JPL: New Images Using Data from Retired Telescopes Reveal Hidden Features

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JPL: New Images Using Data from Retired Telescopes Reveal Hidden Features

Post by bystander » Fri Jun 17, 2022 12:23 pm

New Images Using Data from Retired
Telescopes Reveal Hidden Features

NASA | JPL-Caltech | 2022 Jun 16
The stunning perspectives show four of our galactic neighbors in a different light.

New images using data from ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA missions showcase the dust that fills the space between stars in four of the galaxies closest to our own Milky Way. More than striking, the snapshots are also a scientific trove, lending insight into how dramatically the density of dust clouds can vary within a galaxy.

With a consistency similar to smoke, dust is created by dying stars and is one of the materials that forms new stars. The dust clouds observed by space telescopes are constantly shaped and molded by exploding stars, stellar winds, and the effects of gravity. Almost half of all the starlight in the universe is absorbed by dust. Many of the heavy chemical elements essential to forming planets like Earth are locked up in dust grains in interstellar space. So understanding dust is an essential part of understanding our universe.

The new observations were made possible through the work of ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, which operated from 2009 to 2013. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California contributed key parts of two instruments on the spacecraft. Herschel’s supercold instruments were able to detect the thermal glow of dust, which is emitted as far-infrared light, a range of wavelengths longer than what human eyes can detect.

Herschel’s images of interstellar dust provide high-resolution views of fine details in these clouds, revealing intricate substructures. But the way the space telescope was designed meant that it often couldn’t detect light from more spread out and diffuse clouds, especially in the outer regions of galaxies, where the gas and dust become sparse and thus fainter.

For some nearby galaxies, that meant Herschel missed up to 30% of all the light given off by dust. With such a significant gap, astronomers struggled to use the Herschel data to understand how dust and gas behaved in these environments. To fill out the Herschel dust maps, the new images combine data from three other missions: ESA’s retired Planck observatory, along with two retired NASA missions, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) and Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE). ...

In the images, red indicates hydrogen gas, the most common element in the universe. This data was collected using multiple radio telescopes located around the globe. The image of the Large Magellanic Cloud shows a red tail coming off the bottom left of the galaxy that was likely created when it collided with the Small Magellanic Cloud about 100 million years ago. Bubbles of empty space indicate regions where stars have recently formed, because intense winds from the newborn stars blow away the surrounding dust and gas. The green light around the edges of those bubbles indicates the presence of cold dust that has piled up as a result of those winds. Warmer dust, shown in blue, indicates where stars are forming or other processes have heated the dust. ...

The Quest for the Missing Dust. I. Restoring Large-scale
Emission in Herschel Maps of Local Group Galaxies
~ Christopher J. R. Clark et al
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Re: JPL: New Images Using Data from Retired Telescopes Reveal Hidden Features

Post by Ann » Sat Jun 18, 2022 5:05 am

It's quite interesting to compare the picture of gas and dust in the Large Magellanic Cloud with optical images of its stars and nebulas:

This ground-based image of the Large Magellanic Cloud was taken by the German
astrophotographer Eckhard Slawik. It spans 10 x 10 degrees. Just to the left of the
middle of this image the largest star-forming region in the Local Group of galaxies,
30 Doradus, is seen as a red patch. N11B is seen in the upper right part of the LMC.

I apologize for posting a picture of the LMC that is too large (the Eckhard Slawik image, 656 KB), but it is the best image I could find to use as a comparison with the gas and dust image of the LMC. And it is such a bother to insert the caption in a good way if I can't use the img3 function.

Note that you can see the Tarantula Nebula in the gas and dust image. The Tarantula is a very bright splotch at left, dominated by whitish/bluish colors. Note that a stream of hydrogen gas (in red) is seen to apparently flow directly into the Tarantula Nebula, feeding its starburst.

Another bright patch, which looks like a bright-rimmed cavity, is seen at upper right. It is the N11 region, also known as the Bean Nebula. You can see it as a small cluster of pink splotches in Eckhard Slawik's image at upper right. The N11 region is the second largest star forming region in the LMC, after the Tarantula Nebula.

Note that you can match at least some of the large-scale features in the gas and dust image with stellar arcs and "bubbles" in Eckhard Slawik's image.

Let's take a quick look at the SMC, too:

Note in particular the bright region of star formation at lower left. It is NGC 602. Note that NGC 602 sits smack in the middle of a broad "river" of red. This is a stream of hydrogen, flowing from the Small Magellanic Cloud to the Large Magellanic Cloud.

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Last edited by bystander on Sat Jun 18, 2022 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Attached heic0411d. Inserted caption.
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