A Study in Scarlet

This new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that causes the surrounding hydrogen to glow with a characteristic red hue.

Hubble’s Cross-Section of the Cosmos

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range from cosmic near neighbours to objects seen in the early years of the Universe. The 14-hour exposure shows objects around a billion times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye.

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Launch Alert from SLC-40

Launch Alert

SpaceX Falcon 9 • April 14, 4:58 pm EDT

Experience the memorable sights and sounds of the powerful roaring engines of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it thrusts into the sky from SLC-40. Learn more about the rocket and the mission carrying supplies to the International Space Station, including climbing legs for robot space station Crewmember Robonaut-2.

The planetary nebula Abell 33 captured using ESO’s Very Large Telescope

Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have captured this eye-catching image of planetary nebula PN A66 33 — usually known as Abell 33. Created when an aging star blew off its outer layers, this beautiful blue bubble is, by chance, aligned with a foreground star, and bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond engagement ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetric, appearing to be almost circular on the sky.

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Aussie Scientist Finds Rare Supernova at Keck


It was a dark and stormy night in the city of Angels. Well, actually it wasn’t. But more on that later…

It was a clear night on the summit of Mauna Kea at Keck Observatory on the 20th March. My colleagues and I were using the Echellette Spectrograph and Imager (ESI) instrument, which looks at faint objects in the visible wavelengths, to study star clusters and small galaxies.

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Galactic Serial Killer

This new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows two contrasting galaxies: NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbour NGC 1317. These two are quite close to each other in space, but they have very different histories. The small spiral NGC 1317 has led an uneventful life, but NGC 1316 has engulfed several other galaxies in its violent history and shows the battle scars.

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April’s Stargazing via Our Night Sky

Welcome to stargazing for April, 2014. This month’s episode of Our Night Sky touches on the highlights of easily observable sky objects, such as the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, and the April 14-15 lunar eclipse. Along with starhopping and constellation-gazing, it’s a good month to be out under the starry skies.

There’s also a good possibility that the Lyrid meteor shower will perk up and deliver some serious hourly rates.  It will peak on April 23, in the early morning hours and its meteors will look like they’re coming from the constellation Lyra, the Harp. It rises around 10 p.m., and will be overhead by around 4 a.m., which is why the best observing time for the Lyrids is after midnight. Some observers estimate there would be 200-1000 meteors per hour. If you do go out, be sure to dress warmly, since early spring and autumn morning hours are bound
to be chilly! And, while you’re out, check out Mars and Saturn, particularly if you’ve got binoculars or a small telescope handy.

Finally, there’s an annular solar eclipse on April 29th this month. But, it’s only going to be visible if you live in Australia, are reading this from Antarctica, or points between.  Details about this and the lunar eclipse can be found at

Happy skygazing!

New artwork unveiled at the Science with the Hubble Space Telescope IV conference

Last week researchers from around the world gathered at the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome for the Science with the Hubble Space Telescope IV conference. The event celebrated the history of Hubble’s extraordinary achievements, and looked to the future at what might yet be achieved and how the James Webb Space Telescope will build on our knowledge of the Universe. As part of this celebration artist Tim Otto Roth revealed a new artwork, Heaven’s Carousel, inspired by Hubble’s work on the accelerating expansion of the Universe.

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Atlas V • March 25, 2:05 pm EDT

Experience the powerful sights and sounds of the thunderous roaring engines of an Atlas V rocket as it thrusts into the sky from SLC-41.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex guests enjoy launch viewing opportunities in two locations as part of admission. These viewing areas feature live launch countdown commentary. Call 866.870.6239 now to purchase your admission.

Crashing Comets Explain Surprise Gas Clump Around Young Star

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in northern Chile have today announced the discovery of an unexpected clump of carbon monoxide gas in the dusty disc around the star Beta Pictoris. This is a surprise, as such gas is expected to be rapidly destroyed by starlight. Something — probably frequent collisions between small, icy objects such as comets — must be causing the gas to be continuously replenished. The new results are published today in the journal Science.

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April 2014
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