Fact List Our World Science

25 Interesting Space Images – Part 2

13. Hand of God

13. Hand of God

A star explodes and ejects an enormous cloud of material, producing a cosmic “Hand of God.”  This image depicts a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova. What’s left behind is a pulsar, which spins around 7 times per second blowing a wind of particles into material ejected during the star’s death throes. As these particles interact with nearby magnetic fields, they produce an X-ray glow in the shape of a hand. (The pulsar is located near the bright white spot in the image but cannot be seen itself).

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14. Enceladus

14. Enceladus,

Saturn’s moon Enceladus, taken by Cassini. Enceladus is only 505 kilometers (314 miles) across, small enough to fit within the length of the United Kingdom, as illustrated here. The intriguing icy moon also could fit comfortably within the states of Arizona or Colorado.

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15. Saturn’s Southern Aurora

15. Saturn's Southern Aurora

Saturn’s Southern Aurora, taken on 18-10-2013. Like Jupiter’s magnetic field, Saturn’s is created by a fluid dynamo within a layer of circulating liquid metallic hydrogen in its outer core.

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16. Last EarthRise

16. Last EarthRise

The last ‘EarthRise’ seen by Human eyes. An image captured by the Apollo 17 crew on December, 1972. NASA’s funding was greatly reduced after the space race ended. With so little money, most of it went towards the Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station. Now that the Space Shuttle is retired and the ISS is no longer under construction, NASA is developing a new launch vehicle called the Space Launch System that will be capable of reaching the Moon, and maybe even Mars.

17. Cat’s Eye Nebula

17. Cat's Eye Nebula

Cat’s Eye Nebula. The Cat’s Eye Nebula is structurally a very complex nebula, and the mechanism or mechanisms that have given rise to its complicated morphology are not well understood. The central bright part of the nebular consists of the inner elongated bubble (inner ellipse) filled with hot gas. It in turn is nested into a pair of larger spherical bubbles conjoined together along their waist. The waist is observed as the second larger ellipse lying perpendicular to the bubble with hot gas.

The structure of the bright portion of the nebula is primarily caused by the interaction of a fast stellar wind being emitted by the central star with material ejected during the formation of the nebula. This interaction causes the emission of X-rays. The stellar wind, blowing with the velocity as high as 1900 km/s, has ‘hollowed out’ the inner bubble of the nebula, and appears to have burst the bubble at both ends.

It is also suspected that the central star of the nebula may be a binary star. The existence of an accretion disk caused by mass transfer between the two components of the system may give rise to polar jets, which would interact with previously ejected material. Over time, the direction of the polar jets would vary due to precession.

Outside the bright inner portion of the nebula, there are a series of concentric rings, thought to have been ejected before the formation of the planetary nebula, while the star was on the asymptotic giant branch of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. These rings are very evenly spaced, suggesting that the mechanism responsible for their formation ejected them at very regular intervals and at very similar speeds. The total mass of the rings is about 0.1 solar masses. The pulsations that formed the rings probably started 15,000 years ago and ceased about 1000 years ago, when the formation of the bright central part began.

Further out, a large faint halo extends to large distances from the star. The halo again predates the formation of the main nebula. The mass of the halo is estimated as 0.26–0.92 solar masses.

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18. Rosetta mission selfie

18. Rosetta mission selfie

Rosetta mission selfie at 16 km/10 miles off comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko. This selfie was the last image from Philae before the lander separated from Rosetta.

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19. Solar Corona

19. Solar Corona

Solar Corona shot from the Marshall Islands. Taken during July 2009’s solar eclipse by Miloslav Druckmüller as part of a Czech university’s shadow tracking expedition, Druckmüller captures the sun’s corona like never before.

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20. Hydrocarbon Lake

20. Hydrocarbon Lake

Sunglint on a Hydrocarbon Lake. This near-infrared color image shows a specular reflection, or sunglint, off of a hydrocarbon lake named Kivu Lacus on Saturn’s moon Titan. According to Cassini data, scientists announced on February 13, 2008, that Titan hosts within its polar lakes “hundreds of times more natural gas and other liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth.” The desert sand dunes along the equator, while devoid of open liquid, nonetheless hold more organics than all of Earth’s coal reserves. It has been estimated that the visible lakes and seas of Titan contain about 300 times the volume of Earth’s proven oil reserves.

