 54 million light-years away.

Barred Spiral Galaxies Are Latecomers to the Universe

6:00 am PDT, July 29, 2008

In a landmark study of more than 2,000 spiral galaxies from the largest galaxy census conducted by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers found that so-called barred spiral galaxies were far less plentiful 7 billion years ago than they are today, in the local universe. The study's results confirm the idea that bars are a sign of galaxies reaching full maturity as the "formative years" end. The observations are part of the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS).

Three Red Spots Mix it Up on Jupiter

6:00 am PDT, July 17, 2008

This sequence of Hubble Space Telescope images offers an unprecedented view of a planetary game of Pac-Man among three red spots clustered together in Jupiter's atmosphere. The time series shows the passage of the "Red Spot Jr." in a band of clouds below (south) of the Great Red Spot (GRS). "Red Spot Jr." first appeared on Jupiter in early 2006 when a previously white storm turned red. This is the second time, since turning red, it has skirted past its big brother apparently unscathed. But this is not the fate of "baby red spot," which is in the same latitudinal band as the GRS. This new red spot first appeared earlier this year. The baby red spot gets ever closer to the GRS in this picture sequence until it is caught up in the anticyclonic spin of the GRS. In the final image the baby spot is deformed and pale in color and has been spun to the right (east) of the GRS. These three natural-color Jupiter images were made from data acquired on May 15, June 28, and July 8, 2008, by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2).

What's My Age? Mystery Star Cluster Has 3 Different Birthdays

6:00 am PDT, July 10, 2008

Imagine having three clocks in your house, each chiming at a different time. Astronomers have found the equivalent of three out-of-sync "clocks" in the ancient open star cluster NGC 6791. The dilemma may fundamentally challenge the way astronomers estimate cluster ages, researchers said.

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study the dimmest stars in the cluster, astronomers uncovered three different age groups. Two of the populations are burned-out stars called white dwarfs. One group of these low-wattage stellar remnants (red circles) appears to be 6 billion years old, another (blue circles) appears to be 4 billion years old. The ages are out of sync with those of the cluster's normal stars, which are 8 billion years old.

Iain Neill Reid Appointed as Head of STScI Science Mission Office

6:00 am PDT, July 8, 2008

The SMO is responsible for maintaining the science infrastructure required to support research by STScI staff, for oversight of science policies and for acting as an interface between the Hubble Space Telescope and the broader user community. Among other activities, SMO manages the Hubble telescope time allocation process, the Space Telescope User Committee, and the Hubble Fellowship program. SMO is also responsible for STScI's Giacconi Fellowship Program, the Caroline Herschel Visitor Program and the John Bahcall Lecture Series. Reid joined STScI in 2001. His SMO appointment is effective July 5, 2008.

Hubble Sees Stars and a Stripe in Celestial Fireworks

6:00 am PDT, July 1, 2008

Actually this image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is a very thin section of a supernova remnant caused by a stellar explosion that occurred more than 1,000 years ago.

This image is a composite of hydrogen-light observations taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in February 2006 and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 observations in blue, yellow-green, and near-infrared light taken in April 2008. The supernova remnant, visible only in the hydrogen-light filter was assigned a red hue in the Heritage color image.

Hubble's Sweeping View of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies

6:00 am PDT, June 10, 2008

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures the magnificent starry population of the Coma Cluster of galaxies, one of the densest known galaxy collections in the universe. The Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys viewed a large portion of the cluster, spanning several million light-years across. The entire cluster contains thousands of galaxies in a spherical shape more than 20 million light-years in diameter.

White Dwarf Lost in Planetary Nebula

7:40 am PDT, June 3, 2008

Call it the case of the missing dwarf. A team of stellar astronomers is engaged in an interstellar CSI (crime scene investigation). They have two suspects, traces of assault and battery, but no corpse. The southern planetary nebula SuWt 2 is the scene of the crime, some 6,500 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Centaurus. SuWt 2 consists of a bright, nearly edge-on glowing ring of gas. Faint lobes extend perpendicularly to the ring, giving the faintest parts of the nebula an hourglass shape. These glowing ejecta are suspected to have been energized by a star that has now burned out and collapsed to a white dwarf. But the white dwarf is nowhere to be found. This color image was taken on Jan. 31, 1995 at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. These results are being presented today at the 212th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in St. Louis, Mo.

New Red Spot Appears on Jupiter

8:00 am PDT, May 22, 2008

In what's beginning to look like a case of planetary measles, a third red spot has appeared alongside its cousins – the Great Red Spot and Red Spot Jr. – in the turbulent Jovian atmosphere. This third red spot, which is a fraction of the size of the two other features, lies to the west of the Great Red Spot in the same latitude band of clouds. The visible-light images were taken on May 9 and 10 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

Hubble Survey Finds Missing Matter, Probes Intergalactic Web

6:00 am PDT, May 20, 2008

In the May 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal, Charles Danforth and Mike Shull (University of Colorado, Boulder) report on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) observations taken along sight-lines to 28 quasars. Their analysis represents the most detailed observations to date of how the intergalactic medium looks within about four billion light-years of Earth. The astronomers say they have definitively found about half of the missing normal matter, called baryons, in the space between the galaxies.

This illustration shows how the Hubble Space Telescope searches for missing baryons, by looking at the light from quasars several billion light-years away. Imprinted on that light are the spectral fingerprints of the missing ordinary matter that absorbs the light at specific frequencies (shown in the colorful spectra at right). The missing baryonic matter helps trace out the structure of intergalactic space, called the "cosmic web."

Riccardo Giacconi to Receive National Inventors Hall of Fame's Lifetime Achievement Award

12:00 pm PDT, May 1, 2008

Riccardo Giacconi, founding director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., will receive the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Inc. on May 3 at the Hall's headquarters in Akron, Ohio. The annual Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an individual who has fostered innovation throughout his or her lifetime. The Hall honors those who have demonstrated an extended commitment to progress in technical innovation and the protection of that innovation. Each year a new class of inventors is inducted into the Hall of Fame in recognition of their patented inventions that make human, social, and economic progress possible.

Compact Galaxies in Early Universe Pack a Big Punch

6:00 am PDT, April 29, 2008

Imagine receiving an announcement touting the birth of a baby 20 inches long and weighing 180 pounds. After reading this puzzling message, you would immediately think the baby's weight was a misprint. Astronomers looking at galaxies in the universe's distant past received a similar perplexing announcement when they found nine young, compact galaxies, each weighing in at 200 billion times the mass of the Sun. The galaxies, each only 5,000 light-years across, are a fraction of the size of today's grownup galaxies but contain approximately the same number of stars. Each galaxy could fit inside the central hub of our Milky Way Galaxy. Astronomers used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to study the galaxies as they existed 11 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 3 billion years old.

STScI and JHU Astronomer Adam Riess Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

5:00 pm PDT, April 28, 2008

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) astronomer and professor at the Johns Hopkins University Adam Riess as an Honorary Member. The Academy honors excellence by electing to membership remarkable men and women who have made preeminent contributions to their fields, and to the world. Riess joins a new class of Academy members drawn from the sciences, the arts and humanities, business, public affairs, and the nonprofit sector. The 212 scholars, scientists, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders come from 20 states and 15 countries, and range in age from 37 to 86. Represented among this year's newly elected members are more than 50 universities and more than a dozen corporations, as well as museums, national laboratories and private research institutes, media outlets and foundations. Riess is a leader of a team that, in 1998 co-discovered "dark energy", a mysterious repulsive force in the universe. Dark energy is the biggest mystery now confronting astrophysics, and Riess continues doing observations to deduce what dark energy is. The 38-year-old astrophysicist has been at STScI since 1999.

Cosmic Collisions Galore!

6:00 am PDT, April 24, 2008

Astronomy textbooks typically present galaxies as staid, solitary, and majestic island worlds of glittering stars. But galaxies have a dynamical side. They have close encounters that sometimes end in grand mergers and overflowing sites of new star birth as the colliding galaxies morph into wondrous new shapes. Today, in celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope's 18th launch anniversary, 59 views of colliding galaxies constitute the largest collection of Hubble images ever released to the public. This new Hubble atlas dramatically illustrates how galaxy collisions produce a remarkable variety of intricate structures in never-before-seen detail.

Hubble Pinpoints Record-Breaking Explosion

12:00 pm PDT, April 10, 2008

Peering across 7.5 billion light-years and halfway back to the Big Bang, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the fading optical counterpart of a powerful gamma ray burst that holds the record for being the intrinsically brightest naked-eye object ever seen from Earth. For nearly a minute on March 19, this single "star" was as bright as 10 million galaxies. Hubble Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) images of GRB 080319B, taken on Monday, April 7 show the fading optical counterpart of the titanic blast. Hubble astronomers had hoped to see the host galaxy where the burst presumably originated, but were taken aback that the light from the gamma ray burst is still drowning out the galaxy's light even three weeks after the explosion. Called a long-duration gamma ray burst, such events are theorized to be caused by the death of a very massive star, perhaps weighing as much as 50 times our Sun.

Astronomers Find Suspected Medium-Size Black Hole in Omega Centauri

6:00 am PDT, April 2, 2008

The core of the spectacular globular cluster Omega Centauri glitters with the combined light of 2 million stars. The entire cluster contains 10 million stars, and is among the biggest and most massive of some 200 globular clusters orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy. Omega Centauri lies 17,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany and the University of Texas at Austin have reported on the possible detection of an intermediate-mass black hole in the core of Omega Centauri.

The result is primarily based on spectroscopic measurements obtained with the Gemini South observatory in Chile which suggest the stars are moving around the central core of the cluster at higher than expected velocities. Among the possible explanations for these speedy stars – and the one favored by their study – is that an intermediate-mass black hole of approximately 40,000 solar masses resides at the center of Omega Centauri. Its powerful gravitational field speeds up the motions of stars near the core. Hubble images taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys were used in key areas in support of this study: to help pinpoint the center of the cluster, as well as to measure the amount of starlight at the cluster center. Using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Paranal, Chile, team members Eva Noyola and Karl Gebhardt are planning to obtain follow-up observations to help confirm the existence of an intermediate-mass black hole. The Hubble images were taken in June 2002.

Hubble Finds First Organic Molecule on an Exoplanet

11:00 am PDT, March 19, 2008

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has made the first detection ever of an organic molecule in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting another star. This breakthrough is an important step in eventually identifying signs of life on a planet outside our solar system. The molecule found by Hubble is methane, which under the right circumstances can play a key role in prebiotic chemistry - the chemical reactions considered necessary to form life as we know it. This illustration depicts the extrasolar planet HD 189733b with its parent star peeking above its top edge.

The Aesthetics of Hubble Images Showcased at Walters Art Museum

6:00 am PDT, March 10, 2008

Just as the early explorers ventured ever further into the oceans, recording the wonders they encountered, today's astronomers are probing farther and deeper into space, mapping the distant landscape of the universe. "Mapping the Cosmos: Images from the Hubble Space Telescope," brings together over 20 Hubble images as part of the Walters Art Museum exhibit "Maps: Finding Our Place in the World." The exhibit was created through a unique collaboration between the Walters, scientists and experts at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), and Professor Elizabeth Rodini and her students in the "Behind the Scenes at the Walters Art Museum" class at Johns Hopkins University. Seven undergraduate students and Professor Rodini worked with STScI professionals to choose the images and design the two-room exhibit. The students handled the images in the Manuscripts Gallery, while STScI professionals selected images for the museum's Palazzo Courtyard.

The Last Confessions of a Dying Star

6:00 am PST, March 4, 2008

Probing a glowing bubble of gas and dust encircling a dying Sun-like star, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals a wealth of previously unseen structures in planetary nebula NGC 2371. The remnant star visible at the center of NGC 2371 is the super-hot core of the former red giant, now stripped of its outer layers. Its surface temperature is a scorching 240,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Prominent pink clouds of cool, dense gas lie on opposite sides of the central star. Also striking are the numerous, very small pink dots, marking relatively dense and small knots of gas, which also lie on diametrically opposite sides of the star. NGC 2371 lies about 4,300 light-years away in the constellation Gemini. The Hubble Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 images were taken in November 2007.

Hubble Discovers 67 New Gravitationally Lensed Galaxies in the Distant Universe

6:00 am PST, February 19, 2008

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have compiled a large catalog of gravitational lenses in the distant universe. The catalog contains 67 new gravitationally lensed galaxy images found around massive elliptical and lenticular-shaped galaxies. This sample demonstrates the rich diversity of strong gravitational lenses. If this sample is representative, there would be nearly half a million similar gravitational lenses over the whole sky.

STScI Astronomers to Head Two Studies of Next Generation Astronomy Missions

8:00 am PST, February 15, 2008

Two astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., Dr. Marc Postman and Dr. Ken Sembach, have been selected among 19 science teams to conduct year-long studies of new concepts for NASA's next generation of major observatories. The studies will help the agency make decisions about how it explores the heavens in the future, following the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

Isolated Galaxy or Corporate Merger? Hubble Spies NGC 1132

6:00 am PST, February 5, 2008

The elliptical galaxy NGC 1132 reveals the final result of what may have been a group of galaxies that merged together in the recent past. Another possibility is that the galaxy formed in isolation as a "lone wolf" in a universe ablaze with galaxy groups and clusters.

Internal Heat Drives Jupiter's Giant Storm Eruption

10:00 am PST, January 23, 2008

Detailed analysis of two continent-sized storms that erupted in Jupiter's atmosphere in March 2007 shows that Jupiter's internal heat plays a significant role in generating atmospheric disturbances. Understanding this outbreak could be the key to unlock the mysteries buried in the deep Jovian atmosphere. An international team coordinated by Agustin Sánchez-Lavega from the Universidad del País Vasco in Spain presents its findings about this event in the January 24 issue of the journal Nature. The team monitored the new eruption of cloud activity and its evolution with an unprecedented resolution using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii, and telescopes in the Canary Islands (Spain). A network of smaller telescopes around the world also supported these observations.

NASA Unveils Cosmic Images Book in Braille for Blind Readers

7:00 am PST, January 15, 2008

At a ceremony today at the National Federation of the Blind, NASA unveiled a new book that brings majestic images taken by its Great Observatories to the fingertips of the blind. "Touch the Invisible Sky" is a 60-page book with color images of nebulae, stars, galaxies and some of the telescopes that captured the original pictures. Braille and large-print descriptions accompany each of the book's 28 photographs, making the book's design accessible to readers of all visual abilities.The book contains spectacular images from the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope and powerful ground-based telescopes. The celestial objects are presented as they appear through visible-light telescopes and different spectral regions invisible to the naked eye, from radio to infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-ray light.

Circumstellar Dust Takes Flight in 'The Moth'

8:30 am PST, January 10, 2008

What superficially resembles a giant moth floating in space is giving astronomers new insight into the formation and evolution of planetary systems. This is not your typical flying insect. It has a wingspan of about 22 billion miles. The wing- like structure is actually a dust disk encircling the nearby, young star HD 61005, dubbed "The Moth." Its shape is produced by starlight scattering off dust. Dust disks around roughly 100-million-year-old stars like HD 61005 are typically flat structures where planets can form. But images taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of "The Moth" are showing that some disks sport surprising shapes.

The Hubble image was taken with the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). The black disk in the center of the image is a coronagraphic hole in the NICMOS camera that blocks out most of the central star's light so that astronomers can see details in the surrounding dust disk.

Hubble Finds Double Einstein Ring

7:00 am PST, January 10, 2008

The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a never-before-seen optical alignment in space: a pair of glowing rings, one nestled inside the other like a bull's-eye pattern. The double-ring pattern is caused by the complex bending of light from two distant galaxies strung directly behind a foreground massive galaxy, like three beads on a string. This very rare phenomenon can offer insight into dark matter, dark energy, the nature of distant galaxies, and even the curvature of the universe. The phenomenon, called gravitational lensing, occurs when a massive galaxy in the foreground bends the light rays from a distant galaxy behind it, in much the same way as a magnifying glass would. When both galaxies are exactly lined up, the light forms a circle, called an "Einstein ring," around the foreground galaxy. If another background galaxy lies precisely on the same sightline, a second, larger ring will appear. The massive foreground galaxy is almost perfectly aligned in the sky with two background galaxies at different distances. The foreground galaxy is 3 billion light-years away. The inner ring and outer ring are comprised of multiple images of two galaxies at a distance of 6 billion and approximately 11 billion light-years. The odds of seeing such a special alignment are estimated to be 1 in 10,000.

The Violent Lives of Galaxies: Caught in the Cosmic Dark Matter Web

7:00 am PST, January 10, 2008

Astronomers are using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to dissect one of the largest structures in the universe as part of a quest to understand the violent lives of galaxies. Hubble is providing indirect evidence of unseen dark matter tugging on galaxies in the crowded, rough-and-tumble environment of a massive supercluster of hundreds of galaxies. Dark matter is an invisible form of matter that accounts for most of the universe's mass. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys has mapped the invisible dark matter scaffolding of the supercluster Abell 901/902, as well as the detailed structure of individual galaxies embedded in it. The image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows the supercluster. The magenta clumps throughout the image reveal the distribution of dark matter in the cluster. The galaxies lie within the clumps of dark matter. The image was assembled by combining a visible-light image of the supercluster taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope in La Silla, Chile, with a dark matter map derived from Hubble observations.

Hubble Finds that "Blue Blobs" in Space Are Orphaned Clusters of Stars

11:00 am PST, January 8, 2008

Hubble Space Telescope's powerful vision has resolved strange objects nicknamed "blue blobs" and found them to be brilliant blue clusters of stars born in the swirls and eddies of a galactic smashup 200 million years ago. Such "blue blobs" – weighing tens of thousands of solar masses – have never been seen in detail before in such sparse locations, say researchers. The "blue blobs" are found along a wispy bridge of gas strung among three colliding galaxies, M81, M82, and NGC 3077, residing about 12 million light-years away from Earth. This is not the place astronomers expect to find star clusters, because the gas filaments were considered too thin to accumulate enough material to actually build these many stars. The star clusters in this diffuse structure might have formed from gas collisions and subsequent turbulence, which enhanced locally the density of the gas streams. Galaxy collisions were much more frequent in the early universe, so "blue blobs" should have been common. After the stars burned out or exploded, the heavier elements forged in their nuclear furnaces would have been ejected to enrich intergalactic space.

Mars: Closest Approach 2007

7:00 am PST, December 18, 2007

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took this close-up of the red planet Mars when it was just 55 million miles - 88 million kilometers - away. This color image was assembled from a series of exposures taken within 36 hours of the Mars closest approach with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Mars will be closest to Earth on December 18, at 11:45 p.m. Universal Time (6:45 p.m. EST).

"Death Star" Galaxy Black Hole Fires at Neighboring Galaxy

10:00 am PST, December 17, 2007

A powerful jet from a supermassive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy, according to new data from NASA observatories. This never-before witnessed galactic violence may have a profound effect on planets in the jet's path and trigger a burst of star formation in its destructive wake. Known as 3C 321, the system contains two galaxies in orbit around each other. Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show both galaxies contain supermassive black holes at their centers, but the larger galaxy has a jet emanating from the vicinity of its black hole. The smaller galaxy apparently has swung into the path of this jet. This "death star galaxy" was discovered through the combined efforts of both space and ground-based telescopes. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope were part of the effort. The Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro, N.M., and the Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network (MERLIN) telescopes in the United Kingdom also were needed for the finding.

Hubble Finds that Extrasolar Planet Has a Hazy Sunset

7:00 am PST, December 11, 2007

A team of astronomers, led by Frederic Pont from the Geneva University Observatory in Switzerland, has detected for the first time strong evidence of hazes in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a distant star. The new Hubble Space Telescope observations were made as the extrasolar planet, dubbed HD 189733b, passed in front of its parent star in an eclipse. As the light from the star briefly passes through the exoplanet's atmosphere, the gases in the atmosphere stamp their unique spectral fingerprints on the starlight. Where the scientists had expected to see the fingerprints of sodium and potassium, there were none; implying that high-level hazes (with an altitude of nearly 2,000 miles) are responsible for blocking the light from these elements.

Planet Hunter Geoff Marcy to Give Annual John N. Bahcall Public Lecture Dec. 11

6:00 am PST, December 5, 2007

Dr. Geoffrey Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, will deliver the annual John N. Bahcall Public Lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Tues., Dec. 11, 2007 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater in Washington, D.C. Dr. Marcy will discuss conditions that would need to be present for life to exist on other planets in a talk titled "New Worlds, Yellowstone, and Life in the Universe." Guests attending this free lecture will learn how extreme forms of life found at Yellowstone National Park can teach of the harsh conditions in which life can exist on other planets.

How White Dwarfs Get Their 'Kicks'

7:00 am PST, December 4, 2007

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is providing strong evidence that white dwarfs, the burned-out relics of stars, are given a "kick" when they form. The sharp vision of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys uncovered the speedy white dwarfs in the ancient globular star cluster NGC 6397, a dense swarm of hundreds of thousands of stars.

Holiday Wishes from the Hubble Space Telescope

6:00 am PST, November 29, 2007

Resembling festive lights on a holiday wreath, this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the nearby spiral galaxy M74 is an iconic reminder of the impending season. Bright knots of glowing gas light up the spiral arms, indicating a rich environment of star formation. M74 is located roughly 32 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Pisces, the Fish. The image is a composite of Advanced Camera for Surveys data taken in 2003 and 2005.

Hubble Zooms In on Heart of Mystery Comet

6:00 am PST, November 15, 2007

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has probed the bright core of Comet 17P/Holmes, which, to the delight of sky watchers, mysteriously brightened by nearly a millionfold in a 24-hour period beginning Oct. 23, 2007. Astronomers used Hubble's powerful resolution to study Comet Holmes' core for clues about how the comet brightened. The orbiting observatory's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) monitored the comet for several days, snapping images on Oct. 29, Oct. 31, and Nov. 4. Hubble's crisp "eye" can see objects as small as 33 miles (54 kilometers) across, providing the sharpest view yet of the source of the spectacular brightening.

'Dancing with the Stars' Takes on a Whole New Twist

6:00 am PDT, October 30, 2007

Two galaxies perform an intricate dance in this new Hubble Space Telescope image. The galaxies, containing a vast number of stars, swing past each other in a graceful performance choreographed by gravity. The pair, known collectively as Arp 87, is one of hundreds of interacting and merging galaxies known in our nearby universe.

Arp 87 is in the constellation Leo, the Lion, approximately 300 million light-years away from Earth. These observations were taken in February 2007 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.

Hubble Spies Shells of Sparkling Stars Around Quasar

10:00 am PDT, October 25, 2007

What has appeared as a mild-mannered elliptical galaxy in previous studies is revealing its wild side in new images taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble photos show shells of stars around a bright quasar, known as MC2 1635+119, which dominates the center of the galaxy. The shells' presence indicates a titanic clash with another galaxy in the relatively recent past. The collision also is funneling gas into the galaxy's center and is feeding a supermassive black hole. The accretion onto the black hole is the source of the quasar's energy. This observation supports the idea that at least some quasars are born from interactions between galaxies.

Hubble Finds 'Dorian Gray' Galaxy

7:00 am PDT, October 16, 2007

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope quashed the possibility that what was previously believed to be a toddler galaxy in the nearby universe may actually be considered an adult. Called I Zwicky 18, this galaxy has a youthful appearance that resembles galaxies typically found only in the early universe. Hubble has now found faint, older stars within this galaxy, suggesting that the galaxy may have formed at the same time as most other galaxies.

Hubble data also allowed astronomers for the first time to identify Cepheid variable stars in I Zwicky 18. These flashing stellar mile-markers were used to determine that I Zwicky 18 is 59 million light-years from Earth, almost 10 million light-years more distant than previously believed.

Astronomers Use Hubble and Keck to Identify Dwarf Galaxy

11:00 am PDT, October 4, 2007

A team of astronomers at the University of California at Santa Barbara report that they have resolved a dwarf galaxy 6 billion light-years away. Weighing only 1/100 as much as our Milky Way Galaxy, the dwarf is much smaller than anything studied before in any detail at this distance.

They report in the Dec. 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal that the galaxy looks very similar to one of the dwarf galaxies in the Virgo cluster, which is located only 60 million light-years away. "We believe we may have identified the progenitors of local dwarf galaxies," says Tommaso Treu. "We see them as clearly as we would see dwarfs in the Virgo cluster using ground-based telescopes. The sharp view of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, and the laser guide stars adaptive optics system on the W.M. Keck Telescope, were aimed at a natural lens in space, called a gravitational lens, to study the dwarf. The researchers took advantage of the fact that the distant dwarf galaxy lies behind a massive foreground galaxy that bends light rays much as a glass lens does. This gravitational lensing amplifies the image of the much farther dwarf galaxy, making it appear 10 times brighter and 10 times larger than it would normally be seen by either Hubble or Keck.

Star Cluster Bursts into Life in New Hubble Image

6:00 am PDT, October 2, 2007

Thousands of sparkling young stars are nestled within the giant nebula NGC 3603. This stellar "jewel box" is one of the most massive young star clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy. NGC 3603 is a prominent star-forming region in the Carina spiral arm of the Milky Way, about 20,000 light-years away. This latest image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a young star cluster surrounded by a vast region of dust and gas. The image reveals stages in the life cycle of stars.

Hubble Captures Stars Going Out in Style

6:00 am PDT, September 11, 2007

The colorful, intricate shapes in these NASA Hubble Space Telescope images reveal how the glowing gas ejected by dying Sun-like stars evolves dramatically over time. These gaseous clouds, called planetary nebulae, are created when stars in the last stages of life cast off their outer layers of material into space. The snapshots of He 2-47, NGC 5315, IC 4593, and NGC 5307 were taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in February 2007.

Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes Find "Lego-Block" Galaxies in Early Universe

9:00 am PDT, September 6, 2007

NASA's Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes have joined forces to discover nine of the smallest, faintest, most compact galaxies ever observed in the distant universe. Blazing with the brilliance of millions of stars, each of the newly discovered galaxies is a hundred to a thousand times smaller than our Milky Way Galaxy. The bottom row of pictures shows several of these clumps (distance expressed in redshift value). Three of the galaxies appear to be slightly disrupted. Rather than being shaped like rounded blobs, they appear stretched into tadpole-like shapes. This is a sign that they may be interacting and merging with neighboring galaxies to form larger structures. The galaxies were observed in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer. Observations were also done with Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera and the European Southern Observatory's Infrared Spectrometer and Array Camera.

