Hand of God – Another Amazing Photo!


This is why I love astronomy! We can look into the far reaches of the galaxy and beyond. One of the first times I looked through the 30 inch telescope at the observatory I gasped at the beauty of the star cluster in the eyepiece. Then when I found out how far away that star cluster was, well I was stunned.

At the top of the observation tower at the state park, I can see for miles. But through the telescope I can see for light years, and that’s just with a backyard telescope!  Now add the power of something like the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and, well see for yourself.

This photo has been making quite a stir on the internet. I hate to admit this, but I wasn’t aware of it until a co-worker of mine brought it to my attention. They’re calling this the Hand of God. It’s both beautiful and a bit haunting. It reminds me that we’re really quite small in this universe we live in.

This pulsar wind nebula had previously been detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in lower-energy X-ray light, which is the green and red. Recently NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array or NuSTAR imaged the object in high-energy x-rays for the first time. The results of that are shown in blue. The bright white spot in the center is a pulsar that’s spinning at a phenomenal rate of 7 times per second!

Seeing images like this keeps me looking up. It makes those late nights searching for an elusive fuzz ball worthwhile. For more amazing pictures that will both inspire and amaze you, you might want to check out the Hubble Site, or the Astronomy Picture of the Day.

If you have a favorite astronomy picture we’d love to see it! Let us know why it inspires you!




The Clock is Ticking

Following its launch on April 24, 1990, the Hubblehubble Space Telescope (HST) got off to a shaky start. But after the 1993 repair mission and four more house calls by Space Shuttle astronauts, the Hubble went on to observe more than 30,000 celestial targets and amass more than half a million pictures of our universe.

The Hubble was designed to be deployed, captured, and serviced by Space Shuttles, and now that the Shuttle program has ended, it’s just a matter of time before the Hubble goes dark. That time is sooner than we realize.

The HST is only expected to remain operational until some time next year, with scientists squeezing out every last possible photograph.

In the meantime, NASA is working on the Hubble’s replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled to launch in 2018. Technology has moved forward since the launch pillars-of-creationof the Hubble in 1990, and the new $5 billion telescope will carry technology that is much more sophisticated. Slated to launch in 2014, JWST will orbit much higher than the Hubble (1 million miles from the Earth’s surface verses 347 miles) and will use infrared technology to peer much deeper into our universe.

The original plan was to recapture the dying Hubble with a Space Shuttle and house it in the Smithsonian as a national treasure. However, without the Shuttle program, there is no way to bring it safely back to Earth.

Hubble could remain in a decaying orbit until sometime between 2019 and 2032 but it weighs 24,500 pounds (as much as two full-grown elephants) and is as long as a large school bus. If it were to decay and then descend on its own, parts of the Hubble’s main mirror and support structure will most likely survive. Guess we can’t have that big mirror landing in downtown Chicago during rush hour. Carina Nebula

The last visit to the Hubble by mankind will be by a robotic spacecraft that will attach itself to the telescope and guide it safely back to Earth in a fiery reentry. Until then, let’s enjoy it while we can, and keep our fingers crossed that the Energizer Bunny keeps it going and going and going…


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