21. Mars’ south pole

21. Mars’ south pole

Cappuccino swirls at Mars’ south pole. (What Mars looks like when its not busy being the “Red Planet”). Photo by Bill Dumsford. Swirls of chocolate, caramel and cream – this image is definitely one to trigger sweet-toothed cravings. Smooth cream-coloured plateaus surrounded by cocoa-dusted ridges interspersed with caramel-hued streaks create a scene reminiscent of a cosmic cappuccino.

This picture is, perhaps surprisingly, from ESA’s Mars Express, which has been exploring and imaging the Martian surface and atmosphere since 2003. We may be used to seeing numerous images of red and brown-hued soil and ruddy landscapes peppered with craters, but the Red Planet isn’t always so red.

The bright white region of this image shows the icy cap that covers Mars’ south pole, composed of frozen water and carbon dioxide. While it looks smooth in this image, at close quarters the cap is a layered mix of peaks, troughs and flat plains, and has been likened in appearance to swiss cheese.

The southern cap reaches some 3 km thick in places, and is around 350 km in diameter. This icy region is permanent; in the martian winter another, thinner ice cap forms over the top of it, stretching further out across the planet and disappearing again when the weather warms up.

The cap is around 150 km north of Mars’ geographical south pole and Mars Express has shed light on why this ice cap is displaced. Deep impact craters – notably the Hellas Basin, the largest impact structure on the entire planet at 7 km deep and 2300 km across – funnel the strong winds that blow across Mars towards its southern pole, creating a mix of different low- and high-pressure systems. The carbon dioxide in the polar cap sublimates at different rates in these regions with contrasting pressure, resulting in the cap’s lopsided structure.

Mars Express imaged this area of Mars on 17 December 2012, in infrared, green and blue light, using its High Resolution Stereo Camera. This image was processed by Bill Dunford, using data available from the ESA Planetary Science Archive.

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22. P/2010 A2

22. P-2010 A2

P/2010 A2 is unlike any object ever seen before. At first glance, the object appears to have the tail of a comet. Close inspection, however, shows a 140-meter nucleus offset from the tail center, very unusual structure near the nucleus, and no discernable gas in the tail. Knowing that the object orbits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a preliminary hypothesis that appears to explain all of the known clues is that P/2010 A2 is the debris left over from a recent collision between two small asteroids. If true, the collision likely occurred at over 15,000 kilometers per hour — five times the speed of a rifle bullet — and liberated energy in excess of a nuclear bomb. Pressure from sunlight would then spread out the debris into a trailing tail. Future study of P/2010 A2 may better indicate the nature of the progenitor collision and may help humanity better understand the early years of our Solar System, when many similar collisions occurred.

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23. Titan

23. Titan

Sunlight reflecting off the seas/lakes of liquid methane on Titan. Composite image from photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft in 2014. As described above, Saturn’s moon Titan has numerous smooth lakes of methane that, when the angle is right, reflect sunlight as if they were mirrors. Pictured here in false-color image. The robotic Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn imaged the cloud-covered Titan last summer in different bands of cloud-piercing infrared light. This specular reflection was so bright it saturated one of Cassini’s infrared cameras. Although the sunglint was annoying — it was also useful. The reflecting regions confirm that northern Titan houses a wide and complex array of seas with a geometry that indicates periods of significant evaporation. During its numerous passes of our Solar System’s most mysterious moon, Cassini has revealed Titan to be a world with active weather — including times when it rains a liquefied version of natural gas.

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24. Collision

24. Collision

Runaway star collides with an interstellar medium and creates this beautiful arc. Zeta Ophiuchi is a young star, just three million years old, with about 20 times the mass of our Sun.  Therefore it won’t live long by stellar standards.

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25. Rose Galaxies

25. Rose Galaxies

The Rose Galaxies. Known in the scientific community by its more poetic name of ARP 273, this is an image of two galaxies caught in a gravitational clusterf**k after the smaller one passed through the larger one. What we get is a tidal pull on the lower galaxy, stretching it out into a stemlike structure, its bulge forming the single-leaf look we all recognize from a trimmed rose. It’s God’s way of telling space, “Come on, baby, don’t be like that. I didn’t mean it. Look, I made you this flower out of galaxies. Don’t look at me like that. Fine! Don’t come running to me when a massive black hole starts tearing a*s through space and sucking up all your sh*t!”

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