Going, Going, Gone: Hubble Captures Uranus's Rings on Edge

11:00 am PDT, August 23, 2007

This series of images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows how the ring system around the distant planet Uranus appears at ever more oblique (shallower) tilts as viewed from Earth – culminating in the rings being seen edge-on in three observing opportunities in 2007.

Hubble Teams with Google to Bring the Cosmos Down to Earth

6:00 am PDT, August 22, 2007

Imagine cruising the heavens from your desktop and seeing all the spectacular images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Exploding stars and faraway galaxies are just a mouse click away today through Sky in Google Earth. Sky in Google Earth is produced by Google, the company that hosts the popular Internet search engine, through a partnership with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the science operations center for Hubble. To access the new feature, users will need to download the newest version of Google Earth, available free of charge.

Uncovering the Veil Nebula

1:00 pm PDT, August 2, 2007

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope photographed three magnificent sections of the Veil Nebula – the shattered remains of a supernova that exploded thousands of years ago. This series of images provides beautifully detailed views of the delicate, wispy structure resulting from this cosmic explosion. The Veil Nebula is one of the most spectacular supernova remnants in the sky.

Astronomers Find Highly Elliptical Disk Around Young Star

9:00 am PDT, July 19, 2007

Dust and debris parade in an extremely misshapen ring around the young star, HD 15115. The disk, seen edge-on with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is the dense blue line extending from the star to the upper right and lower left of the image. The disk appears thicker at upper right than at lower left, evidence of its lopsided structure. Astronomers think the disk's needle-like look is caused by dust particles following a highly elliptical orbit around the star. The lopsidedness may have been caused by planets sweeping up debris in the disk or by the gravity of a nearby star. An occulting mask on Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys was used to block out the bright starlight in order to see the dim disk. The occulting masks can be seen in the image as the dark circle in the center and the dark bar on the left. The star is behind the central mask. The Hubble image was taken on July 17, 2006. Follow-up observations in 2006 and 2007 with the W.M. Keck Observatory investigated the odd disk further.

Gruber Cosmology Prize Awarded to STScI Dark Energy Discoverers

4:00 pm PDT, July 17, 2007

Four astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. are on two teams sharing the $500,000 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize for their discovery that the expanding universe is accelerating under a mysterious cosmic force called dark energy.

The astronomers are Andrew Fruchter (top left), Ron Gilliland (top right), Nino Panagia (bottom left), and Adam Riess (bottom right). Gilliland and Riess are on the High-z Supernova Search Team led by Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University. Fruchter and Panagia are on the Supernova Cosmology Project led by Saul Perlmutter of the University of California at Berkeley.

Stellar Fireworks Are Ablaze in Galaxy NGC 4449

6:00 am PDT, July 3, 2007

On July 4, fireworks blaze over the skies of American cities in the annual Independence Day celebrations. But nearly 12.5 million light-years away in the dwarf galaxy NGC 4449 stellar "fireworks" are going off all the time. The image was taken in November 2005 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Hubble Catches Jupiter Changing Its Stripes

10:00 am PDT, June 28, 2007

Massive Jupiter is undergoing dramatic atmospheric changes that have never been seen before with the keen "eye" of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Jupiter's turbulent clouds are always changing as they encounter atmospheric disturbances while sweeping around the planet at hundreds of miles per hour. But these Hubble images reveal a rapid transformation in the shape and color of Jupiter's clouds near the equator, marking an entire face of the globe.

Hubble Images of Asteroids Help Astronomers Prepare for Spacecraft Visit

7:30 am PDT, June 20, 2007

These Hubble Space Telescope images of Vesta and Ceres show two of the most massive asteroids in the asteroid belt, a region between Mars and Jupiter. The images are helping astronomers plan for the Dawn spacecraft's tour of these hefty asteroids. On July 7, NASA is scheduled to launch the spacecraft on a four-year journey to the asteroid belt. Once there, Dawn will do some asteroid-hopping, going into orbit around Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015. Dawn will be the first spacecraft to orbit two targets. At least 100,000 asteroids inhabit the asteroid belt, a reservoir of leftover material from the formation of our solar-system planets 4.6 billion years ago.

Astronomers Measure Mass of Largest Dwarf Planet

10:00 am PDT, June 14, 2007

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has teamed up with the W.M. Keck Observatory to precisely measure the mass of Eris, the largest member of a new class of dwarf planets in our solar system. Eris is 1.27 times the mass of Pluto, formerly the largest member of the Kuiper Belt of icy objects beyond Neptune.

Hubble observations in 2006 showed that Eris is slightly physically larger than Pluto. But the mass could only be calculated by observing the orbital motion of the moon Dysnomia around Eris. Multiple images of Dysnomia's movement along its orbit were taken by Hubble and Keck.

STScI Appoints New Mission Head for the James Webb Space Telescope

11:00 am PDT, May 29, 2007

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has appointed Dr. Kathryn Flanagan as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Mission Head.

Dr. Flanagan will be responsible for the development and operations of the JWST Science and Operations Center at the STScI. The largest space observatory ever developed, the JWST is scheduled for launch in June 2013.

Hubble Photographs Grand Design Spiral Galaxy M81

12:30 pm PDT, May 28, 2007

The sharpest image ever taken of the large "grand design" spiral galaxy M81 is being released today at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. A spiral-shaped system of stars, dust, and gas clouds, the galaxy's arms wind all the way down into the nucleus. Though the galaxy is located 11.6 million light-years away, the Hubble Space Telescope's view is so sharp that it can resolve individual stars, along with open star clusters, globular star clusters, and even glowing regions of fluorescent gas. The Hubble data was taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in 2004 through 2006. This color composite was assembled from images taken in blue, visible, and infrared light.

Hubble Finds Ring of Dark Matter

10:00 am PDT, May 15, 2007

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a ghostly ring of dark matter that formed long ago during a titanic collision between two massive galaxy clusters. The ring's discovery is among the strongest evidence yet that dark matter exists. Astronomers have long suspected the existence of the invisible substance as the source of additional gravity that holds together galaxy clusters. Such clusters would fly apart if they relied only on the gravity from their visible stars. Although astronomers don't know what dark matter is made of, they hypothesize that it is a type of elementary particle that pervades the universe.

This Hubble composite image shows the ring of dark matter in the galaxy cluster Cl 0024+17. The ring-like structure is evident in the blue map of the cluster's dark matter distribution. The map was derived from Hubble observations of how the gravity of the cluster Cl 0024+17 distorts the light of more distant galaxies, an optical illusion called gravitational lensing. Although astronomers cannot see dark matter, they can infer its existence by mapping the distorted shapes of the background galaxies. The map is superimposed on a Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys image of the cluster taken in November 2004.

Institute Educator Will Lead Workshop for British Queen

8:00 am PDT, May 7, 2007

Queen Elizabeth II will learn about NASA education tomorrow, May 8, when she visits NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Bonnie Eisenhamer, the Hubble Space Telescope Formal Education Manager at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., will lead an education workshop for local middle school students during the Queen's Goddard visit. This tapestry of galaxies represents a small piece of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). Imaged September 2003 through January 2004, the HUDF is the deepest visible-light view of the cosmos. This snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. During the workshop, students will use the image to classify the galaxies in the HUDF by shape and color. By analyzing the HUDF image, the students will learn how light is used to explore the universe.

Hubble Finds Multiple Stellar 'Baby Booms' in a Globular Cluster

6:00 am PDT, May 2, 2007

Astronomers have long thought that globular star clusters had a single "baby boom" of stars early in their lives and then settled into a quiet existence. But new observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of the massive globular cluster NGC 2808 provide evidence that star birth went "boom, boom, boom," with three generations of stars forming very early in the cluster's life.

HubbleSite Wins Top International Honor

2:00 pm PDT, May 1, 2007

The Webby Awards, the leading international honor for the Internet, has selected for the Best Science Website of 2007. HubbleSite also won the accompanying People's Voice Award, where the public can vote for their favorite website.

The Carina Nebula: Star Birth in the Extreme

6:00 am PDT, April 24, 2007

In celebration of the 17th anniversary of the launch and deployment of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers is releasing one of the largest panoramic images ever taken with Hubble's cameras. It is a 50-light-year-wide view of the central region of the Carina Nebula where a maelstrom of star birth - and death - is taking place. This image is a mosaic of the Carina Nebula assembled from 48 frames taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The Hubble images were taken in the light of neutral hydrogen during March and July 2005. Color information was added with data taken in December 2001 and March 2003 at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. Red corresponds to sulfur, green to hydrogen, and blue to oxygen emission.

Hubble's View of Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672

6:00 am PDT, April 3, 2007

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope view of the nearby barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672 unveils details in the galaxy's star-forming clouds and dark bands of interstellar dust. NGC 1672 is more than 60 million light-years away in the direction of the southern constellation Dorado. These observations of NGC 1672 were taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in August of 2005.

Saturn Stars in Three Hubble Movies

10:00 am PDT, March 20, 2007

Photogenic Saturn has now become a movie star. Astronomers have woven NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of Saturn, its rings, and several of its moons into three movies. Each movie highlights unique times in the planet's 30-year waltz around the Sun. Two of the movies show the motion of several of Saturn's moons when the planet's rings were tilted nearly edge-on to Earth and to the Sun. These edge-on alignments of the rings occur roughly once every 15 years. Another movie presents a clear view of Saturn's Southern Hemisphere when the planet's rings were at maximum tilt toward Earth. Hubble snapped only about a dozen images during each of these three events, so astronomers created software to extend the photos into the hundreds of images needed for a movie. The images were taken with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in 1995 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys in 2003

Hubble Pans Across Heavens to Harvest 50,000 Evolving Galaxies

10:00 am PST, March 6, 2007

Several hundred images taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have been woven together into a rich tapestry of at least 50,000 galaxies. The Hubble view is yielding new clues about the universe's youth, from its "pre-teen" years to young adulthood.

Hubble Sees 'Comet Galaxy' Being Ripped Apart By Galaxy Cluster

6:00 am PST, March 2, 2007

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, in collaboration with several other ground- and space- based telescopes, has captured a galaxy being ripped apart by a galaxy cluster's gravitational field and harsh environment.

The finding sheds light on the mysterious process by which gas-rich spiral-shaped galaxies might evolve into gas-poor irregular- or elliptical-shaped galaxies over billions of years. The new observations also reveal one mechanism for forming the millions of "homeless" stars seen scattered throughout galaxy clusters.

Hubble Monitors Jupiter in Support of the New Horizons Flyby

7:00 am PST, March 1, 2007

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has recently taken images of Jupiter in support of the New Horizons Mission. The images were taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys. Hubble will continue to photograph Jupiter, as well as its volcanically active moon, Io, over the next month as the New Horizons spacecraft flies past Jupiter. New Horizons is en route to Pluto, and made its closest approach to Jupiter on February 28, 2007. Through combined remote imaging by Hubble and in situ measurements by New Horizons, the two missions will enhance each other scientifically, allowing scientists to learn more about the Jovian atmosphere, the aurorae, and the charged-particle environment of Jupiter and its interaction with the solar wind.

For this photo, the combined ultraviolet- and visible-light images of Jupiter were taken with Hubble from February 17-21. The image segments in the boxes, obtained using the Advanced Camera for Surveys's ultraviolet camera, show auroral emissions that are always present in Jupiter's polar regions. The equatorial regions of Jupiter were imaged in blue light by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Cloud features in Jupiter's main atmosphere are revealed. In the ultraviolet views, the atmosphere looks more hazy because sunlight is reflected from higher in the atmosphere.

NASA's Hubble Telescope Celebrates SN 1987A's 20th Anniversary

7:00 am PST, February 22, 2007

The titanic supernova, called SN 1987A, blazed with the power of 100 million suns for several months following its discovery on Feb. 23, 1987. Observations of SN 1987A, made over the past 20 years by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and many other major ground- and space-based telescopes, have significantly changed astronomers' views of how massive stars end their lives. Astronomers credit Hubble's sharp vision with yielding important clues about the massive star's demise.

This Hubble telescope image shows the supernova's triple-ring system, including the bright spots along the inner ring of gas surrounding the exploded star. A shock wave of material unleashed by the stellar blast is slamming into regions along the inner ring, heating them up, and causing them to glow. The ring, about a light-year across, was probably shed by the star about 20,000 years before it exploded.

The Colorful Demise of a Sun-like Star

8:00 am PST, February 13, 2007

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the colorful "last hurrah" of a star like our Sun. The star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star's remaining core. Ultraviolet light from the dying star then makes the material glow. The burned-out star, called a white dwarf, appears as a white dot in the center. Our Milky Way Galaxy is littered with these stellar relics, called planetary nebulae. Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 captured this image of planetary nebula NGC 2440 on Feb. 6, 2007.

Hubble Illuminates Cluster of Diverse Galaxies

6:00 am PST, February 5, 2007

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the diverse collection of galaxies in a galaxy cluster called Abell S0740, located more than 450 million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus. The giant elliptical galaxy ESO 325-G004 looms large at the cluster's center. This galaxy is as massive as 100 billion suns. Hubble resolves thousands of globular star clusters orbiting ESO 325-G004. Globular clusters are compact groups of hundreds of thousands of stars that are gravitationally bound together. At the galaxy's distance they appear as pinpoints of light contained within the diffuse halo. Other elliptical and spiral galaxies appear in the image. The photo was made from images taken using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in January 2005 and February 2006.

Hubble Probes Layer-cake Structure of Alien World's Atmosphere

10:00 am PST, January 31, 2007

The powerful vision of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has allowed astronomers to study for the first time the layer-cake structure of the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star. Hubble discovered a dense upper layer of hot hydrogen gas where the super-hot planet's atmosphere is bleeding off into space.

This is an artist's illustration of the extrasolar planet, designated HD 209458b, which is unlike any world in our solar system. It completes an orbit around its host star every 3.5 days. It is about the size of Jupiter. Unlike Jupiter, HD 290458b is so hot that its atmosphere is "puffed up." Starlight is heating the planet's atmosphere, causing hot gas to escape into space. Astronomers used Hubble to analyze the starlight that filtered through the planet's atmosphere. Imprinted on the starlight is information about the atmosphere's structure and chemical makeup.

Hubble Sees Star Cluster "Infant Mortality"

10:00 am PST, January 10, 2007

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have found that young stellar nurseries, called open star clusters, have very short lives.

This is gleaned from new observations by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys that were used to do a "Where's Waldo" search for blue stars tossed out of their open cluster "nest" in the nearby galaxy known as NGC 1313.

Hubble Observes Infant Stars in Nearby Galaxy

9:20 am PST, January 8, 2007

This new image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope depicts bright, blue, newly formed stars that are blowing a cavity in the center of a star-forming region in the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Astronomers Map a Hypergiant Star's Massive Outbursts

9:20 am PST, January 8, 2007

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the W.M. Keck Observatory, Kameula, Hawaii, astronomers have learned that the gaseous outflow from one of the brightest super-sized stars in the sky is more complex than originally thought.

The outbursts are from VY Canis Majoris, a red supergiant star that is also classified as a hypergiant because of its very high luminosity. The eruptions have formed loops, arcs, and knots of material moving at various speeds and in many different directions. The star has had many outbursts over the past 1,000 years as it nears the end of its life.

Hubble Maps the Cosmic Web of "Clumpy" Dark Matter in 3-D

10:30 am PST, January 7, 2007

An international team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has created a three-dimensional map that provides the first direct look at the large-scale distribution of dark matter in the universe.

Hubble Observations Provide Insight into Planet Birth

9:00 am PST, January 7, 2007

Hubble observed a "blizzard" of particles in a disk around a young star revealing the process by which planets grow from tiny dust grains. The particles are as fluffy as snowflakes and are roughly ten times larger than typical interstellar dust grains. They were detected in a disk encircling the 12-million-year-old star AU Microscopii. The star is 32 light-years away in the southern constellation of Microscopium, the Microscope.

Celestial Season's Greetings from Hubble

6:15 am PST, December 19, 2006

Swirls of gas and dust reside in this ethereal-looking region of star formation imaged by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This majestic view of LH 95, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, reveals a region where low-mass, infant stars and their much more massive stellar neighbors reside. A shroud of blue haze gently lingers amid the stars. The image was taken in March 2006 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Heavyweight Stars Light Up Nebula NGC 6357

10:30 am PST, December 11, 2006

The small open star cluster Pismis 24 lies in the core of the large emission nebula NGC 6357 in Scorpius, about 8,000 light-years away from Earth. Some of the stars in this cluster are extremely massive and emit intense ultraviolet radiation. The brightest object in the picture is designated Pismis 24-1. It was once thought to weigh as much as 200 to 300 solar masses. This would not only have made it by far the most massive known star in the galaxy, but would have put it considerably above the currently believed upper mass limit of about 150 solar masses for individual stars. However, high-resolution Hubble Space Telescope images of the star show that it is really two stars orbiting one another (inset pictures at top right and bottom right). They are estimated to each be 100 solar masses. The Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys images were taken in April 2006.

Hubble Finds Evidence for Dark Energy in the Young Universe

10:00 am PST, November 16, 2006

Scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that dark energy is not a new constituent of space, but rather has been present for most of the universe's history. Dark energy is a mysterious repulsive force that causes the universe to expand at an increasing rate. Investigators used Hubble to find that dark energy was already boosting the expansion rate of the universe as long as nine billion years ago. This picture of dark energy is consistent with Albert Einstein's prediction of nearly a century ago that a repulsive form of gravity emanates from empty space. Data from Hubble provides supporting evidence to help astrophysicists to understand the nature of dark energy. This will allow them to begin ruling out some competing explanations that predict that the strength of dark energy changes over time.

Researchers also have found that the class of ancient exploding stars, or supernovae, used to measure the expansion of space today look remarkably similar to those that exploded nine billion years ago and are just now being seen by Hubble. This important finding gives additional credibility to the use of these supernovae for tracking the cosmic expansion over most of the universe's lifetime. Supernovae provide reliable measurements because their intrinsic brightness is well understood. They are therefore reliable distance markers, allowing astronomers to determine how far away they are from Earth. These snapshots, taken by Hubble reveal five supernovae and their host galaxies. The arrows in the top row of images point to the supernovae. The bottom row shows the host galaxies before or after the stars exploded. The supernovae exploded between 3.5 and 10 billion years ago.

Host Galaxy Cluster to Largest Known Radio Eruption

10:00 am PST, November 2, 2006

This is a new composite image of galaxy cluster MS0735.6+7421, located about 2.6 billion light-years away in the constellation Camelopardalis. The three views of the region were taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in Feb. 2006, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in Nov. 2003, and NRAO's Very Large Array in Oct. 2004. The Hubble image shows dozens of galaxies bound together by gravity. In Jan. 2005, astronomers reported that a supermassive black hole, lurking in the central bright galaxy, generated the most powerful outburst seen in the universe. The VLA radio image shows jets of high energy particles (in red) streaming from the black hole. These jets pushed the X-ray emitting hot gas (shown in blue in the Chandra image) aside to create two giant cavities in the gas. The cavities are evidence for the massive eruption. The X-ray and radio images show the enormous appetite of large black holes and the profound impact they have on their surroundings.

Hubble Servicing Mission 4

7:30 am PST, October 31, 2006

NASA announced today plans for a fifth servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Shuttle astronauts will visit the telescope to extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013.

Hubble's Latest Views of Light Echo from Star V838 Monocerotis

9:00 am PDT, October 26, 2006

These are the most recent NASA Hubble Space Telescope views of an unusual phenomenon in space called a light echo. Light from a star that erupted nearly five years ago continues propagating outward through a cloud of dust surrounding the star. The light reflects or "echoes" off the dust and then travels to Earth.

Hubble Yields Direct Proof of Stellar Sorting in a Globular Cluster

7:00 am PDT, October 24, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has provided astronomers with the best observational evidence to date that globular clusters sort out stars according to their mass, governed by a gravitational billiard ball game between stars. Heavier stars slow down and sink to the cluster's core, while lighter stars pick up speed and move across the cluster to its periphery. This process, called "mass segregation," has long been suspected for globular star clusters, but has never before been directly seen in action.

A typical globular cluster contains several hundred thousand stars. Although the density of stars is very small in the outskirts of such stellar systems, the stellar density near the center can be more than 10,000 times higher than in the local vicinity of our Sun. If we lived in such a region of space, the night sky would be ablaze with 10,000 stars that would be closer to us than the nearest star to the Sun, Alpha Centauri, which is 4.3 light-years away (or approximately 272,000 times the distance between Earth and the Sun).

Mars May Be Cozy Place for Hardy Microbes

10:00 am PDT, October 19, 2006

A class of especially hardy microbes that live in some of the harshest Earthly environments could flourish on cold Mars and other chilly planets, according to a research team of astronomers and microbiologists. In a two-year laboratory study, the researchers discovered that some cold-adapted microorganisms not only survived but reproduced at 30 degrees Fahrenheit, just below the freezing point of water. The microbes also developed a defense mechanism that protected them from cold temperatures. These close-up images, taken by an electron microscope, reveal the tiny one-cell organisms, called halophiles and methanogens, that were used in the study.

Super Star Clusters in the Antennae Galaxies

9:00 pm PDT, October 15, 2006

This new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. During the course of the collision, billions of stars will be formed. The brightest and most compact of these star birth regions are called super star clusters. The new image allows astronomers to better distinguish between the stars and super star clusters created in the collision of two spiral galaxies.

Hubble Captures Galaxy in the Making

3:00 am PDT, October 12, 2006

Images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have provided a dramatic glimpse of a large and massive galaxy under assembly by the merging of smaller, lighter galaxies. Astrophysicists believe that this is the way galaxies grew in the young universe. Now, Hubble observations of the radio galaxy MRC 1138-262, nicknamed the "Spiderweb Galaxy" show dozens of star-forming satellite galaxies as individual clumpy features in the process of merging. Because the galaxy is 10.6 billion light-years away, astronomers are seeing it as it looked in the universe's early formative years, only 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

Hubble Observations Confirm that Planets Form from Disks Around Stars

9:00 am PDT, October 9, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, in collaboration with ground-based observations, has provided definitive evidence for the existence of the nearest extrasolar planet to our solar system. The Jupiter-sized world orbits the Sun-like star Epsilon Eridani, which is only 10.5 light-years away. The results are being presented today at the 38th Annual Division of Planetary Sciences Meeting in Pasadena, Calif. and will appear in the November issue of the Astronomical Journal. This is an artist's concept of a Jupiter-mass planet orbiting the nearby star Epsilon Eridani.

Hubble Finds Extrasolar Planets Far Across Galaxy

10:00 am PDT, October 4, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered 16 extrasolar planet candidates orbiting a variety of distant stars in the central region of our Milky Way galaxy.

The planet bonanza was uncovered during a Hubble survey, called the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS). Hubble looked farther than has ever successfully been searched for extrasolar planets. Hubble peered at 180,000 stars in the crowded central bulge of our galaxy 26,000 light-years away or one-quarter the diameter of the Milky Way's spiral disk. The results will appear in the Oct. 5 issue of the journal Nature.

JWST Project Scientist Wins Nobel Prize for Physics

12:00 pm PDT, October 3, 2006

John C. Mather, a senior astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), has won the 2006 Nobel Physics Prize.

Mather shares the prize with George F. Smoot, a professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley, for work that helped solidify the Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe. Mather and Smoot were members of a science team that used NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite to measure the diffuse microwave background radiation, which is considered a relic of the Big Bang.

Hubble Discovers Dark Cloud in the Atmosphere of Uranus

10:00 am PDT, September 28, 2006

Just as we near the end of the hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, winds whirl and clouds churn 2 billion miles away in the atmosphere of Uranus, forming a dark vortex large enough to engulf two-thirds of the United States. Astronomers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to take the first definitive images of a dark spot on Uranus. The elongated feature measures 1,100 miles by 1,900 miles (1,700 kilometers by 3,000 kilometers). This three-wavelength composite image was taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys on August 23, 2006. The research team found the dark spot again on August 24. The inset image shows a magnified view of the spot with enhanced contrast. Uranus's north pole is near the 3 o'clock position in this image. The bright band in the southern hemisphere is at 45 degrees south.

NASA's Hubble Finds Hundreds of Young Galaxies in Early Universe

7:00 am PDT, September 21, 2006

Astronomers analyzing two of the deepest views of the cosmos made with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered a gold mine of galaxies, more than 500 that existed less than a billion years after the Big Bang. This sample represents the most comprehensive compilation of galaxies in the early universe, researchers said. The discovery is scientifically invaluable for understanding the origin of galaxies, considering that just a decade ago early galaxy formation was largely uncharted territory. Astronomers had not seen even one galaxy that existed when the universe was a billion years old, so finding 500 in a Hubble survey is a significant leap forward for cosmologists. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows 28 of the more than 500 young galaxies the researchers uncovered in their analysis of two Hubble surveys.

Tracing the Evolution of the First Galaxies in the Universe

11:00 am PDT, September 13, 2006

A systematic search for the first bright galaxies to form in the early universe has revealed a dramatic jump in the number of such galaxies around 13 billion years ago. These observations of the earliest stages in the evolution of galaxies provide new evidence for the hierarchical theory of galaxy formation – the idea that large galaxies built up over time as smaller galaxies collided and merged. Astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to explore the formation of galaxies during the first 900 million years after the Big Bang. They reported their latest findings in the September 14 issue of the journal Nature. Deep observations in three dark patches of sky – the Hubble Ultra Deep Field and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey fields – gathered the faint light emitted 13 billion years ago by stars in primeval galaxies. Only the brightest galaxies could be detected at such great distances. The researchers observed hundreds of bright galaxies at around 900 million years after the Big Bang. But when they looked deeper, about 200 million years earlier in time, they only found one. Relaxing their search criteria a bit turned up a few more candidates, so there must have been a lot of merging of smaller galaxies during those 200 million years.

This panel shows four candidate galaxies that are likely to have redshifts of 7 and thus have emitted their light when the universe was just 750 million years old. Astronomers can determine when light was emitted from a distant source by its redshift, a measure of how the expansion of the universe stretched the wavelengths of the light as it traveled through space across vast distances.

