Mom, Vaper, Diabetic, Crazy Cat Lady

Dark Matter in a Simulated Universe

Is our universe haunted? It might look that way on this dark matter map. The gravity of unseen dark matter is the leading explanation for why galaxies rotate so fast, why galaxies orbit clusters so fast, why gravitational lenses so strongly deflect light, and why visible matter is distributed as it is both in the local universe and on the cosmic microwave background. The featured image from the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium previous Space Show Dark Universe highlights one example of how pervasive dark matter might haunt our universe. In this frame from a detailed computer simulation, complex filaments of dark matter, shown in black, are strewn about the universe like spider webs, while the relatively rare clumps of familiar baryonic matter are colored orange. These simulations are good statistical matches to astronomical observations. In what is perhaps a scarier turn of events, dark matter — although quite strange and in an unknown form — is no longer thought to be the strangest source of gravity in the universe. That honor now falls to dark energy, a more uniform source of repulsive gravity that seems to now dominate the expansion of the entire universe. via NASA

Globular Star Cluster 47 Tuc

Globular star cluster 47 Tucanae is a jewel of the southern sky. Also known as NGC 104, it roams the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy along with some 200 other globular star clusters. The second brightest globular cluster (after Omega Centauri) as seen from planet Earth, it lies about 13,000 light-years away and can be spotted naked-eye close on the sky to the Small Magellanic Cloud in the constellation of the Toucan. The dense cluster is made up of hundreds of thousands of stars in a volume only about 120 light-years across. Red giant stars on the outskirts of the cluster are easy to pick out as yellowish stars in this sharp telescopic portrait. Tightly packed globular cluster 47 Tuc is also home to a star with the closest known orbit around a black hole. via NASA

Supernova in NGC 2525

Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 2525 lies 70 million light-years from the Milky Way. It shines in Earth’s night sky within the boundaries of the southern constellation Puppis. About 60,000 light-years across, its spiral arms lined with dark dust clouds, massive blue stars, and pinkish starforming regions wind through this gorgeous Hubble Space Telescope snapshot. Spotted on the outskirts of NGC 2525 in January 2018, supernova SN 2018gv is the brightest star in the frame at the lower left. In time-lapse, a year long series of Hubble observations followed the stellar explosion, the nuclear detonation of a white dwarf star triggered by accreting material from a companion star, as it slowly faded from view. Identified as a Type Ia supernova, its brightness is considered a cosmic standard candle. Type Ia supernovae are used to measure distances to galaxies and determine the expansion rate of the Universe. via NASA

Tagging Bennu

On October 20, after a careful approach to the boulder-strewn surface, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s arm reached out and touched asteroid Bennu. Dubbed a Touch-And-Go (TAG) sampling event, the 30 centimeter wide sampling head (TAGSAM) appears to crush some of the rocks in this snapshot. The close-up scene was recorded by the spacecraft’s SamCam some 321 million kilometers from planet Earth, just after surface contact. One second later, the spacecraft fired nitrogen gas from a bottle intended to blow a substantial amount of Bennu’s regolith into the sampling head, collecting the loose surface material. Data show the spacecraft spent approximately 5 more seconds in contact with Bennu’s Nightingale sample site and then performed its back-away burn. Timelapse frames from SamCam reveal the aftermath. via NASA

A Night Sky Vista from Sardinia

How many famous sky objects can you find in this image? The featured dark sky composite combines over 60 exposures spanning over 220 degrees to create a veritable menagerie of night sky wonders. Visible celestial icons include the Belt of Orion, the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, the California Nebula, and bright stars Sirius and Betelgeuse. You can verify that you found these, if you did, by checking an annotated version of the image. A bit harder, though, is finding Polaris and the Big Dipper. Also discernible are several meteors from the Quandrantids meteor shower, red and green airglow, and two friends of the astrophotographer. The picture was captured in January from Sardinia, Italy. You can see sky wonders in your own night sky tonight — including more meteors than usual — because tonight is near peak of the yearly Orionids meteor shower. via NASA

