Two gorgeous images

Two gorgeous images

Two gorgeous images

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Feb. 13 2007 12:22 PM

Two gorgeous images

Man. I'm starting to get a little irritated at all these gorgeous images coming in faster than I can post about them! I have a job, and stuff to do, and then these temptations come along.

First, devastation incarnate:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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This small thumbnail I have posted here cannot possibly do justice to the magnificence of the original image. It's by Davide De Martin, whose images have graced this blog before. He has a pan and scan version online, and you simply will not believe the utter beauty and detail of the image.

The image is of the Vela supernova remnant, the expanding gas from a supernova many thousands of years ago. The gas is chewing its way through the thick gas and dust surrounding it, creating that beautiful filamentary pattern.

I'm a little ticked at myself; Davide emailed me about this a few days ago, but I was too busy to look, and now those guys at APOD already posted it. I could have scooped them! Curses!

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The second image, from Hubble, will no doubt make APOD in a day or two as well:

That's NGC 2440, another planetary nebula (like the Helix, which I posted about yesterday). I worked on an early Hubble image (this one) of this nebula; it boasts the hottest star known. The white dwarf in the heart of NGC 2440 is at 200,000 Kelvin, which is pretty frakkin' hot. The Sun is at about 6000 Kelvin, for comparison. Yikes. Sally Heap, who took the image with Hubble, wanted me to see if I could extract some good measurements of the star from the data, but the images were taken before Hubble's eyesight was corrected, and the blurriness made it impossible to do much better than what had been done previously.

Not too much later, my friend Howard Bond took another image of the nebula, which was much nicer and easier to measure. That was an impressive image, but this new one is phenomenal. The details are sharper, and the field much wider. At first I thought the image was mislabeled; it didn't look at all like the nebula I knew! But in a second look I could see that the image I was used to is just the inner portion of this much bigger one.

Science marches on! I'm glad it does. We learn more, and get prettier pictures.