Planet Or Failed Star? NASA's Hubble Telescope Photographs One of Smallest Stellar Companions Ever Seen

10:00 am PDT, September 7, 2006

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have photographed one of the smallest objects ever seen around a normal star beyond our Sun. Weighing in at 12 times the mass of Jupiter, the object is small enough to be a planet. The conundrum is that it's also large enough to be a brown dwarf, a failed star. The Hubble observation of the diminutive companion to the low-mass red dwarf star CHXR 73 is a dramatic reminder that astronomers do not have a consensus in deciding which objects orbiting other stars are truly planets -- even though they have at last agreed on how they will apply the definition of "planet" to objects inside our solar system.

Hubble Captures a Rare Eclipse on Uranus

10:00 am PDT, August 31, 2006

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image is a never-before-seen astronomical alignment of a moon traversing the face of Uranus, and its accompanying shadow. The white dot near the center of Uranus' blue-green disk is the icy moon Ariel. The 700-mile-diameter satellite is casting a shadow onto the cloud tops of Uranus. To an observer on Uranus, this would appear as a solar eclipse, where the moon briefly blocks out the Sun as its shadow races across Uranus's cloud tops. Though such "transits" by moons across the disks of their parents are commonplace for some other gas giant planets, such as Jupiter, the satellites of Uranus orbit the planet in such a way that they rarely cast shadows on the planet's surface. Uranus is tilted so that its spin axis lies nearly in its orbital plane. The planet is essentially tipped over on its side. The moons of Uranus orbit the planet above the equator, so their paths align edge-on to the Sun only every 42 years. This color composite image was created from images at three wavelengths in near infrared light obtained with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys on July 26, 2006.

Cassiopeia A - The Colorful Aftermath of a Violent Stellar Death

6:00 am PDT, August 29, 2006

A new image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope provides a detailed look at the tattered remains of a supernova explosion known as Cassiopeia A (Cas A). It is the youngest known remnant from a supernova explosion in the Milky Way. The new Hubble image shows the complex and intricate structure of the star's shattered fragments. The image is a composite made from 18 separate images taken in December 2004 using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

Robert Williams Named President-Elect of the International Astronomical Union

10:00 am PDT, August 25, 2006

The General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, has named Dr. Robert Williams, Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), as its President-Elect. He will become IAU President in 2009. Dr. Williams served as STScI director from 1993 until 1998. He is the principal investigator for the Hubble Deep Field — one of humankind's deepest, most detailed visible-light views of the universe.

The IAU is a body of distinguished professional astronomers, founded in 1919 to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU named Dr. Catherine Cesarsky of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) as its President and Ian Corbett (ESO) as its Assistant General Secretary for the term 2006-2009.

Wispy Dust and Gas Paint Portrait of Starbirth

6:00 am PDT, August 23, 2006

This active region of star formation in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), as photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, unveils wispy clouds of hydrogen and oxygen that swirl and mix with dust on a canvas of astronomical size. The LMC is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

This particular region within the LMC, referred to as N 180B, contains some of the brightest known star clusters. This image was taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in 1998 using filters that isolate light emitted by hydrogen and oxygen gas.

NASA Finds Direct Proof of Dark Matter

10:00 am PDT, August 21, 2006

Dark matter and normal matter have been wrenched apart by the tremendous collision of two large clusters of galaxies. This composite image shows the galaxy cluster 1E 0657-56, also known as the "bullet cluster." The hot gas detected by Chandra in X-rays is seen as two pink clumps in the image and contains most of the "normal" matter in the two clusters. The bullet-shaped clump on the right is the hot gas from one cluster, which passed through the hot gas from the other larger cluster during the collision. An optical image from Magellan and the Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxies in orange and white. The blue areas in this image show where astronomers find most of the mass in the clusters.

Hubble Sees Faintest Stars in a Globular Cluster

11:00 am PDT, August 17, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered what astronomers are reporting as the dimmest stars ever seen in any globular star cluster. Globular clusters are spherical concentrations of hundreds of thousands of stars.

These clusters formed early in the 13.7-billion-year-old universe. The cluster NGC 6397 is one of the closest globular star clusters to Earth. Seeing the whole range of stars in this area will yield insights into the age, origin, and evolution of the cluster.

STScI Astrophysicist Shares 2006 Gruber Cosmology Prize

5:00 am PDT, August 15, 2006

Astrophysicist Michael G. Hauser (Space Telescope Science Institute deputy director and adjunct professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.) is a member of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) science team sharing the Peter Gruber Foundation's 2006 Cosmology Prize. The prize's gold medal and $250,000 cash prize was presented to the team on August 15 at the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Prague, Czech Republic. The COBE satellite was launched in 1989 to measure the early universe's diffuse infrared and microwave radiationn. The COBE science team was honored by the foundation for the satellite's multiple accomplishments.

Hubble Identifies Stellar Companion to Distant Planet

10:00 am PDT, August 8, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has for the first time identified the parent star of a distant planet (system name OGLE-2003-BLG-235L/MOA-2003-BLG-53L) discovered in 2003 through ground-based gravitational microlensing. Gravitational microlensing occurs when a foreground star amplifies the light of a background star that momentarily aligns with it. Follow-up observations by Hubble in 2005 separated the light of the slightly offset foreground star from the background star. This allowed the host star to be identified as a red dwarf star located 19,000 light-years away. The Hubble observations allow for the planet's mass and the orbit from its parent red star to be determined. In this artist's concept, the rings and moon around the gas giant are hypothetical, but plausible, given the nature of the family of gas giant planets in our solar system.

Extraterrestrial Fireworks

6:00 am PDT, July 31, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of a cosmic explosion that is quite similar to fireworks on Earth. In the nearby galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud, a massive star has exploded as a supernova, and begun to dissipate its interior into a spectacular display of colorful filaments. The greenish-blue supernova remnant, E0102, resides 50 light-years away from the edge of a bright glowing massive star-forming region.

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys Resumes Exploring the Universe

2:00 pm PDT, July 12, 2006

After a brief hiatus, the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is back in business, probing the far reaches of space in a quest to understand the true nature of the universe's most dominant constituent: dark energy.

This is one of the first images of the universe taken after the ACS camera resumed science operation on July 4th. The camera was offline for nearly two weeks as NASA engineers switched to a backup power supply after the camera's primary power supply failed.

Hubble Reveals Two Dust Disks Around Nearby Star Beta Pictoris

10:00 am PDT, June 27, 2006

Detailed images of the nearby star Beta Pictoris, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, confirm the existence of not one but two dust disks encircling the star. The images offer tantalizing new evidence for at least one Jupiter-size planet orbiting Beta Pictoris.

The finding ends a decade of scientific speculation that an odd warp in the young star's debris disk may actually be another inclined disk. The recent Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys view - the best visible-light image of Beta Pictoris - clearly shows a distinct secondary disk that is tilted by about 4 degrees from the main disk. The secondary disk is visible out to roughly 24 billion miles from the star, and probably extends even farther, said astronomers. This Hubble image of Beta Pictoris clearly shows a primary dust disk and a much fainter secondary dust disk. Astronomers used the Advanced Camera's coronagraph to block out the light from the bright star.

Pluto's Two Small Moons Officially Named Nix and Hydra

5:00 pm PDT, June 22, 2006

A pair of small moons that NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered orbiting Pluto now have official names: Nix and Hydra. Photographed by Hubble in 2005, Nix and Hydra are roughly 5,000 times fainter than Pluto and are about two to three times farther from Pluto than its large moon, Charon, which was discovered in 1978.

Dark Energy Co-Discoverer Adam Riess Shares Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2006

5:00 pm PDT, June 21, 2006

Astronomer Adam Riess, of the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Johns Hopkins University, and two colleagues, have been awarded this year's $1 million Shaw Prize in astronomy for their discovery of the mysterious "dark energy" that is causing the universe to expand at an ever-faster rate.

Hubble Eyes Star Birth in the Extreme

10:00 am PDT, June 13, 2006

Staring into the crowded, dusty core of two merging galaxies, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a region where star formation has gone wild.

The interacting galaxies appear as a single, odd-looking galaxy called Arp 220. The galaxy is a nearby example of the aftermath of two colliding galaxies. In fact, Arp 220 is the brightest of the three galactic mergers closest to Earth. This latest view of the galaxy is yielding new insights into the early universe, when galactic wrecks were more common. The sharp eye of Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys has unveiled more than 200 mammoth star clusters. The clusters are the bluish-white dots scattered throughout the image.

Hubble Sees Galaxy on Edge

6:00 am PDT, June 8, 2006

This is a unique view of the disk galaxy NGC 5866 tilted nearly edge-on to our line-of-sight. Hubble's sharp vision reveals a crisp dust lane dividing the galaxy into two halves. The image highlights the galaxy's structure: a subtle, reddish bulge surrounding a bright nucleus, a blue disk of stars running parallel to the dust lane, and a transparent outer halo. NGC 5866 is a disk galaxy of type "S0" (pronounced s-zero). Viewed face on, it would look like a smooth, flat disk with little spiral structure. It remains in the spiral category because of the flatness of the main disk of stars as opposed to the more spherically rotund (or ellipsoidal) class of galaxies called "ellipticals." Such S0 galaxies, with disks like spirals and large bulges like ellipticals, are called 'lenticular' galaxies. NGC 5866 lies in the Northern constellation Draco, at a distance of 44 million light-years. It has a diameter of roughly 60,000 light-years only two-thirds the diameter of the Milky Way, although its mass is similar to our galaxy. This Hubble image of NGC 5866 is a combination of blue, green and red observations taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in February 2006.

Hubble Captures a "Five-Star" Rated Gravitational Lens

3:00 am PDT, May 23, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured the first-ever picture of a group of five star-like images of a single distant quasar.

The multiple-image effect seen in the Hubble picture is produced by a process called gravitational lensing, in which the gravitational field of a massive object - in this case, a cluster of galaxies – bends and amplifies light from an object – in this case, a quasar – farther behind it.

Astronomers Use Innovative Technique to Find Extrasolar Planet

10:00 am PDT, May 18, 2006

An international team of professional and amateur astronomers, using simple off-the-shelf equipment to trawl the skies for planets outside our solar system, has hauled in its first "catch." The astronomers discovered a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a Sun-like star 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation Corona Borealis. The team, led by Peter McCullough of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., includes four amateur astronomers from North America and Europe.

This artist's impression shows a dramatic close-up of the extrasolar planet, called XO-1b, passing in front of a Sun-like star 600 light-years from Earth. The Jupiter-sized planet is in a tight four-day orbit around the star.

Astronomer Wins Top Prize for Creating Black Hole Web Site

10:00 am PDT, May 16, 2006

Explore the world of black holes in an award-winning Web site created by a team led by Roeland van der Marel, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. The interactive Web site, called "Black Holes: Gravity's Relentless Pull," rescues black holes from the realm of science fiction and puts them back into the domain of science.

The Web site won the top prize for 2005 in the Pirelli INTERNETional Award competition, the first international multimedia contest for the communication of science and technology on the Internet.

Hubble Finds that Earth is Safe from One Class of Gamma-ray Burst

10:00 am PDT, May 10, 2006

Homeowners may have to worry about floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes destroying their homes, but at least they can remove long-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) from their list of potential natural disasters, according to recent findings by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Long-duration gamma-ray bursts are powerful flashes of high-energy radiation that are sometimes seen coming from certain types of supernovae (the explosions of extremely massive stars). If Earth were flashed by a nearby long-duration burst, the devastation could range from destroying the ozone in our atmosphere to triggering climate change and altering life's evolution. Astronomers analyzing long-duration bursts in several Hubble telescope surveys have concluded that the Milky Way Galaxy is an unlikely place for them to pop off. These images are a sampling of the host galaxies of long-duration bursts taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The green crosshairs pinpoint the location of the gamma-ray bursts, now long faded away.

Hubble Snaps Baby Pictures of Jupiter's "Red Spot Jr."

10:00 am PDT, May 4, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is giving astronomers their most detailed view yet of a second red spot emerging on Jupiter. For the first time in history, astronomers have witnessed the birth of a new red spot on the giant planet, which is located half a billion miles away. The storm is roughly one-half the diameter of its bigger and legendary cousin, the Great Red Spot. Researchers suggest that the new spot may be related to a possible major climate change in Jupiter's atmosphere. These images were taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys on April 8 and 16, 2006.

Hubble Provides Spectacular Detail of a Comet's Breakup

10:00 am PDT, April 27, 2006

The fragile comet is rapidly disintegrating as it approaches the Sun. Hubble images have uncovered many more fragments than have been reported by ground-based observers. These observations provide an unprecedented opportunity to study the demise of a comet nucleus. The comet is currently a chain of over three dozen separate fragments, named alphabetically, stretching across the sky by several times the angular diameter of the Moon. Hubble caught two of the fragments (B and G) shortly after large outbursts in activity. Hubble shows several dozen "mini-comets" trailing behind each main fragment, probably associated with the ejection of house-sized chunks of surface material. Deep-freeze relics of the early solar system, cometary nuclei are porous and fragile mixes of dust and ices that can break apart due to the thermal, gravitational, and dynamical stresses of approaching the Sun. Whether any of the many fragments survive the trip around the Sun remains to be seen in the weeks ahead.

Happy Sweet Sixteen, Hubble Telescope!

6:00 am PDT, April 24, 2006

To celebrate the Hubble Space Telescope's 16 years of success, the two space agencies involved in the project, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), are releasing this image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82). This mosaic image is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82. The galaxy is remarkable for its bright blue disk, webs of shredded clouds, and fiery-looking plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out of its central regions. The observation was made in March 2006.

Magellanic Gemstones in the Southern Sky

6:00 am PDT, April 18, 2006

NASAs Hubble Space Telescope has captured the most detailed images to date of the open star clusters NGC 265 and NGC 290 in the Small Magellanic Cloud – two sparkling sets of gemstones in the southern sky. These images, taken with Hubbles Advanced Camera for Surveys, show a myriad of stars in crystal clear detail. The brilliant open star clusters are located about 200,000 light-years away and are roughly 65 light-years across. The images were taken in October and November 2004.

Hubble Finds 'Tenth Planet' is Slightly Larger than Pluto

10:00 am PDT, April 11, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has resolved the "tenth planet," nicknamed "Xena," for the first time and has found that it is only just a little larger than Pluto.

Though previous ground-based observations suggested that Xena was about 30 percent greater in diameter than Pluto, Hubble observations taken on Dec. 9 and 10, 2005, yield a diameter of 1,490 miles (with an uncertainty of 60 miles) for Xena. Pluto's diameter, as measured by Hubble, is 1,422 miles. Xena is the large object at the bottom of this artist's concept. A portion of its surface is lit by the Sun, located in the upper left corner of the image. Xena's companion, Gabrielle, is located just above and to the left of Xena.

Nearby Dust Clouds in the Milky Way

6:00 am PDT, April 4, 2006

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed dense knots of dust and gas in our Milky Way Galaxy. This cosmic dust is a concentration of elements that are responsible for the formation of stars in our galaxy and throughout the universe. These dark, opaque knots of gas and dust are called "Bok globules," and they are absorbing light in the center of the nearby emission nebula and star-forming region, NGC 281. These images were taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in October 2005. NGC 281 is located nearly 9,500 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Cassiopeia.

Astronomers Measure Precise Mass of a Binary Brown Dwarf

10:00 am PST, March 15, 2006

This is an artist's concept of a pair of eclipsing brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs are mysterious celestial objects that fall somewhere between the smallest stars and the largest planets. They have always been viewed by astronomers as a critical link in the understanding of how both stars and planets form. One problem has been that brown dwarfs are hard to find and so have defied nearly all attempts to accurately assess their size. But now astronomers, have discovered a pair of young brown dwarfs in mutual orbit. This has enabled scientists to weigh and measure the diameters of brown dwarfs for the first time. The new observations confirm the theoretical prediction that brown dwarfs start out as star-sized objects, but shrink and cool and become increasingly planet sized as they age. Before now, the only brown dwarf whose mass had been directly measured was much older and dimmer.

Hubble's Latest Look at Pluto's Moons Supports a Common Birth

6:00 am PST, March 10, 2006

The latest NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of Pluto's two newly discovered satellites reveal that the new moons have the same color as Charon. All three of Pluto's satellites reflect the Sun's light equally across the visible spectrum and have essentially the same color as Earth's moon. Pluto, in contrast, has a reddish hue. The common color of the moons further reinforces the idea that all three moons were born from a single titanic collision between Pluto and another similarly sized Kuiper Belt object billions of years ago. The color exposures were made on March 2nd in both red (F606W) and blue (F435W) filters using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The Pluto team hopes to make further observations in more color filters to more precisely characterize the moons.

Hubble's Largest Galaxy Portrait Offers a New High-Definition View

3:00 am PST, February 28, 2006

Giant galaxies weren't assembled in a day. Neither was this Hubble Space Telescope image of the face-on spiral galaxy Messier 101 (M101). It is the largest and most detailed photo of a spiral galaxy that has ever been released from Hubble. The galaxy's portrait is actually composed of 51 individual exposures taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in March 1994, September 1994, June 1999, November 2002, and January 2003. The newly composed image also includes elements from images from ground-based photos.

Hubble Confirms New Moons of Pluto

10:00 am PST, February 22, 2006

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the presence of two new moons around the distant planet Pluto. The moons were first discovered by Hubble in May 2005, but the Pluto Companion Search team probed even deeper into the Pluto system with Hubble on Feb. 15 to look for additional satellites and to characterize the orbits of the moons. In the image, Pluto is in the center and Charon is just below it. The moons, provisionally designated S/2005 P 1 and S/2005 P 2, are located to the right of Pluto and Charon.

Hubble Snaps Images of a Pinwheel-Shaped Galaxy

6:00 am PST, February 7, 2006

This dramatic spiral galaxy is one of the latest viewed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Stunning details of the face-on spiral galaxy, cataloged as NGC 1309, are captured in this color image. NGC 1309 was home to supernova SN 2002fk, whose light reached Earth in September 2002. NGC 1309 resides 100 million light-years (30 Megaparsecs) from Earth. It is one of about 200 galaxies that make up the Eridanus group of galaxies.

Lecture Series Promotes Respect in the Workplace

6:00 am PST, February 1, 2006

Today's workplace for "hard-discipline" organizations, such as science, technology, engineering and medicine requires a more diverse and balanced set of skills for success than at any other time in history. Organizational dynamics, diverse cultures, genders, professions and backgrounds, as well as environmental, consumer and business demands require an emphasis on interpersonal, ethical, and relational competencies as well as traditional technical orientations.

Several organizations and institutions, including the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, will address these issues in a six-part lecture series entitled "Hard Science/Soft Skills: Fostering Civility in the Scientific Workplace."

Astronomers Find Smallest Extrasolar Planet Yet Around Normal Star

10:00 am PST, January 25, 2006

Using an armada of telescopes, an international team of astronomers has found the smallest planet ever detected around a normal star outside our solar system. The extrasolar planet is five times as massive as Earth and orbits a red dwarf, a relatively cool star, every 10 years. This artist's illustration shows an icy/rocky planet orbiting a dim star. The distance between the planet, designated OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, and its host is about three times greater than that between the Earth and the Sun. The planet's large orbit and its dim parent star make its likely surface temperature a frigid minus 364 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 220 degrees Celsius).

Dusty Planetary Disks Around Two Nearby Stars Resemble Our Kuiper Belt

9:00 am PST, January 19, 2006

These two bright debris disks of ice and dust appear to be the equivalent of our own solar system's Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy rocks outside the orbit of Neptune and the source of short-period comets. The disks encircle the types of stars around which there could be habitable zones and planets for life to develop. The disks seem to have a central area cleared of debris, perhaps by planets.

Hubble Panoramic View of Orion Nebula Reveals Thousands of Stars

7:00 am PST, January 11, 2006

In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. This turbulent star formation region is one of astronomy's most dramatic and photogenic celestial objects. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. The Orion Nebula is a picture book of star formation, from the massive, young stars that are shaping the nebula to the pillars of dense gas that may be the homes of budding stars.

Monster Black Holes Grow After Galactic Mergers

7:30 am PST, January 10, 2006

An analysis of the Hubble Space Telescope's deepest view of the universe offers compelling evidence that monster black holes in the centers of galaxies were not born big but grew over time through repeated galactic mergers. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) studies also confirm recent computer simulations that predict that newly merging galaxies are enshrouded in so much dust that astronomers cannot see black holes feasting on stars and gas from the mergers. The computer simulations, as supported by Hubble, suggest that it takes hundreds of millions to a billion years before enough dust clears so that astronomers can see the black holes feasting on stars and gas from the merger. These postage-stamp-size images reveal 36 young galaxies caught in the act of merging with other galaxies. These galaxies appear as they existed many billions of years ago. Astronomers have dubbed them "tadpole galaxies" because of their distinct knot-and-tail shapes, which suggest that they are engaging in galactic mergers.

Mystery Solved: High-Energy Fireworks Linked to Massive Star Cluster

7:00 am PST, January 9, 2006

Call it the Bermuda Triangle of our Milky Way Galaxy: a tiny patch of sky that has been known for years to be the source of the mysterious blasts of X-rays and gamma rays. Now, a team of astronomers, led by Don Figer of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., has solved the mystery by identifying one of the most massive star clusters in the galaxy. The little-known cluster, which has not been catalogued, is about 20 times more massive than typical star clusters in our galaxy, and appears to be the source of the powerful outbursts.

Supporting evidence for the hefty weight of this cluster is the presence of 14 red supergiants, hefty stars that have reached the end of their lives. They bloat up to about 100 times their normal size before exploding as supernovae. This image shows the star-studded region surrounding the massive star cluster. The bluish cluster is inside the white box. A close-up of the cluster can be seen in the inset photo.

There's More to the North Star Than Meets the Eye

6:20 am PST, January 9, 2006

By stretching the capabilities of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to the limit, astronomers have photographed the close companion of Polaris for the first time. This sequence of images shows that the North Star, Polaris is really a triple star system. These findings were presented today in a press conference at the 207th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C.

NASA's Hubble Discovers New Rings and Moons Around Uranus

11:00 am PST, December 22, 2005

Even though the Voyager 2 spacecraft paid a close-up visit to Uranus in 1986, the distant planet continues revealing surprises to the eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble's high sensitivity and sharp view has uncovered a pair of giant rings girdling the planet. The largest is twice the diameter of the planet's previously known ring system, first discovered in the late 1970s. Hubble also spied two small satellites, named Mab and Cupid. One of the satellites shares an orbit with the outermost of the new rings. The satellite is probably the source of fresh dust that keeps replenishing the ring with new material knocked off the satellite from meteoroid impacts. Without such replenishment, the dust in the ring would slowly spiral in toward Uranus. Collectively, these new discoveries mean that Uranus has a youthful and dynamic system of rings and moons. Because of the extreme tilt of Uranus's axis, the ring system appears nearly perpendicular relative to rings around other gas giant planets like Saturn. Also, unlike Saturn, the rings are very dark and dim because they are mostly dust rather than ice.

Astronomers Use Hubble to 'Weigh' Dog Star's Companion

6:00 am PST, December 13, 2005

For astronomers, it's always been a source of frustration that the nearest white-dwarf star is buried in the glow of the brightest star in the nighttime sky. This burned-out stellar remnant is a faint companion of the brilliant blue-white Dog Star, Sirius, located in the winter constellation Canis Major. Now, an international team of astronomers has used the keen eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to isolate the light from the white dwarf, called Sirius B. The new results allow them to measure precisely the white dwarf's mass based on how its intense gravitational field alters the wavelengths of light emitted by the star.

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Sirius, the brightest star in our nighttime sky, along with its faint, tiny stellar companion, Sirius B. Astronomers overexposed the image of Sirius [at center] so that the dim Sirius B [tiny dot at lower left] could be seen. The cross-shaped diffraction spikes and concentric rings around Sirius, and the small ring around Sirius B, are artifacts produced within the telescope's imaging system. Sirius B is a white dwarf that orbits around Sirius every 50 years. Sirius, only 8.6 light-years from Earth, is the fifth closest star system known.

A Giant Hubble Mosaic of the Crab Nebula

1:00 am PST, December 1, 2005

The Crab Nebula is a six-light-year-wide expanding remnant of a star's supernova explosion. Japanese and Chinese astronomers recorded this violent event nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054, as did, almost certainly, Native Americans. This composite image was assembled from 24 individual exposures taken with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in October 1999, January 2000, and December 2000. It is one of the largest images taken by Hubble and is the highest resolution image ever made of the entire Crab Nebula.

Planet-Sized Brown Dwarf May Yield Smallest Known Solar System

9:00 am PST, November 30, 2005

Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes and other ground-based observatories have discovered a failed star, less than one-hundredth the mass of the Sun, possibly in the process of forming a solar system. The object, called Cha 110913-773444, is one of the smallest known brown dwarfs to harbor what appears to be a planet-forming disk of rocky and gaseous debris, which one day might form planets. A team led by Kevin Luhman of Penn State University will discuss this finding in the Dec. 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This artist's conception shows the relative size of a hypothetical solar system with a planetary-mass brown dwarf as its "sun" (above) compared to the solar system around 55 Cancri, which is a star like our Sun (below). Cha 110913-773444 contains only about eight times the mass of Jupiter and lies 500 light-years away in the Chamaeleon constellation. Astronomers speculate that the disk surrounding Cha 110913-773444 might have enough mass to make a small gas giant and a few Earth-sized rocky planets.

Hubble, Sloan Quadruple Number of Known Optical Einstein Rings

10:00 am PST, November 17, 2005

Astronomers have combined two powerful astronomical assets, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, to identify 19 new "gravitationally lensed" galaxies, adding significantly to the approximately 100 gravitational lenses previously known. Among these 19, they have found eight new so-called "Einstein rings," which are perhaps the most elegant manifestation of the lensing phenomenon. Gravitational lensing occurs when the gravitational field from a massive object warps space and deflects light from a distant object behind it. Einstein rings are produced when two galaxies are almost perfectly aligned, one behind the other.