Saturn and Jupiter over Italian Peaks

Saturn and Jupiter are getting closer. Every night that you go out and check for the next two months, these two bright planets will be even closer together on the sky. Finally, in mid-December, a Great Conjunction will occur — when the two planets will appear only 0.1 degrees apart — just one fifth the angular diameter of the full Moon. And this isn’t just any Great Conjunction — Saturn (left) and Jupiter (right) haven’t been this close since 1623, and won’t be nearly this close again until 2080. This celestial event is quite easy to see — already the two planets are easily visible toward the southwest just after sunset — and already they are remarkably close. Pictured, the astrophotographer and partner eyed the planetary duo above the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks of Lavaredo) in the Italian Alps about two weeks ago. via NASA

A Flight over Jupiter Near the Great Red Spot

Are you willing to wait to see the largest and oldest known storm system in the Solar System? In the featured video, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot finally makes its appearance 2 minutes and 12 seconds into the 5-minute video. Before it arrives, you may find it pleasing to enjoy the continually changing view of the seemingly serene clouds of Jupiter, possibly with your lights low and sound up. The 41 frames that compose the video were captured in June as the robotic Juno spacecraft was making a close pass over our Solar System’s largest planet. The time-lapse sequence actually occurred over four hours. Since arriving at Jupiter in 2016, Juno’s numerous discoveries have included unexpectedly deep atmospheric jet streams, the most powerful auroras ever recorded, and water-bearing clouds bunched near Jupiter’s equator. via NASA

UGC 1810: Wildly Interacting Galaxy from Hubble

What’s happening to this spiral galaxy? Although details remain uncertain, it surely has to do with an ongoing battle with its smaller galactic neighbor. The featured galaxy is labelled UGC 1810 by itself, but together with its collisional partner is known as Arp 273. The overall shape of UGC 1810 — in particular its blue outer ring — is likely a result of wild and violent gravitational interactions. This ring’s blue color is caused by massive stars that are blue hot and have formed only in the past few million years. The inner galaxy appears older, redder, and threaded with cool filamentary dust. A few bright stars appear well in the foreground, unrelated to UGC 1810, while several galaxies are visible well in the background. Arp 273 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation of Andromeda. Quite likely, UGC 1810 will devour its galactic sidekick over the next billion years and settle into a classic spiral form. via NASA

Cygnus: Bubble and Crescent

These clouds of gas and dust drift through rich star fields along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy toward the high flying constellation Cygnus. Caught within the telescopic field of view are the Soap Bubble (lower left) and the Crescent Nebula (upper right). Both were formed at a final phase in the life of a star. Also known as NGC 6888, the Crescent was shaped as its bright, central massive Wolf-Rayet star, WR 136, shed its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind. Burning through fuel at a prodigious rate, WR 136 is near the end of a short life that should finish in a spectacular supernova explosion. Discovered in 2013, the Soap Bubble Nebula is likely a planetary nebula, the final shroud of a lower mass, long-lived, sun-like star destined to become a slowly cooling white dwarf. Both stellar shrouds are 5,000 light-years or so distant. The larger Crescent Nebula is around 25 light-years across. via NASA

Planetary Nebula Abell 78

Planetary nebula Abell 78 stands out in this colorful telescopic skyscape. In fact the colors of the spiky Milky Way stars depend on their surface temperatures, both cooler (yellowish) and hotter (bluish) than the Sun. But Abell 78 shines by the characteristic emission of ionized atoms in the tenuous shroud of material shrugged off from an intensely hot central star. The atoms are ionized, their electrons stripped away, by the central star’s energetic but otherwise invisible ultraviolet light. The visible blue-green glow of loops and filaments in the nebula’s central region corresponds to emission from doubly ionized oxygen atoms, surrounded by strong red emission from ionized hydrogen. Some 5,000 light-years distant toward the constellation Cygnus, Abell 78 is about three light-years across. A planetary nebula like Abell 78 represents a very brief final phase in stellar evolution that our own Sun will experience … in about 5 billion years. via NASA