The thin blue bull's-eye patterns in these eight Hubble Space Telescope images appear like neon signs floating over reddish-white blobs. The blobs are giant elliptical galaxies roughly 2 to 4 billion light-years away. The bull's-eye patterns are Einstein rings, which are created as the light from galaxies twice as far away is distorted into circular shapes by the gravity of the giant elliptical galaxies.

Young Stars Sculpt Gas with Powerful Outflows

10:00 am PST, November 10, 2005

This image of star cluster NGC 346 and its surrounding star-formation region was taken in July 2004 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Located 210,000 light-years away in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, the cluster is one of the most dynamic and intricately detailed star-forming regions in space. A dramatic structure of arched, ragged filaments with a distinct ridge encircles the cluster.

Mars Kicks Up the Dust as it Makes Closest Approach to Earth

6:00 am PST, November 3, 2005

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope snapped this picture of Mars on October 28, within a day of its closest approach to Earth on the night of October 29. The large regional dust storm appears as the brighter, redder cloudy region in the middle of the planet's disk. This storm, which measures 930 miles (1500 km) has been churning in the planet's equatorial regions for several weeks now, and it is likely responsible for the reddish, dusty haze and other dust clouds seen across this hemisphere of the planet. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys High Resolution Imager took this image when the red planet was 43 million miles (69 million km) from Earth. Mars won't be this close again to Earth until 2018. Mars is now in its warmest months, closest to the Sun in its orbit, resulting in a smaller than normal south polar ice cap which has largely sublimated with the approaching summer.

NASA's Hubble Reveals Possible New Moons Around Pluto

9:45 am PST, October 31, 2005

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted two possible new moons orbiting Pluto, the ninth planet in our solar system. If confirmed, the candidate moons could provide new insight into the nature and evolution of the Pluto system and the early Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt is a vast region of icy, rocky bodies beyond Neptune's orbit.

These Hubble Space Telescope images reveal Pluto, its large moon Charon, and the planet's two new candidate satellites. Between May 15 and May 18, 2005, Charon, and the putative moons all appear to rotate counterclockwise around Pluto.

NASA's Hubble Looks for Possible Moon Resources

10:00 am PDT, October 19, 2005

NASA has enlisted the Hubble Space Telescope's unique "vision" capabilities for making a new class of science observations of the Moon that support future human exploration. Hubble's exquisite resolution and sensitivity to ultraviolet light, which is reflected off the Moon's surface materials, have allowed Hubble to begin to search for the presence of important minerals that may be critical for the establishment of sustained human presence on the Moon. Preliminary assessment of these new Hubble observations suggests new patterns in the abundance of titanium and iron oxides, both of which are sources of oxygen, a key ingredient for life, and an essential ingredient for human exploration. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys imaged Aristarchus crater and nearby Schroter's Valley rille on Aug. 21, 2005. These images reveal fine-scale details of the crater's interior and exterior in ultraviolet and visible wavelengths at a scale of approximately 165 to 330 feet (50 to 100 meters) per picture element. These new ultraviolet-light observations, after being compared and calibrated against Hubble's ultraviolet-light observations of the Apollo 15 and 17 landing regions, will be used to quantify abundances of the titanium-bearing oxide ilmenite.

NASA Space Observatories Glimpse Faint Afterglow of Nearby Stellar Explosion

6:00 am PDT, October 4, 2005

Intricate wisps of glowing gas float amid a myriad of stars in this image of the supernova remnant, N132D. The ejected material shows that roughly 3,000 years have passed since the supernova blast. As this titanic explosion took place in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby neighbor galaxy some 160,000 light-years away, the light from the supernova remnant is dated as being 163,000 years old from clocks on Earth. This composite image of N132D comprises visible-light data taken in January 2004 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, and X-ray images obtained in July 2000 by Chandra's Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer. The complex structure of N132D is due to the expanding supersonic shock wave from the explosion impacting the interstellar gas of the LMC. A supernova remnant like N132D provides information on stellar evolution and the creation of chemical elements such as oxygen through nuclear reactions in their cores.

Spitzer and Hubble Team Up to Find "Big Baby" Galaxies in the Newborn Universe

10:00 am PDT, September 27, 2005

Astronomers have used the penetrating power of two of NASA's Great Observatories, the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, to identify one of the farthest and most massive galaxies that once inhabited the early universe. Conventional wisdom is that galaxies should have grown up more slowly, like streams merging to form rivers. But this galaxy appears to have grown very quickly, within the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang. By contrast, our Milky Way galaxy took billions of years to grow to its current size, through devouring smaller galaxies. The galaxy was pinpointed among approximately 10,000 others in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UDF), presently the farthest optical and infrared portrait of the universe ever taken.

Hubble Finds Mysterious Disk of Blue Stars Around Black Hole

10:00 am PDT, September 20, 2005

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have identified the source of a mysterious blue light surrounding a supermassive black hole in our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy (M31). Though the light has puzzled astronomers for more than a decade, the new discovery makes the story even more mysterious. The blue light is coming from a disk of hot, young stars that are whipping around the black hole in much the same way as planets in our solar system are revolving around the Sun. Astronomers are perplexed about how the pancake-shaped disk of stars could form so close to a giant black hole. Andromeda and its complex core can be seen in the illustration and two images [above]. The illustration [lower, right] shows the disk of blue stars nested inside a larger ring of red stars. The Hubble photo [upper, right] reveals Andromeda's bright core. The image at left shows the entire galaxy.

Black Hole in Search of a Home

11:00 am PDT, September 14, 2005

A team of European astronomers has used two of the most powerful astronomical facilities available, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal, to find a bright quasar without a massive host galaxy. Quasars are powerful and typically very distant sources of prodigious amounts of radiation. They are commonly associated with galaxies containing an active central black hole. The team confidently concludes that the quasar on the left, HE0450-2958 (in the center, distance about 5 billion light-years) does not have a massive host galaxy. The quasar HE1239-2426 to the right (at a distance of 1.5 billion light-years), has a normal host galaxy which displays large spiral arms.

Hubble Catches Scattered Light from the Boomerang Nebula

6:00 am PDT, September 13, 2005

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope caught the Boomerang Nebula in images taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys in early 2005. This reflecting cloud of dust and gas has two nearly symmetric lobes of matter that are being ejected from a central star. Each lobe of the nebula is nearly one light-year in length, making the total length of the nebula half as long as the distance from our Sun to our nearest neighbors- the Alpha Centauri stellar system, located roughly 4 light-years away. The Boomerang Nebula resides 5,000 light-years from Earth. Hubble's sharp view is able to resolve patterns and ripples in the nebula very close to the central star that are not visible from the ground.

Largest Asteroid May Be 'Mini Planet' with Water Ice

11:30 am PDT, September 7, 2005

Observations of Ceres, the largest known asteroid, have revealed that the object may be a "mini planet," sharing many characteristics of the rocky, terrestrial planets like Earth. Ceres' mantle, which wraps around the asteroid's core, may even be composed of water ice. The observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope also show that the asteroid has a nearly round shape like Earth's and may have a rocky inner core and a thin, dusty outer crust. Astronomers enhanced the sharpness in these images to bring out features on Ceres' surface, including brighter amd darker regions that could be asteroid impact features. The observations were made in visible and ultraviolet light between December 2003 and January 2004.

Hubble Makes Movie of Neptune's Dynamic Atmosphere

6:00 am PDT, September 1, 2005

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures the distant blue-green world, Neptune, and its satellites in this portrait. Astronomers used Hubble's assortment of filters to pinpoint high altitude clouds floating above the methane rich atmosphere. The images have been assembled into a time-lapse movie revealing the orbital motion of the satellites. The icy moons seen in this view are Proteus (the brightest), Larissa, Despina, and Galatea. Neptune had 13 moons at last count. In Roman mythology, Larsissa and Despina were Neptunes's daughters.

Hubble Space Telescope Begins "Two-Gyro" Science Operations

7:00 pm PDT, August 31, 2005

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope entered a new era of science operations this week, when engineers shut down one of the three operational gyroscopes aboard the observatory. The two-gyro mode is expected to preserve the operating life of the third gyro and extend Hubble's science observations through mid-2008, an eight-month extension. Backdropped by the horizon of the blue and white Earth and the blackness of space, the Hubble Space Telescope floats gracefully after the release from the Space Shuttle's robotic arm at the close of a successful servicing mission in March of 2002.

FITS for Fun – Create Spectacular Pictures in Minutes

8:15 am PDT, August 9, 2005

With the release of version 2 of the ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator image processing software, it's now even easier and faster to create stunning color pictures from the raw data taken by observatories such as NASA's Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes and ESA's XMM-Newton.

Hubble Spies a Zoo of Galaxies

6:00 am PDT, August 4, 2005

Gazing deep into the universe, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spied a menagerie of galaxies. Located within the same tiny region of space, these numerous galaxies display an assortment of unique characteristics. Some are big; some are small. A few are relatively nearby, but most are far away. Hundreds of these faint galaxies have never been seen before until their light was captured by Hubble.

Hubble Pinpoints Doomed Star that Explodes as Supernova

11:00 am PDT, July 28, 2005

Amidst the glitter of billions of stars in the majestic spiral galaxy called the Whirlpool (M51), a massive star abruptly ends its life in a brilliant flash of light. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope snapped images of the exploding star, called supernova (SN) 2005cs, 12 days after its discovery. Astronomers then compared those photos with Hubble images of the same region before the supernova blast to pinpoint the progenitor star (the star that exploded).

Hubble Captures Deep Impact's Collision with Comet

1:00 am PDT, July 4, 2005

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured the dramatic effects of the collision early July 4 between an 820-pound projectile released by the Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1. This sequence of images shows the comet before and after the impact. The visible-light images were taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys' High Resolution Camera.

Hubble Captures Outburst from Comet Targeted By Deep Impact

7:00 am PDT, June 27, 2005

In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust and gas streaming from the icy comet. The images are a reminder that Tempel 1's icy nucleus, roughly half the size of Manhattan, is dynamic and volatile. Astronomers hope the eruption of dust seen in these observations is a preview of the fireworks that may come July 4, when a probe from the Deep Impact spacecraft slams into the comet, possibly blasting off material and giving rise to a similar plume of dust and gas.

Elusive Planet Reshapes a Ring Around Neighboring Star

10:00 am PDT, June 22, 2005

The top view, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is the most detailed visible-light image ever taken of a narrow, dusty ring around the nearby star Fomalhaut (HD 216956). The image offers the strongest evidence yet that an unruly and unseen planet may be gravitationally tugging on the ring. The left part of the ring is outside the telescope's view. Hubble unequivocally shows that the center of the ring is a whopping 1.4 billion miles (15 astronomical units) away from the star. This is a distance equal to nearly halfway across our solar system. The geometrically striking ring, tilted obliquely toward Earth, would not have such a great offset if it were simply being influenced by Fomalhaut's gravity alone.

The view at bottom points out important features in the image, such as the ring's inner and outer edges. Astronomers used the Advanced Camera for Surveys' (ACS) coronagraph aboard Hubble to block out the light from the bright star so they could see the faint ring. The dot near the ring's center marks the star's location. Despite the coronagraph, some light from the star is still visible in this image, as can be seen in the wagon wheel-like spokes that form an inner ring around Fomalhaut.

New Director Appointed at Space Telescope

7:00 am PDT, June 13, 2005

Dr. Mattias (Matt) Mountain has been appointed director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, the science operations center for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the planned James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). He will succeed Dr. Steven V. W. Beckwith, who will end his term Sept. 1.

Supernova Remnant Menagerie

6:00 am PDT, June 7, 2005

A violent and chaotic-looking mass of gas and dust is seen in this Hubble Space Telescope image of a nearby supernova remnant. Denoted N 63A, the object is the remains of a massive star that exploded, spewing its gaseous layers out into an already turbulent region.

NASA's Space Eyes Focus on Deep Impact Target

10:00 am PDT, June 2, 2005

On July 4, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft will attempt an extraordinarily daring encounter with the far-flung comet Tempel 1 hurtling through space at tens of thousands of miles per hour. As if that is not challenging enough, the comet's size, shape and other characteristics are not entirely known.

Two of NASA's eyes in the sky, the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, helped scientists prepare for the comet encounter. From their orbits high above Earth, the telescopes watched Tempel 1 in early 2004. Together they came up with the best estimates of the comet's size, shape, reflectivity and rotation rate. The data may help Deep Impact snap pictures of the dramatic rendezvous and increase the probability of making contact with the comet.

Hubble Celebrates 15th Anniversary with Spectacular New Images

9:01 pm PDT, April 24, 2005

During the 15 years NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has orbited the Earth, it has taken more than 700,000 photos of the cosmos; images that have awed, astounded and even confounded astronomers and the public.

NASA released new views today of two of the most well-known objects Hubble has ever observed: the Whirlpool Galaxy (spiral galaxy M51) [left] and the Eagle Nebula [right]. These new images are among the largest and sharpest Hubble has ever taken. They were made with Hubble's newest camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The images are so incredibly sharp, they could be enlarged to billboard size and still retain stunning details.

For the 15th anniversary, scientists used the ACS to record a new region of the eerie-looking Eagle Nebula. The Eagle Nebula image reveals a tall, dense tower of gas being sculpted by ultraviolet light from a group of massive, hot stars. The new Whirlpool Galaxy image showcases the spiral galaxy's classic features, from its curving arms, where newborn stars reside, to its yellowish central core that serves as home for older stars. A feature of considerable interest is the companion galaxy located at the end of one of the spiral arms.

Hubble Spies Cosmic Dust Bunnies

6:00 am PST, March 31, 2005

Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and under beds, surprisingly complex loops and blobs of cosmic dust lie hidden in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. This image made from data obtained with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the dust lanes and star clusters of this giant galaxy that give evidence that it was formed from a past merger of two gas-rich galaxies.

Hubble Weighs in on the Heaviest Stars in the Galaxy

11:00 am PST, March 9, 2005

Unlike humans, stars are born with all the weight they will ever have. A human's birth weight varies by just a few pounds, but a star's weight ranges from less than a tenth to more than 100 times the mass of our Sun. Although astronomers know that stars come in a variety of masses, they are still stumped when it comes to figuring out if stars have a weight limit at birth. Now astronomers have taken an important step toward establishing a weight limit for stars. Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers made the first direct measurement within our Milky Way Galaxy that stars have a limit to how large they can form. Studying the densest known cluster of stars in our galaxy, the Arches cluster, astronomers determined that stars are not created any larger than about 150 times the mass of our Sun, or 150 solar masses.

The Impending Destruction of NGC 1427A

6:00 am PST, March 3, 2005

What happens when a galaxy falls in with the wrong crowd? The irregular galaxy NGC 1427A is a spectacular example of the resulting stellar rumble. Under the gravitational grasp of a large gang of galaxies, called the Fornax cluster, the small bluish galaxy is plunging headlong into the group at 600 kilometers per second or nearly 400 miles per second.

Saturn's Auroras Defy Scientists' Expectations

11:00 am PST, February 16, 2005

The dancing light of the auroras on Saturn behaves in ways different from how scientists have thought possible for the last 25 years. New research by a team of astronomers led by John Clarke of Boston University has overturned theories about how Saturn's magnetic field behaves and how its auroras are generated.

Founding Hubble Institute Director to Receive National Medal of Science

6:00 am PST, February 16, 2005

Dr. Riccardo Giacconi, founding director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), will receive the 2003 National Medal of Science -- the United States' top scientific recognition -- for his work in X-ray astronomy and his outstanding leadership in the development of the STScI. The White House announced the list of recipients on February 14. Giacconi and the others will receive their medals in a White House ceremony on Monday, March 14.

American Astronomical Society Sets Goals for Improving Gender Equity in Astronomy

1:00 pm PST, February 10, 2005

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has endorsed a new set of recommendations to improve the status of gender equity in astronomy. The recommendations, endorsed at the 205th meeting of the Society in San Diego from January 8 to 13, 2005, were prepared by the Society's Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA).

Light Continues to Echo Three Years After Stellar Outburst

6:00 am PST, February 3, 2005

The Hubble Space Telescope's latest image of the star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) reveals dramatic changes in the illumination of surrounding dusty cloud structures. The effect, called a light echo, has been unveiling never-before-seen dust patterns ever since the star suddenly brightened for several weeks in early 2002.

Hubble Finds Infant Stars in Neighboring Galaxy

11:00 am PST, January 12, 2005

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered for the first time a population of embryonic stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a companion galaxy of our Milky Way. Hubble's exquisite sharpness plucked out an underlying population of embryonic stars embedded in the nebula NGC 346 that are still forming from gravitationally collapsing gas clouds. They have not yet ignited their hydrogen fuel to sustain nuclear fusion. The smallest of these infant stars is only half the mass of our Sun.

A Poster-Size Image of the Beautiful Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300

4:00 pm PST, January 10, 2005

One of the largest Hubble Space Telescope images ever made of a complete galaxy is being unveiled today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, Calif. The Hubble telescope captured a display of starlight, glowing gas, and silhouetted dark clouds of interstellar dust in this 4-foot-by-8-foot image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300.

Hubble's Infrared Eyes Home in on Suspected Extrasolar Planet

11:00 am PST, January 10, 2005

The Hubble Space Telescope's near-infrared vision is hot on the trail of a possible planetary companion to a relatively bright young brown dwarf located 225 light-years away in the southern constellation Hydra. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile detected the planet candidate in April 2004 with infrared observations. The astronomers spotted a faint companion object to the brown dwarf, called 2MASSWJ 1207334-393254 (2M1207). They suspect the companion is a planet because it is dimmer and cooler than the brown dwarf. Because a planet beyond our solar system has never been imaged directly, this remarkable observation required Hubble's unique abilities to perform follow-up observations to test and validate if the object is indeed a planet. Based on the VLT and Hubble observations, astronomers are 99 percent sure that the companion is orbiting the brown dwarf.

A New Twist on an Old Nebula

7:00 am PST, December 16, 2004

Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to celestial objects like galaxies and nebulas. These objects are so far away that astronomers cannot see their three-dimensional structure. The Helix Nebula, for example, resembles a doughnut in colorful images. Earlier images of this complex object – the gaseous envelope ejected by a dying, sun-like star – did not allow astronomers to precisely interpret its structure. One possible interpretation was that the Helix's form resembled a snake-like coil. Now, a team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has established that the Helix's structure is even more perplexing. Their evidence suggests that the Helix consists of two disks nearly perpendicular to each other.

Spitzer and Hubble Capture Evolving Planetary Systems

10:00 am PST, December 9, 2004

Two of NASA's Great Observatories, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, have provided astronomers an unprecedented look at dusty planetary debris around stars the size of our sun. Spitzer has discovered for the first time dusty discs around mature, sun-like stars known to have planets. Hubble captured the most detailed image ever of a brighter disc circling a much younger sun-like star. The findings offer "snapshots" of the process by which our own solar system evolved, from its dusty and chaotic beginnings to its more settled present-day state.

Debris disks are composed of the shattered remnants of small bodies such as comets and asteroids that collided as they orbited the star. A similar, though much less dense cloud of dust orbits our Sun. Large, gaseous planets like Jupiter might already exist in such systems, while much smaller rocky planets like the Earth may be just starting to form.

Hubble Uncovers a Baby Galaxy in a Grown-Up Universe

9:01 pm PST, November 30, 2004

Scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have measured the age of what may be the youngest galaxy ever seen in the universe. By cosmological standards it is a mere toddler seemingly out of place among the grown-up galaxies around it. Called I Zwicky 18, it may be as young as 500 million years old (so recent an epoch that complex life had already begun to appear on Earth). Our Milky Way galaxy by contrast is over 20 times older, or about 12 billion years old, the typical age of galaxies across the universe. This "late-life" galaxy offers a rare glimpse into what the first diminutive galaxies in the early universe look like.

Hubble Tracks Asteroid's Sky Trek

6:00 am PST, November 11, 2004

While analyzing NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of the Sagittarius dwarf irregular galaxy (SagDIG), an international team of astronomers led by Simone Marchi, Yazan Momany, and Luigi Bedin discovered 13 sucessive faint trails left by a tiny asteroid. The trails are seen as a series of reddish arcs on the right in this August 2003 Advanced Camera for Surveys image.

Hubble Spots Rare Triple Eclipse on Jupiter

9:01 pm PST, November 3, 2004

At first glance, Jupiter looks like it has a mild case of the measles. Five spots - one colored white, one blue, and three black - are scattered across the upper half of the planet. Closer inspection by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals that these spots are actually a rare alignment of three of Jupiter's largest moons - Io, Ganymede, and Callisto - across the planet's face. In this image, the telltale signatures of this alignment are the shadows [the three black circles] cast by the moons. Io's shadow is located just above center and to the left; Ganymede's on the planet's left edge; and Callisto's near the right edge. Only two of the moons, however, are visible in this image. Io is the white circle in the center of the image, and Ganymede is the blue circle at upper right. Callisto is out of the image and to the right.

Stellar Survivor from 1572 A.D. Explosion Supports Supernova Theory

11:00 am PDT, October 27, 2004

An international team of astronomers is announcing today that they have identified the probable surviving companion star to a titanic supernova explosion witnessed in the year 1572 by the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and other astronomers of that era.

This discovery provides the first direct evidence supporting the long-held belief that Type Ia supernovae come from binary star systems containing a normal star and a burned-out white dwarf star. The normal star spills material onto the dwarf, which eventually triggers an explosion.

NASA's Great Observatories May Unravel 400-Year Old Supernova Mystery

9:00 am PDT, October 6, 2004

Four hundred years ago, sky watchers, including the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler, were startled by the sudden appearance of a "new star" in the western sky, rivaling the brilliance of the nearby planets. Now, astronomers using NASA's three Great Observatories are unraveling the mysteries of the expanding remains of Kepler's supernova, the last such object seen to explode in our Milky Way galaxy.

Hubble Approaches the Final Frontier: The Dawn of Galaxies

6:00 am PDT, September 23, 2004

Detailed analyses of mankind's deepest optical view of the universe, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), by several expert teams have at last identified, what may turn out to be, the earliest star-forming galaxies. Astronomers are now debating whether the hottest stars in these early galaxies may have provided enough radiation to "lift a curtain" of cold, primordial hydrogen that cooled after the big bang. This is a problem that has perplexed astronomers over the past decade, and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has at last glimpsed what could be the "end of the opening act" of galaxy formation. These faint sources illustrate how astronomers can begin to explore when the first galaxies formed and what their properties might be.

But even though Hubble has looked 95 percent of the way back to the beginning of time, astronomers agree that's not far enough.

Dying Star Creates Fantasy-like Sculpture of Gas and Dust

6:00 am PDT, September 9, 2004

In this detailed view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the so-called Cat's Eye Nebula looks like the penetrating eye of the disembodied sorcerer Sauron from the film adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings." The nebula, formally cataloged NGC 6543, is every bit as inscrutable as the J.R.R. Tolkien phantom character. Though the Cat's Eye Nebula was one of the first planetary nebulae to be discovered, it is one of the most complex such nebulae seen in space.

A Bright Supernova in the Nearby Galaxy NGC 2403

6:00 am PDT, September 2, 2004

The explosion of a massive star blazes with the light of 200 million Suns in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. The arrow at top right points to the stellar blast, called a supernova. The supernova is so bright in this image that it easily could be mistaken for a foreground star in our Milky Way Galaxy. And yet, this supernova, called SN 2004dj, resides far beyond our galaxy. Its home is in the outskirts of NGC 2403, a galaxy located 11 million light-years from Earth. Although the supernova is far from Earth, it is the closest stellar explosion discovered in more than a decade.

Hubble Peers Inside a Celestial Geode

6:00 am PDT, August 12, 2004

In this unusual image, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures a rare view of the celestial equivalent of a geode -- a gas cavity carved by the stellar wind and intense ultraviolet radiation from a hot young star. Real geodes are baseball-sized, hollow rocks that start out as bubbles in volcanic or sedimentary rock. Only when these inconspicuous round rocks are split in half by a geologist, do we get a chance to appreciate the inside of the rock cavity that is lined with crystals. In the case of Hubble's 35 light-year diameter "celestial geode" the transparency of its bubble-like cavity of interstellar gas and dust reveals the treasures of its interior.

Hubble Images Majestic Cousin of the Milky Way

6:00 am PDT, August 5, 2004

Our Sun and solar system are embedded in a broad pancake of stars deep within the disk of the Milky Way galaxy. Even from a distance, it is impossible to see our galaxy's large-scale features other than the disk. The next best thing is to look farther out into the universe at galaxies that are similar in shape and structure to our home galaxy. Other spiral galaxies like NGC 3949, pictured in the Hubble image, fit the bill.

A Day in the Lives of Galaxies

6:00 am PDT, July 22, 2004

Like a photographer clicking random snapshots of a crowd of people, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken a view of an eclectic mix of galaxies. In taking this picture, Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys was not looking at any particular target. The camera was taking a picture of a typical patch of sky, while Hubble's infrared camera was viewing a target in an adjacent galaxy-rich region. The most peculiar-looking galaxy in the image - the dramatic blue arc in the center - is actually an optical illusion. The blue arc is an image of a distant galaxy that has been smeared into the odd shape by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.

Astronomers Measure Mass of a Single Star – First Since the Sun

7:00 am PDT, July 15, 2004

Astronomers have directly measured the mass of a single star - the first time such a feat has been accomplished for any solitary star other than our own Sun. The measurement has been done on a small red star located some 1,800 light-years from Earth. Knowing the masses of stars is important in understanding stellar evolution.

Process Astronomical Images on Your Home Computer Just Like the Experts

6:00 am PDT, July 8, 2004

Anyone with a desktop computer running Adobe® Photoshop® or Adobe Photoshop Elements software can try their hand at crafting astronomical images as beautiful as Hubble Space Telescope's. A free software plug-in being released today for Photoshop makes the treasure of archival astronomical images and spectra from Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-Ray Observatory and many other famous telescopes accessible to home astronomy enthusiasts.

Hubble Studies Generations of Star Formation in Neighboring Galaxy

6:00 am PDT, July 1, 2004

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures the iridescent tapestry of star birth in a neighboring galaxy in this panoramic view of glowing gas, dark dust clouds, and young, hot stars. The star-forming region, catalogued as N11B, lies in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), located only 160,000 light-years from Earth. With its high resolution, the Hubble Space Telescope is able to view details of star formation in the LMC as easily as ground-based telescopes are able to observe stellar formation within our own Milky Way galaxy.

Hubble IMAX Film Takes Viewers on Ride Through Space and Time

6:00 am PDT, June 24, 2004

Take a virtual ride to the outer reaches of the universe and explore 10 billion years of galactic history, from fully formed and majestic spiral galaxies to disheveled collections of stars just beginning to form.

This unforgettable cosmic journey is presented in the award-winning IMAX short film, "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space and Time," which transforms images and data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope into a voyage that sweeps viewers across the cosmos. Using the 650-megapixel-mosaic image created by the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), more than 11,000 galaxy images were extracted and assembled into an accurate 3-D model for the three-minute movie. The large-format film was created by a team of Hubble image and visualization experts in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md. The film was directed by Frank Summers, an astrophysicist and science visualization specialist.

A Really Neat Close-up of Comet NEAT from Kitt Peak Observatory

6:00 am PDT, June 17, 2004

This image of comet C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) was taken at the WIYN 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz., on May 7, 2004.

The image was captured with the Mosaic I camera, which has a one-square degree field of view, or about five times the size of the Moon. Even with this large field, only the comet's coma and the inner portion of its tail are visible. A small star cluster (C0736-105, or Melotte 72) is visible in the lower right of the image, between the head of the comet and the bright red star in the lower-right corner.

Ultra-cool Diminutive Star Weighs In

6:00 am PDT, June 15, 2004

The power of the some of the world's biggest telescopes has been brought to bear to directly measure the mass, for the first time, of one of the smallest stars ever seen in the universe. Barely the size of the planet Jupiter, the dwarf star weighs in at just 8.5 percent of the mass of our Sun.

New Hubble Image Reveals Details in the Heart of the Trifid Nebula

6:00 am PDT, June 3, 2004

Three huge intersecting dark lanes of interstellar dust make the Trifid Nebula one of the most recognizable and striking star birth regions in the night sky. The dust, silhouetted against glowing gas and illuminated by starlight, cradles the bright stars at the heart of the Trifid Nebula. This nebula, also known as Messier 20 and NGC 6514, lies within our own Milky Way Galaxy about 9,000 light-years (2,700 parsecs) from Earth, in the constellation Sagittarius. This new image from the Hubble Space Telescope offers a close-up view of the center of the Trifid Nebula, near the intersection of the dust bands, where a group of recently formed, massive, bright stars is easily visible.

Hubble Takes Faintest Spectroscopic Survey of Distant Galaxies

6:00 am PDT, June 2, 2004

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured accurate distances to several faint, red galaxies seen in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, confirming that three fourths are among the most distant galaxies yet studied. This is a milestone because the Hubble data provide spectra of objects 10 times fainter than have been studied with spectrometers on ground-based telescopes. This allows researchers to probe the common galaxies in the early universe, which are believed to be responsible for most of the energy output at that time, and perhaps also for ionizing and heating the tenuous gas in between galaxies. Surprisingly, the distant galaxies are similar in many ways to their considerably closer descendants.

Hubble Refines Distance to Pleiades Star Cluster

6:00 am PDT, June 1, 2004

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have helped settle a mystery that has puzzled scientists concerning the exact distance to the famous nearby star cluster known as the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters. The Pleiades cluster, named by the ancient Greeks, is easily seen as a small grouping of stars lying near the shoulder of Taurus, the Bull, in the winter sky. Although it might be expected that the distance to this well-studied cluster would be well established, there has been an ongoing controversy among astronomers about its distance for the past seven years.

Saturn Seen from Far and Near

1:00 pm PDT, May 26, 2004

As Saturn grows closer through the eyes of the Cassini spacecraft, which is hurtling toward a rendezvous with the ringed world on June 30 (July 1, Universal Time), both Cassini and the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope snapped spectacular pictures of the planet and its magnificent rings. Cassini is approaching Saturn at an oblique angle to the Sun and from below the ecliptic plane. Cassini has a very diferent view of Saturn than Hubble's Earth-centered view. For the first time, astronomers can compare views of equal-sharpness of Saturn from two very different perspectives.

Dying Star Sculpts Rungs of Gas and Dust

6:00 am PDT, May 11, 2004

Astronomers may not have observed the fabled "Stairway to Heaven," but they have photographed something almost as intriguing: ladder-like structures surrounding a dying star. A new image, taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, reveals startling new details of one of the most unusual nebulae known in our Milky Way. Cataloged as HD 44179, this nebula is more commonly called the "Red Rectangle" because of its unique shape and color as seen with ground-based telescopes.

Demise in Fire and Ice

6:00 am PDT, May 3, 2004

The Bug Nebula, NGC 6302, is one of the brightest and most extreme planetary nebulae known. The fiery, dying star at its center is shrouded by a blanket of icy hailstones. This NASA Hubble Wide Field Camera 2 image shows impressive walls of compressed gas, laced with trailing strands and bubbling outflows.

The Lure of the Rings

6:03 am PDT, April 22, 2004

Resembling a diamond-encrusted bracelet, a ring of brilliant blue star clusters wraps around the yellowish nucleus of what was once a normal spiral galaxy in this new image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This image is being released to commemorate the 14th anniversary of Hubble's launch on April 24, 1990 and its deployment from the space shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990. The galaxy, cataloged as AM 0644-741, is a member of the class of so-called "ring galaxies." It lies 300 million light-years away in the direction of the southern constellation Volans.

Hubble Observes Planetoid Sedna, Mystery Deepens

10:00 am PDT, April 14, 2004

Astronomers poring over 35 NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of the solar system's farthest known object, unofficially named Sedna, are surprised that the object does not appear to have a companion moon of any substantial size. This unexpected result might offer new clues to the origin and evolution of objects on the far edge of the solar system.

At a distance of over 8 billion miles, Sedna is so far away it is reduced to one picture element (pixel) in the image [at lower right] taken in high-resolution mode with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. This image sets an upper limit on Sedna's size of 1,000 miles in diameter.

Hubble Sees Stars as Numerous as Grains of Sand in Nearby Galaxy

6:00 am PDT, April 8, 2004

What appear as individual grains of sand on a beach in the image obtained with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are actually myriads of stars embedded deep in the heart of the nearby galaxy NGC 300. The Hubble telescope's exquisite resolution enables it to see the stars as individual points of light, despite the fact that the galaxy is millions of light-years away.

Hubble's Deepest View Ever of the Universe Unveils Earliest Galaxies

6:30 am PST, March 9, 2004

Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute today unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind. Called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), the million-second-long exposure reveals the first galaxies to emerge from the so-called "dark ages," the time shortly after the big bang when the first stars reheated the cold, dark universe. The new image should offer new insights into what types of objects reheated the universe long ago.

This historic new view is actually two separate images taken by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Both images reveal galaxies that are too faint to be seen by ground-based telescopes, or even in Hubble's previous faraway looks, called the Hubble Deep Fields (HDFs), taken in 1995 and 1998.

Space Phenomenon Imitates Art in Universe's Version of van Gogh Painting

3:00 am PST, March 4, 2004

This image resembling Vincent van Gogh's painting, "Starry Night," is Hubble's latest view of an expanding halo of light around a distant star, named V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon). This Hubble image was obtained with the Advanced Camera for Surveys on February 8, 2004. The illumination of interstellar dust comes from the red supergiant star at the middle of the image, which gave off a flashbulb-like pulse of light two years ago. V838 Mon is located about 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Monoceros, placing the star at the outer edge of our Milky Way galaxy.

New Clues About the Nature of Dark Energy: Einstein May Have Been Right After All

9:00 am PST, February 20, 2004

The good news from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is that Einstein was right – maybe. A strange form of energy called "dark energy" is looking a little more like the repulsive force that Einstein theorized in an attempt to balance the universe against its own gravity. Even if Einstein turns out to be wrong, the universe's dark energy probably won't destroy the universe any sooner than about 30 billion years from now, say Hubble researchers.

Supernova Shock Wave Is Producing a Spectacular New Light Show

12:00 pm PST, February 19, 2004

Seventeen years ago, astronomers spotted the brightest stellar explosion ever seen since the one observed by Johannes Kepler 400 years ago. Called SN 1987A, the titanic supernova explosion blazed with the power of 100,000,000 suns for several months following its discovery on Feb. 23, 1987. Although the supernova itself is a million times fainter than 17 years ago, a new light show in the space surrounding it is just beginning.

This image, taken Nov. 28, 2003 by the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows many bright spots along a ring of gas, like pearls on a necklace. These cosmic "pearls" are being produced as a supersonic shock wave unleashed during the explosion slams into the ring at more than a million miles per hour. The collision is heating the gas ring, causing its innermost regions to glow. Curiously, one of the bright spots on the ring [at 4 o'clock] is a star that happens to lie along the telescope's line of sight.

Hubble and Keck Team Up to Find Farthest Known Galaxy in Universe

9:00 am PST, February 15, 2004

An international team of astronomers may have set a new record in discovering what is the most distant known galaxy in the universe. Located an estimated 13 billion light-years away, the object is being viewed at a time only 750 million years after the big bang, when the universe was barely 5 percent of its current age. The primeval galaxy was identified by combining the power of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and CARA's W. M. Keck Telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. These great observatories got a boost from the added magnification of a natural "cosmic gravitational lens" in space that further amplifies the brightness of the distant object.

An Abrasive Collision Gives One Galaxy a "Black Eye"

6:00 am PST, February 5, 2004

A collision of two galaxies has left a merged star system with an unusual appearance as well as bizarre internal motions. Messier 64 (M64) has a spectacular dark band of absorbing dust in front of the galaxy's bright nucleus, giving rise to its nicknames of the "Black Eye" or "Evil Eye" galaxy.

New Hubble Study Reveals How Black Holes Get Their Kicks

6:00 am PST, February 4, 2004

When black holes collide, look out! The "kick" from an enormous burst of gravitational radiation that occurs during the collision could knock a black hole clear out of its galaxy, rather than resulting in one massive black hole, as commonly thought.

Supernova Blast Bonanza in Nearby Galaxy

6:00 am PST, February 3, 2004

The nearby dwarf galaxy NGC 1569 is a hotbed of vigorous star birth activity which blows huge bubbles that riddle the main body of the galaxy. The galaxy's "star factories" are also manufacturing brilliant blue star clusters. This galaxy had a sudden onset of star birth about 25 million years ago, which subsided about the time the very earliest human ancestors appeared on Earth.

Massive Old Star Reveals Secrets on Deathbed

6:00 am PST, January 27, 2004

Like a doctor trying to understand an elderly patient's sudden demise, astronomers have obtained the most detailed observations ever of an old, but otherwise normal massive star just before and after its life ended in a spectacular supernova explosion.

The Colorful Lives of the Outer Planets

6:00 am PST, January 22, 2004

Atmospheric features on Uranus and Neptune are revealed in images taken with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. A wider view of Uranus, taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys, reveals the planet's faint rings and several of its satellites. The observations were taken in August 2003.

2004 Van Biesbroeck Prize Awarded to Doxsey

8:00 am PST, January 15, 2004

Citing "his outstanding, unselfish dedication to making the Hubble Space Telescope one of the most scientifically productive telescopes of all time," the American Astronomical Society (AAS) announced that Dr. Rodger Doxsey of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., will receive the 2004 George Van Biesbroeck Prize.

The prize "honors a living individual for long-term extraordinary or unselfish service to astronomy, often beyond the requirements of his or her paid position." The announcement was made last week at the AAS winter meeting in Atlanta, Ga. Doxsey is the second institute scientist to win the award. The late Barry Lasker garnered the prize in 1999. The award is named for astronomer George Van Biesbroeck (1880-1974), who studied minor planets, comets, satellites, and double stars.

Mining for Cosmic Treasures

9:00 pm PST, January 11, 2004

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has snapped an unparalleled image of a wide swath of the sky, unveiling 10,000 galaxies, which could help astronomers understand how large galaxies like our Milky Way evolved.

Too Fast, Too Furious: A Galaxy's Fatal Plunge

6:30 am PST, January 6, 2004

Trailing 200,000-light-year-long streamers of seething gas, a galaxy that was once like our Milky Way is being shredded as it plunges at 4.5 million miles per hour through the heart of a distant cluster of galaxies. In this unusually violent collision with ambient cluster gas, the galaxy is stripped down to its skeletal spiral arms as it is eviscerated of fresh hydrogen for making new stars.

Images from Hubble's ACS Tell a Tale of Two Record-Breaking Galaxy Clusters

9:01 pm PST, December 31, 2003

Looking back in time nearly 9 billion years, an international team of astronomers found mature galaxies in a young universe. The galaxies are members of a cluster of galaxies that existed when the universe was only 5 billion years old. This compelling evidence that galaxies must have started forming just after the big bang was bolstered by observations made by the same team of astronomers when they peered even farther back in time. The team found embryonic galaxies a mere 1.5 billion years after the birth of the cosmos. The "baby galaxies" reside in a still-developing cluster, the most distant proto-cluster ever found.

Firestorm of Star Birth Seen in a Local Galaxy

6:00 am PST, December 4, 2003

This festively colorful nebula, called NGC 604, is one of the largest known seething cauldrons of star birth seen in a nearby galaxy. NGC 604 is similar to familiar star-birth regions in our Milky Way galaxy, such as the Orion Nebula, but it is vastly larger in extent and contains many more recently formed stars. This monstrous star-birth region contains more than 200 brilliant blue stars within a cloud of glowing gases some 1,300 light-years across, nearly 100 times the size of the Orion Nebula.

Vote for your Favorite Hubble Wide Field/Planetary Camera 2 Picture

6:00 am PST, November 20, 2003

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) onboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, you're invited to cast a vote for the camera's most spectacular image. Astronomers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the camera was designed and built, have narrowed the field down to their top 10 pictures, but the rest is up to you.

Thompson and NICMOS Team Win Muhlmann Award

9:00 pm PST, November 6, 2003

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) has awarded its 2003 Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award to Professor Rodger I. Thompson (University of Arizona) and the team that developed the Hubble Space Telescope's NICMOS instrument, the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.

Hubble Photographs Turbulent Neighborhood Near Eruptive Star

6:00 am PST, November 6, 2003

Dramatic dark dust knots and complex structures are sculpted by the high-velocity stellar winds and high-energy radiation from the ultra-luminous variable star called Eta Carinae. This image shows a region in the Carina Nebula between two large clusters of some of the most massive and hottest known stars. This NASA Hubble Space Telescope close-up view shows only a three light-year-wide portion of the entire Carina Nebula, which has a diameter of over 200 light-years. Taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in July 2002, this color image is a composite of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared filters that have been assigned the colors blue, green, and red, respectively.

Megastar-Birth Cluster is Biggest, Brightest and Hottest Ever Seen

2:00 am PST, October 30, 2003

A mysterious arc of light found behind a distant cluster of galaxies has turned out to be the biggest, brightest, and hottest star-forming region ever seen in space. The so-called Lynx arc is 1 million times brighter than the well-known Orion Nebula, a nearby prototypical star-birth region visible with small telescopes. The newly identified super-cluster contains a million blue-white stars that are twice as hot as similar stars in our Milky Way galaxy. It is a rarely seen example of the early days of the universe where furious firestorms of star birth blazed across the skies. The spectacular cluster's opulence is dimmed when seen from Earth only because it is 12 billion light-years away.

Heritage Project Celebrates Five Years of Harvesting the Best Images from Hubble Space Telescope

9:00 pm PDT, October 1, 2003

The Hubble Heritage team of astronomers, who assemble many of the NASA Hubble Space Telescope's most stunning pictures, is celebrating its five-year anniversary with the release of the picturesque Sombrero galaxy. One of the largest Hubble mosaics ever assembled, this magnificent galaxy has an apparent diameter that is nearly one-fifth the diameter of the full moon. The team used Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys to take six pictures of the galaxy and then stitched them together to create the final composite image. The photo reveals a swarm of stars in a pancake-shaped disk as well as a glowing central halo of stars.

Hubble Uncovers Smallest Moons Yet Seen Around Uranus

8:00 am PDT, September 25, 2003

Astronomers have discovered two of the smallest moons yet found around Uranus. The new moons, uncovered by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, are about 8 to 10 miles across (12 to 16 km) - about the size of San Francisco. The two moons are so faint they eluded detection by the Voyager 2 spacecraft, which discovered 10 small satellites when it flew by the gas giant planet in 1986. The newly detected moons are orbiting even closer to the planet than the five major Uranian satellites, which are several hundred miles wide. The two new satellites are the first inner moons of Uranus discovered from an Earth-based telescope in more than 50 years. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) will announce the finding today. The Hubble telescope observations also helped astronomers confirm the discovery of another tiny moon that had originally been spotted in Voyager pictures.

NASA Approves James Webb Space Telescope Mirror Architecture

1:00 pm PDT, September 10, 2003

NASA today announced a major milestone in the development of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the selection of a beryllium-based mirror technology for the telescope's 6.5-meter primary mirror. The JWST prime contractor, Northrop Grumman, Redondo Beach, Calif., recommended to NASA the mirror technology, supplied by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colo., be selected for the JWST primary mirror.

The Slant on Saturn's Rings

6:00 am PDT, September 9, 2003

This is a series of images of Saturn, as seen at many different wavelengths, when the planet's rings were at their maximum tilt of 27 degrees toward Earth. Saturn experiences seasonal tilts away from and toward the Sun, much the same way Earth does. This happens over the course of its 29.5-year orbit. This means that approximately every 30 years, Earth observers can catch their best glimpse of Saturn's South Pole and the southern side of the planet's rings. Between March and April 2003, researchers took full advantage to study the gas giant at maximum tilt. They used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to capture detailed images of Saturn's Southern Hemisphere and the southern face of its rings.

Farthest, Faintest Solar System Objects Found Beyond Neptune

12:00 pm PDT, September 6, 2003

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have discovered three of the faintest and smallest objects ever detected beyond Neptune. Each object is a lump of ice and rock - roughly the size of Philadelphia - orbiting beyond Neptune and Pluto, where the icy bodies may have dwelled since the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. They reside in a ring-shaped region called the Kuiper Belt, which houses a swarm of icy rocks that are leftover building blocks, or "planetesimals," from the solar system's creation. The biggest surprise of the Hubble search is that so few small Kuiper Belt members were discovered. With Hubble's exquisite resolution, Bernstein and his co-workers expected to find at least 60 Kuiper Belt members as small as 10 miles (15 km) in diameter - but only three were found. Two snapshots, taken 12 hours apart, were combined to produce this Hubble Space Telescope image of a Kuiper Belt object (named 2000 FV53) moving across the sky. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys tracked the object on Jan. 26, 2003. Like all the planets, this solar-system member appears to move relative to the fixed stars and galaxies in the background. This particular object was discovered from Hawaii in March 2000 and used to help target the Hubble observations.

Hubble Assists Rosetta Comet Mission

12:00 pm PDT, September 5, 2003

Results from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope played a major role in preparing ESA's ambitious Rosetta mission for its new target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G). For the first time in history, Rosetta will land a probe on a comet and study its origin. Hubble precisely measured the size, shape, and rotational period of comet 67P/C-G. The Hubble observations revealed comet 67P/C-G to be a football-shaped object of approximately three miles by two miles in size---large enough to provide a landing site for the Rosetta mission probe.

Celestial Composition

6:00 am PDT, September 4, 2003

Amid a backdrop of far-off galaxies, the majestic dusty spiral NGC 3370 looms in the foreground in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. Recent observations taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys show intricate spiral arm structure spotted with hot areas of new star formation. But this galaxy is more than just a pretty face. Nearly 10 years earlier, NGC 3370, located in the constellation Leo, hosted a bright exploding star.

Mars: Closest Encounter

3:00 am PDT, August 27, 2003

These two images, taken 11 hours apart with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, reveal two nearly opposite sides of Mars. Hubble snapped these photos as the red planet was making its closest approach to Earth in almost 60,000 years. Mars completed nearly one half a rotation between the two observations.

Too Close for Comfort

6:00 am PDT, August 7, 2003

This Hubble Space Telescope view of the core of one of the nearest globular star clusters, called NGC 6397, resembles a treasure chest of glittering jewels. The cluster is located 8,200 light-years away in the constellation Ara. Here, the stars are jam-packed together. The stellar density is about a million times greater than in our Sun's stellar neighborhood. The stars in NGC 6397 are also in constant motion, like a swarm of angry bees. The ancient stars are so crowded together that a few of them inevitably collide with each other once in a while. Near misses are even more common.

Oldest Known Planet Identified

11:00 am PDT, July 10, 2003

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope precisely measured the mass of the oldest known planet in our Milky Way galaxy. At an estimated age of 13 billion years, the planet is more than twice as old as Earth's 4.5 billion years. It's about as old as a planet can be. It formed around a young, sun-like star barely 1 billion years after our universe's birth in the Big Bang. The ancient planet has had a remarkable history because it resides in an unlikely, rough neighborhood. It orbits a peculiar pair of burned-out stars in the crowded core of a cluster of more than 100,000 stars. The new Hubble findings close a decade of speculation and debate about the identity of this ancient world. Until Hubble's measurement, astronomers had debated the identity of this object. Was it a planet or a brown dwarf? Hubble's analysis shows that the object is 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter, confirming that it is a planet. Its very existence provides tantalizing evidence that the first planets formed rapidly, within a billion years of the Big Bang, leading astronomers to conclude that planets may be very abundant in our galaxy.

Celestial Fireworks

6:00 am PDT, July 3, 2003

Resembling the puffs of smoke and sparks from a summer fireworks display in this image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, these delicate filaments are actually sheets of debris from a stellar explosion in a neighboring galaxy. Hubble's target was a supernova remnant, denoted LMC N 49, within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the southern hemisphere. This filamentary material will eventually be recycled into building new generations of stars in the LMC. Our own Sun and planets are constructed from similar debris of supernovae that exploded in the Milky Way billions of years ago.

The Secret Lives of Galaxies Unveiled in Deep Survey

7:00 am PDT, June 19, 2003

Two of NASA's Great Observatories, bolstered by the largest ground-based telescopes around the world, are beginning to harvest new clues to the origin and evolution of the universe's largest building blocks, the galaxies. It's a bit like finding a family scrapbook containing snapshots that capture the lives of family members from infancy through adolescence to adulthood. The Hubble Space Telescope has joined forces with the Chandra X-ray Observatory to survey a relatively broad swath of sky encompassing tens of thousands of galaxies stretching far back in time. Called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), astronomers are studying galaxy formation and evolution over a wide range of distances and ages.

Supernova Shock Wave Paints Cosmic Portrait

6:00 am PDT, June 5, 2003

Remnants from a star that exploded thousands of years ago created a celestial abstract portrait, as captured in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Pencil Nebula. Officially known as NGC 2736, the Pencil Nebula is part of the huge Vela supernova remnant, located in the southern constellation Vela. Discovered by Sir John Herschel in the 1840s, the nebula's linear appearance triggered its popular name. The nebula's shape suggests that it is part of the supernova shock wave that recently encountered a region of dense gas. It is this interaction that causes the nebula to glow, appearing like a rippled sheet.

Brighter Neptune Suggests a Planetary Change of Seasons

6:00 am PDT, May 15, 2003

Springtime is blooming on Neptune! This might sound like an oxymoron because Neptune is the farthest and coldest of the major planets. But observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveal an increase in Neptune's brightness in the southern hemisphere. Astronomers consider this increase a harbinger of seasonal change. The observations, made over six years, show a distinct increase in the amount and brightness of the clouds encircling the planet's southern hemisphere.

Iridescent Glory of Nearby Planetary Nebula Showcased on Astronomy Day

8:00 am PDT, May 9, 2003

This photograph of the coil-shaped Helix Nebula is one of the largest and most detailed celestial images ever made. The composite picture is a seamless blend of ultra-sharp images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope combined with the wide view of the Mosaic Camera on the National Science Foundation's 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz. The image shows a fine web of filamentary "bicycle-spoke" features embedded in the colorful red and blue ring of gas. At 650 light-years away, the Helix is one of the nearest planetary nebulae to Earth. A planetary nebula is the glowing gas around a dying, Sun-like star.

Deepest View of Space Yields Young Stars in Andromeda Halo

6:45 am PDT, May 7, 2003

Relying on the deepest visible-light images ever taken in space, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have reliably measured the age of the spherical halo of stars surrounding the neighboring Andromeda galaxy (M31). To their surprise, they have discovered that approximately one-third of the stars in Andromeda's halo formed only 6 to 8 billion years ago. That's a far cry from the 11-to-13 billion-year age of the stars in the Milky Way's halo.

Freewheeling Galaxies Collide in a Blaze of Star Birth

9:00 pm PDT, April 30, 2003

A dusty spiral galaxy appears to be rotating on edge, like a pinwheel, as it slides through the larger, bright galaxy NGC 1275, in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. These images, taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), show traces of spiral structure accompanied by dramatic dust lanes and bright blue regions that mark areas of active star formation.

Hubble Captures a Perfect Storm of Turbulent Gases

6:00 am PDT, April 24, 2003

Resembling the fury of a raging sea, this image actually shows a bubbly ocean of glowing hydrogen gas and small amounts of other elements such as oxygen and sulfur. The photograph, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, captures a small region within M17, a hotbed of star formation. M17, also known as the Omega or Swan Nebula, is located about 5,500 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. The image is being released to commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of Hubble's launch on April 24, 1990.

Far-Flung Supernovae Shed Light on Dark Universe

6:00 am PDT, April 10, 2003

New Hubble Space Telescope observations of a pair of very distant exploding stars, called Type Ia supernovae, provide new clues about the accelerating universe and its mysterious "dark energy." Astronomers used the telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys to help pinpoint the supernovae, which are approximately 5 billion and 8 billion light-years from Earth. The farther one exploded so long ago the universe may still have been decelerating under its own gravity.

Rainbow Image of a Dusty Star

6:00 am PST, April 3, 2003

Resembling a rippling pool illuminated by underwater lights, the Egg Nebula offers astronomers a special look at the normally invisible dust shells swaddling an aging star. These dust layers, extending over one-tenth of a light-year from the star, have an onionskin structure that forms concentric rings around the star. A thicker dust belt, running almost vertically through the image, blocks off light from the central star. Twin beams of light radiate from the hidden star and illuminate the pitch-black dust, like a flashlight shining in a smoky room.

Hubble Watches Light from Mysterious Erupting Star Reverberate Through Space

11:00 am PST, March 26, 2003

In January 2002, a dull star in an obscure constellation suddenly became 600,000 times more luminous than our Sun, temporarily making it the brightest star in our Milky Way galaxy. The mysterious star, called V838 Monocerotis, has long since faded back to obscurity. But observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of a phenomenon called a "light echo" around the star have uncovered remarkable new features. These details promise to provide astronomers with a CAT-scan-like probe of the three-dimensional structure of shells of dust surrounding an aging star.

Too Close for Comfort: Hubble Discovers an Evaporating Planet

11:00 am PST, March 12, 2003

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have observed for the first time the atmosphere of a planet beyond our solar system evaporating into space. Most of the planet may eventually disappear, leaving only a dense core. The evaporating planet is a member of a type of planet called a "hot Jupiter," a giant gaseous planet that orbits very closely around its parent star, drawn to it like a moth to a flame. The scorched planet, called HD 209458b, orbits only 4 million miles (7 million kilometers) from its yellow, Sun-like star. The planet circles the parent star in a tight 3.5-day orbit. The Hubble observations reveal a hot and bloated hydrogen atmosphere, which is evaporating off the planet. This huge envelope of hydrogen resembles a comet with a tail trailing behind the planet.

Hubble Resolves a Blaze of Stars in a Galaxy's Core

6:00 am PST, March 6, 2003

The central region of the small galaxy NGC 1705 blazes with the light of thousands of young and old stars in this image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. At 17 million light-years away, the individual stars of the dwarf irregular galaxy NGC 1705 are out of range of all but the sharp eyes of Hubble. NGC 1705 is classified as a dwarf irregular because it is small and lacks any regular structure.

Close-up of M27, the Dumbbell Nebula

6:00 am PST, February 10, 2003

An aging star's last hurrah is creating a flurry of glowing knots of gas that appear to be streaking through space in this close-up image of the Dumbbell Nebula, taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The Dumbbell, a nearby planetary nebula residing more than 1,200 light-years away, is the result of an old star that has shed its outer layers in a unique display of color.

Scientists Find Faint Objects with Hubble that May Have Ended the Universe's 'Dark Ages'

9:20 am PST, January 9, 2003

Researchers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope believe they are seeing the conclusion of the cosmic epoch where the young galaxies started to shine in significant numbers. This marks a time when the so-called "Dark Ages" of the universe was completed, about 13 billion years ago (based on an estimate of 14 billion years for the current age of the universe).

Hubble Probes the Heart of a Nearby Quasar

9:19 am PST, January 9, 2003

The Hubble Space Telescope's new Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) has provided the clearest view yet in visible light of the nearby quasar, 3C 273 [image at right]. Using the new camera's coronagraph to block the light from the brilliant central quasar, astronomers discovered that the quasar's host galaxy is significantly more complex than had been suggested in previous observations. Features in the surrounding galaxy that are normally drowned out by the quasar's glow now show up clearly. The ACS reveals a spiral plume wound around the quasar and a red dust lane. Material in the form of a clump and a blue arc are shown in the path of a jet that was blasted from the quasar.

Giant Radio Jet Coming from Wrong Kind of Galaxy

9:20 am PST, January 8, 2003

These are composite images of the galaxy 0313-192, the first spiral galaxy known to be producing a giant radio-emitting jet. The image at left represents two views of the galaxy that astronomers have combined into one photograph. The view of the galaxy and its surrounding environment was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys. The red material in the image represents the radio-emitting jet, which was taken by the Very Large Array. The galaxy is seen edge-on. At right is a close-up of the Hubble telescope image. Another red overlay from a higher-resolution Very Large Array picture shows the inner portion of the jet.

Biggest 'Zoom Lens' in Space Takes Hubble Deeper into the Universe

9:20 am PST, January 7, 2003

The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has used a natural "zoom lens" in space to boost its view of the distant universe. Besides offering an unprecedented and dramatic new view of the cosmos, the results promise to shed light on galaxy evolution and dark matter in space. Hubble peered straight through the center of one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, called Abell 1689. For this observation, Hubble had to gaze at the distant cluster, located 2.2 billion light-years away, for more than 13 hours. The gravity of the cluster's trillion stars - plus dark matter - acts as a 2-million-light-year-wide "lens" in space. This "gravitational lens" bends and magnifies the light of galaxies located far behind it, distorting their shapes and creating multiple images of individual galaxies.

Hubble Reveals Complex Circumstellar Disk

10:00 am PST, January 6, 2003

NASA Hubble Space Telescope's new Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) has given astronomers their clearest view yet of the dust disk around a young, 5-million-year-old star. Such disks are expected to be the birthplace of planets. The star, called HD 141569A, lies 320 light-years away in the constellation Libra and appears to be a member of a triple-star system. The image at left shows the star and disk as it appears in space. The system is slightly tilted when viewed from Earth. The photo at right portrays the system if astronomers could view it from above.

A Tiny Galaxy is Born

6:00 am PST, December 19, 2002

New detailed images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show a "late-blooming" galaxy, a small, distorted system of gas and stars that still appears to be in the process of development, even though most of its galactic cousins are believed to have started forming billions of years ago. Evidence of the galaxy's youthfulness can be seen in the burst of newborn stars and its disturbed shape. This evidence indicates that the galaxy, called POX 186, formed when two smaller clumps of gas and stars collided less than 100 million years ago (a relatively recent event in the universe's 13-billion-year history), triggering more star formation. Most large galaxies, such as our Milky Way, are thought to have formed the bulk of their stars billions of years ago.

Hubble Watches Galaxies Engage in Dance of Destruction

9:00 pm PST, December 11, 2002

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is witnessing a grouping of galaxies engaging in a slow dance of destruction that will last for billions of years. The galaxies are so tightly packed together that gravitational forces are beginning to rip stars from them and distort their shapes. Those same gravitational forces eventually could bring the galaxies together to form one large galaxy. The name of this grouping, Seyfert's Sextet, implies that six galaxies are participating in the action. But only four galaxies are on the dance card. The small face-on spiral with the prominent arms [center] of gas and stars is a background galaxy almost five times farther away than the other four. Only a chance alignment makes it appear as if it is part of the group. The sixth member of the sextet isn't a galaxy at all but a long "tidal tail" of stars [below, right] torn from one of the galaxies.

Hubble Photographs 'Double Bubble' in Neighboring Galaxy

9:00 pm PST, December 4, 2002

A unique peanut-shaped cocoon of dust, called a reflection nebula, surrounds a cluster of young, hot stars in this view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The "double bubble," called N30B, is inside a larger nebula, named DEM L 106. The larger nebula is embedded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way located 160,000 light-years away. The wispy filaments of DEM L 106 fill much of the image.

Hubble Makes Precise Measure of Extrasolar World's True Mass

9:00 pm PST, December 2, 2002

An international team of astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to help make a precise measurement of the mass of a planet outside our solar system. The Hubble results show that the planet is 1.89 to 2.4 times as massive as Jupiter, our solar system's largest orbiting body. Previous estimates, about which there are some uncertainties, place the planet's mass at a much wider range: between 1.9 and 100 times that of Jupiter's. The planet, called Gliese 876b, orbits the star Gliese 876. It is only the second planet outside our solar system for which astronomers have determined a precise mass.

Hands-On Book of Hubble Images Allows the Visually Impaired to "Touch the Universe"

9:00 pm PST, November 20, 2002

A new book of majestic images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope brings the wonders of our universe to the fingertips of the blind. Called "Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy," the 64-page book presents color images of planets, nebulae, stars, and galaxies. Each image is embossed with lines, bumps, and other textures. The raised patterns translate colors, shapes, and other intricate details of the cosmic objects, allowing visually impaired people to feel what they cannot see. Braille and large-print descriptions accompany each of the book's 14 photographs, making the design of this book accessible to readers of all visual abilities.

Fast-Flying Black Hole Yields Clues to Supernova Origin

7:00 am PST, November 18, 2002

A nearby black hole is hurtling like a cannonball through the disk of our galaxy. The detection of this speed demon is the best evidence yet, some astronomers say, that stellar-mass black holes - those that are several times as massive as the Earth's Sun - are created when a dying, massive star explodes in a violent supernova. The stellar-mass black hole, called GRO J1655-40, is streaking across space at a rate of 250,000 miles per hour, which is four times faster than the average velocity of the stars in that galactic neighborhood. At that speed, the black hole may have been hurled through space by a supernova blast.

An Old Star Gives Up the Ghost

9:00 pm PST, November 6, 2002

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has caught a glimpse of a colorful cosmic ghost, the glowing remains of a dying star called NGC 6369. The glowing apparition is known to amateur astronomers as the "Little Ghost Nebula," because it appears as a small, ghostly cloud surrounding the faint, dying central star.

Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded to Astronomer for NASA-Funded Research

9:00 pm PDT, October 8, 2002

Riccardo Giacconi, the "father of X-ray astronomy," has received the Nobel Prize in physics for "pioneering contributions to astrophysics," which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources.

Giacconi, president of the Associated Universities Inc., in Washington, DC and Research Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD discovered the first X-ray stars and the X-ray background in the 1960s and conceived of and led the implementation of the Uhuru and High Energy Astronomy Observatory-2 (HEAO-2) X-ray observatories in the 1970s. With funding from NASA, he also detected sources of X-rays that most astronomers now consider to contain black holes. Giacconi previously served from 1981 to 1993 as director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which operates and defines the science program for the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble Spots an Icy World Far Beyond Pluto

9:00 pm PDT, October 6, 2002

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has measured the largest object discovered in the solar system since the discovery of Pluto 72 years ago. Approximately half the size of Pluto, the icy world is called "Quaoar" (pronounced kwa-whar). Quaoar is about 4 billion miles away, more than a billion miles farther than Pluto. Like Pluto, Quaoar dwells in the Kuiper belt, an icy belt of comet-like bodies extending 7 billion miles beyond Neptune's orbit.

Odd Couple Widely Separated by Time and Space

9:00 pm PDT, October 2, 2002

Appearances can be deceiving. In this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image, an odd celestial duo, the spiral galaxy NGC 4319 [center] and a quasar called Markarian 205 [upper right], appear to be neighbors. In reality, the two objects don't even live in the same city. They are separated by time and space. NGC 4319 is 80 million light-years from Earth. Markarian 205 (Mrk 205) is more than 14 times farther away, residing 1 billion light-years from Earth. The apparent close alignment of Mrk 205 and NGC 4319 is simply a matter of chance.

Space Movie Reveals Shocking Secrets of the Crab Pulsar

10:00 am PDT, September 19, 2002

Just when it seemed like the summer movie season had ended, two of NASA's Great Observatories have produced their own action movie. Multiple observations made over several months with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope captured the spectacle of matter and antimatter propelled to near the speed of light by the Crab pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star the size of Manhattan.

Hubble Discovers Black Holes in Unexpected Places

9:00 am PDT, September 17, 2002

Medium-size black holes actually do exist, according to the latest findings from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, but scientists had to look in some unexpected places to find them. The previously undiscovered black holes provide an important link that sheds light on the way in which black holes grow. Even more odd, these new black holes were found in the cores of glittering, "beehive" swarms of stars called globular star clusters, which orbit our Milky Way and other galaxies. The black hole in globular cluster M15 [left] is 4,000 times more massive than our Sun. G1 [right], a much larger globular cluster, harbors a heftier black hole, about 20,000 times more massive than our Sun.

NASA Announces Contract for Next-Generation Space Telescope Named After Space Pioneer

9:00 pm PDT, September 10, 2002

NASA has selected TRW to build the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. This space-based observatory will be known as the James Webb Space Telescope, named after James E. Webb, NASA's second administrator. While Webb is best known for leading Apollo and a series of lunar exploration programs that landed the first humans on the Moon, he also initiated a vigorous space science program, responsible for more than 75 launches during his tenure, including America's first interplanetary explorers.

A Wheel within a Wheel

9:00 pm PDT, September 4, 2002

A nearly perfect ring of hot, blue stars pinwheels about the yellow nucleus of an unusual galaxy known as Hoag's Object. This image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captures a face-on view of the galaxy's ring of stars, revealing more detail than any existing photo of this object. The entire galaxy is about 120,000 light-years wide, which is slightly larger than our Milky Way Galaxy. The blue ring, which is dominated by clusters of young, massive stars, contrasts sharply with the yellow nucleus of mostly older stars. What appears to be a "gap" separating the two stellar populations may actually contain some star clusters that are almost too faint to see. Curiously, an object that bears an uncanny resemblance to Hoag's Object can be seen in the gap at the one o'clock position. The object is probably a background ring galaxy.

Hubble Astronomers Feast on an Interstellar Hamburger

9:00 pm PDT, July 31, 2002

Hold the pickles; hold the lettuce. Space is serving up giant hamburgers. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has snapped a photograph of a strange object that bears an uncanny resemblance to a hamburger. The object, nicknamed Gomez's Hamburger, is a sun-like star nearing the end of its life. It already has expelled large amounts of gas and dust and is on its way to becoming a colorful, glowing planetary nebula. The ingredients for the giant celestial hamburger are dust and light. The hamburger buns are light reflecting off dust and the patty is the dark band of dust in the middle.

Colorful Fireworks Finale Caps a Star's Life

9:00 pm PDT, July 2, 2002

Glowing gaseous streamers of red, white, and blue – as well as green and pink – illuminate the heavens like Fourth of July fireworks. The colorful streamers that float across the sky in this photo taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope were created by the universe's biggest firecracker, the titanic supernova explosion of a massive star. The light from the exploding star reached Earth 320 years ago, nearly a century before our United States celebrated its birth with a bang. The dead star's shredded remains are called Cassiopeia A, or "Cas A" for short. Cas A is the youngest known supernova remnant in our Milky Way Galaxy and resides 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia, so the star actually blew up 10,000 years before the light reached Earth in the late 1600s.

Beauty in the Eye of Hubble

9:00 pm PDT, June 12, 2002

The Hubble telescope reveals a rainbow of colors in this dying star, called IC 4406. Like many other so-called planetary nebulae, IC 4406 exhibits a high degree of symmetry. The nebula's left and right halves are nearly mirror images of the other. If we could fly around IC 4406 in a spaceship, we would see that the gas and dust form a vast donut of material streaming outward from the dying star. We don't see the donut shape in this photograph because we are viewing IC 4406 from the Earth-orbiting Hubble telescope. From this vantage point, we are seeing the side of the donut. This side view allows us to see the intricate tendrils of material that have been compared to the eye's retina. In fact, IC 4406 is dubbed the "Retina Nebula."

Hubble's Infrared Camera is Back in Business – New Images Released

9:00 am PDT, June 5, 2002

After more than three years of inactivity, the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has reopened its "near-infrared eyes" on the universe, snapping several breathtaking views, from the craggy interior of a star-forming cloud to a revealing look at the heart of an edge-on galaxy. Peering into our stellar backyard, NICMOS peeled back the outer layers of the Cone Nebula [above, left] to see the underlying dusty "bedrock" in this stellar "pillar of creation." The camera's penetrating vision also sliced through the edge-on dusty disk of a galaxy, NGC 4013 [above, center], like our Milky Way to peer all the way into the galaxy's core. Astronomers were surprised to see what appears to be an edge-on ring of stars, 720 light-years across, encircling the nucleus. Though such star-rings are not uncommon in barred spiral galaxies, only NICMOS has the resolution to see the ring buried deep inside an edge-on galaxy. The camera then peered far across the universe to witness a galactic car wreck between four galaxies, which is creating a torrent of new stars. The colliding system of galaxies, called IRAS 19297-0406 [above, right], glows fiercely in infrared light because the flocks of new stars are generating a large amount of dust.

Gaseous Streamers Flutter in Stellar Breeze

9:00 pm PDT, May 8, 2002

N44C is the designation for a region of ionized hydrogen gas surrounding an association of young stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a nearby, small companion galaxy to the Milky Way visible from the Southern Hemisphere. N44C is part of the larger N44 complex, which includes young, hot, massive stars, nebulae, and a "superbubble" blown out by multiple supernova explosions.

Hubble's New Camera Delivers Breathtaking Views of the Universe

10:00 am PDT, April 30, 2002

Jubilant astronomers unveiled humankind's most spectacular views of the universe, courtesy of the newly installed Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Among the suite of four ACS photographs to demonstrate the camera's capabilities is a stunning view of a colliding galaxy dubbed the "Tadpole" (UGC10214). Set against a rich tapestry of 6,000 galaxies, the Tadpole, with its long tail of stars, looks like a runaway pinwheel firework. Another picture depicts a spectacular collision between two spiral galaxies -- dubbed "The Mice" -- that presages what may happen to our own Milky Way several billion years from now when it collides with the neighboring galaxy in the constellation Andromeda. Looking closer to home, ACS imaged the "Cone Nebula," a craggy-looking mountaintop of cold gas and dust that is a cousin to Hubble's iconic "pillars of creation" in the Eagle Nebula, photographed in 1995. Peering into a celestial maternity ward called the Omega Nebula or M17, ACS revealed a watercolor fantasy-world of glowing gases, where stars and perhaps embryonic planetary systems are forming.

Hubble Uncovers Oldest "Clocks" in Space to Read Age of Universe

10:00 am PDT, April 24, 2002

Pushing the limits of its powerful vision, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered the oldest burned-out stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. These extremely old, dim stars provide a completely independent reading of the universe's age without relying on measurements of the universe's expansion. The ancient white dwarf stars, as seen by Hubble, turn out to be 12 to 13 billion years old. Because earlier Hubble observations show that the first stars formed less than 1 billion years after the universe's birth in the big bang, finding the oldest stars puts astronomers well within arm's reach of calculating the absolute age of the universe.

Hubble Hunts Down Binary Objects at the Fringe of Our Solar System

11:00 am PDT, April 17, 2002

The Hubble Space Telescope is hot on the trail of a puzzling new class of solar system object that might be called a Pluto "mini-me." Together, these objects are 5,000 times less massive than Pluto and Charon. Like Pluto and Charon, these dim and fleeting objects travel in pairs in the frigid, mysterious outer realm of the solar system called the Kuiper Belt, a long-hypothesized "junkyard" of countless icy bodies left over from the solar system's formation. A total of seven binary Kuiper Belt objects have been seen so far by Hubble and ground-based observatories. Among them is a pair called 1998 WW31, which the Hubble telescope studied in detail.

Hubble Astronomer Creates Spectacular Galaxy Collision Visualization for the National Air and Space Museum

9:00 pm PDT, April 8, 2002

Someday our Milky Way Galaxy and the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy may come crashing together in a horrendous collision that will twist and distort their shapes beyond recognition. Of course, to see that, you'll have to wait several billion years. But thanks to a combination of research science, Hollywood computer graphics, and large-scale visualization, visitors to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, can witness such an event today. The Space Telescope Science Institute, the scientific home of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, is extending its tradition of stunning imagery by creating a spectacular scientific visualization of two galaxies colliding. This incredibly detailed, full-dome video sequence will be a highlight of "Infinity Express: A 20-Minute Tour of the Universe," the inaugural show in the National Air and Space Museum's newly renovated Einstein Planetarium, opening Saturday, April 13.

A Galaxy That's All Wound Up

9:00 pm PST, April 3, 2002

Tightly wound, almost concentric, arms of dark dust encircle the bright nucleus of the galaxy NGC 2787 in this Hubble Space Telescope image. In astronomer Edwin Hubble's galaxy classification scheme, NGC 2787 is classified as an SB0, a barred lenticular galaxy. These lens-shaped galaxies show little or no evidence of the grand spiral arms that occur in their more photogenic cousins, though NGC 2787 does sport a faint bar, not apparent in this image. The picture was created by the Hubble Heritage team.

Test Your Skills as a 'Galaxy Hunter'

9:00 pm PST, March 20, 2002

Journey to the deepest regions of space and wrestle with the cosmic giants called galaxies. In "Galaxy Hunter," students can go online and use actual data from the Hubble Space Telescope to study galaxies in deep space. Produced by the formal education team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., the interdisciplinary, Web-based lesson blends astronomy and math skills. A team of scientists, teachers, artists, and Web programmers developed the interactive lesson to bring the results of cutting-edge astronomical observations into the classroom.

A Bow Shock Near a Young Star

9:00 pm PST, March 5, 2002

The Hubble Space Telescope continues to reveal various stunning and intricate treasures that reside within the nearby, intense star-forming region known as the Great Nebula in Orion. One such jewel is the bow shock around the very young star, LL Ori, featured in this Hubble Heritage image.

New Instrument Package to Expand Space Telescope's Vision

9:30 am PST, February 15, 2002

NASA's Servicing Mission 3B for the Hubble Space Telescope will give the orbiting observatory a new camera that will significantly increase Hubble's abilities and enable a broad array of new astronomical discoveries. The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) covers twice the area, has twice the sharpness, and is up to five times more sensitive to light than Hubble's workhorse camera, the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The servicing mission will begin on Feb. 28 with the launch of the space shuttle Columbia. The simulated image [above, right] depicts how the cosmos will look through the "eyes" of the ACS.

Hubble Reveals "Backwards" Spiral Galaxy

9:00 pm PST, February 6, 2002

Astronomers have found a spiral galaxy that may be spinning to the beat of a different cosmic drummer. To the surprise of astronomers, the galaxy, called NGC 4622, appears to be rotating in the opposite direction to what they expected. Pictures from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope helped astronomers determine that the galaxy may be spinning clockwise by showing which side of the galaxy is closer to Earth. This Hubble telescope photo of the oddball galaxy is presented by the Hubble Heritage team. The image shows NGC 4622 and its outer pair of winding arms full of new stars [shown in blue].

Stellar 'Fireworks Finale' Came First in the Young Universe

11:00 am PST, January 8, 2002

The deepest views of the cosmos from the Hubble Space Telescope yield clues that the very first stars may have burst into the universe as brilliantly and spectacularly as a fireworks finale. Except in this case, the finale came first, long before Earth, the Sun and the Milky Way Galaxy formed. Studies of Hubble's deepest views of the heavens lead to the preliminary conclusion that the universe made a significant portion of its stars in a torrential firestorm of star birth, which abruptly lit up the pitch-dark heavens just a few hundred million years after the "big bang," the tremendous explosion that created the cosmos. Though stars continue to be born today in galaxies, the star birth rate could be a trickle compared to the predicted gusher of stars in those opulent early years.

Thackeray's Globules in IC 2944

9:00 pm PST, January 2, 2002

Strangely glowing dark clouds float serenely in this remarkable and beautiful image taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. These dense, opaque dust clouds - known as "globules" - are silhouetted against nearby bright stars in the busy star-forming region, IC 2944. Astronomer A.D. Thackeray first spied the globules in IC 2944 in 1950. Globules like these have been known since Dutch-American astronomer Bart Bok first drew attention to such objects in 1947. But astronomers still know very little about their origin and nature, except that they are generally associated with areas of star formation, called "HII regions" due to the presence of hydrogen gas. IC 2944 is filled with gas and dust that is illuminated and heated by a loose cluster of massive stars. These stars are much hotter and much more massive than our Sun.

Hubble Sends Season's Greetings from the Cosmos to Earth

9:00 pm PST, December 18, 2001

Looking like a colorful holiday card, this image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals a vibrant green and red nebula far from Earth, where nature seems to have put on the traditional colors of the season. These colors, produced by the light emitted by oxygen and hydrogen, help astronomers investigate the star-forming processes in nebulas such as NGC 2080. Nicknamed the "Ghost Head Nebula," NGC 2080 is one of a chain of star-forming regions lying south of the 30 Doradus nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud that have attracted special attention. These regions have been studied in detail with Hubble and have long been identified as unique star-forming sites. 30 Doradus is the largest star-forming complex in the whole local group of galaxies.

A Giant Star Factory in Neighboring Galaxy NGC 6822

9:00 pm PST, December 5, 2001

Resembling curling flames from a campfire, this magnificent nebula in a neighboring galaxy is giving astronomers new insight into the fierce birth of stars, which may have been more a typical occurrence in the early universe. The glowing gas cloud, called Hubble-V, has a diameter of about 200 light-years. A faint tail of gas trailing off the top of this Hubble Space Telescope image sits opposite a dense cluster of bright stars at the bottom of the irregularly shaped nebula.

Hubble Makes First Direct Measurements of Atmosphere on World Around another Star

10:00 am PST, November 27, 2001

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have made the first direct detection of the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a star outside our solar system. Their unique observations demonstrate that it is possible with Hubble and other telescopes to measure the chemical makeup of alien planet atmospheres and to potentially search for the chemical markers of life beyond Earth. The planet orbits a yellow, Sun-like star called HD 209458, located 150 light-years away in the constellation Pegasus.

Hubble Reveals Ultraviolet Galactic Ring

6:00 am PST, November 1, 2001

The appearance of a galaxy can depend strongly on the color of the light with which it is viewed. This Hubble Heritage image of NGC 6782 illustrates a pronounced example of this effect. This spiral galaxy, when seen in visible light, exhibits tightly wound spiral arms that give it a pinwheel shape similar to that of many other spirals. However, when the galaxy is viewed in ultraviolet light with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, its shape is startlingly different.

$10 Million NSF Grant to Fund "National Virtual Observatory"

9:00 pm PST, October 28, 2001

The National Virtual Observatory (NVO) will unite astronomical databases of many earthbound and orbital observatories, taking advantage of the latest computer technology and data storage and analysis techniques. The goal is to maximize the potential for new scientific insights from the data by making them available in an accessible, seamlessly unified form to professional researchers, amateur astronomers, and students. The new project is funded by a five- year, $10 million Information Technology Research grant from the National Science Foundation. Organizers characterize their goal as "building the framework" for the National Virtual Observatory.

AURA's OPUS Software Licensed to Celera Genomics

7:00 am PDT, October 23, 2001

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) has reached an agreement with Celera Genomics Group, an Applera Corporation business in Rockville, MD, on the use of AURA's Operational Pipeline Unified Systems (OPUS) software package. Originally designed for use in the Hubble Space Telescope program, OPUS is being used by Celera to process bioinformatics data. OPUS was developed by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is managed by AURA under contract with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. It is used to process astronomical data generated by the Hubble Space Telescope for use by researchers studying the universe, and it has been widely employed in other space observatories and NASA projects. Facing similar needs for the use of their large databases, Celera is licensing OPUS from AURA to assist in the processing of data from their proteomics and genomics projects.

Scientists Track "Perfect Storm" on Mars

10:00 am PDT, October 11, 2001

A pair of eagle-eyed NASA spacecraft – the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) and Hubble Space Telescope – are giving amazed astronomers a ringside seat to the biggest global dust storm seen on Mars in several decades. The Martian dust storm, larger by far than any seen on Earth, has raised a cloud of dust that has engulfed the entire planet for several months.

Gravitational Lens Helps Hubble and Keck Discover Galaxy Building Block

6:00 am PDT, October 5, 2001

A very small, faint galaxy -- possibly one of the long sought "building blocks" of present-day galaxies – has been discovered by a collaboration between NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the 10-meter Keck Telescopes at a tremendous distance of 13.4 billion light-years (based on the estimate of 14 billion years as the age of the universe). The discovery was made possible by examining small areas of the sky viewed through massive intervening clusters of galaxies. These act as a powerful gravitational lens, magnifying distant objects and allowing scientists to probe how galaxies assemble at very early times. This has profound implications for our understanding of how and when the first stars and galaxies formed in the universe.

Peering into the Core of a Globular Cluster

6:00 am PDT, October 4, 2001

Astronomers have used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to peer into the center of a dense swarm of stars called Omega Centauri. Located some 17,000 light-years from Earth, Omega Centauri is a massive globular star cluster, containing several million stars swirling in locked orbits around a common center of gravity. The stars are packed so densely in the cluster's core that it is difficult for ground-based telescopes to make out individual stars. Hubble's high resolution is able to pick up where ground-based telescopes leave off, capturing distinct points of light from stars at the very center of the cluster.

Ancient Black Hole Speeds Through Sun's Galactic Neighborhood, Devouring Companion Star

11:00 am PDT, September 12, 2001

Data from the Space Telescope Science Institute's Digitized Sky Survey has played an important supporting role in helping radio and X-ray astronomers discover an ancient black hole speeding through the Sun's galactic neighborhood. The rogue black hole is devouring a small companion star as the pair travels in an eccentric orbit looping to the outer reaches of our Milky Way galaxy. It is believed that the black hole is the remnant of a massive star that lived out its brief life billions of years ago and later was gravitationally kicked from its home star cluster to wander the Galaxy with its companion.

A Galaxy Blazes With Star Formation

6:00 am PDT, September 6, 2001

Most galaxies form new stars at a fairly slow rate, but members of a rare class known as "starburst" galaxies blaze with extremely active star formation. The galaxy NGC 3310 is one such starburst galaxy that is forming clusters of new stars at a prodigious rate. Scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are perfecting a technique to determine the history of starburst activity in NGC 3310 by studying the colors of its star clusters.

Burst of Star Formation Drives Bubble in Galaxy's Core

6:00 am PDT, August 16, 2001

These NASA Hubble Space Telescope snapshots reveal dramatic activities within the core of the galaxy NGC 3079, where a lumpy bubble of hot gas is rising from a cauldron of glowing matter. The picture at left shows the bubble in the center of the galaxy's disk. The structure is more than 3,000 light-years wide and rises 3,500 light-years above the galaxy's disk. The smaller photo at right is a close-up view of the bubble. Astronomers suspect that the bubble is being blown by "winds" (high-speed streams of particles) released during a burst of star formation. Gaseous filaments at the top of the bubble are whirling around in a vortex and are being expelled into space. Eventually, this gas will rain down upon the galaxy's disk where it may collide with gas clouds, compress them, and form a new generation of stars. The two white dots just above the bubble are probably stars in the galaxy.

New View of Primordial Helium Traces the Structure of Early Universe

11:00 am PDT, August 9, 2001

NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite has given astronomers their best glimpse yet at the ghostly cobweb of helium gas left over from the big bang, which underlies the universe's structure. The helium is not found in galaxies or stars but spread thinly through the vastness of space. The helium traces the architecture of the universe back to very early times. This structure arose from small gravitational instabilities seeded in the chaos just after the big bang. These FUSE observations help confirm theoretical models of how matter in the expanding universe condensed into a web-like structure pervading all of the space between galaxies.

Hubble Photographs Warped Galaxy as Camera Passes Milestone

6:00 am PDT, August 2, 2001

The Hubble telescope has captured an image of an unusual edge-on galaxy, revealing remarkable details of its warped dusty disk and showing how colliding galaxies spawn the formation of new generations of stars. The dust and spiral arms of normal spiral galaxies, like our own Milky Way, appear flat when viewed edge-on. This Hubble Heritage image of ESO 510-G13 shows a galaxy that, by contrast, has an unusual twisted disk structure, first seen in ground-based photographs.

Hubble's Panoramic Portrait of a Vast Star-Forming Region

6:00 am PDT, July 26, 2001

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has snapped a panoramic portrait of a vast, sculpted landscape of gas and dust where thousands of stars are being born. This fertile star-forming region, called the 30 Doradus Nebula, has a sparkling stellar centerpiece: the most spectacular cluster of massive stars in our cosmic neighborhood of about 25 galaxies. The mosaic picture shows that ultraviolet radiation and high-speed material unleashed by the stars in the cluster, called R136 [the large blue blob left of center], are weaving a tapestry of creation and destruction, triggering the collapse of looming gas and dust clouds and forming pillar-like structures that are incubators for nascent stars.

Star Clusters Born in the Wreckage of Cosmic Collisions

6:00 am PDT, July 19, 2001

In the beginning of the 1946 holiday film classic "It's a Wonderful Life," angelic figures take on the form of a famous group of compact galaxies known as Stephan's Quintet. In reality, these galaxies aren't so heavenly. Pictures from the Hubble telescope show that Stephan's Quintet has been doing some devilish things. At least two of the galaxies have been involved in high-speed, hit-and-run accidents, which have ripped stars and gas from neighboring galaxies and tossed them into space. But the galactic carnage also has spawned new life. Arising from the wreckage are more than 100 star clusters and several dwarf galaxies. The young clusters, each harboring up to millions of stars, are shown clearly for the first time in pictures taken by Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

Magnetic Fields Weave Rings Around Stars

6:00 am PDT, July 12, 2001

There are stars with planets. Stars with companion stars. Stars with pancake-shaped disks of rocky debris. But how about young, hot, hefty stars embedded in large inner tube-shaped clouds of shimmering gas? Astronomers had suspected that the thick rings are the signatures of stars with strong magnetic fields. Sometimes, the surfaces of those "magnetic stars" possess peculiar chemical compositions, namely low amounts of "heavy elements" like iron. Now a team of astronomers analyzing archival information on four stars provides convincing evidence of the link between rings and magnetic fields. The team also suggests that rings around massive stars are more common than scientists thought. The study shows that magnetic stars with normal chemical abundances can have rings, too.

Hubble Snaps Picture of Remarkable Double Cluster

1:00 am PDT, July 10, 2001

These two dazzling clusters of stars, called NGC 1850, are found in one of our neighboring galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud. The photo's centerpiece is a young, "globular-like" star cluster -- a type of object unknown in our own Milky Way Galaxy. The smaller second cluster is below and to the right of the main cluster. The stars are surrounded by a filigree pattern of diffuse gas [left], which scientists believe was created by the explosion of massive stars.

Hubble Captures Best View of Mars Ever Obtained From Earth

6:00 am PDT, July 5, 2001

Frosty white water ice clouds and swirling orange dust storms above a vivid rusty landscape reveal Mars as a dynamic planet in this sharpest view ever obtained by an Earth-based telescope. The Earth-orbiting Hubble telescope snapped this picture on June 26, when Mars was approximately 43 million miles (68 million km) from Earth -- its closest approach to our planet since 1988. Hubble can see details as small as 10 miles (16 km) across. Especially striking is the large amount of seasonal dust storm activity seen in this image. One large storm system is churning high above the northern polar cap [top of image], and a smaller dust storm cloud can be seen nearby. Another large dust storm is spilling out of the giant Hellas impact basin in the Southern Hemisphere [lower right].

Hint of Planet-Sized Drifters Bewilders Hubble Scientists

11:00 am PDT, June 27, 2001

Piercing the heart of a globular star cluster, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope uncovered tantalizing clues to what could be a strange and unexpected population of wandering, planet-sized objects. The orbiting observatory detected these bodies in the globular cluster M22 by the way their gravity bends the light from background stars, a phenomenon called microlensing. These microlensing events were unusually brief, indicating that the mass of the the intervening objects could be as little as 80 times that of Earth. Bodies this small have never been detected by microlensing observations.

A Change of Seasons on Saturn

6:00 am PDT, June 7, 2001

Looming like a giant flying saucer in our outer solar system, Saturn puts on a show as the planet and its magnificent ring system nod majestically over the course of its 29-year journey around the Sun. These Hubble telescope images, captured from 1996 to 2000, show Saturn's rings open up from just past edge-on to nearly fully open as it moves around the Sun.

Bigger, Better Catalog Unveils Half a Billion Celestial Objects

9:30 am PDT, June 4, 2001

It's a very big universe out there, and an astronomer's work is never done when it comes to simply counting and cataloging the sheer number of stars in the heavens. Completing a seven-year effort at digitizing the entire sky for a second time, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino are releasing the Guide Star Catalog II. This new version, which replaces the historic 1989 catalog, provides important information on nearly one-half billion stars - over 20 times as many as the original Guide Star Catalog.

Build Your Own Space Scrapbook

9:30 am PDT, June 4, 2001

Want to learn more about your favorite star or galaxy? NASA Hubble Space Telescope pictures and other information about thousands of stars and galaxies beyond our solar system are just a mouse click away by visiting the "Spectral/Image Scrapbook." The "scrapbook" was developed by the Multi-Mission Archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute (MAST) team in Baltimore, MD. This new astronomy Web resource provides easy access to the rich repository of black-and-white images and spectra of stars and galaxies stored in the MAST digital archives. While a picture shows astronomers what a celestial object looks like, a spectrum provides information about its physical nature and its motion toward or away from Earth. Astronomers analyze spectra and images of a celestial body to get a complete picture.

Hubble Unveils a Galaxy in Living Color

6:00 am PDT, May 31, 2001

In this view of the center of the magnificent barred spiral galaxy NGC 1512, the Hubble telescope reveals a stunning 2,400 light-year-wide circle of infant star clusters. Astronomers generally believe that the giant bar, which is too faint to be seen in this image, funnels the gas to the inner ring, where massive stars are formed within numerous star clusters. Located 30 million light-years away, NGC 1512 is a neighbor of our Milky Way galaxy.

Astronomers Puzzled over Comet LINEAR's Missing Pieces

11:00 am PDT, May 17, 2001

Astronomers analyzing debris from a comet that broke apart last summer spied pieces as small as smoke-sized particles and as large as football-field-sized fragments. But it's the material they didn't see that has aroused their curiosity. Tracking the doomed comet, named LINEAR, the Hubble telescope and the Very Large Telescope in Chile found tiny particles that made up the 62,000-mile-long dust tail and 16 large fragments, some as wide as 330 feet. But the telescopes didn't detect any intermediate-sized pieces. If they exist, then the fundamental building blocks that comprised LINEAR's nucleus may be somewhat smaller than current theories suggest.

'Survivor' Planets: Astronomers Witness First Steps of Planet Growth - and Destruction

11:00 am PDT, April 26, 2001

Planet formation is a hazardous process. New pictures from the Hubble telescope are giving astronomers the first direct visual evidence for the growth of planetary "building blocks" inside the dusty disks of young stars in the Orion Nebula, a giant "star factory" near Earth. But these snapshots also reveal that the disks are being "blowtorched" by a blistering flood of ultraviolet radiation from the region's brightest star, making planet formation extremely difficult.

By Popular Demand: Hubble Observes the Horsehead Nebula

6:00 am PDT, April 24, 2001

Rising from a sea of dust and gas like a giant seahorse, the Horsehead nebula is one of the most photographed objects in the sky. The Hubble telescope took a close-up look at this heavenly icon, revealing the cloud's intricate structure. This detailed view of the horse's head is being released to celebrate the orbiting observatory's eleventh anniversary. Hubble was launched by the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990 and deployed into a 360-mile-high Earth orbit on April 25. Produced by the Hubble Heritage Project, this picture is a testament to the Horsehead's popularity. Internet voters selected this object for the orbiting telescope to view.

Hubble Reveals the Heart of the Whirlpool Galaxy

6:00 am PDT, April 5, 2001

New pictures from the Hubble telescope are giving astronomers a detailed view of the Whirlpool galaxy's spiral arms and dust clouds, which are the birth sites of massive and luminous stars. This galaxy, also called M51 or NGC 5194, is having a close encounter with a nearby companion galaxy, NGC 5195, just off the upper edge of this image. The companion's gravitational influence is triggering star formation in the Whirlpool, as seen by the numerous clusters of bright, young stars [highlighted in red].

Blast from the Past: Farthest Supernova Ever Seen Sheds Light on Dark Universe

10:00 am PDT, April 2, 2001

Gazing to the far reaches of space and time, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope identified the farthest stellar explosion ever seen, a supernova that erupted 10 billion years ago. By examining the glow from this dying star, astronomers have amassed more evidence that a mysterious, repulsive force is at work in the cosmos, making galaxies rush ever faster away from each other.

Massive Infant Stars Rock their Cradle

6:00 am PST, March 28, 2001

Extremely intense radiation from newly born, ultra-bright stars has blown a glowing spherical bubble in the nebula N83B, also known as NGC 1748. A new Hubble telescope image has helped to decipher the complex interplay of gas and radiation of a star-forming region in the nearby galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. The image graphically illustrates just how these massive stars sculpt their environment by generating powerful winds that alter the shape of the parent gaseous nebula. These processes are also seen in our Milky Way in regions like the Orion Nebula.

Hubble Spies Huge Clusters of Stars Formed by Ancient Encounter

6:00 am PST, March 7, 2001

Studying galactic interactions is like sifting through the forensic evidence at a crime scene. Astronomers wade through the debris of a violent encounter, collecting clues so that they can reconstruct the celestial crime to determine when it happened. Take the case of M82, a small, nearby galaxy that long ago bumped into its larger neighbor, M81. When did this violent encounter occur? New infrared and visible-light pictures from the Hubble telescope reveal for the first time important details of large clusters of stars, which arose from the interaction.

NGC 4013: A Galaxy on the Edge

10:00 pm PST, February 28, 2001

The Hubble telescope has snapped this remarkable view of a perfectly "edge-on" galaxy, NGC 4013. This new Hubble picture reveals with exquisite detail huge clouds of dust and gas extending along, as well as far above, the galaxy's main disk. NGC 4013 is a spiral galaxy, similar to our Milky Way, lying some 55 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major. Viewed face-on, it would look like a nearly circular pinwheel, but NGC 4013 happens to be seen edge-on from our vantage point. Even at 55 million light-years, the galaxy is larger than Hubble's field of view, and the image shows only a little more than half of the object, albeit with unprecedented detail.

See What NASA's Hubble Sees, with the Click of a Mouse

9:00 pm PST, February 7, 2001

How old is the universe? How big is it? What is its fate? Where did the planets, stars, and galaxies come from? Are we alone here? Scientists seeking answers to these age-old questions?which have eluded humankind for centuries?have made astounding progress using NASA's orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. Now anyone with access to the World Wide Web can go online to visit Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe, a popular Smithsonian exhibition highlighting Hubble's unique contributions to our understanding of the universe. The new Web site seeks to simulate the experience of visiting the actual exhibition, which is now touring the United States.

Astro-Entomology? Ant-like Space Structure Previews Death of Our Sun

10:00 pm PST, January 31, 2001

From ground-based telescopes, this cosmic object -- the glowing remains of a dying, Sun-like star -- resembles the head and thorax of a garden-variety ant. But this dramatic Hubble telescope image of the so-called "ant nebula" (Menzel 3, or Mz 3) shows even more detail, revealing the "ant's" body as a pair of fiery lobes protruding from the dying star.

Hubble's Ultraviolet Views of Nearby Galaxies Yield Clues to Early Universe

9:30 am PST, January 11, 2001

Astronomers are using these three Hubble telescope images of nearby galaxies to help tackle the question of why their distant relatives have such odd shapes, appearing markedly different from the typical "ellipticals" and "spirals" seen in the nearby universe. By viewing these galaxies in ultraviolet light, astronomers can compare their shapes with those of their distant relatives. The results of their survey support the idea that astronomers are detecting the "tip of the iceberg" of very distant galaxies. Based on these Hubble ultraviolet images, not all the faraway galaxies necessarily possess intrinsically odd shapes.

'Death Spiral' Around a Black Hole Yields Tantalizing Evidence of an Event Horizon

9:30 am PST, January 11, 2001

The Hubble telescope may have, for the first time, provided direct evidence for the existence of black holes by observing how matter disappears when it falls beyond the "event horizon," the boundary between a black hole and the outside universe. Astronomers found their evidence by watching the fading and disappearance of pulses of ultraviolet light from clumps of hot gas swirling around a massive, compact object called Cygnus XR-1. This activity suggests that the hot gas fell into a black hole.

Intergalactic 'Pipeline' Funnels Matter Between Colliding Galaxies

9:30 am PST, January 9, 2001

This visible-light picture, taken by the Hubble telescope, reveals an intergalactic "pipeline" of material flowing between two battered galaxies that bumped into each other about 100 million years ago. The pipeline [the dark string of matter] begins in NGC 1410 [the galaxy at left], crosses over 20,000 light-years of intergalactic space, and wraps around NGC 1409 [the companion galaxy at right] like a ribbon around a package. The galaxies reside about 300 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

"X" Marks the Spot: Hubble Sees the Glow of Star Formation in a Neighbor Galaxy

10:00 pm PST, January 3, 2001

The saying "X" marks the spot holds true in this Hubble telescope image. In this case, X marks the location of Hubble-X, a glowing gas cloud in one of the most active star-forming regions in galaxy NGC 6822. The galaxy lies 1.6 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius, one of the Milky Way's closest neighbors. This hotbed of star birth is similar to the fertile regions in the Orion Nebula in our Milky Way Galaxy, but on a vastly greater scale. The intense star birth in Hubble-X occurred about 4 million years ago, a small fraction of the approximate 10-billion-year age of the universe.

Satellite Footprints Seen in Jupiter Aurora

9:00 am PST, December 14, 2000

In this Hubble telescope picture, a curtain of glowing gas is wrapped around Jupiter's north pole like a lasso. This curtain of light, called an aurora, is produced when high-energy electrons race along the planet's magnetic field and into the upper atmosphere where they excite atmospheric gases, causing them to glow. The aurora resembles the same phenomenon that crowns Earth's polar regions. But this Hubble image, taken in ultraviolet light, also shows the glowing "footprints" of three of Jupiter's largest moons: Io, Ganymede, and Europa. Over the next two months, Jupiter's aurora will be scrutinized by two observatories: the Hubble telescope and the Cassini spacecraft, which will fly by the planet on its voyage to Saturn.

Ghostly Reflections in the Pleiades

10:00 pm PST, December 5, 2000

This ghostly apparition is actually an interstellar cloud caught in the process of destruction by strong radiation from a nearby hot star. This haunting picture, snapped by the Hubble telescope, shows a cloud illuminated by light from the bright star Merope. Located in the Pleiades star cluster, the cloud is called IC 349 or Barnard's Merope Nebula.

Hubble Captures an Extraordinary and Powerful Active Galaxy

10:00 pm PST, November 29, 2000

The Hubble telescope has taken a snapshot of a nearby active galaxy known as Circinus. This active galaxy belongs to a class of mostly spiral galaxies called Seyferts, which have compact centers and are believed to contain massive black holes. Seyfert galaxies are themselves part of a larger class of objects called Active Galactic Nuclei or AGN. AGN have the ability to remove gas from the centers of their galaxies by blowing it out into space at phenomenal speeds. Astronomers studying the Circinus galaxy are seeing evidence of a powerful AGN at its center.

Hubble Sees Bare Neutron Star Streaking Across Space

10:00 am PST, November 9, 2000

It's as big as Manhattan Island, is 10 trillion times denser than steel, and is hurtling our way at speeds over 100 times faster than a supersonic jet. An alien spaceship? No, it's a runaway neutron star, called RX J185635-3754, forged in a stellar explosion that was visible to our ancestors in 1 million B.C. Precise observations made with the Hubble telescope confirm that the interstellar interloper is the closest neutron star ever seen. The object also doesn't have a companion star that would affect its appearance. Now located 200 light-years away in the southern constellation Corona Australis, it will swing by Earth at a safe distance of 170 light-years in about 300,000 years.

A Bird's Eye View of a Galaxy Collision

10:00 pm PST, November 1, 2000

What appears as a bird's head, leaning over to snatch up a tasty meal, is a striking example of a galaxy collision in NGC 6745. The "bird" is a large spiral galaxy, with its core still intact. It is peering at its "prey," a smaller passing galaxy (nearly out of the field of view at lower right). The bright blue beak and bright, whitish-blue top feathers show the distinct path taken during the smaller galaxy's journey. These galaxies did not merely interact gravitationally as they passed one another; they actually collided.

Astronomers Ponder Lack of Planets in Globular Cluster

10:00 pm PST, October 30, 2000

Astronomers using the Hubble telescope made the first broad search for planets far beyond our local stellar neighborhood. They trained Hubble's "eagle eye" for eight days on a swarm of 35,000 stars in 47 Tucanae, located in the southern constellation Tucana. The researchers expected to find 17 "extrasolar" planets. To their surprise, they found none. These results may be the first evidence that conditions for planet formation and evolution are different in other regions of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Hubble Peeks into a Stellar Nursery in a Nearby Galaxy

9:00 pm PDT, October 4, 2000

The Hubble telescope has peered deep into a neighboring galaxy to reveal details of the formation of new stars. Hubble's target was a newborn star cluster within the Small Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. The picture shows young, brilliant stars cradled within a nebula, or glowing cloud of gas, cataloged as N 81.

Movies from Hubble Show the Changing Faces of Infant Stars

10:00 pm PDT, September 20, 2000

Time-lapse movies made from a series of pictures taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are showing astronomers that young stars and their surroundings can change dramatically in just weeks or months. As with most children, a picture of these youngsters taken today won't look the same as one snapped a few months from now. The movies show jets of gas plowing into space at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour and moving shadows billions of miles in size. The young star systems featured in the movies, XZ Tauri and HH 30, reside about 450 light-years from Earth in the Taurus-Auriga molecular cloud, one of the nearest stellar nurseries to our planet. Both systems are probably less than a million years old, making them relative newborns, given that stars typically live for billions of years.

Centaur's Bright Surface Spot Could be Crater of Fresh Ice

9:00 pm PDT, September 13, 2000

The unexpectedly varied surface of a wayward piece of space debris has given astronomers new insights into the characteristics and behavior of a ghostly population of faintly observed comet-like bodies that lie just beyond Pluto's orbit. While observing an object called 8405 Asbolus, a 48-mile-wide (80-kilometer-wide) chunk of ice and dust that lies between Saturn and Uranus, astronomers using the Hubble telescope were surprised to find that one side of the object looks like it has a fresh crater less than 10 million years old, exposing underlying ice that is apparently unlike any yet seen. This shows that these mysterious objects, called Centaurs, do not have a simple homogenous surface. Hubble didn't directly see the crater - the object is too small and far away - but a measure of its surface composition with its near-infrared camera shows a complex chemistry.

IC 418: The "Spirograph" Nebula

9:00 pm PDT, September 6, 2000

Glowing like a multi-faceted jewel, the planetary nebula IC 418 lies about 2,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lepus. In this picture, the Hubble telescope reveals some remarkable textures weaving through the nebula. Their origin, however, is still uncertain.

He 2-90's Appearance Deceives Astronomers

10:00 pm PDT, August 30, 2000

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have stumbled upon a mysterious object that is grudgingly yielding clues to its identity. A quick glance at the Hubble picture at top shows that this celestial body, called He 2-90, looks like a young, dust-enshrouded star with narrow jets of material streaming from each side. But it's not. The object is classified as a planetary nebula, the glowing remains of a dying, lightweight star. But the Hubble observations suggest that it may not fit that classification, either. The Hubble astronomers now suspect that this enigmatic object may actually be a pair of aging stars masquerading as a single youngster. One member of the duo is a bloated red giant star shedding matter from its outer layers. This matter is then gravitationally captured in a rotating, pancake-shaped accretion disk around a compact partner, which is most likely a young white dwarf (the collapsed remnant of a sun-like star). The stars cannot be seen in the Hubble images because a lane of dust obscures them.

Hubble Spies Brown Dwarfs in Nearby Stellar Nursery

10:00 pm PDT, August 23, 2000

Probing deep within a neighborhood stellar nursery, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope uncovered a swarm of newborn brown dwarfs. The orbiting observatory's near-infrared camera revealed about 50 of these objects throughout the Orion Nebula's Trapezium cluster [image at right], about 1,500 light-years from Earth. Appearing like glistening precious stones surrounding a setting of sparkling diamonds, more than 300 fledgling stars and brown dwarfs surround the brightest, most massive stars [center of picture] in Hubble's view of the Trapezium cluster's central region. The brown dwarfs are too dim to be seen in an image taken by the Hubble telescope's visible-light camera [picture at left].

Hubble Takes Census of Elusive Brown Dwarf Stars

9:00 pm PDT, August 23, 2000

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have carried out the most complete inventory to date of brown dwarfs, one of the universe's most elusive types of objects, which dwell in limbo between stars and planets. The Hubble census provides new and compelling evidence that stars and planets form in different ways. Because the brown dwarfs "bridge the gap" between stars and planets, their properties reveal new and unique insights into how stars and planets form.

Hubble Discovers Missing Pieces of Comet Linear

8:00 am PDT, August 7, 2000

To the surprise and delight of astronomers, the Hubble telescope discovered a small armada of "mini-comets" left behind from what some scientists had prematurely thought was a total disintegration of the explosive Comet LINEAR. In one observation, Hubble's powerful vision has settled the fate of the mysteriously vanished solid nucleus of Comet LINEAR, which was reported "missing in action" following its passage around the Sun on July 26. Though comets have been known to break apart and vanish before, for the first time astronomers are getting a close-up view of the dismantling of a comet's nucleus due to warming by the Sun. The results support the popular theory that comet nuclei are really made up of a cluster of smaller icy bodies called "cometesimals."

A Dying Star in Globular Cluster M15

10:00 pm PDT, August 2, 2000

The globular cluster M15 is shown in this color image obtained with the Hubble telescope. Lying some 40,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus, M15 is one of nearly 150 known globular clusters that form a vast halo surrounding our Milky Way galaxy. Each of these spherically shaped clusters contains hundreds of thousands of ancient stars. The stars in M15 and other globular clusters are estimated to be about 12 billion years old. They were among the first generations of stars to form in the Milky Way.

Hubble Sees Comet Linear Blow its Top

10:00 pm PDT, July 27, 2000

Lackluster comet LINEAR (C/1999 S4) unexpectedly threw astronomers a curve. Using the Hubble telescope, researchers were surprised to catch the icy comet in a brief, violent outburst when it blew off a piece of its crust, like a cork popping off a champagne bottle. The eruption, the comet's equivalent of a volcanic explosion (though temperatures are far below freezing, at about minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the icy regions of the nucleus or core), spewed a great deal of dust into space. This mist of dust reflected sunlight, dramatically increasing the comet's brightness over several hours. Hubble's sharp vision recorded the entire event and even snapped a picture of the chunk of material jettisoned from the nucleus and floating away along the comet's tail.

Hubble Watches Star Tear Apart its Neighborhood

10:00 pm PDT, July 12, 2000

The Hubble telescope has snapped a view of a stellar demolition zone in our Milky Way Galaxy: a massive star, nearing the end of its life, tearing apart the shell of surrounding material it blew off 250,000 years ago with its strong stellar wind. The shell of material, dubbed the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888), surrounds the "hefty," aging star WR 136, an extremely rare and short-lived class of super-hot star called a Wolf-Rayet. Hubble's multicolored picture reveals with unprecedented clarity that the shell of matter is a network of filaments and dense knots, all enshrouded in a thin "skin" of gas [seen in blue]. The whole structure looks like oatmeal trapped inside a balloon. The skin is glowing because it is being blasted by ultraviolet light from WR 136.

A Cosmic Searchlight

10:00 pm PDT, July 5, 2000

Streaming out from the center of the galaxy M87 like a cosmic searchlight is one of nature's most amazing phenomena, a black-hole-powered jet of electrons and other sub-atomic particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. In this Hubble telescope image, the blue jet contrasts with the yellow glow from the combined light of billions of unseen stars and the yellow, point-like clusters of stars that make up this galaxy. Lying at the center of M87, the monstrous black hole has swallowed up matter equal to 2 billion times our Sun's mass. M87 is 50 million light-years from Earth.

Black Holes Shed Light on Galaxy Formation

7:30 am PDT, June 5, 2000

Astronomers are concluding that monstrous black holes weren't simply born big but instead grew on a measured diet of gas and stars controlled by their host galaxies in the early formative years of the universe. These results, gleaned from a NASA Hubble Space Telescope census of more than 30 galaxies, are painting a broad picture of a galaxy's evolution and its long and intimate relationship with its central giant black hole. Though much more analysis remains, an initial look at Hubble evidence favors the idea that titanic black holes did not precede a galaxy's birth but instead co-evolved with the galaxy by trapping a surprisingly exact percentage of the mass of the central hub of stars and gas in a galaxy.

Feasting Black Hole Blows Bubbles

7:30 am PDT, June 5, 2000

A monstrous black hole's rude table manners include blowing huge bubbles of hot gas into space. At least, that's the gustatory practice followed by the supermassive black hole residing in the hub of the nearby galaxy NGC 4438. These NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of the galaxy's central region clearly show one of the bubbles rising from a dark band of dust. The other bubble, emanating from below the dust band, is barely visible, appearing as dim red blobs in the close-up picture of the galaxy's hub (the colorful picture at right). The background image represents a wider view of the galaxy, with the central region defined by the white box.

Peering into the Heart of the Crab Nebula

10:00 pm PDT, May 31, 2000

In the year 1054 A.D., Chinese astronomers were startled by the appearance of a new star, so bright that it was visible in broad daylight for several weeks. Today, the Crab Nebula is visible at the site of that bright star. Located about 6,500 light-years from Earth, the Crab Nebula is the remnant of a star that began its life with about 10 times the mass of our Sun. Its life ended on July 4, 1054 when it exploded as a supernova. In this image, the Hubble telescope has zoomed in on the center of the Crab to reveal its structure with unprecedented detail.

Hubble Heritage Program Wins Photography Award

10:00 pm PDT, May 10, 2000

Through an extraordinary chance alignment, the Hubble telescope has captured a view of a face-on spiral galaxy lying precisely in front of another larger spiral. The unique pair is called NGC 3314. This line-up provides astronomers with the rare chance to see the dark material within the foreground galaxy, seen only because it is silhouetted against the light from the object behind it. NGC 3314 lies about 140 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the southern hemisphere constellation Hydra. This picture is one of many produced by the Hubble Heritage Program, created 1-1/2 years ago to publicly release some of the best celestial views taken by the telescope's visible-light camera. Now, the International Center of Photography in New York City has rewarded the program for its work with the annual Infinity Award for Applied Photography.

Lost and Found: Hubble Finds Much of the Universe's Missing Hydrogen

9:00 pm PDT, May 2, 2000

For the past decade astronomers have looked for vast quantities of hydrogen that were cooked up in the Big Bang but somehow managed to disappear in the empty blackness of space. Now, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered this long-sought missing hydrogen. This gas accounts for nearly half of the "normal" matter in the universe -- the rest is locked up in galaxies. The confirmation of this missing hydrogen will shed new light on the large-scale structure of the universe. The detection also confirms fundamental models of how so much hydrogen was manufactured in the first few minutes of the universe's birth in the Big Bang.

April 24 Marks a Triumphant Ten Years in Space for Hubble Space Telescope

9:00 pm PDT, April 10, 2000

In its first ten years, the 12.5-ton Earth-orbiting NASA's Hubble has studied 13,670 objects, has made 271,000 individual observations, and has returned 3.5 terabytes of data, which have been archived as a scientific treasure trove for future generations of astronomers. Its rapid-fire scientific achievements have resulted in over 2,651 scientific papers. Hubble's photographic hall of fame includes the deepest view ever of the Universe in visible light; a peek into the environs of supermassive galactic black holes; the majestic birth of stars in monstrous stellar clouds; planetary systems forming around other stars; extraordinary arcs, shells, and ribbons of glowing gas sculpted by the deaths of ordinary stars; mega-megaton blasts produced by the impact of a comet into the cloud tops of Jupiter; the surface of mysterious Pluto; and galaxies at the edge of space and time.

The Glowing Eye of NGC 6751

10:00 pm PDT, April 5, 2000

The Hubble telescope has spied a giant celestial "eye," known as planetary nebula NGC 6751. The Hubble Heritage Project is releasing this picture to commemorate the Hubble telescope's tenth anniversary. Glowing in the constellation Aquila, the nebula is a cloud of gas ejected several thousand years ago from the hot star visible in its center. Planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets. They are shells of gas thrown off by Sun-like stars nearing the ends of their lives. The star's loss of its outer, gaseous layers exposes the hot stellar core, whose strong ultraviolet radiation then causes the ejected gas to fluoresce as the planetary nebula.

Suspected Protoplanet May Really Be a Distant Star

9:00 pm PDT, April 5, 2000

Follow-up observations of an unusual object initially suspected to be the first directly detected planet outside our solar system have shown that the object is too hot to be a planet.

Astronomers now believe it is more likely that the strange object is a background star whose light has been dimmed and reddened by interstellar dust, giving the illusion that it is in the vicinity of the double star system in which it was initially believed to have been a planet.

Hubble Finds Young Stars in Cosmic Dance

10:00 pm PST, March 15, 2000

This composite image, made with two cameras aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows a pair of 12 light-year-long jets of gas blasted into space from a young system of three stars. The jet is seen in visible light, and its dusty disk and stars are seen in infrared light. These stars are located near a huge torus, or donut, of gas and dust from which they formed. This torus is tilted edge-on and can be seen as a dark bar near the bottom of the picture.

Hubble Surveys Dying Stars in Nearby Galaxy

10:00 pm PST, March 8, 2000

From ground-based telescopes, the glowing gaseous debris surrounding dying, sun-like stars in a nearby galaxy, called the Large Magellanic Cloud, appear as small, shapeless dots of light. But through the "eyes" of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, these bright dots take on a variety of shapes, from round- to pinwheel-shaped clouds of gas.

Hubble Takes a Close-up View of a Reflection Nebula in Orion

10:00 pm PST, March 1, 2000

Just weeks after NASA astronauts repaired the Hubble Space Telescope in December 1999, the Hubble Heritage Project snapped this picture of NGC 1999, a nebula in the constellation Orion. The Heritage astronomers, in collaboration with scientists in Texas and Ireland, used Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to obtain the color image.

Onset of Titanic Collision Lights Up Supernova Ring

9:00 pm PST, February 15, 2000

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is giving astronomers a ringside seat to a never before seen violent celestial "main attraction" unfolding in a galaxy 169,000 light-years away. The knockout event is the collision of the fastest moving debris from an immense stellar explosion seen in Feb. 1987 with the gas ring that circles that site.

Light and Shadow in the Carina Nebula

10:00 pm PST, February 2, 2000

When 19th century astronomer Sir John Herschel spied a swirling cloud of gas with a hole punched through it, he dubbed it the Keyhole Nebula. Now the Hubble telescope has taken a peek at this region, and the resulting image reveals previously unseen details of the Keyhole's mysterious, complex structure. The Keyhole is part of a larger region called the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372), about 8,000 light-years from Earth.

Hubble Reopens Its Eye on the Universe

10:00 pm PST, January 23, 2000

The Hubble telescope reopened its "eye" on the universe following a successful December 1999 servicing mission by imaging a Sun-like star, dubbed the "Eskimo Nebula" (NGC 2392 and a hefty cluster of galaxies, Abell 2218.

Beta Pictoris Disk Hides Giant Elliptical Ring System

6:20 am PST, January 15, 2000

The planetary dust disk around the nearby star Beta Pictoris is dynamically "ringing like a bell," say astronomers investigating Hubble telescope images. The "clapper" is the gravitational wallop of a star that passed near Beta Pictoris some 100,000 years ago. The surprising findings show that a close encounter with a neighboring star can severely disrupt the evolution and appearance of thin disks, which are the nurseries of planetary systems. Similar fly-bys of our solar system long ago may have reshuffled the comets that now populate our Oort cloud and Kuiper belt.

Lone Black Holes Discovered Adrift in the Galaxy

9:30 am PST, January 13, 2000

Astronomers using the Hubble telescope and ground-based observatories have discovered the first examples of isolated, stellar-mass black holes adrift among the stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. They detected two of these lonely, invisible objects indirectly by measuring how their extreme gravity bends the light of a more distant star behind them. All previously known "stellar" black holes have been found orbiting normal stars. Astronomers determined the presence of those compact powerhouses by examining their effect on their companion star. These new results suggest that black holes are common and that many massive but normal stars may end their lives as black holes instead of neutron stars, the crushed cores of massive stars that end their lives in supernova explosions. The findings also suggest that stellar-mass black holes do not require some sort of interaction in a double-star system to form but may be produced in the collapse of isolated, massive stars, as has long been proposed by stellar theorists.

An Expanding Bubble in Space

6:20 am PST, January 13, 2000

A star 40 times more massive than the Sun is blowing a giant bubble of material into space. In this colorful picture, the Hubble telescope has captured a glimpse of the expanding bubble, dubbed the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635). The beefy star [lower center] is embedded in the bright blue bubble. The stellar powerhouse is so hot that it is quickly shedding material into space. The dense gas surrounding the star is shaping the castoff material into a bubble. The bubble's surface is not smooth like a soap bubble's. Its rippled appearance is due to encounters with gases of different thickness. The nebula is 6 light-years wide and is expanding at 4 million miles per hour (7 million kilometers per hour). The nebula is 7,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cassiopeia.

Fireworks of Star Formation Light up a Galaxy

10:00 pm PST, January 5, 2000

Pictures obtained with the Hubble telescope reveal episodes of star formation that are occurring across the face of the nearby galaxy NGC 4214. Located some 13 million light-years from Earth, NGC 4214 is forming clusters of new stars from its interstellar gas and dust. In the Hubble image, we can see a sequence of steps in the formation and evolution of stars and star clusters. Clouds of glowing gas surrounding bright stellar clusters dominate the picture.

Hubble Telescope Reveals Swarm of Glittering Stars in Nearby Galaxy

10:00 pm PST, December 1, 1999

Peering at a small area within the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), the Hubble telescope has provided the deepest color picture ever obtained in this satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. More than 10,000 stars can be seen in this photo, covering a region about 130 light-years wide. The LMC is a small companion galaxy of the Milky Way, visible only from Earth's southern hemisphere. It attracts the attention of modern-day astronomers because, at a distance of only 168,000 light-years, it is one of the nearest galaxies.

A Puzzle of Galactic Evolution is Solved – Massive Gas Clouds Seed the Galaxy with the Stuff of Stars

11:00 am PST, November 24, 1999

Massive clouds of gas, discovered long ago but only recently identified as being within the margins of the Milky Way, play a key role in the galaxy's ability to churn out new stars by raining gas onto the plane of the galaxy. Researchers have chipped away at a three-decade-old mystery about the nature and role of those massive gas clouds, called high-velocity clouds. In the process, they've discovered a mechanism by which the galaxy is seeded with the stuff of stars and solved a long-standing question of galactic evolution.

Multiple Galaxy Collisions Surprise Hubble Astronomers

10:00 pm PST, November 21, 1999

Wrecks between two galaxies were a common occurrence in the early cosmos. But pileups among several galaxies? Astronomers conducting a three-year survey of ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs) have discovered more than 24 of them involved in three-, four-, or even five-galaxy smashups. Astronomers have made this discovery by analyzing Hubble telescope pictures of these pileups, including the nine presented here. These results offer a snapshot of what conditions were like in the early universe, when galaxy collisions were commonplace.

The Trifid Nebula: Stellar Sibling Rivalry

10:00 am PST, November 9, 1999

This Hubble telescope image of the Trifid Nebula reveals a stellar nursery being torn apart by radiation from a nearby, massive star. The picture also provides a peek at embryonic stars forming within an ill-fated cloud of dust and gas, which is destined to be eaten away by the glare from the massive neighbor. This stellar activity is a beautiful example of how the life cycles of stars like our Sun are intimately connected with their more powerful siblings.

A Grazing Encounter between Two Spiral Galaxies

10:00 pm PST, November 3, 1999

The Hubble telescope has caught a cosmic dance between two spiral galaxies. The larger galaxy, NGC 2207, is on the left; the smaller one, IC 2163, is on the right. Their dance has already caused quite a stir. Strong gravitational forces from NGC 2207 have distorted the shape of its smaller dance partner, flinging out stars and gas into long streamers that extend 100,000 light-years toward the right-hand edge of the picture. Eventually this dance will end. Billions of years from now the two galaxies will become one.

Very Long Baseline Array Reveals Formation Region of Giant Cosmic Jet Near a Black Hole

11:00 am PDT, October 27, 1999

Astronomers have seen the exhaust products of black hole "engines": narrow beams of material traveling at nearly the speed of light. But they could only speculate where and how those beams were created. Now astronomers have gained their first glimpse at the mysterious region near a black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy where those columns of material are formed. Images of this phenomenon, taken by radio telescopes in Europe and the U.S., are the most detailed ever of the center of the galaxy M87, some 50 million light-years from Earth.

Hubble Identifies Source of Ultraviolet Light in an Old Galaxy

10:00 pm PDT, October 25, 1999

The Hubble telescope's sharp vision has clearly seen - for the first time - hot blue stars deep inside an elliptical galaxy. Hubble confirms that the ultraviolet light emanating from this galaxy comes from a population of extremely hot, helium-burning stars at a late stage in their lives. The swarm of nearly 8,000 blue stars resembles a blizzard of snowflakes near the core of the neighboring galaxy M32, 2.5 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Andromeda.

The "Rotten Egg" Nebula: A Planetary Nebula in the Making

10:00 pm PDT, October 18, 1999

This oddly shaped object is an aging, Sun-like star near the end of its life. The Hubble telescope's infrared camera, called the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, captured a fleeting phase in the death march of this star. In these pictures, a red giant star is transformed into a planetary nebula, the glowing remnants of a dying star. The star is shrouded in dust and gas in the center of these pictures. The "wings" of material, called a nebula, are dust and gas cast off by the declining star.

Hubble Heritage Project's First Anniversary

9:00 am PDT, October 7, 1999

To mark the first anniversary of the Hubble Heritage Project, we present four Hubble telescope images of nebulae surrounding stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

Two of these visible-light pictures show interstellar gas and dust around young stars at the beginning of their lives, and two more show gas ejected from old stars that are nearing the end of theirs. Remarkably, in spite of the completely different evolutionary stages, the nebulae have more striking features in common, including evidence of diametrically opposed gas ejections from both the young and old stars.

Starry Bulges Yield Secrets to Galaxy Growth

10:00 am PDT, October 6, 1999

The Hubble telescope is uncovering important new clues to a galaxy's birth and growth by peering into its heart - a bulge of millions of stars resembling a bulbous center yolk in the middle of a disk of egg white.

Astronomers have combined information from the Hubble telescope's visible- and infrared-light cameras to show the heart of four spiral galaxies peppered with ancient populations of stars. The top row of pictures, taken by a ground-based telescope, represents complete views of each galaxy. The blue boxes outline the regions observed by the Hubble telescope. The bottom row represents composite pictures from Hubble's visible- and infrared-light cameras. Astronomers combined views from both cameras to obtain the true ages of the stars surrounding each galaxy's bulge. The Hubble telescope's sharper resolution allows astronomers to study the intricate structure of a galaxy's central region.

Hubble Captures a Grand View of the Birth of "Hefty" Stars

10:00 pm PDT, September 28, 1999

Pictures taken in infrared and visible light by the Hubble telescope recount a vivid story of the turbulent birthing process of massive stars.

The images show that powerful radiation and high-speed material unleashed by "hefty" adult stars residing in the hub of the 30 Doradus Nebula are triggering a new burst of star birth in the surrounding suburbs. Like their adult relatives, the fledgling stars are creating all sorts of havoc in their environment. Nascent stars embedded in columns of gas and dust, for example, are blowing away the tops of their nurseries, like a volcano blasting material into the sky. Jets of material streaming from another developing star are slamming into surrounding dust and gas in opposite directions, causing it to glow in moving patterns. These views [the top panel taken in visible light, the bottom in infrared] represent part of the highly active region of star birth.

Hubble Spies Giant Star Clusters Near Galactic Center

6:00 am PDT, September 16, 1999

Penetrating 25,000 light-years of obscuring dust and myriad stars, the Hubble telescope has provided the clearest view yet of a pair of the largest young clusters of stars inside our Milky Way Galaxy. The clusters reside less than 100 light-years from the very center of our galaxy.

Having an equivalent mass greater than 10,000 stars like our Sun, the monster clusters are 10 times larger than typical young star clusters scattered throughout our Milky Way. Both clusters are destined to be ripped apart in just a few million years by gravitational tidal forces in the galaxy's core. But in the brief time they are around, they shine more brightly than any other star cluster in the galaxy. The Arches Cluster is on the left; the Quintuplet Cluster on the right.

A Minuet of Galaxies

9:00 am PDT, September 2, 1999

This troupe of four galaxies, known as Hickson Compact Group 87 (HCG 87), is performing an intricate dance orchestrated by the mutual gravitational forces acting between them. The dance is a slow, graceful minuet, occurring over a time span of hundreds of millions of years.

This Hubble telescope image reveals complex details in the dust lanes of the group's largest galaxy member (HCG 87a), which is actually disk-shaped, but tilted so that we see it nearly edge-on. Both 87a and its elliptically shaped nearest neighbor (87b) have active galactic nuclei, which are believed to harbor black holes that are consuming gas. A third group member, the nearby spiral galaxy 87c, may be undergoing a burst of active star formation. The three galaxies are so close to each other that gravitational forces disrupt their structure and alter their evolution.

Symbiotic Star Blows Bubbles into Space

6:00 am PDT, August 24, 1999

A tempestuous relationship between an unlikely pair of stars may have created an oddly shaped gaseous nebula that resembles nesting hourglasses.

Images taken with Earth-based telescopes have shown the larger, hourglass-shaped nebula. But this picture, taken with the Hubble telescope, reveals a small, bright nebula embedded in the center of the larger one [close-up of nebula in inset]. Astronomers have dubbed the entire nebula the "Southern Crab Nebula" (He2-104), because, from ground-based telescopes, it looks like the body and legs of a crab. The nebula is several light-years long. The possible creators of these shapes cannot be seen in this visible-light picture. It's a pair of aging stars buried in the glow of the tiny, central nebula. One of them is a red giant, a bloated star that is exhausting its nuclear fuel and is shedding its outer layers in a powerful stellar wind. Its companion is a hot, white dwarf, a stellar zombie of a burned-out star.

Bloated Stars Swallow Giant Planets

9:00 pm PDT, August 11, 1999

The phrase "big fish eat little fish" may hold true when it comes to planets and stars. Perhaps as many as 100 million of the Sun-like stars in our galaxy harbor close-orbiting gas giant planets like Jupiter, or stillborn stars known as brown dwarfs, which are doomed to be gobbled up by their parent stars.

Astronomers did not directly observe the planets, because their parent stars had already swallowed them. But the researchers did find significant telltale evidence that some giant stars once possessed giant planets that were then swallowed up. The devouring stars release excessive amounts of infrared light, spin rapidly, and are polluted with the element lithium. The illustration depicts the cosmic cannibalism.

Hubble Views Ancient Storm in the Atmosphere of Jupiter

9:00 am PDT, August 5, 1999

When 17th-century astronomers first turned their telescopes to Jupiter, they noted a conspicuous reddish spot on the giant planet. This Great Red Spot is still present in Jupiter's atmosphere, more than 300 years later. It is now known that it is a vast storm, spinning like a cyclone. Unlike a low-pressure hurricane in the Caribbean Sea, however, the Red Spot rotates in a counterclockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere, showing that it is a high-pressure system. Winds inside this Jovian storm reach speeds of about 270 mph.

The Red Spot is the largest known storm in the solar system. With a diameter of 15,400 miles, it is almost twice the size of the entire Earth and one-sixth the diameter of Jupiter itself. However, the Red Spot does change its shape, size, and color, sometimes dramatically. Such changes are demonstrated in these Hubble telescope pictures.

Cosmic Collisions - European HST Scientists Catch Merging Galaxies in the Act

9:00 pm PDT, July 14, 1999

Exciting Hubble telescope images of more than a dozen very distant colliding galaxies indicate that, at least in some cases, big massive galaxies form through collisions between smaller ones, in a "generation after generation" story.

Hubble studied 81 galaxies in the galaxy cluster MS1054-03 and found that 13 are remnants of recent collisions or pairs of colliding galaxies. The large picture on the left shows this galaxy cluster. The eight smaller images on the right are close-ups of some of the colliding galaxies. The snapshots show the paired galaxies very close together with streams of stars being pulled out of them. The colliding "parent" galaxies lose their shape and smoother galaxies are formed. The whole merging process can take less than a billion years.

Hubble Images a Swarm of Ancient Stars

9:00 am PDT, July 1, 1999

This stellar swarm is M80 (NGC 6093), one of the densest of the 147 known globular star clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy. Located about 28,000 light-years from Earth, M80 contains hundreds of thousands of stars, all held together by their mutual gravitational attraction.

Globular clusters are particularly useful for studying stellar evolution, since all of the stars in the cluster have the same age (about 15 billion years), but cover a range of stellar masses. Every star visible in this image is either more highly evolved than, or in a few rare cases more massive than, our own Sun. Especially obvious are the bright red giants, which are stars similar to the Sun in mass that are nearing the ends of their lives.

A Closer Encounter with Mars

6:00 am PDT, June 30, 1999

Taking advantage of Mars's closest approach to Earth in eight years, astronomers using the Hubble telescope have taken the space-based observatory's sharpest views yet of the Red Planet. NASA is releasing these images to commemorate the second anniversary of the Mars Pathfinder landing.

The telescope snapped these pictures between April 27 and May 6, 1999, when Mars was 54 million miles (87 million kilometers) from Earth. From this distance the telescope could see Martian features as small as 12 miles (19 kilometers) wide. The telescope obtained four images, which, together, show the entire planet. Each view depicts the planet as it completes one quarter of its daily rotation.

A Butterfly-Shaped "Papillon" Nebula Yields Secrets of Massive Star Birth

6:00 am PDT, June 10, 1999

Here is a Hubble telescope view of a turbulent cauldron of star birth called N159, which is taking place 170,000 light-years away in our satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. Torrential stellar winds from hot, newborn, massive stars within the nebula sculpt ridges, arcs, and filaments in the vast cloud, which is over 150 light-years across.

A rare type of compact, illuminated "blob" is resolved for the first time to be a butterfly-shaped or "Papillon" (French for "butterfly") Nebula, buried in the center of the maelstrom of glowing gases and dark dust. The unprecedented details of the structure of the Papillon, itself less than 2 light-years in size, are seen in the inset picture.

Magnificent Details in a Dusty Spiral Galaxy

9:00 am PDT, June 3, 1999

The Key Project team used this Hubble telescope view of the magnificent spiral galaxy, NGC 4414, to help calculate the expansion rate of the universe.

Based on their discovery and careful brightness measurements of variable stars in this galaxy, the Key Project astronomers were able to make an accurate determination of the distance to the galaxy. The resulting distance to NGC 4414, about 60 million light-years, along with similarly determined distances to other nearby galaxies, contributes to astronomers' overall knowledge of the expansion rate of the cosmos, and helps them determine the age of the universe.